Sail Date: December 2014
Fascination Christmas cruise 12/24/14 for myself, wife and three daughters. All experienced cruisers. Due to differing work schedules we only had time for a 5-day cruise. We also needed non-stop flights from three different cities. ... Read More
Fascination Christmas cruise 12/24/14 for myself, wife and three daughters. All experienced cruisers. Due to differing work schedules we only had time for a 5-day cruise. We also needed non-stop flights from three different cities. Jacksonville worked out best, so off we went on Fascination. Embarkation. Jaxport is a one-story tin-roof warehouse affair that looks like it was thrown together in about 3 months for $100,000. Extremely no-frills. But from the time we arrived at 11:30, dropped off our luggage with the porters, parked in the fenced-in lot ($75 parking fee for 5 days) and made it through check-in, we were on the ship in less than one hour. With that kind of performance, I couldn’t care less if the facility is made of sticks and a thatched roof! The Ship. Fascination is the forth oldest in the Carnival fleet. We’ve sailed on Fantasy class ships before, so we knew what we were getting. On the plus side, the ship is in great shape for her age. Clean, little sign of wear and we don’t mind the smaller size. The crew was constantly cleaning, polishing and maintaining as always. All that said, this ship is in desperate need of the 2.0 upgrades. Aside from the last dry dock where they glued a bunch of balconies onto the hull, cruising Fascination is a lot like cruising in the 90’s. The décor is noticeably dated. We missed things like Guy’s, Red Frog and Alchemy. The Serenity Deck has no bar and no restrooms. Again, we picked this ship because it best met our needs and knew what we were getting. Fascination heads into dry dock in March 2015 for the 2.0 upgrades and that should make it a much better experience. If they could only do something about that ridiculous design flaw on every Fantasy class where the lifeboats totally block the view from the pool decks . . . Cabin. We had two interior cabins on Deck 6 (Upper.) We stopped buying balconies a few years ago when we realized we never spend any time in the cabin and the dollars could be better spent elsewhere. Typical Carnival cabins. Spacious enough with plenty of storage. Temperature and maintenance both fine. Our cabins were both in a “sideways” configuration where you enter on the long wall rather than the short wall. This is a little bit awkward and the beds didn’t fit quite right, but who cares? Crew. Pleasantly impressed. This crew was among the best we’ve experienced on any Carnival cruise. Universally friendly and attentive. Our cabin steward Oscar introduced himself in the first hour, kept the cabins neat and greeted us in the hallway by name. Our dinner waiter Hugo (late seating; Imagination Dining Room) was also excellent. He knew our names and our likes on the second evening. His two assistants were also pleasant and efficient. The bartender in the Atrium Bar, Andreea, was maybe the overall best Carnival employee we’ve ever enjoyed over the years. Food. Again, pleasantly impressed. We ate breakfast each morning in the Sensation Dining Room. Good service, better food and no lines (the line for omelettes in the Lido Buffet was always 20 people long.) More folks should take advantage of the fancy dining room for breakfast. The Sunday Brunch steak and eggs was the single best meal I had on the ship. We never once sat in the Coconut Grove Lido buffet. Grabbed a snack here and there and ate by the pool or on the Serenity Deck. Dinner ranged from OK to very good. Appetizers always interesting (small portion size, but they’ll bring as many as you want.) Entrees were hit and miss. I had a filet from hell one night, but an excellent Chateaubriand the next. If your waiter offers advice on what to eat and what to avoid, take it. Hugo was always spot on. Drink. All five of us bought the Cheers program. The initial price is a bit of a punch in the gut, but we figured we’d break even at about 6-7 drinks per day. Since we enjoy a drink before dinner, a glass or two of wine with dinner and a cocktail before bed, breaking even is not difficult. Maybe the best thing for us is that Cheers allowed us to try drinks and wines we probably would not have tried otherwise. Don’t like it? No big deal. Wait five minutes and order something else. If you enjoy drinks on your cruise, Cheers is worth the cost. Shows and Such. None of us attended a single show. Hate them. The girls went to one late night comedy show and gave it a C-. The lobby bar entertainer Robbie was talented, but his classic rock repertoire did not fit the venue. One major complaint. We’re finding the increasingly urban hip-hop vibe on the pool deck (DJ Irie, Carnival calls it) not to be to our liking. We all agreed that alone would be enough to seriously consider another cruise line when we next have time for a full 7-day adventure. Cruise Director. I’ve never understood the absorption with cruise directors and couldn’t care less about them, but this guy (Jason “Jase” Apps) was more annoying than usual. Extremely frequent and painfully long announcements. Must be getting one beauty of an incentive on Carnival MasterCard sign-ups because he talked about it all cruise long. Just wished he would jump overboard. Ports. Spent a couple of hours on Half Moon Cay just to get our toes in the ocean. Tendered over, walked the entire length of the beach (about three miles round trip) and tendered back. Did not eat there or use any of the amenities. Our other stop was Nassau (our 6th visit to Nassau at least) but the girls had been only once before. We walked to the Queen’s Steps, then all the way over to Fish Fry for lunch (Goldie’s – excellent,) then to John Wattling’s Distillery. That’s more than 5 miles of walking, but we’re a pretty fit bunch. Never once felt unsafe on Nassau. Keep your wits about you and stay on the port side of the hill and you should be fine. Overall. A good cruise. We’re a tight-knit family and usually have a good time anywhere we go. This cruise was no exception. The time we got to spent together was in and of itself great for us since our family is now geographically spread out a bit. Carnival continues to offer a good value, plenty of home ports and a nice variety of cruise lengths. Without Carnival, a cruise would not have been possible for us this Christmas. That said, as our family grows older we decided we’re going to branch out a bit. My kids loved Carnival as teenagers, but we think other lines may better fit us at this point. We’ll see. But we would recommend this cruise – and Carnival – to anyone.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
