My husband and I wanted to sail from a city close to us so we chose Carnival Fascination out of Jacksonville. Even though we both prefer the larger ships Carnival runs, the Fascination turned out to be a very good ship. It was clean and looked newly refurbished. The crew was extremely friendly and helpful and the guests were very happy and friendly as well.
One of the smartest things we did was to start our trip with Carnival's Faster To The Fun program (they classify it as an "excursion",) Faster To The Fun is one of the best $50 I have spent on a cruise line so far. From the moment we arrived at the terminal, we were treated like absolutely royalty, being moved to the front of every line, bags were at our door when we arrived at our cabin, our steward was there to greet us and make sure we had everything we needed.
Service was exceptional in every area, and although we typically get fantastic service to our room (I always present our room steward with a nice bag of chocolates and a thank you card with $20 at the BEGINNING of the cruise) every one of the Fascination crew members were helpful and ready to assist whenever needed.
Food was good in all dining halls - just the right temperature, very nice presentation. Our request for a private table for 2 was filled every night by our wonderful Maitre D' Binal, (again, we always begin the cruise with a nice bag of chocolates and a thank you card with $20 presented to our Maitre D' at the time of the request.) I believe this sets a very nice tone that says, "We truly appreciate the hard work that goes into good service," and it is always returned back 4 fold.
The pool area is very well managed, plenty of chairs and nice upper deck "nooks" overlooking the pool that offer both shaded and sunny areas. These became our regular hangout areas and the bar services were very good about covering this area even with the added spiral stair cases that had to be climbed in order to serve us.
Our only real complaint was the events pavilion where all of the contests and displays happened. It's a small covered area and the view is obstructed by large palm trees all around, making it very hard to watch ice sculpturing or hairy chest contest, unless you are willing to stand on the stairs by the pool. A small design flaw that did not take away from our fun. We met a fantastic couple from Scotland our last day at sea and spent the entire afternoon with Marilyn, Steven, Killian and his wife.
When we reached Nassau, the second port (the first was Freeport but we rarely get off the ship when there) we tethered over to Paradise Island. My husband did the casino while I had an amazing Frangipani body wrap treatment at the Mandara Spa. I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who has not experienced a 5 star spa. Mandara is world renowned and honestly, the prices for spa treatments are not that much more than aboard ship. The atmosphere is amazing and worth every penny. Definitely get to the spa at least 30-40 minutes before your treatment to enjoy the wet area and sauna (which is included with your booked treatment,) It is luxury all the way and one of my favorite things to do when in Nassau.
Before heading back to the ship, we stopped for lunch at Sharkeez, just opposite of the ferry boats. This, to me is a "must stop" if you are in Nassau. The drinks are all amazing (I like the Volcano and Bahama Mama) but the Black and Blue burger is the BEST burger you will ever taste. Don't go back to the ship until you try this!
Overall, I have to give the Fascination a solid 9. We have always sailed Carnival and actually were married on the Carnival Legend, but for the price (under $1600 for a balcony room) we definitely got our money's worth! Can't wait for the next one~
We typically choose to stay on the ship when we port at Freeport. There isn't anything there we haven't seen or experienced before and we find the vendors are too many and too pushy. I always enjoy the quiet of the ship when most everyone is ashore. Makes for a nice relaxing time by the pool.
My husband and I LOVE Nassau. We take the ferry over to Paradise Island and he does the casino at the Atlantis while I go to the Mandara Spa. If you have never experienced a 5 star spa, you should not miss the opportunity. The treatments are the best in the world and when you book a treatment, you also have access before and after to their wet area - cold and hot plunge baths, sauna, steam room, aroma therapy rooms, in a very Zen-like setting. Amazing, relaxing, worth every penny! Just pretend you're Ophra for the day.