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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Carnival Cruise Line

MS Fascination

Rating:Three and a half Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Carnival Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1991 / 1994
Length / Tonnage: 855 / 70,367
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 1,026 / 2,044
Officers / Crew: Italian / International
Operating Area: Bahamas, Southern and Western Caribbean
Telephone / Fax: Tel 134 6374 / Fax 134 6375

Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor

When news of Carnival's first three "megaships" hit the travel world was astounded at the faith Carnival placed in their ability to generate enough business to keep these ships awash in black ink. During the building of the ECSTASY and SENSATION the shipyard where they were building went belly up...Carnival came to its own rescue, investing in a successor yard and placing an order in September 1991 for a FOURTH, FIFTH and SIXTH FANTASY class ship...Here she is... the fourth of them, the dazzling FASCINATION! As if four of these behemoths weren't enough...two more of them are already in service with them...and two more are on the way....There will soon be EIGHT of them! These ships all share the same dimensions and general arrangement yet each is unique in her own right...each endowed with a distinct personality...Here and now I HAVE to tell you that Carnival bashing may let you come away with a heightened sense of self esteem and self worth, a feeling of refinement and sophistication...and you'd be wrong! Hear me now and know what I say....Carnival does a good job...no..for what it is and what it promises to deliver, Carnival does a GREAT job and these huge ships are nothing short of fabulous...whether or not they are to your taste...Carnival does not suggest their floating cities are temples to refinement, sophistication and elegance... OK, Carnival president Bob Dickinson said it best: "People don't want to vacation with the Queen Mum."...And if the FASCINATION and her sisters do not share direct descent from the QUEEN MARY, that's OK, too...and with so many senior officers having made the jump from the transAtlantic liners of fabled Italian Line to cruising, these Carnival liners have a direct link to that fine tradition of Italian liners like the REX, CRISTOFORO COLOMBO and MICHELANGELO!...Carnival has an enviable record for looking after passenger's safety at sea...and that's nothing to sneeze at.

By the time the order for the second trio of "megaships" came out, the FANTASY and ECSTASY were already wowing droves of passengers and observers every week...so it was only to be expected that the FASCINATION could do nothing more than the same...and if that were all...that would be enough...But I think she does something more...and it's a very human thing....with her Hollywood theme and life size wax sculptures of a number of famous movie legends strategically positioned among the public rooms, the FASCINATION gives you both a thrill and a thought...pose with a likeness of Bogey or Bacall, compare your eyes to Bette Davis'..."tough it out" with Edward G. Robinson! It's fun, passengers love it and you will too....See if you can spot all of them...from Audrey Hepburn to John Wayne...there are no less than twenty "stars"...look for me trying to get Sophia Loren to answer me! Anyone with feet firmly planted on the ground will consider the FASCINATION and her sisters FIRST RATE! Just keep in mind...it's not the ships that set some people's teeth on edge...it's some of the passengers (usually the ones who end up having ALL the fun...those you might not want to sit with, perhaps) that rag the edges of Carnival's name....

Like her sisters, she was worth every penny of her building cost of more than $200 million, and from the moment she started to embark passengers for her maiden cruise on October 1, 1994 the FASCINATION has well...fascinated over 2,000 passengers a week... first timers, second third or fourth or more time cruisers, the overwhelming majority (something approaching a 98% vote of confidence!) voice their satisfaction and pleasure from their seven night cruise in the FASCINATION...well, ok...there IS that tiny percentage who votes thumbs down...the Carnival cruise offers little for the quiet set...it is not a company whose ships favor a quiet, sophisticated cruise...it's not one of the stately homes of England...it's the FASCINATION..a big, sometimes loud..."FUN SHIP" and as many as 2,500 passengers a week prove it, laughing, partying, feasting, sunning, sightseeing and enjoying a week aboard.

Public Areas
So if this ship is for you and I bet it is!....and if you don't expect to meet everyone on board or make a lot of new friends (you can certainly make SOME) but the place is so big you won't see many of the same strangers over and over again and as I have written before... as the 20th Century draws to its close, approaching strangers is ever more daunting....you will be entertained by some of the best sound systems and lighting effects to be seen at sea. Like her sisters, the action in the ship's casino can be electric...it's very active - with players hot to gamble and some devotees of the slots would like to have meals delivered there if they could... "MEGACASH" slots... a system linked by computer to all the ships in Carnival's extended family...those "DAM" good Holland America liners, the sporty "WIND" boats, and the supertrendy big bucks "SEABOURNS"...gets the juices flowing in the hopes for a jackpot... If you like to sunbathe in an abbreviated costume or even TOPLESS (in an area reserved for adults who like such things) in a deckchair with nothing but the sun and an ice bucket full of brews for company, you can do that here, but one of the things I like to do best in a ship like this is "people watch" even if I don't wonder what their first names are... you might consider a cruise in the FASCINATION.