My husband and I spent a fun New Year’s Eve aboard the Carnival Fascination to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas! We were pleasantly surprised that despite the ship being one of the oldest in the Carnival fleet, it felt clean with ... Read More
My husband and I spent a fun New Year’s Eve aboard the Carnival Fascination to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas! We were pleasantly surprised that despite the ship being one of the oldest in the Carnival fleet, it felt clean with plenty of activities and perfectly suitable rooms and public spaces. What it’s missing are things like a larger spa and specialty dining areas which are things we don’t typically use anyway and it feels like there is more deck space and open areas instead which we greatly appreciated. Embarkation while slow was smooth in Jacksonville (they could really use more staff to make things quicker). Greeting us as we boarded was free champagne which was a great way to start the trip. Our room was ready when we boarded and we were very happy with our porthole selection as it provided a view to the outdoors at an interior price. We were especially happy with the shower and found the closet space to be just enough. Food onboard was pretty standard Carnival fare. Although the burgers weren’t Guy Fieri’s burgers like other ships, they were actually quite good. Our favorite dish continues to be the chocolate lava cake dessert at dinner. Dinners in the main dining rooms were fine, nothing special, but enjoyable. Special shout out to whomever (or whatever program) assigns the tables as we very much enjoyed our tablemates! Our wait staff was also the best I’ve experienced – efficient, yet personable, and very accommodating. There were plenty of great places to explore on the ship. The slide area in the back was fun (and better than newer ships’ slides!), the outdoor seating areas for casual meals were fantastic, the Serenity area was a quiet retreat, and the miniature golf was entertaining. The piano bar was very cool (and the pianist that was onboard our cruise was the best we’ve ever had!) and the theater was nice (and we took full advantage of them playing college football games one day in the theater). Shows in the theater were unfortunately a downside. It’s very clear that Carnival just isn’t putting much money into them anymore. No real storylines or sets and instead just off-key singers in scandalous outfits. We went to a few comedy shows, but unfortunately found that rude and crude was a consistent theme. The magician was amazing though! The dance club at night played way too much Latin and rap for me to enjoy, but there seemed to be a good crowd in there most of the time. Live music however was mostly good and much preferable over the DJs playing the same few songs over and over again. My husband and I had booked the cruise as a fun way to celebrate NYE. Carnival hosted a deck party complete with streamers and party hats and a band and DJ. We had a very fun time dancing the night away (and enjoying more free champagne). I kind of had expected a bit more than just a few songs from a band and the honking of the ship horns and then a DJ for the rest of the night, but everyone was there to have a good time so the crowd made up for the lack of other NYE special surprises. It was especially disappointing to see the cruise director, Jace, leave the midnight party he had been hyping at 12:05am. Based on the noise coming from the crew’s quarters, I have a feeling he wanted to run off to another party that evening instead. Overall the cruise and ship were a pleasant surprise and much better than we had expected for the price we paid. I’d highly recommend it for families and new cruisers as it’s large enough to be a fun and entertaining cruise, but not too large as to be overwhelming and packed. More experienced cruisers might miss some of the glitz and glam of other ships and cruise lines, but for the price you’ll pay it doesn’t get much better than the Carnival Fascination! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2013
EMBARKATION: easy with RTF. OV room nice -Steward good. Weather: stank. I usually get a balcony room but glad I got OV. Balconies were closed most of treat I o due to very rough seas. Couldn't use pool due to weather. This was not a ... Read More
EMBARKATION: easy with RTF. OV room nice -Steward good. Weather: stank. I usually get a balcony room but glad I got OV. Balconies were closed most of treat I o due to very rough seas. Couldn't use pool due to weather. This was not a tropical vacation. We never saw the sun. Most active cities (hairy leg contest, etc ) cancelled due to weather. I went to bot tubs, fitness center most of trip. I d I did 2 massages on port days- deep discount. Steam room was not working most of trip. Our excursion in Bahamas was a nightmare. We were scheduled to do a private beach day. The operators took us despite rain showers. We got in a squall, rocking boat , getting rained on,- cold! They did a tourney tho g and asked for tips while going on nightmare boat ride. So wrong!they took us out to get their tips! AFTER 2 hours of misery they took us back to port and refunded our money. But they Got their tips! That's 2 hours I will never get back.I forgot name of excursion but its very popular. Due to weather, we couldn't port in Little Stirrup Cay. I was looking forward to that. Instead we diverted Freeport.not my favorite, so stayed on boat for cheaper massage. Food was good- went to Magnolian Wok daily,as well as made to order omelettes. ENTERTAINMENT DE T. W E LIKED Motown and Divas. Disembark: We were FTF and had early flights a due to some security issue, did not get off boat until 10ish.Cruise before us was 4 hours late and we didn't start. Boarding til 2. If you like no frills and small boats this cruise is for you. We go on bigger boats usually. We did Magic in Auguast and doing NCl Epic in March. We like more activities and dining choices. I would recommend this for those who want to snooze and cruise. We not go on A WINTER CRUISE AGAIN.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
As noted above, this was our first cruise with Carnival. We chose this short four-day cruise over New Year's as a good way to test the waters, and get some fun in the sun. It was myself, my wife (who celebrated a birthday on the ... Read More
