Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Fascination
Sailing Date: June 13th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was our first cruise! I did a lot of reading before we left and didn't find much, so I also hope this helps other first time cruisers.
We flew in from Ohio the Sunday before and stayed at the Holiday Inn, Port of Miami. We walked across the street to the nearby plaza and ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp (highly recommended) and also did a bit of shopping. On Monday we went to the pier (from hotel about $10 taxi fare with tip) and dropped off our luggage and also tipped the attendant $1 per bag. We showed all of our documents at the check-in area and the entire embarkation process went very smoothly and took roughly 40 minutes. Carnival is very organized and kept lines moving. Everyone was very friendly.
Once aboard, we had a delicious lunch on the Lido Deck at the Coconut Grove buffet. My kids opted for hamburgers and fries. The juice they served for free was too sweet and sugary but we got fountain cards for soda which were $18 each for the entire 4 day cruise. I would also recommend the tropical drinks of the day. They were superb! As a tip, if you have kids and they are anxious to go swimming, have them pack their suits in their carryon bags so you don't have to wait until your luggage is delivered. We were a bit disappointed because the main pool was closed the first day since they were painting.
The cabins were very clean and surprisingly enough room for all 4 of us. Our cabin steward took great care of us. My son accidentally spilled soda on the comforter and he changed it while we were out exploring the ship. Great service!
I initially asked to be put on early dinner seating but our sail card showed the late seating. We spoke to our maitre de and he sent a note to our room that he booked us on earlier seating at 6:15. Dinners each night were delicious and the service was tremendous! Our dinner companions were also very friendly.
After having breakfast ordered through room service, our first port on Tuesday at Key West was just okay. It was very hot and felt like a tourist trap. Gift shops lined the main streets and the kids were easily bored. I would definitely save your money for shopping in Cozumel.
Tuesday night was formal night and it was spectacular. There were professional photographers and our photos turned out so well that I ordered extra copies. An 8 x 10 cost $20 and the 5 x 7 prints were $6, definitely worth the cost. It was a bit disappointing to see some guests go to the formal night in jeans, definitely frowned upon. Most ladies were dressed in cocktail dresses and I didn't see many pantsuits. Most men wore sports jackets with dress shirts and many wore ties. Our kids (ages 15 and 11) wore nice khaki pants and shirts and ties but dress polo shirts would also have been acceptable.
The recreation activities were good. The pool was a bit small and there were kids in the hot tub which was for adults only. Everyone seemed to enjoy the winding slide! The basketball area was also small and kids were not allowed in the weight room (I can understand the ship's liability). The shows were mediocre but the last show of the cruise on Thursday night was simply spectacular. It was a great performance!
The port in Cozumel on Wednesday was the best. We took a personal tour with an English speaking guide (we booked online ourselves, not through Carnival) and first stopped and got some drinks and he first drove us to the San Gervacio ruins. If you are going there, bring mosquito repellant! It was very humid and hot but we were fascinated by the architecture and structures. We then went to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling and it is such a beautiful and clean area. I wish we could have had more time there. Our guide dropped us off at Carlos and Charlie’s Restaurant downtown and it was definitely a wild atmosphere and a lot of fun!!! The food was great and our bill was roughly $50 in US. The marketplace was beside the restaurant and we found some great buys and souvenirs. We took a taxi back to the ship (roughly $10 with tip for 4) and did more shopping at the duty free stores. There are some great buys on alcohol, designer perfume and jewelry sets. The atmosphere on the ship was very festive that evening, and they served a Mexican buffet at midnight which was delicious. The music and dancing on the deck was always very entertaining.
The Fun Day on Thursday was very relaxing. We sat by the pool and had drinks and were entertained by the ice sculpture, the hairy man contest and went to the Palace Theater for the Newlywed game. We also made quite a bit of donations at the casino. The dinner meal for our last evening was superb and the staff was very gracious. The performance that evening was definitely entertaining and the choreography was exceptional. You must definitely go to this show if you miss the rest!
We had to set all of our luggage out by midnight and only kept the essentials. Friday morning we received a statement with personal charges and tips under our door. We had breakfast on the ship, filled out our customs card and stood in line for probably 45 minutes for the entire debarkation process. We were off the ship by 10 a.m. We did grab a cab from the pier to the airport at a cost of $8 per person plus tip. Carnival initially told us not to book a flight earlier than 1 p.m. but we were at the airport at 10:30 a.m. with no earlier flights (everything was booked due to flight cancellations). Our flight didn’t leave until 6:00 p.m. and there wasn’t much to do in the terminal area.
We had an excellent time and would recommend this cruise to anyone. We were fortunate because the weather was gorgeous and the entire voyage went as planned.