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Tapi

Tapi’s (somewhat) Fantastic Return to Carnival - Aboard Carnival Fantasy

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Hello Cruise Critic community!

 

I'm back from my most recent Carnival cruise! I wanted to write a quick review because it's been several years since my last Carnival cruise. During the last few years, I've been sailing on various cruise lines, but the time finally arrived to return to Carnival and I wanted to share how the experience went after "sleeping around". Overall, we had a great cruise! At times, my review may sound a bit on the negative side, and at others on the positive side, but I wanted to be as objective and direct as possible. Please enjoy and feel free to ask any questions!

 

Thanks!

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BACKGROUND 

 

After being loyal to Carnival for many years and attaining Platinum level, I made the decision to branch out and see what other cruise lines had to offer. It’s not that there was something wrong with Carnival. I just needed a change. So for almost a decade, I bounced from cruise line to cruise line, and destination to destination. But as amazing as each new adventure was, deep down inside I craved sailing on Carnival again, but I just couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger.

 

All of that changed when about a year ago, I was asked if we’d be interested in joining 24 friends aboard the Carnival Fantasy for a surprise 50th birthday cruise. Without hesitation I said YES and the year-long countdown began!

 

DAY 1 - EMBARKATION AT THE PORT OF MOBILE

 

The main reason why my friends chose the Fantasy for this cruise was because of Mobile’s close proximity to where most of us live in Georgia (about a 4 hour drive from the port). It was such a nice and refreshing change of pace to just hop in the car and be at the port in a few short hours! We left the house around 730am and we were at the cruise terminal before noon. 

 

After dropping off our luggage at the car lane inside the terminal (a little slow but painless), we proceeded inside the terminal for check-in. The lines were already pretty long, but because we had priority check in, we were guided to proceed straight to the front. It was an absolute breeze! I loved the personnel at the Mobile Cruise Terminal. Everybody was so courteous and helpful! Larger departure cities could learn a lot from Mobile!

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Edited by Tapi

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THE SHIP

 

I really like Fantasy class ships. They have a practical, efficient, easy to learn, and truly ideal layout. The ship just came out of drydock and it did receive a partial makeover. Upon boarding, the atrium looked welcoming and refreshed. The main pool was refinished, the smokestack got a fresh coat of paint, and some interiors got new carpeting. Some upgrades (like Guy’s Burgers, Blue Iguana, Waterworks, and Sports Square) are wonderful additions that enhance the original design.

 

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Edited by Tapi

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But she still needs a lot of work, and I need to be blunt. There’s no sugar coating the fact that the Fantasy is getting old and it shows. In my humble opinion, it doesn’t seem like enough money is being spent to keep up with her aging process, and minor routine maintenance issues seem to be mounting. 

 

The hull of the ship was covered with large rust streaks. She looks like she’s bleeding rust from windows, vents, etc. Docking next to new ships in Cozumel, like Carnival Horizon and Celebrity Edge, made the dingy appearance more apparent. Indoors, floors were mismatched, some with new carpet but others with old worn carpet. There were maintenance issues in several places. Some cabinet doors in public bathrooms were held together with bungee cords. Some dividers were falling off the walls. Window tinting in several public areas was peeling off. An elevator bank kept glitching and refusing to operate. In our cabin, the window leaked and water would pool on the ledge, the faucet handle broke, the TV only received 2-3 channels (all others showed no signal), the electrical outlet worked intermittently, we had brown water sporadically, and the closet door ripped right off its hinges. 

 

But overall, the maintenance issues that we observed were more of a nuisance than anything else. We still enjoyed our time onboard. It’s just a bit sad to see these Fantasy class ships age, and somewhat not so gracefully. 

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Edited by Tapi

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FELLOW CRUISERS

 

This is a cruise that caters heavily to people in the southeast. According to the Cruise Director, 65% of passengers in this particular sailing were from the state of Georgia (including us). Looking at S&S cards dangling from lanyards, a huge percentage were first time, blue card holders. Overall, our sailing had a very casual and unpretentious vibe. Anybody seeking luxury or an impeccable cruise experience should perhaps steer clear of these sailings. 

 

Fellow cruisers in the most part were very friendly, polite, and ready to have fun, kinda what I’d expect at a neighborhood cookout with good friends.

