Overview- We three family members took our annual cruise on the Carnival Fascination to Nassau and Freeport this year. This was our second time together on a Fantasy ship and our first time sailing out of Jacksonville. We had a very good time in spite of high winds in Nassau and Freeport.
Jacksonville Pre-cruise we stayed at the Embassy Suites Baymeadow. Our taxi driver asked us why we stayed so far away from the cruise port- we had a free suite at the hotel as my daughter had Hilton Points. If you don't have a free hotel room, the places to stay are near the airport or at the Holiday Inn Express Blount Island near the port.
We enjoyed the Embassy Suites- the rooms were clean and pleasant- the hotel has a great Atrium with lots of tables and chairs to use during the Manager's free reception (wine and beer, mixed drinks and snacks) and during the free breakfast buffet.
This Embassy Suites hotel had an in-house Omaha Steak House which was pricey, but delicious. We had a good start to a great vacation.
The Ship The Fascination is in very good condition for an older ship (1995.) It looked clean and polished with lots of refurbishments such as the upgraded dining room dEcor and the Atrium bar. The only concern we had was some excess rocking and rolling during the high wind times- but this was a very windy time in the Bahamas.
The Cabin We had an Oceanview on the Main Deck. Comfortable and spacious for three people. Carnival has installed new bathroom floors- a dark blue non-skid flooring which is quite an improvement. All cabins have been refurbished.
Food We totally enjoyed the dining room entrees- our group had quite a variety: Flatiron Steak, Tilapia fish, Chicken a la Greque, Lobster & Shrimp on Elegant Night, Sweet & Sour Shrimp, Veal Parmigiana, Perch, Salmon, and Chicken Fettucine were some of them. Shrimp cocktails and several entrees were available every night, as was the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake,which gets oohs and aahs from new Carnival cruisers.
We shared a 6 person booth with 3 other cruisers and had a great waiter- Subrata from Bali. He was also our wine steward- we bought a $65- 3-bottle wine package which enhanced our meals.
The Lido food was good. A special comment on the delicious gateau layer cakes. Yum! Carnival has some of the best Lido desserts.
The Deli and Grill food was also good. Didn't try the Pizza or the Bistro from 6:30-9:30 (in the Lido.) As we're up early- we had coffee and pastries in the Lido at 6 a.m. and then breakfast at 7. It is relaxing in the Lido at that time of day.
Entertainment The Karaoke was fun, fun, fun with some incredible singers and a few who just sang for fun and laughs. Songs ranged from Country to Pop to Rock to Rap to Crooners to Classics such as "Midnight Train to Georgia." Karaoke took place in Puttin on the Ritz and the place was hopping- lots of folks danced, even did the Electric Slide. It was a good time. The last night, the 6 top singers performed for everyone in the Palace.
There was plenty of entertainment for all- we also enjoyed the pool band from Dominica- Tropic Thunder. They sang in several languages which was an added interest.
We attended the Captain's Reception, used the Internet, sunned by the Aft Pool, checked out the library, shopped in the Galleria, had fun exploring the ship and relaxing. My sister went to the Newlywed Game and spent time in the casino. There are so many activities for everyone-plenty to do all the time.
The Ports We were in Nassau on the 25th and in Freeport on the 26th. In Nassau, we took a $5 pp van over to Atlantis to walk around and enjoy the flowers and atmosphere while the winds calmed and the sun broke through. (We had spent a day at Atlantis and Cabbage Beach before, so this was a quick visit.)
When the sun came out, we got our gear and took another $5 pp van over to the Wyndham/Sheraton Cable Beach Resort. For $40 pp we bought a day pass with buffet lunch included and had a good lunch at the Wyndham before heading over to the Sheraton to change, get some towels, and sunbathe on the loungers. We did some wading, but it was too windy to swim. However, this resort, with several pools and a nice beach, was a discovery we would like to return to in the future. After a good day, we took the #10 Jitney Bus back to the pier (about 4 miles away.)
We docked in Freeport on a Sunday. We don't know why the cruise lines go there on a Sunday, as so much was closed. It was windy and not a good day for excursions, many of which were canceled- so we took a van over to the Westin/Sheraton Our Lucaya Resort to check it out. It is a nice place with a big beach and pools- but is kind of isolated as it is 10 miles from the pier. It is across from Our Lucaya Marketplace, but things were fairly quiet there on a Sunday.
Disembarkation Disembarkation was disorganized and slow. We waited nearly 3 hours to get off the ship. There was a long Self-Assist line. Have never waited this long to disembark. Hope others have not had this long wait.
Post Cruise My daughter flew home and my sister and I stayed a day at the Wingate Wyndham Lenoir St. in Jacksonville. This hotel is located in a business hotel area- nice walking area with an Applebees and a Cracker Barrel- lots of flower gardens. We headed home to New England the following day after our pleasant days in Jacksonville and a good 4 night cruise on the Carnival Fascination.