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Carnival Trip Report: Day 1 On The Fascination

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It’s been a while since I’ve sailed on one of Carnival Cruise Line’s Fantasy-class ships. In fact, my last Carnival trip report was filed from the Vista, which is just about as far as you can get from the Fascination, the ship I boarded this morning. While this particular ship did sail out of my homeport of Jacksonville for years, Carnival eventually switched things up, sending the Fascination to San Juan and having the Elation take her place. Interestingly, I haven’t had a chance to sail on the Elation — which just returned to duty following an extensive drydock — a great opportunity on a last minute sailing of the Fascination out of Port Canaveral was too good to pass up.

Kicking Off Our Carnival Trip Report

carnival trip report

So I was under the impression that the Fascination had undergone a Fun Ship 2.0 makeover before heading to San Juan… and as it turn out, that was not the case. While the ship is reportedly slated for a drydock and major renovation in 2018, the Fascination is still the same ship she was when last I had the chance to sail her. And to be honest, the ship is showing its age. Aside from not having the bells and whistles one associates with more modern (or recently updated) Carnival ships, the carpet is showing its age in some of the public areas and the ship overall doesn’t have quite the razzle-dazzle of its more modern counterparts.

carnival trip report

That said, there’s something sort of charming about the experience of sailing on an older smaller ship. It’s like the ultimate Throwback Thursday to a time when being on the ocean and taking the time to relax was the name of the game, which make this the perfect ship for my four-night cruise to Freeport and Nassau. Now, I know that for a lot of people those ports are boring, but I’ve always been the type of cruiser who cares less about where the ship is going than the fact that I’m actually on a ship. Will I stay on the ship when we dock or go into port? Definitely… I always do. But given how often I’ve visited these particular ports in the past, it’s likely I’ll just do so for an hour or so as opposed to spending the entire day there.

The embarkation process in Port Canaveral is pretty streamlined thanks to the fact you can check-in online, so the only thing you have to do when you arrive is a quick passport check, have your photo taken, go through security and board the ship. The whole process took less than 15 minute. It helped that, with this only being a four-night cruise, I didn’t have any luggage to check. One carry-on bag, and I was good to go.

carnival trip report

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A lot of people were happy because this ship arrived from Jacksonville with no passengers, so the staterooms were ready as soon as we got on board. (I suspect the only people not happy about this were the ones who paid extra for Faster To The Fun passes, since one of the perks is getting both on board and into your staterooms first. But it didn’t impact me, so like they say… not my circus, not my monkeys!) I actually saw a few familiar faces from Jacksonville waiting to board, and it’s always nice to see some hometown faces.

The Good, The Bad & The Downright Rude

As you all know from experience, one of the best forms of entertainment on a cruise ship isn’t listed in the Fun Times: people watching. There was the guy walking around wearing a captain’s cap and proudly declaring, “I can’t wait to get liquored up!” And I was tempted to say something to the woman who threw her ice cream cone down on the staircase because she “didn’t want any more,” but again opted for the “Not my circus, not my monkeys” approach. (After all, does calling someone out on their rude behavior ever go well… especially when you’re then going to be trapped with that person on a ship for several days?)

Read More: See Deck Plans For Carnival Fascination

After a delay of about an hour — not that it mattered to me, as I was already enjoying my cruise — we set sail. There were some pretty strong winds out of the southeast, which meant we needed a couple tugboats to escort us out of the harbor. What a lot of people don’t realize is that even though a ship like the Fascination weighs many tons, when winds hit the side of the ship, they have the same effect as they would on the sail of a sailboat. I’m not certain what the maximum crosswind component is for using the thrusters on these older Fantasy-class ships, but the newer ships can go in a 35-knot wind.

I was scheduled for the 6 p.m. dinner seating, but opted to skip it in favor of taking photo during our delayed departure. So when I got hungry, I headed to the lido deck for a turkey wrap from the deli, some pizza and a dessert that I will probably regret later, but it was so good.

carnival trip report

It’s worth mentioning that Carnival’s brand ambassador, John Heald, is also on this sailing. Talk about a popular guy! Thanks to his devoted fans, he can’t go 10 feet without someone stopping him for a photo or a chat.

Tomorrow is a Fun Day at sea, which means the always popular sea day brunch. Day two of my Carnival Trip Report coming soon.

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CARNIVAL HORIZON

Trip Report: Carnival Horizon Embarkation Day

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Touchdown, Barcelona! It feels great to finally get here but wow, I’ve been up for 32 straight hours and at the moment, I’m feeling every bit of it.

