Husband turned 60 this year, and I am in my late 50's. We aren't as wild and crazy as we used to be. We met each other later in our lives and had so much in common, but little did we know that we would have the "cruising fever" and find it so addictive. We had done a 7 night cruise on the Legend earlier this year for our honeymoon and once off the ship, well we wanted to get right back on another, but now money was a little tighter, so I went on line, and searched and researched and voila! there it was-5 nights, from a town that was relatively easy to drive to,(Jacksonville) and the cruise went somewhere we had never been.
We drove down two days before the cruise and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Blount Island, it was very close to the cruise terminal, but for Wendy's and Quizno's there was nothing else near the hotel. The hotel provided an excellent breakfast buffet, and the hotel does include transportation to the port. (And delivery from the airport to the hotel) So for a one night stay before cruising, I highly recommend this hotel. If however, you have a car let me recommend the Sandollar restaurant,about 9 miles away for food. On the river, great view. Fantastically fresh seafood!
Our embarkation went quite smoothly. We had met some folks-now our BFF- on the Legend, and they were doing this cruise with us. They are platinum. So once at the terminal, they got in the VIP line, and we got in the "oh so not" VIP line. We actually got on only 20 minutes after they did, so I thought that embarkation went well. From car to lunch on the Lido, 55 minutes. It seems that at this port, waiting until after 12 might be the secret to just about walking on.
I had studied the ship's deck plan for months, and planned how to get from here to there, but the Fantasy class ship is like the road to a friends house, once you've done it, nothing seems far. We are smokers (don't flame us for this LOL) and there are fewer and fewer places to smoke on a ship. Starboard side of the Lido deck,(but not inside) the cigar bar, and the piano bar. Basically these were the areas that we hung out in when we were not off having adventures or seeing shows.
While it was not warm on this cruise, there was plenty going on. There were always games up on the Lido deck(we even won a ship on a stick) Scavenger Hunt, Men's Hairy Chest contest, Trivia Games, Dance lessons, Mixology Contest,...you get the picture, FUN things to do. And if you wanted to do nothing, well that was easy too. Just don't get up out of your chair!
This was our first porthole cabin, and while we had had balconies before, we actually preferred the porthole cabin. M14 was large, had a deep set area in front of the portholes, and the cabin seemed as long as our previous cabin with balcony. And as my sweet hubby says, "who stays in their cabins?". The down side had nothing to do with our cabin, or how wonderfully clean the staff kept it. Our phone didn't work. We could not dial out, so no room service for us on this trip. No wake up calls. We did complain to guest services, and after two of our complaints(and having them call our friends for us,) and the one complaint from the steward(who was a stewardess), they sent someone to repair it and they told us we had been dialing incorrectly. They left, so the phone did not get fixed. We were not dialing incorrectly...you know when you pick up the receiver, it shouldn't rattle....right?
We are dining room people. We love to sit and meet new people, and I thought the food on board was wonderful! I have read a few reviews where people didn't think the food was as good as it had been "years ago", but I had no problem with it. Our waitress, Yves, always remembered our names, our coffee preferences, and never seemed shocked to see us order. I like seconds. There were a few items that I will dream about until my next cruise-Bing Cherry soup, (cold like a creamy melted ice cream) ST. Louis style ribs. OMG! Just explain to your table mates that ribs were meant to be eaten with your hands! Bitter and blanc-OK chocoholics, this even beats the warm melting cake. Baby back ribs! White chocolate marscapone cake-I must stop! Drooling right now!
Our two ports were Key West and Nassau. I love Carnival, the only thing they cannot control on a cruise is the weather. Key West was sunny and cool, the perfect weather to go for a nice long walk, which we did. We headed east on Whitehead ST down to the Hemingway house, did a tour there, (loved the cats....one bit me...reminded me of home)headed down to the Southernmost point, then over one block and back up Duval ST. If you are a lover of art, this is the street for you! One block from the water, all the way back to Mallory Square, ART GALLERIES! I wish I had lots of money to feed all the starving artists in the world. But I don't, so I bought a print from an artist that went to college that used to be in the building I now work in. We did not do a Carnival excursion in Key West, but it was so cool that day that some of the water based excursions were cancelled.
Too bad they didn't cancel the water based excursions in Nassau. It got sunny and the thought, the idea of warmth was in the air...We headed to Blue Lagoon, and not 25 minutes after we docked...the sun went behind a cloud, the temperatures dropped and we had to suffice with walking the beach, not staying in the water. We were already to get back to our ships, and the crew of the catamaran that took us over, gave us a tour of the homes of the rich and famous. It was interesting, but now we were all quite chilly! And as we were walking back on the dock to our ships....it poured!
There was on this cruise, a Christmas show, they said Holiday, but there was only one song for Hannakah, but the show was sweet and nice, and very family friendly. A nice add on for the season.
We love Carnival. We loved the pampering, the tea on sea day, the waitress Yves, the cabin, the cleanliness of the ship, the food, the chocolate on the pillow at night, the towel animals....ah, can't wait to sail again. Would I do this trip again, yes, but there are other ports I haven't been to, so next year, it's off to Progresso! and Cozumel (again) on another Fantasy class ship, that will be like the Fascination, and her sister the Sensation, a wonderful friend within one or two hours!
Embarkation-well I don't really have much to say on this. We were driving our VIP friends to the airport, and Carnival allowed us to disembark via VIP to accommodate our friends. And even that was way behind, because one person was missing. Well, they were not really missing, they just didn't show up for the non American embarkation meeting with customs that is mandatory at about 6 a.m., and you would be surprised at how that one person could screw up a whole ship.