Ship: Fascination | Sail Date: 05/12/08 | Destination: > Western Caribbean
We just returned from our first Carnival cruise on board the Facination. We took our two children, ages 9 and 11. We arrived in Miami one day prior to the cruise and stayed at the JW Marriott hotel - about 2 miles from the port. What a wonderful hotel. We stayed on the 7th floor and the room opened up onto a large deck with a stainless steel, heated pool and a jacuzzi. We had the pool to ourselves the whole time which made it feel like an extension of our room! This Marriott was very clean, with a friendly staff and within a short walking distance to the ocean. I would highly recommend it to anyone going to Miami ahead of time.
We woke up the morning of the cruise, had breakfast at the hotel then grabbed a cab to the port of Miami. We arrived there at approx. 11:00. We had VIP check-in, since we booked a Cat. 12 suite. We were directed to the VIP check-in area and we were the first ones to get there. We checked in and were told it would be a while before we boarded, so we waited in the lounge until we were called to board. This was around 11:45 a.m. We went on board and were told our room would not be ready until 1:30, so we looked around a bit, grabbed a drink of the day, had some lunch on the Lido deck and sat by the pool. We proceeded to our cabin around 1:20 and it was ready. The following are my thoughts on different aspects of this cruise. My opinions are based on previous experiences with other cruise lines. I don't profess to be an expert in any way, since I have only been on two others cruises, one with Princess and one with Celebrity. So here are my thoughts. Hope they're helpful.
Overall condition of vessell:
Older ship. Charming and well kept. Public areas were tastefully decorated with a real sense of fun, and everything seemed very clean. The pool area was fun and although the Facination has not undergone the "Evolutions of Fun" renovations yet, my kids really enjoyed the water slide. The water did not seem as cold as pools on other cruise lines which was very nice. We also did not have a hard time finding chairs by the pool and we went at all times during the day. Our drink server was Ron Jo, who was fabulous. My husband and him struck up an immediate rapport, and he was very attentive during our time up on deck.
Cat. 12 stateroom.
The room was very well decorated. It's obvious that these renovations were recent. The room was very clean and spacious. The balcony was large enough for all four of us at one time. It came with 2 plastic chairs and a small plastic table. The inside held plenty of room for storage, both in the room itself and the small walk-in closet. We had 5 suitcases ranging in size from very large to small and there was plenty of room for everything, and all of the empty cases fit under the king size bed. The bathroom was a nice size also witha jacuzzi tub. The tub was not large by any means, in fact, it was much smaller than I pictured a jucuzzi tub to be. But it was clean and had a nice shower head. My kids both used the jacuzzi bath one night and enjoyed it. Don't know if it would be considered big enough for a large sized adult though. My husband and I just used the shower. The bedding was very comfortable and we all slept very well. There were plenty of nice mirrors which gave the room a larger feel to it. There was an outlet in the bathroom as well as in the vanity area of the room which was nice. If you require alot of plugs, bring a power strip. We found we did not need one. Another nice feature to the room was the variety of lighting options. There were several lights throughout the room, some with dimmers, which acted as a night light for us. We did bring the bungee cord which came in handy for keeping the balcony door open. There is no other way to do this without some assistance. Overall, I would rate the room a 9 out of 10. The only criticism I had was that at times, there was an odor of sewage that would appear. It was present when we first entered the cabin prior to sail away. It went away shortly after, but then returned a few times during the cruise. It was not just when we were in port either. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for it, but it was there just the same. It would last a couple of hours or so, then disappear. It didn't ruin the cruise, but thought it was worth mentioning.
Our room steward was nice, when we saw him. He was friendly and he did his job well. He made the towel animals, which the kids enjoyed. One night, he brought them each a cookie. Not much to say here, just standard stuff.
Dining staff was fine. Not overly friendly but provided decent service. We had to ask for more water and for more bread at times. I've not experienced that before. On my previous two cruises, they were watching from a distance, your every move and they were there with what you needed before you even realized you needed it. So this was different for us.
Pursers Desk was ok as well. I was disappointed to learn that you cannot check the balance of your sail and sign card via the t.v. I went down to the purser's desk to inquire about my balance on day 2, and she looked it up for me and gave me the balance. I asked her for a printout of some kind and she agreed to give me one. The only way I could keep track of my balance was to do this. I found that to be a bit inconvenient, but no big deal.
Overall service staff rating would be about 7 out of 10.
