I'm sitting here in my office in NJ, after getting off the Victory a few hours ago this morning.
A few general thoughts - the weather was perfect. I have never seen the ocean this calm for 4 days straight. It was like a lake every morning, and seas never exceeded a foot or two for the first 4 days and nights. We were on a 5 day cruise. You New Yorkers who had your 4th of July rained out by the storms - those storms came out to meet us late on the last night of the trip. More later.
Whales & Porpoises - they're out there folks, and a lot of them too. On our first day at sea (July 1) all you had to do was look out of a window for 2 or 3 minutes and you'd see a couple of dolphin's leap, or a whale's blowhole followed by its flippers.
I thought the Victory was a fun ship, there was so much to do. They had dozens of trivia games, scavenger hunts, bingo, lots of little diversions to keep you busy. Anyone who says there was "nothing to do " probably meant "there was nothing they wanted to do."
The crew was mostly wonderful. Everyone made an effort to learn your name, and if you frequent the same bars, the bartenders always address you by name and quickly learn what you like to drink.
There are dozens of crewmembers walking around with buckets and sponges cleaning and polishing at all times. On the last night, we cut through the Atlantic dining room heading AFT from the lobby, and the waiters had the place Stripped apart, cleaning everything. There is obviously a high standard and pride in cleanliness. I have a general belief - that people are pigs. And people on cruises are drunken, glutinous pigs. Remember, there are 3000 of us running around that ship spilling drinks & food all over the place. It's a never ending job to keep it clean.
Shows There's a show every night. The funniest was the "Legends" show the last night, which is actually the passengers hamming it up. If you have the chance, go to it, you'll love it.
One night was a magician, he was OK. There were two Musical review type shows. I'm not big on dancing, so I can't comment on the skill of the performers, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. I did - you can't just eat and drink non-stop for 5 days.
There were two late night comedy shows. I just don't have the energy to watch a midnight show. I caught the beginning of the last night's and he was funny. Lots of uses of the "F" word, which chased a few audience members away. As soon as he said "Tonight's show is for over 18 only," about three dozen young adults/teenagers walked in and sat down in the front row. He made a joke about asking their age. I would have guessed half of them were 16 or 17.
Personally, I don't care if my 17 year listens to that kind of comedy. He wasn't at this particular show, but he did go to the first one. He read three books on the cruise, "Heart of Darkness," "Crime & Punishment" and a 400 page autobiography of Albert Einstein. With a reading list like that, he can watch or listen to whatever he wants.
Anyhow, notable items:
Embarkation - Got to the terminal about 11:45AM. Basically, you wait in a mass of people at a Velvet roped off area. If you have VIP seating, you wait in chairs, otherwise you stand. We waited close to half an hour, chatting with the other passengers who were very impressed with my carryon bag of wine (3 - 1.5 liter bottles). We had two adults and a child in the cabin, but I decided to test the waters. Also had a bottle of Absolute Citron in the checked suitcase.
The VIP groups were allowed to enter ahead of the rest of us steerage.
You go through credentials check, metal detectors & X-ray, which is run by the Port, not Carnival.
At registration, VIP had it's own line. There were 3 or 4 lines, by cabin number. All lines (except VIP) seemed to move quickly after a 5-10 minute wait.
Getting on the ship, we had our photos put on our sail & sign card. Nobody saw my wine or said anything about it. There were a few Carnival security people on the entry area.
The cabin hallways were closed off and had small paper signs saying that we could get in at 1:30. We dumped our carryon's into the room which was being made up. I said hello to the steward, and headed up to the lido buffer.
I thought this was so petty as to be funny: We brought a case of Poland Spring water. (35 - 1/2 liter bottles). I tipped the porter $10 and asked him to please make sure we got our luggage. When the case of water got to the room, someone had poked a hole in the shrinkwrap and taken a bottle out. Oh well, what do you expect "On the Waterfront?"
Buffet: The only description I can make for the buffet, that will apply for the entire cruise, was it was crowded. I found that at the Asian counter, there was never more than a 2 or 3 person wait. At the "Mediterranean restaurant (the main buffet) there was always a 10 -15 minute wait, minimum. Of course, if you eat a little earlier or later, you may have a completely different experience.
The Buffet food wasn't so great, you know what happens when it sits in those trays too long. Still, no better or worse than any other low cost high traffic buffet I've ever been to. I ate mostly salads so I didn't care - there's plenty of fresh vegetables to choose from.
