My husband and I decided to take our summer vacation aboard the Carnival Victory to Key West and Cozumel because it was cheap and because we wanted to go to Key West. We have since learned that one gets what one pays for!
We booked via phone call to a Carnival agent. At first, we were considering a Junior Suite at the front of the ship and even looked at a great video of it on YouTube. However, the phone rep. strongly suggested the aft cabin with an extended balcony. She assured us the cabin would be quiet and that we would have lounge chairs instead of regular deck chairs because of the larger balcony. The price was right, it came out to just over $1,000 for the 4-night cruise including pre-paid gratuities, tax, port fees, and trip insurance. I like that we were allowed to take up to 12 unopened bottles (20 oz. max) each of our beloved Coke and Diet Coke.
Luckily, we only live a few hours away so we travelled to the Port of Miami in our own vehicle. We went all the way to the top of the parking garage without finding a spot, so we parked on the bottom level and it was uncovered. It cost $80 to park there from Thursday at 12:45 p.m. through Monday at 7:45 a.m., which was not unexpected.
We dropped our luggage with the porter and got in line to check-in. Although the line was long, our wait was only about 15 minutes to receive our room key. Everyone was in a festive mood, myself included. People were bypassing the photographer who stops you prior to walking onto the gangway, but we stopped because I wanted memories of our vacation. It was the last picture we took because we ended up wanting to forget this vacation!
We found our cabin, Deck 6 Aft, and it was VERY unclean. There was a layer of dust covering all of the exposed surfaces and the shower was moldy and mildew-y. There was also a black ring of something along the water line in the commode. There were no lounge chairs on the balcony, just 2 regular chairs with white spots (bird feces, perhaps?). The people on the decks above, and even those cabins to the right and left of us, had a lovely view of our balcony.
My husband wanted to go to Guest Relations to complain, though I was prepared to use my handy Clorox wipes I had brought along. We stood in line for about 15 minutes (it was 1:30 by then) at Guest Relations, and I politely asked if we could pay to upgrade to a cleaner/better located cabin. The man behind the desk barely looked up while stating that the ship was full. So, my Clorox wipes got a nice work-out.
We familiarized ourselves with the ship and arrived on Deck 4 for our Muster Drill at 3:25. We were told we were too early by 5 minutes, so we had to wait inside. At 3:40 we went and stood against the wall at Muster Station H. Because we were still "early," we were one of the first ones there. I suggest being late. All 2,700 go to Deck 4 and the majority of passengers moseyed in when the mood hit them, so I was crammed against the back wall 6 passengers deep for 15 minutes. On our previous Royal Caribbean cruise, attendance was taken. Not on this ship. The port side was dismissed first so those 1,350 made a beeline for the stairs/elevators. Then our 1,350 were dismissed and everyone wanted to get to the upper levels for our departure from Miami.
Dinner was delicious in the Atlantic Dining Room. I had lasagna and my husband had pan-seared fish. We were in there for 90 minutes because service is a bit slow. We then went and purchased our liquor (which is delivered to your room the last night of the cruise if you buy it on the first night, otherwise you have to stand in line on the last night to get it yourself). I was looking at the cigarettes for my sister, who was cat-sitting and was wondering aloud whether I should contribute to her habit. Cartons were 2/$63 for Marlboro. As I was hemming and hawing, the clerk said I should buy them immediately, as the price would keep going up. It never went up and the cartons remained 2/$63 the entire time!
My favorite part of the cruise was the outside big screen TV. That Thursday night we sat under the stars and my husband watched football while I read a book. We didn't go to our cabin until 11:30. Much to our surprise, Deck 6 extended aft balcony is not the least bit quiet. We could stand in the bathroom and hear the entire comedy show from the club below. The pounding of the bass from the clubs below continued into the wee hours of the morning and were audible from every inch of the cabin. We just laughed about it because the drink of the day helped! However, the smell of food cooking from one of the galleys permeated the room each night as well. One night the smell reminded me of the metal-y odor of oven cleaner. On a happy note, calls from the cabin to home were only $1.99/minute which was much better than my cell phone plan.
Friday morning we were due to arrive in Key West at 7:30 a.m. We booked the glass-bottom boat excursion, which was 9:30-11:30 and then we had to be back on the ship at 1:15. So we wanted to get a picture of the southernmost point, prior to the excursion so that we could have lunch at Sloppy Joe's after the excursion. We hung our request for continental breakfast (cereal, Danish, toast'that's all you can get for breakfast) on our cabin door and requested delivery at 7:15 a.m. At 6:39 a.m., the room service was delivered and we were awakened by the pounding on our door (we still had 20 minutes to sleep)! I wish we could have stayed in Key West longer than 6 hours. Forever would be nice!
We took a taxi to the southernmost point and got back in time for the excursion, which was AWESOME. The boat went 6 miles out to a coral reef and we saw squid and jellyfish and lots of tropical fish. It was definitely worth the money!
The line at 1:15 to get back on the ship was incredibly long, like laughingly long. Luckily, and I'm not being facetious, we were surrounded by entertaining inebriated folks who made the wait fly by! There was a Carnival employee waiting at the gangway with small paper cups of water and the woman in front of me took the lid off of her cup and emptied all the small cups into her large cup.
Friday night's outside movie was 'The Avengers.' Saturday night's movie was 'Guilt Trip.' Sunday night was FOOTBALL again! Hooray for hubby! No popcorn, just pseudo-beef hamburgers and generic hot dogs.
We did not get off of the ship Saturday in Cozumel because we had been there before. It was fun to watch everyone boarding Saturday night at 9:30 after 8' hours in Mexico. We watched safely from Deck 3. Upon returning to our cabin we had a message on our phone. One of the bottles of liquor we had purchased "could not be found." I am not sure how this could have happened, since the UPC code was scanned when we actually purchased the item. We stood in a long line at the liquor store to be told "Never mind, we found your bottle of rum."
Sunday was a 'Fun Day at Sea' and what is not fun is that the smoking rules are not enforced. People smoked EVERYWHERE to the point that I had to keep washing my hair! We let an employee know, but it was to no avail. Cigar smoking is allowed on balconies on this ship as well.
We ate our remaining meals at the buffet, which had very limited vegetable choices. However, one could always count on potato salad and coleslaw for every meal but breakfast! Speaking of, the omelet station had made-to-order eggs which were much better than the eggs on the buffet.
We disembarked Monday morning at 7:15 a.m. via self-assist instead of waiting until 8:30 if we had placed our bags outside our door Sunday night. We couldn't wait to depart and practically ran off the ship to get to the clean and quiet confines of our car.
Last year we cruised to New England/Canada on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas, so a comparison to Carnival's party boat to party destinations is not fair. However, we did find the cleanliness, customer service, food service, and general experience to be incredibly better on RCCL, which is why we are going to remain loyal to them.