Boarding the Carnival FascinationOn Monday, January 2nd, it was time to begin our trip and board the Carnival Fascination! The Crowne Plaza offered shuttles to and from the docks as part of our stay-and-cruise package, so that made it easy. The way they work is when you sign in for your room you tell them what departing shuttle you want to get on. They give you a pair of tickets - one for that outgoing ride and then one for the incoming one. So you have to hold onto the incoming ticket and hand it to the shuttle driver when you get off the ship.
Uncle Blake - Dad's younger brother - arrived in the morning with his wife Tammy. It was wonderful to see him again! Becky and her group were going to go on a later shuttle, so it was me, Bob, Dad, sis Jenn, nephew Jeremy, uncle Blake, and his wife Tammy who gathered up to get onto the 11am morning shuttle. It was a little brisk out! Soon the shuttle arrived to pick us up, and we were on our way. It was only 15 minutes or so before we were pulling up to the Carnival Fascination.
We all had to show a boarding pass and passport before our shuttle was allowed into the dock complex. The guards there even talked about searching the shuttle, but apparently it had been searched previously so we didn't have to go through that. They take security quite seriously here.
The shuttle dropped us off in the parking lot. A porter came right over to the shuttle and took our bags. He was a little rough with them, so pack carefully! Then we walked up to the terminal building.
Bob, Dad, and I were staying in a suite - Room U111 - so we were brought into the VIP line. Bob managed to get Blake and Tammy brought into the VIP line as well. Really what it meant was that, instead of standing at a counter to fill out the passport paperwork, we were in a smaller room and could sit in chairs in front of a desk while we did it. Also we had couches to wait on while we waited our turn. Ironically, though, when we then got through that to board the ship, Jenn and Jeremy were right in front of us in line! So literally we were a bit SLOWER to get processed while going through the line.
Once we were processed, there was no wait at all. We simply walked right onto the ship, at 11:54am.
The rooms would not be ready until 1:30pm so we headed up to the buffet area to find some food. There were many options. They have a burger bar, a Mongolian / spicy bar, a buffet area with foods that change daily (today was Italian), a salad bar, a deli bar, a pizza bar, and soft ice cream machines with a dessert table.
I was not ready for lunch yet, so Bob brought me some herbal tea, but the others enjoyed the various options. Dad made a fun game of stealing other people's food or hiding their items. The place was quite full since nothing else was open yet. Lines could be fairly long.
Eventually 1:30pm arrived and it was time to head down to our rooms. We were quite pleased with the suite! It provided plenty of room for the family to hang out in and talk and relax. It had two double beds - one for me and Bob, one for Dad, with a sliding curtain between them. There was also a table, a chair, a stool, and a good sized balcony with three chairs and a little table. The room had a fridge, a small walk-in closet, and a jacuzzi tub.
It was time to explore the ship! Bob, Jenn, Jeremy, and I began our deck by deck walkthrough. It was chilly out so we tried to minimize the outside exploration. We were especially interested in the sushi bar location.
We ended up in the Jeff-Paige-Becky area - they were in a trio of adjoining rooms in V10, V14, and V16. Note that these are RIGHT under the gym and they had noise issues in the morning, with gym members dropping weights hard on "their ceiling". So keep that in mind if you book those rooms. Jeff's son Mike was getting a haircut, so we offered creative suggestions :)
Then, on with our explorations!
Soon it was 5pm. Sushi time! There was a huge line in front of the sushi bar. Unfortunately, what they really offered was three items only, and all of them involved mayo or other items -
Several of our group members could not eat these items. We found on subsequent days that the lines for the sushi bar got shorter and shorter as others realized this as well.
The sun set, the harbor patrol boat released us, and we were out into the ocean!
By 6:30pm we were in the buffet area for a pre-dinner snack, and met up with the rest of the clan. We had fun sitting around and talking as a group. Here is my dad, left, talking with his brother Blake. Dad was taking notes during much of the cruise, with all sorts of fascinating stories on them!
We all agreed to meet at the Fascination dining room at 8:30pm for dinner. Then at 7pm Blake, Tammy, Bob, and I headed to the Putting on the Ritz area for some karaoke. We watched a few others try, then we mustered the courage to do it ourselves. We sang "Saw Her Standing There" by the Beatles, and people cheered for us! They said that we did well :)
Then it was back to the room to grab our bottles of wine, and time to head to the dining area. We went to the "back" of the dining area where there was no line at all. They allowed that on the first night - but after that they made sure that everyone went to the proper "front" side in order to wait in line and be seated.
