We chose this cruise because we live in the Caribbean, and wanted an opportunity to explore other islands, and this was by far the most affordable option. We live in Barbados, and this particular cruise makes a round trip to and from the island, eliminating the need for a flight. Getting on and off the ship was a painless experience, and both the Carnival staff and the customs and immigration officers who work at the port are pleasant, efficient and professional. Beware of San Juan though - the immigration process was a lengthy wait.
Being first time cruisers, we didn’t know what to expect, but it only took us a few hours to acclimatise to the new surroundings and get our sea legs. The Carnival staff were helpful, wearing “ask me” shirts for the entirety of the first day to ensure all the guests could ask their questions without feeling awkward approaching about staff members. The ship itself is on the smaller side, only made abundantly clear when we were docked next to another cruise liner, but this meant it was more manageable to navigate! The decor was a bit outdated, but the public areas were always clean and inviting. They have so many activities going on at the same time, and they make do with the space they have, so don’t be surprised when you’re walking in the hallway and have to make your way through a crowd of people listening to a band playing IN the walkway itself.
We selected a twin bed cabin with an ocean view and it was the perfect size for two people. The layout of the room maximized the space and it did not feel cramped at all. There was plenty of storage space and the bed was very comfortable; a welcome sight after a long day exploring. The windows were clean and with minimal sea salt on the outside, so we could take a picture of the sunrise or sunset or port of call through the window without seeing any little smears. (Perfect for when you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to leave your bed). The towel creations were cute and the steward assigned to us was awesome at making the room feel like a fresh new start every day. Before we even met him, he knew our names and throughout the cruise would make a point to greet us if we saw him out and about. Very friendly and pleasant.
ENTERTAINMENT and SHORE EXCURSIONS
Our cruise director on board the Fascination was Mel, who was a young lady with boundless energy - the definition of hype. She was part of the fun team, and did a great job at making sure all the entertainment was engaging and enjoyable. Every day, a “fun times” package is slipped under your door with the activities planned for the following day, and there is something for everyone. Art auctions. Bingo. Karaoke. Dance parties. Trivia. Casino. Comedy nights. Board games. And these are the planned events. There are many more things to do just by walking around the ship - giant chess, pool, spa, mini golf, water slides and even a small library if you want a quiet moment to read.
But as much as there is to do ON the ship, we booked this cruise to experience the islands, and there was something exciting on every island that we visited. So many options of shore excursions to appeal to people of all ages and particularities. You want to ATV across the island? Check. Take a bus tour? Check. Lie on a beach? Check. Swim with turtles or dolphins or rays? Check. Zip line? Check. Shop? You bet. We enjoyed all of our ports of call, and while it’s out of Carnival’s control, the guide really does make a huge difference re: the quality of the tour. The shore excursions are locally operated and the companies work with the cruise line, so while Carnival makes the connection for you, they don’t have control over the individual who takes you on the tour. It’s the luck of the draw who takes you out to visit the island, so cross your fingers for a good guide! Because we embarked in Barbados, the shore excursions did not show up on the carnival website when we booked, so do not be alarmed if this is the case for you. When you board, you can book on the ship, with low chance of the tours being filled. Also, because we boarded in Barbados, the carnival app did not work throughout our entire trip - “technical difficulties”. Hopefully they fix this soon.
There are several dining options included in the ticket price - both casual and slightly more upscale. The buffet, pizza, deli, burger and taco options (on the Lido deck) are all exactly what you would expect quality wise, so we were not disappointed. We enjoyed everything that we ate in the MDR for both breakfast and dinner. At dinner there is an option for “rare finds” for the more adventurous diner, and we had the opportunity to try some cuisine that we wouldn’t usually try (eg: frog legs). If you like sushi, Bonzai Express had some delicious options. You have to pay extra, $5-7.50US per roll, but it was worth it! We definitely gained our obligatory 5lbs over this trip!
One of things I enjoyed about this experience, was that on every employees’ name tag they listed the country where they were born. There are people from ALL over the world working on this ship - Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Myanmar, Columbia Serbia, and this list goes on. When you take this into account, you can be a bit more understanding when a staff member speaks to you in absolute earnest, but in broken English. I myself can speak only one language, and I think it’s awesome that they are expanding their horizons and learning a new language while they work! I would not be able to do it! Everyone on board was either cordial, pleasant, friendly, or outgoing. I received no bad service at all.
Because we did not plan to spend the entire day on board, we did not buy a Cheers drink package, opting to just buy a drink here or there throughout the evening. If you have no intention of drinking alcohol while on this ship, be aware that the staff who work as roving bartenders are like Liam Nesson. They will find you, and do whatever they can to encourage you to have a few drinks. If you ARE looking to drink and have a good time, you will be well taken care of.
In essence, we were looking for a hotel that could move us around the Caribbean while we explored new islands, feed us along the way, and give us some entertainment options during the afternoon/evenings while we were on board. That is exactly what we got. 7 days was the perfect amount of time to spend on board, as towards the end we were starting to feel burnt out (as we went on excursions every day). We loved this cruise so much that we are looking to book our next one to visit more places. We had a lovely vacation and we hope you do too!