As the winged funnel immediately identifies her membership in the Carnival fleet, the FANTASY class' signature atrium is the crossroads here...As you board the FASCINATION in San Juan, look up...you're in the Grand Atrium...a tower of space rising seven decks up to a cupola of glass topsides...it's the ship's core and it's here that you'll find the Purser's Office, the Shore Excursion desk, some of the main stairs and elevators... the photographer's gallery is just aft.... Just like the atria in the other FANTASY class sisters, this one will make you smile even if you have been aboard Carnival's "megaships" a thousand times...it's just that kind of space! Head for any of the ship's public rooms on Promenade Deck where you can start your hunt for the stars...LOOK...THERE's John Wayne! (Of course I'm not telling you, go find him yourself!) But notice the size of this ship...feel the spaciousness... notice how the lights subtly change colors. Aboard this ship that amazing duplex 1,300+seat showroom is called Palace Lounge and it's no less a masterpiece of shipbuilding than it is of theater building, terracing down five levels and with wonderful sight lines everywhere...By night you'll be blown away by the sound system alone.. Come and enjoy the production numbers and marvel to how a ship can have a 33 foot diameter revolving stage...check out the effects of sound and light and don't forget to consider the overall impression made though clever uses of marble, colored tiles, glass staircases, radiant neon, rosewood paneled walls, leather couches...think of all the thought, imagination and work that went into the creation of this ship! That long "main street" that I like so well in the FANTASY sisters is called Hollywood Boulevard on this one..off which most public rooms are located...hint! hint!...so are many of the likenesses of the stars! Hollywood Boulevard is a series of cafes and bars, shop windows, a number of things all at once and with a ceiling that by night brings out the stars..."Blast from the past" is the Beverly Hills Bar....which genius designer Joe Farkus may or may not have derived from a 1920's Canadian Pacific "Empress" liner...but it sure has that air of one of those splendid ship's real deco touches and comfortable seating...Almost quiet in its decor is the Passage to India Bar which exudes touches of the mysterious subcontinent right down to a specially ordered statue of a multi-armed goddess!

But it's not all lights and glitter that strikes my fancy here on the FASCINATION... my favorite item aboard this ship.. because I like to work out...I mean SERIOUSLY work out...is the Nautica Spa....these Carnival ships really do have just about the BEST fitness facilities at sea. It's my favorite thing aboard ALL these sisters. Located atop the wheelhouse, the gym shares the Captain's views forward and to the sides and working out here is a highlight of any of my days aboard any of the FANTASY class ships. There are six treadmills, more than 30 weight machines, free weights AND the ship has a separate one-eighth-mile jogging track. If you have the strength after all that....take in some of the aerobics classes offered throughout the day. There's more than a gym in the l2,000 square foot spa - there's Steiner's beauty salon, the skylighted room with two hot tubs, the steam and sauna rooms...there's so much deck space and a BIG swimming pool (but ok...there ISN'T room in it for EVERYONE aboard at one time). There are also a pair of quiet open promenades but you'd have to look for them...even though you can see them from the pool deck.

You will eat a lot but not the "fancy foods" that singing lady tells in her song on TV...I don't think Carnival's food is great...but it's not at all bad and they try to serve up very tasty meals and generally succeed...though I didn't find it particularly memorable...but I'm VERY spoiled...hey, I have sailed in over 70 ships and several to many times in a lot of them..so I may be jaded...but it was good enough and the service was friendly, smiling and happy! Don't expect caviar, but the beef is good, there is seafood (the Captain's Gala dinner features jumbo shrimp or filet mignon)...You will more than get your money's worth in this department! Just consider how vast are the numbers of mouths fed every day and the time permitted to prepare and serve it, the fares paid, and you will surely agree that Carnival passengers eat well!

As in her many sisters, the FASCINATION seats her passengers in two sittings in two identically decorated dining rooms...each seats well over 600 people at one time so please don't expect an intimate dining experiences here....there are even coffee shop style booths for six...three persons per side...if you are prone to motion sickness, do the others a favor and don't sit in the middle...don't ask for a table in the smoking section either...there IS no smoking allowed in the dining rooms! And unless you are on your honeymoon or booked into a suite, forget about a table for two....Carnival wants you to mingle and couples who keep to themselves tend neither to party much...nor to have that good a time... so MINGLE!!! let this mass market operation epitomized by its efficiency and organization look after you ITS way... everyone works very hard to please you...pat em on the back...pad their tips with extra cash...they REALLY DO work for it...and think charitably of them when they have to interrupt their work to do a little song and a little dance...I guess THIS is one of those Carnival touches that raise the hackles of some people (I don't like it at all...but I realize that very few people spend their lives as an ocean liner passenger as I do) and the occasional or first timer is thrilled by this show that the food department thinks should be part of the waitstaff's job ..as if bringing food weren't enough! Don't expect leisurely unhurried dining here...but you shouldn't feel rushed here..and there IS a lot else to do, so eat up and go upstairs and do some of it!

