CRUISE REVIEWS: OUR FAMILY'S MSC FANTASIA CRUISE
This was my second MSC cruise and my seventh overall cruise. However this was the 1st time that we had booked a 14-day cruise! Yes, FOURTEEN DAYS! My mom, my husband, my 7-year-old son, my 3-year-old son, and I sailed together on the MSC Fantasia, from March 18, 2018 to April 1, 2018, roundtrip from Guadeloupe to Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts & Nevis, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and Grenada, with multiple stops in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Kitts & Nevis. We had two Fantastica balcony staterooms on Deck 10, right next to each other: 10208 and 10210. We loved our clean and spacious staterooms! We booked this cruise for the amazing itinerary! I was a bit disappointed when a portion of the itinerary changed – the initial itinerary included Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Dominica; and St. Maarten/St. Martin. After the damage caused by the 2017 hurricane season, those three ports were removed from the itinerary, and, instead, an extra stop in St. Kitts was added, as well as a stop in La Romana, Dominican Republic. We made the best of it! Truly, the itinerary was still FABULOUS! We had a wonderful time! The crew and staff that we dealt with the most, which were our room steward, wait staff and other dining room staff, and the photo team were consistently pleasant and really made this voyage GREAT!
Our stateroom steward, Augustin, was excellent in keeping our rooms clean and in order, and promptly replaced used beach towels with new ones, which was a big deal for us because we made many trips to the beach during this vacation. Being our second MSC cruise, but my seventh overall cruise, I can honestly say that we looked forward to the spacious, well-kept rooms, and we were not disappointed. I honestly think that MSC has the best standard rooms in the industry. I have yet to stay in a suite on any cruise ship, but for the standard rooms that guests can book, MSC’s are top of the line.
The top of the line staterooms are no surprise when you look at the entire ship, which is exquisite! As with MSC Divina, the MSC Fantasia has lots of glass and sparkle! My favorite part of both ships are the magnificent Swarovski Crystal staircases! While the décor on MSC Divina had lots of silver, the MSC Fantasia has more golds and reds. The crew does an excellent job keeping the ship clean. The MSC Fantasia is STUNNING!
Astawa and Michael were more than just our waiters at Il Cerchio D’Oro. Astawa and Michael were warm, kind, attentive, pleasant, efficient, and fun whether we saw them at Il Cerchio D’Oro at night or at the Zanzibar buffet! They’re wonderful, and we miss them! Astawa and Michael got to know our children’s favorite menu items really quickly, and although our sons can be difficult to please when it comes to food, they liked the food on the MSC Fantasia. My mom, my husband, and I also enjoyed our dining experiences on this cruise. We especially enjoyed the lobster and sparkling wine meal that we ordered for my husband’s birthday which we celebrated onboard! Thanks to the dining room staff for the “Happy Birthday” serenade, birthday cake delivery, and the fresh fruit platters for us to enjoy!
Also consistently warm and friendly are the dining crew members Mateen and Amira who we saw at various locations throughout our cruise. We usually saw Mateen in the mornings at the Zanzibar buffet, as he would walk around with the cart with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. His friendly conversation helped to form a quick friendship with our two sons! About half-way through our cruise, Amira started to spark conversation with our 3-year-old, and he would smile each time he’d see her… it was really cute!
My 7-year-old son attended the children’s club during the only sea day of the cruise, and he said he enjoyed it. However, while the staff and crew can communicate clearly in English, he could not understand and communicate clearly with many of the children there because the overwhelming majority of the children onboard spoke French, which is reflective of the majority of the guests onboard this particular itinerary, and is to be expected given that the ports of embarkation are Guadeloupe and Martinique. The children's club had a performance in the theater onboard, so of course, we went to see the performance. We enjoyed a fun show, performed by the MSC Entertainment Team, and then, the children's club performed as well. The performance included a children's club talent show!
My 7-year-old’s favorite parts of the ship are the waterslide, the arcades, and the 4D theatre – we bought the family pass for $60 and went multiple times thereafter to watch the 4D movie clips, which he enjoyed. That family pass allows guests in the same stateroom to see the movie clips as many times as they would like, and also, to “drive” the F1 Simulator. One difference to note here between the MSC Divina and the MSC Fantasia is that there is no miniature bowling alley on the Fantasia, while there is one on the Divina. We would have loved to have the bowling alley onboard Fantasia, as we enjoyed a couple trips to the Sports Bar during our cruise, and we think that the bowling alley would have been a nice addition. The Sports Bar is located on Deck 7, and is nice to dine in a few times, especially if you want to have lunch somewhere that’s not as busy as the Zanzibar buffet on Deck 14. The food and drinks at the Sports Bar are pretty good!
Also located on Deck 7 is the MSC Photo Gallery, which was one area that we frequently visited during our cruise. Yes, we take many photographs on our own cameras, but we are fans of professional cruise photos, particularly those taken by the MSC Photo Teams. After having experienced the MSC Divina and Fantasia, I can say that I think MSC’s photographers take the best photographs at sea! I don’t know what’s better: (1) The spectacular quality of our MSC Fantasia photographs, or (2) The MSC Fantasia Photo Team’s consistent, warm, friendly, and professional service with a smile!
