We just returned from a five day cruise on the carnival fantasy to Freeport and Nassau and had a great experience with the ship, ports, and service. Dining was our only disappointment.
The boat - We were pleasantly surprised by the "aging" vessel and had perhaps over compensated for some lackluster prior reviews. The ship has a very retro, "90s Vegas" feel. Lots of neon colors and strip lights, it reminded me of the old Flamingo Hilton, but everything seemed very well maintained (One port day, they were replacing a bunch of the carpet, which hadn't even looked all that shabby before.) Very clean. Our cruise did not seem to be pushing capacity, comparatively few kids onboard, and usually space on the serenity deck except perhaps in the early afternoon.
Stateroom - We chose a porthole room on Riviera Deck at the front of the boat. These porthole rooms were the same price as an interior room when we booked, and it was a great upgrade. The room is 185 sq ft, so it's basically just enough room to walk around the king size bed, but more space honestly than we anticipated with three closets (one is mostly taken up by safety equipment). The portholes are small, but the natural light and sense of time of day were welcome. Our cabin steward, Budiarta, was excellent. There was noise in our room only when we were docking in the ports, which I think is felt all over the ship anyway. Very quiet.
Nassau - We took the city bus to Cable Beach and purchased a day pass at the Sheraton. The bus was $1.25/person and the day pass was $30/person, which included towel service, beach chairs, pool and ocean use, and all non-motorized equipment (snorkels, floats, kayaks). The beach was great. Plenty of chairs (though we got one of the last spots under a thatched palm umbrella when we arrived around 10:30AM). There were probably only 20 people on the beach the day we went, Thursday. The day we went was windy (red/yellow flag conditions) so snorkeling and kayaking weren't possible, but still very pleasant on beach. [Highly recommend this "off menu" excursion. To catch the bus, walk out of the terminal and head towards the right of the city. Walking down the main drag, the bus stop is down a ways, sort of near the Pirate Museum. We asked a uniformed police officer once and he was helpful in locating bus stop. The bus is pretty dirty, but reliable for us and certainly cheap. For $10 extra, the hotel includes lunch, a huge discount over their bar menu where most choices are $15-20 dollars, but don't expect much.]
Freeport - We took the Kayak and Nature excursion, which was awesome. The national park is a good drive away, part on a charter bus, part in a smaller van, probably 40 minutes in all, but both drivers narrated quite a bit of interesting history and trivia about the islands. Our particular guide for the kayaking section was very knowledgeable about all the varieties of plant and wildlife we encountered. The kayaking section was great even though we [two guys in late 20s] were pretty inexperienced at kayaking, especially in a two person boat. The scenery was incredible in mangrove forests in generally shallow water. For the most part, the physical level was pretty easy with little to no current in the tidal areas, one small section of rapids. [Now, there was a bit of an unscheduled addition to our kayaking trip with our guide taking us into the open ocean and around to a second pier, which was hard work to paddle against the tide. (One couple did tip over in this segment.) From other reviews, I don't think this is part of the tour for most groups, but for all of us, it was a very cool extra bonus on the end of the journey.] They then take you to a beach in Lucayan National Park for lunch. The beach was incredible with cool calm water and lots of white sand. We were there about an hour and change. Also highly recommend his excursion.
Onboard activities -
We went to the welcome show and the ship talent show, as it's fun to find out more about other cruisers. Risa, the cruise director, is great: low-key, never obnoxious, and good at getting people involved. Our cruise was over Halloween, so they held a costume contest and had a couple special movie screenings (The projector was fuzzy and we didn't stay for the whole thing, but it was a fun idea.) We also went to Hasbro the Gameshow (lots of fun), bingo (Brandon, the asst. cruise director, was good), and a round of trivia (the fun team member on that was phoning it in...). Casino was slightly smaller than I expected, but plenty of open machines at all times.
Saved it for last, but this is where the boat really missed the mark for us. Our dining staff was excellent, no complaints there. But for those who have attended college recently, most of the food is just one step up from the campus dining hall, even in the nicer dining rooms each evening. A few of the dishes were great (I liked the crabcake, for example. Several at our table loved the vegetable spring roll starter. The black rock shrimp are a good component of a couple dishes, better than the shrimp in the cocktail appetizer.) Most dishes were ho-hum and often didn't taste like anything, and I rarely finished my entree. Everything was underseasoned. We did not have high expectations, but this would likely make us curious about other options next time we go to book another cruise.
Room service is sandwiches only. (No french fries, chips, or sides to speak of on a very limited menu. The cookies might as well be Chips Ahoy.)
But overall, a great experience for us both and a memorable vacation.