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Kt. Zeferelli

Age: 56

Occupation:freelance writer/editor

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Fascination

Sailing Date: June 24th, 2005

Itinerary: Bahamas

"You get what you pay for." No truer words were ever spoken and they particularly relate well to our recent cruise on the Carnival Fascination. The trip can be looked at in two ways -- the glass half empty or the glass half full. I'll give you the pros and cons and you can decide how it looks to you.

Food: The food was good to very good and certainly plentiful at all hours of the day and night. If you go, opt for dinner in the dining room every night. It is considerably better than the Lido deck buffet, which is fine for lunch. Don't miss the sandwiches at the Deli on Lido deck, the sushi on Hollywood Boulevard, and the pizza on Lido deck. They are all very good. The all-you-can-eat buffet on the last night is very nice -- great decorations and good food. On the other hand, the food is not gourmet. If you're looking for your favorite French restaurant on board, you won't find it. But they certainly do an exceptional job feeding all these people, all the time, with better-than-average meals.

Cruise Price: The price was reasonable. Again, you get what you pay for. The boat is older and needs repairs. Although some people have mentioned carpet stains and dirt and mildew, etc., I thought the boat was in pretty good shape for its age. There were carpet stains, but that doesn't surprise me. We didn't have mildew and the room stewards were constantly cleaning and polishing inside and outside the rooms. Not spic and span, but certainly not grimy. The décor is dated and looks more like something you would have seen in the 80s, but, again, the glitz was kind of fun. It's no big deal.

Entertainment: The shows were not good. Royal Caribbean puts on much better shows with more variety. Costumes were pretty, but too much of the same. The performers were mediocre. The 18 year olds in our group felt like they were in limbo at times, although they did have fun. They were too old for the teen club (17 limit). And, when they went to the disco and other venues at the times indicated for the 18 to 24 crowd, they found mostly "40-somethings trying to act like 18 year olds." They were allowed to play in the casino, however, and managed to lose their share! But they did have fun!

The pool was way too crowded at any time of the day and finding a spot in the pool would have been hard to come by, so we didn't take a dip. Younger kids had a great time in the pool and on the slide and a few die-hard sunbathers seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.

Shore excursions: We went to Blue Lagoon, which is a lovely little island with one side on the Atlantic, which was pretty rough, and the other bordering a calm, blue lagoon. It was quite pretty with good bathroom facilities, a café with burgers and hotdogs, and a small gift shop. The boat ride out was very nice, but they take 45 minutes getting to the island (which should take only about 20 minutes). My guess is that they simply wanted to draw out the ride and sell more drinks.

Shopping: We didn't do any. If you've shopped on one boat, you've "been there and done that." If you haven't, you'll have fun. Shopping in Nassau looked pretty much like all the other islands -- straw markets and duty free shops. I've had my share, but, again, if you haven't done it, you'll have fun hitting all the venues.

Rooms: We opted for the penthouse suite, located on Upper deck, mid ship. The rooms were quite nice -- very roomy with two queen beds and a sleep sofa, a mini bar, and a balcony (hard to come by on the older ships). The balcony was enclosed (unlike the newer ships) and therefore shaded during the day, which I actually liked. The room also had a large window. If you can afford it, opt for the balcony suite every time unless you are one of those people who never stay in the room. I actually enjoyed some alone time reading on the balcony and just enjoying coming into the room and still having that wonderful view of the sea and the islands. On this ship, however, having a penthouse does not necessarily entitle you to anything special. We did not have a concierge, for example, to handle tickets for shore excursions, cocktails before dinner, special treats. None of that. The only advantage is the bigger, better room.

My biggest complaint? The SMOKE. It was everywhere -- except, thank goodness, in the dining room and theatre. I hate smoke and my clothes and hair were full of it every time we went to the casino or any of the public areas. I have been on ships that require smoking "outside" on the promenade deck. That's a great idea. But that leads to my second complaint. The clientele…many smokers, noisy folks, heavy drinkers. Some other writer mentioned that the environment was very low brow. That's about right. If you want a high-end trip, don't take this one. On the other hand, it is good that there is a cruise that is affordable to folks who would never be able to take this kind of vacation otherwise.

So…would I go on Fascination again? No. I've been there, done that. But we did have fun. We met a very nice family who shared our table. And the food, though not exceptional, was quite good. The price was right. And THAT's the bottom line. If you can afford better, go for it! If you can't, by all means take the Fascination and decide to look at the glass half full -- and it will be!

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