Let me start off by saying that, overall, our family had the most wonderful experience onboard the Carnival Fantasy in May of 2014. We have never sailed with Carnival before, but will definately be back and will most certainly recommend this cruise line to all of our friends and family.
We are a family of six. Our ages are two adults, 14, 12, 10 and 5. Because of our large crew we had to book two staterooms. This ship does not offer family suites that can accommodate more than five as other cruise lines do, but the value makes it affordable.
Because the price of airfare is outrageous we decided to drive into Charleston from Michigan. Finding the ship was easy. You could see it from a mile away. Getting to it, however, was a different story. Do not trust your GPS. It will lead you to a museum. Finally, after driving some time through downtown Charleston, we saw signs that simply said “CRUISE” with arrows. We followed these signs and ended up in a huge More
parking lot where our luggage was quickly taken out of our car and our passports were checked. We still didn’t know if this was our cruise, but hoped so since our luggage was taken. We were then told that we couldn’t park for another almost 2 hours. We left and got lost. After two hours we had to stop a police officer to ask where to go. We had no idea where to park. Finally we ended up back in the same place where we dropped our luggage off and were escorted to a huge warehouse where our car was to be parked for the duration of our cruise. This came with a price tag of $86. I guess this is a reasonable price considering parking in Chicago is that per day.
After parking we were bussed to the cruise terminal. A very short drive from the warehouse. We then waited in line at the cruise terminal for some time while our documents were checked again. This is where you get your sail and sign card(a magical card that you use for your identification, your room key and any purchases during your cruise.) You cannot use any other monetary forms once onboard. A word of wisdom to everyone. Be sure you keep track of what you are spending especially if you are on a budget. All funds do not come out of your account until several days AFTER your cruise. If you are using a debit card it would be super easy to overdraw your account.
After we received our room keys we went to our rooms to drop off our bags. We had rooms U130(an interior) and U80(a grand suite.) The interior was a cozy space. It had a large closet, a small bathroom with stand-up shower and enough room for three single beds. That’s about it. Be sure to bring your own alarm clock. They do not provide a clock of any sort and when you are in an interior you have no idea what time of day it is. The interior was nothing special, but everyone hung out in the suite anyway. The Grand Suite was amazing! When you entered the small hallway there was a walk-in closet to your left and the bathroom to your right. This was a full size bathroom complete with Jacuzzi tub/shower combo. Pass the hallway was a large living space with a king sized bed, a large vanity, a sitting area with a pull out sleeper sofa, coffee table, side tables, arm chair, wet bar area stocked full of wine glasses. After that was the highlight of the suite… the balcony! The balcony was complete with three deck chairs and enough space for six to watch the scenery as we sailed away. The only complaint I have about this suite it that there was no alarm clock and there was only ONE useable plug in the entire room to charge a cell phone, kindle, Nintendo ds, iPod, fan, curling iron… the list goes on. Note to self… bring a power strip next cruise. You will be amazed with your room steward. These people work extra hard. I think they hide around the corner because as soon as you leave your room it is cleaned up like magic. I swear they have a magic wand or something. My steward called me by name the minute I walked into my room and asked me if I had any special requests. I asked for ice and he delivered it twice a day! Impressive!
Lunch on the Lido was just average. Your normal grill items with a Mongolian Wok. The same throughout the cruise. They did add some different items to the buffet on a daily basis though to change it up a bit, but it was still a basic mass produced buffet. The deli was pretty good with simple sandwiches and the pizza was just ok. You had to wait quite a while if you wanted anything other than cheese and pepperoni. The buffet closes at 3pm, so the only options after that is either pizza or room service until dinner time.
We ate in the main dining room every night. This was the highlight of our cruise. The staff was exceptional! I cannot say enough positive things about our servers Maximo and Deddy! They knew us by name and treated us better than we have ever been treated in even the most finest of establishments. Maximo and Deddy anticipated our every need. They knew to bring chocolate milk to the boys and a martini to me as soon as we sat down. They knew our 5 year old was a picky eater and would not even think of a children’s menu. They treated us as if we were royalty. For our 5 year old they took time and made her little oragami’ and napkin animals that she treasures. She felt like a true princess when they catered to her. She even cried the last night of our cruise because she didn’t know who was going to cut her steak when we got home. As for the food… excellent. We tried things such as shark and alligator. Everything was presented so artfully. We almost hated to eat our masterpieces.
Breakfast at the buffet was just ok. The waffles were right from the package and cold(I actually witnessed this.) The only thing good was the omelette station. Seaday brunch at the main dining room was great. I wish they offered this every day. There were some very creative dishes. The best was room service for breakfast. Have your marked selections hanging on your door by 5am and they bring you what you wish at the exact time you choose. Be sure to order the bagel with smoked salmon. Delicious!
Room service had simple fare. Bring dollars to tip the staff. The taste bar was a nice addition. The ship map kept telling us there was a sushi bar, but to our disappointment we couldn’t find it.
The ship itself was rather small, but you could still find areas to have an intimate conversation. Cats lounge was festive with its décor, Cleopatra’s lounge was quiet and comfortable. There were three main bar areas and all were packed with the partiers. I purchased the Cheers program which was kind of convienient for me. You are allowed 15 alcoholic beverages with unlimited soda every day of your cruise(about $280 with taxes and gratuity.)I tried to drink my allotted beverages, but couldn’t. It was well worth it though.
The ONLY pool, other than the adults only pool was VERY small. There were 2 hot tubs. One of them was literally packed with 36 children. I counted. My kids refused to swim because they said the pool smelled of urine. The 2 waterslides were average. Splash park very small. Miniature golf course was nice. Ping pong was a favorite with the boys. The only upsetting thing was there was no basketball court which the boys were looking forward to.
The dance club was fun, and the shows were amazing. Comedy club was a blast. The only bad thing is that some of the more major activities overlap each other. If you went to the late show you were missing the adult comedy show, etc. Activities on board were not that exciting unless you like art auctions and watch sales. That is most of what they offer. Bingo was overpriced ($20 per card most often) and you even had to pay to enter a raffle for a free cruise. I do have to say that our last day at sea was a COMPLETE bore. The shows were re-ran. There were not many other activities other than, you guessed it, last minute art and watch sales. We didn’t do much except for stay in our state room and pack. Yawn!
The kids clubs were hit or miss with the kids. The 5 year old absolutely loved Camp Carnival and the 12 year old loved Circle C. Our 10 year old was in that age group where he was still in Camp Carnival but is not the type that wants to do art activities or listen to story time. He did participate in dodgeball though, but that is it. Our 14 year old(a few weeks until she turns 15) was still in Circle C. She absolutely hated this. She was stuck in a group with a ton of immature 12 year olds and was miserable. We tried to get her into Club O2 and this was possible, but she was completely turned off so she stuck with us the ENTIRE time. Yay! No adult alone time for us… ugh. The kids should have to take a test or something for placement. Carnival should not assume that just because a kid is 10 he wants to do 10 year old things. These kids have lived a little and are not accustomed to activities in their age group.
As for the shore excursions we did an all inclusive beach day in Freeport and an island beach day in Nassau. See the Carnival website for full review of these excursions.
All in all it was a great trip. Again, the service is unbeatable. If you are looking at a cruise for your next vacation do yourself a favor and spend a little more for a suite. You will not regret this. Of course, book with Carnival. Your FUN awaits! Less