Well, I have decided to write a review about our recent cruise on the Fantasy, this is our 2nd cruise on the Fantasy. First things first - about us, we are your average family of four (oldest is out on her own) So, we have dad, mom and a 15 yr. old son for this trip.
So, let us begin with what we call .... Zero Day - this is the day we leave home headed to the port. We can be worry warts so we always leave the day before sailing and spend the night - this way we aren't stressed and are well rested for the vacay to start. We live outside of Knoxville TN, so the drive to Charleston is only about 6 hours or so. This trip we opted to stay in the Mt. Pleasant area just north of downtown. We stayed at the Best Western Mt. Pleasant and found it to be just what we needed - the room was clean and the staff friendly. Although we did not use the service, I understand if you stay here you can leave your car here for the duration of the cruise for free - they have a shuttle that will take you to the ship. Since I was in my new car, we opted for the indoor parking at the port.
Since we arrived midafternoon, we were able to get checked in and had the rest of the day to ourselves. It is a short drive across a bridge to downtown - we found a parking garage and then commenced to walking around downtown. We have been to Charleston several times and simple love this city. There is always something to see and if you have never been here I would recommend you come a day or two ahead of your cruise and enjoy the history. We had a great meal at the Crab House next to the open air market and then walked around to burn a few calories, since we knew we would be taking in more calories than we were planning on burning the next few days. After a wonderful walk and some picture taking we headed back across the bridge to the hotel to call it a night.
Next morning we grab a quick bit from the complimentary breakfast, loaded the bags back into the car and headed to the port. This is our second time on the fantasy and I have to say last time the parking situation/procedure went a lot smoother, but none the less it wasn't terrible difficult - it was just about an hour longer than last time. Now, once you drop off your checked bags, wait in line for them to open the parking (this is where all the waiting happens). Once things start to move they proceed pretty fast. We followed the cone race track around, entered this huge warehouse and were directed to our spot. From here you walk with your carry-ons a short distance and board a shuttle to the ship. It would be an easy walk to the terminal, but they won't let you and that is probably a good thing since some people doing the wrong thing can cause problems for everyone. Once the shuttle drops you off you enter the terminal check in get your Sign and Sail card, get your welcome aboard picture made, walk up some stairs, give your card to the nice folks there and then hear the wonderful beep logging you onto the ship - up the gangway and here you are deck 7 Empress and in the Atrium.
We were still early but decided to go see if our cabin was ready (U158) and sure enough it was - dropped off the carry-ons and off to Windows By the Sea for lunch. I think we all had burgers, chicken strips and fries - they were good. Then we headed to the Lido bar and purchased the Bubbles Sticker for our son. The wife and I don't drink that many soft drinks so we didn't need to sign up. If you have kids/teens or your drink a lot of soft drinks I would recommend the Bubbles program, our son never had a problem getting a soda.
We headed back to the room to see if the bags had arrived and they had, so a quick unpack was in order. We headed to our muster station for the drill - we wish people would follow instructions, if they had it would have been quicker. I personally don't care if you pay attention or not, just show up so the crew can get a good count and we can sail away ...
After this we watched the sail away for a bit and then headed to the cabin to get ready for dinner. We like the anytime dining and were sat in the same area each evening - our wait staff was awesome and so was the melting cake ... After dinner the teen went to Club O2, while we relaxed and wondered around. I will talk some more about Club O2 later on. It had been a full day so the wife and I went to the room and relaxed. I think I started a new cruise tradition for my self - I ordered the first of what became a nightly room service order of a BLT.
