Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Just The Facts:
February 12-15, 2008
Captain: Domenico Cilento
Cruise Director: Big Tex
Hotel Director: Andy Brown
Ports: New Orleans-Cozumel-New Orleans
Weather: Excellent all four days.
This is the second half of a B2B on the Carnival Fantasy. The first cruise was the John Heald Bloggers Cruise. This cruise is the short four day cruise immediately following. I was going to review them as one cruise, but there are so many differences I am reviewing them separately. Of course there will be references to the previous cruise. I am sailing with the CruiseMates ‘Rehab’ group and after the previous five days a rest is needed. This is my 15th Carnival cruise and 50th cruise overall. I am again sailing as a solo.
Day One--Thursday--New Orleans
This will be a very easy start as I am already on board the ship. I glanced at the bow cam from bed at 5:30 am and we were already tied up at the pier. When I awoke I filled out my customs forms and went to the Windows on the Sea for a nice buffet breakfast. Return guests (B2B) were to meet at 9:45 to go through U.S. Customs and we did so without much trouble. There were just more people than they were probably used to having for a B2B as our group alone had 25. It was kind of a good feeling to wave good bye to those leaving knowing you are staying on board. No packing or hassles at least for another four days. After receiving our new cards several in the group went to the adjacent River Front Mall for beignets at the River Mall Café DuMonde. They were very good. Then back on the ship to get the new sail & sign card activated and prepare for another sail away and cruise. We have a new Captain this cruise and will not have all the extra Carnival personnel on board, but we’re looking forward to another good cruise. Muster drill went much faster than the previous cruise and was finished before casting off and making the big turn to go down river at about 4:15 pm. I purchased the Carnival Specials Drink Card and had a Funship Special sail away drink. It wouldn’t be sail away with out it. I’m going to sample all the daily drink specials this cruise. I’ve really had fun with the bartenders at the Lobby Bar and I think they like to see familiar faces as well. Dinner comes early as I’m on main seating again because of the group. Dinner was very good, I had two of the Fried Shrimp with Plum Sauce, Iceberg Salad, and the Pork Chop. The waiter, Tom from Costa Rica, is much better than previous waiter, brought some ribs for us to sample and even prepared wet naps from napkins for us. I again had the Black Forest Gateau for dessert. All was very good. After dinner I went to listen to members of the Universal Orchestra (the ships orchestra) who were performing as a Dixieland Jazz Band on the Promenade deck. That was very neat as we were sailing down the Mississippi River. I would like to take this cruise in the summer so there would be more daylight and more to see. Following this the men in the group gathered (by coincidence) and had a ‘yawn fest’ table on the Promenade deck. It’s been a tiring five days, but I was able to make the 10:00 pm Welcome Aboard Show featuring Big Tex, the Orchestra, and the Singers & Dancers. The comedian was Tim Hankleroad. I don’t recall having seen him before, but I knew his routine so I must have seen him somewhere. I retired to the cabin but noticed we were just leaving the Mississippi River and entering the Gulf of Mexico (11:15-11:30) so it takes 7+ hours to get to the Gulf from New Orleans. It took me much less time to get to sleep.
Day Two--Friday--at Sea
Another great nights sleep and the weather is great. I went to the Celebration Dining room for breakfast and had my traditional day one breakfast of: Orange & Grapefruit Sections, Eggs Benedict with sides of Bacon & Corned Beef, Tomato juice, and milk. It was good and the waiter was excellent. I thanked the cabin steward for the turkey towel animal he left the night before and he gave me instructions on how to make one. Since he was there to clean the cabin I spent an hour on the Promenade deck updating email and reviewing on the computer. They had turkey on the carving station on the lunch buffet. I sat outside on the aft looking at the water and it is beautiful today. After lunch I had movie and some much needed cabin time. This was elegant night and the Captains Reception was at 5:15 and dinner again at 6:00pm. in the Celebration Dining Room. My selections for dinner were the Stuffed Mushrooms, Strawberry Bisque, Lobster & Shrimp, and the Banana Gateau for dessert. A bottle of champagne was delivered to the cabin from Hotel Manager Andy Brown, I assume this was for being a return guest. The drink of the day is a Goombay Smash. The nights production show was Nightclub Express featuring the Fantasy Orchestra, Singers, and Dancers. I enjoyed it even more the second time. Excellent show. After the show I listened to Smooth Music with Michael at the 21st Century bar. Being so busy last cruise I’m able to catch more of the LIVE music on board this time. Some more time at the 'yawning' table and then to the cabin. A great day to rest and relax.
