A sailing on Carnival Fascination is the quintessential "choose this cruise for the itinerary, not the ship" experience, and Carnival is fully aware of this, which is why it purposely operates Fascination on port-intensive itineraries. With so many days spent in port and an excellent selection of excursions to choose from, it's less noticeable that there's just not a lot to do on the ship.
Don't get us wrong. As on all Carnival ships, there are comedy and big-stage production shows, live music and dancing, bingo and a line-up of daily activities. There are just far fewer of them on Fascination, and there are almost no alternative dining venues. The line scheduled few activities while the ship was in port, and even at night or on sea days, activities that prioritized selling you something (art auctions and seminars, spa and wellness classes, retail seminars, etc.) outnumbered "fun" stuff.
We also can't remember the last time we were on a cruise ship of more than 2,000 passengers that didn't have the option to dine somewhere other than the main dining room or buffet. (And we're not counting Guy's Burger Joint or BlueIguana Cantina because, while you might grab your food outside the buffet, chances are you're eating it inside.) That being said, the variety and quality of food in the main dining rooms is just fine, even quite good at times, and we loved the dining room crew.
The slim daily schedule doesn't daunt many on Carnival Fascination. Cruisers are a gregarious group and can easily make their own fun, chatting with new friends while trying out the variety of drinks onboard or comparing excursion notes with the person sitting in the lounge chair next to them. We heard the most complaints from cruisers in their 20s who wanted more to do at night than Latin dancing outside the casino or busting a move in the nightclub. Speaking of younger cruisers, during the summer, Carnival Fascination is overflowing with kids.
Overall, Carnival Fascination is a laid-back cruise ship that serves its role well as a home base for exploring ashore. You'll get a comfortable room, good food, excellent service from friendly crew who like to joke around and amiable company in the form of your fellow cruise passengers. But it's the port-intensive itineraries that will have you coming back onboard for more.
Cruises who choose Carnival Fascination come primarily from the United States, with a large portion from Puerto Rico, thanks to the ship's homeport of San Juan. You'll hear as much Spanish spoken on the ship as you will English, and most announcements are made in both languages. Other countries fairly well represented include Canada and the U.K.
Ages run the gamut from small sleeping kids to grandmas livin' it up. Large family groups are commonplace on Fascination, and we do mean large. There were several groups of 30-plus people on our sailing and one group of more than 50 family members.
Carnival ships are known for being casual, and Fascination is no exception. During the day, shorts and tees can be seen everywhere; bathing suits are pretty common as well. At night, most people stick with casual, though bathing suits are not permitted in the dining room.
Depending on your sailing, you will have one or two "Cruise Elegant" nights when people are encouraged to dress up. Most women put on skirts and blouses or nice dresses, and men don trousers, button-up shirts and, in many cases, sports jackets or even full suits. (We loved the families that coordinated their outfits, many doing all-white ensembles that really stood out.) Carnival Fascination sailings of five or fewer nights have one Cruise Elegant evening; sailings of six nights or longer have two.
Elation is the seventh of Carnival's eight Fantasy-class vessels (debuting in 1998), and went through a significant upgrade in 2009.
Smaller ship with a fun and family-friendly atmosphere: highlights include short warm-weather itineraries, a waterslide and mini-golf; carries about 2,500 people.
Fun, friendly vibe with a packed lineup of daily activities, nightly comedy, energetic stage shows, silly pool deck fun, and a multi-slide waterpark.
Family-friendly, 2,100-passenger ship, based full-time in Sydney, has the Green Thunder water slide, great dining, free poolside food, lively entertainment and fun crew.
Lively and fun with a dizzying art-through-the-centuries decor, nightly standup comedy, two waterslides, four pools, and lots of bars and lounges; can carry about 2,500.
More than 2,600 passengers can enjoy the Green Thunder slide, Serenity Retreat for adults, Playlist Production music shows and excellent kids activities.
Unpretentious vibe with pool-centric fun and water slide, plus Hairy Chest and Mr. and Mrs. Conquest contests; also 11 bars and 9 eateries; carries about 3,500.
Lively entertainment and activities include nightly stand-up comedy, high-energy Playlist Production stage shows, twister water slide, and a nonstop schedule of daily activities.
Fun, family-friendly ship focused on Carnival signatures like the high-energy Playlist Production shows, nightly comedy, RedFrog Pub and line dancing deck parties.
Fun, laid-back and friendly; highlights include nightly comedy, high-energy stage shows, twister water slide and the popular RedFrog Pub; holds about 3,500.
Can hold upward of 4,000 passengers; features indoor/outdoor pool with retractable dome, Twister water slide, mini-golf and just one extra-fee restaurant.
Fun, friendly vibe; features Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, family-friendly and adult stand-up comedy, nightly karaoke, water park and mini-golf.
Holds about 4,000; highlights include water slides, the RedFrog Pub, two-bathroom family cabins that hold up to five, a ropes course and Carnival's signature fun.
Nonstop activities and attractions include top deck water park and ropes course, 4D Thrill Theater and nightly standup comedy; can hold up to 4,700 cruisers.
Fun and friendly with nightly stand-up comedy and short, energetic stage shows, plus a calorie-packed burger joint from celeb chef Guy Fieri; holds about 3,500.
Holds a bit more than 4,000 passengers; offers a waterpark, suspended-in-midair recumbent bike thrill ride, ropes course and the first IMAX cinema at sea.
Carnival's newest megaship, holding some 4,000 passengers, launches April 2018; highlights include new barbeque/brewery and Teppanyaki restaurants, an IMAX movie theater, waterpark, beer brewery and ropes course.
A completely reimagined ship, Carnival Sunrise is Carnival Triumph transformed with new venues, entertainment options, and a whole new Fun Ship look.