Victory Cruise to Nowhere - 6/10 to 6/12/06
OK, folks! For those that are interested, here is a full review of the Cruise to Nowhere out of Norfolk, VA!
Background: We are in our 30s and this was our 9th cruise on Carnival. We live about 1 ½ from Norfolk, so drove in the morning of the cruise.
Parking: For the Norfolk pier, they suggest parking at an outside lot, Cedar Grove, and then they will bus you to the pier. We arrived earlier than planned because we had found out the day before (thanks to fellow CC'ers) that Harborfest was going on in Norfolk and the main streets in front of the Marina (Waterside Drive) would be closed down. Got to the parking lot around 10:35am and were told they had to clear out the lot from the folks getting off the ship before we could park. We were given two options -- sightsee for an hour and then come back, or proceed to a pre-staging area until they were ready for us. We chose to be staged and followed the car in front of us to a satellite parking lot. They parked us in rows of about 10 cars and we were at the front of row 5. Got out to stretch and discovered that the people parked next to us were from the same county we are, then that they only live about 5 miles away from us. Small world! We ended up seeing them throughout most of the cruise. What a great way to meet new friends!
Getting to the ship: Approximately a 10 minute bus ride to the Pier/Marina.
Embarkation: This was really the only bad part of the experience. The lines were long and slow. They are doing construction around the pier and the people checking us in were not very experienced. We had all our docs filled out and signed and should have only needed to get our S&S cards and verify our credit card. Took much too long because the lady helping us had to keep checking things with her supervisor. All in all, we were in line for about an hour. We made it to the room around 12:50. Oh, and the people that opted to go sightseeing -- they ended up with about and 1 ½ hour wait or longer. Line really started backing up by then.
Our room: We had an interior on the Main Deck Midship about 3 doors from the elevators. It was mostly ready when we got there, so we dropped off our bags before going to eat. The room was about average size, but the bathroom was bigger than what we are used to (Fantasy class and Celebration -- much older, smaller ships). Had lots of counter space and shelf space. Quite nice. We never did see our Cabin Steward, but things were taken care of. On the Sea Day, it took a while for the room to get made up, but it finally was after lunch. We did get a towel animal each night, easily identifiable.
The ship: The Victory is the largest, newest ship we had been on and that was part of the reason we decided on this short cruise -- to get a feel for the bigger ships. I thought the décor was nice, lots of greens and blues to give a tropical feel in the general areas. The South China Sea Casino was very oriental. I kept feeling I should be munching on an egg roll as I waited for a spot at the slots or casino.
Which brings me to one other disappointment. The casino was very small for a ship of that size. I am certain that the Celebration casino has more space and more slots available and I think as many or more table games. Now consider that the Celebration carries 1,500 pax while the Victory is supposed to carry 2,700. There was simply not enough room for all the gamblers. That being said, we still enjoyed! During the Fun Day at Sea, there were less crowds and I was able to donate more quarters! The Roulette wheel was good to us and the Craps table was always full with lots of excited people.
Dining: Since this was such a short cruise we elected not to do the formal dining room thing. We ate lunches on the Lido deck, had room service a few times, tried the deli and, of course, the 24 hour pizza. Lido deck food was normal. The burgers were good, salads were the regular fare. The 2nd day had Indian food as the other choice. I was hoping for spicy, but it was quiet bland. Not too impressive. The East River Deli has delicious Ruebens and the pizza was its normal good quality, as were the Caesar salads. I did try the cookies and brownies from room service one more time, but again was not impressed. Everyone's opinions are different, I guess, since so many folks seem to recommend these.
Entertainment: We did not attend any of the shows, so can't comment on them. Some friends attended the R-rated comedy show on the first night and said the comedian, Anthony Acosta, was hilarious! I never made it to Karaoke although it seemed crowded when we walked past and that folks were having fun!
The Lido Deck Sail Away party was lots of fun with "Impulse" as the band. They did very good Reggae and Calypso and could really get the crowd involved. The other band we saw, which really blew us all away, was "Music Network". They were five Asian/Oriental guys (unfortunately, I never got to find out their country of origin) that played unbelievable Rock and Roll covers! If you closed your eyes, you would swear you were hearing some original music! They did everything from the Beatles to KC and the Sunshine Band to Lynyrd Skynyrd and everything in between. Absolutely unbelievable! They played both nights in the Adriatic Lounge on Promenade aft and I would highly recommend giving them a listen!
