I sailed June 27th-July 2nd, 2014 out of Charleston to Freeport and Nassau. The ship is older/smaller than other Carnival ships. The ship and food and entertainment were either okay, or not very good, depending on your level of grading. If you want everything to be WOW you might not enjoy this cruise/ship. If you want to leave from the beautiful city of Charleston, have unlimited food, good---not great entertainment, and meet a lot of people from NC,SC, Georgia, this might be a great cruise for you. I really enjoyed the cruise because of the fellow passengers. So many were so friendly, but you have to be friendly too! The bar staff and wait staff were all terrific. The ports of Freeport and Nassau are not exciting to me, so I enjoyed the pool and the ship during port days, except for a brief tour of the local shops and bars. Carnival now has a great drink package for $55 per day per adult. Check it out if you drink more than 6-7 drinks a day. Some in my group did the package, I did not. We all seemed happyeither way. So, to recap, I had a great time meeting people, drinking, seeing okay shows, and relaxing. If you expect too much......sorry. If you live close to Charleston, by all means, give it a try. I have no complaints about the departure, arrival, food, entertainment, cabin, staff, etc. ENJOY! RELAX!
We sailed Fantasy for our first cruise last week & enjoyed ourselves. So much so that we bought a FCC & are looking forward to cruising again. This is long because I typed out thoughts as they came to me so sorry if this isn't in the best order, but don't want to forget. I'll end with pros, cons & random thoughts.
I know most are more interested in the cruise itself, but I'm adding a short review for the SC restaurant, park & cruise hotel we stayed at, & ports as well:
Had dinner at Hyman's in downtown Charleston. JMHO, this restaurant is an overrated tourist trap. Food is average at best, & the wait wasn't worth it. Service was excellent though.
Aloft Hotel: We did the park & cruise package here, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The hotel itself is fine, but Aloft recently picked up a contract with an airline to shuttle pilots back and forth to the airport twice a day for 2-4 hours each shift depending on how many need a ride. Since Aloft gets paid extra for that, guests aren't a priority for shuttleuse unless they're going to the airport â€“ and even then pilots get first dibs.
I confirmed use of the shuttle to get to and from the port several times prior to arrival (thankfully I got names of those I spoke with â€“ this helped later). Upon arrival I again asked for confirmation & this time was told that they weren't sure because Aloft no longer offered the park & cruise program. I stated that nobody informed me of this during any of my earlier inquiries, & was told I'd have to speak with the manager in the morning. I was upset not only because we paid for the service, but because I knew we'd be tired after the cruise & I had not researched other options to get back to the hotel. Yes we could pay for a cab & would have done so if necessary, but doing so made the park & cruise savings irrelevant as we could've paid much less to simply park at the port & not stayed at a hotel at all.
The next morning the Aloft manager said they would honor the agreement, but we couldn't leave for the port until 1:00 PM & depending on what time we got off the ship, we'd have to wait for a return ride until after the pilot shuttles were complete. In the end, we only waited about 30 minutes for the return shuttle after the cruise disembarked, & since we stayed at the hotel one more night after the cruise returned they let us in at 10:30 AM, probably to make up for the initial drama. Nevertheless, next time I'll stay at another hotel that offers this service.
CRUISE: Embarkation went smoothly for us. We excitedly arrived at the port at 1:30 PM & was onboard by 2:20 PM, having our first DOD by 2:30 PM. No complaints there but walking up that steep gangway to get on the boat was no joke! I'd happily do it again though Which leads me to ...
We took entirely too much stuff with us! I created a master list based on the super sized master list on these boards & was glad I didn't take most of it. We'll pack much lighter next time!
We stayed in an Ocean view on the Empress deck in what I deemed a perfect location, it was easy to get to everything. I learned the layout of the ship pretty quickly, finding shortcuts to different areas, & Hubby said I was already too comfortable LOL. Room was a decent size, but read here the Fantasy's bathrooms are larger than other ships â€“ YIKES LOL. I'd hate to see what other ship bathrooms look like!
We hung stuff up in the closet from the garment bag but for the most part we never unpacked, just lived out of suitcases. Only unpacked toiletries.
I liked that on one side was some kind of fire station room so it seemed like we really only shared a wall with one cabin â€“ luckily we only heard one fight & after they cursed each other when she told him to get the eff out, he went quietly & that was the end of that drama ... we never saw them face to face. Walls are definitely thin.
Although I read several times Fantasy is this oldest ship in the fleet, she looked very well maintained. Everything was as clean as could be, damn near spotless EXCEPT for the smoking areas. Ashtrays need to be emptied more regularly there (most were overflowing with ashes & butts & when the wind blew went all over the place) & tables need to be cleaned/cleared more often there as well. Hubby did this cleaning himself wherever he/we sat every time we went there. Everywhere else, someone was always cleaning, wiping something down, or painting something. Which leads me to â€¦
Smoking section: Hubby is a smoker, I am not (used to be though). He wasn't happy with the smoking arrangements. It didn't ruin his cruise but he complained often that the permitted areas were too few & far between, & since he had no idea smoking used to be a free for all onboard, he wasn't just rebelling against a new policy. We decided on our next cruise to see if we can splurge for a balcony so that he can smoke in the room without having to walk halfway across the ship.
There was a lot of talk on these boards of a foul odor aboard the Fantasy. I can only state that we never smelled anything foul anywhere at any time, & nobody I cruised with ever mentioned a bad smell anywhere either & we all stayed on different floors (Empress, Main & Upper).
Silent debarkation went well, but if you're doing it to attempt to sleep in a little later as I thought I would/could â€¦ forget that! The self assist crowd will wake the dead LOL! Plus since we were on the Empress level everyone gets on/off there so it's louder. Debarkation is very controlled by the Carnival employees & organized I must add (assuming you go when your level disembarks). But doing the relaxed mode gave us time to enjoy a leisurely hot breakfast with our co-cruisers before going our separate ways.
We left our bags in the room & returned to get debark info from Channel 17, which was helpful as we got to our room just in time for them to call our dreaded debarkation number. Although I wasn't happy to be leaving, I was happy to get off a little earlier so as not to spend a lot of time on those gangways while getting off the ship, I'm sure they're safe but they made me nervous & when I looked behind me there were tons of people that seemed stuck waiting on them. Took about an hour from the time we left our room till we cleared customs & back to reality.
PROs: Dwi, our room steward, was excellent! He knew us by name & greeted us every time we encountered him. He was on point throughout the entire cruise & hubby gave him something extra for doing so.
On a Cruise Critic tipping thread, I wondered aloud why cleaning the room twice a day was necessary (having never cruised before, I could only compare to hotels which clean once a day) & must confess that I loved this perk, especially on port days. We'd go out, come back & the room was clean with fresh towels. We'd take showers & go back out. Return after dinner to fresh towels, etc. & the animal. That was wonderful, it really is the little things sometimes. Clothesline in the shower is nice too & although nothing ever dried fast enough it was nice to have somewhere to put wet suits that was out of the way.
Although we weren't enthused with all of the employees, they do work extremely hard for whatever they're making, although neither of us are fully convinced they make as little as these boards claim and if so, then I still believe Carnival can & should do better. However, the majority of employees we encountered definitely earn the $10/per person per day we're charged in tips.
