I have to preface this review by saying we are slightly biased because we have had the previous opportunity to stay in one of the "owner's suite", at a cost, of course. That said, we were not let down one bit on this value cruise sailing in our OV cabin with two children, a much different experience.
Embarkation was very easy in Jacksonville and we were provided with excellent service from the moment we asked for assistance for my mom who has emphysema and cannot walk long distances, especially in the heat. Our group of 8 was taken together to the ship with my mom in a wheelchair. I was glad she was able to avoid the waiting and walking which would have worn her out the very first day. Thanks to Carnival for offering this support; it was much appreciated.
Lunch on the Lido was excellent as usual, the Italian buffet offered fish, chicken, veggies and pasta and everyone had a delicious lunch before leaving port. There isn't much to look at in Jacksonville until you leave and go under the bridge which is very exciting. There are some nice waterfront homes prior to reaching the beach and the beach area is gorgeous as you enter the ocean.
We booked our own excursions prior to the trip for Nassau, utilizing Islands Marketing for Hilton day passes and Blue Hole Watersports for snorkeling. Both were easy and fun (see reviews on the Bahamas forum). We also did a horse carriage tour prior to arriving at the Hilton which gave us a look around the city. The drivers let us off slightly closer to the hotel so mom didn't have far to walk (she made it back ok, with multiple rest stops). In Little Stirrup Cay we rented snorkel gear from Carnival on the island (did not pre-book) and they had plenty of supplies in their shack on our particular day. The island was great and we would go back (see review on Bahamas Forum). Our almost 20 year olds and my parents both stated they had a great time at both ports, and we had a great time with our twin 7 year olds...all age groups were entertained and enjoyed themselves.
The OV room was maintained in the best way; the only issue we had was our heat/smoke alarm went off twice due to the heat in the room from showering and leaving the bathroom door ajar. The fire brigade came immediately and had the alarm silenced. Yes, it was tight with two overhead bunks and our king below, but as we were only in the room to sleep, it was all we required. Our steward replaced the bunks daily and for that I am grateful...he rocked our room and we had plenty of space under the bed for luggage and to get ready in the late afternoons for dinner.
Camp Carnival staff were informative and caring and I could tell from the first day the counselors were paying attention to my children. I was given a report each time the boys stayed describing their activities and any issues (seemed tired today, etc.), allowing us to better plan the children's play and rest times. Yes, the Fascination has smaller areas than the bigger class ships, but they have just the same fun...the kids were decorated in pirate and Funship paint colors and enjoyed multiple and varied activities daily. LOVE camp! Thanks to these counselors for being so great and attentive to our children!!
We discovered Your Time Dining last cruise and this has been a tremendous help for us with larger groups and kids. We had the same wait staff each night who went out of their way to satisfy our picky youngsters and gave my parents a wonderful rendition of "Happy Anniversary" for their 55th on our last night. If anything, the head waitress tried too hard to please us; she (Napa!!!) was always seeking perfection, and I must say she was pretty darn close, if not there, every single night. Thanks to her and her team, they were the best! We did wait one night for an hour with the pager, but the library next door offers comfortable seating, a place to sip on a drink, and a few tables on which to play cards during any wait time.
We loved the Motor City Motown and Diva show in the main theater. The Promenade with the sparkling lights is very pretty and we sat often there and had coffee or a drink. The Taste Bar looked great, but we didn't sample anything; missed the sushi, honestly, as we loved the creations that were previously provided. Someone told us it was upstairs, but I think it actually is not available anymore on this ship. We did not visit many lounges. The atrium was fantastic on the last night when the show performers mingled there...what a party!
Pool was packed during the day, as were the two hot tubs there. Serenity hot tub was less busy many times. The covered areas in back were usually very quiet. Waterworks has almost zero shade, especially on the main deck, and can become very windy. The slides were fun and everyone except the seniors in our group spent several hours over the days using these facilities. Two racers, a twister tube slide, splash pad with buckets and a smaller slide area are included.
This was our tenth cruise with Carnival and we were very satisfied with all aspects of our trip. One of our children became ill the last night and we were provided with priority debarkation as he needed to be carried and was still visibly sick. We waited an hour in the terminal for luggage to be made available and our son was able to rest on the carpet in a secure area near the bathrooms. We were escorted to the bathrooms with our child before going thru customs and Jacksonville security and port personnel assisted us with our sick child, as well. Thanks Carnival for everything...this is a vacation we will always remember for all your kindness and fun times.