Muster Drill: Boy, was this long and painful! I saw several people overcome by the heat. In the past we were always some of the first to get there for the drill, but this time we came in towards the end. Thank goodness for that! We were all packed like sardines in our life jackets in rows in front of our assigned lifeboats. As new people came in, we got pushed further back towards the wall. There were about 6 rows of people where we were. One row in front of us. I was concerned for some of the kids that were behind us until their parents held them up so they could get a fresh breath! Basically, just took too long and it was too hot! But finally, it was over!
Art Auction: This ship had Park West galleries running the auction. I had attended one they had done years ago, but left early due to no interest in the hard sell approach. I've been to four in the past 2 years that were run by Carnival. I strongly prefer Carnival. Not much has changed since the last Park West auction I went too.
Quick comparison: Carnival has a preview, then serves free champagne during the auction. PW serves champagne during the preview only, so during the auction you are trapped with 0 bar service, not even if you want to pay for it. Carnival will bring up all of the requested works by an artist at one time, describe the artist and their style and allow bidding on any and all of the works. PW has no organization and just brings up whatever is next one at a time, so for example you may see a Thomas Kinkade, then three other artists, then another Kinkade, then etc., etc. This way takes FOREVER. Again, I left before it was over, but after I should have. I won't attend another PW auction and plan on passing this on to Carnival.
Formal Night: This was on the 2nd night. We did not attend, although there were lots of people dressed up. They did have lots of portrait stations open and pictures were on sale from 7:00am to 9:00pm the morning of disembarkation. There was only one Captain's Cocktail Party and instead of it being in one of the big lounges like I was used to, it was in the four lounges on Promenade aft. Again, we did not attend, so I don't know how well this went.
Disembarkation: The Capers stated that they would begin calling decks at 7:15am. They did it exactly on the button. We actually weren't quite ready, but frantically finished packing and were off the ship, bussed back to the parking lot, and in our car by 7:45am. Very easy getting off when there is no Customs. Also, they were to leave for New York and their next sailing by 11:00am so they were ready to get everyone out of there!
Miscellaneous: The Funnel Deck is the least private I've ever seen. No opaque netting or closed off areas. I'm not 100% sure that the kids using the waterslide could see everything, but I'm pretty certain the adults with their video cameras beside the waterslide got a good view. Bar service was actually very good, but slowed down when the lunch crowds started growing.
Best Lido Deck bar waiters: Petar from Serbia and Glenn from India.
Aegean Sports Bar: Had the NASCAR race on for the beginning and the end, but lost the feed for most of the middle of the race. They did sell buckets of beer here, although usually we've only gotten them on the Lido decks.
New Favorite Frou-Frou Drink: Kiss on the Lips. It really is as good as everyone says!
Kids: There were a few around, but didn't cause much trouble that I could see. Not really a cruise geared towards kids anyway.
Chair Hogs: Alive and thriving. We walked out on the Lido at 8am on Sunday, and the C-hogs had beaten us there. There were many chairs with one shoe or a bottle of sunscreen all in a row. We toyed with the idea of gathering up all of the towels and selling them back to the C-hogs for $15 a piece (better than $22) or turning the shoes, etc. into the Lost and Found, but since there were plenty of chairs on the F-deck, we just left them alone.
Other Cruise to Nowhere info: You must carry everything on and off of the ship. Because the staff is not used to the CTNs, you may get conflicting info on this and other things. I noticed several typos in the Capers because things were different from normal. You do not go through Customs in anyway, so there are no limits to what you can buy on board and when you get off the ship, you just walk right out.
Bottom line: Would we do this cruise again? Yes, for the right price, although it really was too short. Would have liked one or two more days at least.
Are the bigger ships better or worse than the smaller ones? Not really. Still happy with the small ships, but not afraid of too much crowding on the bigger ships anymore.
Happy sailing everyone!