As noted above, this was our first cruise with Carnival. We chose this short four-day cruise over New Year's as a good way to test the waters, and get some fun in the sun. It was myself, my wife (who celebrated a birthday on the cruise), and our 12-year-old daughter. We traveled with friends; a family of four, first-time cruisers, with two children. Having cruised on Holland America, Princess, and Norwegian multiple times, I set my expectations for Carnival -- I thought -- accordingly. We flew in to Jacksonville, which was not a problem. It seems that the vast majority of Fascination cruisers drive to the port rather than fly. As we unfortunately learned upon our return, the small size of Jacksonville's airport and lack of frequent flights can be a problem if flights are cancelled. There certainly aren't the plethora of options that stranded fliers might find in say Orlando, Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale. Getting a van to the pier was easy and the ride for seven cost $45. As is known, the terminal at Jacksonville is a temporary structure. That said, it serves its purpose fine, as the only ship using it is the Fascination. It is small and for reasons still unclear, the time it took for us to clear security, complete check-in, and board the ship was the longest we've ever encountered. The check-in staff were not overly efficient, and the whole process took nearly an hour. By contast, boarding the Epic -- more than twice the twice -- took 10 minutes, door-to-door. As soon as we entered the ship, the "missing little things" started to show. There were no people waiting to greet you on board; no one handing out daily schedules or maps, or even offering to help you find someplace on board. I have to note that during the ENTIRE cruise, I did not hear one single announcement from the captain; not one. In fact, I can remember no announcements other than those from the Cruise Director, Jen, and they were always for bingo, dance parties, etc. Being a sold-out New Year's cruise, it was crowded -- particularly as we boarded -- but we were surprised to find an available table in the Coconut Grove buffet area as we waited for rooms to be readied. From this meal, it was obvious that the food was to be substandard at best. The lines were very long and the food was high-school cafeteria quality, and that is being generous. The ship, I must admit, is in very good shape. She does not show her advanced age and the crew does an excellent job on maintenance. We sailed on the Norwegian Spirit earlier this year, and that ship is younger, went through a more-recent renovation, and still appeared MUCH older and in worse-repair than the Fascination. Kudos to her team. We had an oceanview cabin, category 6B, on the Main Deck. We were pleased with the overall size. The third bunk folded up against the wall and was not too intrusive when open. Princess still has the best layout we've seen (other than a sofabed), with their third and fourth berths that fold up and away into the ceilings. The bedding and mattresses were TOP NOTCH. Very nice and comfortable, so kudos again to Carnival. Bathroom was large and functional, nothing more. I never did get fully accustomed to stepping on a huge "soft spot" in the floor when you enter the bathroom; an artifact of the marine toilets, I suppose. What the room lacked was a hair dryer (though our steward was able to secure one), a fridge, a clock (hello?!), writing pad and pen, and a coffee maker. They chose to take up much of the desk area with an assortment of canned soda and bottled water, which is not complimentary. I would have prefered to use that space for a coffee maker, or just leave it open. We asked the steward to remove the sodas, but they remained there for the entire cruise. Aside from the glaring omission of a clock, what the room really needed was a thermostat. The room was very cold and when we looked for a thermostat, all we could find was a vent knob on the bottom of the air diffuser on the ceiling. It basically allows you to turn the flow of air (one temperature) on or off. As it was, we had to close it off to try and warm up the room (which didn't really help -- we ended up using extra blankets at night to stay warm. With the air off, however, it made all of the noises made in the hallway and in neighboring rooms VERY loud. I usually love sleeping on ships, as the hum of the air system is usually so loud and constant, that it drowns out all other noises. Not so the case on the Fascination. Not only were we cold, but we heard every hallway conversation. Also, a minor point, but it would be great if Carnival invested in small rubber stoppers to stick onto the insides of the closet doors. They now are bare, and whenever one of the three closet doors close, there is a loud "bang"...the sound of doors banging in other cabins was very noticable, and it seems some cheap rubber bumpers would be an easy fix. We had the traditional fixed dining (early seating) in the Imagination dining room. Our server was good, but the table was small, with seven of us put at a table meant for six. The food in the main dining room was much better than on the buffet, but it was still of very poor quality. None of the meals we had there was more than average, and most were below standard. Biggest complaint about the dining room, however, is the noise. It was, by far, the loudest dining room we've ever had on a ship. I suspect it had to do with the relatively low ceilings, but it was impossible to hold normal-level conversation across the table and that ruined whatever ambiance the room has. The other main dining room is exactly the same configuration, only midship vice in the rear, so I'm sure the sound there is just as bad. As noted, aside from sushi -- the times for which change daily -- there are no eating venues aside from the buffet and main dining room, and the main dining rooms only serves dinner -- no breakfast or lunch. The buffet at breakfast and lunch was very crowded and the food often inedible. The breakfast selections are very basic, and the salad bar at lunch was wholly unappetizing. Pizza is always available, but it was freezer-quality and not enjoyable. On our day in Freeport, we took a Carnival excursion but weren't returned to the ship until after 6:00pm. We thus missed our dinner (which was the captain's formal night) and had to eat in the buffet. I have to say that that meal was truly disgusting. The selection was meager and the food was of embarrassingly poor quality. Even a simple hamburger would have been nice, but the grill is only open during the