southernfried

southernfried
Second Mate

Hometown: Cary, NC
Joined: 06/15/2016
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Carnival Fascination

June 2016 - 7 Night Southern Caribbean (San Juan Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Fascination

Great ports, disappointing ship

St. Kitts Scenic Railway Starfish at Carlisle Bay Carlisle Bay lifeguard station St. Thomas sky ride The Pitons looming over Soufiere

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This was our third Carnival cruise and the ports were by far the best we've experienced. Each island (St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Maarten) was unique in its differences with plenty of activities and great beaches. All three shore excursions we did were fun and lived up to their description, especially the Champagne Catamaran Cruise we did to St. John. 

 

Unfortunately, the ship (Carnival Fascination) was the most disappointing we've been on. Most of crew and staff were fine, with a few that truly stood out. But the ship is an older one that is starting to show its age, most notably in that one of the elevators that was out of service the entire duration of the cruise and several boards on the Lido deck around the pool that loose and in need of repair.

 

The entertainment on the ship was also subpar, with two days in which there were no comedy shows and only two song and dance shows total. On the other days, they had a magician who did 15 minutes of boring card tricks (admitting to us that he'd only gotten on the ship a few hours earlier and didn't have time to coordinate with the technical staff), a lame illusionist and a silly "marriage" game. Also, we never saw cruise director Felipe outside of his on-stage duties. This was a direct contrast from our first two cruise directors, who were visible all over the ship and had much more interaction with the guests.

 

As far as the food was concerned, it was very inconsistent. In the main dining room (we did the anytime dining), the food was great and the service was wonderful. The opposite was true in the Lido Deck buffet. Even the omelet station and pizza -- two things that are very hard to mess up -- left a lot to be desired. On the omelets, some ingredients weren't available every day and after the second day, the fresh tomatoes were replaced by canned stewed tomatoes that were absolutely inedible. On the pizza, they scrimped on both the sauce and cheese to the point that you could barely taste either.

 

Thankfully, because of the great ports and the efforts of most crew members we encountered -- especially our steward Christine, our dining room waiter Waiguana, Milka in food service, Georgina at the shore excursion desk and 'Fun Team' member Daniel -- the shortcomings of the ship were only a minor aggravation rather than a deal-breaker. It was still a great vacation.

 

Next time, however, I will do more research on the ship before choosing a cruise -- and a cruise line. 

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southernfried's Tips

Grand Turk Island - Avoid the beaches close to the cruise port, as they are rockier than those on other parts of the island. Also, the excursions here are very good.
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Private Island) - There are excursions and activities available, but it's best to save your money for the other ports and just enjoy a great day at the beach and good cookout food,
Nassau, Bahamas - Skip Atlantis. There's just too much to do there in one day and it makes for a hurried, unrelaxing experience. Get a horsedrawn carriage ride around the downtown area, go see the Queens Staircase & fort, then take a $4 cab to Cabbage beach and enjoy the rest of the day there.
Amber Cove (Puerto Plata), Dominican Republic - Options are limited here. Carnival owns the port and there's stuff to do there, but you don't really get a feel for what the Dominican Republic is really like. That having been said, skip downtown Puerto Plata. It's a very depressed area. Your best bet is getting an excursion to either the beach or one of the natural areas. But make sure you get what you pay for, because we didn't.
Carnival Splendor Carnival Splendor - The BBQ station on the Lido deck is upstairs from the other buffet stations. It's easy to miss if you don't know it's up there, so go up and check it out. It was one of our favorite food choices. Also, get to the comedy shows early, because the line to get in can get long.
Castries, St. Lucia - Do not miss the Pitons. They are spectacular and pictures don't do them justice. Just be forewarned. They're a long way from the cruise port at Castries and getting there on your own is a costly proposition. If you're going to do one shore excursion, this is the island to do it ... Whether it's by land or sea (or both, as in our case), make sure you get to Soufiere
Basseterre, St. Kitts - South Friar's Bay is a nice beach only an $8 cab ride from the cruise port ... not only is the water clear and calm and the beach uncrowded, but you get a spectacular view of neighboring Nevis. Hint ... while the cab driver will drop you off at the Carambola Beach Club, walk down the beach a few hundred yards where there will be much fewer people around you.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten - Avoid Philipsburg like the plague. It's way too commercial and you're accosted by people trying to sell you things everywhere you turn. ... Instead, take a $4 bus ride to Marigot on the French side, where the shops are nicer, the restaurants are better and the atmosphere is much more laid back. If you're going to the beach, skip the busy Orient and head to the much quieter (and nicer) Mullet Bay.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas - No matter what else you have planned, take the ride up to the top of Paradise Point on the sky ride. it costs $21 per person (for an all day pass) and you'll agree that it's well worth the cost when you see the views from the top. There's food and drinks available at the top. But it's ride up and the spectacular view that's the main attraction.
Bridgetown, Barbados - Any of the beaches on Carlisle Bay are nice .... with starfish and sand dollars plentiful on the ocean floor and some of the clearest water we saw on our cruise.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - If you're spending the night before or after your cruise in San Juan, make sure you have dinner at Casita Miramar. It's a little pricey, but it's well worth it for both the authentic Puerto Rican food and the nice atmosphere

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