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Cruise Diary

On Board Fantasy

Fantasy Promenade

The Ship
At 70,367 tons, Fantasy was a big step up in ship size for Carnival in 1990. She also introduced a lot of the glitter and neon glitz which became synonymous with a Carnival ship. Compared to today's mega-ships, she is small. However, that smaller size is ideal for her present 4- and 5-night itineraries. There's still plenty of room to roam, while an advantage is that she's easier to get to know.

Up the gangway at Port Canaveral, we found ourselves in the Fantasy's six deck atrium, flooded with sunlight streaming in through an overhead skylight. Not original to the ship, the lobby bar on the lowest level was our first hint that Carnival hasn't neglected this vessel. Popularized on newer fleetmates, the lobby bar was added to the Fantasy.

It's not clear to us when each upgrade was accomplished, but we found similar modernizations throughout the ship. The secondary show lounge was reduced in size in order to expand Camp Carnival facilities, which were once woefully small. The more compact lounge is primarily used for art auctions and evening karaoke and Camp Carnival is now bright and cheerful. For teens 15 to 17, there is Club O2@Spirals, their own no-adults-allowed party space. Spa Carnival has been expanded and the indoor whirlpools removed to make way for an aerobics room beneath the skylight. A miniature golf course is located in the center of the oval jogging track on Sun Deck.

Fantasy Miniature Golf

In terms of decor, much of the original "fantasy" theme remains. Past passengers will feel right at home in Cats Lounge and Cleopatra's piano bar, as well as in the two dining rooms with their awkward rows of booths running along the center of each side. Tiled atrium wall murals depicting whimsical "fantasy" scenes are particularly attractive, as is the Roman-inspired Via Marina promenade where a sushi bar (complimentary) and Bistro coffee and pastries shop (extra charge) are found. What was to become our favorite, the Majestic Bar, an elegant, quiet, and extremely comfortable lounge now contains two oddly-placed tables for serious poker players (at least they weren't rowdy!).

The look and feel of Fantasy is up-to-date and modern. Maybe not the latest thing... there are still some funky colored wall tiles in the Windows on the Sea buffet restaurant that clash with the hip copper ceiling and parasol-style overhead ornamentation. Gone are the garish neon lights that encircled the atrium landings. In their place are bands of fiber optic lights (although neon still outlines the glass elevators). Overall, the multi-million dollar makeover that Fantasy underwent in the fall of 2005 is apparent. She sparkles and is squeaky clean.

As on all Carnival ships, Fantasy's production shows were high-caliber and high-energy. Our single complaint would be the volume of the lounge music. The pianist in Cleopatra's was exceptionally talented and drew us in... then we fled the room after only one song because it was too loud to stay any longer. Same thing with the musician performing on the promenade near the casino bar. Seated off in the distance, his sets were enjoyable. Maybe it was just us--other passengers didn't seem to mind.

Windows on the Sea Dinner Buffet

This is an area where "today's" Carnival shines, particularly in the formal dining rooms. Each evening's menu seemed to top the one the night before and it was challenging to choose from so many appealing options. Our meals were all well prepared to our liking, even my very rare steak and prime rib. While we intended to skip dinner in the dining room one night in favor of the casual buffet, the menus were just too good to pass up. We did look over the buffets, though, and we would have been very satisfied with the selections. 

For breakfast and lunch we tried nearly everything in the buffet and grill--omelets, pizza, salads, deli sandwiches, burgers, carved meats, and Taste of Nations selections. As a matter of personal taste, we didn't try the sushi--it must have been good because it was crowded every night. Admitted coffee snobs, we found specialty coffees from the Bistro to be hearty brews and well worth the extra charge; however, the room service and restaurant java also measured up pretty well. 

Cabin E60, standard outside on Empress Deck

Ours was a standard outside, E60 on Empress Deck. Spruced up and outfitted with Carnival Comfort Beds and new linens, it was a spacious and restful spot to get away from it all. As a bonus, we were delighted that our proximity to the lobby's WiFi "hot spot" meant we could get a wireless signal to access the Internet with our laptop. 

Fantasy class ships lack the one amenity we find most appealing in a standard cabin--a private balcony. You have to book a suite in order to have one. We didn't really miss having a refrigerator in our cabin, but I did bemoan the lack of a hairdryer. Okay, flog away--I goofed and didn't pack one. I knew there weren't any in Fantasy's pre-makeover days and simply assumed they were added at some point. I was wrong. However, I discovered that the nozzle on a hand-dryer in the spa's locker room could be adjusted to point upwards and I could dry my hair there.

Back to the cabin... the only wear-and-tear evident was on the door frame where nicks from luggage were apparent. An oddity we noted was the absence of a folder containing miscellaneous information, such as how to use the phone and room service menus. We received an info sheet during embarkation, but it didn't adequately take the place of the usual folder. On the plus side, a special laundry promotion was offered--for $15 you could have as many undergarments, shorts, tee-shirts, and swimwear laundered as you could fit into the bag provided.

Did you notice this was an Easter week cruise? There were a total of 2,620 passengers on board, with 979 of them under age 21 (955 under age 18 and 718 under age 15). Despite the fact we were sailing at absolute maximum capacity, Fantasy never felt overly crowded. Camp Carnival was a busy place and we seldom saw the youngest children out and about except when in the company of their counselors. If we had to mention unruly children, it would be those kids in the age group from about 12 to 14, whose actions were noisy and silly. 

Older teens pretty much stuck together and acted cool, which to adults means mildly annoying. What about the underage drinking which has been so widely discussed in the media? We saw a bit of it and learned that teens mostly drank ashore where age wasn't an issue when purchasing alcohol. One evening we were joined by a 16-year old who related an afternoon of drinking and drug use at the beach. She eventually requested that we buy drinks for her and her 17-year old boyfriend. We declined, suggesting that she find her parents and ask them. Another teen told us his friend's older brother had purchased beers for them. Unlike the young girl, the boys weren't the slightest bit tipsy. We didn't witness any drunken debauchery by passengers of any age during the cruise; however, we weren't out and about any later than midnight.

One unusual trend we noticed was the wearing of bathing suits all over the ship. In particular, female passengers strolled through the promenade throughout the day without cover-ups. For the most part, passengers followed the evenings' suggested dress codes for dinner and formal night was quite dressy, although there wasn't a tuxedo in sight.

Atrium whimsy -- a "fantasy" tiled mural

The Fantasy Experience
A short cruise, particularly one during a holiday period, is decidedly different than a one week or longer sailing. Our shipmates seemed anxious to get as much as possible out of their short vacation get-aways and the atmosphere was laid back and casual. Overall, it was a cheerful cruise on a ship that's just the right size for family fun. 

To those cruise critics who feel otherwise, we say take another look... Fantasy appears set to sail many more fun-filled years in today's Carnival fleet.

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