Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review - Carnival Fantasy - August 13, 2009

Carnival Fantasy --August 13, 2009
This was a late booked short cruise simply because of the good value on the cruise fare and in combination with the Holiday cruise following. This was my 16th Carnival cruise and third cruise on the Fantasy.

Just The Facts:
Ship: Carnival Fantasy
Date: August 13-16
Captain: Cladio Cargiolli
Cruise Director: Risa Barnes
Ports: New Orleans - Cozumel - New Orleans
Weather: Good all week

Wednesday / Travel / Day 0
Driving to Louisiana as this is a two cruise and NOLA combination trip. I'm also not that keen on flying. I left the ranch about 10:00 a.m. and first stop was McKenzie's BBQ in Conroe for lunch. Very good BBQ. A pleasant nine hour drive with a stop for dinner at Pat's in Henderson, LA. Pat's is really famous for cajun food and the crawfish platter was wonderful. Not a bad drive and a change from sailing from Galveston.

Thursday / Embarkation / Day 1
The ship sails from the Julia Street wharf in New Orleans. If driving there is really only one parking option, the official port parking garage ($12 day). They do have porters in the parking garage to take your luggage so you do not have to drop off bags and then park. Check in at the terminal was fine, but that was because of the VIP status. There were long lines otherwise which luckily was avoided and I was on board the ship about 1:00 pm. I dropped my carry-on bag in the cabin and went to the Lido deck for lunch. Since the Mongolian Grill had not been discovered and there was no line as yet I had a bowl of the shrimp grill with the hot Szechwan sauce. Very spicy and very good. After the shrimp bowl I had a Reuben Sandwich as there was no one in that line either. Two of the better items on board and I had both at the first lunch. It was Cajun day on the Taste of Nations for those enjoying the buffet. I met my cabin steward, Fiji and he seems very nice. I was going to buy a “Drink of the Day” card, but that has been discontinued. I guess that didn't work as well as expected. I did get a DoD, the Funship Special. I met friends who had sailed on the Fantasy in February on the Bloggers cruise. It is nice to sail with people you have sailed with previously. Checked bag came in good order, they seem to distribute the luggage well. Muster drill was about 4:00 pm. We sailed about 4:30 p.m. and I watched from the hot tub and lounge chairs of the adult only Serenity Deck located on the aft of the ship on Lido deck. They had an attendant that enforced the no smoking and adult-only policy, but there were no bar servers. As this deck has become more popular they have missed a need and opportunity. There was more day light than the last time I had sailed out of New Orleans so it was interesting sailing down river. I have the 8:15 setting in the Celebration Dining room. The waiter is Geme and he also serves as the wine steward. I had the Tiger Shrimp, Green Salad, Pork Chop, Tilapia, and the Black Forest Gateau for dessert. The Pork Chop was very good. Service was a bit slow but the dinner was good. The welcome show was at 10:30, but I just retired to the cabin for some rest. Fiji left a surprise towel animal on the first night that was nice. The cabin TV wasn't working well so I soon retired.

Friday / At Sea / Day 2
The sea is very smooth and beautiful today. I always eat in the dining room for 1st breakfast and order the same item as previous Carnival cruises and by doing so I get a feel for the food for the rest of the cruise. I was there about 8:15 am and had Grapefruit sections, Tomato Juice, Milk, Eggs Benedict with bacon & hash browns. It was very good, the eggs cooked perfectly. Today is a beautiful day so all the lido deck activities are going well. I had a nice walk on deck and took in some of the activities. For lunch I again went to the Mongolian Grill. I had a Pork & Chicken combo (Mussels was the third choice) bowl and it was very good. I had a selection of desserts from the Windows on the Sea buffet. The Pumpkin Cake was the best. Again watched a few Lido deck activities and I even did the water slide that is very good for a cool down. I had my first visit to my HQ, the Atrium Bar. Isabella was still there from my February cruise. Albert is my favorite bartender this cruise. This evening is Elegant Night the new name for 'formal night'. I went to the Captains Party and yes they still have complementary cocktails. Dinner was excellent. I had the Stuffed Mushrooms, Pumpkin Soup, Strawberry Bisque, Seafood Platter (Lobster & Shrimp), and Bitter & Blanc for dessert. All very good. The production show, Nightclub Express, was after dinner. It's a very good show, but I skipped having already seen it and the fact the theater was very full by the time I got there after dinner. They repaired the TV sometime during the day so a walk around deck and then retired to the cabin for some TV movie time.

