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  1. There were no lobsters on the Fascination buffet in January.
  2. I also do not get an internet package. I try my best to pick up some wifi while in ports. Something to think about.... I have had serious conversations with family about what to do in an "emergency." Here is what we have come up with. This applies to all travel not just cruises. Medical Emergencies: 1. We have designated 1 person who will make any contact with me about an emergency situation. This person also has electronic copies of our passports in case we have the emergency. 🙂 2. Well in advance I have had conversations with this family member about reaching out to me for an emergency. We have agreed to be specific on what she wants me to do. For example, if she contacts me to tell me that grandpa is in the hospital. Is she just keeping me in the loop so I can keep grandpa in my thoughts and prayers or is she asking me to get off the ship, make my way to an airport, buy a ticket and fly home? 3. If you ask me to fly home, what is it you expect of me when I return? If grandpa is still in the hospital am I immediately needed at home? Maybe I have some role in support/care after grandpa is released from the hospital. Back to the original question..... are you asking me to fly home now? Why? 4. We have also had the discussion about the "fly home" option. Many times the cruise port is not near an airport. It may take up to a few days to be at a port that has an airport. You could be at sea for a few days. You could be at one of the private islands and need to get to a larger port so you can then make your way to the airport. It is not as easy as another type of land based vacation might be to just go to the airport and change an existing return flight. If the person contacting you does not travel much, they may not understand the logistics and costs to changing travel plans. House/Pet Emergencies: 1. We have a trusted neighbor look after our pet and our home. For the home, our neighbor is provided with a good friend contact who will make any decisions and financial commitments that may need to be made in a true urgent emergency. Think of a tree branch falling through your roof. Who do you want to handle that in your absence? 2. For our pet, we have provided our neighbor with instructions on how to handle a medical emergency? I got this idea from the neighbor as they had a sick pet and the neighbor was going 1/2 way around the world with limited wifi access. We had the hard talk about what she wanted me to do. Under what circumstances should I take the pet to the vet? What amount are you authorizing me to spend on your pet? What if the vet recommends putting the pet down? All travel has the risk that you may not be close by for any kind of event. My suggestion is to identify emergency contacts and have a discussion on expectations. Then..... go enjoy your cruise!!
  3. I agree with the previous posters. I was on the Fascination in January. Not crowded. There were lines for Guys burgers and Blue Iguana but they moved very quickly. It is a great ship with a nice port intensive itinerary. The crew was wonderful. Enjoy!
  4. I have been on deck 4 before and like it. It is quiet when sailing. Also, because you are lower and closer to the water, you will have less motion if the ship starts rocking. I traveled with a person who could not climb stairs. It was perfect. Each time we boarded the elevator from deck 4 there was an empty elevator. No worries. Think of the money you saved with the GTY. Enjoy.
  5. If you don't mind packing up, consider 2 consecutive cruises on 2 different ships or cruise lines. The past 2 years we did this and just love it. You book a cruise you really want to take. Then look at all of the ships that sail just prior to or just after this cruise from the same port. In San Juan we just packed our stuff at the conclusion of the first cruise and walked across the pier and boarded the 2nd cruise. The reason I like to do this is I get to experience the newness of the 2nd cruise. New ship. New cruise director. New restaurants, etc. We like to mix up cruise lines. Last year we did a Carnival followed by a Royal Caribbean. This year we did a Carnival followed by NCL. It is fun to see the similarities and the differences.
  6. I forgot one. Carnival Fascination has guest, self-serve laundry. Bring quarters or plan to wait online at guest services to make change for quarters. It is an older ship and does not use your room card to charge the laundry fee. NCL Dawn does not have any self serve guest laundry. They do have a service where you can send out your laundry and they will wash it for you for a charge. (I don't know what the charge is.)
  7. I see on some of my posts, the system corrected my grades of A, B, C etc to emojis. That was not my original intent. I think from the text you get the point. Enjoy!