Day Three—Saturday--Cozumel, Mexico
Another good nights sleep and a beautiful day in Mexico. I had breakfast in the Celebration Dining Room, a very nice omelette. We docked at the Puerto Maya pier. The Ecstasy docked next to us at 10:00 am and the Grandeur of the Seas docked later at the International pier. It was interesting comparing the Ecstasy and the Fantasy side by side. You could really compare the new additions to the Fantasy especially the Evolutions of Fun areas. Several in our group wanted to accompany me to Antonio’s Barber shop, nine people in fact. I guess it did become an excursion of some sort. About 11:00 we took a van into San Miguel and three of us got a haircut. The group then went to my favorite lunch spot in Cozumel: La Candela. Several joined us there so we had 15 people for a great lunch. I had the Mayan fish platter and it was excellent. We had a Tres Leches cake that I purchased at the local Panadería. After the great lunch I had my traditional mojito at Havana Blue in the Forum before taking a taxi back to the ship. For information and photos about this little excursion check this link on the CruiseMates website: http://www.cruisemates.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=606190 After returning to the ship and in order to cool off I decided to try the big slide again. I did a much better job with a good push off and displaced a fair amount of water at the bottom. It certainly did cool me off. I tried the cocktail of the day a Mexican Momma at my HQ, the lobby bar, then a very short nap before dinner. If room service had not delivered some canapés I may have slept through dinner. I had the Sweet & Sour Shrimp (actually two) as an entrée and they prepared a special chocolate Valentines day dessert. It was beautifully presented as a heart shaped chocolate and a red kiss (lips) on the plate, but it was too rich for me. The maître d' also gave flowers to all the ladies. A very nice touch. A group of us met at the ‘yawning’ tables on Promenade deck to socialize. Later I retired to the cabin to watch one of the movies I purchased in Progreso on the previous cruise.
Day Four--Sunday--at Sea
Another great nights sleep and another beautiful day at sea. Since I awoke early I thought I’d try the Omelette Station located on Lido deck for breakfast and my omelette was very good. I spent the most of the day on the new Serenity deck. I had a nice lounger center aft under an umbrella so I took advantage of that and enjoyed some good deck time while grooving to the iPod and reading. I took a break for a salad for lunch, but continued on until about 2:00. I wanted to try the new Mongolian Wok station before it closed at 2:30. You pick out the ingredients, meats, and sauce and the chef prepares it for you. It was very good and good timing as we ran through a squall line and got some rain about the time I got my food. It really cooled it off which was actually nice. We had another cocktail party at 5:00 in the Cat’s Lounge. The bartender really took care of me remembering me from the Lobby Bar. Too well really. At dinner we had champagne and wine as well so everyone was in a friendly mood and it made for an interesting final evening. I had the Crab Cakes, Field Greens Salad, Short Ribs (don’t recommend), and Baked Alaska for dessert. The big production show, Ticket to Ride was after dinner and I got a seat on the front row. This is a fantastic show. I really enjoyed seeing it again. After the show I printed my boarding passes and packed for tomorrows departure.
We were docked very early so all went well with debarkation. Not in a real hurry I had a nice breakfast in the dining room as they were finishing the self debarkation. I knew I wouldn’t have long to wait as I was using the priority debarkation for Platinum guests. I was off the ship by 9:00 am and had a friend to pick me up. It went very well. We had time to visit Chalmette and the Battlefield Park, one of my old stomping grounds as an 1812 War reenactor. It was amazing seeing the devastation of Katrina around town four years after. I enjoyed a very nice lunch at Copeland's and then off to the airport for the flight to Dallas connecting to Waco, Texas. I was home about 10:30pm.
Ship / Crew
The cruise director, Tex, is being promoted to another ship soon (Carnival Valor) and I’m glad he was on board for this cruise. He’s informative with his announcements that he calls: Tex Messages, without it being too intrusive into the passengers day. Victor my cabin steward has been very good and my waiter, Tom, has been a great improvement from the previous cruise.
I still have cabin E-181, a 1A interior cabin. It’s really important to keep the same cabin on a B2B as it makes it so much easier. I would not do a B2B unless you could have the same cabin. Again, it is really one of my favorites on a Fantasy class ship as it is on the Empress deck and makes it easy for embarkation & debarkation. Also the lobby bar is close as well as access to the dining rooms. No refrigerator, but the cabin steward kept my cooler full of ice. No hair dryer and fewer shelves than newer ships, but lots of storage in the three wardrobes. Push button safe, flat screen TV, good WiFi connection, and a unique floor plan. I had a towel animal each night even on the last four days (turkey, bulldog, bird, swan).
I finally had the opportunity to try the Mongolian Wok and the Omelette Station on this cruise and both were excellent. You pick your ingredients on both and they are prepared fresh for you as you wait. My favorite meal was breakfast in the Celebration dining room. My favorites dishes were: the Fried Shrimp, Lobster, and the Cajun Buffet.
Interesting / Unique
This cruise was slower paced than the previous one so I was able to get into a more usual cruise routine. The rest was very much needed. The Snoozeman's tour of Cozumel with lunch was great fun. I really liked both Production Shows, especially Ticket to Ride.
This cruise stands out to me because of all the new friends made on the previous cruise and those that stayed on board for this cruise. It sure makes it special, especially when you are sailing solo. I would sail from New Orleans again particularly when they get the Carnival Triumph.