My husband, Mark, and I just got back from a three-day cruise on Carnival's Fascination to Nassau in the Bahamas, out of Miami, Florida. This was our sixth cruise; we’ve also cruised on Carnival’s Jubilee, Imagination, and Fantasy, and Celebrity Millennium twice. For background info, I’m 27 and he’s 29 and we live in Orlando and drive to the ports. On this cruise we were sailing with two male friends, ages 29 and 31, who stayed in a different cabin.
Day 1 - Embarkation
The first day was simply the embarkation day. We left Orlando around 9:00 and arrived at the Port of Miami around 1:00. We parked in the parking garage first and took our luggage over to the pier. The Port is under a lot of construction but it was fairly easy to find our way around. Got in line and got through embarkation easily and painlessly. No problems there, it was very easy. We boarded the ship around 1:30, first went to see the Maitre d’ about our dining reservations, and then all went up to lunch. I didn’t find much on the buffet I liked and hit the pizza bar. We went to our favorite spot on the Fantasy-class ships to eat, the patio area on the very aft end of the ship behind the Lido deck restaurant.
After lunch we went to our cabins. Mark and I had booked a guarantee cabin and ended up with R32, a forward oceanview cabin on the Riviera deck. It turned out to be a nice cabin location and was very quiet. Our friends were in R18, an inside cabin just a little further forward from us. They didn’t have any complaints about the location either.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship and relaxing. The Fascination is really a beautiful ship. Of course, we experienced the lifeboat drill, but I was surprised by how brief it was. We went to our muster stations, listened to the lecture, and then it was over. I had thought they would make us go outside to the lifeboats, but they didn't.
That evening we had the late seating dinner at 8:30 in the Celebration dining room. We had originally requested a table for four so the four of us could eat by ourselves, but we were put at a table for eight. The Maitre d’ had said he couldn’t move us unless we wanted to change dining times to early seating, so we stuck with it. Our tablemates were very nice, but kept to themselves. Our waiter and assistant waiter both did an excellent job. I'll talk about the food a little later.
We were very tired that evening from staying up late the night before and getting up early that day to leave, so we went to bed after dinner.
Day 2 - Nassau, Bahamas
On the second day we had ordered a room service breakfast before we arrived in Nassau. It came twenty minutes early, which I didn’t appreciate because I wasn’t dressed. During our time in Nassau, one of our friends wanted to go snorkeling, so Mark and I booked the Blue Lagoon Beach Break and he booked the same tour along with the Stingray City snorkeling. Our other friend stayed on the ship all morning.
We absolutely loved the Blue Lagoon excursion! It was so much fun. We met in the Palace Lounge (main show lounge) at 9:00 and set off for the ferry boat from there. There was free rum punch on the way, along with a bar with tropical drinks for $6. We tried the free rum punch but the rum was very watered-down! Mark filled his glass three-quarters full of rum and put just a splash of the fruit punch in and you could barely taste the rum.
Upon arrival at Blue Lagoon Island, our friend joined the Stingray City group, and after a little exploring, Mark and I got some Piña Coladas and staked out a hammock. The island was just beautiful, and there were no vendors harassing anyone. There were all sorts of amenities... things for sale, tropical drinks at a bar ($6 for a delicious Piña Colada), hair braiding, swimming, snorkeling, hammocks, picnic tables, basketball, clean restrooms, showers, hiking, calypso music. We dozed in a hammock until our friend got back from snorkeling. He was hungry when we met up with him so we went to the lunch bar. Unfortunately, the prices here were outrageous! They were charging $8.50 for a hot dog or hamburger and $11.50 for barbecued ribs or chicken. Our friend got a hamburger but Mark and I decided to skip lunch. The Piña Coladas were filling anyway. After he ate, he swam some more and Mark and I walked around the island to a stone structure called Blackbeard’s Tower. Great views from there! Then we decided to head back to the ship. There were two ferries you could take, at 2:00 or 4:00 and we decided to go back on the 2:00.