  8. (Post 4 of 4) GENERAL/OTHER/RANDOM: Adult Only Pool Area: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: They offer a complimentary area for adults only that is called Serenity. It is quiet. No sound track playing. Nice loungers with cushions. A bar and waiter service available. NCL Dawn: Grade N/A: No dedicated adult only area. (There is a dedicated children’s area off the back of the ship.) Fitness Center: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: The fitness center was in the front of the ship with many windows. You could be using the equipment looking at the Ocean. I used this every morning. NCL Dawn: Grade F: The fitness center was in a dark, dingy area. The equipment is against a wall with mirrors. When running on the treadmill you stare at yourself. It was poorly laid out and not inviting. I used it 1 day and then moved outside to the walking track. Guest Services Desk: Carnival Fascination: Grade F: The lines are always long. There is a dedicated line for guests with platinum status or who purchased the Faster to the Fun package. It is like Carnival wants this line to be long and slow so guest who have a dedicated line can feel they are getting a benefit for their status. NCL Dawn: Grade A: The line always moved along quickly. Beverage Policy: We did not have beverage packages on either cruise. Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Passengers are allowed to bring one 750ml bottle of wine per person for no charge. Additionally, you may bring 6 cans of soda per passenger. You must carry the beverages on yourself. NCL Dawn: Grade 😄 No beverages may be carried on with the exception of wine. Wine may be carried on with a corkage fee of $15/bottle. On previous NCL cruises I have had the beverage package as an included “perk” so I did not pay much attention to the beverage carry-on policy. Documents/Final invoice: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Easy to complete check in. Flow was clear and easy to complete. 1 document for each person. Prints on 1 page. In general, I found the user experience better on the Carnival website. The guest invoice on the ship was easy to read and understand. NCL Dawn: Grade B: Check in was ok. Print spills over to multiple pages. 1 document for the cabin. The guest invoice was not user friendly. In all fairness we had a lot of charges and perk-credit for 9 shore excursions. Conclusions: Carnival lives up to its brand as the fun ship! NCL is a step over Carnival in luxury. Each ship and brand does an excellent job. As a customer it is important that you select the brand, ship and sailing that meets your interests and your expected level of service. Keep traveling!
  9. (Post 3 of 4) ENTERTAINMENT Broadway style shows: Carnival Fascination: Grade C We went to the All Board preview show the first night. The dancers/singers were ok. The aerialists were great. Magician was entertaining. NCL Dawn: Grade B : Much better dancers/singers. Comedy: There is a very clear difference between the brands for comedy. Carnival has a lounge called the Punchline Comedy club. The comedians are highlighted entertainment. Carnival Fascination: Grade A: On a 7-night cruise there were 4 nights of comedy with 5 shows and 2 comedians each night. The first 2 shows were family friendly. The later 3 shows were adults only. For the later shows, they make an announcement asking children to leave. They also announce if you are easily offended, you will be so please exit the lounge. I like that they don’t dumb down the comedy to fit the masses. The comedy is packed every night. You need to arrive a bit early to get a seat. NCL Comedy: Grade 😄 They had 2 comedians over a 10-day cruise. Both performed in the main theater. Not a very intimate comedy setting. The comedians provided generic comedy that is rated G. Comedy is clearly not a focus for NCL. General Music: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: There were music venues each night in addition to the comedy club and the main theater show. There was a Latin music band, Dance music band, 70s/80s. As we were sailing from Puerto Rico, there were a lot of Puerto Rican families onboard. The Latin music band was fantastic and packed every night. It was the fun place to be. Carnival sail away each day had a DJ playing fun, Caribbean music. The general sound track that played around the ship in the hallways was 70s and 80s classics. NCL Dawn: Grade B: The music was subtler. There were duets and slow music. There was a live band for the sail away for each port. The general soundtrack around the ship was easy listening. I found the music a bit dull. I don’t recall this from my prior NCL cruises but the music catered to the older average age of the passengers.
