We are a family of four from the Northern Kentucky area and were traveling for Spring Break. My husband and I are both 37, our son had just turned 9 and our daughter is 7.
Our journey started the day before when we drove half way to Charleston. We stopped in Hendersonville, NC and spent the night at the Ramada. The hotel was great. The desk clerk was very friendly during check in/out. Best part is that it was only 55.00/night and included our breakfast. Hubby found a discount through our electric company to get that rate. We checked out bright and early the next morning and drove the rest of the way to Charleston.
Upon arriving to the port, we were led to the luggage drop off. It was quick and painless. Then we were directed through the maze and waited about 20 minutes until we could park in the warehouse. They started letting people in shortly after 11 a.m. Once we got parked, we waited in line to board the shuttle to take us to the ship. This is only a couple minute ride, but required. You do not have the option to walk for security reasons. After getting off of the shuttle, you go through the check in process, receive your Sign and Sail card, go through security, have your embarkation photo taken and then you walk the ramp onto the ship! The whole process went smoothly although I will suggest keeping carry on baggage to a minimum as there is a lot of walking.
The Fantasy does not show it's age. All areas looked fresh, clean and new. Even the carpeting throughout the ship was spot free and showed no wear and tear. Our cabins were the same. We could not tell we were on the oldest ship in the fleet.
We opted for Early seating which was in the Jubilee dining room. The service was much different from our cruises 10 years ago. The waiters are all business and very focused on getting everyone served. A couple of times we ordered two appetizers or entrees and were only served one. We never bothered to ask for the second. I am not sure if it was an oversight or the waiter was just hoping we wouldn't ask for them to bring it. Portions seemed to be larger than years ago. Because he was expecting tiny portions, hubby often ordered two of something. He still left the dining room satisfied, even though he didn't always get both of whatever he ordered. The food, in my opinion was mediocre at best. I can't think of any entree or appetizer that stood out. The prime rib served to me on Elegant night was inedible. It was so tough that I had trouble cutting it. Of course, the desserts were good! We especially like the infamous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake and the Bitter and Blanc. The buffet food wasn't bad. I especially enjoyed the omelets and the deli. The kids really liked the hamburgers. I believe my son ate one every day for either lunch or dinner.
We never went to the Brits or Motown shows so I can't really say too much about them. I can say that we heard the singing from outside the lounge and it was not anything to write home about. We don't cruise for the shows so it didn't affect our opinion of the ship at all.
We liked spending our days on the Lido deck. I saw a few chair hogs the first sea day. They were tagging chairs. The last day, the decks were packed. Nearly every chair had a body. I didn't see them tagging chairs, but, there really wasn't a need since it appeared that people were actually using the chairs instead of just hogging them. Because we usually had the kids with us, we never got a chance to check out the Serenity area. The kids really liked the Waterworks area. I lost count of how many times my daughter went down the water slides. All of the kids using the area seemed well behaved. I didn't see any kids who were being rude, pushing kids out of the way to be first, etc. This is also a good place to be if things were to get out of hand by the main pool. You can't see it from the Waterworks area. We never saw anything in poor taste, but, if we did, this would have been a good place to escape.
The ports we visited were Nassau and Freeport. We had never been to the Bahamas and were looking forward to exploring the area.
We opted not to book an excursion in Nassau as I had done research and thought Junkanoo Beach would be a good option for us. It was about a 10-15 minute walk from the pier. The water was beautiful but the beach part was just "so-so". We saw a lot of garbage and even broken glass in the sand! We still enjoyed our time there just relaxing in the sun. We decided to head back to the ship for lunch then go back out to walk around. My daughter wanted to have her hair braided. We found a place that had several ladies under a sheltered area waiting for customers. They would ask if you wanted braids, but were not pushy. I felt comfortable stopping there. We paid 3.00 per braid plus I gave a little extra for a tip. There was a flat rate if you were getting half head or full head braided. We also walked the Queen's staircase. A local man came up to us an told us the history of the staircase. We also paid a dollar per person to go up in the fort. The view up there is spectacular. You can see the city, the ships and Atlantic from up there. Great place to take pictures.
We booked a snorkeling excursion in Freeport through Pat and Diane's. I found out about them here on Cruise Critic. They pick you up right at the pier and take you to Lucaya. You then board the boat for a short ride to the reef. We were given 45 minutes in the water to snorkel. They will even take your kids out for you so you can enjoy some time in the water by yourself. The reef was beautiful and there were a lot of different types of fish. The water was really choppy and a little cold, so, my daughter didn't stay in for long. Our son lasted about 20 minutes before he got tired. Most people were back on the boat before the 45 minutes were over. We had time after the excursion to walk around the shops and enjoy a drink in a coconut shell. We called it a day around 1:30 and headed back to the ship. From what we could tell, there isn't much to do in Freeport without a booked excursion. We were told by our table mates that the beach at Lucaya was not good. They walked on the beach and immediately left.
Our kids did spend some time at Camp Carnival. They were in two different age groups. We did not allow our son to sign himself in and out as he had only been 9 for about 2 weeks before our cruise. Both kids seemed to have a good time although they couldn't really point out details of what they did. They went each night after dinner from about 7:30 until the 10:00 pick up time. After 10:00 p.m. they had after hours activities charged at an hourly rate. One night there was late night party. For a flat fee, the kids went to their respective areas for games and various activities. They also gave them a neat little bag with a few goodies inside. The 7 year old could stay until 1 a.m. and the 9 year old until 3 a.m. If the kids stayed until 3, they would bring your child back to the cabin as long as an adult was present. Our son left at 1 when we picked up our daughter. He was worn out from the day's events. We aren't late people and all of the other nights, we were in bed by 10. No late night partying for us!
Leaving the ship was a pretty easy process. The Fantasy is the only ship to do a Silent Debarkation process. They make no announcements. The information is posted on the television. We had too much luggage to do the self assist option so we had to do the Relaxed Debarkation. If you choose this option, you put your luggage outside of your room the night before and they will have it waiting for you in the terminal for you to pick up before you go to customs.I wish we had realized that we would be collecting our luggage at this time and hauling it to the parking area ourselves. After all of the Self Assist passengers have been called to leave, they start posting the notices for the other areas to leave. By this time, you are already in the lounge area watching the jumbo screen waiting for your deck to come up.When it was out turn,we were led to the exit by a crew member. We put our sign and sail card in the machine and heard the "chime" for the last time. We then walked down the ramp to go through customs. Since we aren't big shoppers, we had nothing to declare. After that, you had to load your luggage onto the shuttle to be taken back to the parking area. This was a very slow process and the buses were quite small. Even after all of the waiting, we were still back in our car and on the road by 10 a.m. It amazes me how quickly they can clear a ship.
Overall, we loved the ship. We found it easy to navigate and even let the kids go get ice cream by themselves a few times. We would definitely go on the Fantasy again . However, we would like to visit somewhere other than the Bahamas.