Let me start by saying we had a wonderful vacation. This is a review so some things I post will be critical, but that is to help my fellow CC members. ALSO: I will make no comment the tragedy that occurred on board (it was THAT cruise) except to say our prayers are with the family.
Serenity - The serenity deck on the Victory is forward and very nice. This was our first experience with that concept and we spent a lot of our time there. Well maintained, polite (if sparse) staff, very tranquil.
Key West - Our first time to this POC and it was AWESOME. History buffs shouldn't miss the Cemetery. There are maps at the entrance to guide you to the many different significant "residents". Take some time to walk around the town...the architecture was so fun. Then head to Duval. The Flying Monkey outside Fogarty's has awesome frozen drinks that are STRONG. Irish Kevin's has live music...even at 9 in the morning and the Conch Shack is slow, but it is worth the wait. In Mallory Square you can visit the Shipwreck Museum. Very Cool and not too pricey. Short but perfect POC.
Music & "Vrrooom" Show - The stage band, live Latin Band, and small stage combo at the Casino Bar were all above average. The shows were poorly attended which was a shame because the "Vrrooom" musical show was really well executed. Too bad only about 100 people on the ship chose to see it. Don't miss it if you sail the Victory.
Faster to the Fun - We paid the extra 50 dollars and it was REALLY worth it. On the ship right behind Platinum and Diamond with our cabin already ready. We carried all nu one bag aboard and if I had known how efficient it was I would have carried them all. By lifeboat drill we had unpacked, eaten lunch, spent some time in the pool/hot tub, and spent the afternoon in the sun...gained ostensibly an entire day on the cruise for 50 bucks.
Under staffing - The ship seemed to be sailing with a skeleton staff. Evidence of under staffing was everywhere. The lines at bars were long enough to really discourage drinking. At one point we spent over an hour and a half on an open deck and never saw a single waiter (fine by me but seemed to indicate a problem) The lines at the Lido buffet were so long that passengers just started to openly cut in the front, which of course slowed the lines even more. The staff seemed so embroiled in their own drama that they addressed none of this as they bickered and argued among themselves. Waiters in the main dining were so distracted by the miserably slow kitchen that they made frequent mistakes and argued with junior staff and each other. Even the ship's crew seemed aimless and "lubberly" lacking in even simple skill and seamanship. If this is typical of today's Carnival they are in big trouble.
Cruise Director "Goose" - If I hadn't known the man was the cruise director I would have thought he was a passenger. Never have I seen a cruise director less engaged. His staff reflected his attitude and were about as friendly as slap in the face. All of them seemed to be phoning it in...really pathetic because the entertainment they didn't even try to promote was actually pretty good.
The Piano Bar - I think they must have been short a piano bar guy because it looked to me like they went to a homeless shelter and just picked up the first drunk who could play six notes, gave him a shower and put him to work. He was awful...his banter was stale and pointless, his gimmicks were inconsistent at best, and he could not sing or play very well at all. Just pathetic...
The Lido buffet and the Caribbean Night - Awful food (never changed in five days) and a Deck party that wasn't on the Deck (nobody even bothered) which was sad because the weather was beautiful. Of course the fact that the Cruise Director never even bothered to show up may be part of the problem.