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!