Overall we had a good cruise and are happy with the value that Carnival provides. Any negatives are meant to inform only - we had a good time and would recommend the cruise and itinerary. We traveled as a couple, and in our mid to late forties. We're pretty laid back and the idea was just to go to relax, although my partner pulled an abs muscle just before we went, so it really became more of a convalescence cruise! Extreme sports were out, the gym was out, the stairs were out.
We spent the first night in Shem's Creek Inn - what a great little hotel. We had a room overlooking the creek, although it was too cold to enjoy. That was just luck of the draw. Welcoming front desk staff and a nice room to get a little sleep before boarding the next day. Adequate continental breakfast. I enjoyed the boardwalk the next morning - oh and hats off to La Pizzeria which is just around the corner, and authentic Italian. Note there's also easy driving access to both a grocery store and a drugstore if desired. And lots of places to eat just next store to the hotel as well. Just be sure to snag marsh side or the end away from the bar if you want some quiet in your room! They arranged our cab the night before and we left our car there for the duration of the cruise. Came back to it safe and sound.
I must say Faster To The Fun (FTTF) was so worth it. Once we cleared security it took us maybe fifteen minutes to clear check in, pictures and get on board and in our room - which was ready! Down to all the gifts being there and the birthday decorations hung. Our bags showed up within another hour, hour and a half - so I was able to get us all unpacked and we still had lots of time to enjoy the "first" day. FTTF also got us straight on a tender at HMC with no waiting, and while we had to wait for an hour for customs to clear us to disembark, once that happened, got us straight off the boat and on our way at the end of the cruise. That $50 covers everyone in your cabin. Again. Best. Value. Ever.
An issue that the Fantasy couldn't control - the bad seas leaving port the first night and next morning made for a rocky start (pun intended). Ginger pills and ginger candy and seabands, my usual go tos, didn't help at all. The staff was so sympathetic and kept me supplied in rolls at dinner (all I could keep down) and gave me advice on what to not eat (anything greasy, don't drink too much water, etc.). I finally took the meclazine...the stuff puts me right to sleep so it's a last resort for me. It took the edge off and knocked me out, but it wasn't until around 2:00 the next day the last of my queasiness disappeared.
At that point we had our roll call Meet & Greet - wow, great folks - it was so good to have friendly faces to run into the rest of the cruise and by then a beer went down just fine!
Kudos to I Wayan, our cabin ninja, for keeping our stateroom perfect the whole cruise. He and his team kept us in ice and made sure to snag me a hair dryer when requested (I recommend you do so first thing if you need one - the one we got put out a lot of air, but not very hot - something to remember if you use heat activated styling products).
We have sailed one other cruise - the Fantasy, two years ago, same room, just a different itinerary.
What was the same? Great staff for the most part (there are always a few sour and dour apples, but mostly everyone is friendly, works to remember your name and really helps you feel at home). Another kudos goes out to Ria, our waitress in AT dining. She always put a smile on our faces, knew our names, and took time to chat with us. She made our cruise this time -so 5.5 stars for her. The evening hosts in Celebration were also first class - I wish I'd gotten their names but they always made us feel welcome as well.
Different better? No sewage smell in the stairway - yay - whatever was fixed that made the whole trip more pleasant.
Different worse? Um, the food. It really was uninspired this time. Which was disappointing. On our first cruise we were hard pressed to find anything we didn't like, this time, the buffet really was - well - mostly fried, greasy, too saucy and salty and just - well - unimaginative. So this time while we certainly didn't go hungry it was more like we had much less of selections of things we liked at the buffet. Dining room wasn't bad for dinner but unlike our first trip wasn't amazing. Just good. I did like the Indian, most of the vegetarian dishes and there is a basa filet (some award winning dish) I'd suggest trying. And the new pizza - just - well - nothing special. And darn, the hot chocolate that I remembered so fondly was kind of sad too.
So after this cruise I would recommend going for the more exotic sounding things - like on the buffet the curried jicama salad for example was one of the better options.
All that said, though, the desserts were always amazing. Especially anything with cream. The pastry chef gets 5.5 stars.
We did the Chef's table. Not quite the over the top experience I thought it would be based on other reviews, as I must say it was a little "stiff". Each dish was amazing - except the last beef dish - salty, one dimensional and my cut was just stringy and tough - sort of like a bad attempt at pot roast. Funny when everything else was really well done and so many inspired flavor combinations - so not sure what happened with this one! Chef Stanley was very nice although it was a little hard to understand or hear (we were at other end of table). Oh and the dinner music from the atrium was so laughable - not exactly what you want to hear with a nice dinner. Someone planning that didn't think that through. Some nice jazz would have been good - not choices like Stairway To Heaven - grin! You have it in the library, so there's no avoiding it.