I'll make a note about wine. Each adult is allowed to bring one bottle of wine on board. There is a $10 corkage fee to open that bottle in the restaurant. Normally the bottles they serve on board are about $10 bottles of wine that you pay $40 for. By bringing our own, we were able to bring $30 bottles of wine, pay the same $40 overall, and get a much tastier bottle of wine. What we actually did was bring on $50 bottles of wine and have a special treat. So with 10 adults coming on board, Bob and I claimed 5 and Jeff claimed 5 - each of us brought on 5 bottles of wine. I.e. our remaining family members "muled" for us. We opened 2 bottles a night at dinner. Bob and I literally had no alcohol purchases on ship! A money saving idea :)
A general note on drinks. At dinner there are beverage servers who circulate regularly and make sure everyone has whatever they want. For example, my sister drinks soda and got the "soda sticker" so for only $30 she could drink as much soda as she wanted during the entire cruise. So she simply had to show her card with that sticker and they brought her soda. She didn't even have to sign anything. My father wanted rum drinks with dinner, and the staff gladly brought those. They simply get charged to the room card. So in his case he would have to show his card, and sign for the purchase to get charged to his card. This system ensures it's easy for everyone, whatever they want to do.
Here's my aunt Becky with my dad, George, at our table. On the left is uncle Blake with his wife Tammy. You can see how the table is nicely against the window and lets us look out over the lovely ocean!
I'll comment on the menu that there were two sides to each day's menu. The left side was the "every day" menu. So on every day you could rely for those left side items to be there to choose from. They were your "back up plan". On the right side was the "today" menu - the specials just for this one day. Those changed from day to day.
We all had "any time" dining which meant we could eat any time we wanted to and as a group. We went for 8:30pm tonight, in the Sensation dining area. Our waiter was Duarte, who we got every night but one after this and really enjoyed. He was Indian and many of us adore Indian food, so it was perfect. He was able to describe in detail what we would be getting if we chose the vegetarian / Indian option. Bob told Duarte how much he loved aloo gobi and palak paneer, and Duarte had some specially made for us on Tuesday night! Tammy also ordered creme brulee for the entire table for Tuesday night.
Dad went back to the room for a while to make a phone call, and when he returned he was adorned! The necklace Dad is wearing in the video is one he borrowed from my jewelry box. It's an amethyst necklace that his parents George and Jane bought for me. Fitting that it accompanied us all on our cruise!
The staff here gets great kudos in general. Even though Dad was gone for a while, they held his appetizer and main dish so that it was all warm and ready for him when he returned. They also went above and beyond the call of duty in finding great baby food options for Kai! They even cut up Jeff's food for him when he had Kai in his arms, so he could eat more easily. The staff here is absolutely super.
The video shows uncle Blake, aunt Becky, and my Dad sharing stories from their childhood! The first is a bit hard to hear. It is about Blake's younger brother Bruce's adventures. While a teenager, Bruce decided, a la James Bond, to run a speedboat up onto shore to see how far it would get before it stopped. Then Becky avoids a story, and Dad avoids a story :) Blake is the man next to me, on my left. Across from us is Becky and George.
I had the duck breast appetizer which was tasty. I also tried Bob's cream of broccoli soup which was also quite good. For my main course I had the tender braised beef brisket - nice comfort food - which was quite good. I enjoyed the veggies with it and avoided the mashed potatoes. Bob had the beef as well. Jeff had the pork steak and loved it; it was very moist.
I'll note for the low carbers following my pages that I think this is the only night that I ate dessert. I had a piece of chocolate cake with a scoop of orange sherbert. My stomach felt awful afterwards. So I stayed away from the desserts on following days, and felt much better! It was never a "sacrifice" to do that - I was full enough from regular dinner and was quite fine pasing them up. I was also very happy to not have stomach issues during a cruise vacation. So it can be done!
Then the waiters all sang for us, and it was great fun! The man in charge of the dining area was Joseph, our Super-Charged Matre D'. He seemed a bit brash at the beginning but his personality grew on us.
The group said good night, with some heading to bed and others heading out to explore. I believe Monday is when we all said we'd go to the comedy show. Jenn, Jeremy, Bob, Dad, and I got there "on time" and had to stand because the room was so crowded! It was good. I admit that at first I found it so crude that I was preparing to leave, but he eased up and some parts were funny.
Photos from Monday
Tuesday - At Sea on the Carnival Fascination
Waller Warren Family Cruise Main Page