afternoons. The ship is fairly easy to navigate, given its small size, and motion was not a problem for us. Reaching some areas of the ship was frustrating, as not all elevator banks go to the higher floors, and the galley serves as a natural barrier between the two dining rooms. Still, it is easy to get around. Elevators were sometimes hard to get, but there were never too many flights of stairs to climb, so no big deal. Despite her obvious abundance of balcony cabins, I have to give Fascination BIG points for the amount of deck space and readily available deck seating. With four+ decks with outdoor space, it was never hard to find a lounge chair or simply a place to enjoy the outdoors. The top-deck minigolf and jogging track were also quite nice, as we enjoyed the adults-only Serenity area. The pool was adequately sized. As always, the lone hot-tub open to children was often overflowing. Activities on board were adequate. We participated in many of the trivia and game shows. The cruise director staff was plentiful and always busy, and the cruise director did a good job. Jen is definitely "unique," but she works it well, and her personality seems to match the Fascination's. That is a compliment, by the way. I liked her work. They did put on a New Year's Eve balloon drop and pool-side party, and they did a very nice job. It was fun and well organized. Entertainment was good to average. We attended the family-friendly comedy shows, and they were fun. We didn't have an opportunity to attend any of the adult-themed shows. We attended both "Vegas-style shows," and they were classic cruise ship fare. Again, compared to our other cruises, though, they were high-school vice Vegas-level quality. For disembarkation, we were pleased that Carnival offers the option of walking off with your bags or having them remove your luggage. We had a noon flight, which we thought would give us plenty of time. As it was, our steward left us luggage tags to put us in an earlier disembarkation group, as noon is their cutoff time for determining an "early flight." Originally we were in Group 17, but we were moved to the earlier Group 2. We toyed with the idea of taking our own bags, but decided against it -- we later regretted that choice. We were at the dock before 0700, and as we dressed for breakfast, I discovered that our flight had been cancelled. I reached the airline, only to find that the only option of getting out that day was aboard an already-overbooked 1045am flight. We rushed to let our friends know -- who were on the same flight. By the time we found them and they got through to the airline, no more seats were available and they were bumped until the next day. Hence, my comment about the lack of flights into/out of Jacksonville. We were now faced with the daunting task of getting off the ship as soon as possible, hoping to make the earlier flight. Guest Services on the ship were understanding when I explained what happened, but they confirmed that there was nothing they could do to get our bags out of Customs any earlier. They said we would have to wait on the ship until all of the "walk-off passengers" were cleared; that would not be until around 0930. Against recommendations, we did exit the ship with the walkers. When we cleared Customs -- without our bags -- a VERY helpful terminal worker pulled us aside. I explained our situation, and she had us wait in the boarding area. She explained that the bags were all in a separate area of the terminal, under Customs control, and there would be no one over there until they were done clearing all of the walkers. This is when we realized just how many people had elected to walk off -- they just kept coming and coming. While waiting, a very nice Customs agent asked about our situation, too. After about 15 minutes of waiting, the head of the terminal and a great Customs agent came and got us and escorted us to the area where all of the bags were being held. They allowed us to retrieve our bags and then did another inspection. With that, we were clear and literally ran outside to grab a waiting cab. Thanks to the outstanding help from the terminal and Customs officials, we made it to the airport with about 15 minutes to spare. We cannot thank them enough. I know all of this does not apply directly to our Fascination experience, but for what it's worth, I would recommend you walk off with your own bags if possible, and I'll vouch for the helpfulness of the crew in Jacksonville. Overall, I'm not sure if we'll do another Carnival cruise. I know they sell on their price point, and had we not paid a huge New Year's premium for this cruise (more than three times the cost of non-holiday Fascination sailings), I might feel otherwise. That said, the dismal quality of the food and lack of alternate food options weighs quite heavily in my dismissive tone against Carnival. Barring a truly superior price advantage, I do not see us repeating the Carnival experience. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2011
There were 15 of us on this Cruise..Mostly family ranging in age from 11 to 75. We had an absolute blast on this cruise. Any negative comments I've read I saw none of these. The ship was spotless, the crew was fantastic, the food was ... Read More
There were 15 of us on this Cruise..Mostly family ranging in age from 11 to 75. We had an absolute blast on this cruise. Any negative comments I've read I saw none of these. The ship was spotless, the crew was fantastic, the food was awesome, the activities and shows were top notch. Anyone that thinks Carnival is a "budge" cruise line is mistaken. Im sure they are cheaper than the rest and Im a little biased since I've only been on Carnival but I've loved all 3 of my cruises. I burned the candle at both ends on this cruise since I wanted to do everything. We went to both shows, The mambo and the 80's show, which were absolutely wonderful. Top notch productions and fantastic cast. Attended the adult comedy show on the last night and it was hilarious. Went to the afternoon tea with my mother in law and we both enjoyed in immensely. We had an inside cabin this time which actually made it better for the little sleeping I did :) on this cruise. We had late seating 8:15 in the Imagination dining room with our waiters Jorge and Martin who were impeccable. Went to Key West on the first stop and did the City View hop on hop off trolley ride for 19.00 and it was worth every penny. Key West was beautiful but I wished we could have stayed longer. Some did the Butterfly conservatory and they enjoyed it very