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A Cruise That Care Forgot
Cruise Diary

by Linda Coffman

Carnival Fantasy docked in New Orleans

You might wonder, why take a second cruise on the same ship? 

In our case, the ship was the same, but the cruise experience was quite different. We sailed on Carnival Fantasy just last year from Port Canaveral and this time we were set to embark in New Orleans.

From our home in east-central Georgia we have a number of embarkation ports within a days' drive and New Orleans is by far the easiest for us, being Interstate all the way. Your mileage may vary, but taking to the road can prove to be a less stressful, lower cost alternative to air travel. With long airport check-in and security lines and frequent flight delays, in some cases we arrive at our destination sooner by driving than flying!

After a day on the road, we spent two nights in New Orleans. It's always wise to arrive in any embarkation port a day early to offset any last minute delays or travel glitches and our timing meant we were able to enjoy some New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival highlights as well as our cruise.

If there's such a thing as the "perfect" port in which to embark, it's New Orleans. Carnival Fantasy was docked at the Erato Street Cruise Terminal, which opened in September of 2006. The facility includes a 1,000-vehicle secure parking garage where luggage to be delivered to the ship is offloaded inside—there's no struggle with curbside confusion. Once in the terminal, passenger services are state-of-the-art and we were processed swiftly.

Carnival Fantasy—bow & ship's bell*

It's no secret that southerners are overwhelmingly polite and we found our fellow passengers to be exceptionally courteous. Compared with our last Fantasy cruise, there were less passengers on board, but the ship was still "full" with 2,168 (120 of which were under age 18). While passengers were mostly from southern states, we met a small group from New Mexico, another from California, and couldn't miss a large group of Red Hat Society members. Our tablemates were four delightful ladies from Kentucky who arrived in New Orleans by train, while a high percentage of others drove to port from both close-in areas and surrounding states.

On Board Carnival Fantasy

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. Although large in size, when compared to today's mega-ships, she seems much smaller. However, that 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.

Carnival Fantasy—Sun Deck

As we discovered last year, Fantasy received numerous upgrades during her last drydock in the fall of 2005. For teens 15 to 17, there is Club O2, 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. The secondary show lounge was reduced in size in order to expand Camp Carnival facilities, which were once woefully small. The more compact Forum Lounge is primarily used for art auctions and evening karaoke and Camp Carnival is now bright and cheerful.

To make Fantasy-class ships even better, Carnival recently announced a $250 million "Evolutions of Fun" refurbishment program, during which the line will update each ship's name as it appears on the vessel's hull, as well as in printed materials. When Fantasy enters drydock for future upgrades, the name 'Carnival' and the company's logo will be combined with the ship's name to provide an updated look and feel. Other planned "Evolutions of Fun" enhancements are an expansive children's water park, a new design style and features for the pool areas, and the creation of a Serenity adults-only deck area. Alas, the guilty pleasure of the "topless" sunbathing deck is a thing of the past.

Nights Out
In a nod to our embarkation port, Fantasy embraced Big Easy style by staging a Mardi Gras. The celebration kicked off in true Big Easy parade tradition—complete with beads tossed to the revelers—as good times rolled from lounge to lounge along the promenade. With specialty drinks available at each stop along the way, it was a big hit with participants, even those accustomed to the real thing.

No less animated were American Idol aspirants who took to the too-loud karaoke microphone in the Forum Lounge every night from early evening until late. For passengers relaxing in the adjacent Majestic Bar, the arrival of singing "regulars" was groan inducing. We will concede that some of them put on pretty good performances in the Guest Talent Show, though. While we could understand why lip-sync'ers weren't welcome, why do they not allow tap dancers?

Aside from a hopping piano bar, the most popular hot spot during our cruise was Cat's Lounge where the superb band kept the dance floor packed. Oddly, the disco was deserted whenever we passed by.

Next --> More Fantasy

Photos: Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
and * © Linda Coffman

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