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Fascination 05/06/2013 w/FTTF...a reflection...

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I have used these forums for every cruise I have taken and hope this little reflection/review of our cruise will help some. I am not good at remembering to take photos. I do have some and will share them during this review. Unfortunately, I have precious few "food" pictures.....I just forgot.

 

Just a little background. I cruise with my daughter who is 20. We would love to cruise more often, but most times there are a couple of years between our trips. We have enjoyed all of our cruises, including this one. There have been ups and down with each one, but we haven't ever had a "bad" cruise.

 

I booked this cruise "last minute", for us. We booked right after Easter. I am usually a planner and book about 9 months out. This cruise was just to get away. We made no true plans and decided we would just take things as they came.

 

The original booking was for an inside cabin. It wasn't the lowest category because of past guest upgrades, but it was interior. I watched the prices and was able to upgrade to a mid ship ocean view - cabin M157. I thought it would be easy to get to most things but found it really wasn't due to the layout. Oh well, I was really looking for mid ship so I was still happy.

 

Because it had been a couple of years since we cruised, once I figured out what Faster to the Fun was, I purchased it. We really enjoyed having this and would do it again in a heartbeat. There has been a lot of conversation on the board regarding what I consider to be "fairness" to the Platinum/Diamond members. I can tell you the only time I think the FTTF people had the same advantage was in debarkation. There was no separation of Platinum/Diamond and FTTF for this. Otherwise, I know the Platinum/Diamond were boarded earlier than we were and the note on the doors to the cabin halls showed Diamond, Platinum, and FTTF were welcome to enter and the cabins would be ready.

 

I think this is a good place to break before I start adding some photos and tell you about our experiences. That said, I would like to share a couple of things:

 

1) I won't be able to tell you anything about smuggling anything. I did take some diet cokes on, but less than what is allowed.

2) It surprises me how little people research their trips.

3) I am not much of a drinker or a gambler. This was a trip for me to relax and spend time with my daughter.

 

Okay.....here goes....

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Can't wait for your review..

 

Looking forward to your review, I am going on this ship with kids and ex for kids birthdays

 

Wow it looks like you're going to have an interesting cruise with your ex!! I'd be interested in your review too. :)

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FINALLY.....it was time for our vacation. My daughter just finished her second year of college and I have had a lot on my plate......I could wait for this trip. We left home Saturday and headed to South Georgia where my Grandfather, who is a very young 95 years of age, lives in a retirement community. He lives in the independent living area in a duplex. We had a great visit with him and headed to Jacksonville Sunday afternoon.

 

Here we are leaving (absent me):

 

Cruise05062013002.jpg

 

I used points and booked the Holiday Inn Express right around the corner from the port. I thought it was a nice place, exactly what you would expect from a Holiday Inn Express. They had a limited breakfast bar in the morning. As a reminder, always look at the time the breakfast closes. My daughter went down at 9:30 and they were closed. However, the staff was very kind and gave her a bagel, cream cheese, and some yogurt. They offered some other things but that was all she wanted.

 

They offered their park and ride package to us for $50. I would have taken this if we could have gotten an early shuttle time. However, by the time we checked in the first 3 shuttles were full and we wanted to get on the ship early - remember FTTF!!!! I had budgeted to park at the port and that is what we did.

 

Here are some shots of our room, in case you are interested:

 

Cruise05062013004.jpg

 

Cruise05062013003.jpg

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After we got to the hotel Sunday evening, we did some exploring. I had read about the $8/day parking lot right outside the gate and checked it out. They had cars just packed in there. The rows were three deep and I made the decision to not park there for that reason. However, I will say when we left this morning, around 9:30am, that lot was empty just waiting on new passengers. I can't figure this out, other than all of those people must have done self assist. We had #1 luggage tags with FTTF and were on the second elevator (more about that later) down to debark. The only way I can figure is the people that parked in that lot did self assist. It is definitely cheaper than parking at the port.

 

Here are the promised pictures of that lot:

 

Cruise05062013006.jpg

 

Cruise05062013005.jpg

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Looking forward to your review, I am going on this ship with kids and ex for kids birthdays

 

 

I firmly believe cruising is what you make of it. Have a great time!!!!

