There are not too many reviews which discuss brining an infant on the ship which is simply because not many do. This is my 11th cruise and normally I do not post reviews however this cruise might make it become a normal end to the trip!
We decided to bring our son (8 months old at sailing) on his first cruise last Spring when rates dropped and financially it seemed like to great of a deal to pass up (especially considering we had a certificate from Carnival to use by March 14)
There are various reviews out there about taking an infant - many say absolutely others say don't you dare! Here's our experience
First a note on our packing: We packed two sets of diaper sleeves, two formula, four bottles, disposable spoons and mats, high chair cover, a few toys, baby food, and lots of outfits - we made sure to carry this on as a seperate duffle to pack at the end of the trip in the suitcase - we ended up with one sleeve of diapers left and a box of formula but better safe than sorry on that as you can't buy them on the ship
We arrived in Charleston on Thursday night and spent the evening at the Marriott near the airport on Tanger Outlet drive. I highly recommend leaving the night before if you are traveling with an infant as it allows you to have a much more laid back embarkation day. The Marriott was fantastic, they served a great breakfast on the house and were right next to the Outlets. We ended up spending an hour there before heading to the port.
Charleston as an embarkation spot was fantastic - more on debarkation later. I would highly suggest arriving early (we arrived at 11am) as I have heard lines tend to form throughout the day. The parking was organized they took our bags etc. After parking you did have to take the shuttle - my husband and I think walking would have been easier than taking our son in and out of the stroller.
I will say that everyone was very friendly at the port - we actually got put in the shortest line at security and to check in simply because they recognized that waiting in line with a baby could spell trouble * We did not ask or even indicate this - it was just a nice gesture by Carnival that was beyond appreciated
When boarding you cannot place the baby in the stroller and the ramps are about three deep to reach the ship - with just a baby it's not a big deal but add our carry on's plus stroller plus baby and you have a lot to carry! I was more than relieved when we arrived at the buffet and sat everything down.
Rooms were ready right on time! Our room was Interior and on the U Deck - the only complaint I would even attempt at making is that there are no mini fridges. I would have loved to pre-make some bottles to chill but could not do so. Otherwise they were great.
The Fantasy overall is a fantastic ship in my opinion. I knew it was the oldest in the fleet prior to sailing and cannot say in anyway that it looked it. Much to my delight our son was able to play in the waterworks area - on port days noone was there and he had it all to himself to explore and discover - it made for some great memories. Though some have reported there is no sushi (one of my favorites from Carnival) but they have changed it to an intnerantional selection featuring different tastes each night. (i.e. Italian, French etc)
VIP - I have seen perks go down on Carnival with regards to free drinks. Though I am not a heavy drinker by any means it is a sad thing to see. At the Captains Reception (now just a dollar off) and VIP Gold and Platinum have now been altered as well - they greeted you with a sugary drink that not many were loving. And then when I noticed wine and beer were being served we had to ask our server for them. I really did miss the trays with multiple selections and wonder if this is the norm on all cruises now. There was no farewell celebration which is usualy hidden in the funtimes on the last day. We did receive a free drink coupon (new) but there was poor communication on the coupon - you have to use them on days at sea, in the dinning room, for breakfest lunch or brunch. Keep that in mind so yours doesn't go to waste!
Photos - I would recommend anything with a prop for the lil one - if they are in a good mood let them snap away - we had so many great shots - especially from the pirate photos and if not for the price we would have bought way more than our favorite one!
For dinning we actually switched our second day to Any time Dinning. Simply because we wanted a private table to not disturb other guests. Our son thought the bread rolls were a great distraction and our waiter always greeted him first with the basket each night (we always ate around 5:45 as he would wind down at 6:30)
A slight complaint on the service - which is rare for us - they were slow.... we would get our appetizers right away but it would literally take about 30 minutes between entree and dessert which i have never had happen. It was a shame becuase if our son even remotely showed signs of frustration we would bail out of respect to both him and the others around us. and I love Chocolate Melting Cake so that was tough! I will say that on the last night we actually had to leave early and when i returned later to apologize for leaving without telling our waiter they got me two desserts right away! My husband and I spent our last night packing and having a melting cake picnic on the floor in our stateroom as our son napped in the bed but it was a memorable experience!
Now on to our favorite element - the staff. They went above and beyond for our lil one. By the end of the cruise i don't think there was anyone who didn't greet him by name with a smile which he returned to their delight. It was a fantastic time thanks to them.
Would I sail with an infant tomorrow - you bet! Is it true for everyone? no. Every child is different and on a different schedule more importantly. Our son is an expert crawler and loved exploring the Universal Lounge and trivia area during towel animal demonstrations and trivia sessions. I would recommend socks in the Waterworks area for the lil ones simply because it can be kind of rough on the feet. It might be different on our cruise next year when he's walking! We had three babies on our sailing that we know of. All three seemed happy and tolerant. I would highly recommend it to anyone - it's the perfect way to have a first family vacation!
That being said Charleston for Debarkation seemed incredibly opposite from what we experienced upon boarding. I wish we had actually investigated a speical needs debarkation as it would have been so much easier. The line to get to customs took thirty minutes in the humidity outside and then another 30 minutes to get on the shuttle and to parking. Over an hour of outdoor lines led our son to become a little less happy by the time we got to our car. And we were extremely frustrated, I begged the driver on teh shuttle to let us off the second we arrived in the garage but was told we had to wait until they unloaded the luggage... I actually was yelled at by a Carnival associate in the bag claim area because "I shouldn't be waiting in line with a baby" (he was actually handling things well at this point as we had gotten through the line to the bag area) To the older woman in the carnival outfit who told me this... Had I known there was another option, believe me lady we would have looked into it
It was sad to end the trip a little frustrated but before we got off the boat i'm happy to say it was close to perfect and definitely memorable. My husband is actually writting the line to thank them and we are booking our December 14 cruise this month