DW & I were booked into the Inn on Bourbon Street for Sunday with a Monday sailing as we had never visited New Orleans before - the Bourbon street area is CRAZY!! Never before on a Sunday afternoon have we witnessed such drinking, partying and strip joint after strip joint. For a fairly quiet couple from Ohio, it was a bit of culture shock!
We did some walking around, rode the trolleys and explored the city a bit. Had my first ever Muffelata at Cafe Maspero where the food was great, the prices were fantastic, and the friendliness of the staff was non-existent. (2 outta 3 ain't bad!)
Woke up early Monday and took a cab to the cruise terminal around 10AM. We were checked in with our sign-n-sail cards by around 10:30 and on the ship by 11:30 - all in all, embarkation was a breeze compared to Port Canaveral two years ago.
The Fantasy dry-docked last October for her "Evolutions of fun" upgrade and I must say, they did a wonderful job - the Fantasy is a BEAUTIFUL ship! We headed up to Lido for a quick lunch, then grabbed some DOD and headed down to see the new Serenity area, which was very nice and peaceful. We had late seating in the Celebration dining room and went there every single night. The food in the dining room ranged from very good to excellent and our waiter, Anand from India was outstanding!
It was on Tuesday at 9:30 that we noticed on the Carnival channel that the ship had taken a hard left away from Mexico and towards Florida. Having seen the swine flu news over the weekend, this was not totally unexpected. Around 5PM Tuesday, they announced that Progresso and Cozumel were cancelled and that we would be having one day in port at Key West, Florida. This resulted in a LOT of complaining, bitching, moaning, etc from a lot of guests. Considering that we picked the ship we did specifically to go see the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza, we were disappointed. We were MORE disappointed, however, in how many of our fellow guests felt the need to rant and rave and complain to the crew of the Fantasy who had ZERO CONTROL over this.
Carnival did reimburse each guest a $20 OBC for only having one port instead of two.
Key West was nice, we had never visited before, so we wandered around, did some shopping, stopped by the Hogs Breath saloon and waved to a friend in Philadelphia via the Hog's Breath's live webcam broadcast on the internet.
Back on the ship for the final two sea days, which were relaxing.
We won in the casino! Then we lost in the casino. Rinse, repeat.
We saw most of the shows while on the ship. The dancers and entertainers on the ship were really quite good. The R-rated comedian had us rolling in aisles, and the Ticket to Ride show on the last night was definitely a highlight of the cruise!
Overall, we enjoyed the ship, it's crews, it's entertainment and the entire experience. We WILL be sailing the Fantasy again out of New Orleans because if there is any complaint I can make about the Mayan Ruins in Chichen Itza, it is this: They are NOT located in Key West, Florida!
Finally, we want to take a moment to recognize those crew members who went above and beyond to make our cruise as memorable and enjoyable as it was:
To Ali from Turkey, who bartended on Lido as well as the Universe Lounge - this man is MAGICAL - if you just THINK about wanting another drink, Ali is THERE - I would urge anyone sailing on the Fantasy to look him up early and often as soon as you board - you will not wait for a refill for your entire cruise!
To Anand from India, who was our waiter in the Celebration Dining Room - The food was very good in the dining room, but we looked forward to seeing Anand as much as we looked forward to the menu! Anand was a wonderful waiter! His drink assistant and other assistants were subpar at best (I shouldn't be ordering my drink midway through the main course), but in almost every failure of the support staff, Anand picked up the slack himself, getting drinks, bringing around bread, etc - Anand was just a joy to be around and he provided a fine dining level of service that is sadly not the norm in this day and age.
To our cabin steward, whose name I did not write down - This guy was nonstop all week long - our room was always clean, our cooler was always full, and he was friendly and cheerful throughout the cruise. He, along with Ananda and Ali, were tipped above and beyond the auto-tips by us for service that definitely warranted it.
Our buddy Stitch, who we met on our 1st cruise on Elation in 2007 was on board, which was a fun surprise for us - Stich is unfailingly friendly and always fun to be around, it was nice for us to see a familiar face right on day 1!
Finally, Risa Barnes. I have seen both good and not-so-good comments about Risa on the boards here at Cruise Critic. You can count us firmly in the GOOD camp. Risa was very patient, very friendly, and always kept us in the loop with what was going on. I know that Carnival visits this website and I know they occasionally read these reviews. Having said that, we are still writing a letter to Miami to tell them what a wonderful crew and Cruise Director they have on the MS Fantasy.
If you have never cruised before, I do not believe you could find a better first-timer ship than they Fantasy, especially with the crew that is aboard her right now. Risa and her staff did a tremendous job under difficult circumstances, and they should be applauded for it.