 

ONBOARD EXPERIENCE AND ENTERTAINMENT

 

We had a lot of fun, and during the 5 days we were onboard, there were very few dull or boring moments. I was traveling with small children (ages 7 and 9) who had an absolute blast. I can’t comment about late night entertainment since we were always in bed early. But daytime activities were plentiful. Cruise Director Marty was young and energetic, and he was truly a hands on and very present CD. I foresee a bright future for him. 

 

Country music or country themed entertainment seemed to dominate. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy country music, just not as much as it was played on this sailing. The DJ played country music by the main pool most of the time. If we were at Waterworks, we could hear country music as we went down the water slides. At night, a country music duo played every night by the casino bar. At the Universe Lounge, the last playlist production was Country Road. And of course there were country line dancing lessons. It was a bit of country overload and at times it felt like I couldn’t escape it, somewhat like I felt when I sailed on Disney and they kept playing Disney songs over and over. 

 

Stage entertainment was a low point in my opinion. We attended the welcome show, the Hasbro Game show, and one playlist production. Sadly, I think that the quality and entertainment value were several notches below what I remember from my last Carnival cruise, and far below what I’ve recently seen on other cruise lines. 

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Edited by Tapi

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CUISINE

 

Overall good! Main dining room selections were tasty although a bit unimaginative. I enjoyed everything that I ordered, and I think that overall, selections were well suited for this type of cruise. I don’t think that many passengers would’ve cared for “finer” cuisine. This was my first time cruising on Carnival after tablecloths were removed (and which caused such an uproar on the message boards). To be honest, I didn’t even notice that tablecloths were gone until halfway through the cruise and I remembered about it, so that should tell you how much I cared about this change.

 

After reading rave reviews about Guy’s Burgers and Blue Iguana Cantina, I HAD to try both. The line for Guy’s was most of the time long. Overall, these burgers are a vast improvement over the old burgers, but I think that they didn’t quite live up to the overhype. I mean, they were very good, but not amazing. I enjoyed the food at Blue Iguana Cantina considerably more, and I actually craved it throughout the cruise. 

 

KID ACTIVITIES 

 

Overall, my 7 and 9 year old kids loved Carnival. At their young age, they have already sailed 10 times across 5 different cruise lines, but they said that this was one of their most fun cruises ever. They religiously asked to go to Camp Ocean every single night. On sea days, they basically lived at Waterworks. They also participated in the various Dr. Seuss activities offered throughout the week. We also attended the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast on our last sea day ($5 cover per person), and it was a lot of fun and well done. For the record, green eggs may be fun, but they don’t look very appetizing!

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Edited by Tapi

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PORTS

 

We visited two ports in this 5 night itinerary, Progreso and Cozumel. This was our first time in Progreso.

 

- Progreso: This port was an absolutely welcome and pleasant surprise. I had read many negative reviews about Progreso, so I had set my expectations very low. I thought about booking an excursion to Chichen Itza, or to go to Merida for the day, but ultimately we decided to just stay in the Progreso area and explore on our own. We took the complimentary Auto Progreso bus into town and from there, we walked along the streets towards the beach area as we took photos of the architecture and monuments that we found along the way. I absolutely loved the relaxed vibe. It somewhat reminded me of Mahahual. We enjoyed a few drinks at one of the restaurants lining the waterfront, and then we spent some time at the beach. We were blessed with clear skies (although it was scorching hot at 95 degrees). The water isn’t the clearest, but we still enjoyed swimming in the ocean. After that, we enjoyed $15 beachfront massages that rivaled massages that cost 10 times more. After that, we returned to the bus stop and returned to the ship. Everybody that we came across was so friendly and welcoming. Truly a relaxing and very enjoyable day. 

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Edited by Tapi

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- Cozumel: We have been to Cozumel countless times including land vacations. So in an effort to find something that we hadn’t done before, we looked for volunteering opportunities. I had read online about the Cozumel Humane Society which is located very close to the Puerta Maya piers. From home, we brought donations which consisted of dog collars, leashes, dog treats, and cat toys. We took a quick 5 minute cab ride ($8) to their facilities, tucked along a dirt road. Once there, we took a quick tour of the facilities, and then we took dogs out for walks. Normally, they have other volunteering opportunities, like giving baths, or assisting with surgery recovery, but those were not being held on the day we were there. After that, we took a cab back to Puerta Maya. Truly a wonderful and rewarding experience. We had lunch at Pancho’s Backyard, and then returned to the ship.

