MS Fantasy 7 Day Cruise & Walt Disney World Vacation
We recently took the "7 Day Cruise & Walt Disney World Vacation" from Carnival. It was a 3-day cruise on Fantasy from Port Canaveral, FL to Nassau, Bahamas, followed by a 4-night accommodation at Disney's Dixie Landing Resort with unlimited admission to all the parks and a guided tour of Kennedy Space Center. Round trip air fare and a rental car are also included. We had cruised before on Royal Caribbean's Viking Serenade, an older and smaller but lovely ship. We enjoyed it very much at that time, so we made the reservation in early May for this cruise. We particularly selected this vacation package because of its completeness and competitive price.
TransportationThe journey began one day ahead of the cruise because we have to fly from Los Angeles, CA to Orlando, FL. We had a 7:50 am flight, but we missed it because of unexpected traffic. The Delta Air Lines airport agent rebooked us on the next flight, leaving at 12:30 pm, with no extra fee. After wandering around LAX for four hours, we got on the plane and arrived at MCO (Orlando International Airport) about 8:30 pm. I knew Carnival had rented a car for us, so I started to look for a Carnival representative, or Alamo. There was no Alamo counter at MCO, so we took their shuttle to their parking lot. We got the car, but the vacation package did not not include any insurance, nor the tax. I spent $150 for eight days insurance and some miscellaneous charges, then drove the car to our overnight accommodation at the Radisson Hotel Airport. The next day, it took about one hour to drive to Port Canaveral. A $21 parking fee is required for the three sailing days. The check-in process ran smoothly and efficiently. although no host took us to our room as RCCL's did.
StateroomOur early reservation resulted in a stateroom upgrade (from Category 7 to 11) for us. It was spacious and comfortable, much bigger than what I got from RCCL before. However, my 30" long luggage wouldn't fit in the closet, so I left it at bedside. In the room is a large cabinet containing a TV, a refrigerator and some wine glasses. There is also a private balcony with two seats and a table. We had a nice sized bed and a sofa bed. The cabin steward takes care of the bed and sofa two times a day.
The DecksThe Fantasy is a beautiful ship with neon everywhere. The hues of the neon lighting change slowly as the day progresses. The glittering Grand Spectrum spans seven decks. Two open view elevators run here between decks. The Casino, the lounges, and the Disco are all connected by the Century Boulevard on the Promenade Deck. It feels like being inside a high-rise Mall of America instead of a ship, until the weather becomes worse. The Casino is a miniature of one in Las Vegas. There are blackjack, poker, and slot machines (even some nickel machines). One deck above is the Lido Deck, which has a nice cafe, a pool with a water slide and a Jacuzzi tub. The health club was located at Verandah Deck; there is a lot of equipment (for adults only). There is an outdoor jogging track on the Sun Deck. There is even a topless area: I didn't see anyone there because of the weather.
Food, Beverage and Dining RoomThe food was plentiful, but definitely a solid level below RCCL in terms of variety, quality and taste. Most waiters and busboys speak fair English, but there are some you can hardly chat with. Soft drinks are not included in your fare at the dining table -- ask before you order. During the meal, they liked to flash the lights for a long time when they were trying to impress you with the special entertainment from the waiters and busboys; that makes me very uncomfortable. There were midnight buffets and mini breakfast buffets, but nothing special. The cafe at Lido Deck serves hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, pasta and nuggets. They are better than I had expected, and lots of people prefer to have their breakfast there.
Activities and EntertainmentThere are not too many activities available during the day, and I thought some more could have been added. There was a Galley Tour on the Funship Sea Day, but you don't see much in the kitchen. It would be more interesting to see food being prepared. I bought a copy of their cookbook with some regret later, because I did not find anything on our menu had come from the book. The entertainment on the first night was a comedy, which was pretty good. There was an R-rated comedian at midnight. The second night had no show; I guess they assumed everybody should have signed up for their Jubilation Nightclub Tour or Sunsation Show in Nassau. The third night was the so called "Best of Broadway Show." Quite a few people walked out during the show -- so did I, because I couldn't quite follow it. The shows were held in the Universal Lounge. Get there early (bingo time) and get a seat on the lower level for the best view because there are many pillars around.
Shore ExcursionsTen tours and shows were available to choose from, but four of them are recommended by their "Carnival Capers". We signed up for the "Crystal Cay Undersea Adventure" because we didn't want to spend the night out. We also took the "Blue Lagoon Tour," which was reviewed by "US News & World Report". The Undersea Adventure excursion is a great tour for all ages, a scenic boat ride to the Marine Park and Underwater Observatory. You get to watch marine life 20 feet below sea level, without getting wet; see and feel stingrays and turtles in touch pools; and meet sharks face to face. The minimum time spent should be three hours, but the first return ride leaves at 12:00 pm, which is one hour early. The second ride was scheduled at 3:00 pm. There was an off-duty bus driver standing at the exit who was willing to take us back to the city at two dollars a person. So we returned to the ship for lunch.
Safety and Security IssuesThe Life Boat Drill did not seem to be taken as seriously as RCCL does. We had been asked to put on our life jackets and gather at our muster station. We could barely hear the long set of instructions from the speaker. The people at our muster station were just waiting for dismissal. No counting heads, no questions and answers. I wonder if people would know what to do should an emergency happen?
One night, we returned to our cabin to discover that the cabin steward had used a towel and my wife's sunglasses to make a funny bear on the bed. We appreciated the extra time he spent in our cabin.
DebarkationMain seating breakfast serves from 6:15 to 6:45 on the morning of debarkation. I had to report to Immigration and U.S. Customs during the same time frame. The dining room was already closed when I was done; the waiters there talked to me in a totally different way from last night when we tipped them. I ran to the cafe on Lido Deck, where there were long lines of people waiting; I guess they all missed breakfast at their respective dining room. After breakfast, I needed to go to the Information Desk for one last check to see if my missing glasses had been found. To avoid congestion in the Grand Spectrum, every entry and elevator to get there is closed, so I had to climb over a rope.
Final CommentsYou know where you are when the cruise is marred by a storm or big waves, even if it is after the hurricane season, from late summer through the end of November. I saw a long line of people asking for seasick medicine at the Information Desk. The ship arrived at every destination on time; I don't know if slowing down would make the ride smoother, but if it would, I wouldn't mind if the captain arrived late.
Generally speaking, I felt that Carnival, as the biggest cruise line in the world, has some catching up to do before they are in the same class as Royal Caribbean. On RCCL's cruise, you can feel that they are always trying to please you; that strongly makes me want to come back. In the spring of 1998, Walt Disney World will have their own ship (84,000 tons) cruising the same itinerary. It will be more challenging to Carnival then.
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