For those who know the story about the lady who didn't have a passport or birth certificate-she didn't show. She lost $549.00.
Embarkation: Our bus was met by a Carnival Rep who wanted to see everyone's passports or birth certificates. There were a couple of people in our group of 54 who had copy of their birth certificate. They had to complete additional paperwork. What type of additional paperwork-I don't know. You start the process in the warehouse where you claim your luggage upon arriving in Miami after your cruise. From there one eventually ends up in the air condition terminal to check in. From there you go upstairs for you sail and sign card. Then you go to another floor to take a picture for your sail and sign card. A lot of walking. If you need wheelchair assistance let the rep know at the entrance of the warehouse and you bypass the line to check in. I did have a roller suitcase filled with water and coke. I had a bottle of wine wrapped in my son's jacket. I was asked to open the suitcase and what was inthe jacket. I told the rep a bottle of wine and another rep came over and asked me why I had the wine. I told her a special occasion and she s smiled and said to have a nice time and to have a toast for them. By the way I carried the same bottle of wine back home. We left late due to someone having a head injury or sick. My son saw the ambulance transport the person off of the ship. I have no other details.
Carnival Victory: The ship is huge and very nice. Yes, it is green in the atrium. It isn't an overpowering green. The casino is very smoky. The walkway next to the casino is smoky. To get from the Spa deck to the Pacific dining room- take the elevator to the 5th floor and walk over then down two flights. The food in the dining room was good to me. Although, sometimes a person beef was tough, but you could send it back and get something else. Our waiter Domingo went beyond his duty. Every evening he asked if we were going to need a diner to go for my grandmother. A couple of time we took soup to her in addition to her entree. He found a cup for us for the soup. The waiter danced on the tables 3 nights. They danced on the table where they put the trays, not on the tables where you eat. The guests were encouraged to get on the tables to dance. The pizza and burgers were delicious. My son and I got our burgers from the grill. The Yangtze Wok is only opened 2 hours per day- 1200 - 2:30PM. It took us 3 days to catch it open. The spring rolls were delicious. I wasn't impressed with the desserts. I did love the Crème Brulee and Baked Alaska. If you don't like the cocktails that are being served during the cocktail parties ask for something else. My 10 y/o didn't do Camp Carnival. I had no problems with the Camp being on the Spa deck. I did have to tell a couple of kids on the Main Deck to stop running and making noise at 11:30 PM. They politely stopped. There is a slot machine called the Pigs near the cashiers cage in the casino-that machine was loose. I spoke with people who were on the Millie and Norway. The 40ish mother and daughter on the Millie stated that they were bored since their ship had a lot of older people on it. The person on the Norway stated that she was having a blast. The Victory had a good mixture of both young and old.
Staterooms: My cabin was located on the spa deck. One felt more motion the higher the cabin. It didn't bother me at all. The room has ceiling to floor windows-very nice. There were two adults and one child in my cabin we had more than enough space. There were two night stands and three closets. Also, we were able to push the suitcases under the bed. Also, we had a wheelchair and balcony chair for my grandmother to use while she bathe. We did clean the chair when she finished. My parents had a balcony cabin on the Panorama Deck. My cabin was larger than theirs. The inside cabins do not have sofa's as some shown in stateroom.com. My cabin steward Galena was very nice. My grandmother who is very ill with pancreatic cancer shared a cabin with me. Galena worked around her and often asked how she was feeling. My grandmother stated that she often sat and talked with her while the group was at dinner and asked if she needed anything. She went beyond her duty and was tipped extra.
Tours: Don't do any tours in San Juan. Not worth the money since it is dark. I've been to San Juan 2 times before. My suggestion is to take a taxi downtown and shop. St. Maartin and St. Thomas. - didn't do any snorkeling like I wanted to. We were able to negotiate with taxi drivers at the dock and got a cheaper rate than on the ship. We paid $15.00 pp for tours. I did bring home Carnival's price list for the tours. In St. Martin- one can buy spices very reasonable priced. I did notice a lot of the vendors were not going to lower their price no matter how hard you tried.
Debarkation went fast. The only problem was getting out of the luggage area. On this cruise the porter stated that they started a new procedure and didn't like it. People were very impatient.
I have over twenty cruises under my belt so I know good from bad Here Goes - In a Word - One Third Right - Two Thirds Wrong ! ! The right third - The cruise was a typical Carnival Cruise - alot of wild kids, good entertainment and good value for the money But . . . . The wrong two thirds - Getting on and getting off. What a joke ! We drive to Miami and parking has gotten nothing but worse ove the years but this time we parked close to terminal 10 - but still had to wait almost two hours to board.
Getting off was even worse intead of terminal 10 the ship docked at terminal 8 - 3/4's of a mile from my car! They did offer shuttle service but it was over a 1/2 hour wait and we took a taxi.
Carnival should take a lesson from RCL and Princess and figure how to get passengers on and off the ship without the hassles. Also RCL and Princess know how to treat their past passengers with perks other than the cursory Cocktailparty.
I'm not bitter - just realistic Carnival is Carnival !
Well, I must say I have another fabulous cruise under my belt! There are so many detailed reviews about the Victory that I will spare you another reenactment. What I will try and do is to share my Victory experience and compare it with other cruises lines (NCL, RCL and Celebrity). Hopefully, that will add a unique perspective to this Victory review. But first a little side note....
When I first became a committed cruiser, I made it a goal to sail all of the mainstream lines. The first few cruises I picked, I was overwhelmed by the choices. At first I thought there were no differences, cruises were all the same...wrong! However, I do believe that the differences between the cruise lines are not nearly as dramatic as some would make them out to be! I can remember reading about the differences between cruise lines and getting statements like, "there are nothing but teenage drunks on that line, or the food was awful the entire cruise". I began to wonder how people could make such sweeping generalizations based on one experience. Then there were people who advised to the other extreme.The die hard fanatics.."Oh Carnival is the best cruise line or RCL is the best cruise line" when you scrolled down to see their sailing history---you guessed it - they had only been on one cruise line. So, this strengthened my resolve..I must see them all for myself! Here goes. so flame me if you must ...I will give MY honest opinion anyway!
Embarkation We arrived at the port very early, say 10:30ish. We expected to wait as boarding usually begins in the early afternoon. We immediately got our documents processed, (sail and sign account, boarding passes etc) then we were sent to another line (upstairs) to pick up our sail and sign cards. Afterwards we were told to sit and wait until time to board. About an hour or so later, I asked a Carnival rep when we would be allowed to board. Within the next few minutes we began making our way to the embarkation photo. At that point we were stopped for another fifteen minutes, then photos began (around noon). The final stop was to have your security photo taken for the sail and sign cards. To start off, three of the four machines were not working. A few minutes later, the fourth one stopped. We stood and waited another 5-10 minutes, the machines began working, but stopped again shortly thereafter. About five minutes later we were finally onboard. This wasn't nearly the embarkation from hell that I was warned to expect, but it did have a few minor mishaps. My only criticisms why didn't they keep someone on hand who knew how to repair the machines? The reps sighed as though machine troubles happened often, yet they had no clue as to how to fix them. Secondly, why couldn't they have periodically made announcements to let us know why we were waiting. It would have been less frustrating if we weren't left to wonder what was going on.
Cruise line comparison 1st place - Norwegian 2nd place - RCL 3rd - Celebrity 4th- Carnival
Cruise Director Everything I have heard about John Heald is true. He is the best cruise director I have encountered. Always funny, he made many of the mundane cruise activities an unforgettable riot. Yes. U Screw and Dick Wooden were on our sailing also!
1st place - Carnival 2nd place - RCL 3rd - Norwegian 4th - Celebrity
Ship I braced myself to be horrified. I knew the Victory was very green, but actually it worked. Whereas green is not the color I would have chosen, it was in no way tacky. Yes, I did see patched up holes, carpet stains, occasional trash and burnt out light bulbs. It in no way detracted from my cruise and I likely would not have even noticed had it not been discussed on these boards so often. I did find that the Victory was difficult to navigate at first. I think that having ship maps posted would have made that easier. After awhile, you do get the hang of it. Overall the ship was clean and in decent shape. When it comes to ships, RCL's Voyager class can't be beat. I do believe their ships are superior when it comes to onboard amenities. As far as ship board decor is concerned, I prefer the sometimes bold, always contemporary style of Celebrity ships.
Grade B+ 1st place -Celebrity/RCL 2nd place-Carnival 3rd Norwegian
Service- I had no complaints as far as service was concerned. Our room steward, Glendon got to be our buddy and I loved our waiter assistant Sandra from Croatia. However, I did find service to be slightly better on several other lines. There were a few extras that I did miss. For example, I enjoyed eating in the buffet/poolside restaurants and having staff carry your trays to the table. I also miss being brought drink refills even when I was not in the dining room. Overall, I think Celebrity did the "pamper thing" the best of the lines I have sailed.
1st place- Celebrity 2nd place- RCL 3rd- Carnival 4th Norwegian
Cabin- Our cabin (Cat. 6B) was located on the main deck, aft. It was nice, especially the size. Even cabin storage was adequate. We also had a very nice view. Definitely the most spacious cabin of the cruise lines I have sailed. It was the first time either of us had sailed aft. I was little worried about feeling the motion and excess cabin noise from the ship. That wasn't a problem. There was a little cabin noise leaving Jamaica but the rest of the cruise, we didn't hear a thing. Of course that included many of the announcements. We would hear the chimes and race to open the door to see what was being said. Major announcements can be heard within your cabin. I believe they have two intercom modes, one for major announcements, muster drill, evacuation etc. and then another for the minor ones (they are heard primarily in the hallways).
1st place- Carnival/RCL 2nd- Celebrity 3rd Norwegian
Food One thing, I did like about Victory dining, there were actually four dinner times. We were usually in and out within an hour. (we sat at a table for two) I think that this eliminated spending hours at meal time which is definitely a good thing. I think food ranged from so-so to very good. I must say poolside dining was excellent in both taste and variety. There were more choices, deli sandwiches, the grill, pizza, Chinese food and frankly Carnival did it better. Unlike other cruises, when I was hungry, there was always something open. I definitely give Carnival the nod in this category. I do think RCL's food was slightly better in the dining room. Neither, as far as dining room food is concerned can top Celebrity. Celebrity's grand buffets, desserts, food taste and presentation easily surpassed Carnival's, RCL's and definitely Norwegian's.
1st place- Celebrity 2nd place- RCL/Carnival 3rd Norwegian
Fitness Facilities Yes, I am one of those "weird ones". I do still exercise, even when I am on vacation. I used the fitness facilities at least three times on this cruise. The weight machines were adequate. There were both free weights and the hydraulic machines. I used ab balls, abdominal machines and of course..mats. In terms of cardiovascular exercise, there were stationary bikes, stair masters and treadmills. I do remember seeing bench aerobic classes, spin classes, abdominal and a few others. RCL's Adventure of the Seas had the best (on ship) fitness facility. They had more machines and the workout space seemed larger.
1st place- RCL 2nd place- Carnival 3rd- Celebrity 4th Norwegian
Entertainment This is a little tougher to call. I give the edge to Carnival when it comes to the scheduling and quantity of activities available. I was never bored, and I must admit that is pretty hard to do. Unlike other ships, the nightlife was great too. The entire ship did not go to sleep at 11. Most times, I left before many of the other cruisers (1- 2am). The shows were good too. I preferred Vroom to Living in America, though. I think Carnival's special effects, including costuming where more Vegas-like. However, RCL's Voyager class is phenomenal. It represents innovative, must-do's in cruising. The variety of activities onboard these vessels cannot be surpassed. The ice show, well, I've just never seen anything like it! Celebrity can't compare to either in this category. It still has plenty of activities, but some are yawn- stifling. It is definitely a cruise line for the person who prefers hours of relaxation instead of non-stop activities.
1st place- Carnival/RCL 3rd- Norwegian 4th Celebrity
Debarkation I've been lucky. Debarking has always been sad, but never a painful experience. Carnival did nothing to change that. I enjoyed being able to wait in the stateroom until 10 am. Even though we were the very last color to be called, debarking seemed to be orderly. We got off the ship about 11:00am.
Ports of Call I never take ship excursions. I find them to be double the price and half the freedom of doing them on your own. I usually spend a great deal of time researching the ports of call beforehand and prepare my own to-do list while docked.
