After being on RCI for 9 cruises this was our second cruise with Carnival. After being unimpressed the first time we decided to give Carnival another try and cruise on my Birthday.
We were looking for a 5 day cruise from Florida that were driving distances from our location. We looked at departures from Tampa, Port Canaveral, or Jacksonville. All three had sailings the date we were interested in. The Choices were Tampa on the Carnival Paradise, Port Canaveral on the Carnival Sensation (Our unimpressed first cruise with Carnival), or Jacksonville on the Carnival Fascination.
We had decided on Tampa taking the Carnival Paradise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The day prior to us booking this cruise we received a special offer from the Carnival in the mail. It could not have arrived at a better time and offered us a balcony stateroom at a great price on the Carnival Fascination. Even though we had been to the ports it visited the offer was too good to pass up.
We booked the Carnival Fascination for our cruise and were impressed that it was so easy to use the website and get the price that we received in the mail. We had to call afterwards to make a change to the room assignment due to a bed restriction and that too was a simple and friendly process.
Having cruised on older ships like the Sensation, and a few older RCI ships about the same age we expected it to be somewhat dated but it was still a cruise to get away from no cooking, no cleaning, and getting some time away from the daily norm.
We had the option to purchase Faster to the Fun and did so. When we arrived at the terminal we parked at the port. A golf cart took us and our luggage from the parking area to the terminal. We were escorted to the desk, received our Sail and Sign cards and right on to the ship we went. It literally took all of about 15 minutes from the time we got in the cart to being on the ship.
First impression was it looks like the Carnival Sensation as they are the same class ship. The layout is exactly the same and we had expected that we were in for another of the same unimpressive cruise as before with Carnival. Our room was ready and we dropped off some items we carried on in the room and checked out our first time ever balcony room. It was clean, looked good, and had more space added with the balcony.
There were no long lines at the buffet and we attributed this to being we were on board early with Faster to the Fun. The food at the buffet was hot and the area was very clean. The taste of the food was very good as well and the plates were larger than we had seen before on any ship. There was a fair selection to choose from and the larger plates come in handy.
The staff that we had encountered so far were all friendly and spoke to you as they past by you even if was a simple Hello. It was time to take a step back and look at this in a fresh new way. Forget about what was, and look at what is. Compare the past later to the present if it was at all possible.
After lunch we set out to explore. Being on a same class ship in the past it was pretty easy to get around once you remembered that deck 8 was not normal having the kitchen between the 2 dining rooms and you can't get from one to the other or aft to forward on that deck. Avoid deck 8 except for main dining times and it's fine.
It was raining when we departed Jacksonville so the sail away party was moved indoors and was not as long as what I guess they normally do comparing it to others.
We had the early seating and went to diner at 6PM. We were the first three of ten at our table. A few minutes latter a group of four others showed up that were first time cruisers. Day one they were quiet but after a few days and me eating like a pig they were getting used to the idea of diner cruising.
Jodi (aka : Clark Gable of India) and his staff of waiters, asst waiters were awesome. They were outgoing, cheery, and fun to have serving us. They paid attention to detail and remembered everyone name. Sek was our waiter and top notch at making you feel comfortable and full by the time we left the dining room. It was that way from Day One to Day Five !
We attended two shows and both of which we had never seen. The diva's Show was a little too new as to the music for me, but the Motown Show was a hit ! We watched the others from the luxury of our room on TV when it was on as we spent time in the casino.
We didn't see any major winners on the this cruise but I racked up enough points to get the free drinks while I played. There was a drawing the first night and I won nothing. My name was called but the number I picked said Not a Winner. The next day we found some chocolate covered strawberries in our room from the players club ?
The ship itself may be older but it's maintained, clean, and has enough for you do do for five days to get away.
Remember those long lines at the buffet I mentioned ? There never was one on this cruise when we went up to it.
Overall this Carnival cruise was a hit. The first one we took was a miss. The food appeared to be better and the staff was no comparison from our first Carnival Cruise. One staff member even told me that each ship will have a personality and depending on the crew it can make a world of difference between what was, and what is. Maybe that was missing from our first Carnival cruise.