My husband and I have cruised with Carnival many times before and this was our second time on the Fantasy with this itinerary. We chose it because a) we are a 3 hour drive from Charleston, b) it was 5 days over a weekend so my daughter wouldn't miss too much school and c) it sailed the day after my daughters 13th birthday and this was her gift.
We chose to drive down late Thursday night and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Savannah Hwy (Rt. 17). I got a decent deal on Hotwire for the room as one of their secret rates and we paid $99 incl taxes. The room was nice enough and they had a free continental breakfast in the morning. (which we chose to skip as we LOVE Toast of Charleston and had already planned to eat breakfast there!).
As I said before, we sailed on the Fantasy in March 2012 and were under-impressed at that time. Being lovers of CCL we were hoping that it was just a fluke and booked again. Neither of us are "high maintenance" nor do we demand 5 star service or quality but we do like to get our money's worth. The Fantasy is an old girl. (Nothing wrong with that, I am too!) She's kept clean and comfortable and the environment is quite friendly. A previous review compares her to an old pair of jeans which is very accurate! Since we had our daughter with us, we had a room with a Pullman bed. It was a little tight quarters, however, it was nice and we weren't in the cabin much.
We enjoyed the cruise overall. The highlights were:
♥ our Jubiliee wait staff (Putra, Iggy, Myo) they were fabulous. Very personable, helpful and fun. They were even successful in convincing my very shy daughter to dance with them!
♥ CCL did a fantastic job with pairing the dinner company. We had 2 other families at our table (both with daughters, although a few years younger than ours). We found we all had similar backgrounds and careers which made for pleasant dinner conversations.
♥ the staff in the casino were a LOT of fun! Ni, our waitress, knew exactly what we liked after our first order and continued to keep them coming. The dealers, Priestly, Maxwell, Saruuli and Daniela and the pit bosses, Lee & Maricel (I hope I remembered that right) made the time spent in the casino enjoyable
♥ Our excursion in Nassau. We booked Balmoral Island Beach Deluxe and I'll tell you about that in more detail in a minute.
♥ SURPRISE BONUS: the CHEERS program was offered. For some reason we had it in our heads that this program was only available on 7 day + trips so we were pleasantly surprised to see the sign up table. We have previously taken advantage of this program and it certainly saves us money.
♥ Disembarking this ship was the fastest, smoothest experience we've had
The not so great:
â˜º the food was still a little disappointing. Now, please remember, I'm not comparing them to RC or Norwegian, only to other Carnival ships. AND, I'm not saying it was terrible, but there was certainly room for improvement. We ate dinner in the dining room every night and there wasn't anything that really stood out as wonderful. As a matter of fact, one family dining with us, sent their food back EVERY NIGHT! (which we thought was a little ridiculous). Lunches were generally the Deli or Rotisserie. I wasn't a huge fan of the Mongolian Wok on this cruise as I generally am.
â˜ºour room stewards "missed" our room 2 of the 5 nights we were onboard. We had to call for service and STILL had to call again for deck towels (or just sign them out from the Lido Deck).
â˜ºwe were unable to get seats for ANY of the comedy shows as the lines started forming an hour prior to the show and the Forum Auditorium is fairly small (she IS an old ship remember...)
♦ The only HORRIBLE thing was the Motor City show! WOW. That's about all I could say. The singing was terrible and we just kept looking at each other in disbelief. We usually enjoy the shows on the ship but this one was just bad.
♠ Excursions: Nassau ~ Balmoral Beach Day Deluxe. Nice 30 minute ferry ride to a semi-private island (shared with Sandals) and narrated by a rather amusing tour guide. You then arrive to the small white sand beach, peppered with white umbrellas, chaise lounges and high top bar tables. Waitstaff greet you and cater to your needs (which are chargeable to your S&S card!). With the deluxe excursion our lunch and one non alcoholic beverage were included. The food wasn't bad. I'd compare it to a "higher end" fast food/family restaurant. Cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, hot dogs. No one in my group complained. (Although that same family from dinner complained about that as well). The beach area and water were fantastic. There is also a nice pool area with cabanas available for rental. Our dissatisfied dinner companions expressed a desire for the seaweed to be "cleaned out" of the ocean before we arrived... REALLY? Anyway, I'd rate this excursion as a 4+. Probably the second best excursion through CCL that we've ever booked.
♠ In Freeport we were supposed to do the bike tour but it was cancelled for lack of interest. Good news is we received almost $300 in OBC as a result!!
Overall, as I said, it was an enjoyable 5 days. For the purpose of my daughters first cruise it was perfect. We couldn't have asked for nicer weather. Mother Nature even put on a show for us on the way back to Charleston as a water spout accompanied us off the Port side for a good 10 minutes or so... My husband and I probably will NOT book this one again, as we've done it twice and both times were adequate but we've had better times on other CCL ships.