My mother had been hoping to go on another cruise for a number of years and my daughter and I decided to surprise her for her 90th birthday. This cruise was chosen because it was an easy drive to the port from our home in North Carolina and the price was too good to pass up. This was my first Carnival cruise, having previously sailed on Princess, NCL and another line that no longer exists.
We drove from NC to Jacksonville and stayed at the Jacksonville Plaza the night before we boarded the ship. The hotel was OK but there are probably better choices in the same area. We left our car at the hotel and took their shuttle to the port.
We arrived at the port before noon and were checked in quickly. There was a long line of people standing, waiting to board and I asked if there was somewhere my mother could sit since she has difficulty walking or standing for any length of time. The port staff was very considerate and led us all to a row of chairs near the front of the line. When boarding began we were among the first to get on the ship.
First impressions....the ship was attractive, easy to navigate, and seemed to be well maintained. We headed to the buffet for lunch which, as expected, was busy and crowded. My recent cruises have been on NCL and they always have one of the dining rooms open for lunch on embarkation day, which is a more relaxed way to begin a vacation. We explored the ship a bit after lunch and then went to our cabin to get settled in. Our luggage had arrived by the time we got there. The cabin was large enough and had enough storage space for 3. We had 2 twin beds and an upper berth.
Food...It was good, not great but good enough. We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch most days. There were fewer hot selections on the Fascination than other ships I've been on but the salad bar was very good and the desserts were excellent. We had late seating for dinner, not our first preference, but we booked late and that was all that was available. I would have preferred the flexibility of Anytime Dining. Again, the food was OK. I ordered fish a couple of times and it was overcooked. All the cruise lines have had to make cutbacks in recent years and I really didn't see much difference in the food quality on Carnival and the other lines I've experienced.
Service...Was very good. Our dining room waiter was very attentive and interacted with everyone at our table. (He was also one of the best dancers in the dining room.) Our cabin was well taken care of, although we never met our cabin steward.
Entertainment.. For the size of the ship the entertainment was quite good. The production show on the last night was excellent. You need to get to the showroom early though. Many of the seats, especially on the second level, have obstructed views. There were comedians performing in one of the lounges every night as well.
Ports..Freeport and Nassau, nothing to get too excited about. We spent some time at Lucaya in Freeport and took the water taxi to Atlantis.
Disembarkation was the easiest I've ever experienced. We didn't have too much luggage so we carried it off the ship ourselves. 30 minutes later we were in the car on our way home.
This was my daughters first cruise and she wants to go again next year. If the price is as reasonable we probably will.