We arrived a day early to enjoy New Orleans. I love this city. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, The Holiday Inn French Quarter. The taxi was $25 per couple plus tip. I prefer taxi over the airport shuttle as you go straight to your hotel without sightseeing (stopping at other hotels) along the way. The Holiday Inn French Quarter is a great place to stay. It is an older hotel, but the rooms are clean and the staff very friendly. Dean, the bellhop, was the chef at the TGI Fridays which used to be next door to the hotel. After the hurricane, it didn't come back so he switched to the HI. He shared recipes with us and was quick to offer restaurant advice and told us he'd arrange 2 vans to take us to the pier the next morning.
There is a Walgreen's right on the corner past the hotel (Iberville). Turn left and you're on your way to Acme Oyster Bar. Be sure to get there early in the evening to avoid the long line to get in. We arrived at 6:15pm and walked right in. Dinner was wonderful: oysters, both regular and char-grilled, jambalaya, gumbo and catfish (I didn't eat all that, we each ordered something different and shared). Be aware that the servers won't separate the checks so it can be confusing at the end of the meal. When we left around 7:00, there was a line about a block long.
If you enjoy Mufalata's, or have never tried one, go to The Market Cafe. It is located next to the statue of Joan of Arc, near Cafe du Monde. They beat Central Grocery as far as I'm concerned.
Now to the cruise. Our vans were waiting at 9:30, just like Dean said ($7 per person plus tip). We breezed thru security (just like the airport, get there early to avoid the long lines), got checked in and were on board the ship around 11:30. Try to lighten your carry on as much as possible because the rooms aren't ready until around 1:30. After a great lunch, we went down to the dining room to see what was for dinner. (They put out the next day's dining menu after midnight so you can cheat to see if you want to eat in the dining room or at the Lido buffet).
Dinner was at 8:15pm in the Celebration Dining Room. Our Maitre'D was Stan and he was fabulous. There was a 10 year old in our group and Stan became fast friends with him, playing skits when he saw him out and about, telling him he needed to go wash dishes, etc. It made not only great memories for him, but for his family and the rest of our group as well. They were impressed that he would take that much time to connect with someone who would be gone in just a few days. The food was fabulous as always and the service superb. Our waiter, Lucito, remembered our names after the very first night and had a great sense of humor.
The refurbishment looks great. Yes, it's a 30 year old ship, but it was sparkling. Leather sofa and chairs in the aft lounge, Cleopatra lounges in the promenade, new wicker chairs outside the lido buffet, palm trees by the main pool with comfortable chaise lounges. I was skeptical about the Serenity section, the new adults only part. Being only one deck down from the lido, I thought the noise would carry over. It doesn't. There are 2 hot tubs and lots of chairs with big yellow umbrellas. Very soft, soothing music is piped in to aid in relaxing.
Sailing during Halloween is a special experience. The staff turn the Promenade into Halloween Central. There is a Pumpkin carving contest, costume parade and party with prizes for the best costume.
The only complaint I have, and maybe it is more of a comment, is that the Captain and ship's officers were never seen during the cruise, except on Captain's night where they were introduced. Normally, the crew and staff are in the Promenade every night visiting with guests and posing for pictures. Not this time. I felt like an unwelcome guest in someone's home, and like they felt like they were too important to socialize with us peons. I didn't like that feeling at all. I'm hoping it was just this crew, or this captain, and not a trend Carnival is going with. I enjoy that perk as much as the pizza.
To sum up the review, I would sail on the Fantasy again and again. It's a great old vessel. When looking for your next cruise, do your homework. You get what you pay for. There is a reason these short cruises on older ships are such a good value. Compare it to hotels. If you are used to staying at Ritz Carltons, Hiltons, Marriots, then find a great deal on a Best Western Hotel, you may be disappointed. Carnival has some wonderful mega ships with specialty restaurants, more music choices and exotic ports of call. This ship is great for family getaways at an affordable price and is a great value for your money.