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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Carnival Cruise Line

MS Fantasy

Rating:Three and a half Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Carnival Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1989
Length / Tonnage: 855 / 70,367
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 1,022 / 2,044
Officers / Crew: Italian / International
Operating Area: Year-round Bahamas out of Port Canaveral
Telephone / Fax: Tel 124 2660 / Fax 124 2661

Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor

There will soon be EIGHT of these ships! The FANTASY was Carnival's first "Mega-Ship"...a name chosen because "Super Liner" as nickname for a class of ships was already in use. When Carnival announced the building of a 70,000 ton ship in the late mid 1980's few expected the new ship to be much more than a giantized version of the fleet's three HOLIDAY class sisters, those three 48,000 "Super Liners" whose construction bankrupted their Finnish builder's shipyard...The "Super Liners" debuted in the mid 1980's to very mixed reviews...there are still many people who swear by them but there are quite a few who swear at them...hey...NO ship is EVERYONE's cup of tea...and, well, Carnival's earlier entrants into the cruise fleet in the Caribbean were not universally admired as paragons of good taste, refinement sophistication and elegance... OK, perhaps the company's ships still have their detractors who decry a lack of direct lineage from the TITANIC, but I don't think that that's a bad thing by any means...After all, other than her terrific encounter with a lone iceberg, all I think of the TITANIC is that she killed over 1,500 people...and that's a number that doesn't even approach the number of passengers a FANTASY class ship can carry, and if Carnival is not rife with the traditions of say..a White Star Line...to name a favorite concern of the shiplovers... they have a damn fine record for looking after passenger's safety at sea...something the esteemed British line somehow never really managed to do. So stop criticizing Carnival, boys and girls, because for what they are they truly have it together, and for the money they charge, do a damn fine job!

But when the Line presented the travel world with news of the development of a class of several new sisterships, each to surpass the 70,000 ton mark...it was not the HOLIDAY, CELEBRATION and JUBILEE that leapt to mind...NOSIREE!!! People expected a group of schlocky, downmarket ships with tacky decor and effects because...let's face it, the company's first three ships were just that! No tasteful decor or refined atmosphere there; just cheap, loud looking public spaces, and well, as for the cabins...I'd rather not get into that...so who can blame the observers expecting a giant MARDI GRAS? They were wrong, and the FANTASY immediately proved herself something very different...an extraordinary ship which in a slightly different world...all right..dare I say it...in a country with perhaps a greater sentimental attachment to refinement and sophistication than we wild Americans have...and perhaps a few more softer furnishings and colors in their cabins...the FANTASY and her sisters would be the darlings of EVERYONE from cafe society to the horsey set...but that is not our world and for the average American this ship and her sisters are absolutely FIRST RATE! So... It's not the ships that set some people's teeth on edge...it's some of the passengers (usually the ones who end up having ALL the fun...those you might not want to sit with, perhaps) that rag the edges of Carnival's name....

With a building cost of more than $200 million, the FANTASY propelled Carnival into the "megaship" age when she sailed on her first cruise on March 2, 1990, a 3 day cruise from Miami to the Bahamas... When the second ship, the ECSTASY, came out, the FANTASY moved north to begin and end her 3 and 4 day cruises at Port Canaveral. Hardly a day goes by that she isn't full... and since full here means AT LEAST 2,044 passengers....Carnival is doing things right! Is this a ship for you? Well if you have kids..or like kids..or like partying...bright lights, dancing, games, shows, amusements, and a couple of days with that Mouse Fellow near Orlando, I bet it IS!! Just remember...Carnival ships, great for first timers, great for second third or fourth or more time cruisers, offers little to nothing for the quiet set...it's not really the place for anyone looking for a quiet, sophisticated cruise nor would anyone who prefers the atmosphere of one of the finest homes on Long Island feel at home here...everyone else can come with me and as many as 2,500 other passengers and laugh and enjoy for a few days.

Public Areas
Now that you know who this ship is for...and if you don't expect to make a much of a connection with anyone who didn't board with you... because on a short cruise like this ship makes. ..you probably won't, because as the 20th Century draws to its close, approaching strangers is ever more daunting....you will be entertained by some of the best sound systems and lighting effects to be seen at sea. The ship's casino is very active (often PACKED - with players three deep at the tables and people waiting for a turn at any of the 226 slot machines...or the "MEGACASH" slots... a system linked by computer to all the ships in Carnival's extended family...those "DAM" good Holland America liners, the sporty "WIND" boats, and the supertrendy big bucks "SEABOURNS"...If you like to sunbathe topless or in an abbreviated costume in a deckchair with nothing but a hot sun and an ice bucket full of brews for company, you can do that here and if you like to people watch while you wonder what their first names are, you should think about taking a cruise in the FANTASY.