Lost too much money playing Bingo, but had fun trying. Tried every DOD & they were all tasty, but especially enjoyed the one served on the first day (ordered them several times throughout the cruise) & the one served in the monkey's head ... although it was waaay overpriced (ended up giving it to a kid anyway).
Food was good, we enjoyed pretty much everything we ate. Although we had some issues with the MDR wait staff, I'll give them props for working with our table mates, who were frequently late, somewhat demanding, & usually closed the dining room out during the first seating.
Of course the warm chocolate melting cake was delicious, fave dinner was the St. Louis ribs which fell off the bone. The rum raisin ice cream & bread pudding dessert was absolutely DELICIOUS! Dare I say (as I don my flame retardant suit), that the bread pudding/rum raisin combo was better than the warm chocolate melting cake! Enjoyed everything we ate at the Lido buffet, which was standard buffet fare for the most part & for some reason I loved the chicken fingers & fries. Really enjoyed the French Toast made with raisin bread in the Celebration dining room for breakfast, as well as the hot coffee (best free coffee on the ship to me). Also loved the cherry danishes for breakfast (at buffet & in Celebration). A co-cruiser loved the sushi which was made fresh at a stand near the casino, couldn't stop raving about it & said sushi served in the MDR wasn't as good or fresh. Hubby enjoyed the flat iron steak & ribs. We also enjoyed the southern fried chicken and pastas. Hubby wasn't always happy with the portion size & began ordering two entrees. Fried mozzarella was a nice treat, & the Caesar salad was good each evening. I enjoyed the prime rib (one of my faves in general) & the short ribs in particular were very tender and tasty â€“ even more tender than the filet mignon if you can believe that - could've used that filet mignon as a weapon!
Re: birthday cake you can order via Bon Voyage, although I didn't get to taste it everyone said it was delicious.
I really enjoyed my spa experience. After a co-cruiser raved about the massage she got (except for the heavy selling tactics) I was jealous & went for one myself on Wed. evening but they were booked solid. However, they agreed to honor the port special price of $99 for three services (neck, back & feet) the next morning. On Thursday, I noticed there was another round of bingo occurring at the same time, & they graciously moved my appointment back an hour. Tracey in the spa took good care of me & made me wish I'd splurged for the full body massage (tried not to be greedy since I had one the day before the cruise left Charleston!) I told her up front that I wasn't buying anything & gently advised her to use that time to take herself a longer break in between customers. She LOL, but didn't try it & earned herself a nice tip so I didn't have to deal with that.
Comedy club was the height of our entertainment experience, including the comedic juggler. Comedy club is way too small though, standing room only both nights & we had to get there early to get them. We spoke with one comedian who was being flown out the next day to do a one night stand on another Carnival ship & play golf â€“ what a life, huh?
We enjoyed listening to Henry play at the piano bar every chance we got, & had drinks there several times throughout the cruise. Luckily he wasn't far from our cabin on Empress. Various triviathons held daily throughout the ship were fun as well.
Had no problem using our drink coupons (saw varying Cruise Critic posts on this). There were times when a drink exceeded the $5.75 that they offered to take 2 coupons ... it's cheaper to pay the difference on the one drink but that's up to each individual.
CONs: Reading on these boards about the nonstop picture taking didn't make it easier to deal with. We eventually asked them not to take any pictures of us & ran by them when getting off the ship every chance we got.
Although we were NEVER rude, demanding, and/or nasty to employees, we encountered a few that seemed to have negative attitudes, especially if you weren't willing to spend money. Maybe they were overworked or just having a bad day, but there it is I said it.
Jubilee MDR wait staff (and Celebration wait staff in the mornings) were just okay, not great. Many times at dinner they'd bring food out & just sit it down in front of anybody, not seeming to care who ordered what. Sometimes food was served lukewarm & a few times different people at our table sent food back to be reheated. Many times we asked for sides and/or coffee that were never received, or we'd have to ask several times in order to get it.
The MDR drink waiter was the most annoying â€¦ I know he's just doing his job, but asking every 2 minutes (literally) if I want a drink that I have to keep declining (either because I already have a drink or just don't want one) is annoying. When he didn't like the response, his negative attitude clearly showed on his face & body language. The next day he was serving drinks on the Lido deck & we ordered a few. I said to him, "See why we don't order alcohol at dinner? We do all our drinking poolside!" He laughed, but continued on in the MDR.
He was so unrelenting that one guy at the next table eventually told this waiter that he was an alcoholic & the constant inquiries about drinking were going to make him fall off the wagon â€¦ I don't know if the guy was serious, but it didn't matter because the waiter returned 2.5 minutes later asking again what he wanted & pushing the DOD.
It got to the point where as soon as we saw him coming we'd order a soda or something â€¦ ANYTHING just so he'd leave us alone (which he always did once we ordered a beverage). So I guess mission accomplished in the end â€“ he made Carnival more money & got his tip in the process.
Which leads me to â€¦ and I'm sure this will irk some folks but it is what it is â€¦ Carnival really should teach some of their employees basic English before they just send them out there to the masses â€“ and I'm not just talking about being able to recite what the DOD is or the prices â€¦ although sometimes I suspected employees knew exactly what people were saying and/or asking, & just didn't care.
The two times I got a hot dog from Windows on the Sea (two completely different days & times of day), it wasn't cooked & cold on the inside. Same with the hamburger I got there & Hubby got a good laugh at my luck. I stopped trusting the food in there except for fries. Didn't like the pizza, but I'm a native New Yorker & our pizza is a hard act to follow. Oh well, whatcha going to do, right? Wasn't the end of the world since there were other food choices around.
Nightlife was lacking, there just wasn't enough that interested us. We went to all of the shows, the welcome show was fun. Hubby is a fan of Beatles music & was disappointed that they didn't really sing many of the songs but instead danced to most of them. He enjoyed the old Beatles videos played prior to the show more than the actual show itself!
Music Boardwalk wasn't all that in our opinion. It was almost like hearing music in an elevator but not really listening to it. Not sure if that's the attitude they're going for. I made it a point to go listen to them during the Reggae hour, but early on in the set they were playing "Brick House" by the Commodores. We didn't stay long & I wasn't feeling what little reggae music they did play. I'll give them props for their performance during the Beatles show though, the band truly was the best part of that show!
PORTS: Freeport was just okay, we went to the free beach & enjoyed that. Key West hubby went on the 2-hour waverunner tour of the island & loved that. I tried to go on a parasail tour (just to ride on the boat) but think they got more people who paid for the parasailing activity, & the board left early without me. Fury Watersports refunded my money & I instead enjoyed the pool on the Fantasy for awhile since most people were in port. We enjoyed Nassau most, also visited their free beach and walked through/explored Atlantis. Considering doing a long weekend land vacation there in the future.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: I was pleasantly surprised at how few unruly kids we encountered. Perhaps I just blocked them out though. But it didn't feel like the boat was overrun with kids & I worried about that since school was out.
Yes there were a few rude ones, particularly in & around the glass elevators. We got on with a group of teens & one made a comment about how people were riding the elevators interrupting whatever it was they were trying to do ... I don't know if I inadvertently shot them the look of death, but the others didn't follow up his commentary in our presence.
