My husband and I are in our early 60's, and are seasoned cruisers (have cruised over 20 times), and have sailed on most of the other cruise lines, with the exception of HAL. Our last cruise was in February, 2012, on RCL, and we were none to pleased. Prior to taking this trip, we have found that Princess, and Celebrity, were our favorites. Carnival I must say, "you surprised me". Our last sailing on Carnival was in 2000, and had it not been for our grand kids taking this trip for their spring break, we probably would have not returned to Carnival. We did not set our expectations high, but were determined to have a positive attitude, and fun time with the kids. Boy, were we surprised, and found that we had one of the best cruises ever! For the amount of money spent, it was quite a bargain!
Embarkation: We live in NC, and drove down to Charleston on the day of departure. We found the directions to the cruise terminal to be a little confusing (even with GPS directions), after we arrived in Charleston. We made it to the terminal around 11:30, and were aboard the Fantasy by 12:30. The port is old, and the parking garage is certainly not impressive. Once we had parked, and then taken a shuttle for a short ride to the terminal, the process was a breeze. After clearing security, we were soon checked in, and greeted by a very friendly staff, who were readily available to give assistance, and provide directions to our rooms. I also want to mention that we were allowed to bring on board one bottle of wine/per person, and water, as well as 12 cans of soft drinks. This really helped with our final cost, as my husband always buys a beverage package, and I like to have a glass of wine with my dinner. What impressed me the most was the smiling and helpful staff that went out of their way to make us feel welcome. I had a good feeling, as soon as we boarded.
Ship: The Fantasy is the oldest Carnival ship sailing, however, please do not let this fact stop you from choosing this trip. The ship had been refurnished recently, and for an old ship was very clean, and well maintained. Yes, this is definitely a small ship, and after cruising so many mega-ships, I found this to be a plus. We had an inside cabin mid-ship on the E deck, and I must say that the room was quite adequate. I did miss my balcony, but found the room to be fine. The bed was very comfortable, and linens and towels were fine. We even had body gel, and shampoo provided (which some lines have stopped providing). The rooms do not have hair dryers, but all I had to do was ask my room Steward, and one was quickly loaned to me. Also, chocolates, and towel animals were provided every night.
Staff: I cannot say enough positive things about the staff. Everyone was wonderful! I did not encounter one person that was not friendly, and helpful. This really impressed me, as on our last RCL, this was NOT the case. Most of the staff even recognized you by name.
Dining: We had early seating in the Jubilee Dining Room. It was absolutely one of the best cruising dining room experiences that I have had, Our waiter Christopher, greeted us the first night by all of our names. He was friendly, professional, and anticipated our every needs. Always taking the extra time to spend talking with, and entertaining our grand kids, who are 7&8. His assistant was Vanerra, and she too was outstanding. Fernando also was quick to fill our glasses, or coffee cups. This team was great! We also found the food to be very good. It was plentiful, and very tasty, The menu offered was excellent, and large rib-eye steak, and rack of lamb were offered at NO additional cost! We were very pleased with our service! This was a very different dining experience compared with our last cruise, in which they pushed upgrading your steak for a fee. I have to say that the dining experience on the Fantasy, was much like the services you would receive on other cruise lines speciality restaurants. The dining room staff also did a fantastic job providing entertainment during dinner. Food was also very good, and of a adequate variety on the Lido Deck buffet. The Mongolian Grill was good, and always a popular spot.
Entertainment: We found the shows to be good, but not as great as some we have seen on other cruise lines. The singers, and dancers were good, ans performed an excellent Beatles Tribute. Magician show was excellent.
Services: All staff were good, and always there to go the extra mile to assist you. It seemed like they anticipated our needs. Our room steward, Ramon, was very efficient and friendly. As I stated earlier, I did not encounter one staff member that was not friendly and willing to help. The Cruise Director, Risa, also was very good. The water slide was a very popular area for the kids. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this ship does provide an adult area, Serenity, at no additional cost. Have found this service on other cruise lines to come with a cover charge. People do continue to save deck chairs for others, but I did not really find this to be a problem, if we looked long enough.
Summary: I really found this to be a GREAT cruise for the cost. I would definitely take this cruise again, and would recommend it to anyone who likes to cruise. There are a lot of children that go on this cruise, and this was certainly true on our cruise, since it was spring break. Even if you are an adult that wants quite time, you could always find it in the Serenity area, at no additional cost. Carnival has definitely improved their act since my last cruising experience with them, and my husband and I will certainly be back!
Thanks Carnival Fantasy for fun cruise, at a bargin price!!