Carnival Fantasy - Bahamas: Carnival Fantasy Cruise Review by deckchair_captain
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Fantasy - Bahamas
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
We are former cruisers (4 times on Carnival), but our last cruise was nearly 10 years ago. This particular trip was a spur of the moment idea initiated by a friend of ours who is a fledgling travel agent. Were ages 63 & 58, and there were two other couples with us, somewhat younger. My wife and I actually have a Panama Canal cruise booked on RCC in November, however this seemed like a great plan to ease back into the cruising mode again.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
The six of us live in southwestern Florida, so it was a relatively easy drive to Port Canaveral the day of our cruise. Although boarding time was published as 1pm, we arrived at the ship around 11:30am, and were immediately allowed access to the embarkation counters. A slight mixup occurred when we got to the check-in area; we asked one of the agents where we should go (to which counter), she misunderstood and thought we were traveling as a group (we all had More individual tickets, just traveling together), so she directed us to a group check-in counter. The woman who was staffing this counter was clearly miffed when she discovered that we werent traveling as a group. She seemed really put off that we had been directed to her counter, and her attitude reflected it. Without so much as a just a moment, she went over to a man who was supposed to be directing traffic and gave him the what-for. Unfortunately, he was innocent of any wrongdoing, but this woman was clearly in a bad mood and seemed really put out that we had bothered her. Once we got to the proper counter, however, everything went smoothly, and everyone that we encountered from that moment on was polite, friendly, and extremely courteous. We were all on board by noon, and enjoying lunch in the Windows on the Sea cafe dining room shortly thereafter. Although our rooms were still being cleaned, the steward allowed us to drop off our bags. Having our paperwork completed beforehand, and having our Fun Pass printed ahead of time definitely made our embarkation process smooth and fast.
As we were nearing our scheduled departure time, the cruise director began to make announcements directing everyone to move forward and to the port side of the ship. Apparently a suspicious package had been discovered on the dock, and in cooperation with law enforcement and Coast Guard requests, all the guests were being asked to move away from the starboard railings and everyone was directed to the other side of the ship. In spite of the crews intention to safeguard the passengers, it was a grueling exercise, with repeated PA announcements, until everyone was packed onto two decks as requested, everyone feeling a little claustrophobic in the Florida humidity. After some time, the emergency was cleared and we were allowed to move about the ship freely.
The down side of all this was that when the situation began, the boarding process was stopped, and all vehicular traffic was halted coming into the port. The net result of all this was that people were still boarding the ship an hour after scheduled departure time. One of our favorite things to do on past cruises was to be on deck when the ship sounded its horn, and experience the departure process. Unfortunately, this time, we were seated for dinner before the ship actually left, so we missed this wonderful experience.
The Fantasy was launched in 1990, but has recently undergone a major overhaul. Its capacity is 2044 passengers, and crew of 920. From what we experienced the ship is extremely clean, although some expected wear and tear is noticeable, especially along the railings and outer deck areas. I noticed many small rust spots on winches and pulleys, and around lifeboat fittings, but to Carnivals credit, there were painting and cleaning crews at work each day in these areas. In spite of these observations, overall the ship was very clean, nicely decorated and pleasurable. Service
In spite of some other categories that may have been less than satisfactory, service was not one of them. Every person we encountered, from our cabin steward, to our dining room waiter, servers, etc. were friendly and polite. Questions were answered cheerfully, and at no time during the cruise did we encounter anyone with a less than pristine attitude. It is certainly to Carnivals credit that this level of service extended throughout the crew.
Labadee was a mixture of heaven and hell. We tendered over to this beautiful tropical island setting, replete with wonderful sandy beaches and clear blue-green water. There is a roped off swimming area where you can park yourself and simply enjoy the surroundings. There was also an ample supply of chaise lounges. The bad part of this adventure was the nickel and dime charges. Beer was fifty cents more than on the ship. There was a $6.00 charge for a floating raft, a $15 charge for the support mechanism that would hold up the canopy covers in order to have shade. We walked over to the Hobie Cats and decided at the exorbitant fee of $50 per hour, we could do without one. There were other water sports toys for rent, all of which I thought were seriously overpriced. If one can remain flexible, however, this can be a very enjoyable stop, especially if you like the beach and water combination. Lunch was provided by Carnival, typical hamburgers and such, but we opted out, heading instead back to the ship for a nice lunch in Windows on the Sea. We had come over shortly after the ship anchored, but as the place was just beginning to get crowded, we were back on the ship.
We did not participate in any of the arranged tours, but decided to do our own thing. Most of our group took the tour of the Atlantis Hotel, but I opted to just walk around downtown Nassau. There are so many nice little shops, offering a variety of goods, but the thing I like the most was the friendliness of the people. No one was pushy, but merely friendly and courteous. It is quite a contrast to places such as Ocho Rios where the merchants dog you to purchase their goods. I spent several hours in the shopping district, finally stopping for a nice ice cream at the Haagen-Daaz store. Nassau is a very laid-back place, where the pace is easy and the people are friendly. It is also a very colorful place, representative of its tropical character.
We were on the main deck, Cabin M153, an ocean view cabin amidship on the starboard side. No complaints, the furnishings were quite nice for this class of cabin, complete with a couple of nice terry cloth robes for our use while on board. We ended up spending a lot of time on deck, so we were not in our cabin very often, except for necessary rest or sleep.