Running in the cabin halls was out of control at times, though (never looked out to see if it was kids or adults, sounded like kids though). Every single day we heard running, many times late at night. I also saw many little kids hanging & swinging from things they shouldn't have been, while parents stood around glancing in ANY direction other than where their kid was located. Just glad I didn't see any kid get hurt.
I got the impression many kids were just bored & looking for something to do, especially those that were maybe too old for Camp Carnival (or felt like they were too old for it). But I would say the majority of kids/teens we encountered were good, well behaved and well mannered.
I suspect that most of our MDR tablemates removed their tips, because that last night service was horrible. We sat there for a good 20 min. before our food order was taken, although the drink waiter made several stops at our table during this time.
Knowing you are on the last day of your cruise is already a bummer, but what made it worse is watching everything slowly shut down around you. We went to dinner (early seating) & returned to the Lido to find the pool drained & being cleaned. I might have felt deprived if I had not hit the pool & hot tub earlier in the day for one last hurrah. Employee attitudes also seemed to change on the last day, most were less friendly, everything and everybody moved slower, & many employees seemed to have disappeared - probably somewhere prepping for the next go round. Several cruisers commented that they felt now that Carnival had gotten all they could from this crowd it was time to concentrate on the incoming group. But I guess if they don't shut stuff down, some will party until the boat docks in Charleston again LOL.
We took these feelings & thoughts as a good sign that we had fun on this cruise. If we didn't, we would've been packing & counting the hours till we could get off.
Overall, we really enjoyed our first cruise. While I can't say that anything about the cruise or Carnival in general was really horrible, there is always room for improvement in any situation & this was no different. We'll give Carnival another try since we bought a FCC onboard, which we'll use in 2013 for our 10 yr anniversary, looking forward to that.
Good news for Charleston cruisers was cruise director said Carnival will get a new port & probably a new ship there in 2012. Bad news is she didn't think the itinerary would change much on either ship because of the amount of time it takes to get to certain ports from Charleston. We may try to fly out of Florida next time although the drive from GA to SC made this trip a lot cheaper & convenient since we didn't have to pay airfare.
Strangely enough for about 2 days afterwards, at times I felt like things were moving even when I stood still & my stomach was a little queasy. Hubby is sick now with the flu & he doesn't normally get sick easily, so wondered if that was from the cruise but it won't stop us from going again!
I hope this information was helpful to someone cruising the Fantasy. I would definitely cruise on this ship again. Any questions, just ask! I'd love the opportunity to be as helpful to others as people were to me.
It was wonderful. As boat owners we never felt compelled to pay for a cruise. Two prior cruises made us swear off them forever. The weather did not cooperate with our weekend boating plans and I jumped on the internet to find a Plan B. Friends have raved about this cruise, especially since it is practically in our backyard. We have been steadfast and firm in our commitment to avoid all cruises. The best we were hoping for was an hour of sunshine. WOW! What a weekend! It exceeded all of our expectations. We will be cruising more often. It was so easy and charming. The entire trip cost less than one weekend on our boat. We left the dock sitting in the hot tub on the Serenity deck. Sitting in a hot tub leaving the work to others is the only way to ride the river! The attendant on the Serenity deck was diligent in keeping the deck smoke and kid free. The only complaint anyone had was the music. Thank goodness for mp3 players. My first cruise was on a much larger, newer ship and it felt likebeing stuck inside a hotel. This ship is smaller and definitely feels like being onboard a ship. It does roll some. We actually wanted to know we were on the water, so this was fine for us. Not so good for people that get seasick.
Cabin The ship is older, but exceptionally clean. Our cabin was on the Empress Deck -- an interior stateroom with twin beds/bunks. The travel agent was afraid we would not like our cabin, but it was the last stateroom available. It was located in the rear of the boat with no windows. We expected a really bad experience, but agreed to tough it out and stay on deck if we had to. Much to our surprise, it was a great location. We did not like the lack of light -- it was disorienting. But it did not outweigh the positives. We did not experience as much of the rocking and rolling as other guests did. It was close to everything we wanted to do and it was very quiet. We pushed our beds together to make a king. My DH and I are picky about our bedding. Carnival advertises comfort bedding. It's true. It was very comfy.
Crew Exceptional. Always cheerful and exceedingly helpful. We were charged $20 per day for gratuities and it was worth every penny. We weren't sure about tipping the waiter in the dining room, but he made us laugh and tended to every whim, so we left him a separate tip.
Activities The activities director was a woman that did a great job keeping us informed. My DH was reluctant to go to the Dating Game with me. She had him laughing within a few minutes and he was so glad he'd gone that he suggested we stay and play bingo. Unfortunately, she turned the reigns over to someone else that wasn't nearly as fun. The last day at sea there just weren't many activities. This was unfortunate because there was a cold front so it was chilly and we were too sunburned to stay by the pool. We gambled for awhile, but were disappointed that there weren't more fun activities like the Dating Game.
We watched the Hairy Chest Contest on TV and laughed out loud. Too bad we missed it in person. Very funny.
Food Very good or very, very bad. Thank goodness for the reviews on this board. We agree that some things stood out. The pizza, the homemade pita chips, the chicken nuggets, the tuna salad sandwich, the grilled ham and cheese sandwich, the lobster, the ice tea, and the melting chocolate cake were all really great. That cake was just to die for. One BIG reason to eat in the dining room. The times we got adventurous we were disappointed. We really disliked the following: the strawberry bisque, the crab cakes (yuck yuck yuck), the shrimp salad sandwich (yuck again), the shrimp cocktail was just nasty, the Bloody Marys were over-priced and really bad, the flank steak was just okay, nothing to write home about; the red snapper was yuck, the buffet fried chicken met with mixed reactions. The chocolate yogurt was a big hit.
We try not to drink more than 1 or 2 sodas a day, so the first day onboard we chose not to purchase a soda card. Being southerners, we're big on tea. The tea was good. On the second day DH drank a few beers, but I don't drink so decided that a soda card might be the way to go. The soda card price was prorated so I only paid $18 on the second day. After coming back from swimming and snorkeling, I drank my money's worth of diet coke in just a couple of hours. Actually, I was glad that I waited to purchase my card because I did not drink enough soda to make it worth $25, but I did drink my $18 worth.
Tours We own property in Mexico and take tours so we know where to take our guests. We signed up for the Discovery Park and the Chankanaab Park and loved it. The tour guide was as much fun as the tour. I swam with the dolphins and loved it. Skip signing up for swimming with the dolphins on the ship. It was a little cheaper at the park. If you don't swim, do the introduction to the dolphins. If you do swim, go ahead and pay the extra money to swim with them. It's great. I know people talk bad about the tours, but on short trips we find them more beneficial than wasting time trying to figure out which way to go to get to the fun stuff. We try to choose them based on our interests and have only been disappointed once when we signed up for a snorkeling tour with a new company. The tours offered on this ship did not disappoint any of the people we spoke with.
