The Carnival Fantasy is Carnival Cruise Lines' oldest ship, but like many people, she carries her age well. The cruise ship is the namesake of the popular Fantasy class of ships, and her seven almost identical Carnival sister ships are the Ecstasy, Sensation, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation, and Paradise.
Fares on these cruises are often a great bargain for families, friends, or couples looking for an easy getaway, especially those who live within driving distance of Mobile.
The Carnival Fantasy was built in 1990 and significantly refurbished in late 2008. She is a high-energy ship, with non-stop onboard activities almost everywhere. The decor is fun, but not as wild and off-the-wall as on some other ships. The passenger space ratio is 34, a little less than the Carnival ships in the Dream (36) or Conquest (37) class. The 2,056-passenger ship is large, but not nearly as large as those launched in the past few years. The two main differences frequent cruisers will notice between the Carnival Fantasy and newer Carnival ships are the lack of balconies (only 54 of 1028 cabins have a private balcony) and fewer dining options (no alternative restaurants).
Let's take a tour of the Carnival Fantasy and learn something about the ship and its onboard activities and entertainment.
The Carnival Fantasy has 1,028 cabins, with 408 interior cabins and 566 oceanview. However, the ship has only 54 cabins with balconies, and these are either the suites on verandah deck 11 or the grand suites on upper deck 6. Twenty-two of the interior and oceanview cabins are wheelchair accessible.
All cabins have a flat-screen satellite television, WiFi access, and a basket of sample toiletries, including soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a disposable razor. The 1,028 cabins also have Carnival's "sleep system" with plush mattresses, duvet, fluffy pillows, and high-quality linens. Bathrobes are provided for use while on the cruise and are already in the cabins. Although the cabins were significantly renovated during the 2008 makeover, those who have experienced the numerous cabin categories on newer Carnival ships (like the Carnival Dream or Carnival Liberty) might find the limited selection on the Carnival Fantasy disappointing. On the other hand, if you only use the cabins for sleeping, showering, and dressing, they are quite adequate.
The oceanivew and interior cabins, which are the same size, are clean and simple in design and have plenty of space for two people. Some oceanview cabins have a large window and others have two portholes. The bath has a toilet, sink, and shower, but only minimal lighting. The cabins do not have individual air conditioning thermostats but the air flow can be adjusted by turning a knob next to the vent on the ceiling.
The Carnival Fantasy suites are larger and have whirlpool baths and a shower. The suites have a small sofa and/or sitting area and a balcony. Some of the suites on deck 11 have obstructed views.
Dining and Cuisine
The food on the Carnival Fantasy was good to excellent. The cruise ship has two large dining rooms (Celebration and Jubilee) on deck 8 serving three meals daily, with open seating for breakfast and lunch and either open seating ("Your Time Dining") from 5:45 pm to 9:30 pm or assigned seating at two set times for dinner at 6 pm or 8:15 pm. The dining room was very quiet for breakfast and lunch, and many passengers enjoyed having a leisurely meal with a good variety of delicious choices. Dinner was more festive because the dining room was full. However, the servers did an excellent job of pacing the meal. Although we had assigned seating, we never felt rushed.
Tables in the dining rooms are of various sizes ranging from two to eight passengers. Gym shorts, flip-flops, swimming attire, cut-off jeans, and tank tops for men are not allowed in these two dining rooms.
Most evenings in the dining rooms are "cruise casual", and one evening was "cruise elegant", where many men wore jackets or dress shirts and the ladies dressed up a little. Very few passengers were in traditional formal wear. Many of those who dressed up did so to get their photos made. Family and/or couple's photographs before dinner were very popular.
In addition to the two main dining rooms, the Carnival Fantasy has a large buffet area on the Lido Deck near the pool called Windows on the Sea. Breakfast is all the usual selections, along with omelets to order. The lunch buffet has various stations including Mongolian stir-fry, an international section (Mexican, Italian, Caribbean, or French), rotisserie, grill, pizzeria, and deli. Seating at the buffet is both inside and outside. Soft serve ice cream, ice tea, water, and lemonade are available all day. The pizzeria is open 24 hours, and room service is also available all day and night.
The Carnival Fantasy does not have any alternative dining rooms, and all meals are included in the cruise fare. However, those who love specialty coffees or premium pastries as a snack will pay extra for them at the Bistro Cafe on the promenade on deck 9. The promenade deck also has a sushi bar open in the late afternoon and early evening. The sushi rolls are free, but the saki costs extra.
Although the Carnival Fantasy does not have the many dining venues found on newer ships, the meals in the dining rooms and buffet were varied and interesting. The presentation was especially good, given the size of the ship, and the servers were pleasant and efficient.
Lounges and Bars
Like all Carnival ships, the Carnival Fantasy has several terrific lounges and bars, with memorable decor, music, and lots of fun for its cruise passengers.
The Atrium Bar on deck 7 is at the bottom of the soaring atrium of the ship. It's near the computer center, guest service desk, and tour desk. Just upstairs from the Atrium Bar is Cleopatra's Piano Bar, with tea time in the afternoon and fun piano music at night.
Most of the lounges and bars are on Promenade deck 9. The Universe Lounge, the large show lounge is forward on both decks 8 and 9. Drinks are served in the lounge during the production and entertainment shows. Via Marina, a long promenade walkway, is a hub of lounge activity. The 21st Century Bar is next to the Club 21 Casino. It has seating between the windows and the promenade, providing great views of the sea or the people strolling along the promenade. We loved the decor of the Cats Lounge, with its funky over-sized groceries and leopard-print chairs. The over-sized items provide a "cats eye view" for adults. It has a dance floor, as does the Electricity Disco next door. The Majestic Lounge at the aft of the ship completes the promenade deck parade of bars. The Majestic Bar has a marble staircase that links it to the Jubilee Dining Room. That's quite a collection, and with all the bars near each other, it makes for a real party atmosphere in the evening.
