Learn More About the Carnival Fascination Ports of Call – Half Moon Cay, Key West and Grand Turk

When you sail aboard the newly renovated Carnival Fascination, you will have the trip of a lifetime! This “fascinating” ship sails out of Jacksonville, FL and offers 4-5 day Bahamas cruises which include Freeport, Nassau, Half Moon Cay, and Key West. You could also choose a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise, which includes many of the same ports as well as Grand Turk. This article will discuss some of the many options available for you at the breathtaking ports of Half Moon Cay, Key West and Grand Turk.

Half Moon Cay is quite often referred to as cruisers “favorite” port. As the sign on the beach says, you will “never want to leave here!” It is spectacularly beautiful and offers a perfect beach day with rich greenery, cornstarch sand and warm, turquoise waters. This island has been rated “best private island” by porthole magazine for the last four years. It is a private island used by the cruise lines and includes a breathtaking beach, restaurant, shops, excursion activities, playground and a open air area for lunch. Take a walk around the paths on the island for great views and discover a playground, shops and stingray habitat.

At Half Moon Cay, most people choose this amazing stop as a beach day, but others choose to take one of the many excursions that Carnival offers. One of the best is the private cabanas. One of the best benefits of this “excursion” is that you get to be one of the first off the ship. As unloading takes hours and this is a world-class stop, you will want as much time there as possible. The cabanas offer shade, misters, some snacks and drinks, snorkel equipment, comfy chairs and some floaties. Other excursions offered by Carnival include horseback riding, nature walks, eco lagoon tours, glass bottom boats, sting ray encounters and deep sea fishing.

Key West, the southernmost city in the continental U.S., is the largest and most vibrant of a chain of tiny islands called the Florida Keys. Closer to Cuba than to Miami, Key West, dubbed the “Conch Republic,” is a very popular destination on Western Caribbean itineraries — and is easily one of the funkiest and wackiest ports of call in all of cruising. Key West is famously appealing for all types of folks — and especially is a magnet for artists and hippies as well as cruise ships. It’s a colorful and magical visit any time of year. Duval Street is considered the main thoroughfare and is a must-see. Most of the most popular bars, shops and art galleries can be found here, as well as restaurants and museums. This street has all the magic and color that is Key West…make sure to try some key-lime pie! You can easily walk here, but may choose to rent bikes or mopeds, which are the most popular modes of transportation. Your best bet for a great island overview is hopping on and off the open-air Conch Tour Train. Buy the tickets onboard or at Mallory Square, where it departs. If the weather is poor, take the covered Old Town Trolley which also departs from Mallory Square. The trains often provide you with a tour of the city as well, which usually includes a view of Earnest Hemingway’s house.

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is a great stop. A tour will take you inside his writing studio filled with tons of books, past the old typewriter where he wrote “Farewell to Arms” and out to the swimming pool (the first one in Key West). You’ll also see some 60 well-cared-for felines, descendants of the many cats that lazed on Hemingway’s lap while he wrote, that now roam throughout the property. You can also cross the street and climb the nearly 90 steps to the top of the Lighthouse Museum for jaw-dropping views or go and get your picture taken at the marker that is the southernmost in the United States. If you are lucky enough to see a sunset, they are especially spectacular here and are often a beautiful red color. Carnival offers excursions in Key West such as glass bottom boat, catamaran sail, snorkeling, historic homes and garden tours, conch train, city tours, snorkeling, kayak tour, parasailing, and even a pub crawl!

Grand Turk is a Caribbean port of call, that is perfect for lazy days on the beach. This is where you can enjoy a slow pace of life, and it is the capital of the Turks and Caicos. It is a small Island with no fast food restaurants or chain hotels. You can visit the narrow alleys in historic Cockburn town, but most choose to stay at the brand-new cruise terminal that is a destination in its own right, with retail shops, a recreation area right on the beach and a huge pool. The beach chairs are lined up and waiting for you on the white sands as you walk off the ship. Carnival’s Grand Turk Cruise Center also has a FlowRider where you can practice the perfect curl, or you can relax poolside with a cold drink from Margaritaville. Grand Turk became famous for its exceptionally bright-white beaches and tourmaline waters. One of the biggest draws here is diving, with the islands lying along the third largest barrier reef in the world. Carnival excursions offered in Grand Turk include a 4×4 safari, bike & snorkel, fishing, out-island and snorkeling, catamaran, kayaking, conch world, Governor’s beach, scuba diving and much more!

Whether you choose to swim with stingrays in Half Moon Cay, ride the conch train in Key West, or go flow riding in Grand Turk, you will have the time of your life aboard the Carnival Fascination. The ship and it’s ports offer you such a variety of activities that you are bound to find the right day plan to suit your needs. Once back aboard your ship, you can enjoy all of the luxury, amazing service and relaxation that the Carnival Fascination Cruise provides. Enjoy your cruise!

Carnival Paradise Grand Cayman/Cozumel Review

There were 4 days at sea along with two days at port; making stops in the Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Before booking the trip, I checked out reviews on Cruise Critic. Of the 442 reviews this boat has, 75% were positive. Here are some highlights of my experience on the ship.

Food: The food was plentiful (as expected) and tasty. The buffet was very good and the evening dining hall had a good variety of food. We had a table for four all to ourselves the entire week, so that was a treat! “After hours” there is a 24 hour pizza bar and ice-cream station, and the room service was quick. I wouldn’t classify this ship as a culinary dream, but it certainly was ample.

Drinks: The wait staff were very attentive and it was never a long wait to get a drink. As expected, the drinks were expensive. But if you stick to lemonade, water, tea, juice, etc, you don’t need to spend extra to stay hydrated. If you’re planning on drinking a lot, you might want to get one of their drink packages. You can save on cocktails, wine, and soda by purchasing these. There are a lot of rules and fine print, so read up before you go.

Pools: I was not impressed by the swimming pools on the ship. There is one main pool with a water slide going into it, which eats up some of the space. There were also a few whirlpool-sized swimming pools (with cool water) but not of the size for actual swimming.

Deck Space: There were always plenty of lounge chairs available on deck. They didn’t seem to have the usual “reserved chair” issues that many ships have. As the week went by, I think more people were hanging out inside so there were even more chairs available.

Rooms: We had an ocean view room with two twin size beds converted to a king size. The noise from the ship was at reasonable levels and besides some noisy neighbors a couple of nights, there were no noise issues. The bathroom was sufficient and overall there were no issues with the room.

Entertainment: Admittedly this trip was more about relaxing than it was the nightlife. But we did take in a few song and dance shows. While the theater is smaller than a lot of other boats, the entertainers were very talented and the shows were great. We also took in a few comedy shows, which were awesome. Just make sure that you’re leaving the kids at home if you’re going to an adults-only show. They aren’t kidding when they say they’re not family friendly!

Time at Port: The time at port in the Grand Cayman was short. We paid $5 per person to take a shuttle to the nearby public beach. The water was warm, clear, and refreshing. Drinks nearby cost a fortune, so be prepared.

We were in Cozumel, Mexico for about 8 hours. We arranged an excursion through Carnival to go to a nearby all-inclusive, Chankanaab Resort. There they had snorkeling, a Mayan tour, sea-lion show, lots of lounge chairs on the beach, and a swim up bar. Even though this was a self-guided day at the resort, they insisted on giving you an hour-long tour of the place and organizing all sorts of group activities. The guide seemed more concerned with occupying you so you didn’t spend too much time at the bar. The resort itself was great, but I’d opt out of this next time.

Overall, I think the Carnival Paradise was a great value for the money. Coming up soon will be a post about the travel gadgets you must have on your next cruise!