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.
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 shuttle use unless they’re going to the airport – 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 – 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.
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
. Room was a decent size, but read here the Fantasy’s bathrooms are larger than other ships – YIKES
. 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 – 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 …
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 talk on message 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 … forget that! The self assist crowd will wake the dead
! 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.
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 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 :o 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 – 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
, 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 – 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.
The nonstop picture taking by Carnival was a bit much. 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 … 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 … 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 … 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 – he made Carnival more money & got his tip in the process.
Which leads me to … and I’m sure this will irk some folks but it is what it is … Carnival really should teach some of their employees basic English before they just send them out there to the masses – and I’m not just talking about being able to recite what the DOD is or the prices … 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!