Let me preface this with: The crew was friendly and attentive, the ship was spotless, the service was great and the amenities were numerous. This is a great ship for families.
However, this sailing had issues from the moment we embarked. The tide was high and we were about 6 hours late to depart. No big deal - so the port stops were switched. Instead of Freeport then Nassau, we had our Fun Day at Sea, then Nassau...and from there we were at the hands of Mother Nature. Due to a tropical storm, we had to eliminate Freeport completely, so we had another Fun Day at Sea, which was fine by me because my husband and I were there mainly for the ship and not the ports. Especially after Nassau being quite lack-luster. Nassau locals were very pushy and the one shop we did end up bartering with changed their story after we settled on a price and I got into a bit of an argument with the shopkeeper. I overheard them being rude to other potential customers as well. We only spent a few hours in port because we were tired of fending off the local hawkers and constantly saying "NO!". The town was dirty and smelled bad, everything was in repair, under construction or closed. (I am generally very easy to please and eager to see other cultures, but, I was not impressed with what Nassau had to offer.) The restaurants were more expensive than I would have thought as well. Other cruisers that went to Atlantis said it was nice, though expensive, and I am sure an excursion such as snorkeling would have been nice as the ocean is beautiful, but we just wanted to explore the town.
After Nassau, it rained the entire time, so you could hardly walk across the open deck and pool area, let alone go for a swim, and because the weather, the midnight deck party and buffet were canceled.
The staff remained pleasant through it all even though many of them were sick, as were most of the guests. There were 10 foot waves and the ship was REALLY rocking. Jen, the cruise director, made sure there were more events planned for the remainder of the trip, and kept us updated via the intercom so we would know what was going on.
The entertainment and activities were great, when we could get to them, however, even when we showed up an hour early for the comedy show and other entertainment we wanted to see, we could not find a seat, so would end up wandering around, playing the casino, or hanging out in the room.
The room was wonderful (as I remembered) - the bed was so comfortable. One of the bands (True Identity) was AMAZING, and the comic (Tom Foss) was pretty good.
The food was okay. We last cruised on the Sensation (sister ship to the Fascination) in 2004 and I just remember the food being absolutely AMAZING! This time, the service was still great, but the food was not as wonderful as I remembered. It was enjoyable, but not unforgettable like our previous experience.
Upon arriving back in Jacksonville we experienced further delays because of high tide and instead of debarking between 8am-10am, it wound up being around 2pm. Everyone was going stir crazy by that time and the negative energy and complaining of other guests from the time the weather went south and our Freeport stop was canceled made it hard to stay positive, but we did our best.
All in all, the negative aspects of this cruise I can blame almost completely on other passengers (and Mother Nature). Many of the guests were rude, pushy and loud. My husband (35) and myself (30), like to party and have a good time - its not like we are the older, uptight, quiet types. I just found most of the guests to be of a different (lower) caliber than people I would choose to be on a ship with for 5 days.
I think the kids on board had a great time and the families seemed pleased (we do not have children). The water slide was a hit with the kiddos and the teen events sounded really fun.
While our experience was pleasant, I think we have decided to go with a bit more upscale cruise line next time, more geared to affluent 30-somethings like ourselves, but mostly only because of the other passengers, not for lack of attentiveness on Carnival's part. They did an excellent job with terrible circumstances. Also, we will probably not cruise again during hurricane season as the same type of situation occurred on our first cruise at the same time of year!!!