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We left the hotel a little after 10:00am to get to the port.....yes, the one that is right around the corner. Also, I had read that the gates wouldn't open until 10:30 for new passengers.......but I was very anxious. I just wanted to get on board so bad. We were, of course, turned around when we first got there. This is probably one of many "DUH" moments, but the best way to get to the port very early is to take a shuttle. We drove right out of the port, across the street, and pulled into a little paved place, turned around and waited. From this point, I took some photos of my "home" for the next 5 days. I also watched shuttle after shuttle pull in to the port and leave - see above. This is the view of the ship from where I pulled in:

 

Cruise05062013007.jpg

 

Cruise05062013008.jpg

 

Finally......around 10:25, we pulled back in and they were allowing people in. YEAH!!!! Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures until we got on the ship. Of course, pictures are not allowed once you enter the actual building. The port is small and it was a very easy process. You drive through and drop your luggage with the porters to be reunited with you on board. From there, you drive a very short distance to the gated parking area, pay your fee (higher than the other lot), and park. It is a very short walk from there to the check in building. This photo (taken from the ship may give you a good idea:

 

Cruise05062013045.jpg

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I started a new reply because I want to point out how much we liked Faster to the Fun. Yes, we paid $50 for some convenience. It may not be worth it to some, but I don't drink (much) or gamble and this is the type of thing I chose to do. I liked having this little luxury.

 

When we dropped the luggage off, the porter noted we had FTTF and wished us a happy cruise.

 

Once we parked and got back to the building with our carry ons, we were directed to the empty VIP line. Of course, being there that early, most of the other lines were empty too. However, from that point on, we were escorted everywhere.....very nice.

 

I carried on one 8 pack of the small bottles of diet cokes. Publix had them on sale right before the cruise so that is what we took. I put my rolling carry-on on the belt and told the guy there were diet cokes in there and asked if I needed to open it. He asked if I had any wine and I said no and he said I didn't need to open the suitcase. We went right through security and was met by a very nice lady who escorted us right to the desk (that was also empty) and we had our sign and sail card within a matter of moments. I am "gold" this cruise. I doubt I will ever make Platinum with the new guidelines, but one can always hope.

 

We were seated in a row of chairs that were being monitored by several Carnival employees. A couple of rows were reserved for Platinum/Diamond and then some rows for FTTF people. We were seated in the order we checked in. It did start to get confusing because they started seating some "zone" people in rows in the same area. However, they monitored them well (in my opinion).

 

At the designated time, the Platinum/Diamond guests were escorted to the boarding line and then the FTTF. I think some Platinum/Diamond were in a different room and they were brought to the front of the line, again, making sure they were ahead of FTTF (as they should be). Boarding was quick and easy and soon enough we were on board.

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On this ship, you board on one of the lower decks and have to take the elevator up to wherever you are headed.

 

I had a little encounter with a lady in the elevator. I asked her to push 5 in the elevator - I was headed to my cabin to drop the carry ons. She promptly told me I could only go to the Lido deck, the cabins wouldn't be ready (lady was a passenger). I told her they should be ready and asked her to please push 5 for me. She told the people in the elevator she had done everything and was platinum and knew we couldn't get to the cabins. By this time, the elevator had stopped so I just said, we would like to get off (someone was in front of me) and we did. The doors are closed, but there is a sign on them. At the bottom of the sign, it states it is okay for Platinum, Diamond, and FTTF to enter.

 

We went down the hall and found our cabin door closed, while the others were open. I inserted the card and found our cabin READY!! It was absolutely great to be able to drop our stuff. YEAHHHHH!!!!! I didn't wait for our luggage, but it was there when we went back.

 

The cabin was good size, but I did miss the couch. We have had a balcony in the past and enjoyed having a sofa.

 

I absolutely HATED the bathroom. The worst thing in the world was the sink area. There is NO counter space. I know now that I would not like to have a pedestal sink in my bathroom. It made it a pain to take out my contacts, etc. However, I made it work and it didn't ruin my cruise :D

 

Here are some pictures of cabin M157 - oceanview:

 

Cruise05062013040.jpg

 

Cruise05062013041.jpg

 

Cruise05062013042.jpg

Edited by kml2000

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At this point, we headed to the Lido deck and got lunch. SORRY....no pictures. We both decided on hamburgers for the first day, as did a lot of other people. I like the salsa they have on the bar and also got the chips with salsa. I am not as fond of the chips, but because I like salsa so much, I put up with them. The best way I can characterize these chips is they are like fried flour tortillas. I may be wrong, just my impression. Later in the week, I tried the chili they also have with the burger/hot dog toppings and found it to be pretty good. The chili was like actual chili and not just hot dog chili (IOW, it had beans in it and was not as thick as a hot dog chili). I snacked on some "nachos" mid afternoon one day with this chili and the other toppings (salsa, sour cream, melted cheese - obviously nothing healthy).

