My girlfriends (2) cruised on Carnival Fascination two years ago and enjoyed it, so we chose to go on Carnival again. We all live in New York and figured it would be easier and cheaper for us to leave from New York. The price was good since the third and fourth "passenger" paid half price, so we split it three ways.
Embarkation: The price of parking your car for 8 days was just ridiculous in my opinion (I believe it's twenty dollars or more a day), so I had to find my way to the pier. Carrying as much as I was taking the train was not an option and my friends and family work during the week so I had to do some creative traveling which was pretty stressful.
When I got to the pier it was chaotic. The cars lined up in the front picking up and dropping off and porters picking up and dropping off luggage with no signs or guide anywhere. I had my fingers crossed until I got my luggage hoping that my luggage would get to me. After that it was pretty easy, but I got there at 10:30 am so it was not really crowded. There were people disembarking from the ship I was going to get on so it was interesting seeing them go by. I've cruised many times on Carnival so checking in and getting my sign and travel card was a breeze.
When I first got on the ship one thing I noticed that the ship looked smaller than any other ship I had been on. The lobby was small and the decoration was um interesting. I guess because I've been on so many cruises it's hard not to compare and personally I didn't like what I saw.
My room was not ready (got on at around 12:30pm) so I went to eat on the Lido Deck. They had a buffet lunch and because everyone had to wait for their rooms to be ready, it was overcrowded. I didn't bother getting much to eat since I was carrying around stuff and wasn't able to carry anything. My girlfriends had not gotten on yet so I didn't have anyone to leave my stuff with. I was pretty annoyed that I couldn't leave my luggage in the room.
Room: I had a balcony room with three beds. Although a little crowded, it was not bad at all. Although it was three beds (twin), one of them was like a daybed with cushions. The duvet and pillows were just wonderful. We each also got robes and lots of "goodies" in the bathroom like razor, toothpaste, pepcid AC, coupons, etc. The bathroom, although small, was very nice with glass shelves and very very nice showerhead which I wish I had at home. I wish there were more storage space (three females), but there were enough. The balcony was big enough for two chairs and a table and had walls on either side for privacy. The TV was useless sometimes because it kept muting itself and sometimes we would get a picture at all, I believe because the signal was from a satellite - who knows.
The people who cleaned our rooms were great and friendly. Of course they made great towel animals and left us chocolates and refilled our ice buckets and cleaned pretty good. Fortunately we had a female steward because she came in once while we were sleeping. You definitely have to put out the privacy sign if you wish not to be disturbed. They cleaned the rooms twice a day, but if you needed anything between then they were always ready to serve.
Dining: Although I try to stay away from formal dining, I went almost everyday on this cruise. I didn't understand what smart casual was, but the only thing I got was that no shorts were allowed. There were two formal nights on the cruise for those going to the formal dining room (Bacchus), but the rest of the time is was "smart casual". The decoration was pretty over the top for me, but the wait staff and the gentleman who sat with us were delightful. By the end of the cruise we were sad to say goodbye. The Bacchus Dining room is basically one restaurant with two floors. You had early and late dining, and you were assigned a table on one of the floors. The line for dinner was always so long that it would go into either the Gotham or Metropolis lounge which was annoying for those there already enjoying the entertainment. We had late dining and started going late just to avoid that line.
The food was fantastic, although I would fall in love with a dish and I would never see it again. They don't make the same thing twice it seems. I did like the fact that you could order more than one appetizer, entree, dessert and if you didn't like what you ordered you could easily send it back for something else. The staff also danced and sang at times which was pretty nice and sometimes comical. My girlfriends bought me a cake on the ship for my birthday and the staff came with the cake and sang happy birthday which was very nice. This was the first time I truly enjoyed dining on a ship.
There were several stations on the 9th Floor for buffet dining. You basically were able to get a variety of foods and as much as you wanted. There was also the 24 hour pizza and ice cream which was utilized by us more than once in the middle of the night. The food was regular, nothing special, and there was more than enough places to sit. There was also a sushi cart at certain times which was great. The only type of drinks that you could get for free was coffee, lemonade, fruit punch, apple juice, orange juice, and iced tea so if you wanted anything else you had to put it on your card.