much. In Nassau we took the #10 Jitney bus to the Sheraton Resort and bought a day pass for 25.00 which was well worth it. The facilities were gorgeous and the kids did snorkeling, kayaking, big water bike and the paddle boat which were all included. The beach was gorgeous and they had 3 or 4 pools along with hot tubs and a swim up bar. The kids in our group ranging from 11-14 had a blast in the Circle C and made many new Facebook friends to keep in touch with. We let them have full roam of the ship and were very comfortable leaving them to themselves. Lots and lots of fun activities on board. My husband did the hairy chest contest and had people recognizing him all over the ship the rest of the cruise. My son and friend both 21 had a very good time in the clubs and the casino. I cannot say enough good things about this ship. We all loved her very much. It was a little rough on the last day but other than that we had calm seas and beautiful weather. We were a little late leaving Jacksonville. Was supposed to sail at 3 and didn't leave until 7 which was not a big deal at all. No activities were stopped on the ship because of it. I plan on writing a review under the Carnival section on the message boards soon so check that out too. Embarkation and Debarkation were seamless as this port has their act together. I loved every minute of this cruise and was very sad to leave. Already planning my next one. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
First, let me say, we had a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Fascination. We had 6 in our group. My wife and I, an accountant and travel agent respectively, have had 18 cruises, 14 of them on Carnival. (This was our fourth cruise on the ... Read More
First, let me say, we had a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Fascination. We had 6 in our group. My wife and I, an accountant and travel agent respectively, have had 18 cruises, 14 of them on Carnival. (This was our fourth cruise on the Fascination.) Also with us was my brother- and sister-in-law (a retired police officer and his wife); they cruise with us most of the time, so they have as many cruises as we do. The final members of our group were two sisters (a registered nurse and administrative assistant) who were on their first cruise. My DW and I booked a suite since we were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. The suite was nice, but for the extra price we paid, I think next time I will just stick to a balcony or ocean-view depending on the class of ship. We are planning a 15-day Hawaii cruise on the Splendor in 2013; I think we will have to book a balcony on that one. I love leaving the door open at night and listening to the sea. We checked in at Jaxport about 10:30 Saturday; by 11:15 we were on the ship. We parked at a local park-and-ride lot for just $5 per day, and they were Johnny-on-the-spot as far as getting us to the ship and being there when we got off. In contrast, the cruise port in Jacksonville charges $15 per day to park. I noticed as we set sail the Jaxport parking lot was only about 1/3 full, even though we had a almost full ship. It appears that cruisers are cutting corners by using these park-and-ride lots around the cruise ports. Can you blame them? Our first night at sea was a great kick-off to our cruise. Our wait staff, WeeWee and PeePee, were great. Our drinks were kept full, the bread hot and fresh. Our food was delivered in a very timely manner and was pretty good. Carnival has changed their menus and some of the dishes. My wife, who loves soups, commented that they were very good but not as good as past. I had a steak one night that was on the tough side, but the next one I had a couple days later was much much better. Our first full day was a "Fun Day at Sea." The food throughout the day was very good. Lines were not too bad; I don't think anyone in my party had to wait in one more than 15 or 20 minutes. The pizza was great, and the deli sandwiches were outstanding. All day long there were plenty of activities. I've read several pieces that have put down the CD, Jen. However, I thought she was pleasant and did a good job. Her staff was well prepared for all the activities they were responsible for. I have been on cruises where the CD staff was late for every event. Our sea day also included Formal Night. I really am disappointed that a good many of the passengers do not dress up for formal night as they did when we first started cruising 10 years ago. I have a tux I wear, and my wife will dress up also, but I only counted three other tux-wearers in our dining room. 650 people in our dining, and many of them were dressed like it was any other dinner seating! And the other nights the dress for dinner has gone downhill. At one time, shorts and T-shirts were not allowed, but that's not the case anymore. The show the first night was the same old tired show that Carnival has been doing for 5 or more years. It's a great upbeat show, but I think it's time for a change. The weather and seas were a bit choppy that day. We had a passenger get very ill around dinnertime, so the CD announced that we would have to go into Miami to get the passenger off the ship. As we made the turn back to the west, the waves went from 4-6 feet to 8-10 feet. As we got closer to Miami's port, the rain was hard and winds picked up. It took about two hours to get into the Port of Miami, get the sick passenger off and get back on our way. We were scheduled to get into Key West at 7AM the next day; however, we didn't dock there until about 8:30. We did get to stay until 4:30. Though our ride to Key West was bumpy, the day is Key West was absolutely gorgeous. We docked at the Navy base and had to ride a tram to the main areas. That went very smooth, and there appeared to be a steady flow, so I don't think anyone had to wait long. This is a wonderful island, and we enjoy our time there. This time, we just made our pilgrimage to Kermit's Key Lime Shop for a frozen slice of pie dipped in milk chocolate. Baby, this is so good, "It would make a puppy pull a freight train!" Day three we found ourselves in Nassau. We have been there several times. We now take the #10 bus from downtown to Cable Beach, $1.25 each way. We visit the Sheraton, which charges a daily fee of $25 per person to use their beach, pools, and non-motorized water sports. It was windy, and light showers moved in and out as the day progressed. We splashed around in the warm waters and enjoyed the time relaxing. On our way back to the ship on the bus, part of Bay Street