To begin, I wish to thank all reviewers for their contributions. I have very much enjoyed reading reviews about my upcoming cruises and like to pay it forward with my own reviews and interpretations. With that being said, wife (age 27) and I (age 29)boarded the Carnival Fascination in Jacksonville, Florida on April 27, 2013.
We live in Hartsville, SC. We left after work on Friday, April 26 on our almost five hour trip to Kingsland, GA where we stayed at the Hawthorne Inn and Suites. It is a very comfy and clean hotel that we stayed on our wedding night on the way to see Carnival Legend in September of 2011. Kingsland is a very great place to stay (Exit 4 on I-95) in Georgia just before the Florida line. It is a very simple 30 minute drive to JAXPORT on I-95, then I-295, ending on the Zoo Parkway just before the big Dames Point Bridge over the St. Johns River.
Carnival Fascination provides that consistent and dependable service we have come to appreciate over the years for an exceptional value. I appreciate you reading this review and I seek to answer some of the questions that I have when reading about upcoming cruises.
In my opinion, she is a beautiful ship. One can hardly notice that she is nearly twenty years old. She has recently left dry-dock; where I was told she received a new coat of paint and some new carpet. The ship was shiny white and sported a newly painted deep red and blue funnel. There are no Funship 2.0 upgrades. The standard Pool grille, Rotisserie, Mongolian Wok, Coconut grille restaurant, and the two Main dining rooms are your main eateries. There is still sushi on the promenade at various times of the evening.
Other than that, she is standard Fantasy class ship with the added balconies. I think she is a very intimate, fun, and easy to navigate ship with no really huge crowds. Our room steward always addressed us by our first names and every crew member we passed went out of their way to say "hello".
I must say, Captain Carmelo Marino, or some other officer, expects his decks CLEAN. After setting foot aboard seven Carnival ships and Fascination for the third time, I have never experienced a cleaner teak deck. The crew were constantly scrubbing, cleaning, and shining the wood itself. The hard work shows. There were no stains, dark spots, or spills anywhere to be found.
The Lido pool deck was standard Fantasy class protocol. It is the one pool on the ship with two spa tubs on either end. Most days, including days at sea, a DJ took up residence on the Lido stage and blasted music. Most of the younger crowd enjoyed the music, which was a very wide variety from country to hip-hop, island music, and back again. We saw young kids all the way up to seniors line dancing on the stage. Our only complaint was that the volume was extreme. Chair hogs were not very much an issue on sea days, simply because all of the chairs were full. We knew going into this cruise that we were not going to use the pools and waterslides on sea days for that reason. We had other plans as you will soon read.
Serenity is always a very peaceful place with no loud music. However, it is a very popular place. It boasts two spa tubs and very comfortable chairs. It is a very good place to spend elegant night in the spa tub watching the sunset over the wake.
Our friends arrived at the Park and Cruise lot just outside JAXPORT gate, paid $40 and were first in line for the shuttle at 9:30 am. We had planned to arrive around 10:30 and do the same. From the highway we saw that the line for the shuttle stretched for a mile and at that point the $35 savings was not worth it. We drove right into the JAXPORT lot (HAVE YOUR PHOTO IDs AND BOARDING PASSES IN HAND and you will be amazed at how fast you get in.) We actually passed our friends in a very small, overloaded, cramped van (shuttle) from the lot we passed on. They may have gotten into the terminal faster, but I cannot stress how much easier and safer I felt parking on my own. WELL worth the extra $35; though I know hear there is some legal issues for that private lot anyway.
Was a breeze. I myself became platinum on this cruise. We were escorted through a SEPARATE security line to the VIFP/FTTF line, and then separated again to the "Captain's lounge" to receive our cards. I know this is a huge question floating around the message boards these days. The FTTF guests then went and stood in a similar line to the regular lines. However it was much shorter. After some very polite and appreciative employees checked us in, we waited maybe 5 minutes before we were lead onto the ship. From parking the truck at 10:35am, boarding at 11:00am, stopped by the room (ready due to Platinum status) and to the bar for a drink at 11:15am.
**It is interesting to note, the embarkation/debarkation gangway on Carnival Fascination at JAXPORT takes place on deck 3 forward. You will not enter the atrium as you would at Tampa, Miami, or Port Canaveral.
Opinions about food and taste are very personal depending on the individual. Therefore, there will be no opinions on this subject. But, if you've taken any Carnival Cruise in the last five years you know the menus. If you haven't the menus have a big variety in the main dining rooms, a varied buffet menu for lunch and dinner, and the staples of burgers, dogs, chicken, and fries on the lido for lunch and late night snacks from 11:30pm to 1am.
Yes, it is much of the same as our last few cruises, but we enjoy these selections and look forward to specific things each trip.
We only partook in the main dining room on the first and fourth night of our trip. We used Your Time Dining, which we enjoy, and were very pleased. We never waited for a table and the service was great. On two different nights, the hostess told the staff our names and we were addressed by them the entire meal.
We waited in line three times for the Mongolian wok. The longest we waited was 30 minutes but it is well worth the wait.
On the night we left Nassau, there was a late night Mexican buffet and party. We did not participate but watched from the upper deck. We always enjoy the pizza pirate late night before turning in.
Ports of Call:
Half Moon Cay: Paradise. Priority tender for us, priceless. Once you get to the island...keep walking! Fight the laziness and urge to run into the picture perfect water and walk until you pass the shipwreck bar. The walk is worth the reward...practically no crowds. It's only a five minute walk and you will thank yourself. We did no excursions, just sat on the beach and swam in the beautiful water. The island buffet is great. Again, if you wait until about thirty minutes before closing you will miss the crowds. There is plenty of food and places to sit so don't worry. The jerked chicken on the island is the best I have ever had anywhere and I look forward to it each time we visit. We waited until about 45 minutes until our return to ship time and waited in no line for the tender.
Nassau: This particular day there were five ships in port. We knew this going in and Nassau was our third "sea day." We stayed on the ship winning a trivia game, having the Waterworks to ourselves for a while, and heading to the Lido pool for a few drinks and some well spent hours. This was the only day where there was simply background music. We enjoyed having conversations with our friends and virtually no crowds.
Our fellow guests were mostly of south-eastern heritage. Many were from nearby Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida cities. Southern hospitality was abound, as this was one of our more enjoyable cruises as far as other passengers are concerned. We rarely encountered a rude or "entitled" person. The ambiance of the ship was very relaxed, courteous, and very pleasant.
There were a ton of trivia games and activities throughout the week. The shows took place in the Main lounge and were Motor City and Divas. The marriage game show was held at 2pm on the last sea day. I thought this an odd time, but I assume that since the weather seemed bad for the last day maybe they did it early.
Late night comedy was fun. Of the two comedians, one was the best and did 3 different shows. The second repeated his show 3 times.
We had a front row seat to a US Customs crew inspection took place this morning in the main lounge. It delayed departure to almost 10am. Keep this in mind if you plan early flights. This was a once in a 90 day period, and you will not leave the ship until it is completed. Self-assist was called promptly at 9:45am upon completion. Then the luggage tags from #1 through the last call commenced.
Jacksonville is a great quick getaway port and Carnival Fascination is a great ship for a week vacation. She lacks the bells and whistles of the newer, more crowded Carnival ships...but some of us like that. If you are looking for cutting-edge upgrades, over the top amenities, extreme venues, and a ton of crowds this ship is not for you. I believe the Fantasy class ships are a great vacation resort with a very good value. This ship is absolutely perfect for first time cruisers, well-traveled cruisers looking for some relaxation, and quick getaways.