Cozumel, Mexico This was my third trip to Cozumel. I really wanted to see the ruins of Tulum (pronounced Tul-loom) this time. The ship charged $77 per adult and $30- $35? per child. Trust me folks, you can do this much cheaper if you have the desire. We first took a cab ($6 per cab) from the dock to the Muncipal pier. We paid $19 pp round trip for the ferry ride to Playa del Carmen. The ferries departed at 5, 7, 8, 9,10am, noon, 2, 4, 5,6,8 and10pm. Remember that this is Cozumel time (one hour earlier than ship time). We docked at 7:00 am, actually got off around 8 (ship time) and were easily able to make the 9 am (10 ship time). There were Mayan Palace representatives across the street from the Municipal pier. They were actively recruiting tourists to visit their rental properties. We knew that this was a time share pitch. For 90 minutes they show their condos, feed you breakfast and try and sell their timeshares. At the end you emerge with $100 cash and a free cab ride to Tulum. (They will substitute Tulum for Xcaret and a few other Playa attractions). We had planned to take the bus to Tulum, however, we could not resist this! The ferry ride itself lasted about 40 minutes. The ferry was nice. Finally, a ferry boat that looked as thought it could safely transport you somewhere! I also noticed life vests and inflatable rafts onboard. (What can I say, I'm a safety gal ) Portions were inside (air conditioned) and others were outside. I thought the little rows of blue seats reminded me of being on an airplane. If you decide not to do the Timeshare presentation there are other ways to get to Tulum on your own. First, you can get a cab (right outside the ferry stand). The official posted prices are $300 pesos per cab ($30 US). We did find that there were cab drivers willing to take lower prices. The cab ride was roughly one-hour. The lowest rate offered was $200 pesos ($20 US). Then there was the bus. We saw several cruisers traveling this way. The price (one-way) was $30 pesos ($3 US). The buses ran every 15 minutes. Travel time was about 1 1/2 hours by bus (it makes several stops). I was advised to get pesos before entering Tulum. There was a currency exchange place located right were the bus/cab drops you off. Once you get to Tulum, you can take a tram (I think it was about $1 or $2 US) or you can walk about a mile to the entrance. We chose to walk. Admission was $35 pesos or $3.50U.S. I heard that if you did not have pesos the charge was $4.50 US. It is true Tulum is very hot. We brought refillable flexi-straw mugs of water with us and we were still dying. I do still think the experience was worth it though, if you have never been. We took a ton of pictures and stayed about an hour or so. We started to take the bus back, but the cab driver lured us back with a lower rate (200 pesos $20 US dollars). When we returned to the pier we browsed in the stores for a few minutes before taking the 3pm ferry. The return ferry times were 6, 8,9,10,11am,1,3,5,6,7,9 and 11pm. When we returned to Cozumel we took a cab back to the ship. Tulum was great, even better because we did it for about $35pp, less if you take the bus/share a cab. I think I would have been disappointed in Tulum for $77pp.
After dinner we returned to the island to go miniature golfing. The cab ride was maybe $6 but we split it with another couple. The golf course was very beautiful and definitely had the tropical feel. Afterwards we walked back to the ship. This wasn't intentional. We started off just wanting to take an evening walk. About a mile later we had exited the shopping area. by that time we figured we were almost back to the ship, so why rent a cab. My boyfriend and I are the athletic types so we challenged each other to walk the remainder of the way. Almost 4 miles later we returned to the ship. It was a looooong walk. Hey I couldn't give up and let him win could I? However, I don't think I'd make the walk again, especially with sandals on!
Grand Cayman We missed this port due to swells! We were disappointed but not angry. After all, they made that decision with our safety (their liability) in mind. :D I was impressed to see the other cruisers handling it well. I expected that there would be many people raging about the missed port, but I didn't see any evidence of that. They did refund ship excursion money and port charges $25 pp. The money was credited to your sail and sign card. I definitely don't think Carnival can in any way be blamed for this, but I did wonder why we didn't stop at another nearby port. Or perhaps we could have arrived in Jamaica a day earlier. Instead they lengthened our port day in Jamaica by only two hours . Definitely disappointing!
Ocho Rios I really enjoyed this port. I was kind of surprised too. I have heard so many "just stay on the ship" reports that I was reluctant. It was a pleasant surprise that this became one of my favorite ports ever. We signed up for the Peat Taylor tour ($20pp). I booked Peat online a few days before departure. He e-mailed me back within fifteen-twenty minutes. He met us right outside the dock. I was impressed because we arrived an hour earlier than planned due to missing the Caymans. We expected that he might not have gotten word about our early arrival. He had! He was there waiting and we departed early. He took us to the Dunn's river falls ($10pp) first. They do charge extra for shoe rental $5 and locker rental $8 (three dollars returned when you return the lock and key). We had to wait there for nearly an hour because it did not open until 8:30 am. It was great though because we were still the first to climb. I definitely believe you will have a better experience before the crowds arrive. The climb was AWESOME and lots of fun. I took a ton of pictures, some before, some during and some after the climb. I'm sure my best shots will be before the falls were swarming with bodies . It was hard to get an unobstructed shot then. We did have to pass through the market on the way out. There are some aggressive sales tactics used there. I am used to that sort of thing and kept going. I did not see any locals that did not take a firm NO for an answer.
Next, Peat took us through Fern Gully. That was beautiful. We stopped at a stand for T-shirts, crafts etc. I bought a nice T-shirt for $10. I was amazed by the ladies reaction who sold me the shirt. She looked elated! I realized that $10US to me was $500 JD to her. According to Peat, for a lot of locals that is good money! Anyway, I thanked the lady and we were off. Talk about receiving a reminder of how blessed I am..that was it! We saw fire-eating men and of course the Fern Man! I am not exaggerating. There was a man dressed up like a fern. He had attached leaves all over his body and tied himself in huge red bow. Hilarious! I had to take a picture, because no one would believe me if I didn't. (They do expect tips though) Then Peat gave us a choice of eating lunch at a local restaurant or returning to the ship. Our group elected to go back to the ship to eat. Peat gave us about an hour and a half and returned to pick us up for the second half of the tour. This part was great because Peat customizes it to what each person wants to do. He dropped some off at the market to shop and some went snorkeling. We went to Coyaba River Gardens and then on to Margaritaville. Coyaba River Gardens was absolutely beautiful. Well worth the $4-5 bucks we paid to get in. Peat picked everyone up who wished to be taken back to the ship. We had him drop us off in Margaritaville to shop and swim until time to reboard. It was definitely a port worth visiting. I would also like to return to Jamaica some day to see Montego Bay, Negril etc..
P.S. I was never approached to buy drugs, but my boyfriend was.
Additional comments Overall, my first Carnival experience was excellent. Personally, I liked the Funship atmosphere. Hey, where else do the waiters dance on the tables? The age range really suited me too. I would say the majority of cruisers were under 45. The nightlife was better and I liked the fact that lemonade/fruit punch was available around the clock. The attire was more relaxed and I haven't found a line with nicer, more outgoing cruisers than I met on the Victory. I would not hesitate to sail again on Carnival. For that matter, I wouldn't hesitate to return to Royal Caribbean either. Celebrity was awesome, but the lack of nightlife was a big minus for me. I would definitely sail Celebrity again, but only if I was in the mood for a more relaxing cruise. I WOULD hesitate to sail Norwegian. In my opinion there were just too many negatives. I would probably go again for a really good rate, but I think the other lines give you much more bang for your buck! So far, I really don't have a favorite line. I think each has a lot to offer today's cruiser.
Any questions??....fire away!
I have been on a CCL cruise once before and really was happy with the overall experience. But decided to give them another try this time with 3 kids ages 12-17. We choice the Victory because of its size and destinations. To my surprise the Cruise was really great! The food and dining room service was well above what I had expected.
It truly was excellent! Our cabin steward was also fantastic and met our ever need! The excursions we choice were all a great value and well worth every penny. As for the entertainment on board it was average. The overall ship experience was very pleasant and above all a great value!!! The Victory ship is truly worth a try!
..setting the proverbial stage, we're both from Dallas and in our mid-twenties. While the Victory was my 16th cruise overall (I was raised at sea, I think), it was Ms. Green's first, so it was exciting to see how two completely different perspectives meandered through 7 days in paradise and ended up in the same place.
GETTING THERE/EMBARKATION/OTHER "HAVE-TOs": We bought all our air/transfers through Carnival, mostly for peace of mind and what have you. Our flight arrived in MIA from DFW around noon, right on time; what happened next, however, was the beginning of a long and painful embarkation process. We made our way to the baggage claim and immediately spotted NCL representatives running about like they were going out of style. Beyond them, RCI/Celebrity had a check in desk as well as a uniformed representative. No CCL rep in sight, but no big deal, we had luggage to wait for anyway. Our carousel was one of the first few in the long row of carousels, and after only about 5 minutes, all four of our bags were in our possession. At this point, after each of us has takenturns walking a few carousels in either direction looking for any evidence that Carnival is, in fact, an actual cruise line that does exist, we were a touch concerned. Finally, a bit on the frustrated side, Ms. Green approached a NCL rep who was nice enough to tell us that the Carnival reps weren't meeting people, you had to go to them about 300 yards down at the opposite end of the baggage claim. This is fine-I don't mind the walk, and I understand that while NCL and RCI only had one ship each to deal with, CCL had two (Victory & Paradise), meaning more flights; but it DOES get to me a tad that there was no way of knowing where the rep would be, especially when 15 times prior this has never been an issue. When we finally hauled our luggage through the crowds, we discovered a mob scene reminiscent of a Russian bread line on baking day. Throngs of people believing that lines were mere "suggestions" swarmed around the area, blocking the doors out to the bus area and creating much confusion. At this point, we heard our FIRST (of many) thick New York accent declare "never again, Carnival!" and had to laugh. Crowds can suck, they surely could have handled this better, but hey, it's embarkation. It's a hassle, it happens, it's worth it tenfold in the end. We were taken outside with our luggage to the second bus lane, where we waited about a half hour in the sweltering Miami humidity. Finally, the bus pulls up and it's off to the Port of Miami-possibly the greatest place on earth at that moment. As we hit the port, a bus traffic jam occurs and sticks us just yards away from the ships... once I actually lay eyes on the ship I'll be calling home for the next week, boy, I'm cruising. Stuck on the bus for 15 minutes, it was all I could do to stay in my seat. One of those light Miami sunshowers was going on outside, but it felt good and really cooled us all down a touch. We were one of the first groups off the bus, and quickly found a porter we tipped well and scurried off to the pier. Here is where things changed drastically from my past experiences cruising: The line snaked OUTSIDE the buildings themselves and into the parking lot and the blistering heat. I thought that surely this was just the line for some new post 9-11 security checkpoint, and assured Ms. Green that this was the case. After a few minutes, however, I realized how wrong I was. Our line circled around once, and I suddenly had a view into a large warehouse type building (where they were loading the luggage) and realized there was a massive line snaking through this dreadfully hot space. This was NOT the air conditioned Port of Miami building I'd checked into so many times before, but a poorly ventilated warehouse like one you'd see in a gangster movie. To make matters worse, the line snaked back and forth in several coils, and there were no ropes or rails to signify where you curled, which line was which, what was what. In retrospect, the line probably appeared longer than it actually was because of the poor organization. Once we got up a small staircase in the warehouse and to the mouth of the air conditioned port building, a Carnival rep was telling jokes and splitting the line into TWO lines. He did this, however, after the two of us went up the steps, starting another line along side us. The problem with this was that once we all went through the NEXT doorway (the security checkpoint now in sight), the line merged back into one, meaning that no fewer than 50-75 people were given a free pass past us in line. A minor irritant, but after 2 hours at this point in sweltering heat, it DID steam us a bit. This line wound around for about 45 minutes before we came to two security checkpoints. Once we were through here, we were home free. The line to actually check in came next, but that literally took five minutes, no lie. If you have your stuff together, forms filled out, and identification in hand, you'll have no problems. At this point, giddiness overcame us. Since they no longer use the interior of the port for much of anything with all the lines outside, we went through long corridors, up escalators and through concourses to get to the next stop. At this point though, the lines were over and the Victory was just outside the window and we were THERE. We picked up our S&S sign card by last name, then proceeded up an escalator and to a machine that took our pictures while we inserted our cards. Then, it was the welcome aboard picture and on the gangway! The whole final process-check ins, cards, pictures, etc.-took a maximum of 15 minutes, while the rest of it all took 2 ½ hours plus. We were on board at 3:45pm, and the Victory didn't even sail until past 5 because of the embarkation delays. But, as I've said before and will say again, it was all well worth it....
THE SHIP, GETTING THERE, STAFF, ETC. (this whole review is one big "etc.", isn't it?): And so we were onboard. Suddenly, life had meaning. Trees were greener, skies were bluer, and Vanilla Ice was singing the hits again! (well, ixnay on the last one, but I digress)... The Victory is a stunning, stunning ship. It was my first time on a Destiny class ship, and this atrium blew me away. The decor is so intricate, there's not a single aspect of the ship where it's not reflected. I found myself taking pictures of barstools, tabletops, and moulding for Pete's sake! Even the elevators have the theme working; the blues and greens, the snaking tentacle-like tubing with tivoli lights embedded running around the ceilings-a real sight to behold. You can say what you want about the theme, concept, or whatever else, but no one could say Carnival spared any expense. She's beautiful and fully decked out for the ball. Our room was 8289, Verandah (deck 8) amidships, an outside w/ balcony. When we arrived, we had a canapé tray and drink/photo coupons waiting for us, compliments of my folks... a great surprise to kick things off. One of my more memorable moments came after devouring our tray, checking out the robes, funvision, toiletries, capers, and other goodies, and then running out to explore. We went up to Lido Deck, walked through the Mediterranean Restaurant (little did we know how much time we'd spend there) and to Siren's Pool in the back. Ms. Green turned to me, beaming (we're drinking the "Fun Ship Special" by this point), and said "If I had known how cool this was, I'd have been a lot MORE excited!! Now I know why you were going so crazy!" This alone would have made my week, and I knew then she was "one of us." Ahhh, now I can relax. :) Anyway, we checked out Promenade Deck and explored up til sailaway, and that means this is a good a place as any to give brief run downs of select areas on the ship and my impressions of them over the course of the week. So there.