Medical One of the guests had a heart event and was evacuated from the ship by the Coast Guard. I want to commend the staff for informing us before the helicopter showed up. The crew roped off the rear decks and allowed guests to watch from the other decks. The announcement was courteous and did not breach any privacy. The Coast Guard did an amazing job airlifting this man off the ship. CG got a standing ovation and lots of thumbs up. On the last day at sea, we noticed several people with their arms in casts, and in wheelchairs or using crutches. Chatting with other guests led me to believe that everyone we saw with injuries had been treated in the infirmary and were pleased with their treatment. I did not hear any complaints.
Miscellaneous The pool was cold, but it didn't stop the kids from playing in it. Loved that hot tub. We forgot it was Spring Break and groaned when we realized it. We expected problems from teenagers and were surprised that it was the teachers who were obnoxious. The ship is small enough to feel like you're actually on a boat, but large enough to get away from anyone misbehaving.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Embarking had a snag because their system could not match our name on our credit card. The attendant went and found a team manager who fixed the issue within seconds. I read that it looked chaotic and could be a nightmare. Even though we booked on such short notice, we were sitting in our stateroom within an hour. Debarking was a pain because DH is hard of hearing and insisted that we leave when the self-assist people left, which was two hours ahead of time. The self-assist line was so long, it was absurd. It took them several hours to leave the ship. Those of us that let Carnival handle our luggage were through customs within an hour. No problem.
This was a relaxing cruise.
Embarkation Since we had cruised on the Fantasy before, we had no problem getting to the port. We were surprised by the lack of people in the waiting area. Everything went smoothly though. Boarded the ship and went to the Lido deck for food and to take pictures. This time around it wasn't as cold or windy like it was last time. The ship looks good with the upgrades.
Cabin There were 5 of us this time, as my sister-in-law joined us, so we got 2 Ocean View rooms side by side. A lot better than the inside cabin we had the last time. I always thought that it wouldn't matter, but it does. I love being able to look out of the window.
Food The buffet was not as good as the last time. The Deli and Pizza was always great. But the buffet needed some work. But then what buffet doesn't?
Camp Carnival They are always the bright spot of our cruise. Our 11 year old loves Camp Carnival. The only problem he had with them was that there were not too many kids onboardthis time around.
Service The cabin service was great. The room was always clean. I was always addressed by name. We called for the cabin stewart one time to ask about something and by the time I hung up the phone, he was at the door.
Nightlife The shows were great. I love the Nightclub Express. That was a great show. We missed our first past guest cocktails event, but there will be other times. We did formal night this time. It was the only time that we ate in the dining room. We didn't have our regular waiter, so the service was slow, which he did apologize for. But the food was great. I had the Molten Chocolate Cake on my last cruise and I loved it. So I was ready for another on this cruise. Well, I was disappointed. This time it came in a bowl and was not to my liking.
Waterworks The Waterworks was ok up until one of my son's sliced 8 of his fingers on the small slide. So be careful if you get on it. Carnival handled the situation well. He required 2 stitches, which was taken care of onboard. The nurse and the doctor were great. The nurse is from Scotland, which is a place I really would love to visit. And the doctor is from Russia. He was a lot of fun. But even with the injury my son didn't stop having fun.
Ports Progreso: Progreso is a nice port. Some people don't like it because of the looks. But we love the "lived in" look that it has. Makes it more real. We drove to Rio Bravo, Mexico -- which is on the other side of Texas -- once. This place has that same look, but without the vendors. Last time we went to Chichen Itza, which was great. This time we took the free shuttle into town and walked around at a slow pace taking pictures and taking in the sites. There are some pushy vendors, but we found that if we just said no and kept going, they would leave us alone.
Cozumel:Cozumel is Cozumel. There is always something to do here. We did The Sub Ocean tour last time. This time the plan was to take a cab into town and do some sightseeing and shopping. We made it as far as Pancho's. We stopped at several shops buying items, taking pictures and such. Got to Pancho's, sat down, took pictures. I bought a Margaritta and that was it for me. The waiter told me that if I wanted a good one to get the lime one. That was one strong drink. Now I am not a first time drinker. I stood toe to toe with Germans doing some drinking at Octoberfest in Munich. But that drink was good. It didn't hit me until I got back to my cabin. And all I can say was it was a very good drink.
Conclusion Overall we had a great time. Since we cruised on the Fantasy before, we had more time to relax, take pictures and just enjoy ourselves.
I just returned from a cruise to Mexico on Carnival Fantasy.
It was GREAT. Everything and everybody was wonderful!
I highly recommend Carnival Fantasy.
Everyone needs to cruise for R&R.
Carnival is the way to go! My husband and I plan to go on another cruise next summer and take our two sons.
I have the highest praise for Carnival Fantasy, Cruise director Big Tex and all the staff. You all are great!
On 15 September I was on the Carnival Fantasy to Bermuda. They don't call these the "Fun Ships" without good reason and thus the line's reputation for a mandatory good time is merited. The Fantasy is the oldest ship in the fleet being over 20 years old, however she doesn't look the part, largely from a 2008 refurbishment. There are many things to appreciate about this ship. *** Activities are plentiful day and night. The day provides almost endless trivia and other games. The party goes into the early morning hours. ***The super slide in the Carnival Waterworks is one of my favorite slides anywhereâ€¦land or sea. *** Some people live to eat, while I tend to eat to live, so of course I found the food more than meets my needs. Carnival's new main dining room menus are two sidedâ€¦.one is traditional favorites which are every night and the other half being nightly specials. Chocolate Melted Cake is available every night !! *** Food always seems to be available on the Lido deck. *** The two big bang production shows provide energy and sizzle. The first one is "Nightclub Express" witha talking sofa which promotes music of varying genres. The Second show is "Ticket To Ride" and is understandably a Beatles tribute. *** The staff, as always seem to truly enjoy their jobs and I enjoyed their camaraderie. *** embarkation and debarkation were both simple and relatively easy considering the restrictions of being in a historic district.
While the Fantasy worked, Carnival's Bermuda itinerary just didn't function so well. The biggest problem with the Charleston to Bermuda itinerary was it allots one day in port, which is hardly worth the two days at sea effort. Unfortunately that one day in Bermuda was a Sunday when much of the island shuts down. On Saturday evening, I enjoyed a Carnival excursion on a glass bottomed boat. For Sunday I did the ship sponsored island tour which was rush, rush, and rush ! While we visited the Gibbs lighthouse, there wasn't sufficient time to actually climb up. While we stopped for a photo at a beach, there was not enough time to enjoy that beach. We were allotted 15 minutes in Saint George, which ironically enough was sufficient since the town was largely closed down for Sunday. The tour stopped in Hamilton for about 30 minutes. There is a majestic cathedral there of which I took some photos, and then got back on the van. If one wishes to cruise to Bermuda I highly recommend at least 2 days in port, preferably *not* on a Sunday. Hamilton seems to be a better of call than the Dockyards where we docked. While the dockyards are picturesque; they appear to still be developmental stage. It would be advisable for Carnival to make Charleston-Bermuda into a 7 day cruise ( not 6) where one gets two full days in port.
