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This cruise was excellent...by far the most relaxing cruise I've been on. The weather was perfect the entire time...not a single dark cloud, just plenty of sunshine. The ship left Miami late Friday afternoon and returned early Monday morning.
DAY 1: Embarkation Day
We left the house a little after 11 AM, and we were on the ship within an hour...just in time for lunch up on the lido deck! Before heading to the lido deck grille, which is called the Coconuts Grille aboard the Fascination, we stopped off in our cabins, where we dropped off all our luggage, all of which we carried on by ourselves so we wouldn't have to wait until later to have it delievered. For the 4 of us, we had 1 rolling suitcase and about 4 medium-sized duffel bags, which wasn't too bad. We got 2 outside cabins next to each other on the Riveria deck, in the very front of the ship. Pretty spacious cabins, with the usual basket of toiletries on the bathroom counter. On our last cruise aboard the Imagination, they had added 2 dispensers in the shower, 1 containing soap and the other shampoo, which was also on this ship. I'm assuming that they have done this on all ships by now.
Immediately upon entering the Coconuts Grille, which is the casual dining facility on the aft section of the lido deck, I realized the unique spaciousness and openness, which sharply contrasted against the other Fantasy-class ships I've been on (Sensation, Imagination, Paradise). Maybe it is because of the palm tree/rainforest decorations and the light tiling on the floor, the room seemed to have a much more open atmosphere than the other ships, which I loved. Lunch was delicious, and afterwards we milled around the ship, noticing some improvements. Throughout the Coconuts Grille, they have employees pushing around carts stocked with all the beverages you can get from the machines, so you didn't even have to get up to get a drink. There was also a little sign in several places asking to ring the bell if the service/food has met your expectations. (I took a picture of the sign, it's in the album along with all the other photos) Nice touch, Carnival! In many places of the ship where there used to be those makeshift, wooden ramps covering the thresholds when you go inside or outside on any of the decks, there are permanent concrete ramps, some of which were even carpeted. Much nicer looking.
The lifeboat drill wasn't too bad considering our Muster Station was in the main show lounge, so we just sat on the nice cozy seats in the lounge for the duration of the drill. About 15 minutes later, the ship silently slipped away from the dock, headed towards the Miami Basin where the ship turned around, and then we headed straight down Government Cut and out to sea, which is always a nice sight. I think the most overlooked aspect of the cruise, from Carnival's perspective, is the lack of annoucements that are made about the ship beginning to depart from the dock. Of all the cruises I've been on, only a few cruises actually played that fun 'bon voyage' music and made annoucements to make sure everyone knew the ship was leaving. Because the cruise was only a 3-Day cruise, everyone was anxious to get to the pool right after the ship left Miami, and it was busy there until sundown.
DAY 2: Nassau, Bahamas
The ship docked in Nassau early Monday morning, and we decided to do the "Discover Atlantis" tour. Being that I always wanted to see Atlantis, I couldn't have been happier! And lemme tell you...that place is nothing short of amazing! We met right in front of the gangway on the pier at 2:15 in the afternoon, which was perfect so we didn't have to wake up early. We walked about 10 minutes to get on the boat which passed by all the ships docked (Sovereign of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, the Jubilee, and Regal Empress), past some fancy houses on the water, and it took us to Paradise Island. Then we walked about 10 more minutes to get to the actual entrance of the Atlantis resort. It was amazing...we toured the shark tanks, fish tanks, Eel and Stingray tanks, and we went through the tube surrounded by fish and sharks. I have many pictures I took during the entire Atlantis tour, which are also in the album. After Atlantis, we went to the Straw Market, which was 'a shopper's paradise.' There must have been hundreds and hundreds of vendors and their stands set up in maybe 15 rows that went back as far as you could see. With all the shopping opportunities there, you didn't need to go anywhere else to shop. This was the first time I had been to the Bahamas, and I loved it...it's a very calm, peaceful island, with very interesting landmarks and nice people. The ship was docked for quite a while...from about 7 AM to 2:30 AM the following morning.
DAY 3: Day at Sea
I spent several hours in the afternoon on a lounge chair by the pool with a girl I met aboard the ship from California, studying for my Psychology final exam the next day back home, then we went to the gym which was relatively empty the entire cruise. Surprisingly, there was no difficulty getting a lounge chair on the lido deck. Though many were reserved, there were still plenty of empty lounge chairs everywhere. As usual, the day at sea flew by, and before we knew it, we were packing up and getting ready for our last evening aboard the ship.
