This was our thirty-first cruise and our fifteenth or so on Carnival. We knew what to expect.
We stayed at the Quality Inn and Suites in Mt. Pleasant, SC, a fifteen minute ride from the pier in Charleston, and participated in their Park and Cruise deal. We returned for two extra nights. It's a grea5t hotel adjacent to many of the Patriot Point museums and the restaurants in Mt. Pleasant. Had good on-time limo trips to and from the pier, courtesy of the hotel.
Embarkation was smooth and easy with priority boarding thanks to our frequent cruiser status. Took maybe ten minutes to get aboard.
Our cabin had been unassigned until boarding and we drew the short straw- We got cabin 224 on the Upper deck, port side as far aft as possible. It was a bit shaky during maneuvering but otherwise OK- Great steward service- he called me by name every time he saw me- anywhere. Always select your cabin in advance.
I was happy to see the lifeboat drill no longer requires you to wear your vest.
The ship had all the usual Carnival services, fun and games on deck, but let me outline a few things that stood out as comment-able. Fantasy bears evidence that it is old and a bit worn but not so bad as to detract from the cruise experience- more like a comfortable old sweater.
The food was "pedestrian". Granted it was a short cruise from leaving from the South with mostly locals on board, but there could have been a .little more variety. Little or no Asian food, mostly fried stuff, big emphasis on burgers and ordinary salads. The desserts were good. The crowd seemed to enjoy the fare though. the dinner menu in the dining room had one "everyday" menu of meat and potato comfort food and the other side had daily specials- But- the "Maine" lobster tails were small, such that they were teamed with shrimp to make up the volume. Each night there was one "Didja ever" dish, usually an appetizer, that was supposed to be a chance to try something "new". New maybe in the Deep South, but not especially new otherwise- things like sushi and frog's legs. Lamb was served as slices of leg of lamb- no chops. The prime rib was very good, cut to order in the Lido restaurant. The Main dining room service was very good. After dinner, it was nice to see the waiters sing again.
There was no lox and herring at breakfast, and that's my favorite, altho lox and bagels were available in the "Deli" on the Lido Deck where we usually ate lunch. No capers.
The deck activities were many and varied and the younger passengers seemed amused. There were a lot of heavy drinkers aboard- many groups hovering around repeated tubs of beer, but no drunken spectacles that I noticed.
I only went to one evening show, "The Brits" all about the music of the early 60's from England- It was fun. Well done. There were also a couple of comedians, and each did a regular and "adult" set. There were a few combos in the casino bar each night and a good folk singer female with a guitar in the atrium bar almost all the time. There was no band on deck- only a DJ and little or no reggae or ska- which was odd since we were in the Bahamas. The DJ played a lot of hip hop, which I learned to tolerate. The volume was high but OK. The deck chairs were uncomfortable, with a bar across the front of the seat. they were "woven" seats and the ones that were a bit worn sagged so as to cut off your blood to the legs. The Lido dining chairs were better.
My wife praised the casino and the casino staff. She usually spends a lot of time there. I played a little at the slots and doubled my $100 budget.
The city of Freeport, the first stop is pleasant but there really isnt much to do there but swim and snorkel. We went to The "Garden of the Groves" and had a pretty nice tour. The Grove family had much to do with developing Freeport. The market at Lucaya was hot and each shop displayed basically the same tsotchkes. There's not much that is particularly unique. And there was no place to sit down. Creepy local characters wanted to have us photograph them- There was a nice Starbucks coffee outlet there and we sheltered from the heat there.
In Nassau, there were 5 ships in at the same time- very crowded in town and very very hot. the walk to the town gate from the ship seemed like miles. It was routed to give maximum opportunity for the hawkers to pester you to take tours and carriage rides. We took a carriage ride- they charged us $40 for a ride of about twenty minutes and some woman who took out picture for us then demanded a $5 tip. The town generally was one shop after another and was an endless hustle. I would recommend you go out snorkeling or something and steer clear of town. There are a lot of restaurants. We got a cold drink near the pier in an ice cream shop that was doing a good business.
Debarkation in Charleston was fast and easy. We got off in the first group and the baggage recovery was without incident. Even the Customs guy was pleasant. I was pleasantly surprised.
All in all, it was a generic cruise, nothing either notably good or terminally bad. The ship staff was very nice, We had a good time, but we will take a longer cruise next time with more sea days. - more chance for relaxation.
Charleston is a great town in which to spend a few days wither pre- or post-cruise. It seemed like San Francisco with a southern accent, if that makes sense. They even had the harbor bridge.
You can find all sports of restaurants in town but there are also many in the Mt. Pleasant area over the bridge. Southern cooking, of course, predominates but the fish and steak selections are also available. I went to Shem Creek Bar and Grill in Mt. Pleasant- a Cajun fish place, and Sticky Fingers- a barbecue place nearby. Very good gumbo and ribs. with a nice waterside ambiance. In Charleston we took a city tour that included a boat trip to Fort Sumter- very interesting. We also took a regular Harbor tour, also very good. A nice air conditioned boat, but you can ride in the sun if you want.
The city tour went to all the Colonial and antebellum homes which were awesome. We also toured the grounds of the Citadel military academy. Very impressive.
Charleston kept us very occupied and we intend to go back to see the Patriot's Point Maritime Museum, where the USS Yorktown, a WW2 era destroyer, the USS Laffey, and a submarine, the USS Clamagore are berthed to visit. There are many military aircraft displayed on the deck of the carrier. The ships are also visible from the harbor tour boat.