Published: January 24th 2012
January 16th 2012
Sometimes you just need to get away to put things into perspective. Solution: A girls trip with one of my childhood best friends!
We left for Jacksonville around 3:30pm from Atlanta and had a pretty uneventful drive down - if you don't count the minor detour and being the victim of some type of suicidal bird. Maybe an owl? It wasn't until an hour after something large flew in front of our car, hitting the antennae, before we realized the 45 degree angle it bent into the metal! Thank goodness it was considerate enough to spare our windshield!
We arrived into Jacksonville in time to grab dinner at Urban Flats. The decor is modern and the food is good. I was pleased with the prices and got the chicken salad croissant with their house specialty salad. Yum!
After dinner, us tired gals checked into Aloft hotel which is a fun and trendy concept of the W hotels. It has a very youthful vibe which I appreciated - along with the killer deal! Heather got an industry discount which was pretty incredible.Not incredible was the 1AM fire alarm. They turned off the sirens, but never gave the all clear.
(Docked in Key West)
I assumed we were safe in the decision to remain in the room once I saw the fire trucks come and go. I had college dorm flashbacks of parking lot PJ parties that I refused to relive.
Monday morning came with my waking up at 7AM(Heather was up at 6) to head to the gym. It was really refreshing to take my first vacation with a morning person. For the first time ever, I was working out before 8AM (I'm normally a 5PM gym person). It was a great start to the day!After we left the hotel, we drove to the port and boarded pretty quickly. It was probably around 12:30 that Heather got to board her first official cruise vacation. :)We had checked our big bags with the porter, which freed us up to explore the ship. (Thank goodness because the straps on my cheap carry on bag snapped, a whole separate problem!!) We grabbed lunch and enjoyed some people watching by the pool. It was a bit breezy, but when the sun came out from behind the clouds, it was a little slice of heaven.
This cruise departed on a Monday, just 3 days after the
Costa Concordia disaster off the Italian coast. Sadly, there were fatalities in this cruise ship that turned over. The majority of its 4000 passengers survived its turning on its side, but even one death is a tragedy. Carnival owns Costa, so I was curious to see how the muster drill would go since we'd be the first drill for the Fascination since the disaster. We still didn't have to take our lifejackets, but we were marched from our meeting point (a lounge) to the muster area. It all seemed to take longer than normal, which let me know the crew was unprepared for moving us all to the actual tender stations, OR maybe there was additional drill procedures the crew was doing behind the scenes.
After the drill, it was back to the lido (pool) deck for the sail away party. There was some line dancing and we also passed under a bridge leaving the port. I got some neat pictures showing that there is probably a reason why bigger ships aren't at that port. They'd get stuck!
We ate in the dining room as My time dining guests. I enjoyed the experience much more this way. The
two seater tables were VERY close to each other, which I liked, because it gave the option to talk to those around you if you wanted. I finally got to try escargot. I liked it, but it could have been their preparation. These were doused in garlic. My mac n cheese was out of this world!
After dinner we checked out the Piano bar. The lighting was piano keys which glowed and changed color. The entertainer did a good job and even had props (glasses for Elton John, big hair for rock music, etc.)
Tuesday was a full day at sea taking us to Key West. The weather was beautiful and I was up bright and early with Heather in the gym. (I seceded later in the week). We spent alot of our day by the pool watching the poolside contest (hairy chest) and entertainment. I talked to a nice couple from up north for most of my time outside. Tuesday evening we got ready for dinner. It was "Cruise Elegant" night which means formal night! Heather and I strutted around to several portrait opportunities and ended up with some great pictures! Dinner for me was prime rib,
and Heather substituted her Lobster and Shrimp for a double of shrimp.
I played on the poker table a little after dinner and got ahead. I stopped playing because it was time to go to the comedy show. We weren't impressed with the comedian! Several got up and left. I prefer more improv guys, this one just used a bunch of one liners and foul language.
I WAS impressed with the rock band we have on the ship! 3 of the 4 band members sing and they're really good. It's a little strange at first to see Asians singing songs like "Tush" since rock bands are typically a bunch of white guys in my experience, but they rocked it and sounded great vocally too! If they ever played in Atlanta, I'd totally drag all my friends out to see them! They call themselves True Identity. (I since stand corrected because the new lead singer of Journey is Phillipino I believe. :) )
Wednesday we docked in Key West. Separate journal entry for Wednesday is here: http://www.travelblog.org/North-America/United-States/Florida/Keys/Key-West/blog-681995.html
Thursday we were in Nassau. That blog entry is here: http://www.travelblog.org/Central-America-Caribbean/Bahamas/Nassau/blog-681996.html
Friday was our last day on the Fascination.
Heather was up bright and early and scored us some prime seats by the pool where we enjoyed the sun all day. I also marked the occasion with my first bloody mary drink ever. I liked it, but think I would have preferred less spice.
As the day was winding down for poolside activities, there was an ice carving demonstration. This time they did an indian chief head, which was the same as was on display the night before at the midnight lido deck mexican buffet. Afterwards, I grabbed one of our new friends and headed to the Waterworks area. I'd never done one of the big slides on the Carnival fleet, so I crossed that off my bucket list too. It was alot of fun!!
Our last night at dinner offered me a little slice of Italian flash backs. They served my Tomato and Mozzarella appetizer that I cherish. It always reminds me of my summers in Italy. :)
I had collected all my $5 match play cards from the cruise and it was finally time to go use them! (This is something that is a benefit of my mojito drinking cruise habit!) Carnival has a
Me, Bogdan, and Heather - Formal night
Bogdan took care of us in the piano lounge (88)
little known secret that if you take your receipt to the casino cashier, you'll get the match play card. This is good for mojitos, mai tai, sex on the beach, cruiser, long island, and margaritas. I hit the craps table armed with knowledge Jason had taught me. I'd been back to the hold 'em poker table and hadn't caught any cards and so I had some money to make back up. After it was all said done, the craps table had me $100 to the good for my gambling endeavors. Yay! (I'd been up another $100 on top of that, but didn't want to risk losing what I did have trying to gain it back.)
I finished the night off watching the band some more and checking out the Diamonds are Forever disco.
All in all, this was a great cruise. The average age of the cruisers was a bit older than what I'm used to seeing, and this was a smaller sized boat. It wasn't much of a party crowd, but the pace of the activities was just what I needed. The Fascination is a great beginner cruise ship, but I think I'll stick with larger boats
Sensations dining room
Me, our server Milan, and Heather
in the future. (I think this was my ninth cruise?).
We couldn't have asked for better weather, and I think the pictures show that a great time was had!
There are more photos below