was blocked for road work, so our driver took us the scenic route. If you have never seen the neighborhoods of Nassau, it's something to see. The people along the path we took were very poor, but they appeared happy. Some of the roads we traveled down, I wasn't sure if they were actual roads or someone's driveway. At one point the traffic was backed up and our driver had to aggressively apply the brakes, leaving some tire marks on the road and making the passengers on the full bus gasp. However, no harm, no foul. We made it back to the port area and were walking into the terminal/mall, and I noticed that the usual tourist harassment about taxis, hair breading, etc. wasn't as in-your-face as it has been in the past. There was some, but a polite "No, thank you," seemed to do the trick. We were not slated to leave Nassau until 10PM that night, so dinner population was light. This was a good thing, though, since this was the night of the past passenger reception. I don't drink, so I wasn't there for the free alcohol, but to cheer at the ship slideshow. I did get on stage for the Carnival trivia contest. I won it two years ago on the second question; this time, I was out on the second question. I couldn't remember the first Carnival ship that had the "whale tail." We didn't go to the show that night as we had seen it several times before. We elected to sit on the Lido deck and play several rounds of cards. I did sample a calzone from the pizza bar. It wasn't a tasty as is looked, so I picked it apart and shared the pepperonis with my wife, Shirley. The next day, the ship turned north, and we had a great day at sea. Between my wife and me, we totaled three 24-Carat-Gold-Plastic Ships-on-a-Stick. My wife also won a medallion. We really enjoy playing the trivia games. I also got on stage for the disco dance lesson. I did it to get our two "blue card" cruisers up there. I did pretty well since it had been several decades since I did my last disco dancing. The show that night was based on the 1980s. Before the show they played a 30-minute video of 80s commercials and TV shows. I like it; it brings back some good memories of my younger days. The Carnival dancers were very good; the male dancers were some of the best I have seen on Carnival. The two lead singers were good as well. We have had the female singer on other ships; she tries to sing notes that are too high for her, but she did blend very well with the guy. Getting off the ship when we returned to Jax was flawless. One of the CD staff told us the night before that Carnival already knew they would not be able to sail out for the next cruise until 8PM because of the high tide and bridge clearance, and they had already canceled their port call to Freeport. Bummer for the next cruisers. Overall, we had a great cruise. Of our 14 Carnival cruises, this would be in the top half of all of them. I read a lot of the reviews, and I see many negative remarks about Carnival. They are a good cruise line. Are there some problems? Yes, but what large cooperation doesn't have them? Can they do better with customer complaints? Many times. But there are people who will let one irritation fester the rest of the cruise and will then blast everything about the cruise. My DW and I try to find the positive and just enjoy our time together getting away from it all. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
We opted for a NYE cruise over a NYE activity close to home this year, also a way to get 1 closer to platinum. :) We drove to Jacksonville from Atlanta on the 29th, about 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western on Airport Rd. It is an older ... Read More
We opted for a NYE cruise over a NYE activity close to home this year, also a way to get 1 closer to platinum. :) We drove to Jacksonville from Atlanta on the 29th, about 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western on Airport Rd. It is an older hotel, yet has been very nicely remodeled and updated. They offered a good deal on a stay and cruise package with breakfast and transportation to and from the port. This hotel is on a street with a whole row of hotels as well as restaurants, good location even without a car. We got up on the 30th, had breakfast, and took the 10:00 shuttle to the port. We had our bags dropped off, through security, and checked in in under 20 minutes. We were in group 2 and when boarding started we were on in 10 minutes. At 11:25 we were on the Lido deck with champagne in hand headed for lunch, they were passing out free champagne upon boarding for New Year's, nice touch. We got to our cabin around 1:30 and both bags were there by 2:30, fastest ever. Our cabin steward was Gabby and he did a great job and was always so polite and cheerful in the hallways. We unpacked and checked out the ship until muster which was at 3:30. Right before and during muster we watched as a bus of people pulled up and ran frantically to the ship that was due to leave at 4. We had late seating in the Sensation dining room with Glenn as our headwaiter. He did a great job and we had great tablemates. Lobster night was not formal night as they had a special NYE menu and gave out party favors. We seemed to stop in the ocean for New Years as I think everyone was on deck after the 11:30 balloon drop. There was music, free champagne, and Time Square for the big count down. The ship's horn blared in the new year so anyone trying to skip the party was out of luck! Freeport is miserable, but we knew that. Had to pay to go anywhere or do anything as it is in an industrial area. They herd everyone to Port Lucaya for $5 a person each way where they advertise shopping, beaches, and fun. We tried to get to Taino Beach as planned but the taxi drivers wanted too much for the 2 of us, $80 round trip which was what they were getting for Port Lucaya. So we went with the herd and walked around for a while. Got some $1 Eclipse beer and then hit up happy hour for $4 margaritas and mojitos. :) Nassua was ok, been there before. We were there during the Junkanoo Parade, definitely something to see with all the costumes, dancers, and music! Afterwards we went to Junkanoo Beach and just lounged. The ship was very clean and it seems the dry-dock removed some of the tackier decorations that went with the theme. The dining room was also the most neutral of the ships we've been on. Casino was a little small, but it is a smaller ship. There is only 1 pool, but it was too chilly for that to be an issue. The kids packed out the hot tubs on the lido deck but we spent a lot of time on the Serenity deck with no kids and really enjoyed the less crowded hot tubs and padded lounge chairs. Overall it was a little different crowd than we're used to doing 7 days (def not as "loud" as I was afraid of) but it was a great vacation. Jacksonville is a VERY efficient port and the ship looked as good as new with a great crew! We were pleased for a short winter getaway over NYE. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
