Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Fascination
Sailing Date: November 15th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
My husband and I went on this particular cruise because some friends of ours were already booked and invited us along. Both my husband and I were first time cruisers. He hasn’t done much traveling and I’d say I have a fair amount of traveling experience – domestic and international. Both of us are non-smokers and we don’t have children.
Now about the ship: The Fascination
The Room - We had a room with a decent sized window which I enjoyed having. The room was small but big enough and fully functional for the amount of time we spent there. The two twin beds were more comfortable than the hotels we usually stay in (Hampton Inns and Embassy Suites). Had it not been for our friends I would not have known that you could push them together to make a king. The bathroom was small but there was plenty of storage space in the cabinet over the sink. Complimentary razors, bar soap, dental floss and foil packs of shampoo and conditioner (like you get in the mail) were provided. Neither of us had any complaints about the shower – the pressure was good and the temperature controls consistent. There was a wall mounted dispenser with shampoo and body wash but ours weren’t labeled so I used the products I brought. There was a TV but reception was poor – best used for the in-house informational programming only. We never saw or met our cabin steward but were pleased with the way our room was kept up during our cruise - fresh towels, bed made and comforter pulled back, pillows fluffed, nightly chocolates and delivery of the ships newsletter – the Capers.
The Food - Overall the food was average to disappointing. We ate in the dining room 3 nights and it was on par with a decent restaurant but not a really good one. Our service staff was fine – no complaints. The buffet selections for breakfast and lunch were pretty average for buffet fare. The biggest problem we had was with the drink situation and with desserts. Bar drinks weren’t any pricier than anywhere else and they had good selections of top shelf liquors and wines. The problem was with the tea and water (non-bottled) and soda. I drink a lot of soda and it was irritating to have to make special arrangements to get soda at buffet meals. I did not buy the unlimited soda card ($20) but probably should have. My husband usually drinks tea and water – both of which tasted bad enough for him to not want to drink them, and he usually drinks something constantly. We ended up buying a lot of soda and bottled water – pricey but necessary. The desserts at the buffet meals were pretty sub-par. They were mostly cakes and invariably stale or frozen or hard for some other reason. I’d have to say the coffee (at least from the dispensers on deck) was bad. I looked forward to getting up and having some coffee in the morning, watching the water (I’m a morning person) but the coffee was bad and I found myself having to maneuver to avoid smokers more than I would have liked. The pizza was tasty. Get the baked Alaska when they offer it in the dining room on the last night …. Yummy.
The Atmosphere on Ship – The ship’s décor is a little on the cheesy side but forgivable. It is 10 years old but it was clean. The dining and show rooms were non-smoking but all the bars and casino were pretty smoky. This was not a surprise but still, we look forward to the time when we can have a drink at the bar without having the smoke problem. There were plenty of photo opportunities and I wished we’d taken advantage of them – since you don’t have to buy any pictures but you never know – you just might get a winner. There were activities planned all the time – from Bingo, to the Not-so-Newlywed game, to informative talks etc. The shows were ok as something to do at night but not something I’d pay for on the mainland. The one day we spent on the ship we headed to the decks for some fun-in the sun. The pool was smallish and generally filled with kids but we did try the waterslide – what a surprise to find out the pool was salt water when we got to the bottom. There was a distinct lack of beach/pool tunes – the decks were quiet except for the live band …. They were pretty bad – we thought it was karaoke when they first began playing and then they had quite a problem with feedback. Lots of people seemed to be having a good time though, from the adults who were enjoying more than a few fruity drinks to the people with kids. I was prepared for sea-sickness and had taken Dramamine before we even boarded – I took one every morning and didn’t have one single problem. My husband and the couple we went with all had problems at one point or another. Prevention is the key. It was windier on the top deck than I expected – a few mornings it would blow the coffee out of my cup. I ended up on a deck in the back of the ship – less windy back there.
The Excursions – In Key West we did the bike tour. We like bike tours and this one met our expectations. Our guide was an interesting woman and I think her character was half the fun of it. Our excursion in Cozumel was another story entirely. We did the 4X4 Cavern and Beach trip. The two guides seemed genuine and were pleasant but that’s the end of it. I can’t say strongly enough how angry I was by the end of this excursion. The jeep was new-ish but it smelled like cat urine (I have cats and unfortunately know that smell). The cave piece was pretty much what I expected but overall the reality of this excursion is nothing like the tone of how they sell it in the brochure. I felt like a ripped-off tourist, we all did. The beach is not beautiful. The “rugged” road you go down to get to it comes after 30 minutes (each way) on a frightening highway and is littered with trash and dumpy trailers. We did see some pretty beach when we first arrived from the ferry from Cozumel but we didn’t get to go to any of those. The beach in the picture on the website for this excursion is not what you will see. Do not do this excursion. If you do anything that involves the ferry from Cozumel to the mainland – take Dramamine that morning! As soon as we started moving the staff came around with bags …. many people were miserable, getting sick – and you have to take the same ride at the end of the day.
In summary - we were disappointed with our overall experience on this cruise. It seemed like a cheap way to get an introduction to Cruising but by the time it was all over it wasn’t all that cheap and we would have probably enjoyed a Cruise in a higher price point. It was like being trapped in a food court at the discount mall or an amusement park. We will try cruising again but not on this cruise line. Buyer-Beware for shore excursions.