Up top is the Coconut Grove Bar & Grill...it's a buffet restaurant which serves breakfast, light lunches and dinners buffet style for those not in the mood to "go down to dinner" (even if their cabin is located on any of the four decks below the dining rooms...but you know what I mean)....The room is quite a design statement...I actually like it quite a lot...And am no stranger to the thrill of a burger or fries but recent USDA pronouncements make rare burgers something of a fluke...and I don't like any burger that isn't beet red inside! I don't do breakfast in the Lido...I don't often eat breakfast as a rule...but I LOVE Lunch...Coconut Willie's serves the expected people pleasing burgers or other fried or grilled fare from the serving stations as does the similar station out by the pool, but it's HOT in the Caribbean and since creatures bloat in the tropics anyway...I prefer to eat in air conditioned splendor...I mean comfort...I hit the shorter of the lines at either of the TWO grill stations, then have a peek at the salad/bread bar and a pasta table...the food is all right...fresh...I didn't go hungry...and always found it easy to get something to drink...usually iced tea but sometimes lemonade and if you like beer, wine or spirits, a wandering server will be happy to bring you your beverage of choice.

I forgot....not only is there 24 hour a day room service so you can order a sandwich or a snack to brought to you in your cabin, I hear there is now a pizzeria for the nocturnal crowd.

The FASCINATION has LOTS of cabins...based on double occupancy she has a LOWER bed capacity of 2,044 passengers and with hundreds of upper berths this ship can and does sometimes carry about 2,500 people....The standard cabins....which at some 190 square feet for outsides and 185 for insides are the biggest in this segment of the market...(except for the minimum priced rooms which are smaller and not very good choices unless money is a very important concern) are sparely furnished...a lot of hard surfaces and heavy duty carpeting, but the few fabrics hide dirt well, formica is easily scrubbed should it be soiled...this ship gets a lot of traffic...more of a carpeted college dorm room feel than the Ritz...at far less cost than either of them! There is a lot of storage space so there is room for everything you bring and buy en route. In the bathrooms there is wonderful water pressure and LARGE shower compartments which always delights me.

Every cabin has a TV but there was hardly anything I wanted to watch...TV would have to go some to be more amusing than the passing parade of fellow passengers... Carnival wants you out and about... you didn't come here to watch TV...how could these be fun ships if all the passengers were in their cabins...All two bedded rooms can have the beds pushed together to form a king size bed but REMEMBER...when the beds are arranged in king size version...one person MUST climb over the other to get out if the one nearer the porthole wants or needs to get out of bed first...Want something a little better? Take one of the twenty six 226 square foot minisuites located up on Verandah Deck. Each has its own sitting area within and a small balcony. These topside rooms are much better furnished and decorated than the standard, which I MUST stress, are very adequate for a one week cruise...but don't send me on a round the world cruise in one of the standards, (OH yeah...that's right....Carnival doesn't do round the world cruises, YET!) ...Top dollar gets you one of the twenty-eight suites. Located within the hull, these each boast 350 square feet of space with a nice sized sitting area, walk in closet, nice bathroom (with the same sliver of Carnival logo wrapped soap and NO shampoos in those small, easily lifted bottles!) a decent sized private verandah....but it's completely decked over so you won't be able to sunbathe on your verandah...

Who Goes
Sooner or later EVERYONE who cruises sails on Carnival or a Carnival affiliate...or maybe should...The FASCINATION is a good choice for people of all ages...you'll see people from 90 days to 90+ years of age here and it seems that fleetwide about 30% of the passengers are under 35 years of age... Camp Carnival looks after the kids while the adults aboard the FASCINATION look after each other!

During the first half of this year the FASCINATION will sail from San Juan on Saturday evenings at 10:00 PM...on seven-day cruises to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados and Martinique. Her "Fun Day at Sea" on Friday is like a day in another destination so take advantage of everything this ship offers!

In May, she will switch to alternating 3 and 4 day itineraries to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean from Miami. The 3-day trips leave on Fridays and spend 2 days in Nassau and one Fun Day at sea. The 4-day trips leave on Mondays with calls at Key West, and Playa Del Carmen/Cozumel plus one Fun Day at sea.

Remember my mention of those who expected the FANTASY sisters to be schlock at sea? Tackola on the waves? These are marvelous, amazing ships....big for me, yes, impersonal for me, too...and far too much fun for my stolid, antediluvian inertia... and that she might not be my style is ok..I recognize her for the great ship she is! She can't cater to your every whim...so don't expect her to do it...yet all reasonable requests seem cheerfully accommodated...no mean feat for a cast of characters THIS size!...Some weeks she hosts 2,500 different paying guests!!!! Fleetwide, Carnival carries about 20,000 people every week..so...who can be more than a number here? Lose yourself in a crowd...let your hair down...even if you don't have any hair! Breathe deeply, let it out slowly if you are annoyed, let em do it their way and let them amuse you THEIR way....they're damn good at it!...Carnival DOES have the fun...it's not a top notch five star city hotel or a classy, high end resort, but that's not what you came to this ship to see.

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