The Carnival Fantasy also has outdoor bars next to the Lido deck pool and Waterworks on deck 11.
Although the Carnival Fantasy has a plethora of bars for those looking to drink, socialize, dance, or listen to music, the ship has many other entertainment options.
All of Carnival's ships are known for their good entertainment, and the Carnival Fantasy is no different.
The Universe Show Lounge is the largest entertainment venue, with seating for over 1,300. The first night was a welcome aboard show, with a preview of all the entertainment to come in the days ahead. The second night the Universe Lounge was busy. It was used for two showings of "Nightclub Express," a Las Vegas-style production show featuring two singers and about a dozen dancers. The theme was nightclubs around the world. After the second production show, the Universe Lounge featured Anthony Acosta with a "100% uncensored adult comedy" act. The third night the Universe Lounge featured a variety show, and the next night was the guest talent show. Our final night onboard, the production troupe returned with another show, this one featuring the music of the Beatles. Since the production shows are always well-attended, the lounge had an early show at 7:00 pm for the late seating diners, and a late show at 8:45 for the early seating diners.
In addition to the entertainment in the Universe Lounge, live music was often found along promenade deck 7, especially before or after dinner. Cleopatra's Piano Bar and the Atrium Bar also had live music.
Life onboard the Carnival Fantasy is not limited to sitting back and being entertained. This ship has many of the onboard activities cruisers expect.
Although it's fun to sit back and enjoy the entertainment or have a nice meal on the Carnival Fantasy, the ship has many other indoor and outdoor activities to keep its passengers busy and having fun. Many indoor and outdoor activities are featured on sea days. The Carnival Fun Times, the daily newspaper, details all of the ship's activities. The cabin stewards deliver it to each cabin the evening before so that passengers can play their fun for the next day.
The Carnival Fantasy spa and fitness facility is a massive 12,000 square feet and Carnival added new private treatment rooms, a mirrored aerobics room, and updated exercise equipment during the 2008 renovation. Organized classes like spinning, Pilates, and yoga have a fee. Spa lovers will enjoy the variety of body, facial, hair and nail treatments, as well as the steam rooms and saunas.
The Carnival Fantasy does not have the educational or port lectures found on some ships, but passengers can learn how to make those towel creation favorites or share scrapbooking tips with their fellow passengers in organized meetings. In addition, the spa staff give a variety of educational presentations on health, skincare, and exercise during the cruise.
More quiet things to do include a visit to the lovely Pavilion library on deck 8. It doesn't have a large book selection, but it does have comfortable seats for reading and nice views from the windows. The library is also used for card and board games.
The computer center is in the Grand Atrium, and the Carnival Fantasy also has shipwide WiFi. Like most ships with satellite connections, the Internet is often excruciatingly slow, but it works well for sending emails back home telling your friends what fun you are having.
The Club 21 casino stays busy when the ship is at sea, and bingo lovers fill up the Universe Lounge at least an hour each day. The casino has slot and poker tournaments on sea days.
Game and puzzle lovers can play trivia, bridge, or toss a bean bag. The Battle of the Sexes and the Marriage Show provide fun and a little competition. Laser tag in the Universe Lounge is exciting, as are the hip hop dance classes and karaoke.
Carnival's kids programs are excellent, and feature organized (and supervised) day and night activities for children ages 2 to 17 in three different groups: Camp Carnival for ages 2 to 11, Circle "C" for ages 12 to 14, and Club O2 for ages 15 to 17. Each group has their own dedicated space on the ship.
Although the Carnival Fantasy has plenty of indoor activities, there's also fun in the sun and outdoors.
Outdoor Activities and Pool Decks
Most of the outdoor activities onboard the Carnival Fantasy are centered on the Lido deck near the pool. The outdoor stage often has live music, but also is the site of the hairy chest contest, master mixologist competition, ice carving demonstration, and "survival of the fittest. The Carnival Fantasy does not have the large video screen seen on newer ships, but those interested can get close to the live fun and entertainment on the stage.
The one pool stays packed with kids and families, so don't plan on swimming laps when the ship is at sea. There's plenty of time for that in the sea when the ship is in port. Many passengers are content to relax in either the shade or the sun on the comfortable lounge chairs. Serenity, the adults-only retreat area aft on deck 9, features teak-style decking, large colorful umbrellas, plush chaise lounges, and thatched roofing. Adults looking to escape from their kids can drop them at Camp Carnival right next door to Serenity. The kids will enjoy being with their friends, and the parents will appreciate the relaxation time and an icy drink from the bar. Serenity does not have a pool but does have two whirlpools.
Carnival added a large WaterWorks aqua park on the Verandah Deck during the 2008 upgrades. Waterworks has a twisting four deck high, 300-foot water slide, dual racing slides (82-feet long), and a wide variety of water spray toys. Although it sounds like an area for kids, many adults got into the action, and kids of all ages seem to love playing in the water.
In addition to the pool and deck areas, the Carnival Fantasy has a walking/jogging track over the spa, and it surrounds a miniature golf course and driving cage for those who want to keep up their skills. Golfers can also sign up for personalized lessons or play top golf course in the Bahamas or Key West while the ship is in port.
Carnival Fantasy - Itineraries and Conclusion
The Carnival Fantasy may be Carnival's oldest ship, but the recent renovations have brought her into the 21st century. Updating both the interiors and exteriors of the ship has made her look much more modern. The shorter voyages, lower price points, and Mobile homeport should appeal to both first-time cruisers and those on a tight budget. Folks who live in the mid-Atlantic and the Southeastern USA will find a cruise on the Carnival Fantasy to be a great family, friends, or couples vacation.