CARIBBEAN LOUNGE (main showroom): More than lives up to its reputation as the coldest room on the seven seas (or anywhere else north of Antarctica, for that matter). I'm the kind of guy who likes to sleep with the thermostat at about 65 (Ms. Green does not appreciate this) so I was generally okay, but it was a sweatshirt most nights for her, and for many others as well. That being said, we spent more time in this room that just about any other non-eating area onboard, seeing as we attended just about every show, trivia contest, bingo game, etc.-It's a nice room, nothing just mindblowing, but very in with the theme of the ship. The big gold palm trees that flank the stage and line the walls are very cool, especially when the twinkling white lights embedded in them are on. Above the stage is a giant reflective blue surface that looks almost like blue mirrors and winds back through the center of the room's ceiling and edges below the balcony terraces. The big squid-tentacles chandelier is impressive, and surrounded by faux-stone blocks engraved with octopus, dolphin, and other sea-themed characters. Seating is as advertised-get there early for the big production shows if you want a good seat. Seats on the lower level are good only if very close or in the middle benches. Side seats are obstructed by the balcony overhang. As for the balcony, we only had to sit up there once, for a magic show one evening, but I will say this: It gets cramped and hot up there when the theater is packed. As cool as the lower level is, the balcony has individual seating that is packed a lot tighter and by the end of the show, we were sweating something fierce. Bar service is dependable yet unobtrusive in this lounge, and we were never without a full drink, yet at the same time didn't feel hassled once. LOBBY BAR: A big people-watching hotspot. Since it's located at the hub of the ship, this area would always be packed early evenings when traffic was heavy and passengers would check out each other's dinner duds, particularly on formal night. Again, service was always prompt and with a smile at this bar. Considering it's in the atrium (Oceanic Hall), the view is ALWAYS great, and the classical trio (Amadeo Trio) that played there just behind the bar always added greatly to the ambience. When the bar was open, it seemed busy from the second we boarded the ship until last call Saturday night. Busy but offbeat is a good way to put it, since the area was crowded but somehow never felt cramped or frenetic.
AEGEAN BAR (sports bar): We got a drink at the Aegean right after we boarded (I think every bar on the ship was open upon embarkation), and little did we know that it would be our last. It's an attractive spot, and done in different colors (gold, black, white) than the rest of the ship. While this seems odd, it does work in the context of its location, since the Aegean is off the casino/atrium and not really along Neptune's Way promenade, thusly it feels a bit "out of the flow." I think it was because of this that the bar never seemed very active, and was kind "forgotten" except by a select few. There are never any "events" at the bar, and it's probably the only place that holds that distinction on board. All we saw about it was "Aegean Bar, open 12pm - 12:30am," and that was it. If you DO visit the Aegean, you'll notice the televisions are large with good reception, and that there are video slots/poker machines embedded in the bar in front of each stool, which we thought was very cool.
SOUTH CHINA SEA CLUB (casino): The big blue foo dogs weren't the eyesore they're made out to be by a lot of people, they actually fit the theme pretty well. The SCSC was your basic Carnival casino, done up in a far East Orient motif. When we boarded the ship, we found a $20 bill under our lifejackets (!!), so we took this as a sign we should hit the casino. 20 minutes and 20 dollars later, that idea went by the wayside. We didn't spend much time here, as it wasn't very good to us, but several others did. It wasn't the packed madhouse many Carnival casinos become, but it still stayed lively until late. The slot tournaments drew a big crowd. CORAL SEA CAFE: The CSC is really nice to look at, with the glass table-to-ceiling cylinders filled with various coral and shell arrangements the highlight, along with several gorgeous half-circle lamps that are very colorful and each one unique. Here, you can get various coffees and pastries for a nominal fee. We did try the cafe, but only a few of the selections; she tried the famous Carnival Chocolate strawberry (HUGE berry half dipped in white chocolate and half dipped in dark) and said it was incredible. I had a huge chocolate chip cookie that was one of the best I'd ever had. The cakes, though very good, were about the same quality as anything you'd find elsewhere onboard, and elsewhere it's free. The coffee/espresso/cappucino machine wasn't working when we tried it, so we got drinks at the Trident Bar next door and ate at a couch on Neptune's Way.
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL (or the god of the sea, whichever)..... : I've always loved the promenades on Carnival ships, they've always exemplified the "buzz" and the sounds and feel that make Carnival special for us devotees. For some reason, Neptune's Way seemed narrower than those on the Fantasy class ships I've sailed (Ecstasy, Sensation, Imagination), though I'm sure that's just because there were more people and more "stuff" on the Victory. The sea foam green sofas and chairs lining the starboard side of the promenade were VERY comfortable, and became one of Ms. Green's favorite spots. It was a great place to sit and watch the world go by but still feel part of the action, and a great place to enjoy food or drink on one of the shell tables held by a giant seahorse. :) The ceilings were that famous green square pattern so prevalent on the Victory, with darker and lighter shades at points, small spotlights scattered about, and a backlit feeling that gives you the feeling of being under the sea. Along the far side, one of those tubings I mentioned earlier with the tivoli lights snakes its way the length of the deck, adding to the effect. Trident's Bar is the midway point of the deck, located just past the casino. It's done in the same decor as the rest of the deck, creating the sense that it's just part of the walkway, not a separate entity you would single out going to. There was no color-changing sign, no scheduled activities (save at the casino, which would draw a crowd at Trident's), and all this made the bar seem more like a place you would just stop by and grab a drink at while strolling to the other end of the ship. Service here was always good, and the bar was open until 3 am nightly, attracting much of the casino crowd and those from Club Arctic heading forward. Right across from Trident's was a elevated stage area with a baby grand piano and large slanted fun house type mirror behind it where Dan the piano player would belt out mainstream hits like "Margaritaville," "Brown Eyed Girl." and "Two Pina Coladas" nightly through the early evening until 10 or so while passersby drank, talked, and gambled. A neat feature just a bit aft of Trident's bar was a giant interactive map showing the ships itinerary, location, and vital information with flashing red, yellow, and green dots. There was a scrolling ticker-type electronic banner above the map, featuring information such as ship's position, water temperature (even in each of the ship's pools! ), speed, etc. This map almost ALWAYS had a small crowd gathered before it, and part of this crowd was always interested in the kiosk set up next to the map, a touchscreen monitor that allowed each guest information about and directions to any public area on the Victory, information on each port of call, and even info on other ships and itineraries within the fleet! This was a great interactive feature that helped a lot of novice cruisers who might have otherwise felt overwhelmed. Neptune's Way was always bustling and full of energy, but was still a marvel to look at and enjoy curling up and watching the sea go by at the same time. It CAN get a bit crowded on formal nights, when photographers are set up all the way along the deck to take pictures with their backdrops.
There WILL, however, be a photographer set up just forward of the casino in the atrium area (where the promenade basically forms a British-style roundabout circling Oceanic Hall), and though she NEVER had a line, she has a GREAT backdrop already built in: the green tiffany-glass lower ceiling of Oceanic Hall, which when lit up at night makes the most beautiful photo backdrop you could ask for, and is distinctively Victory.
The VICTORY SHOPS are in this area as well, on both sides of the circle around Oceanic Hall. The starboard side is the shop with jewelry, watches, leather items, perfumes, etc. (there was always some sort of special going on), and the port side shop (forward of the Aegean Bar) was the logo shop, with your more basic souvenirs, rum cakes, liquors, clothing, logo merchandise, candy, etc. You could also get your essentials (batteries, Bonine if you needed it, AC Adapters, things like that) in this shop. Both shops had friendly staff and reasonable prices with some good deals to be found, especially towards the end of the cruise.
CLUB ARCTIC, moving aft: Jumping back aft, Club Arctic was the ship's dance club and seemed to be the headquarters of Camp Carnival during the day. First of all, I have to say that for a full ship with 3,000 passengers, the kids on this ship were never very noticeable, so Camp Carnival must have done an outstanding job. Back to Club Arctic, the icicle/seal skin theme is very cool (no TERRIBLE pun intended), and the fiberoptics that light up under the ice-like barstools are a real treat. The walls of TV monitors move with shapes and colors forming giant patterns that go with the music and are very hypnotic to watch. The dance floor and large wrap-around bar were very popular places on several nights of the cruise, but even more enjoyable for myself was the stadium seating type bar areas that surround the dance floor and provides some great views of your fellow cruisers on the dance floor. Also, there's a large window on the wall beyond the dance floor which opens out onto the landing of the staircase between decks 4 and 5, which creates a very unique storefront type situation where you can stop on the landing (in Odyssey Hall and by the Pacific Dining Room) and watch the people dancing inside. All in all, we didn't spend a whole lot of time in Club Arctic, but there was always something going on and you couldn't help but feel a lot of energy in this room on into the wee hours.
the ODYSSEY HALL area: This was the most noticeable difference, to me anyway, between the promenades on the Fantasy-class ships and on the Victory. As you go aft past Club Arctic, you come to the Caspian Sea bar located portside, kind of forming a semi-circle with two rows of bars and stools. The theme here is the Russian empire, as evidenced by the portraits of the Czar and his wife on the back wall. We never really tried this place out, though Ms. Green expressed a small bit of interest here and there. At the Caspian you can get wines and caviar, etc., for a fee; the bar was never really crowded, and only a couple of times did I notice more than a few people here. Still, it's great to look at, and really adds a sort of elegant "anchor" to Neptune's Way. Now, to Odyssey Hall-the hall consists of three lounges and a little mini aft atrium, with the famous giant fish suspended in the middle. The fish is impressive, and is larger than I expected. It's a great photo op, with so many vibrant colors and such a unique look. The three lounges that surround this area are the Irish Sea Bar, Red & Black Seas, and Adriatic Lounge. I'd always read on here how raucous and packed the Irish Sea (piano bar) would get, but we never really saw that on this trip. Now I should say that it's quite possible we missed the wilder times seeing as we DID spend so much time at shows, etc., but usually the scene was all but dead by the time we'd stroll by around midnight. It also probably had something to do with the fact that there was a group onboard that had the room rented out a few times here and there, and I'm sure there were livelier times, we just missed them. The R&B Seas really surprised me, as I found it to be far more impressive than it appears in pictures I'd seen. This room actually illicited the first big "wow, awesome!" from Ms. Green on our initial walkthrough. I won't bother describing it-lots of red, lots of black, etc. etc.-but check it out, it's a funky little bar that's a lot of fun. Karaoke was always held here, and if you plan on coming, COME EARLY. Every time this took place, people were seated on the floor, spilling out into Odyssey Hall, etc. It's a fun, popular event, and even though I really enjoyed the R&B Seas, I think they could probably hold this event in Club Arctic or the Adriatic and people would be a bit more comfortable. Every evening when there wasn't karaoke going on, you could find live jazz or singalongs being played here. As for the aforementioned Adriatic Lounge, this was another room that pictures didn't do justice to. Honestly, this was probably the most beautiful space on the ship, in my humblest of opinions. It's tiered on multiple levels, and features gorgeous ivories and pale yellows that are far more attractive than they sound or appear to be on film. The art auctions are held here, as is the Captain's cocktail party and past guest party. There was a three piece band called Music Mix that played nightly, everything from American standards to love songs to disco. We also met for a shore excursion here one morning, and the beauty of the room made it much more bearable to be up at 6:45. The Adriatic is probably the best spot for romantic dancing as well. A great room, take the time to check it out, organized activity or no.
BUFFET, LIDO DECK, etc.: I'll start here with the Mediterranean Buffet (from here on out the Med-I type ENOUGH at work) on Lido Deck. Compared with the Holiday and Fantasy class ships I've been on, this was another source of WOW for me. The Med is very large and very comfortable; it's decorated elaborately and thoroughly. This was the first Lido restaurant I've ever been in that I felt could have been dropped down a few decks as a regular restaurant and not looked out of place one bit-just awesome. Buffet lines were seldom the huge problem I'd feared. The gala buffet, of course, drew a crowd, as did breakfast a few times during peak hours, but other than that it was always easy to get everything we wanted. The two lines made things a lot more manageable and the line move far more quickly as well. There is a separate station in the middle of the Med for desserts, danishes, pastries, etc., depending on the particular meal being served. We even ate here on two different evenings, which I never would have even considered on previous cruises. The food was good, the best buffet food I've had at sea bar none, and the options were more plentiful than anyone could ever ask for. The alternative buffet areas- East River Deli, Yangtze Wok, Mississippi BBQ, and Pizzeria Arno-were a huge treat for me, considering I'd never seen anything like them on other ships I've sailed on. I really hope Ms. Green doesn't think ALL ships are like this!  As for these dining options, the Deli and Wok are set up as little windows on either side of the Med, just inside from the pool area. The Deli has the best hours of the three (Pizzeria, of course, is 24 hrs.), the BBQ is open for lunches, and the Wok seemed to be open less than the other three and never had a crowd. I had heard so much about the spring rolls at Yangtze Wok, but they never had them available the times that we tried. The food we DID have, however, was good (I enjoyed a Cantonese Pork dish especially). Mississippi BBQ is located opposite the pizzeria, outside of the Med in the Siren's Pool area aft, starboard side. Line could really get long here (relative to the other dining options), so we only ended up trying it a few times. It's been my experience that shipboard burgers, hot dogs, etc., are AWFUL. They pretty much always have been on my past cruises-but these were GREAT. The hot dogs were huge-very much like something you'd get at the ballpark. I wished they'd had a bar with onions, jalapenos, etc., but they were great just covered in mustard. Steak sandwiches could be served on a sliced French roll or sesame seed bun, and were good either way, as was the plain chicken breast they'll serve on any bun you wish. The hamburgers were great, and covered in melting cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato-or of course made exactly to your order. French fries came with every dish and were always hot and delicious. Going inside from Mississippi BBQ, you'll find the East River Deli-let me just say that my motto for the cruise could have been "He who says Man can not survive on Rueben Sandwiches alone hath never sailed the Carnival Victory." The Deli's Ruebens visited my stomach every day, and were some of the best I've ever had. They're put together and grilled on both sides, then they're ready to go (grill marks make everything taste better, don't they?). I ate them there in the Med most of the time, but sometimes I would just carry them right downstairs to the cabin and eat them there-whatever suits your mood! There were always two chefs stationed at the deli, so the line always moved fast and I never had to wait more than 10 minutes or so. The menu at East River also offers corned beef, pastrami, turkey served hot or cold, smoked salmon, tuna salad, etc., on many different kinds of bread and rolls. Everything I tried there was excellent, and it stayed open until 11 most nights, unlike the BBQ and Wok which were never open past 6. As for Pizzeria Arno, located opposite the Mississippi BBQ on the Port side outside Siren's Pool, I have mixed reviews. No problems at all with the pizza itself: it was great, the best I've had at sea in fact. The first night onboard, we stopped in around 2am or so and were treated to the DeChevre (goat cheese, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes) and Margherita pizzas. These were both delicious, and I was more than excited about the week's worth of late night pizza eating I had ahead of me. The problem was that in the six or seven times we attempted to get pizza the rest of the cruise, there was never anything offered but cheese, pepperoni, or vegetable-and usually only one of those was available at a given time. There's a large menu and display case set up right in front of the counter at Arno with all kinds of exciting exotic pizzas that are absolutely delicious, but for the majority of the time, that menu is just a series of suggestions that shouldn't be taken seriously. The basic pizzas were good, of course, but I wished they'd had more. The general buffets in the Med were always tasty-it was your traditional set up, salads, fruits, cheeses, then four or five entrée selections-but the kicker was the final station, with one chef on either side pan cooking something right in front of you. Made to order omelets in the morning, usually a pasta or seafood dish in the evenings. Not to mention the giant bread basket (sun dried tomato baguettes were out of this WORLD) and loads of President butter. I know it's been covered ad nauseum on these boards, but that President butter has earned it's reputation; three more days onboard would have given me a heart attack I used so much. It might be the number one food product I miss from the Victory-Oh, how I wish I could score some of that stuff here in Texas. The Gala buffet was very impressive to look at, but wasn't so good as far as the little "eating" part went. All the others, however, were the best Lido food I'd had onboard ship bar none.
