by MN Cruiser
April 18, 2004
We returned a few weeks ago from our 4-night cruise aboard the Fantasy. I have been a fan of this board since we booked the trip, and was always disappointed that there was very little written on the Fantasy, especially since her restoration last fall. So, I hope my review is helpful!
We flew into Orlando the night before and caught an 11am shuttle back to the airport on Sunday to meet up with our transfer to the Port--this process was quite easy once we inquired with airport personnel. We gave up our luggage right at the airport (with the customary tip of $1/bag) and waited for the next bus to Port Canaveral. The ride is around an hour. Our first impression of the Fantasy was that she wasn't quite as impressive as the Disney ship docked beside her--and the outside wasn't as modern looking either. But once on board those things didn't make a difference at all!
Security at the port is similar to the airport, so no surprises there. However--once through security, we were so grateful to have completed the "Fun Pass" info online several weeks ahead of time--we were directed to the shorter line, and saw the frustration of those who didn't complete this.
In less than 10 minutes we went through the security measures and put our credit card down and received our infamous sail and sign cards. We were headed to the gangplank for boarding!
I'm not sure why, but I expected the atrium area to be bigger than it was--but it was very impressive with glass elevators, marble stairs, and lots of shops! We grabbed a map and first headed to the tuxedo shop to secure a reservation for formal night which was no problem at all. Our next stop was to the Century 21st bar for a drink. This took up about 45 minutes of our time, and when we found our cabin, our first bag was already waiting outside our room!
We had an inside cabin on the Verandah deck and have no regrets! Next time (yes, there WILL be a next time!) we'd like to try a balcony cabin, but would certainly do an inside room again. The beds were put together to create a king-sized bed (or just slightly smaller) and the half dozen roses that my husband purchased ahead of time, along with a bottle of champagne were waiting for me. Awesome! Everything you hear about the toilet is true and we had a good laugh many times about being sucked down the sewage system! There are NO hair dryers aboard the Fantasy. There is one 120 v plug in by the vanity, but that was never a problem and we didn't use the power strip we had taken with. There is a ton of storage for all our clothes.
I won't go into detail about every area of the boat--but will comment that everything was VERY clean--and never did I see a Carnival employee standing in one spot without cleaning something. There was constant up keep happening all the time, and it showed! These employees have been trained well, and take their jobs seriously.
The pools were smaller than I had anticipated--but there were several of them, and not a high priority for us. We found the main pool area (with two hot tubs) to be very crowded during the day--and opted for a less crowded space on an upper rear deck with a pool there also. Since we were "childless" this helped to get away from a lot of the noise and activity.
There were many activities going on through out the day--always outlined in the Caper the night before. My feeling is on this cruise you can be as lazy as you'd like or as busy as you'd like--and either option is fine with the crew. I don't think anyone could leave from the trip and feel "bored"--if they did, then they weren't asking the right questions of the crew!
Now..on to the food! We ate dinner in the main Celebration dining room 3 of the 4 evenings. We had an 8:30pm seating which we found to be a little late as far as interfering with some of the after-dinner entertainment, and also had to make sure we had a late afternoon snack so we weren't so famished! The head waiter and assistant waiter were awesome--and we tipped them an extra $5 each on the last night. The Matre' D did not visit our table at all--yet we still tipped him $10 in the envelope provided, considering that it's his job to make sure everything runs smoothly in the dining rooms, which it certainly did for us. The food was incredible--flavor, selection and presentation. The entrees are a bit smaller than expected--but after the great bread, salad and/or soup, and desert at the end--we always left stuffed and could have ordered another if there was still room left!
We also had lunch in the dining room on two occasions--once it was buffet, but a grand buffet, with many more options than Windows on the Sea offered. The second time we were able to order off the menu and again the food was just awesome. The other days we ate at Windows on the Sea for lunch, and always there for breakfast as we're not into eating a large morning meal. The pizzeria was great as well as the hamburgers at the pool side grill. After eating so much gourmet food, a piece of pizza or a burger tasted so good! The food was endless--no one should EVER go hungry on board a cruise ship!
