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natefish95

Fascination review-May 27, 2018

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Hello everyone! My name is Nate and I just got off the Carnival Fascination on Sunday. This my first cruise on Carnival in many years and also my first solo cruise on Carnival. I just graduated from grad school (Go Jackets!! THWg!!) and this was part two of my graduation present to myself. Part 1 was a cruise on the NCL Getaway, which I have had booked, changed and booked again for nearly a year. Check out the NCL boards for that review. I think it's a pretty good read.

 

About this Review-

I'm a very detailed person, but I'm also not a crazy person. You're going to hear a lot of details, but it's (hopefully) not going to be too detailed to where you miss important info. I'll be honest and mention the highlights and positive moments, but I'm also going to talk about the low parts and any negative aspects I encountered. I'm also very sarcastic with a dry sense of humor, so sit there and laugh at my jokes dangit. You can't curse on here can you?

 

Best of all, I'll have photos!! I'm in the process of getting my pictures uploaded to PhotoBucket right now. I took plenty of pictures of menus, Fun Times, food, scenery, the ship, Sometimes I forgot to get menu or food pictures, but you can google enough and find menu pictures.

 

About me-

Like I said, I just graduated from grad school and this was a present to myself. I currently live in Atlanta, but I'm moving up to DC soon. I'll be close to the port of Baltimore, so I think I see the Pride somewhere in my future... I usually cruise for the ship and have pretty much only done the new mega ships of Norwegian. Size does matter. Ok then, Nate, so why did you pick a cruise on a ship built in 1994 that isn't even 100,000 tons? So glad you asked. First, this cruise was the cheapest 7 day I have ever seen and will probably ever see. I cruised solo, and despite paying 100% solo rate, it still came out to be a very reasonable price. Second, this was a simply incredible itinerary. It was as follows

Sunday-May 27th: Embark in San Juan

Monday-May 28th: St. Thomas

Tuesday-May 29th: Antigua

Wednesday-May 30th: Barbados

Thursday-May 31st: St. Lucia

Friday-June 1st: St. Kitts

Saturday-June 2nd: St. Maarten

Sunday-June 3rd: Get dragged off kicking and screaming in San Juan

 

Pre-Cruise

So part 2, or what I'll call, the unplanned part of my graduation present to myself began earlier this year. Sometime around March I was procrastinating writing a paper and looking at cruises. I had 6 weeks to play with between graduation and when I move. One of those weeks was my NCL cruise, but I really wanted to do another cruise since I had so much free time. I was mainly looking at 3-5 day cruises since they're the cheapest. I decided to check out 7 day cruises and came across this hidden gem of a 7 day cruise out of San Juan that was less than some of the 3-5 day cruises I was considering. I thought about it for a few days, consulted my bank account, and decided to do it. I've worked hard the past 5 years in school and have 2 degrees with time to spare. I live by "treat yo'self", so pulled the trigger and booked myself on the Carnival Fascination leaving May 27th.

 

Alright, my laptop is dying and I left my charger at home. I'll continue in a little bit with my pre-cruise planning and my initial comparisons between Carnival and NCL. Hope y'all stick around! I suck at starting reviews, but I promise it will get interesting!

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Looking forward to reading it. We are thinking of doing this ship in March of next year.

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Ok, let's get this show back on the road. So I like I mentioned earlier, I didn't book this cruise until early March. I was in my last semester of grad school, so I didn't spend much time planning, which I really should have. I knew I wanted to fly in the day before the cruise left so I could explore San Juan a bit and not be stressed out by potentially missing the ship.

 

In St. Thomas I knew I wasn't doing anything and just wanted to relax on the ship. In Antigua I planned to go to Darkwood Beach after suggestions on our FB page and 10 minutes of research. In Barbados I booked the Harrisons' Cave Eco-Adventure through Carnival. In St. Lucia I booked the Spencer Ambrose Land and Sea Tour after reading about it on here. In St. Kitts I planned to take a ferry over to Nevis and spend the day at Sunshine's Beach bar. And finally in St. Maarten I planned to go to Maho beach and plane spot (I'm a big aviation geek). Y'all know things don't go as planned and things did not go as planned in St. Kitts and Antigua (for two different reasons).

 

In San Juan I reached out to a friend who lives there and he said he'd be around, so we made plans for dinner, but during the day I planned to go to El Morro and San Cristobal.