Pre-cruise I spent an extra day in Charleston where I stayed on Meeting Street and walked to historic sites. I can highly recommend that future cruisers absorb this great historical city as part of their vacation. Between the ghost tours and the authentic Low-Country cuisine, I found Charleston to much more fulfilling that Bermuda. In summary, I can give thumbs up to both the Fantasy and Charleston, but we needed more time in Bermuda.
We boarded at the Mobile terminal with no delays. Example we were on the ship within 3o minutes of arrival. We live about 40 minutes from the mobile terminal so did not plan the leave our car but we would have our son drive it back for disembarktion.
The weather on the cruise was to coolfor many activities so we enjoyed time on the ship. The shows in the main theater were of good quality . I have seen better and worse.We particularly enjoyed the vintrilquist. Dining was enjoyable here i refer to the people at our table. It would have been hard to find 10 people who could get along with each other so well.
Food was also very well prepared everyone tried the chocolote melting cake and all enjoyed it. I was disappointed with the lido decks food there seemed to be very little choice.
The only problem was the cold weather we had a balcony but could not enjoy it for this reason.
This review is intended to warn shoppers NOT to purchase from Diamonds International and NOT to trust the Carnival Port Shopping Buyer's Guarantee.
From April 13, 2009 through April 18, 2009, my wife and I were passengers on the Carnival Fantasy. While onboard, the Carnival shopping specialist conducted shopping seminars and explained that while in port, if items were purchased at Carnival approved retailers, the purchases would be protected by the Carnival Port Shopping Buyer's Guarantee. The most frequently mentioned retailer was Diamonds International, and the most frequently pushed product was tanzanite jewelry.
On April 16, 2009 we stopped at the port of Cozumel, Mexico. While in Cozumel, my wife purchased a .28 carat tanzanite ring. When we returned to the ship, she registered the purchase so as to qualify for the Carnival Port Shopping Buyer's Guarantee.
On Sunday, May 3, 2009, the tanzanite gem stone fell out of the ring. The ring had not been abused or altered in any way.
On Monday, May 4, 2009, I telephoned PPI Fleet Services, Inc., the company that administers the Carnival Port Shopping Buyer's Guarantee. They took my information and informed me that they would contact DiamondsInternational, and someone from Diamonds International would contact me.
Later that day, a representative from Diamonds International telephoned me and took a report. The representative informed me that they would investigate this, and get back to me. The following day I received this response from Diamonds International; "It will be our pleasure to help you. I can offer you to send your ring to us and then I'll advise you the cost of the replacement for the tanzanite. But this is the only thing I can offer."
I advised the representative from Diamonds International and PPI Fleet Services, Inc., that this was unacceptable. The representative from Diamonds International said that she would escalate this matter to management and get back to me. On Friday, May 15, 2009, I received this response; "any type of replacements for gemstones that are above .15cts will be with a cost for the customer."
On Monday, May 18, 2009, I telephoned PPI Fleet Services, Inc., and updated them on the situation.
On Tuesday, May 19, 2009, PPI Fleet Services, Inc. responded that they could do nothing because Diamonds International said that they would not replace the tanzanite gem stone without charge. The PPI Fleet Services, Inc., Buyer's Guarantee Form, which was provided by Carnival Cruise Lines, clearly states, "This guarantee is valid for repair or exchange." PPI Fleet Services, Inc., will not guarantee your purchase if it conflicts with the terms and conditions of Diamonds International or any other retailer.
I then called Carnival Cruise Lines' Customer Service Center. I was advised that this matter did not involve Carnival Cruise Line and there was nothing Carnival Cruise Line could or would do.
My wife and I will cruise again. We will be wiser in our purchases, and it will be on a cruise line other than Carnival.
Just the Facts Carnival Fantasy February 12-15, 2008 Captain: Domenico Cilento Cruise Director: Big Tex Hotel Director: Andy Brown Ports: New Orleans-Cozumel-New Orleans Weather: Excellent all four days.
This is the second half of a B2B on the Carnival Fantasy. The first cruise was the John Heald Bloggers Cruise. This cruise is the short four day cruise immediately following. I was going to review them as one cruise, but there are so many differences I am reviewing them separately. Of course there will be references to the previous cruise. I am sailing with the CruiseMates "Rehab" group and after the previous five days a rest is needed. This is my 15th Carnival cruise and 50th cruise overall. I am again sailing as a solo.
Day One -- Thursday -- New Orleans This will be a very easy start as I am already on board the ship. I glanced at the bow cam from bed at 5:30 am and we were already tied up at the pier. When I awoke I filled out my customs forms and went to the Windows on the Sea for a nice buffet breakfast. Return guests (B2B) wereto meet at 9:45 to go through U.S. Customs and we did so without much trouble. There were just more people than they were probably used to having for a B2B as our group alone had 25. It was kind of a good feeling to wave good bye to those leaving knowing you are staying onboard. No packing or hassles at least for another four days. After receiving our new cards several in the group went to the adjacent River Front Mall for beignets at the River Mall Café DuMonde. They were very good. Then back on the ship to get the new sail & sign card activated and prepare for another sail away and cruise. We have a new Captain this cruise and will not have all the extra Carnival personnel onboard, but we're looking forward to another good cruise. Muster drill went much faster than the previous cruise and was finished before casting off and making the big turn to go down river at about 4:15 pm. I purchased the Carnival Specials Drink Card and had a Funship Special sailaway drink. It wouldn't be sailaway without it. I'm going to sample all the daily drink specials this cruise. I've really had fun with the bartenders at the Lobby Bar and I think they like to see familiar faces as well. Dinner comes early as I'm on main seating again because of the group. Dinner was very good, I had two of the Fried Shrimp with Plum Sauce, Iceberg Salad, and the Pork Chop. The waiter, Tom from Costa Rica, is much better than our previous waiter, brought some ribs for us to sample and even prepared wet naps from napkins for us. I again had the Black Forest Gateau for dessert. All was very good. After dinner I went to listen to members of the Universal Orchestra (the ship's orchestra) who were performing as a Dixieland Jazz Band on the Promenade deck. That was very neat as we were sailing down the Mississippi River. I would like to take this cruise in the summer so there would be more daylight and more to see. Following this the men in the group gathered (by coincidence) and had a "yawn fest" table on the Promenade deck. It's been a tiring five days, but I was able to make the 10:00 pm Welcome Aboard Show featuring Big Tex, the Orchestra, and the Singers & Dancers. The comedian was Tim Hankleroad. I don't recall having seen him before, but I knew his routine so I must have seen him somewhere. I retired to the cabin but noticed we were just leaving the Mississippi River and entering the Gulf of Mexico (11:15-11:30) so it takes 7+ hours to get to the Gulf from New Orleans. It took me much less time to get to sleep.