Also extra was certain pastries, liquor, soda, and the alternate dining like Nick and Nora's which you would have to pay $30 for. From what I was told it was worth the money.
Entertainment: There were many activities on the cruise I didn't participate or see (lots of sleeping), but my girlfriends told me that some where very good. I did participate in a country line dancing class and saw guests participate in the newlywed game and talent show which was fun. You were able to see some of the activities going on the ship on your TV which is how I saw some of them - like the hairy chest contest. There was a Jazz band on board that were FABULOUS.
There was a club called the Frankenstein's Lab that was two floors. Teens utilized it until 11pm when it was 21 and over only. Although for an hour between 11 and 12am there was usually a theme (disco, house, classic, etc.) the music was always by request. Sometimes, depending on the request, the music went from good to bad. The layout of the club is not that great so most of the time it was hard to see what was happening on the dance floor(especially for short people).
The pools on the ship did not make sense to me really. Most of it was shallow except the middle part which left little room for people to actually swim. There is a slide which I heard was pretty good.
There is a library but it wasn't used as such. The Raven Library was mainly where the computers were for internet access. The three plans that were available was 250 minutes for $100, 100 minutes for $55 or $.75 for every minute. You could also use your laptop or device wireless, but you had to pay of course. It didn't suit me at all.
Every night they had photographers ready to take professional photos as well as those photographers who go around the ship and off taking photos of activities and guests. It's all great until you get ready to buy them. You have to buy the photos at the size they make them so if the photo is 8x10 and cost 21 dollars that is what you have to pay. You cannot ask for a 5x7 unless you bought the 8x10 first. This meant that if you bought more than 5 8x10 photos you have gone over $100 dollars. Now they take photos of you dining, getting on and off the ship, professionals you chose to take especially at formal night, etc. and this goes on for your entire trip. You have to be VERY picky which photos you want or else you would have spent most of your vacation money on photos alone. This was disgusting and I was not happy at all. There were many photos I wish I had I could not afford to buy. They should have the photos digitally where you could chose from a screen and print out whatever size you want.
The Ship: I did not like the decor on the ship. It was a fantasy theme with different characters, but it was just too crazy for me. Mad Hatters, Pinocchio, Gotham, Metropolis, Bacchus, etc. was just too much. I'm happy my room had nothing like that in it.
Excursions: The only excursion I went on was St. Thomas/St. John Champagne Catamaran Beach and Sailing. That was the best excursion I had ever been on. It was a windy, bumpy ride across St. Thomas in the mountains to the marina where we met the Catamaran. The ride was scenic and very interesting (took approx. twenty minutes). At the marina we met up with a great crew of three on the Adventurer. We sailed for awhile on the beautiful water of St. Thomas to a private beach on St. John where you were able to snorkel or just lay on the beach and swim. Beautiful. The water was clear and so good, and the area was clean and quiet and the view was breathtaking. After we left the beach the crew gave us cheese, crackers, bread, fruit, and soda, liquor and of course Champagne. When we got back to the marina all of us had felt like we knew each other. On the ride back to the ship everyone was making jokes and singing. We had a fantastic time. I would recommend highly.
Embarkation: Frustrating! You have to be out of your room by 9am and wait around if you didn't pick self assist (leaving with all your luggage instead of having the staff carry it out for you). For those with a lot of luggage you had to wait for your number to be called while your luggage was being inspected by customs. We waited around approximately two hours plus, annoying. Then when we got off the ship it was chaos where the luggage area was. Luggage was everywhere and people had to go around looking for a their luggage which was usually not together. It was a mad house and not organized at all. Everyone was frustrated which made for a very tense environment. I would definitely self assist if I did it again.
Overall I had a great relaxing time on the cruise, but I will not be taking a cruise out of New York again (too many days at sea), will definitely bring less luggage and will self assist.
PS: you will automatically be charged $80 for tips for the ship staff so make sure you put that aside.