About the Siren's Pool area, that's something else that was very unique and impressive. The décor of the Med carries out into the pool and surrounding areas, which is something I've never seen before and was very impressive. Even the deck area around the pool (which has a retractable roof) wasn't the usual teakwood style decking, but a red Spanish tile with small hand-painted tile diamonds at each point where four tiles met. This was very impressive, because the use of the tile alone gave the area a different feel, and the fact that each of the hundreds of small tile diamonds had a different little pattern painted on it just added to the very unique poolside atmosphere. Also, the deck chairs had big, thick cushions with a color and pattern unique to that particular area.. not to mention , the tables on the back side of the pool overlooked the stern and the wake of the ship, one of my favorite spots. An odd fact: The bar at Siren's Pool is open until 4am nightly, the consistently latest nightspot onboard. It's located port side, across from Pizzeria Arno.
In both the Siren's Pool area and Triton's (main) pool area, there were large glass & steel sculptures around various edges of the water, which were very impressive and added a lot to the overall atmosphere. Two bars flank the pool on either side and point inward to the outside buffet lines of the Med. There are plenty of tables and chairs for outdoor eating, and though there are plenty of deck chairs, the chair saving was in FULL effect on this cruise. There are signs, warnings in the Capers, all sorts of noticed about this problem, but people just don't care. My favorite irritant was seeing three chairs, one with one shoe in it, one with the other show in it, and one with a cap in it. Delicious. Regardless, unless you just HAVE to be immediately poolside, you'll be able to find loungers all up and down decks 9, 10, 11, and 12. The topless deck by the funnel is ALWAYS more than half empty (and sorry guys, no one was topless) as is the area by the little used King of the Sea (waterslide) pool, though that is usually a hotspot for children. Also up near this area is the Nautica Spa, gym, jogging track, and juice bar, which looked very nice though we never tried it. A giant kids' play area is outside the bar area, complete with slides, playhouses, etc.
The poolside areas (mainly Triton's Pool) featured the usual reggae band playing most afternoons, as well as traditional Carnival poolside daytime entertainment, such as Survivor, hairy chest contests, ice carving demos, some trivia games, etc. There's enough entertainment poolside to have a good time and give you something to look forward to, but it's never so intrusive that you can't lay out in peace.
ENTERTAINMENT (and whatnot. I LOVE some good whatnot):
Line of the week: "In addition, this afternoon's scheduled meeting of the Apathy Club has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Thanks, and have a great day!" - cruise director Steve Cassel, over the PA during his afternoon announcements.
This was my third time to sail with CD Steve Cassel, and I still think he does a bang up job. I've sailed with John Heald twice, and yes, John is the man (as Steve himself once mentioned on the Victory), but Steve is one of Carnival's top 3 or 4 CDs bar none. He's goofy (to put it lightly), knowledgeable, approachable, and the self-professed "master of the bad joke." His talks were helpful for the first time and veteran cruisers alike, his juggling act is borderline amazing (Steve outperformed many of the "serious" performers), and the "If I were not upon the sea" bit he did with the crew after the talent show was hilarious. In fact, it gave me a great photo of Steve in a leotard, tutu, and blonde wig. A.J. is still there as the lead social host, and though several people said he wasn't very good as CD the past few weeks (filling in between John & Steve), we thought he was hilarious and likeable. In my humble opinion, I think A.J. is ready to move up the ranks of Carnival CDs whenever he's given his own ship. With only one notable exception (Newlywed/Not so, which Steve did), A.J. emceed just about all the events-both poolside and in lounges-that involved audience participation, and did a great job. Jo, a British ex-dancer, generally ran trivia and bingo, both of which we participated in regularly. The production shows, Livin' In America (Monday night) and Vroom! (Friday night) have been covered here several times, but we loved both of them. The crowd got much more involved in Livin' In America, and that performance seemed to draw more raves, but a lot of that probably had to do with the timing of the performance. Both shows involve elaborate set and costume changes, and lots of impressive technical work. The singers, Wayne and Yolanda, were both very talented and charismatic. There were three "R" rated midnight comedians-on my past CCL cruises, this show was always held in the "alternate" show lounge (in this case it would have been the Adriatic), but on the Victory they were in the Caribbean. This was a good move, as the shows always had overflow standing room crowds in the past. Jim Brick held the first show, David Sayh the second, and Percy Crews II the third. Both Brick and Crews were hilarious, had me doubled over in laughter, and generated a ship-wide buzz after their shows. Sayh wasn't very funny, though he had the most impressive credentials. Sayh's performance was even mocked by the crowd at Crews' show the next night. I think it spoke volumes that both Brick and Crews did a main general audience show as well, whereas Sayh only had the one performance. Manuel Zuniga (isn't this man on every Carnival ship every week?) performed his juggling/comedy act, which was a big hit, and the passenger talent show, though only three acts long, featured two singers that could have performed as professionals and STILL earned their standing ovations. The only show we didn't really enjoy was Rand Woodbury's magic show-Ms. Green thought Woodbury was drunk, I just thought he was a pompous ass who took 90 minutes to do three tricks, but either way, his "what I do can save the world" bunk was wasted on us. Now in all fairness, the show was technically impressive, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it, but I think a lot of our discomfort had to do with the fact that this was the show we arrived to 5 minutes before curtain and had to sit up in the scorchingly hot third level for. Still, entertainment was great all week and we took in most of it. The knobby knees contest, newlywed game, Austin Powers dance class, comedians, jugglers, magicians, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, bingo, horse racing, several types of trivia, art auctions, singers, bands in every lounge, galley tours, ice carving demos, limbo, dance contests, karaoke, ask the crew, informative talks, in-cabin movies and radio, golf driving net, putting contests, ping pong, full gym & spa, you name it-if you are bored on the Victory, it's your own fault. And remember-sometimes, it's quite all right to just do NOTHING. We enjoyed long, leisurely meals, wandering the ship, taking naps, and sitting out on our balconies as much as anything else. Remember: you're on vacation!
DINING ROOM/ROOM SERVICE:
We asked for late seating, and after hoping passionately that we'd get the 8:00 and not the 8:30, I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that we'd received the 8:00 seating in the Pacific Dining Room. We were seated on the second level, port side. I can see what some people say about it seeming like "the action" is on the lower level, but it never really bothered us. The area we sat in was a series of booths for four lined up against the glass half-wall looking down onto the lower level. Next to us on the other side was a strip of five or six tables for two, with more booths for four on the other side. Although we were eager to meet our tablemates, not only did they not show the first night, they NEVER showed. Not one meal. Our waiter, Atilla from Hungary (imagine that), said that he'd checked in the computer, and there was a couple scheduled to be there, yet they never showed-very odd. The large picture window overlooking the back of the ship is a nice feature unique to the Pacific Room, but you CAN see the horizon move up and down if you look at it from a distance, so this probably plays a part in why you can feel what little motion there is in the Pacific more than in other areas. Food was excellent, and you can tell the improvements Carnival has made in this department over the years. Ms. Green labeled her Long Island Duckling as one of the best meals she'd ever had, and I did the same with my almond encrusted Pacific salmon with creamed spinach and potatoes. Incredible. The West Indian pumpkin soup is every bit as good as advertised, as was the decadence of chocolate, a must for ANY Carnival cruiser. We both agreed that soups were a strong point, as every one we tried was delicious. If I could suggest one thing to Carnival, it might be to have soups available up on the Lido deck as well, as we couldn't get enough of them. Desserts were great, as was every seafood dish I tried, and I had plenty. Ms. Green loved the food as well, and there wasn't anything we could really complain about. The bread is brought around at the beginning of your meal, and there is always a wide variety to choose from, from rye to plain rolls to baguettes to sun dried tomato rolls and so on, and all with that President butter just waiting seductively, taunting you from its cold silver tin... but I digress.. We often times ordered two starters or two soups or two entrees, whatever, and they were always more than happy to accommodate us with a smile. Bar service was prompt and friendly from the nearby Ionian Room (don't freak out when you see charges on your bill to the Ionian Room, that's where the dining room drinks come from), and couples around us enjoyed various wines all week. There are daily wine selections from the chefs and maitre'd listed in the Capers daily if you're so inclined. But don't feel intimidated if that's not your thing-just as many folks were enjoying an ice cold Coca-Cola with dinner as well! Formal nights saw all kinds-from Sunday attire to full blown tuxedos and formal gowns. I wore my tuxedo the first night, and though I was nervous at first that I'd stand out, I saw more men in tuxedos on the Victory than I had on any ship prior. Again, fear not, a whole rainbow of fashion is represented and anything is welcome.
One evening, Atilla and other waiters from the section came bounding out with smiles and cakes in hand, and we learned that every single couple at the tables for two next to us was on their honeymoon! As thr are presenting all the cakes, Atilla comes up to us and says "I understand you're celebrating a honeymoon this week?" We sat there smiling dumbly until we said, in a tentative unison, "Uh, no, we're not, I don't know.." He then shook his head and determined that our phantom tablemates who never showed were on THEIR honeymoon! Draw from that the conclusions that you wish, but either way we got a Happy Honeymoon cake and were part of the big group singing to 8 or 9 honeymooning couples! We got a huge laugh and a lot of pictures out of that one!
The second formal night is distinctly less formal, as black tie gives way to a more fun, creative kind of formal. The waiters don't do the big baked-alaska-or-cherries-jubilee on their heads parade anymore, but there is still the singing & dancing-just a touch toned down. Baked Alaska is the only dessert automatically brought to your table (cherries jubilee isn't), and even then if you feel like having something else, they'll gladly bring you that as well, as a full dessert menu is still available.
Room service was wonderful, and the menu is far more diverse than it was in the past-despite this newfound diversity, we stuck to our old favorites. Ms. Green couldn't go a day without her toasted bagel & cream cheese, and almost a week later I'm still tasting my roast beef & brie sandwiches along with some of the best potato salad I've ever tasted. Service was always quick, with a smile, and as long as you remember to tip just two bucks each time, you'll be well taken care of and Enjoy a midnight snack, pre-nap bite, or meal out on your balcony as the moon & stars roll by.
As for service in the cabin area, though I can't speak for everyone on board, I can say that our service was for the most part excellent and with a smile. Our steward was Marvin from Jamaica, and he was very friendly and efficient yet never too aggressive or neglectful at the same time. The only complaints I had were little ones, such as not having a do not disturb sign at the beginning of the cruise or not being given an envelope to tip the maitre'd, but we took care of all of that very quickly. Not to mention we had an "illegal" bottle of rum in our room and not only did Marvin not care, by the end of the cruise he'd ice it down for us in one of the two buckets of ice we had. The towel animals were once again a nightly player (and one of Ms. Green's favorite things) and the beds were pushed together and fitted under king size bedding just like that within the first couple hours on board. The Carnival terry cloth robes we were given were very light and very comfortable, and the complimentary basket of toiletries came in very handy as well. I found television onboard to be much better than on previous ships as well. Funvision was very effective and useful, with only a couple of differences from my last CCL cruise on the Imagination 6 years ago-You could no longer order room service from your television, but you can order first run movies, and a wide variety at that, for a nominal fee. Also, it's a great way to avoid lines, crowds, or tours filling up, as you can order tours off the in cabin television as soon as the Victory sets sail. It's easy, hassle-free, and gets all your "busy work" taken care of from the comfort of your boxer shorts. Of course, if you'd like more information before you book (info sheets on each tour will be waiting for you in your cabin to begin with), Steve gave very informative talks on each tour and each port of call in the Caribbean Lounge, and tours rarely sold out.
