Well let me start by saying my DW and I have been on over 25 previous cruises including Carnival, NCL, RCCL, HAL, and a couple of small lines. We are in our young 50's and consider ourselves independent travelers. We have found reasons to like and dislike all of the cruise lines for various reasons and our tastes. Generalizations can always be tough but some of our impressions are Carnival is less elegant but more fun, we love NCL's freestyle dining but the service was weaker, HAL has great service, elegance, and food but an older crowd, and RCCL has ok food but excellent entertaining shows. We tend to like smaller more intimate ships but have had great fun on bigger ships as well. That said here goes on the 8-22-09 sailing of the Fascination.
We picked this ship specifically for its Jacksonville embarkation port, this is a convenient drive for us and we save a lot in airfares often associated with southern Florida ports. We weren't nearly as thrilled with one the two ports we were to visit, Nassau, having been there before and not having had a particularly great time. This however was just a quick getaway and a time for relaxation so we just decided to make the best of it.
We drove half way down the previous night and stayed at the Quality Inn at Richmond Hill Ga. The hotel was nice and the staff helpful. We had a very nice free breakfast the next morning and left for Jacksonville. We parked at the port, being 2 couples it was cheaper for us then to try and drive all the way to Jacksonville where room prices are higher and we would have needed 2 rooms. We arrived at the port at 12 and within 30 minutes we took our obligatory pictures and were heading up the gangway.
Being onboard early there were lines at the welcome buffet but they were short and manageable, we would find this would usually be the case. The buffets were just "ok", the lines moved well however even though the ship was full, (2600). We did enjoy the deli and in particular the turkey on country roll slightly toasted. The roasts on the buffet were usually nice and medium rare, but for my tastes the sauces were overpowering.
We found the ship to be old in age and style but in very good condition. There was one major pool maybe 12 x 18 that had a slide dumping into it. A second pool at the aft was less used and we ended up spending more time back there. There was a third kiddie pool on a lower deck that was little used, but only a foot and a half deep.
The food on the ship was good, but not great. We have found that we always have had a particular item better somewhere else, but only on a cruise ship do we get day in and day out the variety. We sat a large table with a great Canadian family who had cruised little, sharing in their enthusiasm was contagious and we enjoyed watching them get overwhelmed by the food. When you cruise often, we have a tendency to compare and take things for granted, often it falls short, being with them reminded us of our beginnings as well. So for us appetizers were very good as were deserts, main meals not so much, for our new friends everything was fantastic!
We booked early saver and got a 4A porthole window, fantastic price and loved the size and the natural light. . We were right up in the front on upper deck, room U15, that proved quite nice. The seas were medium as hurricane Bill had just passed so being in the very front had a little motion the first nights but all that did was made us sleep late so it was great. The room was kept spotless and the bathroom was reasonable size and felt especially clean with the new floors. The bed was great and the flat screen TV came in well.
In the ports we always do our own thing, and this was no exception. Half Moon Cay has to be one of the finest beaches I have ever been on, small waves, crystal clear warm water, and a good buffet lunch. Just a great, relaxing, day.
Nassau hasn't changed except several hotels were closed for a couple months, we had been going to the Wyndam and Crystal Casino but they were closed so we went to Atlantis for a while then just Senior Frogged for a little while. Not a great day but better then work.
We went to most of the shows and the comedians were good, the singers and dancers were ok. The regular activities led by the staff were all standards and except for the occasional interesting contestant were typical. One of our highlights on the ship was the talent night, these are always hit or miss but this week we had a couple really good ones. Every performer was entertaining and a couple of them were very good. We always go to these expecting little and walk always amazed at the talent in our midst.
The music from the house bands/singer/piano bar was weak; we really struggled for a place to go after dinner that might be entertaining. Piano lady talked more then sang, tried 3 different nights never any luck in there. The boulevard player was ok but never had more then a couple people listening. The band in the elephant room was musically ok but rough singing. We did go in there several nights. Karaoke needs willing participants but few seemed willing. We ended up hanging in there just to get a seat prior to the late night comedy. The disco seemed a bit wild so we just went past.
Getting off the ship was a breeze as we literally walked our bags off our floor within 35 minutes of being cleared by customs.
All in all we had a good time and I would do this cruise again, in fact we are booked for January 2011