Spanning decks 8 and 9 at the front of the ship, the 1,400-person Universe Lounge is the location of daytime activities like bingo, the cruise director's presentations (always interspersed with comedy), games such as HASBRO The Game Show (life-sized versions of classic games like Connect Four and Battle of the Sexes) and, for kids, the Dr. Seuss Story Time enactment of the Cat in the Hat. Seating in the theater is in the form of soft benches with long curved tables in front, and tiered rows of seats. The space is cavernous and colorful, with patterned carpeting in shades of deep red and a sea of sparkly lights overhead resembling stars. Two nights per cruise there is a Vegas-style show. On our cruise they were The Brits! and Motor City. The shows were entertaining, kid-friendly and generally well received.
Activities run the gamut from trivia games and karaoke to adult-oriented "Newlywed Show" type interactive game shows, which, depending on the cruise director, might be offered during the day or at night. Some events, such as complimentary makeovers, are clearly geared toward selling you products. Various types of bingo ($1,000 to $3,000 jackpots, balloon-popping), for which cards must be purchased, are hosted daily. Be warned, though. If you're averse to corny jokes and audience participation (one player had to shout I've got a six-pack and thrust out his belly to win), you might want to steer clear of the bingo games. (On our sailing they were a huge hit, however!) On one day, there is the infamous "Hairy Chest Contest."
The main shows take place at night, and typically feature additional activities (such as trivia sessions and after-parties) as well. There are "meet and greets" for both singles and LGBT individuals each night, along with parties on the Lido Deck featuring music and line dancing. Karaoke also takes place each night.
Those 21 and older can head to the Club 21 Casino on Deck 9, not only at night, but anytime during the day. Here, smoking is allowed, and people certainly take advantage of it. For some nonsmokers, being in the casino for more than a few minutes was impossible. The casino has contests such as a Big Loot Draw and a free cruise giveaway, whereby you earn tickets for cash and prize drawings by using your cruise card to play. You must be present to win, and the drawings take place at various times from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. The ship also has its own version of "Let's Make a Deal" where you choose between a mystery box or cash. You can find out what contests are when in the Fun Times.
The Forum Lounge hosts comedians on some nights. Here, we tried to see Killer Beaz, who is from Mobile and has a comedic style similar to Jeff Foxworthy, but by the time we got there (about 20 minutes prior to showtime) the lounge was standing room only and the doors were shut after the performance began, making sitting outside looking in not an option. Bothe Beaz and the other comedian on our sailing, "Cajun Queen" Caroline Pickard, gave PG13 and R-rated performances.
Carnival Fantasy Bars and Lounges
Bars are plentiful, and offer everything from tropical umbrella in the glass-style frozen drinks in an ultra-casual outdoor setting by the pool to quiet, indoor coziness to a high-energy dance atmosphere that lasts into the wee hours. Judging from the loud shrieking, laughing and even arguing heard in the hallway well past 2 a.m., plenty of passengers took advantage of the late-night bars.
Atrium Bar (Deck 7, midship): This round bar at the center of the atrium, between the internet cafe and Guest Services, features soothing background music by a classical string ensemble on a raised stage, and colorful, exceedingly sweet frozen cocktails with fun names such as Kiss Me on the Lips and Sex on the Beach. The bar is rarely crowded.
Cleopatra's (Deck 7, midship): The ship's piano bar, decorated in an Egyptian theme with statues of King Tut and Cleopatra, hieroglyphics on the walls and a round piano as a bar, is quiet during the day and dinner hours (it is right next door to the Celebration dining room.) Each night, however, there was a sing-along that starts at 9:45 p.m. and lasts until the wee hours.
Majestic Bar (Deck 8, aft): Resplendent in dark marble with couches and chairs upholstered in black leather and trimmed in woodgrain, the Majestic Bar has a decidedly manly feel; it features all the usual beverage offerings including wine, beer, all standard drinks and martinis, too Windows offer views of the ocean. It's a nice place for couples to relax and enjoy cocktails and conversation.
Electricity Nightclub (Deck 8, aft): The ship's main spot for late-night dancing, the Electricity Nightclub features a bar and sitting area with small tables and chairs, overlooking the shiny dance floor. The venue offers a DJ followed by live music starting at 11 p.m.
