Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Fascination
Sailing Date: March 17th, 2001
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
Arrival Day -We arrived in San Juan, PR around 3:05pm. By the time we got our luggage, boarded the bus and arrived at the ship terminal it was 3:30. Not bad! We were in our room by 3:45pm. The ship was huge!!!! I didn’t have any trouble finding my way around the ship, but my husband and sister-in-law (her second time on the Fascination) kept getting lost all week.
After dropping off our luggage we went upstairs to grab something to eat at the Coconut Grove. We had the late seating for dinner and our group of 11 ate in the Sensation dining room at 8:00pm. Our regular dining room the rest of the cruise was the Imagination Dining Room. There were 5 in our group that were originally scheduled for a different dining room and seating time, but they had their seating changed with no problem.
Our regular waiter, Ivan from Croatia was wonderful! He was on the ball and always pleasant. The assistant waiter, Gerardo, was also very good. The first night of our regular seating, my husband and I ordered Iced Tea with dinner. The rest of the week, Gerardo would bring our Iced Tea as soon as we were seated, without us having to ask for it.
There was plenty to eat every night at dinner. I have read many reviews indicating that the portions were small. I thought the portions were fine, unless you have a large appetite. We were never hungry on the ship and we never made it to a midnight buffet since we were still full from dinner.
We did notice that the last night on the ship there were people who did not show up for dinner. Of course, this was tip night. Several waiters got stiffed on their tips. We asked the waiter at the table next to ours (his table of 10 did not show for dinner) how much they get paid by Carnival. We were told that they receive $74.00 a month and count on their tips to survive. We pitched in $10.00 per couple at our table of 10 and gave it to him. He was really nice. I would recommend that if you do not wish to tip, you do not use the formal dining room. Everyone knows they are expected to tip at the end of the cruise. Please put your money in an envelope in your safe at the beginning of the cruise for tips. This way you will be less inclined to spend it and you will have the money needed at the end. Every waiter we saw in the dining room was busting their butt to give good service. Please think of how you would feel if someone did not tip you.
Enough of my lecture.
At 9:30pm we had our lifeboat drill. Our group met in the Palace Lounge. It was long and boring, but we did not have to go outside to our lifeboat stations. All we had to do was go through the training of how to put on the lifejacket properly. Then it was back to our room to drop off our lifejackets and out on the deck to watch us pull out of San Juan. The deck was very crowded, and it took a while to find a spot at the rail.
Shortly after pulling out of San Juan, we put on our bathing suits and headed to the indoor Jacuzzi. No one else had found it yet, so we had it all to ourselves. Then it was off to bed around 12:30am.
My husband was up, showered and dressed by 5:20am everyday. He wanted to be up on deck to watch the sun rise and to see us pull into the next port of call. I met him on deck around 6:45am and this became our routine for the week. We would met the rest of our group every morning and eat breakfast.
In St. Thomas, we took a cab into the shopping district and shopped until noon. I bought some beautiful jewelry from Ballerina Jewelry II at very reasonable prices. After shopping we went back to the ship for lunch in the Coconut Grove. After lunch we went to Sapphire Beach. I was not able to take the ferry to St. Johns under doctors orders. I had a spinal fusion 17 months ago and I was told I could not ride in any small boats.
My brother had stayed on St. Thomas for a week previously and he highly recommended Sapphire Beach. It was very beautiful and they say it is not as crowded as Megan Bay or Coki Beach. After the beach, three of us hired ‘Rosie- The Original’ in a very nice large dark green van with ‘The Original’ across her windshield to take us the long way back to the ship. She drove us on a very scenic tour and stopped at different places to point things out and to let us take pictures. We had a beautiful view of Megan’s Bay for pictures. Rosie told us that Sapphire Beach was the best beach and that we made a good choice. She was a great tour guide and I would recommend her if you see her. We tipped her well.
After returning to the ship, we ate lunch at the Coconut Grove and then changed into our bathing suits and headed out to the deck for some sun. Then we returned to our cabins to get ready for our 8:00 dinner. After dinner we attended the Welcome Aboard Show in the Palace Lounge. The show was great! Our cruise director, Troy Linton, was very funny and entertained us the entire week. He is very funny. The guest performer, Tia Thompson, was a singer/comedian from Delaware (our home state) and she was hilarious. One of the people in our group got called up on stage to help with her act and that was the highlight of our night. The next day the ships played the tape on TV all day. This was very funny. After the show we went to the Casino and then to Tia’s Adult only show at midnight. We only lasted about a half an hour and then all headed to bed as we were exhausted.
