This was a relatively inexpensive vacation booked last minute, as no air fare or hotel was needed. I had a large premium balcony on my Alaska cruise on the Spirit last year - this year the goal was to cruise cheap & get in my last one to reach platinum. I booked an inside cabin in the bowels of the ship but thankfully a 4K opened up a couple days later, and I nabbed it! This particular 4k was absolutely & completely obstructed - no view except for underneath the lifeboat. If you could lean out around the end of the lifeboat I hear there was a little view, but that wasn't possible for me as I'm still on the mend from a back surgery. Still, there was daylight and lots of fresh air available with the French Doors opening. The doors opened easily & this was a huge perk at a very minimal cost (only $25 per person) above the cheapest inside rate.
The crew at embarkation were very helpful as we boarded fairly last minute, & I'd left a bag inadvertently in the car. They told me to board the ship & a lady at the desk ran out to pick up the bag from my son, who drove back with the forgotten tote bag. It held a bottle of wine for carry on and my special tempurpedic pillow for my neck (the ones on board the ship tend to be way thick & hurt my neck).
Sort of confusing with the room steward assignment - the first day someone named Anna introduced herself as our cabin steward. The next day it was someone else entirely, a fellow named Santika. He told me Anna was just covering for the first day, and this was his first day of work on the ship. He did a fine job, perhaps things were done more by the book than most cabin stewards. No complaints though.
We so lucked out on our dinner table assignment! Aft, right next to a window in the center. Our weather was beautiful this cruise, no rough water, and with the late hours of daylight on an Alaska cruise in june, even late seating it was total daylight and we could look out to see the beautiful sea & sky, and wake of the ship.
The food in the MDR was quite good, as well as the service. No mongolian grill on this ship, chopsticks was ok but not as good as the grill I thought. The deli made delicious sandwiches just as always, and the lines were short. Pizza - they have changed to a thin crust and no more goat cheese! I was crushed. The mushroom pizza is ok, but not nearly as good. The prosciutto was ok, I think if I order it again I will ask that the prosciutto be left off & just put on veggies. I don't see how this change of pizza types will save carnival money. The ingredients are cheaper but they were giving everyone a full size pizza instead of half, as usual. I wish they had kept the old pizzas and stuck to the smaller portion.
The only other areas of disappointment, besides pizza, were platinum laundry and Nick & Nora's steakhouse. Usually I do my own laundry on carnival to save $. I can see that I will still need to do so, unless I am in need of something tough as nails laundered. I sent instructions to not toss my jeans in the dryer - they are the stretch type & not supposed to be put in a hot dryer. I believe they followed this, but whatever laundry system used scraped up the fabric & damaged it. It looks like they took a cheese grater to parts of it, with the gouging of the denim & terrible pilling. How do you wreck denim? But it didn't shrink, so they must have line dried it as I requested. My sturdy cotton sweaters came out very faded, rough & worn out looking.
We booked Nick & Nora's steakhouse the last night, and got a little jump on the dining time since Victoria is a late port. I wish we had just stuck to the main dining room. The food at the steakhouse was ok, but just ok. Nothing wowed me, except the bread. The spinach salad was a bit wilty (and this was not a sauteed spinach salad that was supposed to be wilted), the lobster was bigger than what you get in the MDR but still had that slightly mushy texture from being frozen. The brioche was wonderful, that was the only item that stood out for me. Brother & I both ordered the french onion soup, as we are fans of the type that is really baked in the oven with the crouton & cheese topping it. It was prepared this way, but the broth did not taste right. It was reddish & did not taste like any french onion soup either of us ever had before. It looked like they had poured beef blood into it and I hope this is not the case. The french onion soup in the MDR tasted better. My brother ordered the surf & turf and was disappointed by the tiny serving of filet he got. He thought he would get the same portion size that he was shown at the beginning of the meal - I can see why it would be smaller as you would essentially be getting 2 entrees otherwise. But he wanted his "big piece of meat" and was disappointed - he thought they should have specified what the portion would be if ordered surf & turf. And he has a point, always better to under promise & over deliver when your goal is customer satisfaction.
I ordered the cheesecake. It was ginormous, decent quality but still not a typical rich new york style cheesecake. We both thought they could have toned down the portion size on this monster & delivered more on the entrees & side dishes. He ordered the carmelized apple tart, again another adequate but nothing standout dish. A few pieces of baked sweetened apple on a small round of puff pastry.
This was his first carnival cruise, he was quite impressed by the MDR, the service, the quality of food & preparation, the willingness of the servers to get you another entree if you wished. I think he had expected much less, after cruising Princess & hearing all the hype about Carnival this & that. The service in the steakhouse was fine, but no better than we saw in the MDR. When he mentioned he wished he could get another entree, he was told it was entirely possible for an added $20 fee. Quite a night & day difference in practice between upcharge steakhouse and MDR. I had heard only 1 entree was included at the steakhouse - for me it was plenty enough food but for those who want a large steak - don't get the surf & turf! After 10 carnival cruises this was my first visit to the steakhouse, and definitely my last. Not worth the upcharge, at all.
The entertainment on this cruise was good, the dancers seemed to have a tougher time than usual. The only dancers that really wowed me were a couple of the taller male dancers - don't know if the others were tired or new or if the choreography didn't give them any opportunity to stand out. I will say the struggle with doing the lifts & staying on the music / finishing on time was not the fault of the dancers. Whoever choreographed a series of complicated lifts at the end of a very long aerobic sequence must be a sadist - truly not what you should do unless you are trying to take dancers out with injuries. There is still a stage band on this ship, but the cartoon thing in the background took center stage for a time during the show. This is a dumbing down of entertainment I had hoped to never see on stage. I don't want to see cartoon characters dancing around, I want to see dancers. Please whoever is in charge of entertainment, bring back the normal shows.
I enjoyed the comedy club, with carnival's practice of routing the same comedians around the different ships I had seen one & his act before. Still funny, I loved the comedy club & it is a great addition to the entertainment on board.
It was all in all a great cruise, with a couple fun meet & greets organized by a lady on our roll call, Lana, who did a stellar job. I didn't really get to know the people on the roll call since I booked so last minute. Still it added another fun dimension to the cruise & the 2 hour cocktail party was fantastic.
Our port time arrival was delayed 90 minutes due to a medical emergency earlier on the cruise, but it was short time in this port even had that not happened. This port was not a huge deal to me as I'm local, have seen Victoria many times & even had I not - the health of the passenger who got hurt will always be more important than port time! Kudos to the captain for turning the ship around & getting her the care she needed. The captain extended the time 1/2 hour, so in theory we had from 8:45 til 12 for back on board, with a sailing time of 12:30. In practice though it was 9:40 until we made it off the ship - then another 15 minutes to get to the buses. The line off the ship took forever, they really need to make this a longer port stop or it's basically worthless. By the time we were loaded on the bus ($10 round trip to town & back to the cruise port) it was 10pm. As we got off the bus, the driver then tells us the last shuttle back at 11. What a waste, we really should have stayed on board. So if you are taking the bus in, ask what time the last bus back is BEFORE you buy the ticket! If the driver had volunteered that info I bet 1/2 the customers would have walked back to the ship or taken a taxi. We walked around a bit, took a few pictures & then did a bit of shopping. Advice - as you get off the ship there will be several stores open. If you want to shop, shop first. The last 20 minutes before the last shuttle pick up, half those stores had closed.