OVERVIEW: We are a middle-aged couple who have just returned from our first Carnival cruise. I'd like to share our experiences (both positive and negative) about this ship, especially for cruisers who are hesitant about booking a vacation on this cruise line because of its reputation as the "Fun" ship.
First of all, if you are planning to travel during a school vacation, take into account that KID'S RULE on Carnival! This turned out to be a real "negative" for us, although I'm sure it's a positive for families. The Victory has only 2 areas for adults only - one hot tub (where some parents brought their kids anyway) and the casino. Kids are absolutely everywhere, including the lounges! Apparently the Camp Carnival activities aren't enough for some children, and unfortunately the ones who weren't involved in Camp Carnival seemed to be very poorly behaved and often unsupervised. It was impossible to find a quiet, relaxing place to read a book on the deck during the two sea days.
The Victory is an older ship that is sorely in need of a facelift. Some areas had badly stained and spotted carpeting, and the general decor of the lounges and dining areas was very dated. The layout of the ship was confusing, with all public areas requiring a trip past the large casino. It took a while to figure out which elevator bank would take you to which floor of the 2-level dining rooms. The photo gallery is tucked into an out-of-the-way area which is difficult to access and too crowded. It's a shame, because the photography staff on the Victory is outstanding!
More service personnel would have helped the general tatty appearance of the Victory. Quite often we saw plates and glasses which had been abandoned in public areas (even glasses balanced on the handrails in the hallways) which hadn't been cleared.
DINING: Our dining experience was both good and bad. The dinners we had were exceptional overall, especially the fish or seafood dishes. The presentation was lovely and the menu was quite creative. Unfortunately, the beef didn't fare as well. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room was quite ordinary. A real highlight of the trip was the outstanding service we had from our dinner waitstaff. The waiters performed for us every night, too. It was fun in a kind of corny way.
The buffet in the Mediterranean restaurant was terrible - just a step above a high school cafeteria. There were a few prepared salads in addition to a small salad bar selection, two hot entrees and 2-3 side dishes, and one meat at a carving station. The dessert area had 3-4 choices. On one side of the buffet was a Chinese window with a couple of dishes - just mediocre. On the other side was a deli window offering good sandwiches. The best part of eating here was the fountain with free lemonade, fruit punch, apple juice, iced tea, and really good hot chocolate.
The Mediterranean restaurant is very poorly laid out with bus stations right in the middle of the already cramped tables. Navigating this crowded room to find seating was difficult, and the service people were rude and surly. Overall, eating here was an unpleasant experience.
CABINS: Our oceanview cabin on the Riviera Deck was very spacious, however the quality of the furnishings reminded me of a no-frills motel. On the other hand, the bed was GREAT! High quality linens and super-comfy. And there was very ample storage too.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES: Our cruise director Dana was top notch - very funny and also very good at keeping us informed of procedures. It's too bad that he has such a small staff because there simply weren't enough activities, especially on sea days, unless you were interested in gambling or art auctions. We heard great things about the piano sing-along in the Irish Sea Bar. For some reason, the entertainer there played guitar instead of piano, but he was still pretty good. The Karaoke room was really fun and some of the passengers were as talented as the paid entertainers.
The main shows were relatively entertaining, and the quality of the performers was just adequate. Watching the Victory Dancers was more like watching an aerobics class dressed in fancy costumes. The huge 2-story Caribbean Lounge where the main shows are held has several pillars which block your view from the second level, so you need to get seated early if that's important to you. I was surprised to see that the main show was only offered once each evening. On other cruises the shows are offered twice to accommodate early and late diners and the show rooms are smaller.
SUMMARY: In spite of all of the small problems on the Victory, we had a terrific time. We just needed to overlook a lot of details - many of them involving not enough service personnel. We'd sail Carnival again, but only during a time when school is in session. And we wouldn't sail on the Victory, mostly because it seems like a "bargain" ship and we didn't find it to be any less expensive than the others.
Both embarkation and disembarkation were very organized and smooth. We especially liked the self-disembarkation for travelers carrying all of their own luggage. It only took us 15 minutes from the time of the announcement that we could disembark until we cleared customs.
Other than the poor service in the buffet area, we found the crew to be friendly, helpful and very anxious to please. The other passengers we met who were also not traveling with children seemed to share our view that the overwhelming number of kids really detracted from a good cruise experience.