There was a delicious chocolate cake on the buffet, very fudgy and dense, and we loved it. I never saw it after the first day, but we didn't eat at the buffet every day.
Muster: Muster was uneventful, except for the little old man who got a cell phone call in the middle of it and talked through the entire ordeal. Kind of funny. At the end of muster, we walked AFT along the deck to a crew stairway that led us up to our deck without any delay. Most people go to the elevators, which get very crowded.
Muster ended a few minutes before the ship set sail.
Our cabin: We were on the Empress deck, balcony cabin 7349. It's right across from the Stewards work station and Pantry, and a few steps AFT of a laundry room. We did hear crewpeople working in there in the morning, I could see how a light sleeper might have an issue. Nothing bothers me - you wake me up, I roll over and go back to sleep. The people in the hallways talking loudly were more noticeable.
The "medicine cabinet" in the bathroom was a bit grotty. The wife had some sanitizing wipes and quickly wiped it out. If she was happy, then it was good enough for me!
Dining Room: We had requested early seating and were assigned Pacific dining room, late. I went to the Maitre D and asked to be changed. I got a long story about how everyone wanted to change, and he showed me his list which must have had at least 50 names on it. He said he couldn't promise me anything, but would work on it after the first night's dinner. We ate at the late seating for night one and were eventually changed to an early seating for the rest of the cruise. So was everyone else I spoke to who requested it.
I think that there's some kind of con going on where they automatically give you a different seating than you request, so you have to ask the Maitre'D for assistance, thereby making you feel obligated to tip him. Just a little vague thought building in the back of my head. Think I'll start a poll to see other's experiences.
For dinner I had some shrimp dish - not particularly memorable. I tried two different appetizers every night and for the most part enjoyed them. Sorry, I drank too much and don't remember what they were - you'll have to try them yourself.
For our 45 day letter we had been offered a bottle of champagne, which our headwaiter had noted. I asked if I could trade it up towards a bottle of wine, which was no problem, although it took him a while to figure out how to charge us. Eventually, he charged me for a $9.75 glass of wine, and swapped a $26 bottle of champagne for a $36 bottle of wine.
For dinner I had the chocolate melting cake, which I've read so much about here and was quite disappointed. It tasted like lukewarm, uncooked cake dough.
Back to our Cabin: I awoke late the next morning to go for a jog, then off to the gym to burn off some calories. I grabbed a shower towel because my wife seems to use more than her share, and when I got to the room, it was a good thing. Our shower drain was clogged and she had used all 6 shower towels to soak up the flood from the bathroom floor.
She told a passing steward who told her that he'd "tell your steward." I took a navy shower and didn't add anything to the mess. When no one had come to look at the drain, I asked a passing crewmember and he told me to call room service. I did and they said they'd send someone up.
Returning from one of the dozen of games, events and diversions the cruise offers, my son told us that room service had brought up 6 pillows. We laughed and figured it was a miscommunication. Later that evening, I saw our steward I asked about the drain. He told us he had called in the problem. I told him it wasn't a problem for us, but we were going to need a lot more towels to slop up all the water if it wouldn't go down the drain.
About 11:30, as we were returning from the show, a mechanic was in the hallway outside our cabin, and the deed was done.
Our steward was always around but never seen - the room was always serviced. The few times we saw him, he was very friendly and kept asking us if we were happy and if we were having a good time.
Formal Night #1: (that's right - there were two) Since the wife was just going to bring pants suits, I decided not to bring my tux, so I wore a grey suit. My wife did bring a dress, which she didn't tell me. Darn, it would have been my Annual opportunity to tux it up.
Anyhow, about attire, I'd estimate one in 50 men in tuxes, and most of them Seniors. Most men did wear ties, though. Most women were in dresses, although I didn't see too many formal dresses. Lots of cocktail dresses.
The first Formal Night was lobster night. The lobster tails were big - I'd estimate my tail was an 8 ouncer, which is very big for a cruise ship. It was cooked perfectly and tasted great. The second tail was a bit tougher and slightly undercooked, although he still managed to end the night in my tummy. I guess they were trying to discourage me from asking for a third.
Another passenger at a table across from us had a "double" - 2 tails on one plate. I never would have thought to ask. Then he had a second helping of 2 more tails.
