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W Bennett

Age: 47

Occupation:Facilitator

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Fantasy

Sailing Date: 2010-07-17

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was the second cruise for my wife and me. We cruised on Carnival Inspiration 7 years ago and had such a great experience that we decided to try its sister ship Fantasy on this cruise. We went along with another couple and we both had balcony suites on the Verandah deck. This was their first cruise. We also chose this cruise because of the appealing itinerary and because it left out of Charleston, which we could drive to vs. fly. Charleston was a failry easy experience, though not quite as smooth as our Tampa experience.

The dinner food was the highlight of the trip. We ate every night in the dining room and the meals were excellent. Much improved from our last trip. The desserts were tenfold better - the chocolate melting cake was a nightly indulgence. Breakfast and lunch were good, though nothing to write home about. Buffet standard, basically.

The downside of dinner was the "any time dining" experience. We chose this as opposed to the late dining we did last time so we could be flexible with our schedule and sit as 2 couples without any strangers at our table. But on 5 of the 7 nights we had to wait 40-50 minutes to be seated. Once we were seated it took anywhere from 60-90 minutes to complete our meal due to the slow service. Our drinks often went unfilled and rarely did all of our meals show up at the same time. Some of the waiters barely spoke English and our orders were messed up once or twice. Not once did the Maitre' D come by and apologize or explain. Instead, a steward would come by the room each night with an apology card and a small plate of peanut butter fudge. I don't like fudge! We will try scheduled seating next time!

Overall: A for food, C- for service.

The suites were very nice. Carnival has updated this class of ship since the last time we cruised and it looks much nicer. The rooms were clean, the beds were very comfortable, and the view from the balcony was awesome. Very little traffic comes through the Verandah cabin halls, so it is very quiet. The stewards were very friendly and made sure the ice bucket stayed full and that we had clean drink and wine glasses at all times!

Two minor comments: Something besides "ship's TV channels" and CNN would be nice, and a clock would be good too.

Overall: A

Carnival gets an epic fail for this area. First of all, the drink prices were absolutely ridiculous. A bucket of 4 beers was $23. And the beer was never cold, despite being in a bucket of ice. I don't thing they cold stocked enough overnight to keep up with demand during the day. Mixed drinks and the daily "special" were $8.50. Not very special. Last time during the "Captain's reception" there were free whiskey sours (very good). This cruise drinks were $1 off for the reception. No thanks.

The same DJ played the same 7 or 8 Reggae songs every morning and afternoon at the pool and on the Half Moon Cay beach day. There was a very talented pianist/guitarist named Rick who played one of the lounges, but he only played at the pool stage twice - for 15 minutes each time. He would have been a welcome change.

The shows were not every good. The theater is terrible. Poles block much of the view and the upper deck is not tiered steeply enough to allow people to see the full stage. Basically you get to hear the show but only catch glimpses of the performers. The comedian was horrible. He had a running bit about male privates for nearly one hour.

The deck with the casino and most of the bars was unbearable. The smoke was so overwhelming that just walking through the area probably took years off my life. There must be no ventilation at all. This was too bad, because I really wanted to go to the casino, but the smoke was just too much.

The pool is way too small for this size ship. Basically there is only one pool and you will be elbow-to-elbow with everyone in the pool.

If you want to play bingo, this cruise is for you. That seemed to be the number one onboard activity. $10 per card. No thanks.

Overall: F

We planned on the beach and Margaritaville and Grand Turk. Unfortunately TS Bonnie prevented us from docking there, so we turned around and sailed north to Half Moon Cay, Carnival's private island. We also planned on just hanging out on the beach here as well. The evening before we got to Half Moon, I asked guest services if we needed tender tickets. They said we did not if we were not on an excursion. Basically, we were told that once the excursion people got off the ship we could just walk down and get on a tender. No later than 11 AM (we anchored at 9) we should be off the ship, they said. The ship's daily paper, delivered to our stateroom said the exact same thing.

Since we had skipped Grand Turk, we were 7 hours ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, we pulled into Half Moon about 5 minutes late from our scheduled 9 AM anchoring. Anyway, we got up and were having a leisurely breakfast when we kept hearing announcements about going to the lounge to get a tender ticket - for all passengers who wanted to go ashore. Finally, we decided we better check it out. Well, the line to get a ticket was out the door. By 10:50 we finally had one in hand. Our load number was 39 and they had only called 14 loads in nearly 2 hours! There were only 2 tenders and one other boat available at this stop. Everyone had to stay in the crowded theater because that's the only place they were announcing which groups could go load. It took nearly 2 hours to finally be called. Meanwhile, the staff made no effort to make the wait pleasant - no drinks, no music, not even so much as an apology or explanation of what was going on. The crowd got fairly unruly at one point, but again no explanation for the delay. Finally at about 12:45 we were called and got onto the island at about 1. It took another 30 minutes to get lunch, as they did not have enough burgers cooking to handle the demand. Eventually we made it to the water and had 3 hours to enjoy a stop which was advertised as an 8 hour port call. The water was beautiful and warm, so we eventually calmed down enough to have a good time. Don't plan on snorkeling here - there is no reef - just nice white sand.

Nassau - we booked the Blue Water Catamaran snorkel trip through Carnival. Contrary to the description on their website, motoring to the reef is the ONLY option, as the boat does not have a mast or sails! As it was apparently too windy to beach the boat at the planned shore stop, we just snorkeled off the boat. But rather than extend the snorkeling or take a harbor tour, we just went back to the ship 45 minutes early. Again, no apologies. Skip this excursion. The good news is we had extra time to walk around Nassau and do some shopping and sightseeing.

Overall: F The fiasco at Half Moon was inexcusable. It is also inexcusable that Guest Services and teh "Fun Times" paper had the wrong information. A simple explanation (which we never got) and apology would have made me change this grade to a B or C.

We took this trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We had a great experience on our last Carnival Cruise and had no reason to expect differently this time. While we still enjoyed our time onboard, at the pool, and in Nassau, the dinner service and the Half Moon disaster tainted our enjoyment of this trip. We also found the facilities, pool, and decks to be much more crowded and busy on this trip. Perhaps to be expected on a summer cruise vs. the November one we took before. I will say that though there were many, many more kids on this cruise, I found 99% of them to be well behaved and no problem at all. That actually surprised me!

Overall, Carnival doesn't seem to pay enough attention too detail and when something gets messed up they are not forthcoming in making it right, unless you like fudge. I felt as if their entire goal was to extract as much money out of us as possible, regardless of the service. This is too bad, because Carnival lost a repeat customer in me and our friends will probably not go back either.

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