Carnival Victory - June 2006 - 4 Day to Halifax
This was our eighth cruise overall (2 Princess, 2 Celebrity and 3 RCCL) and our first on Carnival.
Embarkation - We drove to New York from Pennsylvania, and other than getting through the Lincoln Tunnel, the ride was uneventful and we were at the pier by 11:30 AM. We parked on the pier (paid our $96 for four days) and waited at the elevator for about five minutes. Got tired of waiting and decided to take our bags on the escalator which ended up bypassing the baggage check in area. Within ten minutes we were on board (carrying all of our three pieces of luggage) and dropped them in our room, which wouldn't be ready until 1:00 PM.
Dining - Buffet style dining is available in the Mediterranean Lounge and is about the same as the other three lines. The pizza is by far the best that we have gotten on a cruise ship and they also have 24 hour ice cream/yogurt machine available. There is also a deli sandwich window that has great sandwiches. The desserts on the buffet line are very limited. Hot dogs and hamburgers are also available most of the time.
When I booked this cruise, I was assured that I would have one of the early seatings (either at 5:45 PM or 6:15 PM). My cruise card however indicated an 8:30 PM seating time, way to late for my wife and me. Went to the maitre d' and asked to have it changed. He indicated that the early seatings were full but that he would put us on a list and notify us the next day. Rather that wait for the late seating, we went through the buffet line for dinner on the first day. We also visited the dining rooms for the first seating and counted about fifteen completely empty tables of four or more spaces. We were notified the next day that we now had early seating and found that our six new tablemates had a similar experience. I was assigned the wrong seating on an RCCL cruise and my request for a change was accommodated immediately. There was no reason in my mind why Carnival could not have done the same.
The waiter and the assistant waiter never introduced themselves and made no effort to engage anyone at the table in conversation for the entire cruise (a first of all the cruises that we have been on). The first dinner was a formal dinner and I ordered strawberry bisque and sirloin steak. The strawberry bisque was almost white in color, mostly milk and very little strawberry taste. The sirloin steak was about 40% fat and was laid on top of a baked potato, no other vegetable. Toward the end of the meal, the assistant waiter came around with sour cream, too little too late. Several of my tablemates got the lobster and commented that it was kind of rubbery and not very tasteful unless soaked in butter. My wife and I asked for hot tea with dessert but it didn't show up until after the dessert was served and eaten.
Prior to the second meal, we reviewed the menu that Carnival had on the in room television however the actual menu that night was entirely different. They had roast beef that night (instead of the advertised Filet Mignon). The roast beef was pretty good, though the portions of everything were kind of skimpy. The third and final meal that I had in the dining room was beef tenderloin and was probably the best meat that I have had on a cruise ship. Again, the portions were kind of skimpy, especially the potatoes and green beans that came with the meat.
They had one area that had several different kinds of cakes (delicious looking carrot cake) and cookies, however, there was a $2.00 charge. Forget it, these type of desserts should be included.
Desserts overall for the three meals that we had were not very good (compared to other cruise desserts). My overall rating for the dining room food and service on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) would be about a 3 or 4.
Entertainment - We saw both of the major production shows and they were pretty good. It seems they changed lead singers and some dancers in Halifax but all cast members had good voices. One thing that I did not care for was the fact that a number of the women's costumes consisted of thongs and bras. I'm no prude but I do not think that they were appropriate when there were a lot of children in attendance.
The Carnival Capers (daily program guide) listed a dance group to play in the Adriatic Lounge at 9:00 PM. We arrived at 9:15 PM and were informed that they were just setting up and would not be playing that night. There was no other dance music available that night as the disco area was being used as a singles meeting area that night. They did have a jazz group in the Ionian Lounge but they play nothing that you could dance to. They also allowed cigar smoking in that area (in fact in all areas) and it was really bothersome. Some cruise lines limit smoking to one side of the ship, but not Carnival. The second night the band played in the Adriatic Lounge on time but there is limited dance floor in this room (very crowded). The third night they were supposed to start at 9:00 PM but didn't start playing until 9:30 PM. The fourth night they were supposed to start at 9:30 PM but they didn't play at all because the lead singer was sick. No announcements were made on ship PA system, no sign on the door, the bar staff were not even aware of it. One of guitar players came into the bar to get a drink and told the people waiting there why there was no music on the last night of the cruise. Four nights of cruising, two nights of dancing. Score that a 2 on scale of 1 to 10.
Every night before dinner they had classical music in the bar area outside of the Atlantic dining room but the crowd noise was so loud that you could hardly hear the music. The same occurred at the Jazz music in the Ionian Lounge. Overall rating of entertainment, 3 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Halifax - I can't comment too much on this port of call since it rained all day Saturday while we were there. We did get off the ship and walked around with an umbrella but once the wind and rain picked up, we went back to the ship. Sure am glad that we didn't schedule any tours through the ship.
Cabins - We booked an inside cabin and were on deck seven, Empress Deck. This was probably the nicest cabin we have had for all our cruises and the mattresses were by far the most comfortable. Room steward was the only Carnival employee who introduced himself to us and made an effort to talk to us. Kept our room in good shape, replaced towels even when we didn't request and made towel animals every night.
Chair Hogs - Can't really comment too much on this cruise as we only had one nice day to be outside and we had no problem finding a place to sit. The other two days it was foggy, rainy or misty. In fact, several times the ship seemed to come to a stop, probably due to other ships in the vicinity. You can definitely hear the fog horn on this ship. We were also about an hour and half late getting into New York on Monday, probably because of the fog.
The layout of the ship makes it very difficult to get from one place to another unless you know exactly which way to go. There are a lot of dead ends and only one deck (deck 5) where you can walk from one end of the ship to the other through common areas.
Debarkation - Rather than wait for our deck to be called, we chose to go the "Self-Debarkation" route; in other words, we carried our own bags off (just like we carried them on) and were one of the first ones off the ship. They wouldn't let us use the escalators this time so we had to wait for the elevator. (along with thirty of so of our closest friends that we just met with all their luggage). Found our car with no problem, missed the unmarked exit for the Lincoln Tunnel, drove around several city blocks to find our way back to the tunnel entrance and had an uneventful drive home.
My DW and I have never been on a cruise that we didn't enjoy and while there were some positive aspects to this cruise, it wasn't even close to being as enjoyable as any of the other cruises that we have been on. Would I choose Carnival again, certainly not this itinerary but maybe I would try a seven day or longer cruise to another location. Right now, we are looking forward to going on the Explorer of the Seas in August for a nine day cruise out of Bayonne. Will send a review on that one and I am sure it will be better than this cruise.
Any questions, feel free to ask and I will try to answer.