Embarkation City: New York Sail Date: 07/09/07 Return Date: 07/14/07 Ports of Call: St, John, and New Brunswick, Canada Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Cruises Sailed On CCL: 11 Total Cruises: 31
This summer, I decided to do a cruise to Canada. I completed this cruise in July 2004 and really enjoyed the trip so I elected to do it again, this time with my friends Joe and Charlotte Cognato. George Leppla of Countryside Travel booked our cruise. The ship was Carnival's Victory, built in 2000. I purchased a Cat 1A guarantee and was upgraded to a 4A Cabin # 1229.
Embarkation: Due to the high cost of private transportation to the New York City piers located on West 55th Street and the Hudson River, our group decided to take public transportation into Manhattan via the Long Island Rail Road into Penn Station and cab it to the ship. Our plans worked out just fine and were at the pier in just an hour and a half after boarding the More
train at the Wyandanch train station. Upon our arrival, the embarkation process was in full swing. Joe and Charlotte checked their luggage while I rolled mine onto the ship. Since this was my 11th cruise on Carnival, I was given VIP Platinum status, which enabled me express check in. Carnival now has a dedicated area on the pier for VIP status and I was on the ship ten minutes after arriving at the pier. I was given a unique Sail and Sign/room key, which clearly indicated my Platinum status, and many fellow passengers asked me about it, as there were very few passengers on the ship with this level. Staff asked me consistently about how many cruises I completed with Carnival. Even at the repeat cruisers party, the cruise director asked if there was any Platinum level passengers in the room and I was the only one who raised my hand. I was asked to stand up and I received a round of applause from the repeaters when I disclosed the number of times I sailed with Carnival.
The Carnival Victory: The ship was in great shape, even for its seven-year age and continuous use. The crew was polishing and cleaning consistently and the ship remained spotless through out the voyage. The ship sailed well in rough seas based on what I experienced on Deck 1 where my room was located. I did see some areas on the ship, especially in the casino area, that needed to be attended to such as a ripped seat by one of the slots. I will post my usual complaint here, as the casino was so smoky from second hand tobacco smoke. I was surprised that so many people continue to smoke even with all its health warnings. Passengers did appear to adhere to the port side smoking only rule, but the casino was wide open and Carnival permitted smoking anywhere in the casino. Elevator service was good on the ship with six elevator banks available in each elevator area. Waiting time was minimal, even with a full ship. Crew was friendly and always gave me a smile. The ship is tastefully decorated with a few touches of Joe Farcus here and there. The atrium bar located on deck three midship was a popular meeting area for fellow passengers. The area soars ten decks skyward and provides a great ambiance, especially after dark with its green lighting effect, which adhered to the nautical/oceans theme.
Stateroom 1229-Riviera Deck: Since I lacked a roommate for this cruise, I elected to purchase a 1A guarantee and hoped for the best. Carnival did upgrade me to a 4A, which is a standard ocean view room without the ocean view. I made the sacrifice and lived in the inner sanctum of the Riviera Deck. The room was adequate and provided me with the standard amenities, including a bowlful of various samples of personal and household products, which did come in handy during the trip. Service was A+++ with my room attended to twice a day by the room steward and his helper. My room was spotless when I arrived and continued to be spotless throughout the cruise.
Food/Beverage Service: Carnival raised its prices on soft drinks hauling in $2.01 every time you would order a coke or any other beverage in a can. This price included the 15% gratuity. If you are a family with a lot of kids or you are just a soft drink addict, perhaps the $30.00+ soda card would work for you. Food on the Victory was OK...nothing really to shout home about. We had one bad experience on the first morning of the cruise at breakfast in the informal (Lido) dining area. Out eggs and bacon were like ice. Perhaps there was a breakdown of a warming device in the self-service area, but this only happened once. Our evening dining was located in the Pacific Dining Room table #440 late seating. Our service was superb thanks do our waiter Charlie from Mumbai, India and assistant Shaun from South Africa. They worked as a team and their service showed it. I only wish the food was up to par. Everything from the kitchen came out piping hot, but some of the dishes I ordered were tasteless. Do not ever order the Veal Parmigean...totally a waste and tasteless. The lobsters served on the one formal night were great. The prime rib I ordered was 50% fat and Charlie, who knew I was not satisfied with the cut that was served to me, replaced it with a much leaner piece. I had lunch daily in the informal dining area and prepare yourself for lines, lines and more lines. Many times, I dodged the lines and just had a hamburger and fries served in the pool area, which were very good. When I did wait on the lunch line, it was a real slow mover. Food served there was average...again nothing spectacular. The pasta bar was good along with the carving station, which served prime rib, pork, lamb and ham on a rotating basis. I did not like the sauce served at the pasta bar. I thought my jar of Ragu, sitting in my cabinet at home tasted much better. The pizza served from 24-hour pizza tasted terrible....definitely not like pizza from my hometown, but I did expect this. To sum it up, the food on the Victory did not exceed my expectations, but I did not go hungry, that's for sure. Oh yes, I highly recommend the chocolate melting cake for dessert in the dining room...real delish!