We slept very comfortably - I always sleep better on cruise ships than anywhere else-and were never disturbed by noises, etc. in the nighttime hours. Insulation between cabins was excellent, as I never once got the paper-thin sensation I've gotten on most other ships. The only negatives were napping could sometime be difficult in the afternoon, as we had a group right across the hall from us that was part of a large group on board celebrating a 15th birthday, and they spent a good amount on time IN THE HALLWAY playing music and talking very loudly. A dirty look here and there helped our cause, and it was no big deal. Announcements aren't as annoying as has been reported-there's a long one about 10am every day and another around 5:30pm, and other than that there are just a few here and there. Plus, they're never piped into your cabins unless they're mandatory (which is only lifeboat drill & debarkation stuff), so the noise is minimal. We only heard deck chairs being moved around above us once (we were directly below the Lido deck), and it was very brief and a non-factor. There was plenty of closet and storage space for the both of us, and although our coral-colored sofa was used mostly as a catch all for bags, papers, etc., I feel like we utilized our given space fairly well.
The Victory was remarkably smooth-almost TOO smooth. There were times when we were sailing and I'd have sworn we were on land if I didn't know better. Not only was there almost no motion, there wasn't even a hint of vibration for the most part. Only once or twice was there even SLIGHT swaying, and even then it was brief and hardly noticeable. Ms. Green, on her first cruise and understandably worried about seasickness going in, mentioned more than once that it just felt like we were in a huge hotel. Great job by the captain, crew, and of course the Victory herself.
Just down the hall from us was one of the laundrettes (there are several throughout the ship, check out leatherbound cabin services directory in your stateroom), and the only times it was really packed were in the afternoon hours before a formal night, mostly with women ironing, pressing, etc. In port it was almost always empty, and during sea days there was moderate activity. You can buy detergent from a machine, and there are several washers and dryers as well as an ironing board and good Panasonic iron.
Oh, and before I forget, the internet café-it's off the Ionian Room, starboard side opposite the Card Room, and there are a number of terminals that actually have a very good connection. We only used it a couple of times to check on things from back home, so we just went with the 75 cents a minute standard, but for those of you who plan on spending more time online (and there were several on this cruise), there are a number of affordable plans with which you can purchase minutes. The Ionian Room itself is a gorgeous room located just across from the entrance to the Pacific Dining Room and below Club Arctic. Yes, it IS odd that such a nice, subdued room is located below a loud party area like Club Arctic, but it's not as ridiculous at some reviews make it seem, since never are the two rooms open and going at the same time. By the time Club Arctic is up and pounding, the Ionian Room has long since wound down. The Ionian room is the one place on the Victory where cigar smoking is allowed and encouraged (grab those Cubans while you can!), and a classical and jazz trio will play in the evenings here nightly. The full bar along the back of the room is gorgeous, and ties into the room well. One night, every musician on the Victory got together in the Ionian for a 3 hour "jam session," and what we heard of it was a real treat.
Okay, now on to the ports o' call!! I'll preface this by saying that I've never been one who's looked forward to every port with marked anticipation. I enjoy the ports, I've had some good times seeing the ports, and a week I spent in Grand Cayman is one of the best vacations I've been fortunate enough to have-but that being said, I've always seen ports as being a byproduct of being able to get on the ship for a week! My cruise on the Victory, as great as the ship is, did a lot to change that attitude.
We docked at what is actually the old pier, down a ways from San Miguel and slightly bigger (deeper) than the newer pier. We were docked next to HAL's Maasdam, and we could see the Holiday docked down at the new pier further down the island. We met on the pier at 10am for the Fiesta Party Boat tour, and had no problems whatsoever getting off the ship, we simply popped our S&S card into the machine and strolled off. The S&S card is all we ever needed getting on and off the ship. The Fiesta was right around the corner, and we quickly boarded and headed up to the third deck of the tri-deck boat. The 1st and 3rd deck had bars, and the second deck had a souvenir stand. We headed along the island's coast to Playa Sol (after picking up some passengers from the Holiday who had been tendered from their ship to the Victory), with a Mexican band playing some cruise standards (UB40, Macarena, etc.) and some local favorites. On the first level of the boat (with the band, stage, etc), the Fiesta crew was talking over the speaker system, getting the crowd involvment going, etc, and allowing the children onboard to go after a pinata. The whole way to Playa Sol, free rum punch and Pepsi was offered to the passengers, and despite the ominous clouds here and there, we all stayed in an upbeat mood, laughing and enjoying watching fellow passengers take failed Macarena lessons. Finally, we arrived at Playa Sol, where we were ushered off the boat and given a quick talk on all that was available for us there. The coolers of rum punch were brought off the boat and onto the beach at the end of the pier, and the punch continued to flow for our two hours at the beach. Playa Sol is a cool place, with tons of loungers, food & drink options, watersports, and a whole pavillion area where a fountain marks the entrance to a long strip of shops, and a freshwater swimming pool with swim up bar sits in front of a large covered buffet area. We walked down through the shops and Ms. Green found a lovely turquoise ring we bought from a shop with a Mexican man who was very helpful and accomodating and not the least bit pushy, as we had a hard time finding the ring she wanted in the perfect size-ladies, remember, if you've been in the sea for a while first as we had, your fingers are probably a bit swollen from the salt water. We learned this the hard way, as Ms. Green's ring is now a bit loose! As I said, we spent a good bit of time playing in the Caribbean, sipping rum punch and wandering around the grounds taking pictures and meeting some very friendly passengers from the Holiday. Finally, it was time to head back on to the Fiesta, and that's when the party cranked up. On the way back to the Victory, not only was there free rum punch, but free Dos Equis was brought into the mix! Conga lines formed, dancing picked up, everyone filled up the bottom deck, and a limbo contest was won by the most flexible woman I've ever seen. Needless to say, the whole ride back (a ride that went a lot slower than the way there) Ms. Green and I put away our fair share of Dos Equis and were feeling very good as we debarked the boat-a great time on the Fiesta! They DID take a photo of us wearing matching rainbow colored sombreros, which we purchased for 10 bucks and which I'm very fond of. As we debarked, we decided to check out the pier shops-To get to the island by foot, you have to walk through these shops, as the entire pier is basically an enclosed mall. There are some great deals on alcohol, tobacco, and souvenirs here, and if there's anything I can suggest about the ports, it's that you should do as much of your shopping as possible in Cozumel, as the best deals by far are found here. We bought a large bottle of rum and 6 Cuban cigars for 15 bucks total and headed out of the mall to the little area of jewelry shops and bars on the island. There was a Senor Frog's and Fat Tuesday's to out immediate left, and after we stopped into Fat Tuesday's for another drink ( I had a Montejo, a Mexican beer that was new to me but one that I really enjoyed), we headed to one of the recommended CCL jewelry stores, where Ms. Green got the pair of five dollar Tanzanite earrings for being a Victory passenger. The other Tanzanite stuff was.uhhh. just a bit out of our price range. As we headed back to the ship, we stopped at a bar (sense a theme here?) on the other side of the pier called the Crazy Pelican. This bar was very cool, as it had a mini-pier of its own where Ms. Green laid out (laying out at a bar!!) and I sat by her side taking pictures (including one that's my all-time favorite) and drinking Negra Modelos while she sipped Coronas. This isn't even mentioning the bartender who gave us impromptu shots of Cuervo when we walked in-but that's another story. Finally, we'd had enough and headed back to the Victory. We ran the rum through the x-ray machine, made NO effort to sneak it on, yet they let it right on through, and suddenly we had a bottle of run in our cabin for the duration of the week!! Then, after stopping at the Med for a little 4pm snack, we took what was supposed to be a little nap, and ended up sleeping until close to 10. That's what a day on the party boat and at the "Crazy Pelican" will do to you, I suppose.. What a day.
I'd spent a week in Cayman before, and Ms. Green knew from my wistful ramblings how I felt about this island, so there was a lot to live up to here! We pulled in bright and early. well, actually dark and early.. And since we had to meet in the Adriatic for our tour at 7:15, I was already awake and able to watch us sail in and anchor along with the Voyager of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Inspiration. We met at the crowded Adriatic and waited about 15 minutes before being led down to the tender area, and though it wasn't the most organized thing you've ever seen, we were still motoring over to Cayman within a half hour. The confusion came once we got to the island, as there were a number of tours there and no real way to tell where yours was meeting. After heading the wrong direction for a piece, we were directed back to our bus to Stingray City and boarded just in time. From here on out, our worries washed away. We had the famous "Singing Bus Driver" of the Cayman Islands, who sang at the top of his lungs the whole way there-no, it's not as annoying as it sounds, it's actually quite hilarious and entertaining. He was the nicest guy in the world, and after driving us through Georgetown and to the pier to meet the Sundancer he wished us well and sent us on the way. The crew on the Sundancer was very informative and were all Americans, which you'll only find in Cayman. The water is clearer here than anywhere else I've ever seen, and the trip of about 30 mins to Stingray City was great because of it. Once we got there, Ms. Green, who previously feared any and all things related to the ocean, saw the Rays and took off-she had the time of her life, and wore the hickey she got on her hand like a badge of honor. We bought the cup of squid to feed the rays (only a dollar) and it was well worth it-they also have a large digital underwater camera, and you can get your picture taken holding a large ray that they'll put on a floppy disk onboard the boat and sell to you for 10 dollars. We bought the picture, and we also got photos of a ray swimming underwater and a photo of the Sundancer itself. The stingrays wher an awesome experience, and though I'd done it twice before, I had never recalled it being so enjoyable. Ms. Green called it the coolest thing she'd ever done, and I think that alone made her week. On the way back, I had to get some change at the bar to tip the folks on the way out, and upon breaking my 10 I bought Ms. Green a small stuffed stingray and us both a couple of Stingray beers, a local Cayman brew that I fell in love with a few years back. We debarked the boat and waited for a few minutes before the singing bus driver returned to shuttle us back. On the way back to town, you have the option of getting off at Seven Mile Beach, where you can stay until the bus returned in a couple of hours. We wanted to do some shopping and walk around town, so we stayed on. We wandered around the shops a bit and strolled down to the Stingray beer logo shop, where we bought some shot glasses, t-shirts, and a six pack of the beer. On the way back, we stopped at the famous Tortuga Rum store and bought some of the famous rum cake. mmmmm. After that, and walking around Cayman exploring a bit more, we headed back to the tenders about an hour before sailing. We never had the slightest problem or wait getting on or off the tenders. A great tour and great day in Cayman.
Point blank the biggest surprise of my cruise. I first visited Ocho Rios more than 13 years ago on a cruise onboard the Holiday, and I'll never forget that experience. The CD warned passengers to walk with your hands in your pockets, avoid taxis, and not to make lengthy eye contact with certain locals. Outside of the safety of the organized tour, a visit to town was highly disturbing, with a large group of angry young men shouting obscenities from behind a chain link fence holding baseball bats, etc., and merchants that were pushy to the point of being frightening. Needless to say, having not been to Jamaica for 6 years, I wsn't expecting much; I just wanted Ms. Green to get a chance to do the falls, and hurry back to the Victory. When I woke up and walked out onto our balcony to find us docked in the beautiful, developed locale, I was stunned. It's not even the same place anymore, at least the part that we see isn't. We met up with the Cool Runnings catamaran at the pier at 10 o'clock-- again, no problems whatsoever getting on and off the ship. The catamaran was impressive-- it was sparkling clean and appeared to be brand new. We stood up near the front of the boat, and watching the cat slice through the waves was an impressive sight indeed. We made it to the falls, where we disembarked and met with our climbing team, who were some very charismatic jamacians who made the whole climb a lot more fun without being the least bit pushy about buying their wares. We did the climb (no falling!), got some great pictures, and headed back to the Cool Runnings, where there was free rum punch, free rum & coke, and one dollar Red Stripes. The ride back to the Victory was a blast, as it was very rough and wavy (they warned us the way back would be this way) but believe it or not, no one was queasy and it added to the whole scene tenfold-- It was a BLAST. They were playing authentic reggae music and teaching us Jamaican dances while everyone drank and enjoyed the sun. I got some great pictures of the dancers with the Victory in the background, and we were sad to get off the catamaran. A great tour, the most fun i've ever had in Ocho Rios. Afterwards, we decided to get daring and headed back to th ship to change, and then into Island Village, a shopping area just off the pier. Yes, we were offered marijuana a few times, but they all took no for an answer and before long we were in a gorgeous, clean shopping area full of souvenir shops, music stores, and at the end of it all, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Margaritaville was a blast. The waterslide winding through the bar, people dancing on the bar, shakers of salt missing from the tables (!!), JB videos on all the TVs, and the BEST nachos we'd ever had (Volcano nachos)-- and we're from Texas. Nothing like some shopping, nachos, JB, and Red Stripes to top off our Ocho Rios experience. We made it back to the ship 5 minutes before 3, and regretted not using those 5 minutes on shore. Yet another incredible time, from a port that's really changed its stripes.
I will provide a little history on the planning of the cruise. About 3 years ago, my sister Debbie and her husband Derek went on a cruise aboard the Carnival Paradise and had a wonderful time. After talking about their trip, we came up with the idea of putting together a family cruise that we would take in the Winter/Spring of 2002.
About a year after that, I started doing a lot of research. The first thing that I found was that most Travel / Cruise Agencies were not booking cruises that far out. I kept on searching and finally found a cruise agent who tried several options on getting pricing for us and finally went to the Carnival Group Department and received a quote for us. I received quotes on several different cabin categories to give my family several options. After much discussion, 3 families decided to book this cruise. Family #1 was myself, my husband Paul, my daughter Chelsea (9 years old at the time of the cruise) and my son Andrew (5 years old at the time of the cruise). Family #2 was my sister Debbie, her husbandDerek and their son David (17 years old at the time of the cruise). Family #3 was my sister Kim and her husband Bryan. After a little back & forth, we all decided on CAT. 9A cabins. Larger cabins with larger balconies. We made our deposit in September of 2000. Now we just had to wait and save our money.
