Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Fantasy
Sailing Date: December 25th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Fantasy Cruise Review
Before Leaving – We stayed at the Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans. The room was great and it has very close access to the French Quarter and River Walk. We could see the Julia Street Pier from our room. I thought the casino here was a bit on the tight side, and the tables have some pretty high limits. Make certain that you and your significant other sign up for the slot club, as they will validate your parking if you play in the casino for 30 minutes (if not, parking is $25.00 per day even for hotel guests).
New Orleans is a great spot to visit. They have really made efforts to clean things up after the hurricane, and most of the French Quarter was unaffected. You should not be deterred from leaving from New Orleans on a cruise (or visiting for any other reason).
Parking at the Cruise terminal was very easy and reasonable. Porters were available to take our luggage ($1.00 / bag is the general rate) and the parking was covered.
Embarkation – The New Orleans cruise terminal is very efficient. We arrived about 12:00 (we were supposed to arrive at 1:30, but we were anxious), and only waited about 10 minutes. We arrived on the ship and went to the Lido deck grill for a quick lunch, as our stateroom was not yet ready (we were told this before boarding). Our luggage was delivered shortly after the muster. We were the only ship to leave New Orleans that day.
The Casino – Last Christmas we went to Vegas, and had most of the town to ourselves. The casino is not Las Vegas, but I knew this from our previous cruise. Most of the table limits are $5 at the beginning, but they will increase as the cruise continues. The slots were still pretty tight, but again, this was expected. One of the new features in the casino is that you can use your sail and sign card for an advance at the table. There is a 3% charge for this service, and a $1000 maximum. My wife and I used cash, but I saw several people that were probably pretty upset when they settled up their accounts at the end of the cruise.
The Food – The food was very good. We ate nearly every meal on the Lido deck, as we did not want to fuss with the dining rooms. The grill and pizzeria/deli are quick and filling, and the dinner buffets always have a variety. Breakfasts are still the best meals of the day, with a huge assortment of every kind of breakfast food there is. We made a habit of a before bedtime hot chocolate and ice cream snack. We did not try the room service this trip, as the Lido deck was just as convenient. We purchased several drinks aboard, but not enough to break the bank. If you are a heavy soda drinker, purchase one of the soda cards immediately when you get on board. Otherwise, bring a 12 pack of your favorite drink with you (we brought a 12 pack of bottled water).
Shows / Entertainment – The “Vegas-style” shows were OK. We went to the Broadway review, and it was passable. I cringed at the renditions of Phantom and Les Miserables, but I didn’t really have very high expectations.
Shopping – The ship’s shops are pretty much what we expected. The liquor prices are good, but there was no real way to compare prices as the duty free shops in Cozumel were wiped out by the hurricane. T-shirts and such are over priced as you would expect, but there are deals to be had if you wait until the last day. We shopped a little in Playa, but spent half the day wandering around Cozumel. There are some very good deals out there if you are willing to bargain with the merchants.
Staterooms / Conditions Aboard – Our stateroom was great (Upper Deck, U144) – it was the exact same room that we had on the Ecstasy. The room is adequate for two people and all of their stuff. Our steward left us amusing towel animals every day, and I never met our steward, but our room was always in great condition. The strangest thing was the TV channels that the ship piped in. Being from Colorado, we had to ski to get to New Orleans and escape the blizzard, only to find that the ship had all the local Denver channels. It was surreal to watch the conditions at home while on the ship, and made it twice as hard to go back home!
Day One – New Orleans, Out to Sea: The muster went really fast. Much faster than the last cruise. We had dinner on the Lido deck and enjoyed watching the sights traveling down the Mississippi River. I was very surprised how long you travel down the Mississippi to get to the gulf, and it was very enjoyable. The first night out, the casino has very low limits (usually $3) so we spent some time there.
Day Two – At Sea: Had breakfast on the Lido. Again, it was very good. The weather allowed everyone to spend time out in the sun, and we did odds and ends until it was time to get ready for Formal Night / Captains Dinner. We took a lot of pictures this time, and many of them turned out pretty well. My only gripe was that they have moved from the 5x7 pictures to 8x10 for the initial shots, meaning you need to buy the 8x10 at $20 if you want to buy any other packages. No big deal, except that we really don’t need the 8x10.
Day Three – Calica / Playa del Carmen: Make certain to sign up for the shore excursions early. I have no idea why folks wait to sign up until they get to the boat, but you will probably be disappointed if you do. We signed up for the Tulum/Xel-Ha tour, and it was fantastic! The ruins at Tulum are amazing, although we had to ditch our tour guide because he wouldn’t shut up. We could have spent the entire day in Xel-Ha. It is this wonderful fresh water lagoon that meets the ocean. They have dozens of activities that you can do that are included as part of the park admission. We opted to sit out on the beach near the ocean, but we will be better prepared for next time.
Day Four – Cozumel, Out to Sea: The pier at Puerta Maya is completely gone, so you have to take a tender (water taxi) from the ship to the shore. The shopping area there is still not 100%, but most of the shops were open. We took a cab to downtown San Miguel to walk around ad shop. The Queen Mary 2 was docked downtown (and several other ships were in port), and it was a treat to see this HUGE ship. The shops are fun, but you should never pay the asking price for anything. After a while, we headed back so we could meet up with our excursion, the glass bottomed boat. The excursion was excellent, taking you on a 90 minute ride around Cozumel’s coral reefs. You could see forever, with the water being extremely clear. We took nearly 100 pictures of the sea life. When we arrived back on shore, we took the tender back to the ship. We played in the Blackjack tournament, and made it to bed.
Day Five – At Sea: Not much happening on ship this day. Relaxed on the deck and people watched. If you miss the debarkation talk from the cruise director, it will replay 100 times on the TV. Packed or stuff and settled our Sail and Sign account (you should try to do this as early as possible). We hit the Mississippi Delta around 9:00PM, so we sat on the Lido deck and watched the scenery go by. Very enjoyable.
Day Six – Debarkation: We arrived in New Orleans a bit before 5:00AM. The self assist debarkation began at 8:00. We were not in a rush, so we went for a breakfast and waited for the general debarkation to begin. We immediately found our luggage, and a porter takes you to the front of the line to get through immigration. Customs was very lax, and we made it to our truck. The entire process from the moment we stepped off the ship to the moment we arrived at our truck was probably 15 minutes. Very nice! We went to lunch in the French Quarter and made another quick stop at the French Market for last minute souvenirs before heading home.
Overall – This was our second cruise with Carnival, and we were very satisfied once again. There were more children on this cruise (this was to be expected at Christmas time), but they seemed to be out of the way. I cannot speak for the “luxury” of other cruises and the Fantasy is not what I would call a “luxurious” ship, but it is well maintained, and the staff is great. We had the option of going on the QM2, and that would have been different for certain, but you really get a great deal with Carnival. We will certainly be cruising with them again!
Some things to consider bringing: Room deodorizer – We brought one of the Oust fans and are glad we did. Power strip – only one outlet in the room. A power strip is a must. A pack of bottled water or soda – you can pay for it on ship or try the drink bars – or you can bring your own. $2.50 for a 12 pack, instead of a bottle.