When you board the FANTASY in Canaveral, look up...you're in the Grand Spectrum, an atrium...rising seven decks up to a cupola of glass topsides...it's the core of the ship and like any passenger ship's main crossroads, it's here that you'll find the Purser's Office, the Shore Excursion desk, some of the main stairs and elevators... the photographer's gallery is just aft.... If nothing else, it will make you smile even if you have been aboard Carnival's "megaships" a thousand times...it's just that kind of space! Many of the ship's public rooms are located on Promenade Deck where the first thing you notice is the feeling of spaciousness....no crowding here...there's so much room...if you let yourself you should also notice that the lights change subtly from a soft blue to passionate hot reds...Two of the main entrances to the Universe Lounge, the amazing duplex 1,300+seat showroom of this masterpiece of shipbuilding...are forward on this deck. Come by at night and you'll be blown away by the sound system alone..the lighting and smoke effects, good as they are, struck me as overkill....I was wowed by the sound! In case you wondered..that's a 33 foot diameter revolving stage....(ok, so when I was a kid I remember a cartoon where people were positioned on a record player...it's something like that!)...the effects aren't limited to sound and light though, there's marble, colored tiles, glass staircases, radiant neon, rosewood panelled walls, leather couches...Look around you...a lot of thought, imagination and work went into the creation of this ship!

One of the things I like most in the FANTASY sisters is called Century Boulevard on this one...a kind of main street running fore and aft, off which most public rooms are located...The Boulevard is no mere passageway ...oh! dear ME!! NO!!! It's a series of cafes and bars, shop windows, a number of things all at once and with a ceiling that by night brings out the stars...To my mind two small public rooms give the ship's personality an extra "oomph"! I am bowled over by Cleopatra's where the execution of an ancient Egyptian motif makes me think Aida and Radames will be dropping in any minute for mead...and Cat's Lounge...a room inspired by the eponymous Broadway musical and entered through an enormous (though mercifully empty) can of cat food open at both ends, a room replete with oversized cans, tea kettles, kitchen utensils and a dance floor that looks like a tire! Next door is the Electricity Discotheque...I won't tell you a thing about it except that it's yellow and I don't do disco (as a rule!) Rounding out the options on this deck alone are several bars and a couple more lounges like the Majestic Bar where people assigned to tables in the Jubilee Dining Room (aft) meet for a pre dinner drink (and many just kind of congregate around the balcony over the stairs leading down to dinner...when I do it I am aware that I must look like a bear stalking its prey...

However, my favorite item aboard this ship...and aboard ALL of her sisters is the Nautica Spa....but that's because I like to work out...I mean SERIOUSLY work out... these Carnival ships really do have just about the BEST fitness facilities at sea. Located atop the wheelhouse the gym shares the Captain's views forward and to the sides and working out here is a highlight of any of my days aboard any of the FANTASY class ships. There are six treadmills, more than 30 weight machines, free weights AND the ship has a separate one-eighth-mile jogging track. If you have the strength after all that....take in some of the aerobics classes offered throughout the day. But the l2,000 square feet of spa means more than that great gym...their is a skylighted room for the hot tubs, steam and sauna rooms plus a beauty salon... There are acres of deck space and a BIG swimming pool (but if EVERYONE aboard tried to use it at once it would be like stuffing a lot of college students into a telephone booth.)

Remember that red headed lady on TV - you know the woman who kept singing about the results of her friends "seeing her now"? That line about "eating fancy food?" I don't think Carnival's passengers are eating much "fancy food" and I didn't find it particularly fine food or even memorable...but it was good enough and there was LOTS of it all graciously served up with plenty of smiles, so what more could you want! No, there is no caviar here, but remember, as the late great Temple Fielding once wrote..." let's face it, you aren't paying for it, either!" Think of the vast numbers of mouths fed every day in the time permitted to prepare and serve it, what you paid, and you will surely agree that Carnival passengers are generally well fed and passengers aren't going hungry!!