 

I found decent direct flights on Delta from ATL-SJU (it's so convenient living in Atlanta). Flights were booked. Excursions semi-planned. Gratuities pre-paid. What's next? Oh yeah, lets talk alcohol, y'all! So I've been spoiled on NCL with their Free at Sea promotions where you can get the Unlimited Beverage Package for only about $100 in gratuities. I decided to pre-purchase the CHEERS package because I wanted to do a little experiment to see if it would be worth it in the future. You'll find out if I did or not.

 

Another thing I decided to pre-purchase was the social media package. I'm like totes a millennial and can't let my streaks end on Snapchat! But actually though, since I'm traveling alone, I wanted to stay in contact with my friends and post pictures on Instagram to make them jealous. It was $7 a day I believe, which is a steal compared to NCL's, which was $12.50 per day.

 

Regarding hotels, I'm loyal to the Hilton brand, but prices were just outrageous. I looked into AirBnB, which I have used only once before. I researched this aspect more than any other thing. I'm very picky and didn't want to end up staying in a crack house. Thankfully, I found a place with a lot of good reviews in a good location for about $75 total for the night. I contacted the host and he was super nice, so I booked that. All that was left is to finish out my classes, graduate, go on my NCL cruise, do laundry, and repack.

 

Graduation came and went. My NCL cruise flew by. I got back home, did laundry, and started counting down the hours until I leave for the airport. The night before (Friday night), I did not get any sleep. I procrastinated packing and wanted to finish my Getaway review before I left. At 5:30am, I finished that review and started getting ready. The time had finally come to embark on my next adventure.

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Day 0-traveling to San Juan and exploring the city

 

I'm very lucky to live within walking distance of MARTA (our local transit system), so I set out at 6:30am to catch the train down to the airport. MARTA doesn't go many useful places, but it does go to the airport. At 6:30am, you would think people would be quiet and keep to themselves. Wrong. People are stupid at every hour of the day. There was one person blasting music and another Face-Timing her baby daddy. Why, God, why??? I closed my eyes and tried to tune them out.

 

Soon enough we got to the airport and it was swamped. I had to check a bag ($25 on Delta) and the line was super long, but it moved quickly. Next came my favorite part, security. I'm not even being sarcastic now. let me give y'all a tip. I HIGHLY recommend investing in a CLEAR membership. CLEAR is a biometric security scan that helps you bypass the line. It is $179 for a year or $99 if you're a Delta SkyMiles member or $79 if you're a Delta gold SkyMiles credit card holder. I got a three month free trial from an aviation vlogger I follow, but I'll definitely pay for it when my trial ends.

 

You enroll by scanning your fingerprints and irises. To use CLEAR, you walk up to a kiosk, scan your fingerprints and boarding pass, and then the CLEAR agents escort you to just after the TSA agent checking boarding passes. You then go through security like normal. In most airports there are special locations for those with CLEAR and TSA PreCheck. I don't have PreCheck (yet), so I had to remove my shoes like everyone else. The horror. All in all, security took a grand total of 5 minutes. The line looked pretty long too. CLEAR is not available at all airports though, but definitely check it out if you fly often. It's a huge time saver and worth every penny in my opinion. You can also add family members to your account at a discounted rate.

 

Did my preflight ritual of getting Chick Fil-A. Their entire system crashed so they could only take cash. People were going crazy. It's too early for this cluster****. I got my biscuit and ran away from that mess. Not today, Satan!!!

 

Boarded on time, put on some music and settled in for the uneventful flight.

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(let me know if that picture comes across fine)

 

Landed in SJU on time around 1:30. Bags took a little while to arrive, but they arrived and that's what matters, right? I couldn't check into my AirBnB until 3:00, so I aimlessly walked around and eventually found a sandwich shop upstairs from baggage claim by the check-in counters. I can't remember the name, but it's across from American Airlines had a wide variety of sandwiches. It was average airport food. Nothing spectacular, but nothing awful and little pricey.

 

It was interesting hearing nothing but Spanish. I'm conversational in Spanish, so never had any issues. I think I encountered less than 5 people who spoke no English at all. I encourage everyone to learn at least a few useful words in Spanish.