One real blessing was not having to worry about my luggage, as I took advantage of the cruise-line transfer service. This means they basically took my bag after I got off the plane and arranged for it to get to the ship and into my stateroom. If you’ve ever gone to Disney World and used the Magical Express Luggage Service, it’s basically the same principal. It’s not available at all ports, but it was here, and I was happy to make use of it.

Philly

Taking off from Philly.

Embarkation went great. My flight landed at 9:00 a.m.,  we’d cleared customs and climbed aboard the bus that would transport us to the ship by 10 and had arrived at the pier by 10:30. No muss, no fuss, it was as quick and easy as any airport-to-pier transfer I’ve ever experienced. And honestly, that’s a relief. It’s one thing to deal with snafus in your own country, but when traveling in a foreign land and speaking just enough of the language to find a bathroom, the last thing you want is a difficult transfer.

They’ve recently renovated the cruise pier in Barcelona, and it looks amazing. From curb to ship, the whole process took about 30 minutes. It would have been even quicker, but we arrived before they’d begun allowing people to board, which started promptly at 11:15 a.m.

Stroll Down Memory Lane

Carnival Horizon

Carnival Horizon in May 2016.

Before we get to the ship, can we just talk for a moment about what an amazing feat of engineering building a cruise ship is? It wasn’t even two years ago that I visited Fincantieri shipyard in Naples to watch a section of Carnival Horizon be floated out. During embarkation, I was looking at this ship and marveling at what that one piece of steel — granted, a really big piece! — eventually became. The experience of having watched even a small part of the construction process makes the moment of seeing the finished product, let alone spending time on board, all the more exciting.

Barcelona

The remodeled terminal in Barcelona.

It’s always so cool walking onto a new ship for the first time. On Carnival Horizon you board on deck three, which means the very first thing you see is the Dreamscape LED centerpiece that anchors the main atrium. Talk about making a big first impression! The Dreamscape funnels set the Vista class ships apart from anything else out there.

PRO TIP: Almost immediately, most people stop and whip out their cameras to take a picture of the images being projected on the Dreamscape and maybe grab a drink at the bar directly beneath it. Don’t get caught in the crowd… go explore. The atrium will be there all week!

On Horizon’s sister ship, Vista, blue is the prevailing color. On Horizon, the atrium’s main color is red. The space features a very airy design that stretches up three levels. The main dining room is on level three, deck four has several shops as well as the entrance to the casino, and deck five offers more shops and the entrance to the promenade.

Guy's BBQ Joint

Once I was on board, I immediately headed for Guy Fieri’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse to check out the new public space. Those of you who usually head for the RedFrog Pub will have to make do with this awesome new venue, which takes the place of that one on Horizon. Truth be told, the space will remind you in a lot of ways of the RedFrog Pub, but with a few distinct decor elements (like the giant sign reading Flavortown) which tell you that you’re definitely in Guy Fieri territory! Stupidly, I had breakfast on the plane — did I somehow forget that I was going to have access to way better food in a few short hours? — so I didn’t grab BBQ for lunch.

I wanted to check out the Havana Retreat area on the aft end of deck five, so I headed there next. Yes, I know it’s closed to everyone by those staying in Havana staterooms during the day, but I figured maybe I’d be able to take a quick peek. Heck, maybe I’d even be allowed to play the “I’m with the press” card to gain access! But no such luck. I was politely but firmly told to come back after 7 p.m., when the area opens to the public. And honestly, I’m glad to see them enforcing the rule. Let’s face it: People pay a premium price to stay in those cabins, and exclusive daytime access is one of the perks they’re ponying up the cash to enjoy.

The Scoop On Horizon’s Wi-Fi

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If you’ve sailed with Carnival before, you know the wi-fi prices are very attractive, starting at just $4 per day if you buy the plan in advance. On other ships I’ve sailed, the wi-fi has been really slow. When I did a speed test on the Carnival Magic back in February, the upload and download speeds were very sluggish. So once on board Horizon, I did a similar test. Now, I have the premium plan (after all, I have to file these daily reports, right?), but I’m impressed. While docked, the wi-fi gave me an upload speed of 13.4 megabytes per second and a download speed of 17.5 megabytes per second. Since that might be gibberish to some of you, let me put it this way: By comparison, the speed on Carnival Magic was 2.7 megabytes per second when it came to download speeds. And the upload speeds seem to be even faster.

Of course, the real test will come during sea days, when we’re far from land and everyone on the ship is trying to make folks back home jealous by posting pictures to Facebook and Instagram!

