Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Fascination
Sailing Date: June 2nd, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Who I went with:
This cruise was a graduation present from my parents, so of course they came along with me. They are 43 and 45. I noticed a ton of young people on board, and especially in large groups, but it did not matter to me because I really wanted to relax more than anything.
This was extremely easy, and so much security that it is definitely a comfort. It’s funny because it seems I always set off the metal detectors because of my earrings or my belt and its quite embarrassing when the guard scans me over. Well, it of course happened right before I boarded the Fascination, and a beefy black guy pointed me to a woman about ten yards away and told me to go to her so she would check me. By this time, the place was swamped with people and I went up to her, but she did not even notice the metal detector went off for me, so she just spun me around and hurried me to follow the crowd. I was not carrying any dangerous weapons, but imagine if that same thing happened to someone who was.
We got bumped up from the Riviera deck to the Main deck, so that was pretty cool. Our room was more spacious than I expected, and having previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, larger in comparison. With RC the window was a tiny little porthole that we could not see much out of, but our window this time was rectangular and had a great view. There were two twin beds on the floor and one that popped out of the wall above one of them. The bathroom was not too small, and I was delighted to find razors and samples of hair gel and shampoo because I did not pack enough. My only complaint is that the pressure in the shower was the pits, it kept going in and out and basically took forever to shower. The TV was average size and showed Minority Report, Swim fan, The Bangor Sisters and the news from Tennessee. We did not watch much TV, just the news at nighttime.
My first impression of the ship was mixed. The grand spectrum (center of the ship – sort of like a mall) certainly was beautiful, but it came across right away as very cheesy to me. Everything is flashy, overdone, very much like Las Vegas. When we first entered the ship, light from the sunroof over the grand atrium nearly blinded me because it reflected off the fake gold stair railings, glass elevators and everything. I appreciated it much more at night. I loved exploring the ship, but it was confusing finding my way around. We were scheduled for the early seating in the Imagination dining room, but it is tucked away in the back of the ship. It is very hard to find, while the Sensation dining room was located easily in the grand spectrum.
There are two things I love to indulge in – food and relaxation. I thought the food was great. Every night I tried something new when we dined in Imagination. The only night we did not dine in the formal room was when we were in Mexico because we ate at a Mexican restaurant in town. My favorites were the lobster tail and the seafood in a sort of tangy sauce (It was French, I don’t remember the name). I tried the fettuccini with chicken pieces and I know I have eaten better-tasting pasta at Chili’s. Baked Alaska was the best dessert and I would have asked for a second piece but it seemed like they made only one slice per person.
For lunch most of the time we ate in the Coconut Grove. It was good, but it seemed like the food was repeated every day. I had the pizza a couple times and both times they were fresh out of the oven – Mmmmm. What I really loved to do was get myself a nice cold ice cream cone (you can get it at pretty much any time of the day) and lay on deck and read.
I went to the midnight buffet only once, because I am not really a late-night person. There I had a delicious serving of seafood stir-fry, very interesting. The dessert table was exquisite, almost too much. I was hoping I could get a brownie a la mode or a simple slice of carrot cake. But all the desserts served I could not even pronounce the name.
In the middle of the afternoon they served chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and banana cake in the coconut grill. They are no good. The brownies tasted like they were undercooked.
Only one breakfast we ate in the Coconut Grill. It was nasty. The pancakes were dry, the eggs cold as can be, and on top of that there was a HUGE line to wait in. After it was over, I did not think it was worth the wait. Eat breakfast in the formal dining rooms, it is less crowded and they give you entrees like eggs benedict and cheese omelets. In the Grove its just pancakes, eggs, meats and pastries.
For both show nights my parents let me get a non-alcoholic margarita, but when Captain’s night came it was a whole different story! Every one was given complimentary drinks (more than one if you asked, and I definitely asked). I got a glass of red wine and a martini, and I am underage. Now, I am not a drinker, believe me, it was one of the special vacation exceptions. The margarita was not very sweet - I expected it to be like a smoothie.
Our cruise director was entertaining on his own. He was so funny and personable. We had a comedian scheduled but he missed his flight so we never got to see him, which I was disappointed. He boarded the ship in Key West but after that the only comedy shows were at midnight. The only way I would stay up for midnight was the buffet.
I enjoyed both Las Vegas-style shows but the first one was definitely the best. You can even see it in the audience’s reaction. The first was a tribute to Broadway and it really blew me away and I am not that much of a Broadway buff. The second was like a tribute to Hollywood, but I found the pattern of each scene did not really make any sense. Overall, though, it was entertaining.
My dad is a huge trivia man so we went every single day to the trivia challenges. He won the sports one. They should have made it more interesting, like add REAL prizes instead of a cheap metal, than maybe more people would have showed up, because the turn-out was low.
My mom and I went to the second dance lesson. It was modern dance moves to a song, but not a real style of dance. I thought it was kind of hokey but it was fun in the end and great exercise.
The main pool with the slide was very small and on the days at sea it was so overcrowded I was amazed when more people actually tried to squeeze into it. However, we got back from Cozumel around 6, when most people were out sightseeing. I could not help but jump in the pool.
Our cabin steward was very friendly and tried to stay out of our way. He never failed to clean our room twice a day and leave those tasty little mints on our pillows. Our luggage arrived in good time on the first day so we were satisfied.
Our waiters in the dining room we very friendly, especially our headwaiter, Dalisma. However, for breakfast one morning we went to the open seating in the dining room and all three waiters we had were very cold and seemed annoyed with their jobs.
Same thing with the drink servers on deck. Some were nice, and others had the biggest attitudes when I just asked for a glass of water.
Carnival can really improve in this area, like encourage their employees to be more friendly even if deep inside they can’t wait until they go home. It’s not our fault, and they all make pretty good money with tips.
Since we are from Florida, Key West is no big deal to us. We have been there several times. In the morning we got off for a few hours, walking around, doing some mild shopping, but before the morning was over we boarded the ship again. It was better because the ship was much less crowded so we could chill out without fighting for a chair on the Lido deck.
It is very colorful and alluring. We did a ton of shopping and bargaining. The merchants harass you wherever you go “Senorita, come here, look at my jewelry you might like it,” “Senorita, everything is half off – just take a look” but I did buy a couple nice things when I wasn’t too annoyed to scream no and walk away. We had dinner at a quiet little Mexican restaurant a little bit away from the touristy strip. It was called “Los Gavilones” and it was so much better than any Mexican food I’ve had here. Mmmmmm. A local recommended it to us. However, it was kind of expensive, and we knew we could not haggle the price of THAT bill down. We got some drinks and sat by the pretty beach. Crystal clear waters. I am glad we did not do any shore excursions, because we had heard that they are a rip-off. They are overpriced and most of them end up either getting canceled or being a big bore. This is from passengers we spoke to who did some Cozumel excursions.
This was a very awesome cruise. In comparison to Royal Caribbean, I think Carnival has strengths and weaknesses. I recommend trying different cruise lines so you know which one is right for you. Everyone has different tastes.