I've been reading reviews for MONTHS on here and boarded the Victory with a very low expectation based on many of the reviews. Hope this helps!
Your documents say 2:30 but we got there about 11:00 and walked right through the signup process. They started boarding at 12:00 and we were right there and got to go on immediately. We were in fact the first people into the lido area for lunch. There is a duty free liquor store right there and we were being all sneaky trying to figure out creative ways to get them through security. Not one person checked us so we after buying lots of little one ounce bottles we got back off the boat after lunch and visiting our room and dropping off carryons and went back to the liquor store and bought lots of bottles. They were in a carryon bag and as long as it wasn't obvious -- they didn't ask and we didn't tell. It was this way at every port. As long as it was in your bag and not an obvious liquor bag -- they didn't take it. We had quite the liquor collection by the end of the cruise. Back to embarkation day -- got off the boat after lunch and walked around San Juan. By about 1:30 the line to get on the boat was huge! Glad we went early (flew in the night before). San Juan is very quaint by the docs and we had a great time walking around. Back to the boat about 5:00 to get ready for dinner. It was casual and anytime dining in the dining room. My husband had been dreaming of his chocolate melting cake and it was cooked solid like a hard brownie. They did manage to pull it out and get it better the next night. The muster drill was late at 9:30 but it wasn't awful and was over shortly. I did see kids with their jammies on ready for bed after! My 8 year old was fine and we went up on the deck for the departure party and they had fun music and dancing while we pulled out.
I read so many awful things about the boat and how old and gross it looked. Every ship has a theme. They are always flamboyant and loud. This one was no exception with its nautical theme. But it was fine. The boat was clean for the most part. I did see where people had thrown down empty food containers, fries spilled on the stairs, an ice cream dropped. I don't blame the employees of Carnival for that. I blame the white trash passengers that can't clean up after themselves. The ship was clean and there were constantly employees wiping things down, moping, vacuuming, and cleaning. There were also hand sanitizers in lots of places to use which I like. Overall -- it was great. Our room steward was awesome. Knew our names, made sure we had ice in morning and night (to go with our bar!). Very attentive.
I was equally prepared for mediocre food based on reviews. I've traveled a lot and eaten in some of the best restaurants so I have a high appreciation for excellent food. This was not bad. I mainly stick to seafood of sorts when traveling and I was never disappointed. There were a few appetizers that I didn't think were fantastic (oysters Rockefeller) but my entrees were always good. Many people in our group ordered multiple apps and two entrees never without a problem. Prime rib one night was ordered and my son ordered it medium rare and it was very good. Others ordered it done and it was not so good, they ordered another one cooked differently and Carnival was happy to do so. I can't say they were the speediest of sorts and our waiter was very difficult to understand. Sometimes after entrees it was difficult to find a waiter to get a drink ordered. I do agree with the service of the waitstaff -- could use a bit of improvement there. But not awful. They did get to know us and learned I liked hot tea with my dessert and my kiddo liked hot chocolate with his and they would automatically bring it. That was nice. We ate every night in the dining room. The entertainment was cute and we were upstairs next to the railing so always grabbed our drink and stood by the railing to watch. We enjoyed. We ate breakfast two times in the dining room and found that we could get the same stuff for the most part on the lido without the slow wait time. Breakfast seemed to be painfully slow in the way of service. So the rest of the trip was eating outside by the pool. We only had lunch one time on the boat -- the first day and the day at sea. Lido -- mediocre buffet food what you would expect.
We attended a couple of the family comedian shows and it was cute. The kids enjoyed it. We walked in late to one of the dancing/singing shows and there were men half dressed in football jerseys dancing around with flair. I don't know if it was supposed to be sexy, funny, or what. We couldn't take that. Cheesy. The juggler was entertaining and adults and kids enjoyed. Most of the nights we spent in the casino or having drinks walking around the lido deck. Can't say a whole lot on the entertainment or the seminars and shows. Casino is fun -- won some nights, lost some nights. Typical options for any casino. We attended the Minute to Win it show (although called something else) and the 50 or so people in there were mainly kids but they only had people over 18 participate.
We had a late flight Sunday so we were one of the last groups to get off. Out of the room by 8:30 we sat around the pool until about 11:00 and got off. It was easy and quick. Grabbed a taxi at the port there.
It was a great cruise with a great itinerary (see excursions). The ship was perfectly fine. Loved that we could bring on our alcohol. This was my fourth cruise and third on Carnival.