December 19, 2010

Fantasy cruise, December 11-17, 2010

We left Columbia around 9am and headed to Charleston. We arrived at the port at 11:15 am. The gates to the parking/check-in area did not open until 11:30 so we waited on the side streets. at 11:30 the gates opened and we got in line. We moved very slowly. We sat for long periods without moving then we'd move a few feet and wait some more. This went on for a little over 2 hours until we got to the spot where we paid for our parking then moved to the baggage drop off area. Once parked we boarded a bus that took us to the check-in building. Check-in went very quickly and we finally got outboard around 2pm. The delay was explained several ways but what it appeared to be was a combination of several things. The ship had just returned from dry dock and the crew had to go through customs check which took longer than anticipated. Plus the ship had to be refueled. Once onboard we ate lunch and sat around the cigar lounge since it was quite cold outside. We were suppose to leave the dock to begin the cruise at 4pm but we did not. Again, Carnival said it was due to paperwork needed to clear customs. We finally got underway at 9:10 pm! We headed south to Nassau.

Here we are shortly after boarding sitting in the cigar lounge.

Charleston's Custom House as seen from the ship.

The next day was a sea day and we planned on spending it laying in the warm Caribbean sun but it was much too cold for that. Oh, I tried, but I gave up after awhile. I decided to hang out in the cigar bar...again.

The Carnival Fantasy famous fin.

The next day we docked in Nassau. The weather was very windy and cold. The day before it was in the 80's. On this day it never made it to 60! Quite cold for this part of the world. Here is Atlantis as seen from our cabin.

The palms were bending in the wind!

Rear of our ship.

The Carnival Fantasy docked in Nassau.

Again, we planned on spending the majority of the day on the beach at the Nassau Hilton but that idea was shot down. Instead we headed to Graycliff Hotel to visit the cigar factory. We were going there anyway but this would be our only stop while in Nassau.

On the way back to the cigar factory we passed the Graycliff pool and it's beautiful tile:

The rollers were busy at work when we arrived. On this day they were all rolling the Crystal cigar. Here are various shots of the rollers in action.

After watching the rollers for awhile I made my way over to the gift shop where you purchase Graycliff cigars. There I met Carson, who is there to assist you in your Graycliff cigar selection.

I purchased 5 cigars; a robusto of the purple label and 2 of the purple salomones, as well as 2 torpedo's of the brand new maroon label. In fact, when I asked about the maroon label Carson was not familiar with them. They had to literally search the cabinets for them, but they finally found them. Here's a pic of my purchase:

Here's some pics of cigars from their storage cabinets:

There are several storage cabinets adjacent to the cigar factory. Here is one full of cigars!

After picking up the cigars we headed out, but first I had to stop by the Graycliff cigar and have my picture taken.

On the way back to the ship I snapped a few more pics of the ship.

 As I said, the day was windy and the water was very choppy. Here's a short video of just how choppy it was!

Once back onboard we searched desperately for a warm spot in the sun. We found it in a corner of the lido deck. Here's a few pics of the lido deck.

Connie "sunning" herself.

While docked in Nassau we had the Disney Wonder docked next to us.

The next day we were docked in Freeport. Since the high was only in the upper 50's our beach day at Junkaroo Beach was shot, so we just stayed onboard all day.

Luckily the weather in Key West was pretty decent. We did not plan on any beach day here; rather we were wanting to walk around the town. We pretty much stayed on, or around, Duval Street. Here we are at the famous beginning, or end, of U.S. No. 1.

Sloppy Joe's Bar.

A short walk down Duval Street is where you'll find the Key West Cigar Club. A very nice cigar shop that we spent quite a bit of time hanging around. You can find the shop at 335 Duval Street.

The sign above the cash register.

One of the owners of the shop.

The southernmost home.

The famous southernmost point in the U.S. monument

After we left the monument we strolled back up Duval Street and found Cork and Stogies. There we met Dave Bevins, the owner, and his son who also works at the shop.

Dave's son.

The shop as seen from the street. It is located at 1218 Duval Street in Key West.

Dave told me about a very interesting spot just around the corner from his shop. It was a mini-park dedicated to the cigar industry in old Key West. In fact, the southernmost home was the home of the Gato family, owners of the Gato cigar factory that once produced cigars in Key west.