Fascination Review - a little later than I would have liked. More about that at the end. This was cruise #24 for us and we did the 4 day New Year's Eve cruise to Freeport and Nassau leaving Jacksonville on December30th. The point ... Read More
Fascination Review - a little later than I would have liked. More about that at the end. This was cruise #24 for us and we did the 4 day New Year's Eve cruise to Freeport and Nassau leaving Jacksonville on December30th. The point of this cruise was for me to have a relaxing 60th birthday on December 31st and I certainly did. DH did too. Jacksonville is less than 3 hours away for us and the easiest of ports from which to sail. We drove to the port the morning of the 30th and were whisked through VIP check, obligatory photo op and had champagne in hand well before noon. Having sailed Celebrity Solstice over Thanksgiving we were interested to make some comparisons. While Fascination is an older ship and in no way as elegant as the Solstice, it is in very good condition with no problems that we saw. Although we prefer a balcony, because this was a last minute booking we ended up with OV and it was centrally located on Empress deck. Very convenient for everything. We had any time dining which worked well for us as we eat early rather than late. We always walked straight in. The first night our wait staff was so good that we asked to be seated in their area every night. Juan Pablo [head waiter] was great and Olga [his assistant] was fantastic. One of the best we have ever had. Making some comparisons between the Solstice and Fascination: [our opinion only] Better looking ship - Solstice Better DEcor - Solstice Better Menu Choices - Fascination Better Food in general - Fascination Better Service wait staff - Fascination [by far!!] Better Room Steward - Fascination Better Production Shows - Fascination Better Singers - Fascination Better Dancers - Fascination [by far] Better Costumes/Choreography - Fascination [I used to teach theatre so I notice] Better Secondary Entertainment - Solstice Better Captain's/past guest party - Solstice Friendlier staff - Fascination Activities - about the same number of offerings, just different types. We have been to Freeport before and relaxed onboard but in Nassau I went to buy perfume from my favorite store and discovered a parade instead. We stood chatting to locals and enjoying the spectacle. I never did get to buy perfume. I'll have to do that in March on the next cruise. The aim of this cruise was relaxation and we achieved that. Despite it being a NYE cruise, it so not too loud or rowdy and we did not see any problems. We purchased some more cruise credit certificates for future cruises so we obviously enjoyed ourselves. There is only one complaint I have and we did not discover that until we got home. My daughter had ordered a surprise for my birthday. She had ordered the cabin to be decorated, a birthday memory book and chocolate covered strawberries. When she asked if I was surprised I did not know what she was talking about as I had received nothing! She was horrified and after checking with the Bon Voyage Department, she was eventually told that, "We did not have any of those things on the ship, so the order was cancelled." Her credit card had been charged and she had not received a call to let her know that there was a problem and offer an alternative. Likewise no-one on board contacted me to say that something had been ordered and offer me an alternative either. I refuse to believe that Carnival did not have something on the ship they could have offered and I know I saw strawberries! Her credit card has been refunded now, but there has been no letter of apology either to her or to me which seems to me to be poor guest service. The really bad thing about the cruise is that as I am a scrapbook fanatic I had gathered together some great materials plus a big selection of formal pictures, and about 400 of my own photos to make a special scrapbook for my birthday but last Monday our house burned down and all my tangible memories of the cruise are lost. Oh well, guess we'll just have to look forward to the next cruise and more memories. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
We sailed on the Carnival Fascination out of Jacksonville to Nassau and Key West over Thanksgiving. Since we have cruised out of Jacksonville before on a similar itinerary over Christmas a few years ago, our expectations were not ... Read More
We sailed on the Carnival Fascination out of Jacksonville to Nassau and Key West over Thanksgiving. Since we have cruised out of Jacksonville before on a similar itinerary over Christmas a few years ago, our expectations were not unreasonable. We knew the ship was smaller and older. We also knew it would be crowded. Even so, we were sorely disappointed. Embarkation went smoothly enough. Jacksonville does do a fairly good job of getting you on board quickly. We arrived at about 11:45 and were on board by 1:00. Since our cabin wasn't ready until 1:30, we headed up to the Lido for lunch. We knew enough not to stand in the long, long line on deck by the pool. We made are way to the back of the ship where the line was much shorter for the buffet. At the very back there is also pizza and a deli where they make sandwiches to order -- nice. The salad bar was always very fresh as well. We explored the ship and found what we expected. It's nothing fancy. She's an older ship, but well maintained. The casino, shops, and fitness center are all pretty small. The grand atrium is nice, but nothing spectacular. The highlights of this ship are on the upper decks. The pool is small and basic. But the water slide and water park for the kids on the top deck are awesome. Unfortunately, we had no kids with us and had no use for it. What we did have use for was the Serenity Deck which is a quiet adults-only area. It has great padded lounge chairs, umbrellas, and an adults only hot tub. Its a very peaceful place- unfortunately is was also pretty crowded on this trip. We always opt for the late seating at dinner so that we do not feel as though we have to rush back on board