Having sailed one of the Fascination's sister ships, the Sensation, I could appreciate the excellent job Carnival has done with revamping this ship. I was a little apprehensive about my cabin, a 1A on the Riviera deck that I booked as an inside guarantee. Initially I thought I may be spending 5 days in a cabin the size of a broom closet, but my fears were unfounded. The 1As on this ship are great little cabins, especially for 1 person. The cabin layout is an "L" shape, with ample drawer and closet space. There's a single bed and an upper bunk that can be folded down from the wall for a 2nd passenger, with the ladder stowed in the closet. Since the cabin has a single bed as opposed to a queen, there's a lot of walking around room. I never felt closed in or cramped.
The set of stairs that led one deck down to the gangway where we disembarked at ports was just a few steps from my cabin. This made getting on and off the ship in Key West and Nassau easy and convenient.
The passenger mix ranged from hip hop to hip replacement, with the majority coming from the Southeast. According to the cruise director, there were 300 children onboard. This was kind of surprising, since school is back in session the first week of January in most places. Camp Carnival must have kept them busy, because there never seemed to be that many children in the public areas of the ship.
I was seated at a table for 10, but only 5 people showed up - myself, 2 men traveling by themselves (one of whom was in the cabin next to mine), and a divorced man with his college age daughter. They were a pleasant group of tablemates, and we got along well. The food quality was good overall, although I did notice some cutbacks. For instance, on formal night, instead of 2 lobster tails, there was a petite tail accompanied by 3 tiger shrimp. Portions were also smaller than they were in the past. This wasn't a problem for me, but 2 of the men at my table usually ended up ordering 2 entrees.
My favorite dishes included the roasted West Indian pumpkin soup, the cream of wild mushroom soup, the braised beef short ribs (much better than the Chateaubriand I had the night before), and the Grand Marnier soufflé. I ate breakfast every morning in the dining room, as well as lunch when it was available. The 2 lunches I ate in the Lido consisted of a piece of pizza and a salad from the salad bar.
The service on this ship was consistently good, including my cabin steward and dining room waiters. I enjoyed having an afternoon or before dinner drink in the Atrium Bar, where Jenefer and Elizabeth took good care of me.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the nightly shows on this ship, especially since it was a short, relatively inexpensive cruise. The 80s music show was very entertaining, as was the juggler/comedian. "Hey Mambo" on the last night had the most lavish costume changes I've ever seen on a cruise ship.
This was the first time I'd visited Key West and Nassau. In Key West I explored the town on foot by myself, visiting the Hemingway House and Sloppy Joe's bar, as well as doing a little shopping. There was a lot to see and do in Key West, and the 7 ½ hrs. we had here just wasn't enough time.
In Nassau I booked an excursion thru the ship - the Historical Highlights and Pirates of Nassau tour. The local gentleman who drove us around the island was interesting and informative. He drove us to places on the island outside the tourist areas, and we had the opportunity to get out of the van a few times to get a closer glimpse at some of the sights. After the van tour, he dropped us back near the port where we visited the Pirate Museum on our own.
Carnival used a new disembarkation system that pretty much had everyone off the ship a little after 9:30 am. VIPs got off first, then self assist passengers who carried their own luggage, and finally those of us who put our luggage out the night before were called by number. The process was fast and easy.
I highly recommend this cruise to anyone who's considering booking it.