Carnival Fantasy may be the oldest vessel in the Carnival fleet, but it certainly has style, and a warm and friendly atmosphere. Despite some crowding, the ship is ideal for first-time cruisers as it provides a taste of what Carnival cruising can be like -- nonstop (often corny but fun) entertainment, over-the-top decor featuring Grecian and Egyptian statues, top-notch people-watching, ports of call with stunning blue waters (think Cancun, Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico) and more food than you could ever eat, from pizza to escargot. There's nightlife and daily interactive games, but also solitude if you prefer. The cabins are nicely decorated and exceedingly comfortable: the perfect place to get away from it all. Service is unbeatable.
For a pair of first-time cruisers, Carnival Fantasy delivered on Carnival's promises of first-rate fun, most notably with its stellar staff. Each day offered new surprises, whether it was Champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries delivered to our door one night or an "impromptu" performance of the song "Celebration," in the Grand Atrium on another, complete with dancing and Mardi Gras beads.
Carnival Fantasy underwent a multimillion-dollar "Fun Ship 2.0" refurbishment in February 2016 that included the addition of several new dining and bar options, all on the Lido Deck.
Many portions of the ship look dated, but not in a bad way. In a sense, Carnival Fantasy is a perfectly preserved time capsule. The bright colors and futuristic font of the signs for the shops and Universe Lounge, for example, as well as the geometric carpeting in the common areas, hearken to a 1980s mall. The Grand Atrium, the first area one sees when boarding, is reminiscent of a casino, with plenty of neon blue lights such as those outlining the large, glass, diamond-shaped elevators, which are the atrium's focal point and stay in high demand night and day.
What was most remarkable about this cruise was the staff, who proved to be, in a word, awesome. Almost without exception, they demonstrated cheerful and caring attitudes. We were greeted with smiles daily, and dining, housekeeping and room-service workers remembered such details as where you were from, why you were on the cruise and whether you had been seasick the day before (Carnival reports this is rarely a problem and, indeed, veteran cruisers who are prone to seasickness came equipped with scopolamine patches, which they said worked wonders). More often than not, staff members called us by name.
An added bonus is that out-of-town cruisers will find a Mobile ready and eager to welcome them back after not having a cruise ship for approximately five years. In late 2016, the city unveiled the long-awaited Mobile Mardi Gras Park, within walking distance of the terminal, and Dauphin Street, downtown's central thoroughfare, bustles with restaurants, boutiques and bars that hop at all hours of the day and night. Several cruisers raved about package deals that include parking and hotel rooms.
A typical Carnival Fantasy sailing has people of all ages, as well as quite a few families with babies and young children. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are plenty of senior citizens, some happily traveling solo and some with their spouses, relatives or friends. Everyone is friendly and there's a feeling of "we're all in this together" camaraderie onboard. Everyone we encountered, whether passenger or crew member, was helpful and eager to share their stories of past cruises.
The majority of the time, the dress code on Carnival Fantasy is Cruise Casual, which can pretty much be interpreted as dress however you feel. We saw passengers wearing everything from flip-flops and shorts over wet bathing suits to, on some ladies, 5-inch heels, glittery tops and jewelry, no matter the time of day or night.
There is one Cruise Elegant night per trip on which passengers are expected to dress up for the four- and five-night cruises out of Mobile. Elegance is be interpreted in various ways, with men wearing everything from collared long-sleeve shirts with khakis to tuxes and women wearing everything from slacks with a dressy top to long, sequined evening gowns. (Tuxes and ball gowns were definitely in the minority, making up maybe 20 percent of the diners on Cruise Elegant night.) It's all up to you, and almost anything (except looking like a slob) goes. We're pretty sure you wouldn't get kicked out the dining room for refusing to dress up.
Fun and friendly with a laid-back vibe; highlights include waterslides, a singalong piano bar, nightly Punchliner Comedy Club and mini-golf; carries some 2,500.
Elation is the seventh of Carnival's eight Fantasy-class vessels (debuting in 1998), and went through a significant upgrade in 2009.
Smaller ship with a fun and family-friendly atmosphere: highlights include short warm-weather itineraries, a waterslide and mini-golf; carries about 2,500 people.
Fun, friendly vibe with a packed lineup of daily activities, nightly comedy, energetic stage shows, silly pool deck fun, and a multi-slide waterpark.
One of Australians' favourite cruise ships -- like a true Aussie, it's laid-back, fun and friendly -- from crew, to passengers and the atmosphere.
Lively and fun with a dizzying art-through-the-centuries decor, nightly standup comedy, two waterslides, four pools, and lots of bars and lounges; can carry about 2,500.
Fun and friendly with lots of pool-centric fun, a multi-slide waterpark, nightly comedy, and 16 lounges and bars; spends much of year in Australia.
Unpretentious vibe with pool-centric fun and water slide, plus Hairy Chest and Mr. and Mrs. Conquest contests; also 11 bars and 9 eateries; carries about 3,500.
Lively entertainment and activities include nightly stand-up comedy, high-energy Playlist Production stage shows, twister water slide, and a nonstop schedule of daily activities.
Fun, family-friendly ship focused on Carnival signatures like the high-energy Playlist Production shows, nightly comedy, RedFrog Pub and line dancing deck parties.
Silly poolside games, piano bar sing-alongs and PG- and R-rated stand-up comedy give this smallish mega-ship its fun vibe; also features the RedFrog Pub.
Fun, friendly vibe focusing on Carnival signatures like the Punchliner Comedy Club, gut-busting Guy's Burger Joint and cocktail-focused Alchemy Bar; holds about 3,500.
Fun, laid-back and friendly; highlights include nightly comedy, high-energy stage shows, twister water slide and the popular RedFrog Pub; holds about 3,500.
Can hold upward of 4,000 passengers; features indoor/outdoor pool with retractable dome, Twister water slide, mini-golf and just one extra-fee restaurant.
Fun, friendly vibe; features Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, family-friendly and adult stand-up comedy, nightly karaoke, water park and mini-golf.
Holds about 4,000; highlights include water slides, the RedFrog Pub, two-bathroom family cabins that hold up to five, a ropes course and Carnival's signature fun.
Nonstop activities and attractions include top deck water park and ropes course, 4D Thrill Theater and nightly standup comedy; can hold up to 4,700 cruisers.
Fun and friendly with nightly stand-up comedy and short, energetic stage shows, plus a calorie-packed burger joint from celeb chef Guy Fieri; holds about 3,500.
Holds a bit more than 4,000 passengers; offers a waterpark, suspended-in-midair recumbent bike thrill ride, ropes course and the first IMAX cinema at sea.
Carnival's newest megaship, holding some 4,000 passengers, launches April 2018; highlights include new barbeque/brewery and Teppanyaki restaurants, an IMAX movie theater, waterpark, beer brewery and ropes course.
A completely reimagined ship, Carnival Sunrise is Carnival Triumph transformed with new venues, entertainment options, and a whole new Fun Ship look.