In the early 90s, Carnival built its ships with a small balcony off the lido buffet restaurant at the aft end. It's a wonderful spot for starting the day with scrambled eggs and coffee -- outdoors, with a full view of the sea.
My favorite table, right, was empty the first day of our 5-day cruise out of New Orleans. But I had company at the next table, Jim Williams, below, a bus driver from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Ships now are built without the outdoor balcony, and Carnival says its lack of use by passengers contributed to the decision to expand the lido inside for more room to accommodate passengers who wanted to eat indoors. Go figure.
You'll find the door to the balcony all the way to the back of the lido, two doors actually, as the one on the left leads to a smoking balcony, the one on the right to cleaner air. Sometimes, high winds may force you back inside.
Carnival Fantasy just came out of drydock, and she looks good for a 19-year-old ship. The Fantasy's style has been toned down a bit from early days of flash and neon. Only negative I noticed was that it's now a darker ship. The lido needs more light. So did my bathroom in cabin U52, where two little lights are not enough.
Carnival has added its signature Evolutions of Fun -- a top deck water park with a 300-foot water slide, an adults only retreat called Serenity and a new pool area with fake palm trees.
Best of all, Carnival didn't mess with my favorite tables.
A tip for cruisers:
New government regulations require cruise passengers to check in no later than 90 minutes prior to departure. The 90-minute cutoff was instituted so cruise ships could send U.S. Customs and Border Protection the ship's manifest (a list of all passengers onboard) for review before allowing the ship to depart.
If, for instance, because of weather or other delays, travelers miss the 90-minute cutoff, they will be denied boarding -- another reason to arrive at your cruise departure city a day early
Wine cruises drawing connoisseurs to sea
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Molyneaux is editor of TravelMavens.net. CLICK for articles on cruising, golf, Florida, Europe, adventure and travel gear and gadgets.