Background: DH, 44 and myself, 46 on our 4th Carnival cruise (3rd cruise within a year ~ yeah, we are addicted ).
We decided to take the Carnival Victory out of New York City to Saint John, N.B., Canada. We like to travel over the 4th of July and not having to fly was a nice part of this cruise.
We drove from New Hampshire to NYC on Tuesday, the 2nd. We booked two nights at the New Yorker Hotel (a Ramada property) at 8th and 43rd. It was a decent value for two nights of sleeping. The Tick Tock Diner in the lobby is open 24 hours a day and was well worth the convenience.
We checked out of the hotel and were at the cruise terminal around 10:55 a.m. Embarkation staff did a great job of checking in the regular sailing passengers and the two wedding parties that were also sailing. DH and I waited patiently to check in and when it was our turn, the woman signaled for us to proceed to the check in counter. Well, along comes two wedding guests and they go right in front of us. I just smiled, shook my head and said to the woman, "Don't you know who they are?" No big deal. Our turn came but the woman came over to me and said, "Next time I'll remember who they are." It was really no big deal. DH and I were there to relax and have a good time.
Carnival started boarding the wedding parties at 11:45 a.m.; we were on board by 12:30, ate lunch on the Lido and were at our cabin by 1:30 p.m.
People on the boards have said that the ship is very "green" and look out for the biting seahorses. Well, the decor is green, and blue and white and all sorts of other colors (check out my pictures). They do carry the sea theme to the nth degree. I didn't notice any disrepair. Any dirtiness was definitely passenger related. There were cigarette butts outside on the deck and glasses and plates here and there. (I know you are on vacation but is it really too much trouble to carry your plate to a more appropriate place? Do you have to leave it in a stairwell?)
Some people complain that they cannot walk through on certain decks. We got a map, knew where we wanted to go and then made the appropriate choice of which staircase or elevator to walk toward. The second comedian, Anthony Acosta was right on when he said that some cruise passengers check their brain at the dock when they board a ship. They wait 10 minutes to take an elevator going one floor ~ down.
We chose this cruise for the above reasons and to get another cruise in this year (platinum by 2009?) and for some rest and relaxation. There were as many activities on this itinerary as there are on any other that we have done. This is not the cruise to lay by the pool and soak up the sun. You cannot expect to do that on this route in the spring and summer. Cold Atlantic seas and warm air temperatures equal fog. It was a foggy trip. We knew that going in. (Check out the fog horn video I took. It kept interrupting a CC member and I as we chatted on deck).
Knowing all of this about the weather, DH and I brought along some good books, walked a lot and took a few naps. We played a couple of the trivia games, saw the night time shows (they are very good), entered the slot tournament (didn't win), did win a few hundred on the slots later (and tipped the two friendly casino workers who helped me out), and chatted with some very nice staff members and fellow guests. We did watch parts of the free movies in cabin. There are pay-per-view movies. I did not realize this before. There were, maybe, a dozen selections at about $8.99 each, more expensive than my cable service at home but still less than the cost of a night out at the movies. The cable signal was very sporadic. This route gets a New York feed unlike the Caribbean routes we have sailed that have a Denver feed.
They did have sushi on three of the four nights (this is new for the Victory). We never found the omelet station to be crowded (it's in the rear near the pizza station) and the second floor of the Mediterranean buffet was always quiet unless the Camp Carnival kids and staff were there and then they were having fun playing trivia and doing art projects.
We decided not to eat in the dining room for dinner on this cruise. We didn't want to feel pressured to hurry up and get ready for a meal and we didn't want to have to pack formal clothes. It was the perfect choice for this route and probably for this ship (based on what others had posted about the dining room dinners). We did eat breakfast in the dining room once. Thanks to Cotton who told us we could order extra hollandaise sauce for the Eggs Benedict. It was delicious. We also ate lunch in the dining room once. The ravioli, ribs and fish and chips were all nicely done. The buffet offered more dessert choices at lunch than at dinner. There was one midnight buffet (we didn't attend) and one chocolate buffet at lunch on the last sea day. We did order room service (again, recommended by others). DH had the tuna salad on an English muffin and I had the toasted peanut butter and jelly. I don't know what it is that makes it taste so good...but it does. Overall, it worked out well to treat food as nourishment and take the focus off food as entertainment. We got to see a couple of sunsets and chat with some very nice people. We would have missed that if we had to shower and get ready for the Captain's Dinner (with salty lobster ).
We had a nice time in Saint John. Compared to Caribbean ports we found the people of Saint John to be truly welcoming and not just out to sell us their wares. When debarking in Saint John they present the women with a rose, the men with a souvenir pin and the children with a Canadian flag. I have yet to go to any other port where they give me something just for visiting. The bagpiper playing at sail away is also a nice custom. He played "Amazing Grace" very well.
One puzzling experience occurred after we departed Saint John. DH and I had finished our dinner and were walking by the Lido pool on our way to our cabin. There was a young boy walking alone in front of us. He had his hands in his pockets and was kicking at the ground as he walked. DH and I thought, "Here's trouble", what an angry/mean kid. As we got to the sliding doors, something told me to turn around as the boy called out, "Mom". Turns out he was a lost and scared kid. I asked if he was lost and did he want help. He said yes, so we walked over to the phone near the pool and I called the Purser's desk.
He told the person his mother's name and his cabin number. We held on while they tried her cabin ~ no answer. I asked if they would page her and they said yes. Minutes seemed to pass and there is no page. (Heck, the Purser's desk is always paging "Jane Doe: call extension 7777"). So we hang up and we wait and wait and DH decides to walk back inside and see if he can find a woman who is missing a kid. He finally finds her and still the Purser's desk has not made an announcement so I call them back to say we found the mom. It really made me wonder what they would have done if we hadn't done what we did. (There have been other posts recently about guests having to provide first aid because the staff is lax in stepping up).
For those who like the Filipino bands e.g. Music Boardwalk or Music Asia, the band on the Victory is Simple Friends. They performed each night in front of the casino. IMHO they are poorly placed and I noted that on my comment card. They have a lovely female singer that really broadens their repertoire and while some people did dance to their songs, it would have been so much nicer if they were in a lounge where people could really get up and "get down". One of the lounges featured "Steve" on guitar singing Bob Seger and the Beatles. I thought he would have been more appropriate outside the casino.
Some final observations:
All in all, we had a great time on this cruise. We thought the staff we met and spoke with were very friendly. Had a great time talking with other guests that we met including a few Cruise Critic members.
Enjoyed the food we did eat and got something else if we didn't care for it. Drank the iced tea and water (did not buy a soda card this time) and had the smallest sign and sale bill so far ($152. of which $80 was our gratuities). Seemed like there was less drinking than on a hot Caribbean cruise where folks are lying out in the sun. Passengers seemed less rowdy as a result.
There seemed to be a lot of family reunions and group trips as evidenced by their matching shirts and or hats. Many of the public rooms were reserved throughout the sailing for private parties for these groups.
A four-day cruise is not long enough (for us) unless it's a back-to-back four day and three day cruise. As many people say, a cruise is what you make of it so we made the best of it and had a relaxing vacation.