Well the time for our cruise had come. Two days prior to our departure, my family along with Debbie, Derek & David flew from the mid-west down to Miami. We stayed at the Renaissance Miami Biscayne Bay. We had nice rooms that overlooked the Port of Miami. The hotel will be undergoing massive renovations starting this month so it should be a very nice hotel by the end of the summer. After checking in around 6:00 p.m. we all headed down to Bayside Marketplace for dinner. What a fun area. It's right by the water and there are all kinds of shops, restaurants & entertainment. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp and had a very good meal. The service here was also first-rate.
On Saturday morning, we all headed over to Miami Beach to spend some time here. The hotel ran a shuttle for $3 each way. We were there fairly early and there were already quite a few people of the beach. We walked down the beach for a while, Andrew & Chelsea chased sea gulls, took pictures of the art-deco lifeguard stations and saw a few topless sunbathers. For lunch, we ate at a Cuban restaurant, which we all enjoyed. We left Miami Beach around 2:30 p.m. as it was really starting to get busy with the Spring Breakers. We went back down to Bayside and took a harbor cruise. This was a lot of fun and a great way to see more of Miami. We were even lucky enough to see a dolphin swimming next to the boat. For dinner, we split up. Paul & I and the kids went to a restaurant called Joe's On The River. I nice little seafood place right on the Miami River. Debbie, Derek & David enjoyed Bubba Gump's so much on Friday night, they ate there again on Saturday night.
On Sunday morning we woke up early and looked out the window. We saw the Victory as it was making its turn-around in the lower basin of the Port of Miami. We were all very excited, as we knew that we would be on this ship in a matter of hours. We had breakfast at the hotel and checked out around 10:15 a.m. We had a little trouble getting cabs to take us to the port. I guess many of them were busy with the arriving cruise passengers. We finally got a couple of cabs to take us to the port and we arrived there a little before 11:00 a.m. When our cab pulled up to the ship where all the other cabs were, I was very surprised when I got out and found my sister Kim & her husband Bryan in the cab right in front of us. They had flown out of Chicago that morning. It was great that we could all walk in together. We walked right in, through security and up to the check-in area. We waited in line here for less than 5 minutes before we reached an agent. We all had our documents filled out so we were processed very quickly. A couple in front of us did not have theirs filled out, so they had to step aside to fill them out. It is highly recommended to fill all this out prior to check-in. We walked right on past them and into an area where we had to wait until they cleared the ship for embarkation. I would say we were here for about a half-hour before they started moving people. We had to work our way up to receive our Sail & Sign cards (or Sip & Sign as Bryan called them) and then on to pictures. I would say we were on the ship and in our cabins by 12:30 p.m.
CABINS - We all had CAT 9A cabins. We were on the Verandah Deck (Deck 8) in cabin 8427. Kim & Brian were also on Verandah Deck in cabin 8433 and Debbie, Derek & David were on Upper Deck (Deck 6) in cabin 6461. 8433 & 6461 were aft corner cabins with very large balconies. I had wanted one of these cabins but they would not accommodate 4 people. Our cabin was very large and held 4 people very easy. Our balcony was larger than a CAT 8 cabin but not as big as the wrap-around balconies of the corner cabins. We designated Debbie, Derek & David's balcony as Party Base since we spend a lot of time there as we departed from Miami and as we arrived into San Juan. The bathrooms were a nice size and our showers had great water pressure. The shower unit also could be used as a hand-held, which came in very helpful when it came time to shower our 5 year old. There was plenty of shelf space for all our toiletries. I had mentioned to my kids ahead of time that the toilets tend to make a lot of noise when they are flushed so they were a little nervous when I showed it to them for the first time. When I flushed it, they thought it was so funny at how loud it was. After that, Andrew couldn't wait to go to the bathroom so he could flush the noisy suction toilet. We had a nice amenity basket that included shampoo, deodorant, body wash, Tylenol PM and several other items. This came in very handy throughout the week. We also had 2 nice terry-cloth Carnival robes that were hung up for us to use throughout the week. I had brought along a bungee cord and we used this several times throughout the week to keep our balcony door open. It was great to hear the ocean right outside our cabin. You just had to be a little careful when you had the balcony door open and then you opened your cabin door. A big breeze and then a big "slam" of the cabin door when it shut.
After checking out the cabins, we all headed up to the Lido Deck for lunch. They had burgers, hot dogs, salad bar, buffet, pizza, Chinese food and the New York Deli up and ready to serve all of the early arrivals. It was a very nice variety. They also had iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch, water & coffee to drink and of course, they had their self-serve ice cream & frozen yogurt machine. Several members of the family visited this many times throughout the week. After lunch, we explored the ship. We were assigned to the Atlantic Dining Room for the 6:15 p.m. Main Dinner Seating. This was exactly what we wanted. Early, but not too early. We had table #174, which was a table for 9 on the first level in the center, not too far from the center staircase. We were very satisfied with this. Then is was off to visit Children's World, the various lounges and the various pools and waterslide. The water slide looked like a lot of fun and we couldn't wait to try it out. Before we knew it, it was time for the Muster Drill and then up to Party Base to toast our departure from Miami. We were finally underway. After finishing the champagne, it was time to get ready for dinner. Our waiter was Ronald and both he and our assistant waiter were excellent. They went out of their way to spoil the kids and the kids just ate it up. They have a special children's menu if they don't want anything off the main menu. The young ones appreciated the cheese pizza, cheeseburgers and hot dogs on several occasions. We enjoyed many meals in the dining room as well as some in the Mediterranean Restaurant on the Lido Deck. I would rate the food as being very good to excellent. It seemed like every time you turned around, it was time to eat again. Favorites included the Rueben Sandwiches, Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Mushroom & Sausage Pizza, Filet Mignon, Lobster, Carmel Crème Custard & Grand Marnier Souffle.
CAMP CARNIVAL - We utilized Camp Carnival for both our 5 year old and our 9 year old. They both enjoyed it very much. Either Paul & I had to sign Andrew in and out but Chelsea signed herself in and out. Andrew's activities were primarily in Children's World (located on the Spa Deck - forward) and Chelsea's activities could be anywhere on the ship so this made it a little hectic for dropping off and picking up. Chelsea participated in an Overnighter for the 9-11 year old group and had a lot of fun. She did need some quiet time in the cabin on Saturday morning but that worked out ok as I used this time to start packing. Even though Chelsea could sign herself in and out, we asked her not to do this, as we wanted to drop her off and pick her up. We didn't feel comfortable with a 9 year old having run of the ship. On the first day when I dropped Andrew off, he was off playing with his new friends before I was even done with the signing in process. I guess there was no problem with separation. He never had a problem and looked forward to when he could go back. The kids even had an Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday and along with the usual candy, they each received a Carnival camera. On the last full day at sea, I gave each child 2 phone cards to give to their counselors who they spent most of their time with and they were all very tickled to receive these. I'm sure it was something they could all use.
The following is a brief accounting of some of the things that we did each day:
Sunday (Arrival) - The Welcome Aboard Show was at 10:30 p.m. and it was pretty funny. Our cruise director was John Heald and I had read a lot about him prior to our cruise. He was great with the audience and all who participated on stage. Of the people he brought on stage, one of the gentlemen's' name was Yu Screw (not sure about the spelling) and Dick Wooden. Of course John had a great time with this and throughout the cruise it was not uncommon to hear a public address announcement relating to one of these guys.
Monday (Day at Sea) - Today we hung out around the ship. Many of us visited the workout room in the Nautica Spa to work out on the treadmills and other equipment. It was really nice up there. This day the seas were a little rough so when you looked out while on the treadmill, some were getting a little dizzy. Paul participated in Sports Trivia and won the coveted 24 Karat Gold Plastic Trophy (Ship on a stick). This was prized by all and we were so proud! I was not one to go out on deck at 6:30 a.m. just to reserve a deck chair and by the time I did get up there all of the things that I had read about saving chairs were true. There were many chairs with towels, books or shoes on them but no people. After a while, I finally found a chair but was not real happy about this whole process. There are signs that say no deck chair saving but no one enforces it. Until they do, this will continue to be a problem. This was the 1st of the 2 formal nights and we all got dressed up, went to the Captain's Cocktail Party (never did meet the Captain - doesn't he doe this anymore??) and had a great dinner in the dining room. Most of us had the lobster - even the kids. The show in the Caribbean Lounge was the 1st of the 2 Las Vegas-style shows (Living in America) and it was very good. We also had some formal pictures taken at the various photo backgrounds. Paul & Andrew (mini-me) had matching tux's on and they looked very sharp.
Tuesday (San Juan) - Worked out again in the Natica Spa after dropping the kids off at Camp Carnival. Loved those treadmills! Some of our group also walked on the jogging track quite a bit. Prior to our arrival into San Juan, we all met at Party Base to toast our arrival into San Juan. This was a lot of fun. Coming in right past El Morro offered some great photo opts. As far as the shore excursions go in San Juan, Kim & Bryan did the City Tour & Shopping and thought is was a waste of money. Debbie did not get off the ship right away, as she wanted to get ready for dinner. Derek & David got off to take some pictures but then got back on to get ready for dinner. We wanted a tour but didn't want to pay for 4 city tours. So we asked a cab driver what he would charge to give us a 45-minute tour of Old San Juan and he said $30. This seemed very reasonable to us so we took him up on the offer and got a very good tour. Just enough. Had dinner at the Mediterranean Restaurant since we missed our 6:00 p.m. dinner seating in the dining room. The meal was very good. After dinner, we dropped the kids off at Camp Carnival for a while and Paul & I went off the ship where they had a little shop. We bought some cigars, mini bottles of Bacardi and some postcard. We had spent enough at this shop to get a free bottle of Absolut. What a deal! When we came back on board we went up the gangway that was opposite of where the liquor table was, so I just took our package up to our cabin. Very easy!
Wednesday (St. Croix) - Today we were in St. Croix for the day and they told us that because of Easter we were going to get extra hours in port for the Harbor Nights festival. I had read about this previously, so I'm not sure how unique this really was but hey, more time in port was good. We had decided early on that we would rent a car to drive around the island. I had rented the car through Avis and through their web site was confirmed that we could pick up the car at the cruise ship pier in Fredricksted. Well, when we arrived, I could not find any location for Avis. After wandering around for a while, we asked a policeman and he said Avis was at the airport. My husband was getting upset. I went to the payphones and called information for the local Avis number. When I got a hold of someone, they told me that they had recently closed their location at the pier and we should have been told to call Avis when we arrived and they would pick us up at the pier and take us to the airport to pick up the car. When I received my confirmation from Avis, it did not say anything about this. We were all a little miffed, as we were wasting precious time. They did come and pick us up and after a while, we were on our way. My husband did not feel comfortable driving on the left-hand side of the road so I did the driving. It really wasn't too bad. The traffic was manageable and this helped me out a lot. One challenge that we did have was with the maps. None of the ones we had were very good and the roads were not always marked. We spent quite a bit of time just driving and were not always sure exactly where we were. After a while, we just started driving by feel and seemed to make out pretty well.
We drove over to Christiansted and had a picnic lunch by the water. My husband found a brewpub so he was extremely happy. We stopped there to have a drink and buy a couple of t-shirts. We walked around a little and did some shopping but then got back in the car and took off. Chelsea wanted to go to a beach and swim. We drove along the northern coast towards the East but were having difficulty finding a beach. After a while we drove past a nice area that looked like a private beach club. We decided to stop and see if we could take pictures. To our surprise we found out that it was a public beach with a beach bar and restrooms and there was no one else on the beach. Too cool! We decided to camp out here for a while and the kids got in the water, played on the beach and collected seashells. Paul & I each got a drink and sipped them while lounging on beach chairs. It was a very nice time. After a while, it was time to get back in the car and continue our journey. We went to Point Udall, which is the Eastern, most point of the island. This was a great area to take more pictures. by this time it was starting to get late and we needed to head back to the airport. We were able to find the airport fairly easy, dropped off the car and got a ride back to the cruise ship pier. We were too late for dinner in the dining room so we went up to the Mediterranean Restaurant. Later we dropped of the kids at Camp Carnival and the adults went into town for the Harbor Nights celebration. Kim & I decided to get toe rings. After the initial discomfort of them jamming them on your toes, they looked pretty neat. We walked around to some of the other vendors, got a couple of drinks and listened to the band that was playing. It was a lot of fun. Then it was time to head back to the ship, go to the show and watch the ship pull out at midnight.
Thursday (St. Thomas) - Debbie, Derek & David took the island tour excursion on this morning, Kim & Bryan decided to lay low on this ship, as they did not get much sleep the night before due to water leaking into their cabin from the pool above them spilling over, and we took the kids to Coral World near Coki Beach. This was a nice park and we saw many fish, sharks, and other creatures of the sea. We headed back to the ship for lunch and then went back out and took the tram ride to the top of the mountain where we saw an incredible view and took some great pictures. Later in the day, Paul & I went downtown to do some shopping. It was very crowded, as there were 4 other cruise ships in port that day. Also, may it's just me, but I didn't think the prices for a lot of things were not that great in St. Thomas. Paul wanted to buy some Absolut to take home and the prices on the ship were better than what we found downtown in St. Thomas. We decided to head back to ship and I did a little more shopping at Havensight Mall, right next to the ship. There were a large variety of shops here. Then it was time to get back on the ship and we pulled out promptly at 5:30 p.m.
