Despite having autism, I am passionate about writing about various subjects. I also love to travel and do crafts.
Ever since 1972, Carnival Cruise Line's vessels have gotten the fun!
Loyal cruisers who love the newer, bigger ships go on rollercoasters, splash in water parks, and marvel at high-tech shows with the advanced special effects, including light drones.
But despite mediocre food and age, us cruisers take for granted not only the budget-minded costs of the older Fun Ships, but also the charm that each possessed.
Hence a look back at three ships - with one that sailed for Carnival till 2000 - I cruised on. Besides being sadly scrapped in 2020 due to the line's fleet reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all of them are still sailing in my memories.
1. The Carnival Tropicale
Before she was chartered to philanthropic cruise line Peace Boat (as Ocean Dream), Pullmantur (also as Ocean Dream), P&O Cruises (as Pacific Star), and Costa (as the Costa Tropicale), most people who cruised on her between 1982 and 2000 still call the ship the Carnival Tropicale.
As CCL’s first custom-built ship, the Tropicale was the vessel of my very first cruise at 6, in 1995. She sailed out of Tampa (the first cruise ship to be homeported there), stopping by Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and New Orleans.
The Tropicale had considerably less amenities than her larger counterparts. It had a main swimming pool as well as a children’s pool (which I enjoyed the most). Despite her not having a waterslide, a big atrium, or anything else much for kids to do other than the children’s room, I still had a blast. And I shook my booty off to a live band during the Mardi Gras-themed deck party on the Lido Deck!
Food back when I cruised in fall 1995 was freshly cooked, with bread freshly made and baked onboard. I remember the big midnight buffet (which has recently become sadly irrelevant given the increase of specialty restaurants and 24-hour pizzerias). The food there, too, tasted DELIGHTFUL!
But the area that burned in my memory was the Tropicana Lounge. It was a 1-level theater, more like a cabaret setting. The production shows were less flashier, but the fact that a 7-piece orchestra accompanied it made it my favorite area of the ship as well as my favorite part of the cruise on the Tropicale.
Also, my late father at one night of the cruise danced to The Temptations' “My Girl” at the Tropicana Lounge – with a wig on!
The Tropicana Lounge was – funnily – also the reason I got disciplined at school (I was educated at a private school for kids with developmental disabilities in New Jersey). Days after my cruise, my teacher restrained me after catching me mentioning the show lounge under my breath.
Know that some people with autism have special, narrowed interests, and it takes some of them time for them to concentrate on the present activities and expand their interests.
I fondly and humorously call the incident at school days after the cruise “No Tropicana Lounge.”
I now forgive my teacher for restraining me mentioning my favorite part of the cruise under my breath at school, and I still laugh about the “No Tropicana Lounge” incident. That’s why I thank the Tropicale for teaching me to see the humor in some situations.
2. Carnival Fantasy
1990 was a banner year for Carnival.
That March 1, the line sent the Carnival Fantasy, the first of the Fantasy-class ships, off for her maiden voyage. It had an expansive atrium, a 2-level main theater (named the Universe Lounge), and a waterslide that emptied into the main pool.
This was pre-Fun Ship 2.0, mind you. But she was a SuperLiner!
Nearly 5 years after her maiden voyage, I took my second cruise on the Fantasy. Like the Tropicale, and despite considerably less amenities than what she had up until her scrapping in 2020, the Fantasy hardly failed me in making it the highlight of one of my many winter vacations in Florida. The food back then was palatable, too - and bread came piping-hot from the ovens.
Challenge: Can you spot brand ambassador John Heald in this vintage video taken on the Fantasy in 1991?
Just as the Tropicale had their 7-piece Tropicana Orchestra, the Fantasy had their in-house showband, the 9-piece Universe Orchestra. They accompanied the production shows at the Universe Lounge, and they were much more elaborate.
The voyage on the Fantasy marked my first-ever Bahamian cruise, stopping at Freeport and Nassau. It also marked the first cruise out of Port Canaveral, on the opposite side of Florida.
3. Carnival Inspiration (aka the Inspo)
Another Fantasy-class Fun Ship, the Carnival Inspiration (let's call it the Inspo) still packed a lot of fun during her tenure.
I happened to sail on the Inspo in 2007, when she was 11 years old and a year fresh out of the Evolutions of Fun refurb. Despite so-so food and a beating by Tropical Storm Barry during the first sea day, I was grateful for sharing the love of cruising with other family members.
After all, we took the cruise honoring me turning 18, days before \my real birthday, as well as one of my cousins' graduation from high school.
The voyage on the Inspo was my first cruise since sailing on the Disney Magic shortly after her inaugural voyage in the summer of 1998, as well as my 4th overall.
Like the Tropicale, the Inspo homeported out of Tampa during that time. It had the same amenities as the Fantasy (before a waterslide into the main pool on the Lido Deck evolved to a couple through Fun Ship 2.0). Like those on the Fantasy's Universe Lounge, the Inspo's Paris Lounge's production shows up till the era of Playlist Productions were accompanied by a 9-piece orchestra.
One interesting memory besides those production shows (Shout! and El Nuevo Caribe) is the port day in Cozumel. That leads me to a quip from a Matador Network article called "11 Sure Signs You're a Filipino Traveler."
"After days of eating just pasta, croissants, noodles, or whatever dishes are native to the country you’re visiting," author Kate Alvarez wrote, "you begin to miss your favorite Filipino ulam with heaps of white rice. Is there a Filipino restaurant nearby?"
Indeed, we found one after spending a day at the beach in Cozumel. I was looking forward to eating back on the Inspo or at the main port, but we stopped by a Filipino restaurant along the way. I kept mum about it and not complained.
On the other hand, the decision to stop by there prompted one of the members of our cruising party, who was no older than 7, to throw a crying tantrum about it. Despite all that, I admitted that the Filipino chicken adobo was much tastier than all the fare served on the Inspo, and the memory was the highlight of my cruise on her.
Even though some new ships with splashier amenities are building and older ships are being retrofitted and updated, let as all look back to the older ships we fondly sailed on that were no longer in service.
Even on voyages before the advent of big screens on the lido deck, water coasters, and ice rinks, us avid cruisers who sailed on the Fantasy and Inspo pre-Fun Ship 2.0 as well as the Tropicale (especially in the 80's and 90's) still fondly look back at the charm and, well, inspo to travel.
Who remembers either one of the three ships I mentioned?
talfonso (author) from Tampa Bay, FL on August 03, 2021:
You're very welcome, Peggy! Which of the three vessels mentioned in the article did you sail?
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 31, 2021:
Thanks for sharing your memories of cruising on those older Carnival vessels. It sounds like you have some good experiences to remember.