The ports were nice--although the weather while we were in Freeport was actually a little chilly. Freeport was nice, but I wouldn't have wanted to extend the 8 hours there, and was disappointed that beyond the smaller Straw Market right at Port, a 15-20 minute taxi ride was needed to get to the heart of the city. So, it wasn't an option to check out the city and then return to the boat for our suits and towels and then head to the beach! The taxi was $5 per person each way. The taxi driver was pushy and would not transport us until he had 10 people in his van. Gas is $5 per gallon in Freeport, so I guess this is why.
We visited the Port Lucaya Market which apparently offers a little more than the International Bazaar. We took a walk out to the pier and were in awe of all the large private yachts docked there. We enjoyed a pina colada out of a coconut at a nice little rum bar in the market. The vendors were convincing but not overly pushy. We spent about 3 hours out and about which was enough for us, and headed back to the ship for lunch. I'm sure we missed some of the sites, but felt satisfied with what we did see.
The next day was Nassau, and we were relieved to see that the city is at our fingertips here--with no long taxi ride. We found the vendors here to be much more aggressive and many more of them! Always someone wanting to braid my hair or sell me something. If you've never vacationed in a spot like this, don't be afraid to "tune out" the pushy ones and avoid eye contact.
Nassau had so many opportunities for things to do. We didn't sign up for any shore excursions, but instead explored the city on our own. We took a half hour horse/buggy tour ($35) which was fun, and spent the rest of the time in and out of the shops. There is a large straw market not far from the ship which is very large with tons and tons of merchandise. The area is crowded, and much of the merchandise is the same, but it was a neat site to see and fun to dicker on the prices. In the afternoon we went to the public beach which was very nice, but it was a little chilly for swimming this day.
That was the extent of our experience in Nassau. There were SO many more things we could have done, and would have done if we had been there another day, but we were on vacation and didn't like the idea of racing around for a whole day just to see every site.
Back on the ship, we bought an internet package of 30 minutes for $16. This was how we communicated with our kids rather than paying the expensive phone calls home. The left us messages when they had time, and we could do the same.
The casino was fun, even though we aren't big gamblers. It was a crowded place in the evening during the dinner times. The shops were nice, and there were good prices on gold jewelry (sold by the inch) and liquor (just remember it needs to be on a carry-on during the flight home!).
My husband and I both like to enjoy drinks while on vacation, so we came to know a few of the bartenders and checked out the many bars on board. Century 21 was a favorite because it's in a pretty central spot that you can see a lot of what goes on around you. Cleopatra's is the piano bar and we had a great time in there before dinner each night with Chris and Tyrone. We went to the disco one evening and had a blast dancing to the 70's & 80's. One afternoon we slipped into the back bar (can't remember the name) and enjoyed the peace and quiet (it was closed) and played cards while looking out the big windows and relaxing in the leather chairs. Each afternoon I made it a point to catch a couple hours in the sun snoozing and enjoying the "drink of the day". Another night we took in some karaoke which was good for a few laughs! We really wanted to catch the midnight comedians, but could never manage to stay awake that long! I saw part of one of the Vegas style shows which was great (just not my husbands taste). That is one thing I would do differently next time--is to make time for all the great entertainment.
We had a noon flight from Orlando which was considered early. We picked up the VIP tickets, and were with the first group to leave the boat and about 9 am. We chose to carry off our own luggage as did the majority of the group we were with. We were at the airport by 10 and at our gate in plenty of time. The people catching the 10:30 flight to NY did some nail biting and a little running, but they made their flight also.
Wow, that about sums it up! So, what did we spend? Our sign and sail card came to $651 for the two us. This included the $85 tux rental, $80 in automatic tips, about $13 for a bottle of Baileys to take home, $16 for the internet café, $16 for a bracelet, and about $20 for a hat from the gift shop. . The other $420 was spent on drinks, which seems like a lot, but some days we drank a lot, and at $3.75 a beer. $5 a mixed drink and $6.50 for the drink of the day, it doesn't take long to add up. My only regret was not getting a massage, which I should have! (it was $99 and I was feeling cheap at the moment!) We also spent a couple hundred on souvenirs at the ports and about $50 on gambling. Again, we had a large budget and didn't hold back, so it could be done MUCH cheaper!!
Would we sail the Fantasy again? Definitely, but right now we look forward to checking out one of her sisters first. Our next cruise will definitely be with Carnival again!