We sailed on the Carnival Fantasy out of Charleston at the end of June. We chose the Fantasy because we are a family of 5 and wanted to stay in one cabin and we also wanted to be able to drive to the port. This was our first cruise. I read tons of reviews on Cruise Critic and got great advice!
We bought the “Faster to Fun” so we were able to get on board at 11am instead of 12:30pm and put our carry ons in the room right away. This was well worth the $50. We had two 12 packs of soda and 2 bottles of wine in our carry on bags, so it was nice to be able to put those in the room and freshen up. We were able to explore the ship and take a dip in the pool before the crowds. On the Lido deck is the swimming pool and two hot tubs. The pool is small and salty. We also hit the water slides. We were the first people on the slides and had them to ourselves for a while.
We had an inside stateroom on the Empress Deck. I wasn’t sure how the set up would be for 5 people. I was surprised as I unpacked that there was space for everything. There are 3 closets that have shelves and a safe. There is also a vanity table/desk with several drawers. The beds were pushed together to make a king and the two twins were pulled down from the ceiling. Then, there was little cot on the floor for our 5th person. I thought the cabin steward would put the beds back away during the day and take them down every night, but he didn’t. But it really wasn’t a problem. I never felt cramped in the room - we really weren’t in it much. The TV channels that ship gets are local ABC, NBC, CBS Florida stations, CNN, ESPN, Cartoon Network, & Boomerang. We did not allow our kids to bring on a computer or ipods, so they did watch the kids channels a bit. I was glad that we packed our power strip and alarm clock. We kept the TV on at night to the Forward of the boat channel for a night light.
First day on the ship we ate at the Lido deck. There are hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, rotisserie chicken, various other sides, limited fruit (bananas & apples), cartons of milk, and the Mongolian Wok - made to order - which was great! There are serve yourself drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water, coffee and the soft serve ice cream - choc, vanilla, and twist in a cone or cup.
If you walk through the doors you enter the “Windows on the Sea” - another cafeteria style dining option. Whereas on the Lido deck you can go to the buffet in your swimsuit, here they ask you to have a cover up on. There is a nice salad bar, dessert stations, a hot food station, deli sandwiches (rueben very good!), pizza, etc. There are seats inside and outside on the deck.
Both the Lido deck & Windows on the sea were open for breakfast too with many options.
We had two Fun Days At Sea, and for those we ate breakfast in the Celebration dining room. I wish we could have eaten here every morning - but the mornings we were at port we needed to get off the ship right at 8am for our excursions. My daughter enjoyed the mac & cheese with bacon, and my husband loved the breakfast soup and steak and eggs. I had the lox bagel. My kids had pancakes - there are plain, blueberry and chocolate chip. And they give each table a plate with a variety of breakfast breads. Very enjoyable!
We choose the 6pm seating in the main dining room for dinner. We had the same wait staff each night. They were fine, but not as great as other from the reviews I read prior to cruising. The left side of the menu was the same each night - with basic appetisers and main dishes, such as salad, spring rolls, grilled chicken and veggies, hamburger, desserts. The right side of the menu changes each night. My husband and I thought the soups were very good. The main courses were good - of course we enjoyed the lobster tail on the Captain’s night. However, I was disappointed with the desserts. I’m not a big chocolate fan, so I didn’t order the chocolate melting cake which is Carnival’s signature dessert. My kids said it was too rich for them. One night I ordered the Cappuccino Pie, and the whipped cream topping was still frozen. I usually just ordered ice cream.
This is hit or miss. The big shows - The Brits and Motown - were pretty lame. The cast was small, and some sang better than others. The comedy show on the other hand were great! We went to both family friendly ones, and they were packed, standing room only. The Hasbro Family Game night show is entertaining. We did not get chosen to play, but the winner only gets a few board games, so we weren’t that disappointed.
We did not go to any of the late shows because we were usually just too tired and we had to be up early for the port days. We stopped in and enjoyed the karaoke here and there, which was fun, and attended a few of the trivia contests. We didn’t do the bingo, night clubs, or casino.
We really wished there would have been a show to see in the afternoon on sea days. On our last day there was an afternoon magic show - and it was packed because we were in a tropical storm that day. (It was raining and the upper decks were closed due to high winds.) It was terrible. It wasn’t really a magic show - there were no rabbits appearing or ladies being cut in half. It was a guy guessing what number people were thinking.
We did go to the towel animal folding demo and towel animal theatre. That was fun.
Overall, we wish there would have been more offerings during the day. It seemed like the ship didn’t come to life until 6pm. Our family had the early dinner, went to a show and went to bed. We weren’t up late so I felt like we missed out.
