March 2015 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Charleston Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Fantasy
Overall, I give this cruise 3 stars. My opinion doesn't really take into consideration comparing this cruise to another, just my overall cruise experience. This was my first cruise after all. Arrive as early as you can for boarding (Carnival specified no earlier than 1230pm, I arrived at 1233pm) as a regular boarding (if you don't upgrade to the expedient processing or are not a VIP, i.e. repeat cruiser) too approximately 2 hours from start to finish. Check in was not unlike an airport and the staff was courteous. Our bags arrived at our room shortly after we did with the exception of one small bag, which arrived about 2 hours later. This actually exceeded our expectations. Drink prices are inflated, expect to pay $ 5-6 a beer, $7-10 for wine or liquor per drink. You can bring a bottle of wine per person on board, but no liquor (people snuck liquor in using water bottles). Extra alcohol (floaters) are just $2 more, so save money by purchasing one mixed drink and adding this (they are limited in how much alcohol they can add to various drinks though, check with your bartender). The decor was a bit dated as they had been renovated in 2010, but overall it was still nice. Reminded me of Vegas, but in a boat, and without people trying to shove pamphlets for escorts in your hand. We started with 3 days at sea. Not a fan. The small pool was overcrowded with children and quickly became something you didn't want to swim in. My wife and I dared a dip the second day at sea and came out encrusted with what we told ourselves was salt as this was a salt water pool (we never asked if it was because we honestly didn't want to know the answer if it wasn't). Hot tub water was an opaque pale green by day three at sea and didn't get any better (there are three hot tubs on board, one pool). Food options were plentiful. Breakfast was good with healthy options available. Lunch was the same. I preferred the deli most days, but we both tried most of the different lunch options. While good, nothing better than a local buffet on the mainland. Dinner was better than breakfast or lunch. I had food poisoning two days. Evenings of Day 3 (Roast) and Day 7 (Mahi-Mahi). My wife and I were both sick on the evening of Day 7. I feel it was more to do with preparation and storage of the food than anything else. In both cases I had nausea w/vomiting and diarrhea (I don't care to share this because I want you to be prepared) for approximately 6 hours. Grand Turk was an interesting and welcome stop. The welcome center was built by Carnival and is full of their sponsored shops. The market in historic downtown is full of imported merchandise (no local artisans, verified by our cab driver who asked one of our passengers to start a business here and sponsor local artisans). Local food is good though. Try Barbie's conch fritters. Buy a Turk's Head Lager from down the street at the liquor store though (saves you $3 dollars a beer) and enjoy a little local flavor. Half Moon Cay is all Carnival. So it's a spot to sun and sand only. Drink prices soared here for some reason. Two mixed drinks, one with a rum floater, and I spent $30. Carnival should be ashamed, but I can tell drinks are where they are making money on this cruise. Nassau was by far the best stop. We didn't make the beach a priority here but walked the city instead. Great local finds. Try Westling's Distillery, and try the 5 year rum. I brought 2 bottles of the 3 year home with me as they don't export yet. Twin Brothers was our lunch destination and my wife discovered the best Pina Colada she's ever had (I agreed). Their conch fritters, salad and burger were all really good. We visited the straw market for local souvenirs and the Tortuga Rum Cake gift shop for the best rum cake I've ever had. One quick trip to the beach and then back on board for the return (full day at sea). Debarkation was actually well done and we were in our car on the way home in barely over an hour and a half from start to finish (most standing in line in our hallway for the elevator off). Be prepared to stand in line for EVERYTHING. WI-FI is not free. Don't waste your time going to their demonstrations, they give you all the coupons and vouchers when your disembark at every stop, or just go see your expert at their fun shop booth. OH, if you didn't get the memo, there are two formal nights where you are expected to dress to the nines, plan accordingly.