We are especially thankful for the staff mentioned here, and for all the wonderful crew and staff members of the MSC Fantasia!
Embarkation in Guadeloupe went smoothly, as we dropped our bags at the designated location with the designated staff members, and we proceeded to check-in and board the MSC Fantasia. One thing that could have been improved on embarkation day was the sign-up for the children’s club at embarkation. There was a crowd in the atrium area where the children’s club sign-up was taking place, and it was very difficult to navigate through there.
Disembarkation in the ports-of-call and at the end of the cruise were excellent. Our disembarkation from MSC Fantasia was the BEST cruise disembarkation experience we have had thus far. On disembarkation day, we had to be out of our staterooms before 9 AM, and after having breakfast, we disembarked a bit after 10 AM, and we easily found our bags in the terminal.
Our MSC Fantasia cruise was a great experience! Being from the Caribbean myself, residing in New York City, and having received my undergraduate degree in International Studies, I consider myself very much aware of diverse cultures throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world. That being said, I was in awe of the amazing mix of people onboard the MSC Fantasia. In all honesty, I think I saw more people of color onboard this ship than any ship that I have sailed on from the United States, yet most of the people of color onboard this cruise primarily spoke French. Given that MSC is an Italian cruise company and the clientele on this particular itinerary were primarily French, I certainly feel as though I need to brush up on the two languages that I studied years ago: French and Italian. When stepping on and off the elevators or otherwise encountering other guests, I found myself saying “Hello” and “Bonjour,” or “Good Evening” and “Bonsoir.” I just love it! I also love that my children can experience more than just waterslides and food on our cruises, but can and do experience different cultures.
So what did we do in each port?
Antigua & Barbuda: We had visited Antigua in 2016, so we had planned an excursion to Montserrat this time, but that didn’t work out due to a misunderstanding and timing. At that point, we decided to stroll in the port area, and then we went back onto the ship to explore the ship.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines: We booked the Bequia By Sailing Catamaran excursion through MSC, and it was great! The catamaran ride to Bequia was tranquil and so was the beach. We appreciated the stop in town to shop a bit. Lunch on the catamaran ride back to mainland St. Vincent was delicious. The afternoon catamaran ride was bumpier than in the morning, but thank God, we were kept safe and sound. Overall, this was a really relaxing excursion.
The Dominican Republic: We booked the Relax on Bayahibe Beach excursion through MSC, and had a great time at Be Live Canoa Resort in Bayahibe! We lounged on the beach, played in the ocean, danced, and played games led by the resort’s entertainment team. This was a fun beach day!
St. Kitts & Nevis: We booked the Discover Nevis & Beach excursion through MSC, and it was informative and fun! This was our second visit to St. Kitts, as the 5 of us had visited in 2016, but this March 2018 cruise was our first visit to the actual island of Nevis, which was great! In Nevis, we visited the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, a lookout area that had stunning views of the country and the ocean, a shopping village, and the beach.
Martinique: We booked the Authentic Tour of Southern Martinique, through Viator, and the tour was conducted by Beyond the Beach. This tour was excellent: We explored Southern Martinique, visiting a shopping village, a beach, Le Diamant, a famous slave memorial, a playground, and the Trois Rivieres rum distillery, with lots of beautiful scenery along the way, including driving through the town in which Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, was born. Yes, all that within a day, and we got back to the ship well before it would set sail.
St. Lucia: We had visited St. Lucia in 2016, and had experienced an excellent island tour with Serenity Vacations and Tours, so this time, we decided on a laid back day onboard the ship, and strolling in the port area.
Barbados: My husband’s homeland! Here, we took the Harrison’s Cave Tram Tour, which we booked through Viator, and the tour company was Glory Tours. The Glory Tours driver and guide throughout the drive in Barbados was very friendly and professional. Harrison’s Cave is spectacular! We also met up with my sister-in-law who lives in Barbados, and we all had lunch at Chefette, then took a taxi back to the cruise port.
Trinidad & Tobago: We booked the Maracas Beach Trip through MSC, and I think that Maracas Beach may be my favorite beach of this trip. I’m not 100% sure because that’s a difficult decision to make, as we visited a number of amazing beaches throughout this cruise, but Maracas Beach is, at least, one of our favorites!
Grenada: We booked the Creole Bus Sensation through MSC, and this tour was really informative and gave us a nice feel for Grenada. We visited two forts and the beach, all via a Creole Bus. Grenada is hot hot hot, so the breeze that freely flowed through the Creole Bus was glorious! We had a great time!
Guadeloupe: Guadeloupe Explor provided our airport-hotel-cruise transfers while in Guadeloupe, and also provided our day tour when the ship had returned to Guadeloupe in the middle of our 14-day Caribbean cruise. For the day tour, we enjoyed visits to Crayfish Waterfalls, Guadeloupe Zoo, and a beautiful, tranquil beach. Our tour guide and driver, Tommy, was very attentive, as he provided refreshments which were well received during our tour of the Guadeloupe Zoo and our time at the beach, provided a beach tent for our children, is an all-around efficient driver, and provided interesting details about Guadeloupe as we toured. We highly recommend Guadeloupe Explor for getting around Guadeloupe.