 

We always enjoy Cozumel, but it’s SO overrun with cruise passengers. And that was even more apparent after spending the previous day in sleepy Progreso. There were 7 cruise ships in port that day, and the hordes of passengers were a bit too much at times. It had been years since I’d been to Puerta Maya and I have to say that I hate how it’s been developed. Funneling thousands of slow moving passengers, simultaneously getting off 3 cruise ships, through a long and narrow duty free store was not how I wanted to start my day in Cozumel. And there’s no easy way in and out. You are basically forced to walk by ALL the stores in the shopping village before getting to the street. But I guess that it’s all designed like this on purpose. 

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Edited by Tapi

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RETURN TO MOBILE IN FOGGY WEATHER

 

We were scheduled to arrive back in Mobile early on the last day of the cruise, but around 4am, we started hearing the fog horn in our stateroom. I knew what that meant. Sure enough, we woke up and couldn’t see anything out of our window because of the dense fog. Shortly after, announcements were made that the port of Mobile was closed due to fog, and that they’d make periodic announcements. Many passengers had already vacated their staterooms with their luggage and were waiting in the atrium. However, we were told that we’d have access to our cabin until we had more information. 

 

Once they realized that we’d have a lengthy delay, a modified Fun Times was issued with activities throughout the day. Shops, bars and casino were reopened. Pools and waterworks were opened as well. Breakfast and lunch were served. In a way, it felt like another day at sea. If it hadn’t been because I had to work the following morning at 5am, I would’ve enjoyed the extra vacation time more. Overall, the crew did an absolutely fantastic job quickly turning debarkation day into another fun day at sea. One thing that we didn’t like was that the Hub App was automatically shut down at 10:00am so after that time we couldn’t chat with the rest of our group. 

 

Around noon, the announcement was made that the port had reopened but that we wouldn’t be arriving back in Mobile until 5pm. Most of our friends had driven, but we had some friends with flights out of the Mobile airport at 430pm and 600pm, both which they missed. 

 

Debarkation started promptly at 5:00pm and we had access to our stateroom until 4:30pm. We met at Cleopatra’s for Platinum debarkation, but nobody ever came to escort us out as published. Once we realized that everybody was debarking, we just went ahead and joined the line. Still, we were off the ship quickly and customs was a breeze. 

 

We were in our car and headed back home by 5:30pm. As we drove away, we amusingly witnessed outbound passengers who had decided to make the most of the delay and had set up a tailgate party on the grass near the overpass, with lawn chairs and coolers in the back of pickup trucks. Several looked like they’d already had a bit too much to drink and they hooted and hollered as we drove by. Good for them for making the most out of the situation! 

 

CONCLUSION

 

It was definitely a fun cruise! Nothing fancy, but we went on this cruise with the right expectations. I think that anybody choosing to sail on the Fantasy out of Mobile needs to do the same in order to thoroughly enjoy it. It was truly wonderful to sail on Carnival again, and it felt somewhat like a homecoming. There are things that are better than I remember, and there are things that are worse, but overall, we had an enjoyable vacation. And considering how dirt cheap this cruise was, there’s truly little room to complain. I do look forward to another Carnival Cruise, but most likely it will be on the Panorama or the Mardi Gras. I’m a fool for new ships! 

 

About Carnival and the Port of Mobile, I’m truly grateful for both. Having this option allowed this Surprise Birthday cruise to happen and to get 24 friends to attend, something that would’ve been hard to do if we’d needed to fly or drive a considerably longer distance. I do hope that Mobile does get a newer ship and longer itinerary some day. Until then, we may not sail from there in the foreseeable future, which is a shame because it’s such an easy drive for us and the Mobile staff is truly one of the friendliest, most welcoming, and most enjoyable that I’ve ever come across at any port of embarkation. 

 

In the meantime, I do hope that others continue supporting and promoting the “local” product, and that the relationship between Carnival and the city of Mobile continues for many years to come.

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Edited by Tapi

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Thanks for the review! I may have to look into volunteering at the Humane Society in Coz next February. I love animals, and it would be a nice change of pace. 

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Thanks for the review! We live within driving distance too but have never sailed out of Mobile before (we always drive or fly to Port Canaveral). At some point we will try a shorter cruise out of there though, so it’s nice to see a blunt review of the Fantasy since it’s older. 

 

I wonder why they don’t have a second ship there? Is it too small for a second one or a larger class ship? We would *love* to be able to sail out of Mobile, but we also love 7-8 day cruises and Dream class ships which pushes us to port canaveral. 

