Carnival Fantasy Entertainment
Onboard entertainment is plentiful and fun, but it's generally a bit cheesy, so leave your pretentions on the gangway. Daytime interactive offerings include hairy chest contests, dance lessons and trivia. In the evenings, passengers can participate in the Marriage Show (Carnival's version of "The Newlywed Game") and Battle of the Sexes, and late-night entertainment featured movie soundtrack revues, a Beatles tribute and performances by comedians and magicians. I found interactive entertainment to be far more fun and enjoyable than the musical performances, which were a bit too over-the-top and reminiscent of Las Vegas. (I was shocked to see women in thongs and men in backless chaps during an early show, which was attended by more than a few small children.) The comedic and magic shows, however, were decent and drew laughs from the crowd.
The Universe Lounge is where most of the major entertainment takes place. Located on Atlantic and Promenade Decks (Decks 8 and 9), this venue, as you might guess, has a space-age theme. It features black carpeting with planets and stars, plush seats, red walls and silver metal-trimmed windows with black curtains. Everything from country line dancing to Battle of the Sexes takes place there, and nightly shows feature comedians, magicians and plenty of singing and dancing, as well as live music. You won't find any solid enrichment programming here -- unless you consider dance lessons, golf clinics and reflexology seminars to be educational experiences.
Be aware that presentations about "what to do on your cruise" are mainly just loosely masked sales pitches for things like art, shore excursions and future cruises. If you miss what you think might have been an important presentation, you can always catch it on your in-room television later in the day.
The Forum Lounge, which is significantly smaller, is located on Promenade Deck (Deck 9), aft, and hosts smaller performances, such as karaoke.
If you're craving a drink poolside, check out the Patio Pool Bar, positioned forward from the pool on Lido Deck (Deck 10). It's nothing spectacular, but it does offer a mean pina colada.
The Majestic Bar, situated on Promenade Deck (Deck 9), is furnished with rich woods and super-comfortable black leather chairs and couches. It's got a very scotch-and-cigars feel, and smoking is allowed there.
If you'd like a drink in a more lively atmosphere, check out the 21st Century Bar on Promenade Deck (Deck 9), just outside of the Club 21 Casino. It's a central location if you like to people-watch, and directly across from the bar is an area for tables and chairs, where daily trivia most often takes place.
For lounges that offer both drinks and entertainment, Cats Lounge and the Electricity Disco Dance Club are both located along the Promenade (Deck 9). Cats Lounge is a great place to listen to live music, and decor is definitely unique, featuring larger-than-life brand-name item replicas like Ritz crackers, Heineken beer, Good Year tires, Tide laundry detergent and Campbell's Tomato Soup. (Note that smoking is allowed in Cats Lounge.) Electricity features a nightly D.J., and the decor is a mix of dark blue with lots of glitter and silver trim -- there's also a disco ball, of course! Electricity is also home to teen dance parties on select nights, as well as Groove for St. Jude, which charges passengers $10 for a T-shirt and wristband in order to raise money for the St. Jude Children's hospital. Those who participate are then treated to dance lessons -- we learned the moves to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on our voyage -- and free drinks in the Universe Lounge immediately following.
Cleopatra's Piano Bar, located on Atlantic Deck (Deck 8), is the place to sing along to live piano music. Adorned with Egyptian statues and comfy chairs, this is also a great place to people-watch from the bar's all-glass front, which looks out into the Grand Atrium.
Club 21 Casino is the place to be if you want the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas in the middle of the ocean. Crazy carpeting and lights adorn this venue, which offers mostly slots, but does include some table games like poker. Check your Fun Times daily newsletter for poker tournament times.
Editor's Note: Although Carnival ships are known for their party atmosphere, the nightlife on Carnival Fantasy was a bit more dull than I expected. The Electricity Disco didn't seem very lively, with only a small handful of folks dancing after hours. The most happening evening entertainment options were karaoke in the Forum Lounge, gambling in the casino and attending the shows in the Universe Lounge. Still, on a few nights, the ship seemed almost deserted.
Shore excursions offered on our Key West and Bahamas itinerary included historical and sightseeing tours, shopping excursions, beach passes, snorkeling, parasailing adventures and dolphin encounters. I briefly considered booking a parasailing excursion in Nassau -- which would have set me back $200 for two people -- but was glad I decided against it when my travel companion and I were able to find a deal that was $120 for two people in Freeport. Although it might be easier to book through the cruise line (and you'll know the operator is reputable), it can also get pricey, especially for families. Do keep in mind, though, that if a non-ship-sponsored excursion runs late, the ship may not wait for you before sailing away, and you'll have to meet it at its next port of call at your expense.
Carnival Fantasy Public Rooms
The Grand Atrium, which includes fancy, glass-enclosed elevators and a huge skylight window, is located forward and spans six decks, from Empress Deck (Deck 7) to Sports Deck (Deck 12). Many noteworthy places -- such as Guest Services, the Internet cafe, the photo and art galleries, the shore excursions desk, the arcade, Club O2, Circle C and several onboard shops -- are clustered around the atrium on various decks. On the atrium's first floor, in the center, you'll find a bar that often features live piano music and guitar performances.
