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Kevin R. Marsh

Age: 45

Occupation:Financial consultant

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Fantasy

Sailing Date: August 1st, 2004

Itinerary: Freeport, Nassau

This was my second cruise, my first being my honeymoon 19 years ago on the RCL's old "Song of America". This time, we took our 11 and 12 year olds for a "surprise" vacation; a 4 night cruise and 3 nights at Universal in Orlando.

First, the booking process was delightful. Joe (Jose) P. was my Carnival agent, and he was all I could have asked for. He would answer and return any call, anytime. I probably called him a dozen times over the 3 month wait until our cruise. He was as kind and helpful the last time as he was the first. We booked the Cat. 12 suite, and since we spent the extra $, I asked him for a bit of help. And he did. They threw in 2 free soft drink cards for the kids. Nice.

As for the cabin, it didn't seem quite as big as the pictures, but it was a HUGE improvement over my outside cabin on SOA 19 years previous. I originally balked at the extra expense, but with 2 kids, the expansive room, bed and balcony were certainly worth it. It was the envy of the nice couple accross the hall in an inside room (or should I say, closet!). I'll have a hard time going back to a smaller room in the future.

We arrived onboard early, about 12:30PM. Skippers Club allowed us a speedy entry. Our room was even ready at that early arrival. We enjoyed having most of the ship to ourselves for quite some time. A wise choice. But word for the wise: the drink the waiter hands you at the pool comes along with a $6.25 bill, which I would have refused had I not already thought it was "free" and drank some. Pretty tacky. It took all afternoon for me to erase the "sucker" from my forehead!

Food, of course, is a huge part of any cruise. I remember the spectacular food of RCL and expected no less from America's Fun Ships. I was mistaken. We were both disappointed with the bland and unexciting fare. The appetizers were small and boring. The soups WERE tasty and enjoyable. But again, the main courses didn't pass muster. The chateaubriand was served either rare or medium well. I like medium, but not bloody, so I was relegated to the latter. It came totally devoid of moisture, well overcooked. My wife's chicken was ok, but standard fare. (Carnival did have good fries!! But gee, I don't think they would stick a feather in their cap for that!) My favorite meal was the veal parmesan. As for desert, again, standard fare. Our best deserts were at all places, the NBA restaurant at Universal! Wonderful!

As for the ports of call, I knew that a 4 night cruise wasn't going to make it to the remote islands of the eastern Caribbean. We visited Freeport and Nassau. Freeport greets you with beautiful vistas of a sand quarry. We took a trip to the "Pirates of the Caribbean", a beach/game/lunch trip about 9 miles away. While it was way overpriced, the kids enjoyed it and had a great time. If they were happy, so was I. And I must say that Valentine, the activities director there was the life of the party and made it fun for all. Was it worth the cash? Yeah, because the kids were entertained and that made me happy.

Nineteen years ago, we visited Nassau and were quickly tired of the straw market and the constant barking of the salespeople. This trip, it was good news/bad news. The good news is that the old market burned to the ground. The bad news is that they moved it to a temporary tent 2 blocks down (with no ventilation whatsoever). I lasted 10 minutes before I could take no more. We got back on ship for lunch at Windows of the Seas, the casual diner. (we ate breakfast daily there, and it was good and quick.) We ate and changed into our swimsuits for the Athol Island snorkel tour. I am not a water lover. I grew up in Cincinnati and live in Arkansas, two landlocked places if there ever was, but I owed it to the kids to try something they might not have the chance to do again. So they dragged me snorkeling. And kids, thank you so much! It was the highlight of the cruise. It was easy, even for a landlubber like me! Fish everywhere, within inches. I highly suggest snorkeling and will do it again if given the chance!

The layout of the ship itself was a bit confusing. I finally figured it out the night before we got off. The pool was always full of kids, so adults really never got the opportunity to swim. As for the spa/workout room, I was pleased, UNTIL they started their salespitch for their overpriced therapies. My wife got sold $290 worth of salves and ointments, all from a single facial. She didn't want them but felt pushed into purchasing them. I almost took them back personally, but she asked that a didn't.

As for the ship, it was given an overhaul a little over a year ago. But if you looked closely, it still had some nicks and scratches. We both noticed it was a much less formal ship AND crowd than RCL years ago. And that in itself isn't bad, but we just think a cruise is a extra special occasion, and for us, we enjoyed a more formal atmosphere. Even the dress code for dinner was ignored. Many wore tank tops and shorts, even though they were not allowed.
Did we like the ship and the cruise? Yes, we had a good time, regardless of the average food and ship. Would we travel Fantasy again? No. For the reasons mentioned above, I'll try a ship that is more formal with a more reserved clientel. KRM

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