Welcome To My Stateroom

Carnival Horizon

My cabin for this sailing is a balcony stateroom on deck seven midship,  so it overlooks the outside promenade on deck five.

If you’re familiar with Carnival’s staterooms then you know what to expect. The only difference I’ve noticed is a change in the color scheme throughout the cabin.  The curtains and bedspread are a little bit darker. Furnishing wise, all the basics are there. Three stand-up cabinets, the fridge, a safe a couch. It’s exactly what you expect. (Unless, of course, you’re staying in one of the Havana staterooms, but that’ll have to wait for another trip!)

Those New Elevators You’ve Heard So Much About

The elevators on Carnival Horizon are definitely different than anything I’ve encountered before, and more than a few people have been confused by them. Ironically, they’re called “smart elevators” despite the fact my first interaction with them made me feel… well, definitely not smart! Here’s how they work: Instead of pushing a button indicating whether you want to go up or down when you approach the bank of elevators, you select which floor you want to go to. The screen then tells you which of the elevators to board when it arrives.

It’s definitely weird getting into an elevator with no buttons… and already, I’ve seen more than a few people confused. But hey, they’ll either adapt or wind up going for a lot of rides to the wrong floor! According to the Hotel Director onboard, the smart elevators will result in people spending less time waiting overall and will prove especially helpful on disembarkation morning, when they can handle up to 1,000 guests per hour.

And Away We Go!

Sailaway parties on Carnival ships are always rockin’… and this time was no exception. In fact, it felt as if there was a special, heightened energy, maybe because this was a ship full of people who were excited to be on a brand new vessel. Like I said before, there’s just something about that experience that can’t be beat. The pool deck was packed with partiers, with the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila bar keeping everyone in a very good mood. I actually decided to skip the main event in favor of heading to a bar at the back of the ship and enjoying a much quieter sailaway with a buddy of mine who is also on board this week.

Calling It An Early Night

Rather than talk about the main dining room here, I’m going to save that for another day. Because to be honest, I was so exhausted that I barely remember being there. In fact, I basically swung by, grabbed a very abbreviated meal — a candied salmon appetizer followed by a pork loin — and called it a night.


A Cruise Radio Listener asked via Facebook: On the Carnival website, it shows that Horizon holds 26 more guests than does the Carnival Vista. Why is that? – Drew

What better person to ask about the number of people and staterooms on board than the Housekeeping Manager?  She explained that the additional staterooms include several extra Havana suites, one additional stateroom on deck 11 and another three which have been added to the forward section of the ship. The Havana area now has 79 cabins, which is 18 more than were found on Vista. There are also 96 of the very popular Family Harbor staterooms, 104 spa cabins and 74 suites on Horizon.

Okay, I’m pretty sure that my eyes were closed as I typed half of this sea blog, because I’ve been awake for about 33 hours and jet lag is, as it always does, kicking my butt. So until tomorrow — a sea day which promises to help recharge my batteries — I’m saying good night.

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CARNIVAL HORIZON

Carnival Horizon Pre-cruise Thoughts

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The day is finally here. The day I fly out to join Carnival Horizon in Barcelona for a seven-night Mediterranean cruise. This is going to be one of two cruises that I have planned on Carnival HorizonSo if you’re looking for Horizon coverage, you’ve come to the right place.

Since Horizon‘s European season is so short this year, I’ll mostly be focusing on the ship in the daily trip reports.

The Itinerary

  • Day 1 – Embarkation in Barcelona
  • Day 2- Fun Day at Sea
  • Day 3. – Cagliari, Italy
  • Day 4 – Naples, Italy
  • Day 5. – Rome, Italy
  • Day 6. Livorno, Italy
  • Day 7 – Marseille, France
  • Day 8 – Disembark in Barcelona

What I’m Looking Forward to the Most

1. Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse

Dinner entrees at Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse|Brewhouse.

If you know me, you know that I’m a big barbecue fan; it’s my kryptonite. I was excited when Carnival first partnered with Guy Fieri for the barbecue venue outside on deck five. So hearing they created a full-blown sit-down barbecue smokehouse made my day.

But it also had me wondering, will I miss the RedFrog Pub? (that’s where the smokehouse is going). There have been many late-night guitar singalongs in that pub. Time will soon tell.

2. Bonsai Teppanyaki

A chef aboard the Carnival Horizon flames a stack of onions while preparing dinner at Bonsai Teppanyaki.

I don’t think any of us need an excuse to eat, so when I heard they were placing not one but two teppanyaki tables on Carnival Horizon, my heart skipped a beat. The first time I tried teppanyaki on a cruise was on Norwegian Cruise Line last summer. Will this experience live up to it? If it’s anything like the videos John Heald has been posting on Facebook, I’m positive it will.

