Let's get one thing straight. The Fascination is not a ship for the sophisticated or the gourmet. Those seeking solace should most definitely look elsewhere. The whole raison d'etre of the Fascination is fillet steaks, feather boas and fun, fun, fun! In these respects, this huge ship delivers in spectacular style over the course of four days.
On one long interior boulevard, an entire string of bars and clubs caters for every taste, from piano concerto to pounding disco. The forward show lounge features the Vegas-style revues for which Carnival is justly famous. Encompassed within the promenade, banquettes framed by sea view windows provide ideal spaces for chilling out or people watching.
As you might expect, the casino is enormous, a whirring, chirping and clanging neon zeppelin hanger that goes on 24/7.
The concept that Joe Farcus whimsically calls 'entertainment architecture' is carried through to both dining rooms, where waiters sing and dance on podiums and start conga lines in between courses. These dining rooms are pure theatre. Service as a whole here is efficient, deft and just a little frantic. The food itself has improved greatly over the past few years, with Lobster as an entree option provided on every cruise. Those who have never sailed Carnival might well be surprised at the quality and diversity of the on board dining. Take that from someone who also sails with Silversea, Radisson, etc, and you get the point.
The Coconut Bar and Grill is an almost 24/7 fast food outlet, programmed and run with the same air of assurance and efficiency. Carnival's burgers are, in my opinion, still the tastiest afloat.
Service throughout the ship is generally fast and assured. After all, the more drinks the staff serve you, the more commission they make. As a whole, the crew is courteous, smiling, and worth every cent of the tips you will (hopefully) give them. To keep a ship this upbeat 24/7 requires stamina on more than just one level.
Cleanliness is impressive, though with 2,500 passengers the lines and messy buffet tables are a fact of life. The spa, right up forward, seems clinical compared with Conquest, but it is roomy and comes equipped with all the instruments of torture you could ever need.
Accommodations-spacious rather than salubrious, but the beds convert to make a roomy, dreamy double. The showers are some of the best afloat. For a short cruise, storage space is better than average.
Fellow passengers can be raucous, but this is true of any mainstream-and even some more upmarket-lines these days. On a cruise, the right people inevitably gravitate towards each other. You find your own favourite bar, or part of the deck, and just immerse yourself in that.
Our ports were gorgeous Key West, where seven hours is never long enough, and crazy, funky Cozumel. The latter is an open lunatic asylum, where the mosquitos wear people repellant. Mid town is the head office, otherwise known as Carlos and Charlies. This is truly the Death Star of all bars, with margaritas of weapons grade strength so big you can swim in. The place is absolutely mental. Check your inhibitions at the door, and watch out for the little bald man with the frogman's flipper....
So, to summarise-a great big floating party full of hedonists, cramming a week's adventure into four days that, at times, can be softened for a while by the most amazing sunsets anywhere. Leave your pretensions, keep your expectations reasonable, and you'll have a blast. I'll be back for my third go this November. Can't wait!