after being in port. Unfortunately, on this cruise it also meant that we did not have the option of attending a lot of the entertainment since many things were scheduled during the late dinner seating. More on that in a minute. We ate in the Imagination Dining Room. The ceilings were very low in there and left me feeling a bit claustrophobic. The decor was average, but our waiter was phenomenal! He was the highlight of our cruise in terms of service. The food was average. Not at all bad, but nothing outstanding either. There was a good selection of main courses, appetizers were excellent, but dessert choices were a bit limited and generally weren't all that great. Overall we enjoyed the service, most of the food, and good conversation at our table with our new friends. Our first "Fun Day at Sea" left a lot to be desired. This is where our real disappointment began. We are used to a lot of entertainment on a Carnival cruise and a lot of fun interaction with the staff. We did not get that on this cruise. There was a whole lot of nothing going on. The staff was not enthusiastic at all. The CD, Squishy, was just as his name implies... squishy. Not sharp and exciting, just kind of there. If you're into laying by the pool surrounded by 1000 of your friends and their screaming kids, you're in luck. If not, you won't find much else to do. Unless you are into downing very, very outrageously expensive drinks -- there are plenty of poolside bar staff ready to bring whatever you want - just keep that sail and sign card handy! But beware -- I asked for a drink of the day by the pool and was served a disgusting concoction is a plastic sippy cup (which can't be refilled by the way) that looked like the ship's funnel then charged $14 for the one drink!!!! Don't expect the entertainment to pick up at night either. The evening shows have always been a favorite part of our cruising experience. We were highly disappointed on this cruise. There were only two full production shows and neither was all that good. If you're into karaoke though, there seems to be plenty of that going on... cheap entertainment for Carnival I guess. What about the ports of call you ask??... Nassau is okay if you've never been there - but you have to be back on board at 2:30 -- you arrive at 7 and nothing opens until 9 or 10, so you don't have much time. We booked an independent charter through Flying Cloud on a 52' catamaran to snorkel on Rose Island. It was awesome - not at all overcrowded and we actually sailed. Most trips of this sort put 100 or more people on the boat the use the motors to get to the spot. Not ours, we had a comfortable number of about 30 on board and we truly sailed -- it was great! Our snorkel spot on Victoria's Reef off of Rose Island was very nice -- live coral and lots of fish. The rum punch was yummy too. A quick word about getting off the Fascination -- it is utterly unorganized and ridiculous! There is only one line to get 3000 people off the ship. It's stupid! If you have to be somewhere, you'd better get in line early... and if you're claustrophobic, you'd better take some Valium! Key West is just fun - its the highlight of the trip if the weather is good. Unfortunately it rained on our day there (Thanksgiving Day). We enjoyed poking around the shops for the day. We were supposed to enjoy a sunset cruise on a schooner with Danger Charters. I pre-booked online. But the weather was not conducive, so I asked for a refund. I expected a hassle but got none -- even though they were still going out, they cheerfully said no problem and gave us a full refund. We will definitely go back and do the trip with them! All in all this cruise is what it is... a quick budget getaway. The lines are long, the food is mediocre, the entertainment is sparse and the staff is disinterested. But you are not at work, you don't have to cook or clean and someone is always more than willing to poor you a drink! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Ok, first off let me say that both me and my boyfriend (23, 26) are first time cruisers. I also read a lot of reviews, and posts on the boards before I went (he did not) so I was incredibly prepared. Overall, I enjoyed myself and plan on ... Read More
Ok, first off let me say that both me and my boyfriend (23, 26) are first time cruisers. I also read a lot of reviews, and posts on the boards before I went (he did not) so I was incredibly prepared. Overall, I enjoyed myself and plan on getting back on a boat ASAP, as for him, not so much (it has nothing to do with Carnival, he just decided cruising was not for him) First, embarkation went extremely well. We were not VIP. However, as we were checking in a security guard asked if we would help run a test and we agreed. After they ran the tests, they put us in VIP. We got there around 11 and got on the ship at 11:45. We had an oceanview stateroom on the riviera level and loved it! I liked having the window (except for when we were feeling the motion). The water was incredibly choppy for most of the cruise, so we rested a lot in our room, and found it comfortable and provided enough room. Our steward was great, although I do not remember his name. He always had the room cleaned and our cooler filled with ice. The MDR staff was the best part about the cruise (I also forget their names)! Our waiter and his assistant were incredibly attentive and made the experience great! We also had great tablemates. Carnival did a great job matching us up with people. We actually ended up hanging out with our tablemates (there were 8 of us all together) several times outside of dinner through out the cruise! It was too cold to enjoy the lido, but we did hit up the buffet there and the coconut grill a few times and it was just fine, nothing special but definitely not horrible. We also did not attend many activities on the boat, as there were tons of football games on, so we hung out at the casino bar watching them, and playing in the casino. We did watch the performance of Hey Mambo the first night, and did not like it. New Years Eve was great! Carnival did a wonderful job making the evening special for everyone. There was free champagne, music, lights, hats, noisemakers and a party. Debarkation went smoothly. We were in the car by 8:30 am. We didnt do much on the ship the whole time, layed around a lot (since the weather was not to great), and watched a alot of football and movies. However, I had a great time on my first cruise and am already planning my second! Read Less

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