 The mini-park had a monument that was dedicated by Arturo Fuente, Sr. It was a huge cigar!

If Dave had not told me about the park I would have never seen it since it's quite hidden from the main walking paths around the town. It was a nice find. When we left there we went to what was once the Gato cigar factory. Now it's the offices of the city.

By now it was lunchtime, so we headed up Duval Street and stopped at Willie T's restaurant and bar.

After a quick lunch we were ready to sit and relax so we headed back to Key West Cigar club. Here's Connie standing next to their cigar Indian.

The shop had a small outside sitting area that was in the back of the shop.

They also had several comfortable chairs in the shop, which I made good use of!

While I relaxed in the shop Connie went next door to the hat shop and found one she had to have!

Me in the shop.

After leaving the cigar shop we stopped for a drink at Sloppy Joe's Bar.

The ship as seen from downtown Key West.

And all too soon the cruise was over. Disembarkation was a breeze. Our number was 5 so we were off the ship early. We were in our car and ready to drive off at 9:15 am. We decided to hang around Charleston for awhile and the first stop was Charlestowne Tobacco & Wine.

Some shots of inside the shop.

One of the shop owners, David Donnell.

Around 2 pm we headed home. This was our 6th Carnival cruise. Number 7 is already scheduled for September, 2011. While onboard I purchased a future cruise certificate that I'll use for next year's cruise. The certificate was $100 which will go toward the final bill, so no money out of pocket there. But I'll also get a $100 onboard credit! That's very nice. Although the cruise was different from our previous cruises we enjoyed ourselves. You can't control the weather but you can still have fun on a cruise. The ship was fun and the employees were great. Another great Carnival cruise in the books!


Ken said...

Great review of your cruise, Tim ! My wife, kids, and I are headed to Key West for a couple of days next week before we head out on an 8 day cruise on the Carnival Freedom leaving Jan 1. Thanks to your blog, I'll have some places to seek out. By the way, my wife and I go to Charleston once a year. Have you ever been to the Club Havana ? It's upstairs above the Tinder Box cigar shop on Meeting St. It's a great place to smoke and spend an evening. Caymus (from Cruise Critic"

Tim Rollins said...


Yes, I've been to the Havana Club several times. Great place. I didn't stop there on this trip. I really wanted to visit the Charlestowne Cigar and Wine Co. since they were new to Charleston. They have other shops around but I had never been there and met the owners. I also made a quick stop by Lianos Dos Palmas on Wentworth Street. Scott, the owner, has always been a loyal supporter of our S.C. Sit Down each year.

Ken said...

Was the tour of the cigar factory at Graycliff an organized event ? Did it cost anything ? How much were the cigars that you bought ? They have a "roll your own cigar" program they offer...I'm considering it.
Did you try the house cigars at the Key West Cigar Club ? How were they ?


Tim Rollins said...

I always just walk into the cigar factory when I go. I believe there is an organized tour of some type but they don't mind if you just do your own thing. None of the rollers speak English. They're all from Cuba and only speak Spanish. If you have not been there before, walk up the stairs of Graycliff and go straight back to the rear door. Go down the stairs and follow the path through the back of the property, following the occasional sign that says "Cigar Humidor" with an arrow pointing the way. There is no cost to walk the property and tour the cigar factory on your own. Not sure about the cost of anything organized.

You get a small discount on any cigars you buy there but not much. The 5 cigars you saw on the blog post cost me $103.75 plus there was a foreign transaction fee posted on my credit card of $3.10.

I have heard of the "roll your own" event but have never bothered to look into it. If you do it you can report back.

In Key West I did pick up two of the house cigars from Key West Cigar Club but have not tried them yet. I wanted to let them rest awhile in the humidor. I was told these cigars use Nicaraguan tobacco so I'm hopeful that they will be spicy and flavorful! I also picked up one of the Original Key West Cigar Factory cigars from Cork and Stogie. Again, it is resting. These cigars use mostly Dominican tobacco, I believe. I expect it to be fairly mild to medium at best.

Joelle said...

Thank you for the review Tim! My husband and I will be on the Fantasy in 13 days. So excited. (jobell on CC)