  10. (Post 2 of 4) FOOD Main Dining Room: Carnival Fascination: Grade 😄 Only ate dinner in the main dining room 2 times on a 7 day cruise. The food was so-so. I noticed as others have reported there are no table cloths in the dining room except on formal night. I would have never noticed this except people on CC comment about it. The dining room tables were nice without the cloth. They had some type of subtle decoration on each table. This was fine for me. I ate breakfast in the dining room most mornings. I enjoyed that there were 3 or 4 items listed as more of a “health” choice. I loved the egg white frittata and the avocado toast. NCL Dawn: Grade A: Food was great! White table cloths for every meal including breakfast. Wait staff puts cloth napkin your lap (I don’t care for this but I know others have observed this.) Feels like fine dining at every meal. General Food: I found the quality of the food on NCL was higher than Carnival. Here are some examples. Both ships had watermelon every day. Carnival had seeded watermelon. NCL had seedless watermelon. Both ships had shrimp cocktail on the menu. Carnival had very small shrimp. NCL had large ship. Carnival had complementary lobster and steak on formal night. I didn’t see lobster on the NCL main dining room menu and they had an upcharge for steak. (I may have missed the lobster on NCL.) Both ships offered soft serve ice cream. In addition, NCL offered scooped hard ice cream during lunch on the pool deck. Pizza: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Hands down Carnival beats NCL. Carnival has a dedicated pizza restaurant open 24 hours per day. There are 4 or 5 choices of pizza and it is made for you. The pizza is not sitting out on a buffet. This is a very popular food option. NCL Dawn: Grade 😧 The pizza is offered on the buffet. It looks like boxed frozen pizza from the grocery store. Hamburgers: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Carnival has Guy Fieri’s Burger restaurant. This is a restaurant on the pool deck that is dedicated to hamburgers. They are awesome and the french fries were great. The customer demand for these burgers is high so they are always right off the grill and fresh. NCL Dawn: Grade 😧 The hamburgers were served on the buffet. They looked like hockey pucks that had been sitting under the lights too long. In 10 days I never saw anyone select a hamburger from the buffet. Taco/Burritos: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Carnival has a pool deck restaurant named Blue Iguana that is dedicated to preparing custom ordered tacos, burritos or taco salad. There is an extensive topping and salsa bar to complete your meal. This is awesome. We ate here multiple times for a late lunch when returning from a day ashore. Very well done! NCL Dawn: Grade 😄 NCL offers a specialty, sit-down restaurant called Los Lobos that served Mexican food. There is a surcharge for this restaurant. Deli/Smoked Salmon: Carnival Fascination: Grade A: In addition to complimentary restaurants of the Main Dining room, Guy Fieri’s Burgers and Blue Iguana taco/burritos, Carnival offers a deli where they custom make hot and cold sandwiches to order. They offer a smoked salmon with cream cheese on a bagel. The portion of smoked salmon is very generous. I had this a few times. I saw people order the salmon with no bagel or cream cheese if they just wanted the salmon. In addition, the deli offered hot sandwiches like a reuben and cold sandwiches like turkey on a ciabatta. Smoked salmon was also available in the Main Dining room. NCL Dawn: Grade N/A: I chose to comment on this because over the years I have seen some threads about smoked salmon. I did see salmon mousse on the buffet and smoked salmon was available in the Main Dining room. Buffet layout: Carnival Fascination: Grade A+: I ate 5 of 7 dinners in the buffet. I don’t usually do this but because there was so much evening activity with the comedy club and lively music, the buffet just fit our schedule better. The buffet is well laid out. You could get your food and sit down. You were NOT constantly bumping into people. They have different stations that are spread out within the buffet dining room so the flow of people is disbursed. They had a dedicated salad bar and dedicated dessert station. The buffet itself is shorter than on NCL. There are fewer choices. I found this to be a plus as I was not wandering looking at all of the options. I was able to go down the line and chose between 4-5 appetizers, 4-5 main entrees, 4-5 sides, a carving station and a large choice of bread selections. I could always sit down without a problem. NCL Dawn: Grade 😧 I dreaded going to the buffet. You were constantly bumping into people and finding seats was a challenge. The length of the buffet is huge. This is a plus and a minus. Many food choices but it encourages guests to wander around in search of food choices. This leads to constantly bumping into people. Many times the food looked like it was sitting under the heat lights. Many of the entrees were covered in gravy or sauce. I definitely preferred the NCL main dining room over the NCL buffet for ease of service and a more pleasant meal.