Ports of call: In St. John & Halifax we slept late, got off the ship just to stretch our legs, and relaxed. We ate at a warfside restaurant in Halifax. In St John, we walked over to the "City Market" a few blocks from the ship. Just a shopping mall where we didn't stay long. We were taking the cruise to relax, not tour Canada, as we had been their previously.,
Back to the food & Dancing waiters: Day 3 was filet mignon and it was cooked perfect. My son and I asked for medium and the wife asked for medium-well. All three steaks were done as requested. No complaints at all. Not a spec of fat on my steak. It was just one, solid hunk of meat.
We got treated to the singing waiter version of "Hey Baby." Several of the waiters got onto those mini server-table things and were dancing wildly. I think they may have worked as male gogo dancers before coming to Carnival. Some ladies started putting dollar bills in their belts and it was very funny. These guys weren't crying about being "humiliated," they were enjoying it as much as the passengers.
Our Head waitress and her assistant stood off to the side and clapped to the music, with most of the other wait staff and passengers.
Formal Night number 2, the 4th night was Chateau Briand. (hope I spelled that right). It was cooked to perfection. I wasn't aware that there were 2 formal nights, and rather than wear the suit a second time, I wore a summer sports coat with a tie and slacks. My wife wore one of her fancy pants suits. I'd say about a third of the men were in suits or sports coats. There were lots of button down shirts. Maybe two or three tuxes.
Got myself a great late afternoon snack from the deli on our last sea day, a Pastrami Reuben which tasted great, although a bit greasy. Then I had the Escargot appetizer with dinner, which is basically swimming in butter. Then, the grilled salmon, which is an oil fish, although was extremely delicious. Then, I tried the chocolate melting cake again and it was phenomenal. Much better than the first night.
However, either the Escargot or the Reuben or the salmon, or maybe the combination of the three, began to disagree with me, and I was kind of "off" for a few hours. I think it was just too much butter, oil and grease (I usually avoid all those sorts of food.) A large glass of coke followed by several glasses of water helped a great deal.
As our last day came to an end, the motion of the ship began to increase. The ship channel reported 4-7 foot waves, which really shouldn't matter to a 110,000 ton ship. I went onto the balcony and found out the problem ( which I later read off the ship chart TV channel) - the winds had kicked up to about 55 knots (that's about 60 mph). The ship was sailing almost head on into the wind, so there was a bit of motion. I sat out on the balcony around 1AM and it was really neat - as the front of the ship rose up, you could feel the propellers push it up and forward. Then, as the bow would lean down, the propeller angle would change and the ship's forward motion would feel less severe. It was the same feeling you would get on a small fishing boat in rough seas, but I've never noticed it on a cruise ship before.
I went to sleep about 2AM, and then the thunder and lightning started. I was just too darn tired to go back out to the balcony to watch so it was a definite missed opportunity. Guess I'll have to go on another cruise again, real soon.
I shot some videos in the near dark, trying to get the wind and waves, but a lot of salt water was misting and I immediately removed the camera battery and gave it a good toweling in fresh water. I'll give it a bit of an alcohol bath and blow dry later today.
The ship docked about 6AM. Customs cleared the ship around 8AM. We were called for disembarkation around 10AM, but they opened a second gangway just was we were called, and we got off without any additional wait.
A few more notes: Of the 3 bottles of wine I brought, 2 came home. We just never got around to drinking them. I like to have them in the Cabin so when I want a drink, I don't have to go looking for it. We almost finished the bottle of Absolute we brought. I like a splash of it on an ice cube. Our total bar bill for the 5 day trip was about $300, which included two additional bottles of wine in the dining room at $40 each, and a whole bunch of Martini's for me. Tanquery or Absolute Martini's were consistently $7.50. Tanquerey & Tonic was consistently $5.50.
I bought two bottles of Tanquerey in the duty free shop - they were $26 for the pair. Absolute was 2 for $19.95. T-shirts started at 2 for $20 on the last night only. They also had blue and white Carnival polo shirts, but the only place they said Carnival was on the neck label, so it's hardly a souvenir.
Can't say I'm glad to be home - 5 days is just too short. I suppose now I'll cut back on my visits to Cruise Critics as I start doing some work so I can save enough money for my next cruise.
Anyone have any specific questions, post em here and I'll try to help, only give us all a break and don't quote my entire review.