December 13, 2001
In December 2001 my wife and I cruised aboard Carnival's Fantasy for a 3-night cruise to Nassau, Bahamas. This was our second cruise that stopped in Nassau, and our first cruise aboard the Fantasy.
Rather than give a run down of embarkation and every single thing on the ship, I will focus on two areas that we found problematic.
In general, this was a fun cruise and a nice 3-day break. However, I do not think that I would cruise again on the Fantasy any time soon.
Having cruised many times before, my wife and I have experienced many different levels of quality. We both felt that the Fantasy must be Carnival's testing ground for the staff. Our cabin steward and dining room service was mediocre at best. We have received much better service in the past concerning both of these areas - on other ships.
I am not quite sure why the service was so much lower than past Carnival service that we have received. Perhaps the fact that this was only a 3-night cruise and our past cruises have been 5 or 7-day cruises might have something to do with it. Then again, I am cynical and I tend to think that Carnival's new policy on tipping/gratuities might have something to do with the drop in quality of service.
Keep in mind, I never cruised the Fantasy before, so I cannot compare what the past service has been on this past ship. But after 12 cruises, I think that I probably am in a pretty good position to compare the level of quality. Our last cruise was 6 months ago, and our next will be in 6 months.
It is entirely possible that we simply received a poor-quality cabin steward and dining room wait staff. However, the fact remains, the service in these two areas were not the best that we have experienced - not by a long shot.
Our cabin steward did not replace the toilet paper when the roll was empty, and my requests to keep the ice bucket full went ignored. On one occasion when we returned to the cabin to take a shower, we found ourselves with no soap. I paged the number listed for cabin steward and requested soap to take a shower, as we were out. 45 minutes later he finally showed up with a bar of soap and an attitude about me paging him (I had to page him, because I could not locate him or a bar of soap from any other cabin steward on the floor). He explained that his boss would be mad at him because I paged him, because it made it look like he was not doing his job. Although I politely thanked him for the soap, we later discovered that he "retaliated" against us. Although that all passengers received towel creations (towels rolled into animal shapes) on two of the evenings, after we paged our cabin steward for the soap, he did not make a towel creation.
Although my comments may seem petty, I have never experienced such poor service from a cabin steward. Although it is entirely possible that our angered cabin steward may have forgotten to make the towel creation the evening that we paged him, I doubt it.
As for the dining room staff, the level of service was totally unacceptable. We were seated at a table of 10. About 1/2 of the people at the table were experienced cruisers and the other 1/2 were either on their first or second cruise. However, all of us commented on the discourteous nature of our waiter and headwaiter. When the evenings came for the waiters to sing and dance, they went through the motions and gave an appearance that they clearly wished that they were somewhere else. Our entire table received its food haphazardly. Some people received their appetizers when others received their main entree. On a few occasions, 20 minutes would pass without seeing either our waiter or headwaiter (we did not have a bus boy at all), and several of our table mates left before desert was served because we were one of the last tables left in the dining room, and other events were beginning.
It may be possible that we simply may have received the least talented waiter on the ship.
All in all, I have to assume that either Carnival uses the Fantasy to train its waiters and cabin stewards for its "better" ships, or else the automatic gratuity policy that Carnival has recently instituted has dramatically reduced the quality of service provided. The only two areas of complaints that we had were the two areas that now have automatic tips.
In the past, waiters and cabin stewards bent over backwards to make sure that the guest is satisfied. Usually (on other ships) waiters and sometimes cabin stewards told us (passengers) on the last day of the cruise of the importance of filling out the comment cards and how important it was for them to receive commendations that the cards reflect outstanding service rather than just good service. On the Fantasy, the cabin steward and dining room staff could care less. I attribute this to them knowing that a gratuity has already been added to my bill, and unless I go out of my way to have that tip modified, they will receive it, no matter how poor the service.
Make no mistake, the rest of the ship was great. The food was good, the gym was large (and usually empty), there were plenty of lounge chairs and activities available. Almost all of the elevators worked. All of the other staff that I encountered were nice and friendly. However, since so much of your time is impacted by the service of the waiter and cabin steward, I think that Carnival can do much better.
If this is your first cruise, this would still be a good ship to take. Although 11 years old, the Fantasy is in great condition. Take the Fantasy for your first cruise, and your second cruise will be even better. However, if you have cruised before, expect a step down when you board the Fantasy.
If you do cruise on the Fantasy, here are a few tips:
1. There are two Jacuzzis up by the gym (on the sport deck) that are usually empty (the Jacuzzis by the pool are always filled with kids and drunks).
2. The price for bottles of booze on this ship is pretty good - but you can still do better in the shops in Nassau.
3. Show up 3 minutes after the scheduled dinner time and you will not have to wait in the long line (this advice is true on any cruise).
4. If you eat lunch on the Lido deck, opt for the lines outside rather than inside, as the same food is usually served at both places.
5. The pizza lines get long around 5-6 pm and after waiting in the line, you will either eat plain cheese pizza or pepperoni pizza or else you have to special order anything else (such as a Calzone) and wait the 15 minutes for it to be made.