The most exceptional dining was the Windows on the Sea restaurant, located at the rear of the ship on the Lido deck. There was a vast array of fresh salads for lunch and dinner, soups, and various international dishes. A deli-bar with made to order sandwiches is available, as well as 24-hour pizza. Dining there is casual, and with a little planning, you can avoid the busy times. As I am an early riser, I was often the only passenger there in the early morning hours for coffee and to watch the sunrise. I would say that the breakfast fare was their weakest offering, with what amounted to a mess hall-like cardboard-tasting presentation of the standard burned bacon, greasy sausage, over-cooked ham, and watery scrambled eggs. I wouldnt blame Carnival for this, however, but more of a problem of keeping this style of food on steam tables for long periods. The saving grace you can have an omelet made to order. Voila! Once I discovered that, I was assured of a freshly-cooked breakfast every morning. The only down side I encountered was loud music being played over the PA speakers early in the morning. I am one of those people who require copious amounts of coffee early in the morning in a quiet setting, hence my trips to Windows on the Sea at sunrise. My ears were assailed, however, with ridiculously loud and brash music. Perhaps it was the lack of human bodies in the room that made it sound so loud, but it was certainly inappropriate at breakfast.
The food in the main dining room was a major disappointment. A lot of fluff, but very little substance. It was as if the menu descriptions were copied from a wonderful French restaurant, but the food seemed to come from some restaurant that you went to once, but never went back to. On the first night, I ordered steak, and it was tough and chewy. On other nights, the food was downright bland, and one night I was so disgusted I was going to leave and go to the Windows On The Sea, but for the sake of our friends, I stuck around and ordered the veal. It was dry, and tasted like corrugated boxtop. From what we had experienced during our previous cruises aboard Carnival, this was a huge letdown.
On the next to the last night, there was a wonderful Mexican buffet served at 11PM on the Lido deck. One of my friends and I, who are normally early-to-bed types, stayed up to experience this culinary extravaganza. It was well worth the wait, as there was a stunning array of Mexican and Caribbean dishes, as well as a virtual mountain of various fruit selections. All of this took place on the Lido deck, and simultaneously there was a disc jockey providing recorded entertainment. This guy was so out of touch with reality it was amazing. Advertised as a salsa event, commensurate with the cuisine I imagine, this clueless disk jockey kept playing all kinds of obnoxious rap music, clearly out of line with the intended salsa atmosphere. Although there was the usual loud and continuous hype, the dance floor never had more than a few people, and although the food was great, the surrounding activities were not up to par. This was clearly a bad choice by Carnival, not to opt for a live band, but to simply provide a disk jockey who clearly did not seem to understand the flavor of the moment. Entertainment
We attended two of the Broadway-style entertainment shows, and found them to be of very high quality. The choreography, rhythm, and precision of the dancers was excellent, as well as the themes of the shows. These were all very talented young people. It was great entertainment and most enjoyable.
I was the representative from our little group to attend the disembarkation briefing. The cruise director spent the first thirty minutes selling products and services, then finally got into the briefing, which was very informative. A nice change from our past cruises was that you can take you baggage off yourself if you opt for the self-assisted method. Otherwise, its the old routine of having your bags packed and outside your stateroom the night before returning to port.
We joined our group in the Windows on the Sea restaurant and waited for our deck to be called. It seemed to be an orderly process as we disembarked, that is, until we got off the ship. It took us nearly an hour from that point, and when we finally made it to customs, the source of the problem was revealed. One solitary US Customs agent, standing by a little podium, checking the passports and re-entry forms of all 2000 people leaving the ship. Clearly not a Carnival problem, one would think the Customs Service could have been a little more efficient. Once we cleared this final hurdle, however, we were in our vehicle and on our way home.
We didnt have a lot of expectations for this cruise, as we are at sea people, preferring to experience the ship, the atmosphere of being at sea, and of course coveting those wonderful days at sea when the ship doesnt dock at any port, so the on-board activities really dont interest us too much. As we dont typically participate in many of the activities onboard, our fun comes in simply being at sea. I mean how excited can you get about a hairy chest contest?
This was a simple 4-night cruise, and if not for our friends urging, we would not have cruised on Carnival this time. In all fairness, our previous cruises were all 7-night cruises, so there might be some major differences between the longer and shorter cruises. Overall, however, there was a constant barrage of announcements from the cruise director, hyping this or that, always trying to sell you something. I really got tired of hearing all the announcements about the Spa, the shops, the bingo, etc. The shops aboard ship were never open when in port, and some of them did not open at their posted opening time. Stay away from the Spa experience. This was the most blitzing and pressured of all the sales pitches. One of our friends opted for a Spa visit and came out $600 poorer.
There were extra charges for specialized coffee at the Latitudes coffee bar. Beer was severely overpriced at $4.50 for an 11.5 oz Becks, with a $.68 gratuity added, making the price of a reduced size, non-taxed can of beer $5.18. I also like the occasional Martini, but with Bombay gin, for which I paid nearly $10.00 for each drink.
On the bright side, all of our group are wine aficionados. We had four bottles of wine in our checked luggage, and one of my friends carried on a bag with six bottles. No one ever even checked the bags, and no questions were asked. Over the course of our dining experiences, we took our wine with us to dinner. Our waiter was only too happy to serve it up for us, and even to ice down the chardonnay. We were never charged a corkage fee.
Room Service hours have been reduced and the menu has been shortened from previous cruises. Gone forever, it seems, are the glorious midnight buffets and the lavish afternoon lunches served on the Lido deck. It is obvious that Carnival has cut back on their expenses.
Although our overall experience on this cruise was good, Carnivals entire approach seemed to be focused on getting to our wallets instead of ensuring that we had a good cruise. Being flexible, enjoying the ship itself, and not getting caught up in all the sales hype, are keys to having a great cruise experience. In spite of all the positive aspects of this cruise, it is Carnivals focus on my pocket book that will probably send me elsewhere in the future. In spite of some negative aspects, however, it was still a cruise, which is certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Less
Don't have overly high expecta...
Lots of Shenanigans
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...