This has been my 9th cruise and my first back to back on Carnival. The first cruise on 10/22 to 10/29 was with my dearest friend. Our main purpose was to shop in St. Thomas. Boarding was not a problem and our room was sufficient. The food was simply put...eatable, the entertainment was ok. We enjoyed the itin and had a good time. We did the self assist embark and disembark and I will think twice before I do that again. Disembarking was horrible since we ported with another Carnival ship. The lines were long and slow. My husband joined me in Miami Sunday night and we boarded the Fascination on Monday for a 5 day cruise to Key West and Cozumel. The ship was horrible. We were on the Main level in 116 and the hall as well as the room had a septic system odor. Although the food menu was exactly the same as on the Valor, it was not even eatable in the dining room or Lido. It was simply awful. The shows, including the dialogue in the game shows was exactly the same as on the Valor. On both ships I purchased the soft drink card. On the Valor, I could use it anywhere. However, both my friend and I had to "hunt down" a waiter to get any kind of drink...they were simply NOT anywhere to be found. We were in a club for over 3 hours and had one drink. I purchased my card on Tuesday and by Friday I only managed to get 3 sprites....not worth it. I was very annoyed. The Fascination was a little better with the drinks but not much. I would guess the booze sales must be down by at least 30%. On the Fascination, I was only allowed to use the card at the lobby bar and the Lido..it was a waste of money.
My biggest complaint is the service on both ships. This I attribute to the "prepaid tips" which are charged to your card before you even settle in. On the Valor, we disputed the charges right away and had them removed, requested envelopes and tipped as we saw fit according to our service. On the Fascination, my husband left the charge on the card but he even noticed the big change in the quality of our service....it just is not there. I heard complaints on both ships about the lack of service and most agreed that why would anyone care about give good service when they know they are going to get tipped anyway. I understand the reasoning...that a lot of people do not tip with envelopes. However, I would think that it would be better to increase the salaries and encourage good service for the additional monies to be made. I would love to hear others overview of the new tipping policy. I never really enjoyed Carnival as much as the other lines but the price was right this time. This was our 5th cruise on Carnival and at no time were we able to get any upgrades. When we requested, we were told that the ship was full. However, too many times we found out that "first time cruisers" were given upgrades AFTER we had boarded and were denied. This seems to be the policy on Carnival and I find it hard to remain loyal under the circumstances. I receive upgrades from RCCL and Princess. I do not think that we will be cruising anymore on the Carnival line. I am of the opinion now that I would rather pay a few extra bucks. Also, all you smokers out there...bring your own ashtrays because they are scarce and it does get ugly.