For those who just can't tear themselves away from e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, a 24-hour Internet cafe is available on Empress Deck (Deck 7), across from the Guest Services desk in the Grand Atrium. Time used is charged to your onboard account at a rate of 75 cents per minute. Two plans are available and offer discounted rates: 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. Ten desktop computer stations and a printer are available. (Printouts cost 50 cents per page.) Laptops can also be used, as Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship; I had no trouble connecting my personal laptop to the Internet while in my cabin.
The Pavilion Library, located on Atlantic Deck (Deck 8), is a small area that offers a couple cabinets of books, comfy chairs, tables and board games. Although the tan color scheme is muted and lends itself to a relaxing experience, this room is fronted by a glass wall that looks out into the atrium -- an area that sees quite a bit of hustle and bustle. Families often play board games there, too, so be forewarned if you're looking for a quiet retreat: distractions abound.
Editor's Note: Outdated deck plans, located near the onboard elevators, list the Pavilion Library as the Card Room, which existed before the ship was retrofitted.
For the shopaholics onboard, Formalities and the Boutique, midship on Promenade Deck (Deck 9), sell clothing and accessories (scarves, hats, sunglasses, etc.). A nearby candy store offers everything from gummy bears to bubblegum. The Galleries Shopping Mall is located one deck down on Atlantic Deck (Deck 8) and sells items like jewelry, watches and sunglasses, as well as duty-free alcohol and sundries. If art and photography are more your speed, check out the Art Gallery on Empress Deck (Deck 7) or the Photo Gallery on Promenade Deck (Deck 9) in the Grand Atrium.
Valet laundry service is available for an extra fee, and self-service laundry facilities are available on both the Upper Deck (Deck 6) and Empress Deck (Deck 7). The cost for self-service laundry is $3 per washer load and $3 per dryer load. Soap packets are available from a dispenser for $1 each. All charges will appear on your onboard account. Washing machines are not available for use when the ship is in port, due to environmental regulations; however, dryers and irons/ironing boards are still fair game.
Editor's Note: Restrooms are located on the Promenade Deck, but the ladies' room is significantly more difficult to spot than the men's room. Coming from the Universe Lounge into the Grand Atrium, it's located to your right, around the corner, with a sign that is easy to miss at first glance.
Carnival Fantasy Spa & Fitness
Spa Carnival, which offers spa treatments, salon services and exercise facilities, is located on the Sports Deck (Deck 12). Spa offerings include facials, massages and slimming treatments, while the salon features everything from haircuts and highlights to shaves. Manicures, pedicures and teeth-whitening are also available in that area. Prices are, naturally, a bit higher than you'd find on land, but are normal by cruise-industry standards. I spotted a 50-minute facial for $169, a 50-minute hot stone massage for $165, 30 minutes of teeth-whitening for $199 and a 25-minute manicure for $29. Be sure to look for discounts and packages on port days.
To reach the gym, locker rooms and aerobics room, passengers must walk down hallways on either side of the spa reception desk. Locker rooms have showers, toilets, and steam rooms and saunas (one of each in both men's and women's locker rooms). An aerobics room, for classes like Yoga and Pilates (which carry an extra charge of about $12 per class), is located en route to the gym. The gym features a variety of Life Fitness machines, including weight machines, rowers, stationary bikes, ellipticals and treadmills that boast a forward view out of giant, floor-to-ceiling windows.
One deck above, on the Sun Deck (Deck 14), you'll find other sports facilities like a jogging track, golf cage and mini-golf course. (Grab clubs at the Towel Hut on Deck 10.) I ventured up there on a port day to check out a mini-golf tournament and wasn't surprised to see that very few people were participating. The Sun Deck is a bit more windy than some of the other decks, which could make for a more challenging -- or frustrating -- game.
The ship offers only one pool (Lido Deck, Deck 10), and it's far too small for the number of passengers onboard. On both of the sea days on my sailing, it was so crowded that people were standing in the water, shoulder to shoulder, with no room to actually swim around. The edges were lined with those who had no room to fit, but who were still able to dangle their legs in the water for some relief from the heat. Even on port days, it's packed. It was also interesting to note that the pool was closed on at least two of our six nights onboard. (When I asked about it, I was told that it had to do with the circulation of water. On sea days, sea water is used and is constantly circulated and released back into the ocean. On port days, there are restrictions that prevent the ship from discharging the water near the shore.) A couple of hot tubs also flank the pool, and a nearby stage provides a venue for dance competitions, hairy chest contests and giant chess games. Good luck finding empty deck chairs on sea days.
The WaterWorks water park was added in 2008 on Verandah Deck (Deck 11) as part of the "Evolutions of Fun" refurbishment initiative. Children especially did seem to enjoy the park's three slides -- two, side-by-side speed slides and a long, twisty slide. Lines tend to be long on sea days; I waited 15 minutes for my turn on the slide.
Editor's Note: Don't be fooled by the outdated deck plans posted by the elevators on each deck. There is no longer a Verandah Deck pool. It was removed in 2008, and its former location is now home to the WaterWorks water park. Also be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty at either the pool or WaterWorks, so children should be supervised by a parent.
If you're searching for a relaxing spot away from the kids, check out Serenity, the adults-only sun deck on Promenade Deck (Deck 9). It's got black wicker loungers with teal-upholstered cushions and yellow umbrellas. If you really prefer a spot in the shade, upright chairs are available against the rear wall and are completely out of the sun. This area offers a great view of the ship's wake, as it's positioned on the stern. Crewmembers will be around to take orders for drinks, which you can sip in one of two nearby hot tubs.