We have never sailed out of Charleston before, and were aware that the Carnival Fantasy is an older ship that does not offer many balcony rooms, etc. So we booked an interior room on the main floor for a quick getaway and a chance to visit the city of Charleston.
First of all I drove to Charleston and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at 1943 Savannah Highway, and took advantage of their cruise package. They were organized and prompt in regards to their shuttle service. The room was very clean. They provided a highly recommended map of Charleston that enabled me to visit the city.
Although the Fantasy is an older ship I noticed it was clean. I wanted early seating, but since we booked late (within a month of sailing) we were assigned any time dining. Fortunately, we were assigned a table that was ideal for us. We asked if we could remain at that table. They were kind enough to agree as long as we would come at the same time each night.
The food in the Celebration dining room was excellent in my opinion, along with the service. Braised beef ribs was my favorite entrée and the Grand Mariner Soufflé was my favorite dessert. The main buffet also seemed as good, or better than most of the cruises I have been on (i.e. mostly Carnival and RCI).
One of the main factors is simply the weather, which is not under any company's control. However, it was excellent for our cruise. We have been to both Nassau and Freeport before, so we simply stayed on the ship. We enjoyed the pools, hot tubs, and entertainment. I have no complaints, and felt it was a good value. Some of my fellow passengers would smoke in the wrong areas, although it was clearly noted on the Lido deck. A gentle reminder was observed from Carnival staff when pointed out to these individuals, and only if someone would bring it to their attention. Most of the smokers simply were not aware of the rules, or would push their luck a bit (such as at the serenity area).
I understand the locals are not fond of the cruise ship industry, yet I spent my money and made sure the shops in Charleston were aware I was in their city because of the Fantasy. The shuttle driver was very friendly and we discussed this. Indeed, the disembarkation is done silently, with no announcements due to complaints by those who live in the city. It actually worked quite well. Expect embarkation to be a bit odd as there is a lot of construction around the port at this time. We stood in a canvas hut for about 15 minutes during the embarkation process, but it wasn't that bad since the weather was good. I was standing outside for about 10 minutes for my shuttle during disembarkation.
I certainly would, and probably will, return for another cruise from the Port of Charleston in the future. However, I do realize if the weather had of been rainy our experience with embarkation and disembarkation could take a different turn.