* Background Information: I am a self-proclaimed beach bum and love to travel. I am a collector of Lighthouses and enjoy going to the beach every time I get the chance. Taking a cruise has been on my trip planner for some time now. The opportunity fell in to place and the timing was perfect. I went through a travel agent with a plan in place, so we set forward to schedule our first cruise. The combination of celebrating my "BIG 50" Birthday, my Husbands 52nd Birthday, and our 32nd Wedding Anniversary was our driving force for this vacation.
* Hotel Information: Jacksonville: We chose to drive to Jacksonville the day before we set sail. We live about 5 hours away and wanted to be rested and close to the ship. We stayed at the Jacksonville Plaza Hotel & Suites. They offer the Sail & Save Package. This allows you to keep your car on their lot while cruising. The cost includes a shuttle service to and from the port. This service runs twice. Tip & Note to self - Remember to ask for a reservation on the first shuttle. (We had the FTTF - Faster To The Fun excursion and could get on the ship from 11 - 12). We got on the second shuttle and made it to the ship by 12:30 and were on by 1:00.
* Ship Info: As you may know the Fascination has been around since 1994. With that known and said there are a lot of travel hours and folks sailing on this ship. Yes, wear and tear, but very clean and well kept. Tip - Do not be critical...you are on vacation, so just relax and remember that you were able to take a trip during financially troubling times for most. Take a lot of photos and you will see this ships splendor.
* Activities: Now I know why someone developed "Energy Drinks" LOL :) There is so much to do each day from sun up to way past sun down. The shows and events are galore. I enjoyed the outdoor walking track. The Putt Putt Golf course was in the middle of the track but did not hinder walkers or joggers. Tip - Study and read over the daily schedule the night before and plan accordingly based on times. Tip - Take a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
* Port & Shore Excursions: The Jacksonville Port - It seemed easy to get to, had we driven ourselves. There is plenty of parking. A lot of Porters were available to assist with luggage and directions. Easy access to ship and services was impressive. Going through security and getting checked in was a breeze. Half Moon Cay Port - This is an absolutely beautiful island for sunning and swimming. A surreal, relaxing, and serene beach, to disembark and spend a day off the ship. Nassau Port - A fun and historical place to visit. The Bahamian's definitely cater to tourist. Go to the Straw Market, Senor Frogs, Paradise Island, and Atlantis. There is a Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks on the island. So much to do! Plan accordingly, because the day goes fast. Shore Excursions - There are plenty to choose from, ranging in prices. We chose the FTTF - Faster To The Fun Excursion. This allows you to go to the front of the line, to get on and off the ship, customer service, and makes you feel like a VIP. Tip - Going to your cruise lines website is the best way to learn about what is offered.
* Summary: All in all, no complaints. Tip - PLAN! PLAN! PLAN! :)
* Travel to Embarkation Port: Port was easy to get to with easy access to parking. Tip - Give yourself enough time for issues related to accidents, road construction, etc...
* State Room: We had cabin M257, Deck 5 Main. The cabin was just perfect. Size and accommodations were more than we expected. The beds were comfortable and the TV was clear and placed in a good location for viewing. This cabin has a balcony and was so relaxing to have coffee and breakfast in the mornings. Room service was very efficient. We also had a good size window that we would sit our towel creations in daily. The closets and storage under the beds were roomy and held all of our belongings with space to spare. The bathroom was a good size and the water pressure in the shower was good. Our room steward was very friendly and had a fun personality. Tip - Take the Command Strip Hooks and Magnets for organization. Some of the wall panels hold the strips and magnets well. Also take a cloth mesh shower caddy for storage in the bathroom.
* Dining: We chose "Your Time Dining". This was perfect for us. No waiting in line and the food was very good. The wait staff was friendly and fun. Tip - Order as much as you want :)
* Children's Clubs: We did not have children with us. There were plenty of things for children of all ages to do. The clubs seemed to be full all of the time. Tip - Be patient. Kids are excited and cruising will be a memorable experience for them. Remember what it was like to be a child.
* Entertainment: So many shows and events to keep you busy. Tip - Plan your day, the day before. You will get a schedule and it will make the planning easier.
* Disembarkation: Ran smooth. We were off the ship within an hour of planning to leave. Got our luggage and got on the shuttle bus back to our vehicle. Tip: Do not rush to leave. Savor every minute.