First, let me start by stating that this is only the second cruise that I have been on, so I don't have much to compare it to other than the Celebrity cruise I took with my husband out of Spain two years ago. Overall, we had a good time on the Carnival Victory which we sailed on from Miami on June 1. I always say, you get out of your vacation what you want. If you want to complain about every little detail . . . you set yourself up for a bad time and horrible memories. Go with the flow and try to relax and have a great time.
Boarding and leaving Miami was a breeze. We stayed the night at the Marriott Biscayne Bay and got a tax over in the morning around 11:30. I think the whole process took about 25 minutes to get our id's (for my husband, myself, son and our nephew), get a photo taken and get on the ship. We were told to go have lunch on the Lido deck while the rooms were being prepared. With that being said, we headed that way, and were shocked to already see somewhat long lines for the lunch service. I have read reviews before on here regarding the Victory and its layout, and they were point on. The ship is designed poorly so the lines backup and the flow is not good. It took us awhile to get through and get seated and have lunch, but it was not anything that would make the average person too upset. I did, however, notice right away, that the options for healthy dining on this ship were going to be somewhat limited at the buffets. They served massive amounts of hot dogs, hamburgers and fries every day, and that line was always long. There was a place called Chop Sticks which offered some Chinese food options (which were a lot better tasting than some of the other offerings) and a deli that made sandwiches fresh to order. I made a habit to hit the Mediterranean buffet every day at lunch to fix myself a big salad. The choices for veggies, salad dressings and toppings were always pretty good. This buffet also served different meat options each day, and one day did have roasted turkey that was pretty tasty. I also had a made to order omelet each morning from the omelet station, and those were fine. As far as the main dining room in the evenings, we did the anytime dining in the Atlantic each night. The food was hit or miss there each night. Some of the entrees we ordered were pretty good, but then there were nights that some of the food ordered were barely touched because of lack of flavor, or bad flavor, etc. I don't want to spend my whole review talking about the food on the ship, but just think people should know that they should expect to wait in some long lines in order to get breakfast and lunch. Also, one of the other complaints I did have about the buffet lines has nothing to do with the Carnival Victory at all. It is the people. It amazed me to watch how people behaved at the buffets, and I know that I am not the only cruiser who noticed it, because several people we had met and talked to on the ship had the same complaints. We saw people eat off a piece of honeydew melon one morning and leave the rind from it right in the middle of the place where your plate would go as you move down the buffet line. Also, several of the people acted like they were never going to get another meal, and would cut, take way more food than they would eat, etc. It was just a bit disturbing to witness, and I am not easily offended, etc.
Staff on ship was overall very friendly. There were three EXCELLENT bartenders at the Sirens Pool bar at rear (aft) of the ship. Their names were Cindy, Kayun and Eugene. They went out of their way to help the guests back there. We made sure and tip them additional for each drink because they were so good. Speaking of drinks, we purchased the drink package for approximately $49 per person per day (with a limit of 15 drinks per person per day). Overall, we didn't drink enough to cover that entire $500 plus it cost us, but both my husband and I liked the idea of not worrying what our bill would look like in the end. Also, when I have a mixed drink, I don't want the house brand of liquor due to the fact that it gives me a headache (even after one). So, it felt good to know I could order all the margaritas, etc. that I wanted with top shelf liquor. So, I guess it depends on what type of drinker you are as to whether or not you purchase the package. We met some folks that drank their limit each day so they were pretty happy with the cost! :-)
As other cruisers have mentioned, the ship is old, and does not some renovations, but overall it was clean. The staff works hard to maintain it. However, we did notice a lot of people leaving drinks on the elevators and glasses, etc. wherever they wanted on the ship. I say treat it like it is your own home, and that will help with the messes.
Ports were fun. We did the Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and we had a really good time. Water is cool and refreshing. Just be prepared to get driven crazy for tip money at every turn while in Jamaica. We also did the Bob-sled at Mystic Mountain, and my son and nephew both loved that. Grand Cayman was our favorite. We did a tour with Captain Marvins to the Stingray City, and it was an incredible experience. We also did a snorkeling stop at a reef, and we all enjoyed it. The water was very rough the day we were out because of the tropical storm Andrea, but we still were able to do our excursions. Getting back to the boat from Grand Cayman takes a little time because you have to tender to the ship by a small boat. Be prepared to wait in a long line, with little shade.
Also, we did a lot of the shows in the evening, and found them all very entertaining. These kids on the ship work really hard to put on a good production. It is no Vegas high dollar show, but it was some decent entertainment for the venue. We also like the trivia that was offered at the casino bar at various points during the cruise, and we enjoyed the live band that played at the casino each night as well.
Definitely want to do another cruise again, but just think my family would enjoy a newer ship a little more. Definitely worth the price to do this cruise, just be prepared for it to be pretty basic with no glam.