When you consider an east coast cruise from America, your attention almost certainly focuses on the busy ports in Florida, or perhaps New York. But, as the desire for homeland cruising continues to rise, there is now a new, year round contender for Caribbean sailings, in the unlikely shape of Charleston.
South Carolina’s legendary centre of charm has a huge amount going for it. As home port to a single, year round mega ship- the Carnival Fantasy- it has none of the congestion of the southern ports on sailing day. And, if Miami is a sizzling, salsa fuelled, perma tanned colossus, then Charleston is the very epitome of demure, elegant warmth and welcome. Very much a well mannered lady, Charleston makes for a fantastic, two centre holiday with any Carnival Fantasy cruise.
Here, the crucible of America’s still divisive civil war can be seen in all of its petrified, stubborn splendour. Fort Sumter still looms across the entrance to the port, its stunted walls and windswept terraces still pock marked with the scars from scores of cannon balls and incalculable rounds of rifle fire. Charleston is also home to the resurrected wreckage of the Hunley, the first American submarine to sink an enemy vessel in action. Her story is one of the single most epic in maritime history, a titanic tale in stark contrast to the diminutive, doomed reality of the real thing.
But Charleston is far more than just a melting pot of half unseen, uneasy memories. The city has a sublime park front setting, and row upon row of antebellum masterpieces, best typified in the colourful cascade of architecture known as Rainbow Row. And the city’s legendary hospitality to strangers is no exaggeration. It truly is a city that everybody should see- and savour- at least once in a lifetime.
Carnival now offers year round cruises from the city aboard the recently refurbished, 70,000 ton Carnival Fantasy, the namesake of the eight ship Fantasy class. Though no longer among the very biggest or most amenity laden ships, the popular, well maintained Fantasy still offers a mind boggling array of sizzling, sassy bars and lounges that features the line’s renowned, late night party atmosphere right through until the wee small hours. There is a huge casino, and a vast show lounge for the typically lavish floor shows that Carnival is known for,
Carnival Fantasy has two main dining rooms, an alternative lido buffet, and a slew of other dining and snacking options on board, as well as two pools, a quartet of hot tubs, and ample deck space. Even the inside cabins are of a generous size, and the recent refurbishment grafted a slew of balcony cabins onto the ship where none existed before. The ship also boasts a piano bar, a small, upper deck golf course, and a shaded, aft situated, adults-only Serenity Deck, complete with hot tubs and padded sun loungers.
Carnival Fantasy offers two different, five day options and one seven day cruise itinerary from Charleston to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Here’s how they break down:
FIVE DAY CRUISES TO NASSAU AND FREEPORT: Forty four departures in 2014, running from January through to December.
FIVE DAY CRUISES TO LITTLE STIRRUP CAY AND NASSAU: Eleven departures between May and December inclusive.
SEVEN DAY EASTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISES TO NASSAU, GRAND TURK AND HALF MOON CAY: Nine cruises from January to December. Note that no departures are scheduled in February, June or September.
Combined with the natural warmth and charm of Charleston, these cruises are a real, very viable alternative to the options offered from ports both to the north and south. And, with a capacity of around 2500 passengers, the Carnival Fantasy offers a relatively more personalised cruise experience, without sacrificing anything in the way of facilities or fun things to do.