Back at the ship, Mark and I and our friend met up with our other friend, grabbed some pizza and then got ready to head off to Atlantis. We took a taxi and asked the driver to meet us at the entrance at 7:45. We wandered around the building but did not pay to get into the Dig. Spent some time (and $$) in the casino, then we walked over to a wonderful little restaurant down the road from Atlantis called Anthony’s Caribbean Grill. We all had drinks, shopped a bit in a neighboring store, then headed back to the resort to meet our cab. He was there promptly at 7:45. The usual fare is $4 per person and we gave him an extra tip for meeting us.
After returning to the ship we had just enough time to change for dinner. That night was formal night. After dinner we explored the ship a bit, wondering why the bars were all empty, and went up to the Lido deck and discovered the deck party. I would say that 75% of passengers (including us) changed into more casual clothing after dinner.
Day 3 - Fun Day at Sea
On the sea day we woke up and had a late breakfast at the buffet, snagging a couple of boxes of cereal for the next morning since we were going to be doing self-express checkout the next day.
We spent the morning wandering around the ship and taking pictures. At lunchtime we decided to eat in the dining room because my husband wanted the ribs. He loves Carnival’s ribs.
After lunch we went to the pool and watched the pool games, then in the late afternoon went to the casino and won a little money. My husband and I went back to the cabin to take a nap before dinner and ended up sleeping through it. So we had pizza late that evening. They also had the midnight buffet that night. We were tired though and went back to the room to pack and go to sleep.
Day 4 - Disembarkation
Although I had set my alarm for 6:30, we were awakened at 6:20 by our phone ringing (I hadn’t ordered a wake-up call.) So much for sleeping in a few minutes! Got up and finished our packing, then got our friends up and headed to the Palace Lounge for self-express checkout at 7:30. Carnival is trying a new debarkation option in Miami in which if you can carry all your luggage, you don’t have to leave it out the night before and can just take it all and leave early on debarkation day. It only took about thirty minutes from the time we left the cabin to the time we were in our car. It was without exception the easiest and most organized debarkation we’ve ever experienced. Traffic in Miami wasn’t too bad, either, as everyone seemed to be going the opposite direction as us. Be careful and lock your doors as you cross the bridge from the port area into the city, because that isn’t the safest area of town.
The Fascination is a beautiful ship. The Coconut Grove restaurant on the Lido deck was my favorite Lido deck restaurant of any ship we’ve been on, as far as décor. The palm trees were such a neat touch! The ship was always kept immaculately clean; and although some of the railings could use a coat of paint, and the windows could stand to be washed, it was a very pleasant ship. The wide variety of lounges, bars, and clubs on the ship could not all be visited in a short cruise, and there is one to suit every taste. The cabin was large enough that we did not feel cramped.
The food on the Fascination was very good. I would have to say that it is much better in the dining room than it is on the Lido deck. There was always something for everyone on the menu, and everything was consistently good. The appetizers were especially good, and I found myself ordering several of them instead of a salad. Desserts were top-notch. Entrees were generally small, but you could always order more. On the Lido deck, the food was served buffet style and was generally about average quality. It was filling, and they always had a variety of choices, but it wasn't the best food I'd ever had. My favorite food item on the whole ship would have to be the pizza. It was delicious, with a thick, chewy crust and delicious sauce. They offer plenty of spices with which to dress up your pizza - Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes. The only thing I didn’t like about the pizza was the amount of cornmeal on the crust – it made the meal very messy.
We are not people who enjoy Vegas-style shows, so we didn't see the shows any night of our cruise. One of our friends saw the midnight comedy show and said it was very funny. In the lounges there was always someone playing the piano, or a live band, or a DJ spinning tunes. All of the entertainers in the lounges were excellent.
We used the prepay option with our tips, and won’t be doing that again. Our cabin steward never introduced himself to us and kept moving our things around so that we had trouble finding things. He didn’t seem to go out of his way to exceed our expectations. Dining room service didn’t suffer, but didn’t stand out either.
Overall, the trip was very fun. Just remember that how good a time you will have depends on your attitude. Expect minor problems and don't let them ruin your cruise. No vacation is perfect, and we can't expect them to be or we will be disappointed. Go in with a realistic idea of what to expect and a great roll-with-the-punches attitude and you'll have one of the most wonderful vacations of your life.