This is where we were disappointed. I have come to expect excellent tasting food on a cruise. I did not find this to be true on Carnival. Maybe I am just spoiled by previous experiences, and I also live in a town that delivers excellent cuisine no matter where you go. I found the breakfast food to be poor in comparison to almost anything. The eggs were runny and cold. The toast was cold. The bacon was undercooked and the "breakfast potatoes" were mushy and cold. The orange and apple juices however, were warm and the coffee was tasteless. I ended up eating a cut-up banana (which I did myself) and poured some half and half on it for breakfast each morning. The buffet lunches were a little better. They had good burgers and fries. The pizza was good (although not as good as Ive heard it to be from a lot of posters), and I did not get around to trying the deli - which I also heard great reviews about. The chicken fingers were fair and they had a decent salad bar. Again, nothing exciting. The dinners in the Sensation dining room were about a 6 out of 10, in my opinion. We had steak the first night that was tough. The caesar salad, normally a favorite of mine, had too much anchovies in the dressing. This made it, in my opinion, taste fishy. The second night was formal night. They served lobster tails and shrimp. I did not eat this because I'm allergic, but my husband just ate one lobster tail and his shrimp and he LOVES lobster. That was my first indication that it was not that good. He later confirmed that it was tough and did not taste as good as he thought it would either. The bread was not as fresh as it could have been, but the potatoes were better. I will say that we all enjoyed the soups. In particular, the french onion and the broccoli/cheese. In addition, the one thing that did live up to it's reputation was the chocolate melting cake. It was fabulous! I looked forward to it every night. I always had room for it, since I never really finished my meal. We ate on the Lido deck one night because we were in Cozumel until around 8:30 p.m. They served shaved roast beef with rice pilaf and garlic mashed potatoes. This was very good. Probably the best meal of the cruise. We went to get dessert, however and all they had was diet pumpkin pie and tiramisu. My daughter tried the tiramisu and did not like it. She compared it to "vanilla pudding that had been watered down".
So the overall dining experience would rate about a 5 out of 10. We also had a hard time fining seats when eating at the Lido buffet at times. Very diappointing food experience.
Most of what we witnessed in the form of entertainment was up on the pool deck during the day. The cruise director seemed very nice. He managed the crowed well and they offered some fun games and contests during the day. They also played some great music on deck and everyone seemed happy. It was a very festive atmospher without being over the top. I liked that the cruise director was not always "in your face" with announcements every five minutes. We did got to see the 80s retro show the 2nd night on the ship. I would highly recommend this. It was a fantastic walk down memory lane with songs and dances from the 1980s. It was well put together and enjoyed by everyone! My husband and kids went to the Latino production on the last night and said that was very good as well. Colorful, festive and very entertaining. The entertainment rating would be 8 out of 10.
We did not do any Carnival-sponsored shore excursions. Instead, we rented electric cars and Jeeps in Key West and Cozumel and explored on our own. We went shopping and exploring in Key West, and booked our own beach club excursion and snorkeling in Cozumel. We had a great time in both locations and saved some money in the process. This is not for everyone, but we found it worked out well for us. Getting on and off the ship was quite easy, we found. Carnival is well organized in thi s manner and we ran into no delays in either ports waiting to disembark or reembark the ship.
Played every night. Lost every night. What's new right? And this certainly isn't Carnival's fault. Just mine. It did not appear as though anyone was winning, at least in the slot area where wins are more obvious. It was a nice casino though, and larger than I expected. There was a great variety of slot machines as well as table games available. Good Luck!
Carnival seemed very well organized in this area. The disembarkment was very smooth. We received our luggage tags the night before departure with detailed instructions on what we need in order to disembark. We were packed and had our luggage outside our stateroom door by 10:00 p.m. The next morning, we waited for our "number" to be called. By 7:45 we left the ship and proceeded directly to the luggage area to claim our bags. This did not take more than 5 minutes. We then went through customs. This only took about 20 minutes and the customs official was very pleasant. We left the terminal and got a cab right away. No long cab lines. Off to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Rating for disembarkement : 10 out of 10
Overall, I would say that the Facination is a beautiful ship with a pretty efficient staff.There were, as I mentioned, a few deficiencies - but none of them impared our ability to have a great time together as a family. You can add up all the the shortcomings, but in the end, we'll just remember sitting on the balcony at sunrise with our cup of coffee - breathing in the fresh salty air and looking forward to that warm carribean day ahead of us..... your cruise is what you make of it. We really enjoyed ours overall. I hope this information helps. You may find in your opinion, that I was not correct in my assessments. These are just my opinions and they are designed to assist you with any future plans you may have to cruise with Carnvial. Take this info and use it however you'd like. I just hope that everyone has a great time! We did!