My sister and I decided to take our first cruise together. We decided to do the Carnival Fascination because we heard it would be a good one for first time cruisers. We did all our boarding pass documentations online through the Carnival website.
We arrived in Miami via USAir. Unfortunately half of our luggage was lost by the time we arrived in Miami. USAir was not very helpful or apologetic. Would avoid using them again if possible. The Carnival representatives were right at the airport waiting for us and escorted us to the waiting Greyhound bus to take us to the embarkation point. The luggage handler we had after departing the bus at the Carnival terminal was quite rude. He basically threatened us that if we did not properly tip him our luggage may not arrive safely in our rooms. Bad first experience with Carnival! Once in side the terminal the lines went very quickly and we were treated very professionally and politely and we were soon onboard.
Our first stop was the Purser's desk to report our missing luggage. The clerk there was very helpful and encouraging and kept in contact with the airlines for us until it was delivered to our stateroom the following day.
Our stateroom was larger than we had imagined and had plenty of closet and drawer space. It was tastefully decorated and very clean. Our room steward was excellent and anticipated our every need even though we didn't tip him ahead of time as suggested in order to get good service.
The food was very good to excellent. The lines at the buffet were sometimes long, but they moved fairly quickly. The hotdogs at the grille were some of the best I have had. Everything was kept filled and you never had to wait for anything. We weren't overly impressed with the Mexican midnight buffet they had one night. The pizza was excellent and we had a slice everyday. The breakfast buffet on the Lido deck was much tastier than the breakfast in the dining room with the added benefit that we could eat seaside and watch the world go by. Our waiters in the dining rooms were very professional and polite but not overly friendly. We were disappointed as we sat and watched the fun others were having with their servers. The food for the most part was very good except the steak was overdone and tough. I would not recommend it at all.
The public areas had a very relaxing and inviting decor. The hallways all had window seats to relax on and read while watching the world go by. The Palace lounge, where most of the shows take place was not very conducive to watching the shows as there were very few seats available to get a good view of the stage. Most had an obscured view of the stage. There were pillars in the way or the chairs were arranged at bad angles to prevent a clear view of the stage. My advice to anyone wishing to see a show is to get there very early in order to snatch up the few good seats available. The bars were all pretty open with plentiful seating and not crowded together. The casino was larger than we expected with a large number of slot machines. We never had to wait for a slot machine to become available.
The shows in the Palace were excellent. The Eighties musical revue was our favorite. The singers and dancers were wonderful and kept us entertained throughout the entire show. We didn't want it to end. The entertainment overall was very good. They had many excellent musical groups/individuals. The group games that they played were corny but very entertaining. It was as much fun to just watch as it was to participate.
The swimming areas were nice and well kept up. My biggest grip here would be the unattended kids that were using the hot tubs as swimming pools. We were not able to use them during the daytime and early evening because of the amount of children in them.
We didn't participate in any extra fee offshore excursions. We went shopping at both of our port of calls, but getting off and back on the ship was relatively simple.
The debarkation was very easy, we had a later flight so we took our time getting off, we had one last breakfast by the water as the sun came up and just relaxed on the Lido deck until our number was called. There was absolutely no line as we debarked the ship. We waited approximately 10 minutes in the customs line but that was it. We went promptly to the Bus that would take us back to the airport. Overall we had a wonderful time and would definitely sail with the Fascination again. We loved this cruise ship experience and highly recommend it.