Just returned from my 16th cruise - fifth with Carnival - and first time on the Victory. Honestly, after reading the reviews I was not surprised by the ship... it's exactly what you'd expect. When you book a four night Carnival cruise out of Miami during summer you will have a party-ship no doubt about it. And a party ship we got. Not necessarily a bad thing at all.
So the ship itself is in good shape. Well maintained and relatively clean, however the stewards don't do a lot of dusting in the room (ours had dust everywhere) - not really a huge deal I just have a habit of inspecting for dust. Weird, I know.
The ship's layout is very 'choppy.' Not super easy to get around and some things are just poorly placed. Honestly, my biggest annoyance with the ship's design is the seahorses at the end of the stairwells that if you round the corner too tight you will smash your thigh into it... my thigh is hilariously bruised. Not a super big deal but definitely a design flaw. I was very happy with the amount of elevators! Finally it felt like I was on a ship with enough elevators. On all of my other cruises frequently I would opt out of getting in an elevator because it was so crowded however that did not happen once this cruise.
The buffet is laid out pretty poorly, although there is ample seating. The two lines extend for quite a ways and begin to fade into the lines for the Deli or Chopsticks. Really slow lines at breakfast as well. Oh well, that's expected.
In terms of food it was, well, exactly what I expected. Nothing super amazing but nothing that made me disgusted. The buffet food was quite alright and I enjoyed the Chopsticks selections as well as the Deli - although I wish the Deli was 24 hour. Not a ton of variety in the buffet but enough to do just fine, especially for four nights. I enjoyed how during the breakfast buffet there was always a type of Eggs Benedict (Salmon or Ham) - not a common buffet food so I was very happy to see that.
MDR was fine - efficient service, average food with the occasional above average. Of course the melting cake is always on point.
Staff and Service-wise the crew was pretty standard Carnival. Not up to the quality and friendliness of Royal Caribbean's crew by any means. I did, however have one bad experience with a staff member. The first was in the reception of the Gym and Spa. This one worker there, I swear, had it out for me! On the first day while still in Miami I went to work out with some friends and my cousin. They were out in front welcoming people and giving tours but we didn't need an introduction, we just wanted to work out. So, we start to walk past and she greets us and we acknowledge her with a typical "Hey, just headed to the gym, thank you." At which point she stops us and asks where we're going.. we once again say we're headed to the gym and start to walk again and she stops us and goes "Are you OKAY?!" (I wish I was making this up). I, having had enough of it, just kept walking and she comes out of the desk area to come get me and say "SIR, we are not finished" (what?!). So my friends and I go back to have her tell us we can work out but they're also giving guided tours... That was it. That's all she had to say. We were all in a little bit of shock after that. So throughout the cruise we worked out everyday and had gotten to know the other receptionists and gym staff and hadn't seen her since the first day. One the third day when going to workout we finally see her again and she stops us on our way in and asks how old we are (???) and that you have to be 18. We, confused, told her that we had been here everyday and she responds very sternly with a "That was not my question." So I gave in and I told her I was 21 (I'll admit I have a baby-face but wow... I didn't know it was THAT bad). My cousin tells her his age, 18, and she didn't believe him and demanded to see his ID, which was in the cabin. We had to sit there and basically argue with her that not only are we old enough to use the facilities by a long-shot but that we had been in and out every day. It was just really uncomfortable and annoying. On an better note the facilities were nice, especially the steam room and sauna with a view!
The passengers onboard were a rowdy crowd but a fun one. All kinds of people from all over but of course leaving from Miami means you get a lot of people from Miami - which is just even more kinds of people from even more backgrounds. A very diverse group but a very party-centric group. Spending the 4th of July onboard was very fun as well - although the festivities were... well, stupid as can be and the DJ was just awful.
The ports were alright - Key West was typical.. just some walking, some shopping. Very quick stop over. We were sailing for Cozumel by 2:00pm.
Cozumel was great as usual - nothing super specific to add. I did like that we did not depart until 10:30pm which gave us a quite a while to enjoy the city, especially as evening set in.
The entertainment was... hilariously terrible. Some people genuinely love it and that's great, but wow, I just... I really enjoyed it, although I don't think it was supposed to be a comedy. Speaking of comedy, the comedians the had on board were hilarious.
In conclusion, the cruise was a great one and Carnival has a good product. I wish Carnival's staff was as sociable and friendly as Royal Caribbean's but it's not a huge deal. The crowd is rowdy and the ship is just fine. Like the title says, there's really no surprises. When you book a four-nighter on Carnival out of Miami you know what you're getting into.
Would I take the same cruise again? Absolutely.