One of the things that we do as travel agents is the occasional cruise ship inspection. As mentioned in my post back in October after we toured the NCL Getaway, this is generally a 3 hour tour of the ship, hosted by a rep or two from the cruise line, and it’s intended to give us an idea of what our clients can expect should we book them on the ship. This is my second ship tour, and my wife’s fourth, as she did two more while down in Ft Lauderdale for Cruise3sixty a couple of weeks ago. For this one, we were getting a look at the Carnival Fantasy, the only ship from any line currently based out of Charleston, SC. She’s an older ship, having launched in early 1990, but the last refurbishment has her in pretty good shape. The decor is pretty standard for other older ships we’ve been on, too. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the Fantasy has been kept up. Let’s take a closer look…
We drove down from Charlotte early this morning, getting to the port around 10am. Check in for the tour wasn’t scheduled to begin until 11am after all the guests from the previous sailing debarked, so we walked around trying to figure out where to meet. Fortunately, the port area isn’t all that big and we found the spot pretty quickly, and hung out until the Carnival reps arrived. Things didn’t exactly kick off on time, as there was a lot going on. They ended up with surprise Coast Guard and USDA inspections happening after the ship got back in to port this morning. No biggie, things happen, and we were just a small blip on the list of things the crew had to deal with before they left port this evening. I think we may have been delayed 30-45 minutes boarding as a result. Here’s a couple quick shots of the port, including the front of the terminal. When you arrive and park, a shuttle brings you to this entrance and drops you off here, at which point you’ll go through security and check in for your cruise!
Another tip: As you board the ship, you’ll notice a bunch of crew wearing red sweatshirts that say “Just Ask”. If you need to know anything, like where you can grab some food or where you’re room is, they are there to answer those questions. No need to get in line for guest services!
Once we were on, we hustled to check out a couple of rooms. Since we were late, we really were moving fast, and my pictures show it. With more than two dozen people in the group and a schedule to keep, there really wasn’t time to stop and ensure the pictures were clear. The first set here is from a standard oceanview room:
Not bad, a little small compared to more current ships, but I’d be more than happy to sail in it. Next up is the only shot I got of an interior down the hall:
And finally, we have a Grand Suite, the largest room category on board. Note that being an older ship, the only categories that actually have balconies are the Junior and Grand Suites
Due to our time constraints, those were all the rooms we got to see. After finishing there, we were guided around a few other areas as we headed in the direction of the dining room for our lunch. Here are some shots of different areas we saw along the way, including: the show lounge, casino, a couple of bars, the kid’s club, and the Forum Aft Lounge, where they were setting up to host a wedding reception:
There were a couple of weddings going on today before sailing, from what we saw. We entered the port at the same place they did, and the wedding parties were shuttled in to security the same way we were. While I’m familiar with how on-board weddings at sea (or in a foreign port) work, this was my first exposure to weddings that take place in port prior to the ship’s departure. Not everyone in the wedding party was going on the cruise, so after getting everyone on the ship, they hold the wedding, followed by the reception, and then those who are not sailing are escorted off. Pretty good way to get a shipboard wedding on a budget.
Let’s get back to the tour. After a quick visit to the kid’s club, it was time to eat. They took us to the Jubilee dining room at the aft of the Atlantic deck (8), one of the two main dining rooms on board. We all sat at one of the five tables set up for us, and were served by the staff as if we were cruisers, eating some of the same things served at sea. The menu was pretty well set too, with the only choice we got to make being fish or beef for the main course:
and here are the courses, in order (I had the beef):
The spaghetti carbonara was spectacular, as was the warm chocolate melting cake, which is one of our all-time favorite desserts (we usually eat it more than once when we’re on Carnival :)). The braised short ribs were good quality meat, and perfectly cooked, but I’m just not a fan of what ends up being stringy meat (like pot roast type meat). Jen had the beef too, and enjoyed it, but said both the spaghetti and short ribs were better on her tour of the Splendor a couple of weeks ago (they serve the same food on all ship tours).
I’m going to take a second to give a huge shoutout to the wait staff today too, they did a great job, and were even sure to learn our names. After we ate, they even busted out some music and got some of us to get up and dance, just like a regular MDR experience.
After lunch was over, we headed up to check out the buffets and outside areas on the Lido deck. The buffet stations on the Fantasy are all pretty standard for Carnival, but note that this ship has not undergone any of the Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades, so no Guy’s Burger Joint or BlueIguana Cantina. It does have a Mongolian Wok though, which we always enjoy.
No, we didn’t sample any of the buffet food, pretty sure that would have been frowned upon, plus we were full from lunch.
On to the outside areas. Here’s the main area on the Lido deck:
At the back of the ship, they have Waterworks 2.0, added during its last refurbishment a few years ago
They’re definitely some nice slides for a ship this old, but the one downside here is location. Being right behind the stack, it was a bit noisier, especially as you walked out to this area (walkway shown in the first shot above). It is what is is, though. The other odd thing about the aft design is that one deck down is the Serenity adults-only area. I shot this looking down on it from the back of the ship where the waterslides are:
Between the noise from the stack and the kids on the waterslide one deck above, I can’t imagine this is very serene, but having never sailed the Fantasy, that’s pure speculation. If you’ve sailed this ship in her current configuration and can speak to the noise level in Serenity, feel free to comment, we’d love to hear how it really is!
Update: Based on a comment on our Facebook page, it sounds like the location of Serenity is a non-issue!
After we finished on Lido, we did a very quick walk through of the spa, which was a pretty standard setup for Carnival. There seemed to be plenty of gym space for those wanting to work out, too.
Once we finished our walk-through of the spa we were out of time, so we headed down to deck 3, gave our passes back, and sadly left the ship. All in all it was a good tour, and left us with a pretty solid impression of the Fantasy. As mentioned, Carnival has done a really good job with upkeep. Is it small? Yes. Are you limited in room types? Yes. It’s not the Dream or the Breeze, but it’s still a worthy option, especially if you’re looking to cruise out of an east coast port outside of Florida. It’s only three hours from us, so I personally would like to give the ship a shot in the near future if we can carve out some time.
One last thing before I leave you with more pictures of the tour: A big thank you to Joanie and Kirsten, our tour guides from Carnival. They took really good care of us today!