 

After lunch we took off exploring. We found our favorite place to dine when we ate in the buffet. If you go to the inside buffet and walk all the way to the back you find the pizza place and the deli (I really like the deli). On either side are some doors and there is an outside, covered dining area. This, to me, was one of the nicest areas to sit and eat. Also, there were tables and chairs on the side decks. This area looks out AFT and over the Serenity area. Here are some pictures:

 

Cruise05062013067.jpg

 

Cruise05062013068.jpg

Edited by kml2000

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Well.......I am having a tough time holding my eyes open. It has been a long day and I am entering some level of depression :D . I will be back tomorrow afternoon sometime and will be happy to answer questions (if I can). I seem to be an atypical cruiser....not sure I will have answers.

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Your favorite place to dine, was and is our favorite place to hang out. Great quiet place late at night. Can't wait til you wake up and write more-looking forward to the rest of your review on our favoorite ship.

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Agree about the bathroom set-up. Hate it on the Inspiration The Elation and Paradise had the medicine cabinets. Probably a PITA for the stewards to clean.

Obviously designed by someone not using the bathroon. One thin shelf? Barely enough room to store a toothbrush.

 

The wing decks off the lido are the best kept non-secret of the Fantasy class ships.

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Nice review! We have done the early show-up ourselves and now know just after 10:30 is the time. Keep it coming...

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After we got to the hotel Sunday evening, we did some exploring. I had read about the $8/day parking lot right outside the gate and checked it out. They had cars just packed in there. The rows were three deep and I made the decision to not park there for that reason. However, I will say when we left this morning, around 9:30am, that lot was empty just waiting on new passengers. I can't figure this out, other than all of those people must have done self assist. We had #1 luggage tags with FTTF and were on the second elevator (more about that later) down to debark. The only way I can figure is the people that parked in that lot did self assist. It is definitely cheaper than parking at the port.

 

Here are the promised pictures of that lot:

 

Cruise05062013006.jpg

 

Cruise05062013005.jpg

 

 

That's where we parked..$40 for the week and we did self assist getting off ship. We had FTTF but Self was faster we were on the highway home by 9am.

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Thanks so much for doing this review...November will be our third time out of Jacksonville...easy peasy!! We have also stayed once at the Holiday Inn...question...where did you eat that night...only thing around when we stayed was a Wendy's next door.

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Jumping in here, if you have a car, go left out of the parking lot, then turn left on the main street, go up along the river about 7 miles-on the right is the sand dollar-was great, then not so great, now under new management-looks great again.

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Jumping in here, if you have a car, go left out of the parking lot, then turn left on the main street, go up along the river about 7 miles-on the right is the sand dollar-was great, then not so great, now under new management-looks great again.

 

Thanks! Will look it up...hopefully we will get there by 3-4..and go eat an early dinner...5-6:):)

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Thanks so much for doing this review...November will be our third time out of Jacksonville...easy peasy!! We have also stayed once at the Holiday Inn...question...where did you eat that night...only thing around when we stayed was a Wendy's next door.

 

I have been on the Fascination afew times..

I stay @ the Crowne Plaza on Airport RD......

The Crowne was a Holiday Inn afew years ago...

 

There is a lot of different places to eat.........

Also there is a Walmart and afew other stores...

 

The Crowne offers parking with a one night stay.....

They have a shuttle........

Also there is a lot of other Hotels there............

Happy Cruising.....................:)

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I have been on the Fascination afew times..

I stay @ the Crowne Plaza on Airport RD......

The Crowne was a Holiday Inn afew years ago...

 

There is a lot of different places to eat.........

Also there is a Walmart and afew other stores...

 

The Crowne offers parking with a one night stay.....

They have a shuttle........

Also there is a lot of other Hotels there............

Happy Cruising.....................:)

 

Thanks Barbara...will check it out with Trip Advisor...how far is the drive from there to the port? We have also stayed on the beach...but in November...it's a bit cold:eek:

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Can't wait for your review..

 

 

 

Wow it looks like you're going to have an interesting cruise with your ex!! I'd be interested in your review too. :)

 

LOL, I'll be sure to post a review in September - Fortunately about 2 weeks after we get back, I am going on the Freedom with SO, and that will be way more fun. No kids, no cell phones, nothing :)

 

OP, thank you for a great review, love the pictures

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Thanks Barbara...will check it out with Trip Advisor...how far is the drive from there to the port? We have also stayed on the beach...but in November...it's a bit cold:eek:

 

I am guessing 10-mins........

