We went on the Fantasy just after Thanksgiving 2012. This was our first time cruising and we chose this ship because of the port convenience to our home and the possibility of saving some money.
Overall we had a positive experience and would definately cruise again.
Embarkation: We got there early due to great service from our "Stay and Sail" package at the Hampton Inn at Isle of Palms. Embarkation was pretty smooth and fast (other than a search of a couple of our carryons.) Having pre-regiatered online really smoothed the process and having only carryons worked fairly well, although a tad bulky to keep with us while we waited for room to be ready.
Debarkation: In Charleston it has to be silent because Charlestonians don't want to hear early morning PA announcements. We did self assist and were off the boat and through customs with our carryons very quickly.
Stateroom: We are glad we did an oceanview with a window. The stateroom was adequate but noisy particularly on the last day as we were right above the gangplank. (Riviera Deck, room 153) However I did get a good view of the pilot boat at one port! Our stewards did a good job, just missing cleaning up our room one morning. I guess we confused them with our schedule that day. We always enjoyed seeing what towel animal they would come up with. Our stateroom was fairly central to elevators and hallways.
Ship layout: Seemed a little choppy and confusing. I wish I had figured out a better plan right from the start, thinking of the ship in thirds. I got turned around more than once but ultimately found my destination each time.
Food: The food was adequate. We'd rate it a 3 out of 5. It seems more about the availability than the quality at times. Several times, food from the buffet wasn't particularly hot nor held its heat, something we prefer. We never went hungry, but neither were we especially impressed by the taste of anything.
Activities: I took advantage of several activities and enjoyed them. They provided a good mental break. I admit I expected to have more down time and in the future may pace myself better. I tried karaoke for the first time which was fun. When wanting to sunbathe, we chose the Serenity Deck. The Lido deck was too loud and active and accessible to smoke than we preferred, although we did go up there for the deck party so I could do some line dancing. Why so many places insist on blaring their bands is beyond me. It takes away from hearing their talented voices as much.
We played bingo a couple of times. We also enjoyed the piano bar...Larry was talented and entertaining and it wasn't overwhelming in loudness. It gave time for nice fellowship with new friends we met on the cruise.
Shows: Although others have said the shows are cheesy, we were very impressed by the quality of dancing, costume changes, and special effects. We somewhat enjoyed the comedy shows and some of the game things like the adult scavenger hunt also.
Ports: Enjoyed power snorkeling in Nassau and the Jeep adventure in Freeport. Both were worthwhile and the Jeep one was educational. While it is necessary for the excursions to keep to a schedule, we found it somewhat less than relaxing to have limited time in each area we were visiting. In the future we may select an excursion that allows you several hours in one place to do things at your own pace.
Money: we did pretty well staying in budget. We did succumb to buying a couple of pictures, particularly since on elegant night, it didn't even occur to us to ask someone to take our picture with our own camera. So the $21 formal photo was the only way we could capture the memory. We'll be wiser next time. The near constant stream of beverage hawking (we are only light drinkers) got somewhat tiresome and $20 to play bingo seemed a little high.
Staff: most staff were pleasant and the fun crew was mostly enthusiastic and willing to be silly in front of a crowd. The waiters we experienced all seemed to do their jobs well. They led in singing a song for our 25th anniversary and brought out an extra piece of cake to celebrate. Our stewards put a towel heart on the bed the last night. I think they saw a 25th anniversary card in the room.
We got to meet and chat with the cruise director which was kind of cool and also enjoyed speaking to a security guard. I'm fascinated by how things run behind the scenes and considered paying to go on the behind the scenes tour, but decided to allow time for relaxing and do that another time.
The cruise director did a great job adding humor to the debarkation meeting. It was his last cruise on this boat and he told us that type of thing can get boring so he liked to add some life to it.
While the Fantasy is an older ship, it was a good first time experience for us that wasn't too overwhelming and because of it's reasonable cost and proximity to our home, we would probably sail on her again. We would like a balcony and may consider a suite to get one.