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Progreso is much more authentic Mexico. Cozumel might as well be the 51st state. Fantasy does occasionally do longer cruises, although only one 10 day for a partial Panama Canal in September! For being the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet, we really enjoy our Fantasy cruise and that was before the recent dry dock. Prices are often very good.

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1 hour ago, Eggs And Bacon said:

I wonder why they don’t have a second ship there? Is it too small for a second one or a larger class ship? We would *love* to be able to sail out of Mobile, but we also love 7-8 day cruises and Dream class ships which pushes us to port canaveral. 

The current parking structure can't hold capacity for Fantasy.  They use the auditorium across I-10 for overflow.  A larger ship or second ship would require building another parking structure.  I live an hour away, would love to see that happen!

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Hope Alabama gets a better ship in the future, spent a lot of time in Georgia in the Army...Great people who deserve better..

at least better that Carnival's new plan to put a ship in that dump called San Fran......😱

Glad you had a Great cruise

Mike

 

By the way you were one of the people who convinced me to try other lines.. Thanks!!

Edited by mpdog42
correct

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Great review, thank you!  A bit surprising they don't switch out the Fantasy for another ship of her class, just for variety as they do with almost all of their other ships/ports. She is showing at least through spring 2021 in Mobile.

 

Sorry to hear they are not really keeping up with maintenance; perhaps the next drydock will be more thorough.  It seems Carnival just can't decide how much to invest and whether they have a ten-year plan for some of these old gals.  They've done more extensive reno to some of the newer Fantasy class ships which seems to be appreciated by the loyal cruisers. I get this is a downscale product and priced to match, but they need to keep an eye on that point where the value just doesn't meet basic expectations and what that says about the entire brand.

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Welcome back! Great, concise review.  We were pleasantly surprised with Progresso also.  We have also been dabbling with NCL, which is a nice change from CCL.  We have never had a "bad" cruise, but have noticed some maintainance issues (mostly cosmetic) with some of the older ships we have been on.

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Great review, Tapi, thanks for your thoughts! I'm very glad that your return was a good one. 

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Excellent review! I really enjoyed that you were honest and objective. 🙂 You were one of the first reviewers I started “following” when I joined cruise critic so it’s nice to see you back on Carnival.  

 

 

Edited by momof4girls

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Welcome back to Carnival :classic_smile: Many thanks for that review, the Fantasy holds a special place for us and I'm a little sad she's not aging well (I feel I'm aging about the same way).  I wish they would put more pride into addressing the cosmetic issues.  We have always enjoyed the Fantasy class ships but haven't been on one in several years now - fixing that this week by sailing on the Paradise.  The only reason we've not been on that class recently is the length of those cruises - we should probably consider B2B once in a while to solve that issue.

 

So glad that you enjoyed your cruise, and made the most of your "extra" day!

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7 hours ago, Fla Senior said:

The current parking structure can't hold capacity for Fantasy.  They use the auditorium across I-10 for overflow.  A larger ship or second ship would require building another parking structure.  I live an hour away, would love to see that happen!

 

Ah, I didn't know that but that makes sense! I'm about 4.5 hours away and would love to support our economy.  Maybe one day they'll build more infrastructure!  If not, we might try a shorter cruise over a long weekend once our youngest is out of daycare - which, let's be real, 2 months of not paying daycare would pay for that extra vacation of a 4-5 day cruise for all 4 of us :classic_laugh:

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Tapi nice to see one of your reviews again. Kinda surprised with your inaugural cruise back with Carnival you chose an old familer ship. I too at one time was a loyal Carnival cruiser but have been “sleeping around” too the past six years and quite frankly feels great. 😀 But looking to venture back and check things out in a couple years, on a newer ship. 

Edited by MrFunInTheSun

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12 hours ago, Tapi said:

Hello Cruise Critic community!

 

I'm back from my most recent Carnival cruise! I wanted to write a quick review because it's been several years since my last Carnival cruise. During the last few years, I've been sailing on various cruise lines, but the time finally arrived to return to Carnival and I wanted to share how the experience went after "sleeping around". Overall, we had a great cruise! At times, my review may sound a bit on the negative side, and at others on the positive side, but I wanted to be as objective and direct as possible. Please enjoy and feel free to ask any questions!

 

Thanks!

 

Tapi! Good to see you back, thanks for the review. We have been doing much of the same, sailing on other lines, but circled back to CCL.

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