My 6 year old daughter loved it. They made crafts and played games. She had a great time. My 10 and 11 year old went one day for 3 hrs. They said it was ok, but didn’t want to go back. But it was a life saver for the 6 year old. Mostly because there isn’t anything for her to do during the day at sea. The pool was too crowded. They went down the waterslides a few times, but had enough after an hour. My 11 yr old wanted to relax on the Lido deck with me. We were able to find chairs in the shade and enjoyed reading, painting nails, and being entertained by the Lido deck DJ. My 10 yr old son and husband were happy to play ping pong and mini golf. The mini golf did not have enough putters, so we always had to wait for that.
Freeport: This was our first time in the Bahamas. This port is very industrial-looking. I thought when we woke up the ship would be docked, but it didn’t dock until a little after 8am. I was surprised that the cruise didn’t announce when it was time to leave the ship. You just have to know to go down to Level 3 at 8am. We reserved our snorkeling excursion with Pat and Diane’s Snorkel. Loved it! I can not recommend it enough, and will place my whole review for that on Tripadvisor. Once you leave the ship, you are directed to a bus line for the excursions. There were tour operators with signs so it’s easy to know where to go. We then took a charter bus to Port Lucaya. It was a 15-20 minute ride and the driver gave us good info about the Bahamas. We finished our awesome snorkel tour around noon, and then walked over to the public beach access. It was next to a resort, but I was not that impressed. Then we went through the shopping area and took the bus back to Freeport. There is a Senor Frogs there and the same sort of “Straw Market” shopping area. I felt the prices were too high and they didn’t have anything unique. I don’t have a desire to return to Freeport.
Nassau: Nassau port looked much nicer. It’s more of a city and we had an excursion booked with Blue Lagoon Island. We needed to be there at 8:30am, so when we got off the boat we had to hurry to catch a taxi to take us to the dock. It was a wonderful experience, which I’ll also review on tripadvisor. My daughter and I thought this straw market was better than in Freeport.
Other cruise ship impressions
The employees at the guest services desk were not very helpful. Several times I asked a question, and the person barely looked up from their computer to talk to me.
I thought the gift shop would be larger and have more things. There were art auctions and big jewelry sales going on all the time, but my family wasn’t interested in that so I don’t know how good those prices were.
I was concerned that because this is Carnival’s smallest and oldest ship, that we would feel crowded - but we never did. We were always able to find a seat. There are so many little nooks and sections of the ship. When my husband and I were able to go to the Serenity deck, there were chaise lounges in the sun and shade and the hot tubs were not crowded.
I forgot to pack our lanyards and it would have been nice for my kids to have them for their sign and sail cards. I didn’t feel like spending $6 on them in the gift shop just a few days when I have some already at home. I also wished I would have had a sweatshirt. The Universe Lounge and the Jubilee Dining Room were always too cold. Plus, it was cold and raining the day of the storm.
Overall, we all loved being on the cruise. My kids loved the freedom they had and all the time we got to spend together as a family. We will definitely cruise again!
We snorkeled with Pat & Diane's snorkel and had a great time! It was easy to find the bus for our excursion when we got into Freeport. We took a 15 minute bus ride to their dock and then a quick boat ride out to the coral reef. Lots of beautiful fish. We were finished with the excursion by noon which left us time to walk to the public beach and shop in the market. I was disappointed with the shopping. The prices were high and the items were not that unique. I can find the same things in Myrtle Beach! The beach wasn't that great either. We loved the snorkeling, but would not bother going back to Freeport.
We participated in the morning dolphin encounter. We had to be at the dock by 8:30am which was tight with our Carnival Fantasy docking at 8am, but we made it. I went with my children aged 11, 10 and 6. My husband came as an observer and to take photos. The 15 minute educational session about dolphins is interesting and then you get to go to meet your dolphin. We had 15 people in our Dolphin Encounter group. We had to walk down about 3 steps onto a platform in the water and the dolphin comes up to you. The dolphin comes up to each person for time to dance, hug, and kiss him. Dolphin Encounters has a photographer, but you are welcome to take your own too. I had our underwater camera with me and my husband was on the observer deck with our regular camera. The kids enjoyed it and the trainer does make it a fun, memorable experience for everyone.
We were finished before 11am. We waited to see our group photo, which I bought for $14.
Blue Lagoon Island is beautiful and fun! A perfect Bahama excursion. The beach area has many infatables in the water - slides and obstacle courses. There are plently of hammocks and beach chairs. The quiet side of the island is beautiful. The sea bottom is rocky there, but it is great for off-shore snorkeling. Some pretty fish and hermit crabs. It's so scenic on that side - exactly how I pictured the Bahamas. We also did the Dolphin encounter. It was very expensive, but a "once in a lifetime" experience for the kids. Even if you don't pay to do the Dolphin encounter, you can still walk to that side of the island to see the dolphins and sea lions.