 

After a late lunch, I headed downstairs to just outside baggage claim to get a taxi. Uber does exist in Puerto Rico, but it cannot pick you up from the airport. Taxis from the airport are regulated. Here are the prices:

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I was going to the Miramar area and plus the baggage and fuel surcharge, it ended up being around $20-super reasonable. I had an entire 12 passenger van to myself, which was a little weird, but didn't care. I pulled up the address and used my phone to direct the driver. Super easy.

 

Now about AirBnB. I don't know if you can advertise specific AirBnB's on here (Cruise Critic has so many random rules), but I'll say this. When you're going to San Juan and want to do an AirBnB, you may not want to stay in a white house, but I would recommend staying in a "yellow house". Pull up AirBnB, search the Miramar area and you'll probably see what I mean.

 

The house was beautiful! I met the host and he gave me a quick tour. The house was built in the 50's, but has been kept up very well. I had a private room with a shared bathroom and a small private terrace. They also had a super cute dog that seemed to love naps as much as I do. The host gave me a run down of the property, pointed out some local bars and restaurants, and left me to it.

 

Random shot in the house (I think I was trying to be artsy-I'm not).

IMG_7835_zpsjwni0bh4.jpg

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Following & I can see the picture. I read your NCL review & I enjoyed it. Looking forward to this one!

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I really enjoyed reading your NCL review. It was a fun, informative write-up, as I'm sure this one will be.

Congratulations on your degree, and good luck with your move!

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I am doing the Eco Cave tour in Barbados. Excited to see your thoughts.

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I was on Fascination in April. It was a great cruise. My cruise went to 5 ports instead of the 6 on your cruise. It was a great cruise and I look forward to reading your review. Thank you for taking the time to do the review.:cool:

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Enjoying your review so far, especially with the pictures.:)

 

 

Carolina Coloda, I believe you are leaving soon on the Fascination, and hopefully you will be doing a review as well.

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I'm definitively following!!

 

 

I got to say I love your writing style. Unfortunately I have no Carnival cruises pending (not for lack of wanting). And while I sailed on that ship and itinerary (sans Antigua), I always like to relive my experience through other people's words and pictures. I'm hoping I get to squeeze a sailing on the Fascination again before my 2020 Epic sailing from San Juan.

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Thank you for taking the time to do a review of your cruise on Fascination. We've done this itinerary twice, rather recently, on Valor (2013) and again on Liberty (2015) and hoping to do it again on Fascination, but no cruises booked. This is, hands down, my favorite itinerary and I love reading reviews to get new ideas for the "next time" and also to relive our cruises to these beautiful islands. Antigua will be a "bonus". I'm looking forward to following around for the rest. Great start!

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I am doing the Eco Cave tour in Barbados. Excited to see your thoughts.

 

I abandoned this review but now I'm back! The Eco Adventure tour was amazing, but it was strenuous! Be prepared to throw away your entire outfit (including shoes) or bring plastic bags to put your shoes in.

 

I was on Fascination in April. It was a great cruise. My cruise went to 5 ports instead of the 6 on your cruise. It was a great cruise and I look forward to reading your review. Thank you for taking the time to do the review.:cool:

 

Going to get back into this review now! 6 ports was very exhausting, but I would do this itinerary again in a heartbeat.

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Only 7 days until we board!! Hoping to read the rest of your review before we leave. Thanks!

 

I'm going to hopefully knock this out quickly. Lots of stuff came up and didn't have time to write this, but I do now! Stay tuned ad ask as many questions as you'd like.

 

I'm definitively following!!

 

 

I got to say I love your writing style. Unfortunately I have no Carnival cruises pending (not for lack of wanting). And while I sailed on that ship and itinerary (sans Antigua), I always like to relive my experience through other people's words and pictures. I'm hoping I get to squeeze a sailing on the Fascination again before my 2020 Epic sailing from San Juan.

 

The Epic is going to be amazing out of San Juan. I love that ship and I'm tentatively planning to do the Epic at the end of 2019. Great ship combined with a great itinerary will be awesome.

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Thank you for taking the time to do a review of your cruise on Fascination. We've done this itinerary twice, rather recently, on Valor (2013) and again on Liberty (2015) and hoping to do it again on Fascination, but no cruises booked. This is, hands down, my favorite itinerary and I love reading reviews to get new ideas for the "next time" and also to relive our cruises to these beautiful islands. Antigua will be a "bonus". I'm looking forward to following around for the rest. Great start!