I thought we might talk about food. Since we are a family, we have a couple of rules that we follow – well, actually really just one hard and fast rule. What might this rule be, well I will tell you we eat breakfast together and we have supper/dinner as a family unit – lunch can be on your own – when, what and where you choose. We like the MDR for breakfast and on sea days they have the brunch – so guess what, that is where we went – like I mentioned earlier we had the ‘anytime dining’ and as such we were assigned to the Celebration MDR. I guess this is as good a time as any to discuss the food situation – there is a lot of it and it is pretty awesome. I think we tried just about everything there was to try – we tried the regular menu, the daily menu, the Wok, the Grill, the deli, room service, the coffee place and even the sushi. With one exception – I was never served anything that did not taste great. I am taking a suspenseful break now ….. I know you are wondering what it could be, what it was that we did not like ……. Wait for it ….. Okay, it was the pizza. I tried it last cruise and it was bad – I figured what the heck, different time, different crew maybe it had got better – well it had not, I am not sure what or how to describe its shortcomings – we decided it was the sauce or lack thereof, that was messing things up. We have a cruise tentatively planned for this October, I will try the pizza again – will be a different ship, hopefully it will be better – it was really quiet disappointing. Okay, back to the good – Breakfast, I generally had steak and eggs for breakfast with a side of waffles – always cooked as ordered and delivered in a timely fashion. The menu was broad enough to suit all of us – fresh fruit, bagels and the usual fair. For our lunch we mostly grabbed a hamburger or some chicken strips from the grill on the lido deck. The consensus was the chicken was pretty good – the burgers were too. I am curious to try Guy’s Burgers if I am ever on a Carnival ship that has them – sad face the Fantasy does not. We were lucky one day and the Wok had little to no line – decided to give it a try. It is similar to most Mongolian grills we have attended – you pick your raw veggies, noodles etc… then hand them off to the cook, tell him what meat and what sauce you want …. A little magic happens, and boom they hand it back and off you go. It was really good, but with this caveat – I, personally would not wait in the line that is normally present – it takes too long, but if the line is short or you don’t mind waiting 15-30 minutes – go for it. The buffets had various dishes, I don’t remember eating a lot of stuff from there – our son did and found 3 or 4 things he really liked. I had room service deliver a BLT every night – I think it will be a new tradition for me. Room service was always really fast – my order was incorrect one night, but fixed in less than 5 minutes – Plan on gaining a few pounds.
Okay, next let us talk about the ports of call. On this particular cruise we visited Nassau and Freeport. The wife and I had been to both before, but they were new to the son. Last August my wife and I booked a snorkeling excursion through carnival and frankly I was disappointed with it. So, this time around I did a bit of research and emailed a couple third party providers. We opted to book another snorkeling trip and selected Blue Hole Watersports. Folks it was a win/win choice – first, it was less money. The trip in August we were herded up, lead in a large group, ushered onto a catamaran – no personal treatment – we got to the spot and were told we had 45 minutes starting now. THIS TIME – we made our way to Blue Hole – it is about a 10 minute walk from the pier – you get there by walking through the British Colonial Hotel (which looks completely AWESOME) down a walkway and you are there. A super nice gentleman with a very British name, Basil, greets you with a big smile and a handshake. We had our own masks and snorkels (they provide the stuff if you need it) picked out fins and boarded the boat. Last time there were probably 100 people on our excursion – this time we had a grand total of 9! Basil took us by the Atlantis marina – truly some yachts in there that are straight out of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. While making our way to the reef we heard about different movies filmed in and around Nassau, about celebrities with houses there, pirates and the efforts to regulate and protect the area. When we arrived at the reef Basil did his utmost to ensure all of us were comfortable with the gear. Basil actually taught me something that I must share – I have some facial hair and in the past I have always had some water leak into the mask because it prevents a completely tight seal. Well, Basil handed me a jar of Vaseline and told me to put a big dab under my nose – this was awesome! My mask sealed better than ever and from now on I will carry a small jar for snorkeling and have dubbed it the Basil Method of Masking. The reef was awesome – much better than our last trip – more fish, more types of fish and better coral formations. I can recommend Basil and his group whole heartedly. We did our trip early (9:30am) and afterwards we did a little walking and shopping. I am kinda a through back in that my son and I use vintage single edge razors – so, I always like to look in drug stores or markets to see what might be available thee as opposed to where we live – I wasn’t disappointed and picked up a few blades and another razor. Our biggest worry for this excursion was the water temperature – last August it was really warm and since this was mid-March I wasn’t sure what to expect. The water temp was cool at first but after a few minutes it was fine. We were in the water about an hour and then it became a little noticeable but by then I was ready to get out anyway. Basil took use back a different way around in front of Atlantis Resort – it was a great day.