Also did the Behind The Fun tour - and I found that very enjoyable. I recommend it - Joel, our tour guide (who is also the corporate trainer) gets 5.5 stars as well. He was probably telling the same jokes as always but it didn't sound rehearsed and he was so warm and easy to ask questions of. The engine control room was my personal favorite - fascinating. But you get to see lots of stuff and even got to do the revolving silver doors into the galley - don't ask me why but I get a kick out of silly stuff like that.
My only gripe was the towel folding was held during our tour - it was the ONE thing we wanted to do. Last time we bought the book but it's a little hard to follow. Please understand, we aren't into the trivia, shopping stuff, bingo, shows, or do-it-yourself-making-fun-of-people kind of entertainment. We really like to learn stuff - and we know there is a dearth of that on Carnival ships. So we were prepped for that. But I just was like - okay, people that want to learn stuff would take the BTF tour - so why would you schedule one of the few "learning" activities at the same time? Facepalm!
On to the ports...
Grand Turk was beautiful - went snorkeling with Grand Turk divers - Jake was a great, fun guide who took good care of us. Even gave us some freediving pointers. If we ever take a land vacation we'll go back there and maybe learn to scuba dive. Happily my partner wasn't feeling any pain that day and snorkeling seemed to be okay to do.
Unfortunately, though, we went all the same places the big cruise tours went so we didn't avoid the ton. I'd recommend keeping with a tour that's all snorkeling. The sting rays at Gibbs Cay aren't a given so while I'd really hoped to get some interaction it didn't happen and we ended up feeling like we didn't get enough snorkeling in even though the tour was longer.
HMC - well, it's a lovely island but not much to do. If we do it again we'll get an excursion like the snorkeling. Glad we didn't rent a cabana or villa. The pirate ship bar is so loud you can't escape the noise and music from even the furthest cabana. I did like all the many shaded picnic cabanas around the BBQ pavillion. That was nice respite. Fun to see the chickens running about looking for handouts. We wandered the nature walk - short and sweet, and I was thinking the the guided tour might have been nice. Take in consideration again all sports were out for us - otherwise renting a kayak might have been a fun thing to do to see the lagoon. Locker rental, fyi, at the sports centers are about $8.00 a day. We needed two as we brought snorkel equipment as well as towels. We didn't try the snorkel area, though - it was over by the playground and private cabana - felt ridiculous to even try it, and there is absolutely nothing to see the rest of the beach.
Nassau redeemed itself. Last time we did a walking tour of the Staircase and fort - ugh. So touristy and crowded and miserable. This time we took the #10 jitney to Ardastra zoo and gardens early before the crowd and really enjoyed their exhibits and feeding the Lorries. It's a beautiful little zoo and seems well done. My aunt works at a teaching zoo and it reminded me of there - looks like some thought has been put into the exhibit sizes and areas. Maybe not ideal but not the exploitative zoo you might find in a foreign country (or even back home in the cherokees). Then we hiked it back over to the library (which used to be a jail for pirates). Not a tourist to be found there. A nice catwalk and very nice librarians there to answer your questions. I felt we spent our donation money wisely :-)
Finally - I must say this was great crowd on this cruise. I think we were close to sold out (hard to find chairs sometimes out on any deck) but everyone seemed in a good mood, nothing too rowdy, but everyone having a great time, nice mix of older, younger, families and singles.
Let's see...some last things...favorite drink was the tiramirsu martini. In the gift shop for $10 they have color changing nail polish...like silver until you go out in the sun, then it turns red. Be sure to look for that! The Happy BDay decorations were nice - they really added some zing to the cabin. They didn't ruin the majestic bar by adding the sports TVs - thank goodness. Yes they are there, but unobtrusive. It's still my favorite place to go relax. There is not the unlimited internet package John Heald promised after the last drydock. Something about them changing internet service providers. And sadly everytime we wanted cartoon channel (remember I had a convelescing male on my hands) was when the satellite went out! Which was quite often. Just keep that in mind :-)
Oh and I ordered a bottle of Limoncello for the room - it's my partner's favorite. I wasn't into it ... until the last night when I found it mixes up really well with the soft serve vanilla ice cream...now that was a fun smoothie cocktail! We dubbed it the Limonchilla and will be making it at home to remind us of sunny beautiful ports of call and our very pleasant December cruise on the Fantasy.