Day Two -- Friday -- at Sea Another great night's sleep and the weather is great. I went to the Celebration Dining room for breakfast and had my traditional day one breakfast of: Orange & Grapefruit Sections, Eggs Benedict with sides of Bacon & Corned Beef, Tomato juice, and milk. It was good and the waiter was excellent. I thanked the cabin steward for the turkey towel animal he left the night before and he gave me instructions on how to make one. Since he was there to clean the cabin I spent an hour on the Promenade deck updating email and reviewing on the computer. They had turkey on the carving station on the lunch buffet. I sat outside on the aft looking at the water and it is beautiful today. After lunch I had a movie and some much needed cabin time. This was elegant night and the Captain's Reception was at 5:15 and dinner again at 6:00pm in the Celebration Dining Room. My selections for dinner were the Stuffed Mushrooms, Strawberry Bisque, Lobster & Shrimp, and the Banana Gateau for dessert. A bottle of champagne was delivered to the cabin from Hotel Manager Andy Brown, I assume this was for being a return guest. The drink of the day is a Goombay Smash. The night's production show was Nightclub Express featuring the Fantasy Orchestra, Singers, and Dancers. I enjoyed it even more the second time. Excellent show. After the show I listened to Smooth Music with Michael at the 21st Century bar. Being so busy last cruise I'm able to catch more of the LIVE music onboard this time. Some more time at the "yawning" table and then to the cabin. A great day to rest and relax.
Day Three -- Saturday -- Cozumel, Mexico Another good night's sleep and a beautiful day in Mexico. I had breakfast in the Celebration Dining Room, a very nice omelette. We docked at the Puerto Maya pier. The Ecstasy docked next to us at 10:00 am and the Grandeur of the Seas docked later at the International pier. It was interesting comparing the Ecstasy and the Fantasy side by side. You could really compare the new additions to the Fantasy, especially the Evolutions of Fun areas. Several in our group wanted to accompany me to Antonio's Barber shop, nine people in fact. I guess it did become an excursion of some sort. About 11:00 we took a van into San Miguel and three of us got a haircut. The group then went to my favorite lunch spot in Cozumel: La Candela. Several joined us there so we had 15 people for a great lunch. I had the Mayan fish platter and it was excellent. We had a Tres Leches cake that I purchased at the local Panadería. After the great lunch I had my traditional mojito at Havana Blue in the Forum before taking a taxi back to the ship. For information and photos about this little excursion check this link on the CruiseMates website: http://www.cruisemates.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=606190. After returning to the ship, and in order to cool off, I decided to try the big slide again. I did a much better job with a good push off and displaced a fair amount of water at the bottom. It certainly did cool me off. I tried the cocktail of the day, a Mexican Momma at my HQ, the lobby bar, then a very short nap before dinner. If room service had not delivered some canapés I may have slept through dinner. I had the Sweet & Sour Shrimp (actually two) as an entrée and they prepared a special chocolate Valentines day dessert. It was beautifully presented as a heart shaped chocolate and a red kiss (lips) on the plate, but it was too rich for me. The maître d' also gave flowers to all the ladies. A very nice touch. A group of us met at the "yawning" tables on Promenade deck to socialize. Later I retired to the cabin to watch one of the movies I purchased in Progreso on the previous cruise.
Day Four -- Sunday -- at Sea Another great night's sleep and another beautiful day at sea. Since I awoke early I thought I'd try the Omelette Station located on Lido deck for breakfast, and my omelette was very good. I spent most of the day on the new Serenity deck. I had a nice lounger center aft under an umbrella, so I took advantage of that and enjoyed some good deck time while grooving to the iPod and reading. I took a break for a salad for lunch, but continued on until about 2:00. I wanted to try the new Mongolian Wok station before it closed at 2:30. You pick out the ingredients, meats, and sauce, and the chef prepares it for you. It was very good and good timing as we ran through a squall line and got some rain about the time I got my food. It really cooled it off which was actually nice. We had another cocktail party at 5:00 in the Cat's Lounge. The bartender really took care of me remembering me from the Lobby Bar. Too well really. At dinner we had champagne and wine as well, so everyone was in a friendly mood and it made for an interesting final evening. I had the Crab Cakes, Field Greens Salad, Short Ribs (don't recommend), and Baked Alaska for dessert. The big production show, Ticket to Ride, was after dinner and I got a seat on the front row. This is a fantastic show. I really enjoyed seeing it again. After the show I printed my boarding passes and packed for tomorrow's departure.
Monday -- Debarkation We were docked very early so all went well with debarkation. Not in a real hurry, I had a nice breakfast in the dining room as they were finishing the self-debarkation. I knew I wouldn't have long to wait as I was using the priority debarkation for Platinum guests. I was off the ship by 9:00 am and had a friend to pick me up. It went very well. We had time to visit Chalmette and the Battlefield Park, one of my old stomping grounds as an 1812 War reenactor. It was amazing seeing the devastation of Katrina around town four years after. I enjoyed a very nice lunch at Copeland's and then off to the airport for the flight to Dallas connecting to Waco, Texas. I was home about 10:30pm.
Ship/Crew The cruise director, Tex, is being promoted to another ship soon (Carnival Valor) and I'm glad he was on board for this cruise. He's informative with his announcements that he calls Tex Messages, without being too intrusive into the passengers' day. Victor, my cabin steward, has been very good and my waiter, Tom, has been a great improvement from the previous cruise.
Cabin I still have cabin E-181, a 1A interior cabin. It's really important to keep the same cabin on a B2B as it makes it so much easier. I would not do a B2B unless you could have the same cabin. Again, it is really one of my favorites on a Fantasy class ship as it is on the Empress deck and makes it easy for embarkation & debarkation. Also, the lobby bar is close, as well as access to the dining rooms. No refrigerator, but the cabin steward kept my cooler full of ice. No hair dryer and fewer shelves than newer ships, but lots of storage in the three wardrobes. Push button safe, flat screen TV, good WiFi connection, and a unique floor plan. I had a towel animal each night even on the last four days (turkey, bulldog, bird, swan).
Food I finally had the opportunity to try the Mongolian Wok and the Omelette Station on this cruise and both were excellent. You pick your ingredients on both and they are prepared fresh for you as you wait. My favorite meal was breakfast in the Celebration dining room. My favorites dishes were: the Fried Shrimp, Lobster, and the Cajun Buffet.
Interesting/Unique This cruise was slower-paced than the previous one so I was able to get into a more usual cruise routine. The rest was very much needed. The Snoozeman's Tour of Cozumel with Lunch was great fun. I really liked both production shows, especially Ticket to Ride.
Conclusion This cruise stands out to me because of all the new friends made on the previous cruise and those that stayed onboard for this cruise. It sure makes it special, especially when you are sailing solo. I would sail from New Orleans again, particularly when they get the Carnival Triumph.
Just the Facts Carnival Fantasy February 5-12, 2008 Captain: Pier Paolo Scala Cruise Director: Big Tex Special Blogger Cruise Director: John Heald Hotel Director: Andy Brown Ports: New Orleans-Progreso-Cozumel-New Orleans Weather: Very Good all week.
This is the John Heald Bloggers Cruise for fans of John Heald, the Senior Cruise Director for Carnival Cruise Lines and his very popular Cruise Blog. I am sailing with the CruiseMates Blog2NOLA group. This is my 14th Carnival cruise and 49th cruise overall. I am also sailing as a solo.