DAY 4: Debarkation Day
Woke up at 6:45 AM (ahhh, I was not too happy waking up so early considering I had gotten only 2 hours of sleep that night, but oh well), so we could take advantage of Carnival's "self-express debarkation" process. We were in the main show lounge by 7:30, which is the time you must be there with all your luggage, if you wish to debark the ship earlier than everyone else. Now here's where I get to explain how dad was soley responsible for chaos and the mad dash to the exit doors of the show lounge....So we're all sitting down, waiting and waiting for the annoucement to be made for us early-bird debarkees to begin leaving the lounge and go to the lobby deck and get off the ship. The lounge was filled to occupancy, and there were even people outside the lounge, waiting everywhere and anywhere there was room. So time is ticking, and no annoucement is made..We wait, wait, and wait some more. Then, dad say's "I'm going to find out what's going on." (here's where it get's good)..
Remember, no annoucement has been made to us. 5 minutes later, dad returns to the front row where we were sitting, and while standing up and in a loud expressionistic voice so that everyone around us could hear, he says "Come on guy's let's go...the lady by the gangway said they're waiting for us to get off." So as he says this to us, I'm looking around to see the entire lounge become dead silent, while everyone looks directly at dad to listen to what he has said. So as we start getting together our stuff in a hurry, we notice the couple directly behind us do the same, then the couple next to them stand up and do it too. Before we could even finish collecting our bags, the entire lounge, starting with the people directly surrounding us and fanning out to the further parts of the lounge, are all doing the same thing, kinda like a tidal wave/ripple effect, with everyone dashing for the exit to be the first to debark the ship. Now that was one sight to see! lol. So here we are, all the way in the front of the lounge, stuck behind everyone else who is now on their way to reach the gangway. After a lot of laughter, a few moshpits, 20 minutes, and after being in line for quite some time, we finally made it off the ship into the terminal. So if you were on our cruise and wondering how that mad dash for the doors started, now you know...it's dad who did that! For next time, dad will have learned to practice his whispering, so he doesn't cause another chaotic mad dash again.
We were home by 9 AM, and I went back to sleep until about 2 PM. Then I went online to take the final exam for my summer Psychology course. The good thing about the cruise being only 3 days long is that the entire unpacking routine took less than 30 minutes, which was a pleasure.
I have 4 words - "A Week of Chocolate." Carnival has really improved it's dining selection, particularly it's chocolate deserts. Every day there were several different kinds of chocolate cake, mouse, pie, etc. And this wasn't the same chocolate we have always been served on Carnival....this chocolate was real, rich chocolate - Not the airy, soft, no-taste chocolate cake that has been on every cruise. We're talking delicious sweet chocolate, semi-chocolate, and any other variety of chocolate you could imagine...available every single day. By now I guess you've realized that I'm a huge chocolate fan. Well, I guess it's time to move on and describe the other food we were served.
For the 2 breakfasts on the cruise, the standard pancakes, french toast, omelletes, bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, fruit, and cereal were served. One of the few disappointments of the cruise was that breakfast was served no later than 10:30 AM up on the lido deck. On past cruises, breakfast would be served until 12 PM, which provided for plenty of time to get to the buffet. Yet on this cruise, I rushed (along with my sister) to get to breakfast on time, and we set the alarm clock in my phone to ensure we didn't oversleep. We did not go into the dining room at all. We took advantage of Carnival's Alternate Dining Program, which is great. The lido deck buffet serves great food, and the deli at the back of the ship had the best tasting corned beef and pastrami as long as I can remember.
Overall: A. There were 2 unique Las Vegas style shows during the cruise, along with 2 R-rated adult comedians, and a few other shows. The main disco was full of adults all night, every night, dancing the night away. Here's where a big change has been made....Never before has Carnival provided teenagers with a place of their own, somewhere to dance and hang out, without getting kicked out by security at 10 PM. This has changed. The Backstreet Club, located at the back of the game room on the Promenade deck, right by the casino, was created with exactly this purpose in mind. Unfortunately for us, there was a sign on the door all week long stating "due to an illness, the activities/lounge has been closed for the week." Nice lounge, Carnival, but what good is it if you let one person who gets sick ruin the fun for everyone? I was very surprised that Carnival did not have anyone substituting the ill person's place so that the teenagers would have a place to go.
I had a great time aboard the Fascination. I left the casino as a winner, not just a donor, which is always a fun thing! This was my 21st cruise, or some number very close to that (I've kinda lost track by now), and the first time aboard the Fascination, which is now my favorite Fantasy-class ship. This was also my 1st time on a 3 day cruise. Though it was a great way to get away for just a weekend, I still enjoy the longer cruises more. After getting all excited and prepared for the cruise, it was over too soon. Still suffering from PCDS, I've been spending some time in my hammock under the palm trees, going to the beach alot, and still trying to be in that "cruise mood."