I ride the Shuttle...............

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I firmly believe cruising is what you make of it. Have a great time!!!!

 

You are so right!!! All that matters is that my kids have a good time, they will turn 13 & 16 on the ship. I know I'll have a good time.

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Your favorite place to dine, was and is our favorite place to hang out. Great quiet place late at night. Can't wait til you wake up and write more-looking forward to the rest of your review on our favoorite ship.

 

I hung out there as well, especially in the afternoons. We had a great time on the Fascination.

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That's where we parked..$40 for the week and we did self assist getting off ship. We had FTTF but Self was faster we were on the highway home by 9am.

 

We were only about 30 minutes later getting on the road. I read somewhere else on the board there are some issues with this lot - something with the Port. I don't know anything about it, just something I read yesterday on the board. It is just a matter of personal preference on toting your luggage.

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I have been on the Fascination afew times..

I stay @ the Crowne Plaza on Airport RD......

The Crowne was a Holiday Inn afew years ago...

 

There is a lot of different places to eat.........

Also there is a Walmart and afew other stores...

 

The Crowne offers parking with a one night stay.....

They have a shuttle........

Also there is a lot of other Hotels there............

Happy Cruising.....................:)

 

 

I would have taken the shuttle from the Holiday Inn Express we stayed at but the early spots were full. Since my budget for this trip included parking at the port, we went that route. Next time, I may try to plan better with the hotel. In all honesty, we didn't even plan to be in Jacksonville on Sunday night. We were going to drive in from my Grandfather's Monday morning. However, for various reasons, I booked the HI Express at the last minute.

 

I think the park and ride deals at the hotel are a great option.

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Was Craig still onboard as CD..? I heard he was due to go to another ship soon, Just not sure when he was changing ship's.

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At this point, we headed to the Lido deck and got lunch. SORRY....no pictures. We both decided on hamburgers for the first day, as did a lot of other people. I like the salsa they have on the bar and also got the chips with salsa. I am not as fond of the chips, but because I like salsa so much, I put up with them. The best way I can characterize these chips is they are like fried flour tortillas. I may be wrong, just my impression. Later in the week, I tried the chili they also have with the burger/hot dog toppings and found it to be pretty good. The chili was like actual chili and not just hot dog chili (IOW, it had beans in it and was not as thick as a hot dog chili). I snacked on some "nachos" mid afternoon one day with this chili and the other toppings (salsa, sour cream, melted cheese - obviously nothing healthy).

 

After lunch we took off exploring. We found our favorite place to dine when we ate in the buffet. If you go to the inside buffet and walk all the way to the back you find the pizza place and the deli (I really like the deli). On either side are some doors and there is an outside, covered dining area. This, to me, was one of the nicest areas to sit and eat. Also, there were tables and chairs on the side decks. This area looks out AFT and over the Serenity area. Here are some pictures:

 

Cruise05062013067.jpg

 

Cruise05062013068.jpg

 

When I saw on the Fascination in 2011, that was my favorite spot too! It was rarely very busy, and we were always able to get a spot.

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Now to remember where I left off. :D

 

After we had lunch we explored and checked on our dining table. We had early seating. I wanted to try YTD but it was wait listed. I could confirm early dining so I did because I did NOT want to eat late. We were in the Imagination Dining room in the back of the ship at a table that sat 10 people. We were on the sides with a window. There were also tables in a raised middle section. Our servers were "BeBe" (shortened version of a LONG name and she had I. Ketut and Eduardo (I think) helping her. They did a good job but, at times, their timing was off. I think there may have been a table that came in consistently late that may have thrown them off, but it wasn't bad. We ate every meal in the dining room and the food was very good.

 

IMO, getting to this dining room was a little challenging. A lot of the time, we went up to deck 9 and went down the stairs into the dining room. I know it is not really all that challenging, we just seemed to get turned around with the layout.

 

Here is our dining table:

 

Cruise05062013036.jpg

 

We never actually bought anything from the coffee shop, but everything looked good and it smelled yummy as we went by:

 

Cruise05062013029.jpg

 

Cruise05062013031.jpg

 

Cruise05062013030.jpg

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Was Craig still onboard as CD..? I heard he was due to go to another ship soon, Just not sure when he was changing ship's.

 

No....Paul was our CD and I thought he did a good job. He always talked about how many times he has been married, etc.

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Not to sound stupid, but what is FTTF? (faster to the fun?) but what does that entail?? Thanks:o

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