Our family consisting of two grandparents, three adult parents, and three grand kids cruised July 21st to July 26th on a five day trip to the Bahamas on the Carnival Fantasy. Overall, it was an average cruise with some advantages and some drawbacks.
Embarkation: We live in N.C. so Charleston is close and easy to get to. However, the Port of Charleston needs much improvement. Only one ship from one line visits the port and there has not been a large investment in infrastructure. It seemed unorganized and took more time that we were used to just to deposit our bags, park our cars, and get into the terminal. Debarkation on the other hand was efficient and went smoothly. The facilities just are not there YET, but I suspect things will improve as time goes on and if more ships/lines service the port.
The Ship: The Fantasy is old but has been redone several times. Its biggest problem is its size and the number of PAX it puts on board. It is small and thus seemed very crowded especially at the pool and in the lido restaurant facilities. There were often long lines and insufficient tables/chairs. There is but one pool and the deck areas have insufficient seating. As a result, we saw folks quibbling over deck chairs. We saw two hot tubes which were always filled to the brim and had small children splashing about. They were definitely not adult friendly. There were so many people wanting to use the pool that one had to wait for a spot to open just to dangle your legs in the water. The biggest attraction for a family with children is the water park, a nice improvement, but if one wanted to watch the kids, there was no shade in the area so take the heavy duty sun screen.
State rooms: Very clean, but not up to par with the newer ships. There was not even a small refrigerator in the room. When we arrived, the cabin had neither hair dryer nor hand soap, but this shortcoming was quickly fixed. Unfortunately, we were one deck under the galley and late at night there was a considerable amount of noise plus at times there were strong food odors that entered our cabin via the A/C system. The halls were quite noise too. In fact, his was the noisiest ship I have been on in eleven cruises. The noise usually continued on our deck until about 1 AM.
Attendants: Outstanding. Our steward on the Empress Deck, Mr. Mustika, went overboard in trying to please us and our table waiters were excellent. Everyone on the crew tried their best to make the cruise pleasant. They are hard working people who will do what they can to please you.
Food: The evening meals were great, but the daytime food left much to be desired. There as a deli which served a limited selection and often the sandwiches were burned. The wok area had long lines, just as the hamburger and hotdog stand did. They were not worth writing home about. The lido deck buffet was limited and often closed. One thing I did like was the days at sea when the restaurants would open with a brunch which went from 9 AM to about 1:30 PM. It was geared mostly to breakfast, but the times were very convenient and the food was good. On the other hand, the lido deck breakfasts were only so-so.
Entertainment: All too often we were forced to view the production shows at 10 PM which is late for some and other nights there were no shows at all. There were a variety of other endeavors, but no substitute for the theater show. We had two comedian presentations (family friendly) and two (adult) shows during the cruise.
Overall: If you live in the Southeast and want a convenient port, Charleston is it. It is an older and smaller ship which tries to do a good job. The food during the day needs improvement and you will find it crowded. Would I do it again? Probably if there was not another ship doing the same thing. Every cruise has its good and bad and this was no different.