After breakfast we headed to the pier. You no longer have to take a tender into St. Maarten as the pier has been completed. We proceeded to the water taxi to take us to the downtown shopping district. A regular taxi was $8.00 each way. The water taxi was $5.00 per person for unlimited usage for the entire day. This was a much better bargain and we used it several times to go back and forth to the ship.
I would describe the water in St. Maarten as Windex Blue! It was the most beautiful water I have ever seen. After shopping we returned to the ship for lunch and to change. Then we were off to the beach which sits directly to the left of the shopping district as you are heading in on the water taxi. This was a great beach, but it had a very strong undertow. The guys rented jet skis and had a great time. We headed back to the ship around 3pm and set sail at 4pm.
At 7pm we went to the Captains Cocktail Party. He shook our hands, but didn’t want to chat. We were served hors d’oeuvres and champagne. This was very boring and we only stayed about 15 minutes. This was the night of the first formal dinner on the ship. It was very nice.
We arranged a tour with Ken’s Hinterland Adventure Tours online a week before sailing. As promised they met us at the pier at 8:15AM. We had a group of 7 plus our tour guide to see Tito Gorge. We opted to stay away from the more crowded tourist traps. This was a great decision.
We drove about 1 hour into the mountains. We stopped along the way to taste fresh fruit and sugar cane. When we got to our destination we locked all our valuables in the van and started walking to the gorge. About a 5-10 minute walk. Before getting into the water, we put on life belts and climbed down the hill. This was a very mild walk and did not bother my back after having had a spinal fusion. The water was an invigorating 54 to 62 degrees! What a way to wake up! We swam up the gorge, a beautiful waterway between two rock formations formed from a volcanic eruption. When we got to the end there was a beautiful waterfall. Only one person from our group climbed up the waterfall with the tour guide to see the second waterfall. This was a very hard climb and you had to be strong and also brave enough to come back down the waterfall. We were the only 8 people at this site! However, on our way out of the gorge we passed several tours from Wacky Rollers Tour Group with at least 50-80 people heading to the gorge. I’m very glad we went with Ken’s Hinterland Tours and had our own private tour.
The show after dinner consisted of a comedian and a ventriloquist. Both were excellent.
I was not very impressed with Martinique, but the people were friendly, unlike other reviews I read. I can only wonder if the people of Martinique are finding out about their poor reputation and are trying to rectify things before they lose a lot of tourism. It would not bother me if I never returned to this island. We did shop at Roger’ Albert for perfume. All the items were in Francs and unless you knew what you were doing the prices could be high. I priced a new perfume and almost bought it, but when converting to USA money it came to $64.00. When I got home, I found the same perfume at our local mall for $60.00. I was glad I did not purchase this on Martinique.
We did not see any shows this night.
I must say that Barbados was my favorite island. We went to the beach early. We opted for Paynes Beach and spent 3 hours there. The water was spectacular. There were a lot of people on the beach trying to sell things, but you could just say no and they would go away. Everyone was friendly. We all got to pet a little monkey one of the locals had on a lease. For $10.00 each my husband, brother and sister-in-law all rode on a banana boat. This was the highlight of their day. They couldn’t quit laughing and they had a blast.
After the beach we went to Harrison’s Cave. We did not take the ships tour and just hired a taxi on our own. This cost us $10.00 per person for the cab ride and $13.00 each to get in the cave. I believe this was much cheaper then the ships cost for the same tour. The cave was beautiful, but I would not waste my time doing this tour again. It was hot and humid inside the cave as the cave is situated above sea level. Someone on our tram reached out to touch the cave wall after being warned against this and got scolded by the security guard. There is an automatic $400,000.00 fine for touching the cave walls with a mandatory 5 year jail sentence. I would think twice before even trying to get away with touching the walls of this cave.
After this trip we took naps.
Friday-Fun Day At Sea
The fun day at sea is not very fun if you want a chair on deck. There were not enough lounge chairs to go around. We did eventually get chairs late in the afternoon. This would be a good day to do activities sponsored by the ship. We did see several good shows on this day. Our favorite being ‘The Newlywed and Not So Newlywed Game’. This was a blast.
We had to have our bags packed and in the hallway between 10pm and Midnight. I packed early in the morning so that I could enjoy the rest of the day. Others waited until late and then they were miserable because they didn’t want to give up activities to go pack.
This was not bad as we knew in advance that patience is a virtue. It took about 1 ½ hours and we were off the ship. Customs was a breeze. The airport in San Juan is not the best in the world. We checked in our things and then headed to the Condado Hotel. What a beautiful place. It costs $300.00 a night to stay here and I can see why.
Our flight home was uneventful and we are currently going through cruise withdrawals plotting and scheming on how we can save enough money to go again next year. This was by far the best vacation we have ever taken.