As in her her many sisters, the FANTASY seats her passengers in two identically decorated dining rooms...each seats well over 600 people at one time so expect no intimate dining experiences here....there are even Greek coffee shop style booths for six...three persons per side...and someone on either end will have to move if the one in the middle needs gets seasick or something (nah...it'll never happen!)...don't ask for a table in the smoking section either...there IS no smoking allowed in the dining rooms! And unless you are on your honeymoon or lodged in a suite, forget about a table for two....Carnival wants you to mingle and couples who "vant to be alone" tend not to party much...Remember, this is a mass market operation and I find that as much as anything else food service epitomizes the concept...it's efficient, it's organized...watch it closely and you see how very hard the dining room staff works....pat em on the back...pad their tips with extra cash...they REALLY work for it...and pity them when they have to interrupt their work to do a little song and a little dance...seems that the food department thinks part of the waitstaff's job is to sing and dance...I thought it was their job to bring food, leaving the stage singing and dancing to others...don't expect leisurely unhurried dining here...that's not what this is about...remember...there are TWO sittings...

Up top is the buffet restaurant which serves breakfast and light lunches... don't ask me if I liked breakfast in the Lido...I don't often eat breakfast anyway...but Lunch...that is another matter entirely...and I LOVE Lunch! You can get burgers or other fried or grilled fare from the serving station/line out by the pool, but I prefer some air conditioning when I eat in the tropics...so it's inside for me...where there are TWO grill stations, a salad/bread bar and a pasta table...none of the food was bad...but I never found it very good and my burgers were usually dried out...but I didn't go hungry...and drinks were always offered by wandering drink servers...

With a LOWER bed capacity of 2,044 passengers and with hundreds of upper berths this ship can and does sometimes carry about 2,500 people....she has a LOT of cabins! None of the standard cabins....which at some 190 square feet for outsides and 185 for insides are the biggest in this segment of the market...(except for the minimum priced rooms which are smaller and not very good choices unless money is a very important concern) is elegantly or luxuriously furnished...a lot of hard surfaces and heavy duty carpeting, but the few fabrics hide dirt well, formica is easily scrubbed should it be soiled...this ship gets a lot of traffic. Yet storage space aplenty ensures room for everything you bring and wonderful water pressure and LARGE shower compartments in every bathroom are a delight. Every cabin has a TV but it rarely showed anything I wanted to watch...(Carnival wants you out and about... how could these be fun ships if all the passengers were in their cabins...oh never mind I don't think they mean THAT kind of fun)...and when the beds are arranged in king size version...as all lowers can be...one person MUST climb over the other to get out if the one nearer the porthole wants or needs to get out of bed first...Want to splurge a little? Booking one of the twenty six 226 square foot minisuites. Located way up top on Verandah Deck, each has its own small balcony. These topside rooms are much better furnished and decorated than the standard, which I MUST stress, are very adequate for a short cruise...but don't send me to China in one of the standards, (OH yeah...that's right....Carnival doesn't do transPacificic sailings, YET!) ...they're just not my style decoratively and they remind some people...even ME...of a dorm room...(a NICE dorm room)...Beyond the minisuites, for even more money are twenty-eight suites. Located within the hull, these digs each boast 350 square feet of space with a decent sized private verandah....but don't expect to sunbathe on your verandah...it's completely decked over...

Who Goes
It seems that sooner or later EVERYONE sails on Carnival...or maybe should...The FANTASY is a ship for people of all ages...you'll see people from 90 days to 90+ years of age here and it seems that fleetwide about 30% of the passengers are under 35 years of age...and an even higher percentage of younger people take the FANTASY with some days at Orlando...Disney packages and a good onboard children's program (Camp Carnival) attract a lot of young families. Kids seem to like this ship and parents must appreciate the chance to drop off their young and know that they will be well looked after.

The FANTASY sails year-round from Port Canaveral on Sundays on four-day cruises to Freeport and Nassau where she remains overnight before spending a "fun day at sea and on Thursdays she sails on three-day treks for Nassau for an overnight call before her "fun day" at sea.

Remember my mention of those who expected the FANTASY sisters to be schlock at sea? Tackola on the waves? I'm here to tell you HOW WRONG THEY WERE! I think these are marvelous, amazing ships....big for me, yes, impersonal for me, too...and not my style socially or intellectually (bookish, jaded snob that I am) but what a ship she is, indeed! Don't expect her to cater to your every whim...she simply couldn't do that for one person... The FANTASY carries over 2000 passengers twice a week. THINK of it...some weeks she hosts 5,000 different paying guests!!!! Add up the totals fleetwide and you'll realize that Carnival is carrying about 20,000 people every week..so...who can be more than a number here? Who should be more than a number here??? So just breathe deeply, let it out slowly, let em do it their way and let them amuse you THEIR way....they're damn good at it! There is always something going on aboard the FANTASY...so enjoy yourself...Carnival DOES have the fun...it's doesn't pretend to be of the same class as a top notch five star city hotel or a classy, high end resort, but if you wanted that you would not buy a cruise ticket on the FANTASY!

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