Friday & Saturday (Days at Sea) - After the 3 days in port, it was nice to have the relaxing days at sea. Spent some time at the pools and waterslide and on Friday afternoon, everyone on deck was treated to a whale jumping out of the water. It was so amazing to see. Debbie & Derek and Paul & I went to the Carnival Repeat Guest Party and had a really nice time. Open bar and very nice appetizers. Then it was time to get dressed for the last formal night dinner. The show in the Caribbean Lounge was another Las Vegas-style show (Vroom) and again, it was very entertaining. On Friday night, it was time for Chelsea's Overnighter and we decided to take advantage of the after-hours babysitting service for Andrew so we could spend some adult time together.
On Saturday, it was time to start packing. It was hard to believe the week was almost over. It went by way too fast. Spent some additional pool and waterslide time and the kids had their Easter Egg Hunt. That night we gave out our tip envelopes and said our good-byes. The waiters did a fun song & dance presentation at dinner.
Sunday (Debarkation & Return Home) - I really appreciated how Carnival is now handling debarkation day. Instead of being assigned to a public lounge where you have to wait with hundreds of other people for you color bag tag to be called, you can now wait in your cabin and relax or watch TV. The made the wait much more enjoyable.
After a little while the ship was cleared and they started calling colors for people to start leaving the ship. Once ours was called, we made our way off the ship and down to the huge storage area for the luggage. We had 5 pieces that we were looking for and they were scattered all over. One at the very front, one at the very back and then the others scattered in between. We eventually found them, got a porter and headed toward a cab. We all piled in and headed toward the airport. I said my good-byes to Kim & Bryan in the luggage are, as they were heading to Chicago on American and I knew we would not see them at the airport. Debbie, Derek & David had left the ship earlier but I knew we would see them at the airport because we were all flying home together. We got to the airport and I couldn't believe the lines. We waited in line for about an hour to get up to the ticket counter and then had to wait another 45 minutes just to get through the security checkpoint. There was one family in line for the airline ticket counter that had just come off the Voyager of the Seas and they had a 9:30 a.m. flight. Well, it was 11:30 a.m. at this point so they obviously missed their flight. The airline told them that all of their flights were booked solid for the remainder of that day and also for the next day. I can't believe anyone would try to book a flight that early. You are just asking for trouble. We had a 1:30 p.m. flight and we didn't have a lot of time to spare due to all the lines. After a slight delay, we finally left Miami and made it home later that night. We were all truly exhausted.
The Victory had washers and dryers on the ship and I thought this was great. We were able to do a few loads of laundry throughout the week and this came in handy for our workout clothes and whites. I do have a couple of suggestions though. There was no garbage can here and people were leaving their empty detergent boxes and dryer lint sitting on the sink or on the washers/dryers. Also, it would have been nice to have a change machine, as it was sometimes difficult to come up with the needed quarters.
Each deck has an ice machine and vending soft drink machine. This was very convenient when you needed more ice and didn't want to bother the cabin steward.
Paul & I took Motorola 2-way radios and these worked out very well for us. I would highly recommend them. I say many people using them throughout the week.
We located the "secret areas" at the very front of the ship on decks 6 & 7 and it was a great place to look out on the horizon and the best part was that no one else was ever up there.
The ship was filled to capacity with almost 3400 guests but I never really felt that crowded. Lines moved along fairly quickly and we could always find seats together for the shows. There were a lot of kids & teens on board but at this time of year, you have to expect this. I didn't have too much trouble with the teens congregating but then again, I didn't spend a lot of time in the areas they seemed to be.
You could get your pictures developed on the ship and we took advantage of this. I think we had 12 rolls of film developed. We did have one roll (our underwater disposable camera) that was lost. They have our name & address and we told them what was on the roll so they will mail the pictures to us if they find them. We will see. The price for the film developing came out to $.37 per picture but this included double 4 x 6 prints and you also received a Carnival brag book with each roll. This is more expensive that what we usually get but be thought it was worth it to get the pictures the next day and be able to share them with the family before the cruise was even over.
I thought the ship itself was beautiful. I loved the color scheme of the greens; blues & aqua's and I thought the tile work was exquisite.
Overall, I would rate our cruise an 8.5. I thought we received exceptional value for our money and I would not hesitate to sail on Carnival again. I love cruising and can't wait to go again!Dawn
Just got back from the Eastern Caribbean aboard the Victory. What a great ship! My husband and I went along with our parents. His parents have cruised several times before. Mine have never cruised before. My husband and I cruised 2 years ago on the Elation for our Honeymoon. We loved it!!
Going aboard the Victory
Embarkation went very well. We arrived in Miami at Noon and were on the ship by 2:30. I thought that was pretty good considering they had nearly 3,000 people to get on. We had no problems whatsoever.
Once we were on the ship we found our cabins very quickly. We were on the opposite side of the ship as our parents (a great idea). Our room was great, we had a private balcony and it was well worth it. After we unloaded, we met up with our parents on the Lido for lunch. One thing we didn't like on this ship that we loved on the Elation was that there weren't any tables out by the railing to eat at. I'm sure it has something to do with safety. After we got done eating we hadto check out the rest of the ship. (My parents were in awe of the ship) It was very well maintained. Easy to get around. We were in the Atlantic dining room-late seating. We don't like to be rushed during the day. Our waiter Attila was wonderful. He really made our dining experience special. Manuel was our asst. waiter. He always had my hot chocolate waiting for me.
Ports of Call
San Juan- Arrived 4:30. Most of the shops were closing so we didn't have much to do. Kind of dirty, but I think it was the time we were there everyone was setting their trash out-I think you know where this is going.
St. Croix-Much better, much cleaner. Arrived at about 9:00am and didn't have to be back on the ship until 11:30pm. It was great. We took a taxi to Christiansted and shopped a little. We were scheduled to take the Kayak, Swim, Snorkel tour, but it got canceled. St. Croix was very pretty. They held a little festival for us called the Harbor Lights festival that consisted of street vendors, stilt walkers and a lot of alcohol!! This was an all around great port, definetly felt safer here that in San Juan.
St. Thomas-One word describes this port-Paradise. Definetly not enough time here. Did the Paradise Point Tram. Well worth it. Did the St. John-Trunk Bay Snorkel Tour. The water was choppy so we didn't see much. It would have otherwise been great. When we got back from our tour I did a little shopping at the Havensight Mall right by the ship. Very handy.
Our last two days were at sea. Plenty of time for sunbathing, gambling, eating, etc. The food was great on the ship. On our last ship I didn't remember liking the food all that much. The dining room always had something I would like and I'm a very picky eater. The pizza was awesome!! Loved the ice cream too!! We didn't notice many kids the whole cruise they do a great job of keeping them busy. Anyway the last two days at sea we relaxed. Just enjoyed the most wonderful vacation.
Debarkation was easy except for finding our luggage. I think they just threw everything in one big pile. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. A bit of advice-try marking your luggage with something bright, like yarn or we used yellow tape and put it on the handles that made it so much easier to see even at the airport. We had an early flight home so we were in a hurry to get to the airport. We made it home though, unfortunately. I personally wanted to stow away on the ship so I could enjoy the Western Caribbean the following week. I'm hoping that will be our next cruise though.
All in all we had a fabulous time and would definetly recommend this ship to anyone.
Well we have gotten back and I finally had some time to put some of my thoughts about the cruise in writing.
This was our first cruise (Victory 12/9/01) and will not be our last . We had a balcony cabin on the lido deck and found it to be great. On sea days you could roll out of bed go to the buffet line and roll back to bed. Later you could go right out to one of the pools and then go right back to the cabin to relax on the balcony. To us, it was the perfect location and it made everything easy. It was worth the extra cost.
I won't bore all of you with a long narrative about every detail of the ship but suffice it to say that it was beautiful and in good shape. Our every want was met quickly and with a smile by the service staff.
The only downside about the ship was THE PHOTOGRAPHERS!!!!! They are worse than the proverbial fly on S _ _ _. As a matter of fact, the comedian on board joked about being afraid togo to the bathroom because there would be someone there telling him to smile. IT bothered my girlfriend more than me because she really dislikes having her picture taken. We finally broke down and purchased one photo from the formals. When I got home, my own personal photo developing bill came to $100 so I didn't need to pay their prices for any pictures.
We are not big alcohol drinkers (she absolutely loves coffee and it's iced tea for me) so our bar bill was minimal. You big drinkers out there could go broke however. We chose to invest the money into what we did for shore excursions and shopping. Since this was our first cruise we stuck to the Carnival excursions (with one major exception).
Our shore tours were as follows:
During the day we went to the Playa Del Sol beach club ($19 pp). This included use of everything and all the drinks you wanted. Snorkel equipment was optional for $10. Naturally everyone was looking for tips but that is OK with me. We took the Fiesta Sunset Cruise during the evening. It was a nice ride and the highlight is watching the Mexican sunset. I mean you actually watch it drop over the horizon right before your eyes, and I mean it does it quickly. We got off in town instead of riding back to the ship. Did the tourist thing and went to Carlos & Charlies. At 7pm their time it was already wild but if you really take notice, the staff have it all under control. I can just imagine what it is like during spring break.
Grand Cayman -
I had asked MariLynne to go on the Atlantis Submarine that dives down to 100 feet but she was afraid. She said "it took you 13 years to convince me to go on a ship above the water so it will take you a lot longer to get me on one that goes below it." This being the case, I had made arrangements through the Atlantis Submarine company to take a ride on their 2 passenger Deep Explorer research submersible which goes down 1000 feet along the Cayman wall. While this was expensive ($395) it was a once in a lifetime experience which few everyday people in the world get to do. Photos are on the site listed below. You should check them out. If anyone wants any further info about this dive, you can contact me by email at the address below. While I was doing this, MariLynne took the Beach Break to 7 mile beach ($19). It was a beautiful location and she was very happy snorkeling. She was happy that she went early because it did get a little crowded a little later on. In the afternoon we went on the stingray sandbar tour. This is absolutely phenomenal. Everyone going to the Cayman Islands MUST do this at least once. MariLynne was enthralled about having a 3' stingray glide up her chest and remain there while she petted it. They are almost domesticated.
Ocho Rios -
We decided to take the San San Yacht tour ($71pp). This is a 95' "luxury yacht". You left the pier went along the shoreline and stopped at Dunns River Falls. After over 1 hour climbing the falls, we went back to the yacht. At the top of the falls we went to our immediate left and back down to the beach thereby missing all of the vendors except a couple of water shoe renters. The yacht left and went along the coastline to a snorkeling area by a reef. You had to swim out to the reef area for the snorkeling. Here the water was a little rougher than in Cozumel or Cayman. Combine this with just climbing the falls and it could easily wear you out. After snorkeling, it is back on the yacht and the coffee, juice, etc go away and the rum, etc breaks out. ?It is then party time until you return to the ship. Later on we took a taxi to one of the shopping malls in town. Nice shops, some expensive items. Great buy on Blue mountain coffee but you have to look for a certain kind. Was propositioned once to buy drugs but just kept on walking. We even went across the street to a street dealer's flea market type setup. They all try to get you to buy something from THEIR stall. Some people think of this as being pushy but I realize that in the abject poverty these people live in, it is survival for them.
The cruise back home was grand. As a note, I am a computer and news junkie. For the whole trip I stayed away from the internet lounge, TV and any semblance of a newspaper. I was proud of myself. I wanted and needed a vacation away from everything and did so.
Well, I am leaving on a positive note (it went downhill once we got off the Victory but that's another story). If we could assist anyone with any information about the ship or the tours (times, what's good, bad, etc) just shoot off an email to the address below.
Tony & MariLynneFOR A LOOK AT THE PHOTOS GO TO: http://community.webshots.com/user/tonylab
Well before I start I want to say that this is my PERSONAL opinion on this cruise, I do not believe there is such a thing as a BAD cruise (unless you're on the Titanic) and when you got lemons make some lemonade! There are many cruise lines for many different lifestyles and pocketbooks, and I am going to try to make this as objective as I can.
Embarkation: F Absolutely the most unorganized I have ever seen, and NO ONE was there to guide anyone. Embarkation was to be at 1 pm- we got there at 11 AM were told we could not park until 1 pm...very confusing in a city that is just not ready for a Cruise Pier. They do Some spring and Fall sailings from here, but Carnival could have been a little more organized, We then said "heck this will not ruin our time" so my husband who used to drive a taxi down there, said lets go to "Waterside" Which we did... it is a mall and eateries, night clubs like "Bayside" in Miami, so we went there found a bar/eatery and had somebeverages (me ice tea) - well we met many folks there that were going on the ship and did the same thing and this was fine! Hey stuff happens! We all were starting off having fun! We then got a call from one of my clients, who waited until 1 pm to park, who said they were running 2 hours behind and the lines were long. We then waited until 2 pm to go there and it was bedlam. They had a tent set up in a baseball field parking lot, you got in line- a long line- 2 1/2 hours to check in, you had no clue from any rep about what was going on. No one came down the line, no water, no seats, no nothing.
I do not know how any older person did this…it was hot and sunny and you baked. But we finally got up to the tent (oh yeah, lots of line butting too) and they were very confused. We then got on a bus that they took us over to the ship. You have to lug your luggage also with you everywhere all through line too. We get to the ship and ANOTHER line now to get to security, I thoroughly understand this but this is just too much of a hassle... for a 2-night cruise they have already wasted a day- they get so behind they had to get buses to take the people in the back of the line to the ship to get them checked in there... ok now we are getting closer! We get our photo taken and onto the ship and to our rooms lugging this dang luggage with us! We are having fun now!!!