Cats Lounge (Deck 8 aft): Home to nightly karaoke, Cats is perhaps the most striking bar on the ship. Inspired by the Broadway musical Cats, the bar's decor showcases giant reproductions of show-related set pieces.
21st Century Bar (Deck 9, midship): This is the ship's casino bar. It is simply a small counter serving drinks to those passing by and sitting in the casino.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10, midship): A Caribbean-inspired, grass-roofed bar overlooking the Lido Deck pool, the RedFrog Rum Bar offers the Caribbean's top rums and beers.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10, midship): Located across from RedFrog, the BlueIguana Tequila Bar specializes in margaritas, both frozen and on the rocks, in a variety of flavors.
Carnival Fantasy Outside Recreation
Since the WaterWorks water park replaced the pool on Verandah Deck 11 during a 2015 refurbishment, there is only one main pool on Carnival Fantasy. It is outfitted with large, yellow umbrellas and big, fake palm trees in the center of the Lido Deck (Deck 10). Surrounded by deck chairs, this area remains hopping from the time it opens at 8 a.m. until closing time at 11 p.m. It's always noisy, as there is typically a band or DJ playing on the raised stage at one end of the pool (the other end has a platform with a small hot tub, which always seemed to be full of children). The DJ frequently leads group activities such as line dancing, which is fun to watch from the relatively peaceful Verandah Deck above.
Both the pools and hot tubs are filled with chlorinated seawater; freshwater showers are available to rinse off.
With its pair of 82-foot-long racing slides and Twister Waterslide (a 300-foot-long, spiraling tube), WaterWorks is popular with children, as evidenced by the many we saw riding the elevators in bathing suits, drenched and exhilarated and talking about it. It also has a roomy splash pad for toddlers. Even adults got in on the fun, making up about a fourth of the WaterWorks crowd. Be advised that a lifeguard is not on duty, so parents should watch their young children.
Passengers sign out towels upon arrival to the water park, pool or adults-only Serenity area; towels must be returned the same day -- there is $22 charge for each unreturned towel.
On Deck 11, you'll find a Ping-Pong table and at the front end of Deck 12 there is a nine-hole mini-golf course.
For those in search of a kid-and-noise-free zone, there is the Serenity adults-only retreat on Deck 9. As its name would suggest, it's an ideal place to kick back and read a book, listen to tunes or play on a laptop. It is outfitted with a pair of hot tubs, bright yellow umbrellas and comfy wicker lounge chairs with thick, padded turquoise upholstery. It also has hammocks and a bar. Free chairs can be scarce, however.
Carnival Fantasy Services
Aside from the Lido Deck, the heart of the ship is the Grand Atrium, which spans decks 7 to 12. On Deck 7 you will find Guest Services, the internet cafe and shore excursions desk. Carnival Fantasy has shipwide Wi-Fi. (Remember to put your mobile device in airplane mode or you might end up racking up roaming data charges.) Internet plans that include the use of popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram start at $5 per day, and can be purchased by logging in on your mobile device or one of the internet cafe's computer workstations.
On Deck 8 next to the Celebration dining room is the Pavilion library, which houses tall shelves of books that can be borrowed and board games (that can be used in the library). Outfitted with comfortable, upholstered wicker furniture in soothing earthtones such as green and beige, the library proved to be a popular waiting spot for us and our fellow Your Time diners.
Carnival Fantasy's "Fun Shops" are located adjacent to the atrium on Deck 8. Here, you can buy everything from "gold by the foot" from a hallway kiosk to gifts, clothing, perfume and makeup. Although the boutique had some good deals on sale items such as tops and hats (particularly on the last day when there is a clearance sale), the jewelry, perfume and makeup is decidedly upscale. You won't find drug-store makeup here, but rather, high-end department store brands with prices to match, such as lipstick in the $20 range. There is also a duty-free shop, which has reasonably priced liquor and cigarettes. For those with a sweet tooth, Cherry on Top is a tiny candy store tucked between Club 21 Casino and the Formalities Shop that offers items such as sour gummies in the shape of the distinctive red and white Carnival whale tail.
Self-service laundry is available on each deck, and same-day laundry service is available for a reasonable price of $15 per bag. For five standard laundry bags, same-day service costs $50 and next-day pressing only is available for $20 for 12 items and 24 items for $30.