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Carnival Fantasy out of Charleston - Review by Canadian


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In planning my 3rd cruise, I realize how much I look forward to reading other's reviews. I can spend hours looking at pictures, reading suggestions, researching the ports, etc. With the Canadian March Break coming up, I figured some might be doing the same cruise we did in 2013...out of Charleston, South Carolina and I could provide some tips and ideas on what worked for us.


My husband, my 13 year old daughter and I booked Carnival Fantasy from March 10, 2013 - 7 day cruise. We had a long drive ahead of us (15 hours) since we are from Ontario Canada.

Ports included: Nassau, Bahamas, Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk. This was our 2nd Carnival cruise but first time with these ports.


Our drive: We left home on Friday March 8th to start our drive. Hit the Niagara Falls border around 7:30pm. Thankfully it being March, the weather was great! We drove until approx. midnight and found a hotel. I think it was around Pittsburgh, but don't remember.


The next morning had the continental breakfast and spend the Saturday driving for around 10 hours. The drive is BEAUTIFUL!! Some of the best scenery we've ever seen! It was fun watching the temperature gage in the car climb the further south we drove. It was a long drive but through this beautiful part of the country of many hills and mountains, who can complain? We made it to North Charleston around dinnertime where we pre-booked Hampton Inn & Suites - University BLVD. They offered parking for the week and shuttle the next day to the port of Charleston. Time for dinner and to find a place that sells wine and pop to take aboard! Lots of restaurants along this stretch of HWY and a grocery store down the street.


Since it was the Canadian March Break, almost everyone at the transfer meeting room was Canadian. Having the opportunity to chat and get to know other travellers found many did the entire 15-16 hour drive on the Saturday! They were pretty exhausted so I'm glad we did some of the driving on the Friday night. The hotel was extremely organized. Announcing many times what documents you needed to have on you and explaining we would NOT see our checked bags again until we have access to our cruise room. I'm sure people were thankful for this reminder as they are retrieving medication and even passports they had in their checked bags.


Our huge bus load of mostly Canadian's made it to the Charleston port around noon. I think the drive was about 30 minutes. The only comparison I can make is our one other cruise going out of Miami which is beautiful, this port looks like a shipping port and not so beautiful! The buildings are run down and not much to look at.




We got through the embarkment process really quickly and within a half hour, we were on the ship! The first thing we did was check where our room was. We had a sea view room on Empress Deck 7, Rm E62. Knowing where our room was located, we went to get lunch. We had our carry-on bags with us as we couldn't get into our room yet. After lunch and an ice-cream cone, we found our room was available and we unpacked.


There are some great tips on Cruise Critic explaining how to utilize the small rooms on a ship and for me...this was the best tip of all!




I am a "What If" type packer and have a child with medical needs so to have this organizer kept me organized. Everything had a place and I could see and find things quickly!


3:30 - Time for the Safety Briefing which goes pretty quickly!


4:00 - We set sail. We always go to the front of the ship and take pictures.




DINING - We booked the Anytime Dining for this cruise. Last cruise in 2012, we booked the 6pm which I loved but my husband wanted to try the anytime. Funny thing is, we ended up lining up for dinner every night around 6pm anyway! I've heard of long waits with Anytime Dining and was concerned about that but really the only wait is checking in at the front podium and having a waiter walk you to your table. We had a different table and wait staff every night which didn't bother us.


We have mostly had great meals on Carnival ships. I like to try new things and if I don't like it that much, I know I can either order another dish or just get a slice of pizza later on. I've had bad meals at home so I would expect that not everything on the cruise will not be made perfectly to my liking! You will NOT starve and if something isn't to your liking, order something a little "safer" that's hard to mess up or have a salad now and a sandwich later in the night.


Our first night ended with games in the Universe Lounge and an early bedtime! Tomorrow is a Sea Day so tons of time to explore the ship!

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Monday March 11 - Sea Day. I'm not crazy about sea days and this itinerary has 3 of them! :(


I'll lay out in the shade and read but my husband is not a reader. During this time he'd go to the casino and I'm not much of a gambler. We both do enjoy trivia, watching the silliness on the Lido deck, and participating in the onboard games.


This cruise was a little different than our first cruise because it had a cruise director and 5 of her assistants that ran all the activities. All 5 were fantastic. I wish I could remember their names. All I remember is the one with the nickname Donkey.


This afternoon my daughter and I made a mask for the Mardi Gras party and the evening ended with the family and adult comedy club. Thankfully my daughter enjoys the Circle C and spent most of her time there. My husband and I were free to take part in the evening adult fun!


Tuesday March 12 - Nassau, Bahamas.


We booked the Discover Atlantis Tour through Carnival. Since it didn't leave until the afternoon, we explored the port and walked to the nearby straw market in the morning and came back to the ship for lunch. I tried to convince my husband that we could just rent a cab to Atlantis but after me and my daughter rented a cab in Roatan and came back with only 20 minutes to spare on our last cruise, my husband wanted to play it safe.