Travel Day -- Thursday I rarely fly to a cruise anymore so this was a little different for me. I flew American Airlines from Waco to DFW for a flight to New Orleans. I was wearing a Blog2NOLA group T-shirt so I was spotted by others in our group who were on the same flight to New Orleans. The flight was delayed almost two hours so we did have some time to visit. Once in the air the flight was fine and we were greeted at the baggage claim area by a New Orleans style brass band. I was able to share a taxi/van from theairport to downtown NOLA with my new BFFW's. My hotel is the Maison St. Charles and it is nice in the fact that it is a quaint New Orleans style hotel and not a mega-convention type of hotel. It is a bit further from the hot spots but on a street car line. A lot of the early arrivals in the CruiseMates group met at the Hard Rock Café and some explored Bourbon Street and the famous hurricanes from Pat O'Briens. Unfortunately I was one of them.
New Orleans -- Friday I had originally planned on doing some volunteer work this morning, but due to some recent stress at the ranch and drinking the hurricanes the night before I thought it best I slept in this morning. I don't want a bug before even boarding on the ship. Some friends attended the volunteer project sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line and it went well. I went for an early lunch at Mothers, a famous New Orleans spot, for a Ferdi special. It was fantastic and worth the effort to get it. After lunch I visited Jackson Square, The Cibolo and St. Louis Cathedral. I took an afternoon cruise on The Natchez, a paddle wheeler on the Mississippi River. It was very interesting and informative especially the engine room. This evening the CruiseMates group met at Mulates for dinner and a good time. The band was La Touche, a very good Cajun group. I had a pink lemonade and the Cajun Seafood Platter which was excellent. Our group of about 50 had good seats near the front and the band, and everyone had a great time.
Day One -- Saturday -- Embarkation It was a beautiful day in New Orleans. I took advantage of the fast internet connection in the courtyard of the hotel to update emails and news before heading for the ship. I shared a cab to the port ($7 set fee) and arrived about 11:15 -- a good arrival time as it was just behind the rush, but earlier than most arrivals. There were a lot of VIPs for this boarding so the VIP check in line was as long, if not longer than the regular check in line. I was on board by 11:45 or thereabouts. Since I brought the T-shirts for the CruiseMates group, I helped at their check-in-table for a lot of the day before boat drill. The Captain came by and recognized me from previous cruises on the Ecstasy. I appreciated that very much. When I checked my cabin there was a Welcome bottle of champagne and two plates of canapés. Very Nice. I did have lunch from the Taste of Nations station. It was Cajun Day and I had the Cajun Vegetable Soup, Corn Fritters, Spinach Cornbread, Chicken Creole, and grilled Fish Fillets, all very good. We set sail down river as boat drill ended about 4:15 p.m. I have never sailed down the Mississippi river and because of all the turns in the river it felt as though we were at sea. A lot more pitch and roll than I expected. There was a special cocktail reception for all the Blogger groups on board at 5:00 p.m. in the Universe Lounge, the main show lounge. They were very generous with the cocktails and John Heald made his first official appearance to the group. I have early seating for dinner so straight to dinner following. They have open seating for the Bloggers -- another new experience. I ordered the Fried Shrimp that was served with a very unique & tasty Plum dipping sauce, the Broccoli Soup, a Grilled Pork Chop served with vegetables and macaroni, and the Black Forest Gateau (cherry) for dessert. The Welcome Aboard Show was after dinner featuring Big Tex as a cruise director, and comedian Lewis Nixon. A Bloggers Pajama Party sponsored by CruiseMates was held in Cleopatra's Piano Bar this evening. I'm sure the other passengers thought this had to be a crazy group walking around the ship in PJ's. It was fun and there were probably 60+ who participated. John Heald made an appearance, judged the PJ's and I actually got to meet him for the first time. He recognized my name from this humble blog of ours. Following the Pajama Party and all the first day activities I retired for the evening.
Day Two -- Sunday -- at Sea I enjoyed a very refreshing night's sleep and the ship rocked just enough to make it very nice. Thanks Captain Scala. I had breakfast in the dining room, my personal standard first morning Carnival breakfast of: tomato juice (V8), a mixed fruit plate, Eggs Benedict with side of bacon, and milk. All were very good. After breakfast there was a Q&A session for the Bloggers with John Heald. During the comments, John expressed how important the port of Galveston is to Carnival and even the possibility of a third Carnival ship. That's positive news for Texas. I met Paul Motter of CruiseMates and Anita Dunham-Potter who writes several Travel Blogs. I later shared a table on the Promenade Deck with Anita who is very delightful and we shared information about cruising. It took me a minute to figure out that she was interviewing me in between our conversations. (Link to one of her blogs below). It was Italian day in the Tastes of Nations section. I did have a selection of items. The regular buffet featured roast turkey at the carving station. We had a special tea time with John Heald for CruiseMates at 2:00 pm in the Celebration Dining Room. The tea was good and the scones were excellent. I spent some time at HQ and discovered a new option. The Fun Ship SPECIALS CARD is $23 but will get you one drink of the day and four additional drink specials. That will save you $8.75 and also gets you the drinks in a larger glass. Sounds like a good deal to me. Wish I had known before my initial Funship Special purchase at sail away. One can collect only so many of the souvenir cocktail glasses. The Captain's cocktail reception was before dinner and I greeted the Captain, but only stayed for one glass of wine and left before the introductions. Dinner was very good. I had the pumpkin soup, the stuffed mushrooms, and the seafood entrée consisting of lobster and jumbo shrimp. The lobster was very good and the shrimp were excellent. I had the Bitter & Blanc for desert. The stuffed mushrooms are not as good as they were on the Conquest or Ecstasy. This is also the third variation of the Bitter & Blanc since they introduced it to the menu as part of the George Blanc signature dishes. Still good, just different. The feature show was a production show featuring the Fantasy singers and dancers -- Nightclub Express. It was very good and featured numbers from various nightclub venues such as: Cotton Club, the Copa, Capri, Crazy Horse, Tropicana, etc. This production team just came on the ship last week and they were fresh and crisp. The show had excellent singing, dancing, costumes, and music. This show is not to be missed. I did think this production group of singers and dancers are as good as any I have seen on any cruise ship. Kudos to them and their director. Some very nice canapés were delivered to the cabin this evening as a part of the Platinum "Concierge Club" guest program. I also received a stainless steel thermos as a gift.
