Background Info - It's are 4th Cruise with Carnival, and our first time to the Bahamas (Freeport & Nassau), as well as our first short itinerary (4-day). We've enjoyed all of our prior Carnival Cruises and when booking we tend to find that Carnival has the best value price-wise for the destinations/itinerary.
Travel to the Embarkation Port - We drove roughly 7 hours from NC to Jacksonville and parked at an Airport parking facility. It was a short shuttle ride from the Airport/Parking to the Port. Jacksonville Port parking was $15/day (steep!) and they even had drop-off fees for shuttles, etc.
Embarkation - at Jacksonville, Embarkation was by far the quickest and easiest we've ever gone through which was very nice.
State Room - We had an ocean view room on the aft, main deck (M65). Our room actually had 2 overhead single beds which I was worried about before the cruise, however they were stowed away and locked in place. It seemed smaller than previous rooms we've had, but it was enough space for the two of us and the bathroom was laid out much better than the cramped ones we've had before.
The Ship - I thought the lay-out of this ship was a bit chopped up and small(it was a smaller ship than we've been on in the past), and although it's was refurbished in 2006, the decor is like a 80's disco-feel, in my opinion. Plus it had what seemed to be many more smoking-allowed areas. All that being said, there was a spot that would appeal to just about everyone. There's 4 hot tubs (always packed), 1 pool as well as a water-park with slides at the back.
Dining - We tend to utilize most dining options during the cruise, which I would suggest. The buffet is easy and perfect for breakfast (and lunches for sea-days), they have a sushi stand, deli and pizza stand for a snacks, and we would do the formal dining room for dinners. For me, the buffet is typical buffet-food and you get a variety and the typical favorites. I think the formal dining is a bit more elegant, and although it might not be 4 star food, it's usually very good.
Service - The service on Fascination was higher than the other ships in my opinion. Our cabin steward was efficient, timely and greeted us by name. Our dining staff was polite and the bar staff was friendly.
Activities & Entertainment - There's something for everyone. If you like live music - they had bands, one-man acts (piano or guitar). If you like a show - they had the dancers & singers (80's theme night was great). If you want to gamble, there's the casino. If you want to play silly games or are a bingo-fanatic, they've got that too. If you like comedy, they had comedy shows almost every night (although it got repetitive - same 2 comedians doing the same set the whole trip). And if you didn't want to do anything, you could find a place to do that too.
Ports - Freeport - We decided not to do any shore excursions this time, and just hang around the island. At Freeport, the port is very industrial and there's no where really to walk to. You must take a taxi/shuttle or book an excursion at this port. We took a shuttle ($10/person/round-trip) to Lucaya which houses a nice white sand beach and swim zone, plus bars, restaurants, casino and shopping. It was too cloudy/cold/windy in Feb. to stay at the beach so we went to Rum Runners, sampled the local beers, listened to music and ate Conch Fritters. *Important! Check with the people boarding the shuttle with you about a pick-up time... you could get stuck coming back to the ship early (like we did) because of it!
Ports - Nassau - This is a big cruise hub. When we were docked 4 other cruise ships were docked. There's shopping/restaurants/bars directly at the port, so if that's what you want there's a few blocks of it. We took a taxi/shuttle over to Atlantis/Paradise Island ($4/person/one-way). Again, because it was cloudy/cold we didn't go to a beach, we ended up getting passes to Atlantis' Aquarium ($39.95/person) and whole day walking around the huge resort. We ate at the marina (Green Parrot) and had a huge conch fritter hoagie and fries.
Overall, between the two ports, I wouldn't mind going back to Nassau, because I think there's much more to discover there besides Atlantis Resort. As for Freeport, I wouldn't necessarily want to go back. The hurricanes a few years ago really did a number on the island, and it's much more industrialized than touristy.
Disembarkation at Jacksonville - Again, much faster than any other experience we've had. We were able to self-disembark (which means carry our own luggage off) which made it even faster.
Overall - I learned a few things. 1. I probably wouldn't go on a cruise in Feb. again, the weather was just too chilly and cloudy (maybe we got a bad week) to really enjoy the locations fully. 2. I would consider going back to Jacksonville and the Fascination because of the easy embarkation/debarkation and the service we got on the ship