Freeport was our other stop – I think I have been here all I care to be here. The pier area has a few shops and Senor Frogs, otherwise you have to take a taxi or book an excursion because the town is 15 – 20 minute ride away. We really enjoyed Senor Frogs last August and this time was no different – they do an awesome job at keeping a party atmosphere going regardless of the time of day. I think Freeport is worth a visit, but after that it is kind of a wasted day – I would have much rather spent the day at Little Stirrup.
I guess I will conclude my review – hopefully it hasn’t been the worst in the history of reviews. I wanted to talk about the physical condition of the ship, our cabin and the common areas. I would like to comment on the staff we encountered, Club O2 and our fellow passengers. First up, fellow passengers – I am not sure why I had a mental disconnect with reality, I mean, I knew our son was on spring break – that is why we were on this particular cruise. I was blissfully unaware that, what seemed like the entire SEC, ACC, and every school in the south eastern U.S. was on spring break and many of them decided to cruise with us. I have never been on a cruise where there were so many college students on board … it was crazy. Having said that, for the most part we had no issues with all of these kids – in fact we only had 3 minor issues – I guess some people have to get stupid drunk to have fun. So for there to be so many kids, drinking way too much – I think it was really a non-issue. Of course I wish they had raised the age restriction for the serenity deck – both hot tubs were full of college kids with the occasional old creepy guy trying to be young again every time we were out there. I don’t care what I read or hear about the “type” of passenger Carnival attracts – we like our cruise mates and have keep in touch with several of them through email, texts and social media. In our humble opinion everyone we encountered are genuine friendly people – so give yourselves a hand.
Now on to staff – we were in U158, a port side ocean view with upper. Our cabin steward was Andy. Hands down Andy has been the best one we have ever had – he treated us very well, treated our son very well, always spoke and we never had to ask for anything after the first day – once Andy knew what we needed he was “Andy on the Spot” so to speak. Our dining room staff stayed the same throughout the cruise even though we were anytime dining. It was our head waiters last contract and he did very well, his wife was also on the crew and he brought her over on evening for us to meet – it was awesome. The others on our team were just as good – we had a young man from Hungary that my family all liked very much – he was very grateful when we ask him to teach us “thank you and please” in Hungarian. All in all, every crew member was respectful, nice and accommodating – they all work very hard. The only thing we did not like as much this time as our last cruise on Fantasy was the cruise director. I can’t say she did a bad job – I just think our last one (Risa) was exceptional, at least to us.
Now – I want to talk about the kids clubs, specifically Club O2. I can’t really comment on the others as we have no children young enough to partake in those clubs. However, if our sons experience is any indication then they should be pretty good. Our teen was a little apprehensive about the whole thing and tried to avoid it – we actively encouraged him along and bay actively encouraged him we forced him to go the first night. We did not see him until a little after midnight – he made some friends immediately and that was all it took. I think his age group generally used the club as a meeting spot during the day and a hang out at night – they usually finished the evening with ice cream on the lido deck. Our son had wanted to bring a friend along on the cruise and it didn’t work out that they could come – after this cruise our son stated he was glad he hadn’t brought a friend and that he didn’t think he actually wanted to have one come on the next cruise. So, if this is any indication as to the kids programs I think Carnival is doing a good job!
The ship is the oldest in the Carnival fleet, we like the size doesn’t take very long to figure out the layout and to get around. The crew does a good job keeping the common areas clean and in order. We do have two issues – the first is a common complaint and one that I don’t think will ever get fixed – chair hogs, you know the people who put there crap on a chair next to the pool or on the serenity deck and then leave for 3 or 4 hours – those people. I wish the staff could or would clear that stuff away. Secondly, this has been an “issue” for us in the past, not sure much can be done about it either – I know it’s a ship and it is an ocean and …. I spent 8 years in the Navy …. We, book an ocean view cabin, it is what we like, I want my window to be CLEANED – this time it was especially frustrating because there was a group of dolphins I tried to get pictures of out our window but it was too covered in salt and whatever to get any good ones.
So, to sum up our spring break cruise – it was a cruise so therefore it was and will continue to be AWESOME. I will pay more attention to the college spring break schedule next time, but it spring break would not keep me from booking if the dates and ports work with my schedule. The Fantasy is a small cozy ship that feels familiar – she is well kept. We enjoyed our cruise and are looking forward to our next. If there are any specific questions just ask and I will try to answer. Thanks for reading