I booked this cruise with a local travel agency less than one week prior to sailing. Actually, it was really rescheduling a cruise that I had cancelled earlier due to a medical emergency. I am somewhat of a veteran cruiser with 6 previous cruises and my traveling partner was my sister, a first time cruiser.
On my previous cruises, I had always flown in the day of the cruise and never had a problem. I have read on the boards the pros and cons of doing so, but always built in time for things to happen in my flight schedules. This time was no different and I had planned for an early morning flight to Orlando, non-stop jet service. Flying time was a little less than 1-1/2 hours. I figured I had about a 6 hours window for trouble. I won't go into the details here, but due to fog and problems in Orlando, I used up almost 4 hours of my contingency, which made me seriously reconsider the flying in a day early option for my next cruise.
Once we were cleared to leave my home airport, the flight was uneventful and we landed at MCO, collected our luggage and proceeded to the Mears Bus Station to buy our transfer. After doing so, we were told the next bus would arrive in 10 minutes. About 40 minutes later, we boarded the bus and made our way to the port. We arrived at the port only to find the line was backed out the front door and it appeared there were about 75 folks in front of us. However, the line moved fast and were checking in about 20 minutes later. I was really surprised the line moved this fast, but the agents were working hard. I had booked this cruise too late for documents to be mailed and I was a little apprehensive about the pier pick up, but they had the docs, my FunPass was complete and we were on board shortly after that. In short, embarkation was a snap and painless.
I was really anxious to see the Fantasy since the refurb and I was probably expecting too much because I was a little disappointed in what I saw. Our cabin was on the Main deck and the carpet was very badly stained and dingy, at least along our hallway. The Centrum Bar was nice and the disco florescent lighting had been removed. The theater had been reworked and the biggest change I saw were the stateroom bathrooms. The old pink sinks and counter were replaced with new features and it really looked good. As far as the stateroom goes, I found two areas that I thought needed improvement. The lighting in the bathroom, which was recessed over the mirror, left the shower area a little darker than I would have liked to have seen. Also, the makeup mirror area in the stateroom had no lighting over it, so the only lighting you had was the overhead lighting in the center of the room. Again, this left that area a little dark and my sister complained that she needed more lighting to apply her makeup. Otherwise, the rooms were a nice size and well appointed. The lighting situation was really more of an aggravating kind of thing as opposed to a real problem.
I normally don't have a problem with the ship's water, but his time the water was just absolutely awful. It had a strong sulfur taste and smell to it that made it impossible to drink. Even the dining room water was the same way. This was the first time in 7 cruises that I just couldn't drink the water. I couldn't find anyone who could tell me why the water was tasting so terrible. It was not really a problem because I loved the tea and did without the water with no problem.
The only real problem that I found on the ship was the constant raw sewage smell that lasted for the entire cruise and was almost present anywhere you went on the ship. I heard that complaint from folks all weekend.
The crew was constantly cleaning and tidying up the ship and for a ship that is almost 20 years, it is still in great shape overall.
Our cabin steward, whomever it was, he/she never introduced him/her self and I never saw him/her. Our room was kept clean and supplied and while that is their job, I really like to see and get to know a little bit about who is cleaning my room. Whomever it was did a great job, I would have liked the opportunity to personally tell them that and let them know how much I appreciated their work.
Our dining room staff was the same. Although they did introduce themselves the first night, they really didn't make any small talk or really interact with us. We were seated at a large table of 8 guests and they never asked our names, where we were from or took the time to do those special things that I think deserves an extra tip. I had to ask the waiter every single night for tea instead of water. As did my sister. The rest of the folks at our table ordered drinks from the bar. I also had to tell the bar waiter every single night that I didn't drink and wouldn't be ordering anything from the bar. Other than that, they were very efficient at their jobs and the food was always delivered hot, on time and right. Again, I would have liked a little interpersonal action from our dining room team. Overall, the crew was always smiling and greeted you when passing.
I was particularly pleased with the food on this cruise. It seemed to me that the food, both in the Windows of the Sea restaurant and the formal dining room were especially good this time. I would rank the food excellent. The prime rib just melted in my mouth and the buffet selections were quite tasty as well.
The shows were good and while they may be Las Vegas style, they certainly are not Las Vegas quality, but entertaining none the less. The showband was great as usual. Timing was tight and there was some great talent playing on this ship. I particularly liked Luigii on the piano across from the Century 21 bar. He plays some fine jazz and is quite an accomplished pianist.
The weather really didn't cooperate as much I would like, but I can't complain since Carnival nor the Captain can do anything about it. You have take what the good Lord gives and make the best of it. But, in short, it was unusually cool in Nassau and off and on cool rain showers made the time on deck very limited on our sea day Saturday.
Another major complaint that I heard was that the ship was rocking quite a bit. I will have to agree on this one. The only time the ship was not rocking and moving was while it was anchored in port. This was the 5th time I have been to Nassau and it was by far, the roughest seas that I have been in, but I didn't think it was all that bad. I have been in much worse, but some of the folks thought that big ship was not supposed to rock at all! Imagine that? Anyway, by Saturday night, barf bags were showing up around the ship, but I have never had problem with motion sickness and the only problem I had with the rocking and rolling was that I kept dosing off from being rocked to sleep. Ahhhh.....ya gotta love that!
My sister was just blown away with everything since it was her first time. She had a great time and is now hooked, even with the cool weather. I laughed at her because I told her to pack a pair of elastic pants and an extra bag or suitcase because she would need them both. I told her she would need the pants because she would eat herself out of the ones she wore to the cruise and she needed the extra bag for all the first time cruiser's souvenirs. She laughed me off.
After debarking on Sunday morning, which was again, painless and efficient, we caught the Avis shuttle to their base of operations and picked up the car we had reserved. Since our outbound flight was not until 10 p.m. that evening, we had decided to spend the day at the Kennedy Space Center. The Avis operation was smooth and flawless and after spending all day at the KSC, we headed back to Orlando for some supper and to watch the Super Bowl before catching our flight.
But, not before we found a Wal-Mart and picked up a pair of elastic pants and another suitcase. She walked around the last day with the button on her pants undone. I then laughed her off.
The Super Bowl was over before we departed thanks to our plane leaving 45 minutes late. We had a smooth flight and I was back home and in my own bed by 1:10 a.m.
The Carnival Fantasy is a wonderful short weekend getaway anytime, but I think it is also a great starter cruise for those first timers who want to get a small taste of what cruising is all about and to see if they like it or not. I think most of them do.