A Practical review with tips and advice. Just returned from the Fascination's Jacksonville, Nassau, Private Island 5 day route. Flew in the day before (learned a tough lesson once and missed the ship due to a flight delay years ago). Stayed at Residence Inn by airport and got a 2 room suite as we have 6 in our family, for about $139. They use a contractor (King) for rides and he mentioned they do ship transportation to. So through the front desk and charged to our room we got round trip transfers for $12 per person. Caught it at 11 am Saturday. About 20 minute ride. Have your photo ID and cruise docs out as you show them going into parking lot.
Line was fair.. hold up right at the ship. Main doors to the cabin areas are closed until 130. Ate, toured, took kids on water slides... very nice (open 12-6 first day). Muster drill around 330. Pull out at 4. Takes about an hour to get to open sea. Very nice houses line the river you go down. Well worth being outside as you head out to sea.
Cell phone. I have to be in touch for the work I do and have Sprint. I called 2 days before and they turned on international roaming. $2.99 for calls (I had some) and 50 cent to text out and a nickel to receive. We were local til about 7 pm and way out to sea before we roamed (red triangle on my blackberry). Had a few calls come in, some went right to voice mail. A few times there was no service (must have shut it down on ship). In the bahamas Sprint texted and said $2.29 per minute and we had to make several calls to arrange/confirm excursions. Glad they had this service.
Dinning. Early, Late, or "when you want." Yep, you can sign up for anytime dinning when you make your reservation. Go when you want. Sign up for it. The meals were typical carnival, but service seemed faster than previous cruises-- still an hour or more for dinner though. Best staff we have had, gave extra tip at end.
Cabin has just 1 main outlet- be sure to bring a power strip. Had some extra requests, gave extra tip at end.
Work out room- huge, tons of equipment. Had a body cleansing body fat sales pitch by the staff. They put some device on me and told me I needed to loose weight. Told them I would tip them good if I could loose it all in the next 5 days. They did not laugh. Their real angle was to sell me a 6 month body cleanse supplements for $606. I text my personal trainer and he said to run the other way.
Private Island advice- Most people go 9-10 am and return 3-4 pm. Long waits for tenders in these times. We should have gone 12-5. There are free blue cabanas that start opening up about 12 as people return to ship. Get one. Most can only take 4-5 hours of sun and fun so avoid the lines and go late.. Kids got burned bad... cheap lotion I guess. Great Island, lots of fun kids toys at the closest end. Carnival has put alot of money into their place.
Nassau was great. Had been years ago, and people were saying it was "seedy" and people were "rude" Only a few pushy cab drivers and straw market people. Others were awesome. Very warm, friendly people. We walked to Bay street, took bus 10 to fort charlotte for $1.25 each exact change, and took the tour $5 per adult, less for kids, and hired a tour guide. The guide made it all worth while, then took the bus back. Got some local currency at a bank downtown including a paper 50 cent note. The branch manager was extremely helpful, and had us move to the front of the line over paying customers. Very, very friendly here. Later we took a cab to Atlantis and did the shallow water experience (that was all that was left) for $150 a pop... ouch. But it was phenomenal and now we know why it sells it out. Photos for $70 for the smallest package. It was 5 pm when we were done and because the water park was closing so there was no security (and we had a wristband) so we walked around most of the water park and hotel. Wow, very ritzy. Took a shuttle back, all $4 per person each way. Tours are negotiable. We were offered a limo tour for $35 per person, then $25 by the same guy... not a van, a limo.
Kids club was great...2nd to last day had optional (fee based) program til 330 am and they walk your kids to your cabin after so you don't have to get up. First night out we did the optional fee based for an hour and when we went to get the kids from the game room the maintenance staff was washing the deck and had the area blocked off. Poor coordination on the schedule as all parents in our age group had to figure out that to get their kids they had to go into a closed off area. Thought the staff did well, gave them a tip at end.
Debarkation- smooth. If you put a noon flight or earlier on your sign and sail card you are offered early exit (about 850 am). We were in group 2 (after the self carrying folks) and right before 9 am they had groups 1-11 exit. Most went down the stairs forward to level 3. However, there are 2 lines going out. Folks who took the elevator to deck 3 walked right out through the 2nd line and right off the ship. King Transport was there waiting (I called, they make continuous round trips) and we were on the road within 5 minutes of clearing customs.
Misc. We had M 192 and 194. Close to stairs, but noise not bad. Deck Chairs fill up fast, best and softest on back end deck 9. Some have shade umbrellas. At Private Island NO Id but s&S card is needed. At Nassau you have to have picture ID and S&S card. Basketball hoop on private island is a joke. Jerk Chicken there is the best food. First day at sea we passed by about 100 dolphins at 1145 am. That night we passed by Nassay at 1030 pm on our way to private Island. Water does taste better in dinning room. Double filtered? Also melting ice is better than tap water. Really. We had 2 rooms and were able to get "key only" extra cards so we could get into the other room. There is a "no iron" policy for a reason- fire at sea concerns. Dont bring one, they'll find it and take it. You are asked to fill out a health questionaire as you board... no colds, right? Staff was very very friendly. Due to noise and light in hall, we put a towel by the foot of the door and brought a fan for white noise. Helped. In Nassau you exit through a building with shops and vendors. It has free wi-fi. You will see a bunch of ship crew sitting on the floor with their laptops. We got on the wi-fi on my sons ipod touch and posted facebook, free emails, etc. Some were using skype. Bring lanyards for your S&S cards... it was very windy. We actually found S&S cards blown on the running track into the corners which we of course turned in.
Complaints- was really surprised that on Sunday, which was a sea day, there were no religious services offered at all. Many folks from the Bible belt on board. Hot tubs and pools closed way to early, at 10 pm most nights. Ship was clean, a few worn spots (metal step covers in all the stairwells were "tired" looking). Camp Carnival takes the kids swimming on the day they have been to the private island (swim,ing all day). why not Nassau night or a sea day? A channel on TV had ship info. Good stuff, but ocean depth off... 200-400 feet ok, once it showed 16,000 feet deep. Really? Near the private Island, I dont think so. The outside windows were dirty on the cabins. This is a big job, but other ships keep up with it.
Funny- They had a Michael Jackson tribute night in one of the dance clubs. They had two security guards by the door to keep the young boys out. True story. Actually to keep anyone 21 years and younger out.