Ports of Call: St John, NB Having cruised this itinerary before, I recommended the horse drawn trolley through the streets of St John. It would be great for my cruise mates, Joe and Charlotte Cognato...especially for Joe who has limited mobility. We plunked down our $35 PP for this hour-long tour (up $10 since my last visit in 2004). We booked this tour on our first sea day prior to arriving at St John's. Upon our arrival to this port, we were greeted with cold, misty and foggy weather. We took the tour and Joe had a tough time boarding the trolley as everyone rushed the trolley like a NYC rush hour subway scene. We were stuck in the back of the trolley and felt every bump as we passed over the streets of St John. We were given blankets to ward off the chill and the drizzle, which passed through the open sides of the moving vehicle. Joe took pity on the two large horses that powered our vehicle through the hilly streets. The poor animals strained at the harnesses as the trolley negotiated the many hills on the tour. If only the weather had been nicer, I would have enjoyed this tour much more. I came off the tour, damp and cold, and cursed the unseasonable weather.
Halifax, NS This city, located on the Atlantic, played an important part in history....in both World Wars, the Titanic disaster and in England's defense of its territories during the revolutionary war. I loved Halifax, when I visited it in 2000 and 2004, which were both sunny and beautiful days. The Victory arrived in port right on schedule and were greeted by Celtic pipers and a judiciary welcome read by an elderly gentlemen, who now sits in a wheelchair. Yes, we were greeted by the same terrible weather that we left in St John, the day prior. Today we added a steady rain to the mix of fog and drizzle...just to make things a bit more miserable. We had booked another trolley tour of the city, but decided to cancel this tour when we saw the rainy weather. The tickets did say no refund, but we flexed our Platinum level status at the tour desk and were given a $41 credit to each of our sail and sign accounts. I did go off the ship and did some shopping at the pier, where a nice shopping area was located...just a few steps from the ship.
To sum it up, the weather did ruin our days portside, but there is nothing you can do about the weather. I am sure my next cruise in January 2008 to the southern Caribbean will be sunny and warm...I hope!
Spa/Gym Services: I love spending my sea days either using the exercise equipment or soaking my aches and pains away in one of the two hot tubs located in the gym area aboard the Victory. I never use the optional massage services as I feel they are way overpriced. The gym provides several different types of exercise equipment that can be used by passengers free of charge. There is a separate men and women's changing room, showers, sauna and steam facilities, again all complementary. On our last sea day I was all set for a warm whirlpool session and found that the hot tubs in the gym were drained of water and were being sanitized for the next cruise. Why they picked a sea day to do this was beyond me, however they were reopened late in the day with ice-cold water in them, making them totally useless. I did comment on my comment card about this situation that really annoyed me. There were other outdoor hot tubs on the ship, but they were filled with kids making a lot of racket playing that "Marco-Polo" game. The signs did say adults only above one of the whirlpools, but Carnival did not enforce that posted regulation. I am not against kids on a cruise, but I just feel that they should have more responsible parents to ensure that the kids adhere to cruise regulations and that the cruise lines enforce their requirements.
Entertainment I did attend most of the shows aboard the Victory in the Caribbean Showroom. This is a beautiful state of the art facility, however, it fills up quickly when there is one show. The shows were as follows:
First Night: Welcome Aboard Show hosted by Malcolm Burn (Cruise Director) and the Victory Dancers. Also a comedian, Will Marfori. This show was great and the Victory Dancers provided great entertainment. The cruise director, from the Bronx, NY, was funny at times, however his "WOO-HOO" comment after everything he said began to be annoying by the end of the cruise. The comedian, Will Marfori, was a victim of cerebral palsy at birth and he uses his handicap as part of his act, which, I thought was totally tasteless. I felt bad if there were any CP patients in the room or any parents of CP patients. I refused to go to his adult only midnight show.
Second Night: A dance and song review "Living in America" by the Victory Dancers, The kids worked real hard here and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Third Night: Magic Moments starring Rand Woodbury. A great illusionist and a lot of audience participation. Don't miss this one. I also saw this act aboard another cruise ship and is well worth your attendance.
Fourth Night: "Vrooom" starring the Victory Dancers. Great show with lots of lighting effects. Songs from the 60's to Current. Don't miss this one.
Fifth Night: " Carnival Legends"...a passenger talent show. Missed this one...retired early as I was really tired and needed to fill out my cruise comment card and custom's forms for the next morning debark in NYC.
Debarkation: Carnival now offers and has been offering a carry your own luggage debark process. Just get on line at 6:45 in the atrium area and get off the ship as soon as the ship is cleared by US customs. The problem here was that many folks do not understand the process as they entered the line void of any luggage, thinking that the gang way would lead them to the luggage area, which it did not. The luggage area on the pier was only accessible from Deck 0. If Carnival personnel did not see you carrying any luggage, you were asked to leave the line and wait in your appropriate color area aboard the ship. Some people did get through and could not get their luggage, which was on the lower pier area. This caused total confusion and many passengers were extremely upset. I was pulling my small piece of luggage, but I waited with my cruise mates as they had VIP tags and we were the second group to be called once the chaos of the first group was finished.
I would not do this cruise again, not because of any on board experiences, but that three times to this area was enough for me. The cruise was nice and I enjoyed the VIP Platinum perks, especially the board and debark process. I still feel that Carnival gives you the best bang for the buck, after all I have sailed in eleven of them. No this was not my best Carnival cruise, but I would still give the Victory a passing grade, even with its food problems, lines and tons of passengers under the age of ten running about unsupervised. Will I sail Carnival again...you betcha.