Staterooms: B- Carnival cabins are large- their beds, even when put together, have the split down the middle and they make them up like a twin! They could put Queen bed linens on them to make them feel that way I thought. The bathroom was very roomy- barren of any shampoos, lotions etc. we had 2 tiny glasses and 2 small soaps- plenty of towels- tissues- Bring your own shampoo. There is a hair dryer in the bathroom.
Muster- they do not take your cabin numbers- it was swift and you could not show up and they would not even know.. but I DO NOT suggest that. It is for your safety.
Dining Room- C- Pacific Dining room tables 502 and 504 They do not give you the OHH and AHH feeling that Princess and Royal Caribbean have given me, it was a dining room, we had a great waiter and 2nd waiter, but the service is much different then what I have had on other lines. It just is not as polished. They were short staffed also, the bar person was just terrible. She did bring our table our drinks but kept forgetting easy things like lemon for the ice tea- or a glass for your soda. We noticed this in many places; when you asked for a soda you were given a can unopened and many times not even cold and you were always asking for a glass and ice. If you wanted a refill forget it. We then figured "let's order 2 or 3 and then we do not have to worry." The table of the rest of the group behind us NEVER got their orders. It was so bad they asked their waiter and he advised them to go to the bar and get it themselves and they did.
FOOD- B The food was actually, surprisingly very, very good. I know that some of you will gasp at this, but I thought much better then RCI. My husband did not think so, but many of us did think that. We had a lot of choices and their pumpkin soup is excellent, they do not serve it though in the pumpkin anymore! But their sweet and sour shrimp were great and you got about 15 of them! The steaks were good, chicken good, lobster, Yum! But they did NOT take it out of the shell for you, the little nuances as fresh ground pepper, not there! You get a salt and pepper shaker. Matre' D or headwaiter never seen them but we had to tip them! But all in all the food was very good!
Entertainment: B Caribbean Lounge- small for the size of the ship, but never full. Shows were good. I feel that the stage shows are the same ole same ole after going on a lot of cruises, but I always thought Carnival's were good, and they were. Comedian Funny but not like I would pay to see him! The show Vrooom was great!
Irish Seas Bar The Singer in this lounge thought he was Garth Brooks, but he could not carry a tune to save his life! We had drinks in there and when we got them the girl asked us where her tip was! WHOA!!! The tips were included and YES we would have given her a tip but she ASKED and then lost it! This room looked like it needed some cleaning.
Agean Bar- Sports bar very very small many never knew it was there. 5 TV screens. We asked for a Love Connection Drink, Pina Colada, Mango Colada and Strawberry Colada. The bartender said "you know what I call this drink"? My nephew said "no what", the bartender said "a pain in a ass to make, makes me dirty 3 blenders!" We could not believe he said that! My nephew said "wow then it must suck to be you". What made us really want to chuckle is people kept asking us about what our drinks were and then were asking for it, so he must really have been mad !
Club Arctic Disco- B This is a hopping place! It is the Kiddie Disco before 9 pm and then turns into the Adult disco (but yes the kids do come in, it did not bother me though). The people were wild in here. There were people performing some acts not appropriate in public, they should have taken it to their cabins, and although security was all around, they did not say anything about it. But I have to say some of the folks in there put on even a more entertaining show then the ones that were legit! But the woman fist fighting was oh so lovely!
Seven Seas Lounge- this is the atrium area bar. I liked this one the best I think, it had the better bartenders, the only thing is that I feel that the cleaning up of ashtrays and all was just not up to snuff anywhere. I hate the smell of stale cigarettes. But I liked this area it was more open, and not so cloistered. Many of the clubs are small on here and very low ceilings.
The Casino- B South China Seas - Hey I liked it -- I won! Hit 3 7' and cashed in! Won 120 coins and went on my way! Very smoky area, but I feel most of Neptunes way felt like that to me. Crowded and smokey. I did not go deep into the casino as it was packed and felt packed.
The Ionian Room- Cigar bar- B+ Believe it or not I really liked this! More elegant and kept nicer then the other places, appointments were nicer and it was cleaner then the other areas and NOT SMOKEY go figure! The only thing is WHO would think they would put this under the disco and the disco's floor is neon lights, which makes the ceiling in a part of this room neon lights. Just did not fit the Egyptian feel of the room- but I found the area comfy and nice to be able and have a conversation.
Below are some high and low lights in no particular order: Breakfast Buffet was good. Good omelets and nice variety, nothing spectacular but a ship buffet. Pizza: Best pizza at sea no doubt No Orange Juice machines where you put the orange in and the juice comes out! bummer! Coffee better then most cruises Pool area- small- crowded always- too small for the size of the ship there is an aft pool not many were there. Announcements: Oh my there were TONS of them! For people who do not like announcements…you would not be happy!
Furnishings: Yes, this ship -- for a being a new ship -- had wearing and tearing. It is now in drydock, but I think for some mechanical repairs, I hope they wash the windows (many needed that) and there was things that needed fixing and replacing. (The fake animal skins on the stools were very worn off). Would the new cruiser notice these things? NO.... Library: is really small. Stores: they were ok- typical stores.
Photo Area: Always packed, I did get 2 of my photos but they were throwing you off the ship so early you did not have time to pick up the photos from the night prior!
Disembarkation: Swift. They never told you when you were to get off in advance, they left you in the dark, the morning you were to get off. Breakfast was announced on the intercoms for 45 minutes, then 5 minutes later they were saying floors 1 and 2 can leave the ship then 5 minutes after that floors 6 and 7 and you were made to feel you were to leave then. We were trying to get out of the shower and get going. We really felt rushed off there: "OK, fun time is done now get the HECK off!"
AS we were going down the gang plank they said you can pick up your photos at the photo area- well it was by then too late. They were now outside with coffee but you had to pay for it. One of the couples in our group was charged for room service! I told them to get right down to the Pursers desk and get it off the bill! They did take it off and also gave them a photo for free, do not know if they were suppose to do that but they cleared the whole bill.
Staff was not really friendly at all. Could this be that the tip was pre-paid? Sure seemed it to me. Not at all as friendly as other ships I have been on. I thought that Celebrity had a more dull staff but this one at this time rivaled them.
Did I have a great time? I surely did, I make my own good time and do not rely on other people to always do that. If they are unfriendly I still smile and say to them what a lovely day it is to be alive!
Would I do Carnival again??? It would have to be a REAL bargain or a destination that no one else went to. As I said in the beginning, there are cruises for each type of person, I think that I am definitely more towards the Royal Caribbean Voyager class type. But there are many that like Carnival's product. It is not a bad product but in my estimation it is more for a first-time cruiser. A few that were on the cruise also felt that this was not for them, but we had a good time in spite of the service!
As I plan another cruise (QM2), I fondly recall the good time I had on the Victory. The weather sucked - our second day out of NYC - a brilliantly sunny day suddenly, without warning, ruined by a fog bank that lasted until the day before we returned to New York. But the ship itself, my cabin, the food and entertainment - were just wonderful.
Departure Day: I caught a Greyhound bus from Philadelphia to the NYPA. It was raining the entire time and only let up as we arrived in New York. I arrived in NYC at around 3 PM. I ran out of money and had to ask the cabbie to stop four blocks from the pier. I carried by suitcase to the inside of the pier, asked a security guy to watch it and also ask him where the nearest ATM was. THAT took another 30 minutes, but I found one at some check cashing place, got $100 and ran back to the pier, where I was able to flag down a porter by flashing some cash. It was only then that I looked out the windowto see this massive white wall that was the Carnival Victory. Check in was a little rushed, but not bad. This was only my third cruise (Azure Seas 1988, Viking Serenade 1991, and my Navy cruises on three ships, obviously they don't compare). As I was traveling alone, I didn't want to do the picture thing, but they kind of pressured me into it. I ended up not buying it. Finally I was onboard a ship after ten years!!! It was great. I was a little worried about sailing Carnival, as I had been told that their ships were so gaudy and tacky, but not the Victory. The atrium is a tad glitzy, but the glitz was tempered by the use is dark wood panelling and carpeting.
Cabin: 1202 on Riviera Deck. I paid the single supplement (I booked online), and I saved a couple hundred bucks - it all came out to around $900USD. For one person, the cabin was quite large for one person. It was a cabin with upper/lower berths, the upper berth being tucked away in the ceiling. The cabin was done in burnt orange and burgundy reds - not overtly luxurious, but attractive and comfortable. Somehow I got into this spa tour where they bomboarded us all with spa treatments and products. I walked away during some speech about a mudbath.
I went to the Meditteraean Buffet and was a little disappointed - they had only bologna, ham and processed American cheeses available with some stale white bread. Iced tea and lemonade were available though. I then took a look at the upper level of the Pacific Dining Room, where I would be eating, late sitting. Everything looked quite tasteful, with brass railings, glass balustrades and pink and brown accents. The boat drill commenced and I went to my cabin to get my life jacket - I am an ex-Navy man and I take these things very seriously. It lasted for around fifteen minutes and then I went to the Lido Deck so I could watch our departure - it was fun, but I was surprised by how many tacky people were onboard - people were spitting, picking their noses and all of that - I could only hope my tablemates in the dining room were not like this. I spotted the QE2, the then Caronia (now sailing for Saga Cruises) and the Celebrity twins Zenith and Horizon. It was still cloudy, but humid and muggy. I went down to my cabin and slept for about two hours. Then I woke up, showered, got dressed and inspected the rest of the ship. I was impressed by how tasteful it was. I loved the Martini Bar, but thought it was kind of stupid to place it underneath the disco. Internet access was a bit expensive, but logon time was okay.
Dining: Not outstanding, but decent. I only ate dinner in the dining room. For breakfast and lunch it was the buffet or Lido. Nothing was bad, but nothing stood out other than their prime rib. Apparently Carnival has contracted with an entire county in Iowa that does nothing but produce cows to make beef for them - the prime rib was exquisite. In the dining room, I had a slightly dry quail with sauce, some decent seafood, and some really nice creme brulee. Salads were disappointing.
Entertainment: The three level Caribbean Show Lounge was massive - and the comedian and singers and dancers were okay, but nothing to get too excited over. I really liked the beautiful Adriatic Lounge, that had a very good band from the Philippines, and the Black and Red Seas Lounge, that featured karaoke, and pretty strong drinks.
Itinerary: St. John's New Brunswick is one of the most boring ports I've ever been to - there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for me there that was of interest. I got a nice lobster roll and found a bookstore that specializes in rare books, which happened to be a block away from an XXX-rated porno shop. People who took the Reversing Falls tour told me how disappointed they were. The weather was still cloudy and misty too. I made some calls home at the pier and went back to the ship.
Halifax, Nova Scotia: LOVED it. A very pretty town with great architecture and historical sites. The Maritime Museum is just wonderful and featured exhibits from the Empress of Ireland disaster from 1906, the Titanic disaster of 1912 and the little known 1917 catastrophe when two munition ships collided with each other, creating an explosion that destroyed half of the city and killed almost 1800 people. We saw clothes and furniture that had been preserved from the disaster. It was kind of touching.
I opted for the Afro-Canadian tour to the Black Cultural Center. Canada has a small black population compared to the US, but this was an amazing tour, so informative and fun. I learned about Sam Langford, the only black boxer to beat African-American champ Jack Johnson. After Johnson fought him, he vowed never to fight another black man. And the story of the "Rosa Parks of Canada", Viola Desmond, who got arrested because she sat in the "whites only" section of the movie theatre. She sued the province - and won. We also learned about Africville, where most of the Afro-Canadians in Nova Scotia lived until the government forcibly removed them so they could put a powerplant in their neighborhood. I found it all absolutely fascinating. We were going to the black rural farmlands where the descendants of the Maroons lived, but the weather acted up and that was cancelled. The Maroons are black descendants of slaves who rebelled against the white Jamaican government back in the late 1700's and 1800's who after their defeat, were exiled to Nova Scotia. That would have been great to see.
The weather just wouldn't cooperate. The first sea day was so sunny, I went out on one of the tiered Lidos with my CD player and my Jill Scott CD, found a deck chair and ordered a mimosa. An hour later, I hear the Victory's fog horn and I open my eyes and the SUN IS GONE - SUN took a SERIOUS vacation and the fog snuck up on us like a burglar. But I made use of the Promenade Deck, which was surprisingly empty - just me and a couple of elderly couples. I am one who can totally watch the ocean and become hypnotized, regardless of the weather. The nights were the best, especially after dinner - to be on deck at night, a drink in your hand, just listening to the sea go by. The smell of the sea is amazing. I wasn't into the casinos so much - they steal your money from you. But I liked the Black and Red Seas Bar and the Irish Sea Bar and the Wine Bar, whose name I forget right now. But Victory's public spaces were quite pretty. No public room on this ship was garish or vulgar - not even the casinos. I did not go to the Patisserie, where they served slivers of cheesecakes and coffee for what I thought were ridiculous prices.
Overall: Victory is a lovely ship; if the weather had cooperated, the cruise would have been better. It also would have been better if Victory didn't have its Tacky People magnet attached to its hull - so many of the passengers were so gross and vile - people spitting on the Lido Deck, the obnoxious teens and I so witnessed people on my deck going to the Jacuzzis first thing in the morning without washing up or anything - I totally avoided the pools and Jacuzzis for that reason - I was worried about catching some skin disease.
Disembarkation: I opted for the do-it-yourself thing, and got off with no problems. All in all, a very nice cruise. Carnival is totally cool in my book.