April 2015 - 4 Night Bahamas (Jacksonville Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Fascination
Review of cruise. Carnival Fascination, April 2-6. Stops in Freeport and Nassau
Information Channels. Cannot emphasize enough reading the materials provided. However, much of the material is superfluous to many cruisers. Key information needs to be highlighted, i.e, breakfast, lunch and dinner times and places. When important events are scheduled and particularly highlight the location for first time cruisers. Periodic announcements over the loudspeakers are often unintelligible.
Dinner seating. Always inform first time cruisers that the early seating is primarily the one used by families with young children. For seniors, this is important information as most would prefer to eat dinner without young children. The noise level in the dining rooms is far too high for an enjoyable dinner experience. The dining rooms appear to be oriented toward large cruising groups who tend to talk louder and more often than necessary.
Handicapped seating for dinner. Regardless of the number of diners at a table, if there is a wheel chair bound diner consideration must be given as to ingress and egress. Don’t put the wheel chair bound diner at a table that requires diners at two or three other table to move in order to access or leave their table. Always put the wheel chair bound diner on a major walkway to avoid requiring other diners to get up or move in order to move the wheel chair in and out.
Memorable meals. Some are more memorable than others. In particular, on the “elegant dining” dinner on the second night of the cruise, the filet mignon served was inedible. It could not be cut with the steak knife and once cut could not be chewed. Clearly dress guidelines for seated dinners in either dining room are not enforced. The daily handout listing the dinner style was explicit that “baseball caps” were not permitted. When a diner arrives with a baseball cap perched on their head, it would be easy to have the staff remind the diner that they are not permitted. Once the diner is seated it becomes much more obvious to everyone, other than the diner with the baseball cap, that he did not get the message. We skipped the last two dinners to eat in the buffet. That was also a disappointment. The so called “jumbo shrimp” were overly breaded and underdone. The resultant pasty covering ruined that particular dish entirely. Other selections were not that appealing and in particular bacon offered at breakfast was consistently undercooked and grease laden.
Handicapped accessible cabins. The cabins designated for handicapped guests are well equipped and provide readily accessible amenities. Unfortunately, R298 is next to one of the major staff support areas. It is recognized that staff must work while guests sleep but moving large carts across metal grates at 3:00 in the morning guarantees that guests will be awakened. Noise adjacent to this particular cabin is far noisier than it should be. The last night of the cruise was excruciating. The noise from the staff work area was louder and more constant than ever before. There was no way to get more than an hours sleep before being awakened again.
Staff support. Without exception all the staff and crew were very helpful and supportive. More than anything else they were quick to recognize a need and often responded to that need without being asked. Cabins were cleaned and tidied up every day when ever guests were out of their cabin.
Activities. A first time cruiser's clue as to activities aboard should be the name of the boat – Carnival. Most guests were there to eat and drink or gamble in the casino. Thank goodness for the “Serenity Deck” where age 21 was the minimum for entry. At the swimming pool and hot tub on Deck 10 teenagers effectively took over the facilities. We were disappointed in the scheduled entertainment. None of them were to our liking. The scheduled entertainment was apparently geared to the “lowest common denominator.” Seeking to meet everyone’s expectations and meeting no individual’s expectations is the best description of the scheduled entertainment.
Shore Excursions. We received great advice from a crew member and only went ashore in Nassau. We enjoyed the Bay Street “Straw Market” and provided some income to merchants there. Although unplanned, we left the boat early and arrived in downtown Nassau before many of the other cruisers. That was fortunate because with four cruise ships in port at the same time there were many pedestrians walking the sidewalks and in the shops. By the time we left in early afternoon every place was crowded. All the programmed shore excursions appeared less than wheel chair accessible and for that reason alone we declined all of them.
Embarkation and Debarkation. We were pleased with the ease of embarkation. Accommodating guests with disabilities seemed to be the order of the day. We were on-board and in our cabin quickly and efficiently. Debarkation was, however, an entirely different story. We were required to be out of our cabins by 8:30. Staff only has so much time to refresh the cabins before the next set of guests arrive. However, keeping folks in various parts of the boat for more than 2 ½ hours is unacceptable. The wheel chair assistance section on the main deck nearest Guest Services was well supplied with support staff. Unfortunately, they knew no more about when we might leave than the guests. Added to that was their limited English. The most consistent answer when asked a question was “There will be an announcement.” However, there was never an announcement and we simply followed all the other wheel chairs when they left for the nearest elevator.
Pricing and Costs Aboard. Even if one were to acknowledge that many guests would boast and exaggerate about the “deal” they received on the cruise, it was clear that we paid more than others for an inboard cabin on the lowest deck. Charges aboard the boat for water, soft drinks, beer and wine were excessive. While I accept the fact that there is some cost associated with bring the beverages aboard, $2 for a small bottle of water is more markup than necessary. Finally, the gratuities added to each purchase along with the required gratuities for staff exceeded 15%. While a decision to provide a more generous gratuity might have been made, the compulsory gratuity eliminated that entirely.