Day Three -- Monday -- Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico Another very pleasant night's sleep. I heard people comment that they considered the seas "rocky" last night, but to me it seemed fine. Captain Scala got the Fantasy into Progreso at our 7:00 scheduled arrival time. I had breakfast in the dining room: fresh sliced fruit, fried eggs with hash browns, bacon, & corned beef hash, toast, V8, and milk. I left the ship about 10:00 am and I took the free shuttle to town. I stopped at the Mayan craft store that DW loves (run by Richard) and purchased a bag I wanted for my computer cables and charger. The store has authentic crafts made by Mayans from Yucatan and Guatemala and is a good place to get gifts. I saw friends and accompanied them to Buddy's, but we moved to Le Saint Bonnet and I made that my HQ for the afternoon. We had a very nice table on the restaurant side and enjoyed a very nice breeze coming off of the Gulf of Mexico. The weather was beautiful. The best weather I have ever experienced here. Over the course of the day we were joined by fellow Bloggers from Cruise Critic and CruiseMates. I ordered a shrimp cocktail, and enjoyed their great guacamole & pico de gallo. I also purchased a few items from various vendors who passed. My favorite mariachi, Julio, approached and again recognized me from previous trips. He is the best of the many mariachis that play here. Progreso is probably the pirated DVD capital of Latin America. Charges for a DVD run about $3.00 on average per movie (a little less if you get more) and I again, as on previous visits, purchased a couple. I took the shuttle back to the ship and was onboard by 3:00 p.m. We sailed away at the scheduled departure time of 4:00 p.m. For those that stayed on board, it was Mexican day in the Tastes of Nations. We had the official group cocktail party for the CruiseMates group at 5:00 pm in the disco. It was a Pirate theme and everyone looked so great in their pirate costumes. It was great fun and attended by John Heald and other special guests as well. Dinner was again good. I had a green salad and two entrees, the Sweet & Sour Shrimp and the Chicken Breast, then Tirmasu for dessert. I really liked the shrimp and would do two of those at next opportunity. The Carnival Return Guest party was after dinner. A very unusual time, but perhaps because of all the extra activities this cruise. Big Tex and the Fantasy show band hosted the Guest Talent Show this evening and it was very enjoyable. There were three CruiseMates/Evil Krewe group members of the six who performed. Big Tex did his five level dance routine and that was fantastic. At midnight they had a Men's Nightgown contest (which from photos I've seen must have been hilarious), but I retired to the cabin after such a busy day.
Day Four -- Tuesday -- Cozumel, Mexico Another good night's sleep. The sea was much calmer than the previous night and very nice as we sailed around the Yucatan peninsula and into the Caribbean. I had another good breakfast in the dining room. We arrived and docked on time in Cozumel at the Puerto Maya pier. Another first for me on this cruise is that I have booked a "ship's tour," but really it's the official Bloggers excursion for Cozumel. We met on the pier at 9:45 and were on our way to Playa Mia straightaway. We were met as we got off the bus with servers holding trays of drinks and given a quick orientation of Playa Mia. The package included mixed drinks, beer, a Mexican buffet, water toys, lounge chairs, swimming pool, ice crème, and more. The bar servers were very generous with the drinks and the food was good. The weather was ideal with a nice breeze to keep it cool. It was a great day in paradise. I had two dips in the cool Caribbean water, it was rocky as you first entered but fine and sandy just out a bit. I was very pleased with the tour, the resort of Playa Mia, and the great company. We returned to Puerto Maya about 3:00, but a group of us enjoyed some light snacks and cocktails at Poncho's Backyard until time to board the ship at 4:30 pm. It was Caribbean day in the Tastes of Nations section, another good choice. Dinner was again good, my selections were Escargot, Thai Chicken, Bing Cherry Soup, the Chateaubriand as an entree, and Grand Mariner Soufflé for desert. Our dinner ran late as there was a food problem in the kitchen and we barely got out before second seating began, but that took us to show time. The show was juggler Manuel Zuniga and comedian Al Ernst. Al has been "hanging" with the Bloggers group all cruise and I was familiar with his act, but this was the first time to see him live. He is very funny. I'm not keen on the juggling. There was a special late show just for the Bloggers with John Heald, Al Ernst, and Lewis Nixon. They told stories about one another and reminisced about working together on Carnival years ago. It was very very funny. It was time for the Mexican buffet on Lido deck and it was a very nice set up on deck. The weather was wonderful and the band Music Manila played good rock cover tunes on the open deck. A long day. I checked emails late back in the cabin then retired.
Day Five -- Wednesday -- at Sea Another good night's sleep and I had another very nice breakfast in the dining room. I attended most of the Q&A session for the invited press covering the Bloggers and the "new & improved" Fantasy. I tried one of the hot tubs on the new Serenity Deck. The deck is adults only and located aft with a great view. It was American Day in the Taste of Nations so I had a bit of Salad, Fried Chicken and a baked potato. They had ham on the carving station. There was a scheduled competition at the water slides for CruiseMates at the new Evolutions of Fun water area. It is a fantastic area for families and people who want to have fun. Several slides and other nice water features. I retired to the cabin for a much needed little nap after the excitement of the past days. A Bloggers Talent Show was at 4:00 pm and we do have talented people in the group. John, Al, & Lewis also added to the entertainment. That was followed by the farewell Bloggers cocktail party at 5:00 with excellent hors d'oeuvres and generous cocktails. With early dinner at 6:00, it was a very busy evening. Dinner was good, I had the Crab Cake, Veal Parmesan, and Baked Alaska for desert. The feature production show was this evening, Ticket to Ride, a Beatle show featuring the Fantasy Singers and Dancers, Fantasy Orchestra, and the group Music Manila. This is a fantastic show not to be missed. The last finale of the Bloggers cruise was a late comedy show. The Opening act was our own Kuki of CruiseMates making his comedy debut and featuring Al Ernst. A funny ending to a jammed packed five days of entertainment.
Debarkation -- Thursday -- New Orleans Another good night's sleep and we were docked very early in New Orleans. I went to the Windows on the Sea for a nice buffet breakfast. My first time to eat breakfast on the Lido deck. I filled out my customs forms and return guests (b2b) were to meet at 9:45 to go through U.S. Customs, and we did so without much trouble. There were just more people than they were probably used to having for a b2b, as our group alone had 25. Since I'm staying onboard debarkation was a snap.
Ship/Crew The crew is top notch. Always willing to help, I was greeted by name many times. I met Captain Scala on embarkation day and he recognized me from some previous cruises on the Ecstasy. He is a great guy and a very professional Captain. By the end of the cruise everyone else knew what a fantastic captain he is as he was recognized by John Heald, the press, and the bloggers who crashed his Q&A session on the last sea day. I really enjoyed the bar staff at the Lobby bar and all the bar servers over the five days. With so many cocktail events over the five days, some bar servers became well known.
Cabin I had cabin E-181, a 1A interior cabin. It is really one of my favorites on a Fantasy class ship as it is on the Empress deck and makes it easy for embarkation & debarkation. Also the lobby bar is close, as well as access to the dining rooms. No refrigerator, but the cabin steward kept my cooler full of ice. No hair dryer and fewer shelves than newer ships, but lots of storage in the three wardrobes. Push button safe, flat screen TV, good WiFi connection, and a unique floor plan. I had a towel animal each night.
Food Breakfast in the dining room was very good and my first choice, but many prefer the buffet. There are a lot of options for lunch: the "Taste of Nations" -- which changes daily -- and the regular buffet both in the Windows on the Sea. Then there's the Grill for burgers & hotdogs, the Deli, the new Mongolian Wok, or the Celebration Dining Room on sea days. The quality of food was good to very good. Some items were better than others. At dinner if you do not care for a dish or entree just ask for a different item. The waiters really will help in any way they can.
Interesting/Unique The most unique cruise I have ever taken has to be the John Heald Bloggers Cruise. With all the special events, it was like taking two cruises at once. You could enjoy all the regular ship events and activities, plus all the Blogger events and functions. Double the comedy shows, double the cocktail parties, all the unique events, and group functions. Certainly more than DOUBLE the FUN.
Conclusion Of all the fantastic things on this cruise the thing I enjoyed the most was meeting all the wonderful people that I have communicated with online for many years. To me that was the highlight.