We were hoping that a number of family members would join this celebratory cruise for our parents' 60th anniversary so we chose a 4 night sailing that spanned the Columbus Day holiday weekend departing from a convenient Florida port for all of us. As it turned out there were only a total of 5 of us that participated, two of which were my mid-80's year old parents.
All five of us are very experienced cruisers with well over 20 cruises each under our belt. My parents and younger brother were taking their 3rd Carnival cruise, while DH and I were experiencing our first sailing on Carnival. Our previous cruise lines include Celebrity, RCCL, NCL, Costa and a couple other lines (several now defunct. It was interesting comparing and contrasting the experiences, and we found more similarities than differences. Heck, we just ADORE cruising - I think DH would have loved the life of a ship's Captain, as he fell in love with the sea from our very first cruise together for our 10th anniversary!! I grew up in the 60's taking several Florida-based cruises with my parents. No one I knew back then had ever been on a cruise, so I felt VERY privileged. DH and I finally could scrape together enough money for that first one week cruise back in 1984 and then it was a number of years before we were able to take any more cruises. Now we try to book at least two or three every year! We had always been afraid that Carnival cruises would be too much a "wild party" experience for our tastes, but we picked a good time of year and this sailing turned out to be a good fit for all five of us.
We particularly enjoyed the incredible weather we experienced during this cruise. We took a chance booking smack in the middle of hurricane season, but we were rewarded with blue skies and sunny weather the entire four days. Loved the revamped pool decks and all the fun options available like the water slides and the "adults-only" sun deck. The pool IS a bit too small for a ship this size - as it was very crowded with all the good weather we had. We also enjoyed the mini-golf course on the Fascination and found it quite challenging. I would have liked to use the nice gym more (eliptical machine was great!), but just ran out of time. We had no problem finding chairs on the higher front decks to read or just sun bathe. So relaxing! We were surprised that we were not hounded much at all to buy drinks like we have been on a couple other cruise lines. It did seem that they had PLENTY of business selling drinks-of-the-day on this sailing! Apparently these shorter sailings just be more profitable in that regard. We found some great deals on liquor in the gift shop and stocked up for the holiday season ahead as I love to make rum cakes to give as gifts!
We were so happy to be able to get my parents to try their very first balcony cabin EVER on the Fascination. They absolutely LOVED it! They had the furthest back balcony cabin on the starboard side of ship on the Upper deck -U237. My brother stayed with them in that cabin on the drop down upper bunk as the three of them live together and they always share a cabin on their frequent cruises. They now say they will need to book a balcony cabin for all their future cruises. I KNEW this would spoil them!
DH and I booked a PT (porthole) cabin on the Main deck. We purposely chose the furthest possible PT cabin back from the front of the ship and were very pleased with our choice as we had a great view out from our two port-side port holes at the same price as a regular interior cabin. What a deal and I enjoyed the natural light! We also were very pleased with the spacious size of the Fascination's cabins and our room steward kept everything spic and span for us with towel creatures every night and chocolate mints on our pillow! Nightly mints have been done away with on RCCL and NCL so it was fun having them again on Carnival.
We dined together with my folks and one other sweet couple each night in the Sensation dining room. Our waiters were extraordinarily attentive and honored my parents' 60th with a lovely cake and the assistant waiter even danced with my 85 year old mom! I found the food both in the Sensation dining room and on the Lido deck at the buffets to be very good overall. Nothing particularly outstanding, but nothing to complain about either. Everything I tried was at a good temperature and there certainly was a great selection available. Loved the different varieties of pizza available at the stern of the Lido and my brother REALLY used their services A LOT!! DH enjoyed the soft serve ice cream station and also the regular ice cream varieties available in the dining room. My dad is just showing some sugar problems and he and I appreciated the nice selections of sugar-free desserts available too.
The two production shows we saw in the theater were extremely well done. The two singers are particularly excellent, and we are very aware of the entertainment business as our son and his wife are both musical theater performers. My only real complaint is with the late-night comedy show we attended (and I really don't think a 9:30 pm show should be considered late night). Yes, we were "warned", but the kind of language I heard and some of the sexual descriptions and innuendos were way over my head (and I'm over 55). Oh well, the place was packed and drinks selling like hot cakes, but this kind of "entertainment" just wasn't for DH and I and we have even been to several recent Vegas shows and never heard anything quite this foul...
The two ports we visited, Freeport and Nassau, were ones all five of us had been to a number of times. We did not take any ship excursions, preferring to just do "our own thing" in each of these ports. In Nassau DH and I took the water taxi to and from Paradise Island where we spent our honeymoon 36 years ago and also walked around Nassau and to Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase plus the shopping area. Not sure if my folks made it to Paradise Island this trip but they did walk around Nassau and the straw market area. The Fascination did not set sail from Nassau until about 10pm, so DH and evening walk after supper, too. WARNING: there are RATS in the trash cans in Nassau at night!!! This was kind of spooky as the trash cans were MOVING when we walked by, and finally DH actually spotted a large rat darting back into the straw market area! I did notice that the ships' mooring ropes all had rat protectors on them, but Nassau must really have a BIG problem with these pests!! Never knew that before.
Embarkation and debarkation were done very well. No stress at all for my elderly parents, so I commend Carnival and the Fascination for their very efficient and organized system. $15. a day each to park our two cars was a bit steep, but we checked EVERYWHERE and could find no other lesser priced alternative in Jacksonville for those of us driving to the port. Wish someone would start a Park and Cruise business in Jax on the south side of the port like they have at the Fort Lauderdale port.
We highly recommend a cruise on the lovely Carnival Fascination!