Trip details: This was our third cruise on a Carnival Fantasy-class ship and we will likely do it again. Despite their age, Carnival’s refurbishment program has done a good job at maintaining and updating these vessels. Having done our pre-cruise homework, we knew exactly what to expect and were not surprised by anything.
Getting to the port terminal: We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach the night before sailing, which is about one-mile from the cruise terminal. Thus getting to the terminal was a breeze. Signage at the Port Canaveral terminal is excellent in directing you to your ship, luggage drop-off and parking – traffic was very light at 11:00 AM.
Embarkation: We were dropped off in the covered luggage area at 11:06 AM and drug our bags up a short ramp (100 feet away) into the terminal facility. We were immediately greeted and directed to an empty security line. After clearing security, we were likewise directed to a check-in station with no line. Our documents were scanned and Carnival pulled our photos from our embedded passport RFID – no photos to take. We were then directed to the waiting area and found seats proximately adjacent to the boarding gate. There were several hundred guests already waiting and Platinum/FTTF boarding was underway. With an 11:30 – 12:00 check-in appointment, and boarding group A01, they called us to board at 11:26 AM. 20 minutes from arriving to boarding – UNBELIEVABLE! Needless to say, embarkation was the best we have ever experienced for any ship at any port. FTTF would have been a complete waste of money for this cruise given the ease of access at Port Canaveral and both of our Ports of Call.
Ours was an aft balcony cabin on the Upper Deck #6, one of the modified cabins from the 2017 refurbishment. The cabin felt a little smaller in comparison to balcony cabins on other ships and did not have a couch on which to sit. Because of the upper Pullman bed, sitting on the bed was also uncomfortable as you could not lean back without at least 4 pillows behind you. But we had reserved this room for two reasons – a larger balcony and a wake view (our first), and were not disappointed. Our balcony came with two chairs and a table, and at our request, our room steward arranged loungers for us as well. Watching the ship’s wake was very pleasing, but being so low on the ship, there was quite a roar from the wake that made it too noisy outside at times. “Upper Deck” is an oxymoron in this case. Hint: If you want an aft balcony on a Fantasy-class ship, look to the Empress deck. In all other respects, our cabin was just fine in location to other ship’s facilities, cleanliness, storage space, etc. The bedside USB ports are convenient, but underpowered for a tablet device – phone was fine. Hint: Bring your chargers for tablets for use on the desk.
We were the only ship in Grand Turk on the day we ported there and thus it did not feel crowded. The Grand Turk Cruise Center is a world-class, beach front cruise facility nestled among nearly 18 acres of landscaped grounds. The beaches are public, and the clamshells, beach chairs and umbrellas at the Grand Turk cruise center are free to use, so a beach tour, to us, seemed superfluous. Following the guidance of past visitors, upon entering the center, we went to the beach to the right and had our choice of clamshells in which to relax. The water was semi cloudy from swirling sand, but you could still see a few fish and swimming was easy. Hint: Get off the ship early for best seating and wear water-shoes at the beach.
Our first port was Amber Cove, DR. The 25 acre port complex developed by Carnival is secure and quite comfortable. We did not plan an outside excursion, opting to stay in the Amber Cove Aqua Zone, with swim-up bar and lazy river. Being one of the first to disembark, we found loungers in the shade of a palm tree. Umbrellas were available to rent for $20, but if you are early, you can find shaded seating. There is the usual port shopping, but the nice thing is there are no ‘locals’ trying to get you to but their T-shirts or take a tour to see their cousin’s chicken farm.
Embarkation at Port Canaveral is the most efficient port we have experienced.