The five night cruise to The Bahamas and The Turks & Caicos was our third in as many years, and we think it was our best. Like many of the reviews before us, Carnival Victory is a well-oiled and well-turned out vessel, with a crew that's confident, courteous and represents the good things Carnival Cruise Lines can be when it all falls into place successfully.
Our embarkation through the Miami cruise port was fast, seamless and efficient. The capacity guests were processed and on board in record time. The customer service staff were friendly and inviting and made certain our cabin was ready as promised, within an hour of boarding this vessel.
Cabin 8432 is an extended aft balcony cabin. Like most Carnival ships of its time, a bit garish in the style department, but everything was in tip-top shape: very clean, well-equipped and roomy. We appreciated the extra space afforded by the 9' deep balcony, suitable for a pair of chaise lounge chairs. Most days, we could drink in the late afternoon sun and we often toasted the early evening sail from our port of call while enjoying a panoramic view from the comfort and convenience of our own state room. Our steward (Carlos) was professional, diligent and discreet - he knew our names and our schedules immediately, and diligently worked to keep our cabin clean and dressed for the day.
The five day itinerary is the perfect selection for those uncertain if they'd like to cruise. The three ports of call in a five day span is great. After the initial all day/night sail, the Turks & Caicos port of Grand Turk offers a gorgeous broad and shallow beach, with pristine turquoise waters and conveniently placed dockside. The Carnival-owned island of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas was next, and once again were treated to spectacular beach setting suitable for a relaxing afternoon on the Caribbean blue sea. Our final port of Nassau in The Bahamas was less pretty and interesting with its British Victorian style and history, but our visit was dampened by official declaration by the US, warning guests of the elevated crime and thefts in Nassau. After a brief visit to the down town core, witnessing our fair share of vagrants and dark alleys, we simply felt uncomfortable. Others seemed less bothered by the warnings, so it's a matter of personal choice how to proceed.
Evening meals were taken at the first seating in the formal dining room. The menu was sufficient in variety and there were very few complaints from our table of eight. The food was prepared expertly, of very good quality and the presentation was excellent. Our only complaint: formal night dining remains a challenge for the kitchen and wait staff - service is slow, the food is always cold when trying to accommodate the demands of a full house in the dining room.
Our table crew was simply amazing. The head waiter for table 630 was Fernando Bunyii - an eighteen year veteran with Carnival, and it showed... warm and friendly, attentive to every detail and he made certain his crew worked tirelessly to ensure his guest were spoiled. One of our cruise companion was disabled and Fernando made sure he greeted her every evening, escorted her by arm to the table - so sweet and attentive. His skill as a waiter is second to none: inviting and witty - never forced or phony, always a trick or two to entertain the crowd (the "is it a he or a she puppet trick" was funny and endearing). Of the many cruises we've taken - from Carnival to Royal Caribbean and more, without hesitation Fernando was the best head waiter we've ever had. I would do everything possible to secure a seating at his table(s).
The evening shows were okay, par for the course, with the exception of the last show of the cruise. The musical tribute to various styles, themes and artists - from Elvis to Kiss was impressive. The dancing and singing was high calibre and the show was befitting a much higher standard than expected. We were especially impressed with the artistry of the costumes and the vocal ranges of its two principal stars. Whoever choreographed this award-winning show, one that apparently is seen across the entire fleet, really knew what they were doing. It managed to draw the crowd of all ages into the show with a repertoire that everyone knew and liked. Well done!
Overall, we give our five-day cruise on board the well-seasoned Carnival Victory full marks for service, amenities (especially for the price), accommodations et al. After experiencing a less than stellar cruise on a prior Carnival voyage, Victory has managed to regain our confidence and faith in Carnival again, and we would recommend this specific ship to both seasoned and first-time cruisers. Look past the rather disturbing numbers of morbidly obese mounted on all sorts of motorized gear - insulin in one hand and a plate mounded with food in the other, that partake of the countless buffets... Americans accustomed to feeling privileged and who think an "open buffet" means mountains of food garnished from the restaurant, left virtually untouched and wasted on the tables... the many passengers who refuse to acknowledge the dress code (formal dining is not a "I'm Drunk Two" t-shirt, baseball cap and bathing suit wrap-wearing venue - visit the Lido buffet if you have such little respect for yourself and others)... If one is mindful that cruising today is less about catering to the elitist and appealing to all demographics, with broader appeal and more opportunities for everyone to enjoy a vacation at sea, then one cannot help but be pleased with the results. Carnival continues to offer a lot of value for the vacation dollar.