 

This is an itinerary that you could do 10 times and have a different experience each time. I'm already thinking about when I can do a similar itinerary next.

 

Go Jackets!! :)

 

Enjoying your report and looking for more. (Class of '65)

 

Time to get this show back on the road! THWg!

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Alright, y'all! I'm back! Sorry for the break. I'm in the middle of a move and coordinating everything associated has been super fun. (sarcasm) But I'm back and ready to crank this out. I left off somewhere with my AirBnB. Long story short, it was great and a very cost effective way to stay somewhere. I'm honestly more of a hotel type of guy and like building loyalty. AirBnB is definitely my fallback plan if prices are too high, but if you want an inexpensive option and want to go off the beaten path a bit and interact more with locals, go with an AirBnB. Just make sure to do your research and find a place that suits your needs best.

 

I knew that I wanted to go to El Morro, so I grabbed an Uber and headed over that way. It was less then $10 and I had a great driver with lots of tips and info about San Juan. Once I got there, I was struck by how beautiful it was. I'll shut up and let the pictures talk.

 

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I walked up the long pathway towards the fort admiring the views. To actually go inside the fort and explore its $7, which I thought was a good price especially because it also included entry into San Cristobal fort (which I didn't get to).

 

Aerial shot

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I put this one on Instagram to make everyone back home jealous. It got a lot of likes.

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More exploring El Morro

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Just kidding about the earlier picture. This is actually the one I put on Instagram. I was not kidding about getting lots of likes.

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I probably spent about an hour walking around and exploring. It was very fun to explore the different areas and read the history about the fort. I then began the short walk down to San Cristobal. This next photo is shortly after leaving El Morro. You can see San Cristobal in the distance. Definitely doable.

 

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It's gorgeous.

 

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By the time I reached San Cristobal, I was just too tired and too short on time to explore it. I easily grabbed an Uber and went back to my AirBnB to shower and freshen up. One of my good friends lives in San Juan and we had plans to meet for dinner.

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It looks like they have raised the price $2 to see the inside of the fort, but as you said, it is worth it! I'll be honest, I have been to San Juan several times, and had never taken the time until 2 years ago, to go inside with my 3 sons/3 d-i-l's and if nothing WHAT A VIEW!!!

We brought back some wonderful pictures just like you. I love looking back at what I had seen a year or two before.:)

 

 

I am looking forward to seeing pictures, etc. of the Fascination, which we plan to cruise in March next year.

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He suggested we go to a place called Lote 23 (Lot 23). This is basically a vacant lot that has been turned into a mini food vendor area. Think of a food hall with different small restaurants of all different kinds of food. There was a good amount of seating and there was a huge variety of food available. There was a stage towards the back that has live music later on in the evening. We walked around a bit, but decided to go somewhere else for dinner. He wanted to show me something more authentic instead of fusion type food. Everything I saw looked delicious and reasonably priced too. This is definitely a local hangout and off the beaten path a bit. Highly recommend if you want something a bit different. Just google "Lot 23 San Juan" and you'll be able to get directions. It was also easy to take an Uber there.

 

Lote 23

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My friend suggested we go to a very authentic Puerto Rican place called Bebo's. I have no idea where it's located, but it's popular and should be easy to find. I would recommend an Uber because the parking lot was extremely tight! We waited about 15 minutes for a table and then were seated.

 

Menu pics

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We started with some empanadas

 

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For my meal I got a mofongo relleno (stuffed mofongo) with Ropa Vieja. So Ropa Vieja is more Cuban, but it looked delicious anyways. Mofongos are super Puerto Rican, so don't get upset. A mofongo is somewhat like mashed potatoes but with fried plantains and some other stuff. I should really start a food blog with that descriptive description. Bottom line it was DELICIOUS!

 

We then decided to drive around a little bit and my friend showed me the business district and some outer areas. I was shocked by how dark it was in many places. Either the light posts were blown away during the hurricane and not replaced or they were replaced, but no electricity to power them. We were on a major road and it was pitch black in some parts. If you're going to drive at night in San Juan, be careful. This was further out from Old San Juan and not around the normal touristy areas.

 

Went back to the AirBnB took what was probably my third shower, packed, and went to bed dreaming of what a boat built in 1994 (note-that's older than me) has in store for me.

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