Read More: Bonsai Teppanyaki Menu

3. The Outdoor Fitness Area

I’ve recently lost 60 pounds and when Carnival Vista debuted in 2016, I didn’t care much about fitness. Since that cruise, I’ve changed my lifestyle and have been very active in the outdoors and running. So for once, I’m going to give the outdoor equipment a chance. The outdoor workout area isn’t new to the ships, it first debuted on Carnival Magic in 2011. I just never used it.  Although as you can see, I attempted one pull up.

4. Sea Day Crowds and Congestion

the Tides Pool space at the ship’s aft

If you listen to Cruise Radio, you know that one thing we tackle in every interview is how the ship handles itself on sea days with crowds and congestion. Horizon looks to have a lot of spaces for guests to scatter during the day. There are over a dozen different bars and food venues spread from deck three to the lido deck (and higher if you count Serenity).

But how will the ship handle the crowds with 4,000 people onboard? We have one sea day to find out.

5. The Spa

Guests enjoy a couples’ massage in the Cloud 9 Spa

Something I’ve never tried on a cruise is the spa. I’ve never been a spa person. Maybe it’s me getting older or just wanting to relax more, whatever it is, I’m going to try a spa pass out for the day.

Are There Any New Changes?

They are trying a new dining concept on Horizon where they flipped Piano Bar 88 and the Library Bar. On Vista, the Library Bar is on the port (left) side and piano bar is on the starboard (right) side. On Horizon it’s opposite. 

They did this because they are incorporating instrumental piano music into the steakhouse at night. There is a sliding door between the piano bar and steakhouse, so when the piano bar opens later in the evening, they’ll shut the door and it’ll become a lively piano bar.

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Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse

Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse.

I’ve gotten over a dozen emails asking if Carnival Horizon is better with the seating situation in the main theater. There are quite a few poles blocking your sightline on Vista. The same can be said for the Limelight Lounge. It’s understandable that these poles hold the roof up, so it’s not like you can just remove them. We’ll check that out. 

They’re also rolling out a couple new Playlist Production shows on Carnival Horizon. It’ll be fun to see how different they are from past production shows or it’s the same song-and-dance with updated melodies.

Let Me Know Your Questions

I’d be thrilled to hear from you and answer your Horizon questions. Follow my journey on the social media channels below (click them) or shoot me an email. I’ve gotten a lot of questions so far and will be answering them throughout the week, and then on the podcast later this week.

My email is doug@cruiseradio.net (if you’re reading this on a mobile device, you can click on my email address and it’ll open your email browser). 

Full disclosure: Carnival invited me on this cruise. My thoughts are and will always be my own.

Photos via Carnival Cruise Line

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CARNIVAL MAGIC

Recap: Carnival Magic Western Caribbean Cruise

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If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself reflecting on a cruise weeks after disembarking, partially because you wish you could go back and do the whole thing again. In this case, I figured that while I’m reflecting on my recent seven-night sailing on Carnival Magic to the Western Caribbean, I might as well combine all of the sea blogs I wrote about this particular trip in one place (the links to which you’ll find below). I’ve also included a link to the show on which I chatted with one of the most popular guys out there, Carnival’s Brand Ambassador, John Heald. Hopefully, if you’re planning a trip on the Carnival Magic — or have sailed her in the past and just want to recreate some of those great memories — you’ll enjoy taking this trip down Memory Lane with me.

Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic is an amazing ship and perhaps one of my favorites in the Carnival fleet (even beating out Carnival Sunshine, which is really saying something). I flat-out love the outdoor promenade that the Dream-class ships have on deck five, which wrap around the entire ship. On the new builds, like Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista, the ability to walk around the entire promenade is restricted because of the restricted area which houses the Havana cabins toward the back of the ship. On the older class vessels, the walking deck would be deck three, which is also partially restricted because of the dining rooms at the aft of the ship and the crew areas toward the front.

To read a day-by-day account of the trip, click on the links below:

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The ports of call on this Western Caribbean cruise were mind-blowing. Two of my favorites were Belize City and Mahogany Bay in Roatan. In the past, I probably would have stayed on the ship during both of these stops, but I’m so glad I didn’t. You can read more about the excursions below.

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

Shore Excursion Reviews

If you would like to check out the interview with did with Carnival’s Brand Ambassador John Heald during the sailing, you can listen to the podcast below.

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Hi, this may be of interest to you: Carnival Trip Report: Day 1 On The Fascination. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/carnival-trip-report-day-1-fantasy/