Went on a 7 day cruise on the Fascination departing Jacksonville 5/7/11. Overall we had a good time there were a couple of things that could have been a little better but overall great value for our money.
Boarding at the Jacksonville port went very quickly. We arrived right at eleven and parked at the port's parking terminal. Cost us $105.00 but was well worth the convenience both coming and leaving. We were though security and on the boat in about 30 minutes.
Our kids spent a lot of time a camp carnival and loved it. We had a 6 year old boy and 11 year old girl. Our daughter enjoyed the camp a little more than our son because she immediately made some good friends and enjoyed a little more freedom to come and go. The had daily scavenger hunts and she loved those. By the end of the cruise my son was truly enjoying camp too and would start whining when it was time to leave.
We spent a couple of hours every day at the water slides. The pool was crowded, small and too deep for my son but the water slides did not seem crowded at all and my kids had a blast at them.
Our room was an ocean view and did not feel crowded at all for a family of four. We had two uppers and a king size bed and there was plenty of closet space for all of our clothes. Our only complaint was how dirty the window was. It was so dirty that any pictures we tried to take from the window would not even turn out. Twice we saw them cleaning the windows but all they did was spray water on them and it actually made them worse instead of better.
We did the any time dining and were happy with it for the most part. We never had to wait for a table and our service was pretty good most of the time. The food was always very good at the main dining room. The breakfast buffets were very good. The lido grill was really great except there were some pretty long lines most of the time. The salad bar at the buffet was really good too. The only bad thing I can say about the dining was that if you opted not to go to the main dining room for supper, the buffet was seriously lacking. It normally only had three or four items to choose from and they closed down the outside grill at 6:00 so you could not get any food for supper from there. The deli was good as was the pizza.
One of our stops was at Half Moon Cay. I was wanting to get a cabana but for the past month they had been sold out online. As soon as I got on the ship I went strait to the excursion desk and asked about them, they said that they had three left which I assume they hold back for those who cannot access it online. The cabana was worth every penny, however we did have a problem in that they did not give us the soda we had requested. All eight of our included sodas were sprite. This was not a problem for my husband and kids but I cannot drink regular soda due to the sugar content. My husband walked all the way back to the front of HMC to the excursion desk and the Carnival worker there was very rude to him and said that she would send someone to our cabana. After over an hour of waiting at the cabana, we flagged down a HMC worker and told him our problem. We gave him one of the sprites as a "tip" and he had someone over within a few minutes with exactly what we requested.
One of our other stops was Nassau and we got taken big time on hair braiding there. I am writing a review about it as a port review if you want to read it as a warning.
Another thing my husband and I did on the Fascination was take the Behind the Fun tour. This "excursion" cost us $55 per person and was well worth every penny. It is very very interesting and was honestly one of the highlights of our cruise. I cannot say enough about it and would suggest anyone taking a cruise to try and book this.
My only real complaint about this cruise was in the fact that at the beginning I bought the soda sticker. I found that I sometimes had a problem getting drinks. If a waiter were to walk by and ask me if I would like a drink, I would ask him for a soda and he would get it, however it sometimes took quite a while and then they would NEVER ask again. I did not find that to be a big deal because I would simply walk to any bar and the bartenders were fine with getting you soda. You can also use this to your advantage if you are tired of waiter's bugging you to get drinks. However it did become a problem when I was in the main dining room. If I was able to flag down a drink waiter they would bring me what I requested but it took forever and they would then never return to let me get another. One time the waiter actually gave me a dirty look when I asked for the soda. I understand that they make tips off of the alcoholic beverages but they also included the tip when I bought the soda sticker and I really wanted to have a couple of sodas with my dinner.
Finally, although we had kids with us, going in the beginning of May was a wonderful decision. The boat had very few children on it. Camp carnival told us that the boat had less than 50 kids in each age group and that was extremely light for them. Also the weather was perfect--85 during the day and 70 at night. So if you would like to avoid having so many children on the boat this was the perfect time to go.