Atlantis was beautiful!! It was nice to have booked the tour as our guide had a masters degree in marine biology and was incredibly knowledgeable!






She shared with us information about Atlantis, the marine life and Bahamas that we would never have got otherwise.


Wednesday March 13 - Half Moon Cay


This beach is BEAUTIFUL!!




We got off the ship a little later than most because we're not much for beach type people and I soon regretted it. This is the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. I brought one snorkel with us and my husband I took turns using it all afternoon. We were one of the last to get the tender back onto the ship we were having so much fun!



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Wednesday March 14 - Grand Turk


We were really looking forward to Grand Turk and the further south we moved, the warmer the outside air was at night! Unfortunately the captain announced that we will not be porting in Grand Turk because previous ships there had a GI outbreak on ship and he didn't want to take the chance. He did however secure Freeport Bahamas on Friday.


Since we had never been to Freeport and we are pretty laid back people, we thought...OK, we'll make the best of it. BUT boy, were there a lot of peeved off people. The damper wasn't from the cancellation of the port but the fact that everyone had to complain about it to everyone that would listen.

YES...it sucks and YES, complain to your family and then get over it and make the best of your vacation!


So...Wednesday March 14 because a SEA DAY!


We had a great day this day! They planned lots of fun activities. We host Minute to Win it games at home with our friends so we were excited to participate in that!




We played a lot of trivia and got our fair share of ship on a stick and medals to bring home with us. They had lots of stuff going on in the lounge where my daughter and I learned how to create a towel animal! AND we played some mini-golf!




Thursday March 14 - SEA DAY


Not sure what I can say differently about this sea day! I would rather spend my days in ports exploring but we never lacked for something to do!




I love to just walk the ship and people watch. So many differences between Carnival Liberty which we did in 2012. The Lido deck was always hopping! This cruise, Carnival Fantasy, the Lido deck was hardly utilized. The Liberty has a better set up in my opinion, a beautiful comedy club and outdoor movie screen where Carnival Fantasy pales in comparison. Though we enjoyed our cruise and enjoyed the cruise staff more on the Fantasy, the Liberty is a beautiful ship! Our next cruise is on the Glory so we'll be able to compare again which is our favourite!

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Friday March 15 - Freeport, Bahamas


I am a researcher in nature and love looking at posts, websites, pictures, etc about the ports we will be visiting prior to boarding so going to Freeport last minute through me off! What are we going to do? :eek:


We decided to head to a market we heard about on board. We left the port area to get a cab. We were shuttled on to a bus. Typical bus with seats of 2 on either side with the aisle down the centre. Once the seats were full, a drop down seat in the centre aloud for one more per row. Totally blocked in! Scary bus ride! This port is really a shipping yard that is surrounded by factories. Not the tropical location I was expecting.




The couple seating behind us was on the other Carnival ship in port that came out of Baltimore HOW DID WE MISS THIS? It would have only been a 9 hour drive for us! Their ports were all Bahamas but in the end, that's what we ended up doing anyway. Something to consider in the future!


The market was like the Straw Market in Nassau. We spend a few hours and headed back to the ship. We could have went to the public beach that was close by but we didn't bring swim suits. SILLY of us not to plan that!




Back on the ship we actually spent hours just watching the huge shipping ships! The amount of containers they hold is amazing!! Watched one ship turn around in this tight spot close to our ship.




Unfortunately this was our last night on the cruise!! Tomorrow we start our journey home! :(

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OOPS - Not home quite yet!!


Saturday March 16 - Sea Day!


I'm sure we just made the best of our last day. Doing the things we love to do and make the best of it!


We enjoy dressing up for formal night!





Sunday March 17 - Back in Charleston


Today is Debarkation!! They have a silent debarkation which means there was no announcements made during the process. You have to watch your TV screen to know when it's your turn.


Its a pretty easy process to understand. When we exited we were the last ones on our shuttle back to our car. I would have loved the opportunity to explore Charleston but that will have to be a future visit! We have a long drive ahead!


We reached the hotel around 10:30 and our destination was to get as close to home as possible! Unfortunately our return took us right into a snow storm. Driving those mountains in ugly weather was something we hoped to avoid but it being March knew it was a huge possibility. We made it as far as Grove City PA. Having the outlet mall across the street, we would have loved to shop a bit before continuing our journey but the snow had not let up. We took the Monday off work in preparation of not driving straight through and we were thankful for the extra day!


Monday March 18 - Driving to Ontario, Canada! It was slow going and we made it home in around 6 hours from Grove City.


What a great vacation!! To do it again....hmmm, having New York and Baltimore ports closer than Charleston, I'd likely do that! HOWEVER...I'd love to go back to Charleston again. BUT make sure we have time to explore this beautiful area!


I hope you enjoyed my review as I remember it! It was two years ago and hard to remember some things but I hope I touched on some key points. We are planning our 3rd cruise next month and I'm loving the planning! Hope I helped a bit with your planning if you're heading in the Charleston area!!

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