Saturday / Cozumel Mexico / Day 3
Weather was warm, but very beautiful all day. Arrived in Cozumel about 8:00 a.m. and docked at the Puerto Maya pier. I began the day with a good breakfast in dining room and then prepared for a special excursion. I'm going around the island on the Cozumel Bar Hop tour. Some new cruise friends are also going and I want to see if this would be a good tour for the CruiseMates Snooze Cruise in January. Since there were only four we didn't have a bus but had a taxi van for the tour driven by Gerry. He picked us up at the pier and we met our guide/host Greg in San Migel. We proceeded around the island first along the cross island road and to our first stop at Punta Morena. They offered us their specialty drink that was Xtabentun Mayan liquor & pineapple. I took a quick dip in the Caribbean before departing. The second stop was at the Cozumel icon Coconuts located on the highest point (40') on the island. We got a table with a great view and enjoyed our cocktail and beer. Since there were only four on the tour we decided to customize our stops and cut down on the bar times a bit and add the beach. Since Hurricane Wilma hit Cozumel a new beach had formed on the 'wild side' that is fantastic. Usually one has to get beyond the reef or rock to get into nice water but here you just proceed directly into the water. It is primitive location, but they have added a life guard station and now a bar, El Galeon, has set up across the road. I believe the name of the beach itself is St. Martin. It is much better than Playa Bonita my previous favorite. After swimming at the beach our next stop was the Rasta Bar also a Cozumel icon. Here we had their specialty, a Green Lizard cocktail shooter. I had shrimp quesadillas for lunch and enjoyed a beer or two. Next stop was Paradise Beach which is a resort beach location that I am very familiar with from many previous visits. Here the specialty drink they commonly call 'windex' as that what is looks like. Hopefully it is a blend of tequila and blue curaso. They very generous here with the drink. Although here you can get blended or specialty cocktails here I stuck with the beer. The final stop of the tour is Margaritaville. Here we have a tequila shooter and I sampled several Pacifico beers. Here we also met PB Tom the tour operator and discussed the January tour. After experiencing it first hand I consider it a done deal, and we will add the beach location. The tour is a great way to explore the 'wild side' of Cozumel and enjoy interesting locations as a 'traveling party” as well. We took a taxi back to the pier. Usually I like to get back a bit early to the ship to watch the late arrivals stagger back. This time I may have been in the later group. The Carnival Ecstasy was docked next to us and she looked great. After returning to the cabin and a nice shower I lay down for a nap before dinner. Of course I over slept, which is common on Cozumel day of a cruise, but rare for me. I survived on the complementary petit-fours they delivered to the cabin. The evening show was comedian Brad Tassel and vocalist Yolanda Barber. They also had a deck party and late buffet on Lido deck. I missed them, but it looked great later on the ship television.

Sunday / At Sea / Day 4
A little overcast early, but it turned into another beautiful day. Final breakfast in dining room and it has been very good all week. I did a little computer work in the cabin and looked at the shops just a bit. Lunch again was the Mongolian Grill. It was again very good. They set up a sundaes station in the buffet. It was different and good as well. I took a little nap in the cabin and then snuck back to the deli for a Turkey wrap and a Pastrami on rye. I looked at the shops on board and did some people watching from the Lobby Bar. Final dinner was just OK. I had the Pasta, French Onion soup, and Flat-iron Steak. The desert was Baked Alaska. After dinner I was able to get a good seat for the feature production show, Ticket To Ride. It is a great show and I highly recommend attending. After the show, a little after 11:30 pm I went back to the cabin to pack. I discovered that when they say have your bag out in the passageway by midnight that they mean it. I had it out as soon as I could, but it was still there the next morning.

We arrived back in New Orleans on time. I was in no rush even with having both bags as I planned to leave with the later VIP group anyway. I had a breakfast on lido deck by the pool while waiting for the Self debarking passengers to get off. Somewhere during this time they ran into problems with immigration and debarkation was delayed. They did not finish the self debarkation until almost 10:00 am. I finally got to US Customs about 10:15 and I was in the first group to leave.

I had cabin U33 an Ocean view on U (upper) deck six forward starboard side. Flat screen TV (no a/v hookups), refurbished bath, safe, queen or twin bed set-up and very clean. No refrigerator or hair dryer. Cabin steward was Fiji and he did a good job with the cabin and keeping the ice my small cooler filled.

I was impressed with the enforcement of the no-hat rule in the dining room at breakfast. They really should make the dining room a special place even in the mornings and at lunch. However I did see one man in a T-shirt, blue jeans, and flip flops in the dining room on elegant evening. Overall I thought the food was good to very good in the dining room. The deli sandwiches are very good as is the salad bar and desert station in the Window's on the Sea Bar and Grill. I thought the Bar Service was excellent. Friendly bartenders and cocktail waiters. Always seemed willing to help with special requests and were always willing to serve.

Ship / Comments
Very clean and well maintained. This was one of the smoothest cruises I have ever sailed. There was never any pitch or roll and the sea was very calm. Overall another great cruise. I met some folks that I had sailed with previously and met some new friends.

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