  11. Greetings! (post 1 of 4) I have seen posts in the past asking for comparisons between the cruise lines. In January 2019 we completed 2 consecutive cruises departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I decided to write 1 review and make it a comparison so you can see the differences. I have received a lot of great information over the years from Cruise Critic. This is my giving back. My hope is this review will help you make decisions on your future cruise. Ships: Carnival Fascination built in 1994 with passenger capacity of 2056. NCL Dawn built in 2002 with passenger capacity of 2340. The ships sailed from San Juan on Southern Caribbean itineraries. On both ships we had inside cabins. 7 days on Carnival Fascination cost ~$1000 or $150/night for 2 people. 10 days on NCL Dawn cost ~$2500 equals $250/night. This included 1 perk. We chose the $50 off shore excursions as we had 9 port stops. I share this so you can factor the price difference into the comparison I will share below. I thought this was a good comparison because both ships are considered older and smaller compared to the rest of the fleet. Here goes…. Cruise Demographics: Carnival Fascination: In our 50s, we were in the older 1/3 of passengers. Sailing from San Juan, about 25% of the ship was local families. NCL Fascination: In our 50s, we were in the younger 1/3 of passengers. There were almost no local families on the ship. SHIP AND CABIN Ship Décor: Carnival Fascination: Bright, exciting, fun colors that are bold. The ship lives up to Carnival’s brand promise of the fun ships. NCL Dawn: We sailed Carnival first. We boarded the Dawn the same day we disembarked the Fascination. I was struck instantly with the difference in décor. NCL Dawn was a refined beige and brown color scheme. The ship feels classy with subtle décor. Cabin Layout: Carnival Fascination: Grade A+: 2 closets, lots of drawers. We easily flowed around the room without bumping into each other. NCL Dawn: Grade 😄 The inside cabin configuration is the same as I have experienced on the NCL Gem and NCL Star. We had to share a closet. Not many drawers. Opening the bathroom door conflicts with the closet. We were constantly bumping into each other. Frequently 1 of us would have to sit on the bed and wait for the other to finish getting things in and out of the closet. It was not pleasant. Cabin Steward: Carnival Fascination: Our steward greeted up and provided a business card with name and photo and contact phone number. We were encouraged to call him if we needed something and he was not in our hallway. He also ran showed us a paper check list that he reviewed with us. We were to indicate how many towels we want on a regular basis, if we request a bath robe, if we need a hair dryer and a few other line items I cannot recall. He also asked is we wanted morning, evening or both times to service our room. I did not feel that he was trying to sway our answer to only 1 time. He cheerfully serviced our cabin 2 times per day. NCL Dawn: Steward greeted us and did a great job throughout the cruise. Shower Pressure: Carnival Fascination: Grade A+: Pressure was powerful, hot and strong. Shower had a curtain. NCL Dawn: Grade 😄 Pressure was very weak. A bit annoying. Shower had a door. Bedding: We all know that when you ask for 1 bed it is really 2 beds pushed together. Usually it feels like 1 bed. Carnival Fascination: Grade A – Very comfortable! NCL Dawn: Grade 😄 The beds were 2 twins of unequal height. When pushed together they created a lump in the middle of the bed. Comfort in each twin bed was fine but didn’t feel like 1 bed.
  12. Thanks Flumpa for your review. I am also considering an MSC and have sailed a variety of other cruise lines. I thought you did a nice job of laying out the situation and then telling us why you liked or did not like it. You left the discernment to the reader if it applies to them. It helped me get a good picture of what I might be in for. Thank you.
  13. I am interested in a Bermuda cruise in May or June 2019. I see the Sail Away rate is offered for these sailings. In my experience in tracking a different upcoming cruise, once the Sail Away rate was offered, it seems to stick around until very close to sailing. Also, I noticed that the Sail Away rate decreased as we got closer to sailing. (Obviously on this specific cruise they were trying to fill cabins.) Questions: 1. Does the Sail Away rate increase over time? 2. If you book a Sail Away rate and you are well outside of the 120 day full payment, do you need to pay in full at the time of booking? Trying to figure out if procrastinating booking pays off as long as I know I want to book the Sail Away rate with no perks. Thanks.
  14. You are right. If you remain in the port area in Amber Cove there is not much to do other than swim in a pool. I recommend you look OUTSIDE of the cruise port area. There is a National Park called Damajaua Falls. You climb and jump into the water. You need a helmet and all. It is one of the most awesome cruise excursions I have ever done. You need to be fit and adventurous. Your cruise ship likely offers this as an excursion. I suggest you look to an outside tour company. They take fewer people and start higher up the falls for jumping. That is where the higher jumps are. I used Amber Cove Adventures. Check out some of the videos on youtube. Also, just look at the video on their home page. https://www.ambercoveadventures.com/
  15. When you pre-book the shore excursions do you need to pay the balance at the time of booking? Or do they just show up on your onboard account? Thanks.
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