First, we discovered that cruising Carnival Lines means spending huge blocks of time standing in Carnival lines. To be fair, you really only stand in line: (a) to get on the ship; (b) to get off the ship; (c) to get something to eat outside the dining room; (d) to enter the photo gallery; (e) to buy anything at the shops and (f) anyplace else that isn't your cabin, the casino or one of the lounges after the shows. On the other hand, once you stand in 4 different lines just to get aboard the shock wears off. After that, standing in just one line (no matter how huge) is somewhat of a relief. Good psychology there Carnival. Whack 'em early then back off.
Of course, long lines on a 3,000+ passenger ship is hardly unique to Carnival. What makes Funship lines so especially entertaining is the traffic patterns apparently designed by the Gomez Addams School of Railroading. The truly demented concept of running as many opposing lines as possible straight at each other must have been intended to teach us all some lesson but I have no idea what it might be. I do know that a relatively simple task like leaving the ship in St. John resembled a human demolition derby with only one gangplank available whether you were getting on, getting off or going sideways (which some people seemed determined to do). Carnival has created a mathematical paradox by having extremely regimented linear motion approach it's opposite state--- total chaos. Einstein would be proud.
Anyway, onto the ship and up to quarters. We were in balcony cabin 7351 on Empress Deck aft and the cabin and location were just about perfect. The stateroom itself felt a bit tight but the balcony felt larger than Princess and the bathroom was positively palatial by comparison. You could even change your mind about your intended purpose without coming back out. As for the dreaded sewage smell, it was only present once and very slight. It really didn't bother us and one couple from Mississippi said it made them a little homesick.
There's plenty of stowage, a brand new TV (that mostly just gets the ship's internal system, CD Malcom and very little else) and two large closets. What there isn't is a refrigerator or any way to order bottled alcohol and setups for use during the cruise. Next time we'll do the honorable thing and smuggle our cabin liquor aboard like veterans. Despite these small setbacks, the cabin is really comfortable and housekeeping staff are either magicians or elves since the room was always clean and we rarely saw them even in the halls. Personally, I enjoyed talking to our cabin steward Marius last year, so a bit more contact with whoever we had this year would have been preferable, but that's very subjective. In any event, he did a great job and went away well tipped.
We also enjoyed the uniquely American warning labels of the "Sleeping Pills may cause Drowsiness" variety scattered around the cabin and ship. There's definitely a reason the American legal system dazzles the rest of the world with our determination to prove that there are no idiots in the world, only people not sufficiently warned of the incredibly obvious. Honestly, most people I know are aware that scalding water may be hot.
As for location, the aft elevators/stairs took us two decks up to the Siren's Pool area and all the way down the Pacific DR for dinner. Since we rarely hit the rack before 3:00 AM and since the midrats on Victory are superior (pizza, burgers, hot dogs and ice cream, all very good) and all the 24 hour services are at Siren's, this is convenience itself to wife & me. Finally, two short flights below are the Casino (where my wife lived for the week) and the Adriatic Lounge (where a former bandmate and I lived with our newest favorite crew member, Marcie the Karaoke lady). I'll grant others that the Victory deck plan takes some getting used to and we ran into the occasional wall. However, the 12 and 10 year olds traveling with us had it scoped out in less than 24 hours and if the ship had done a Poseidon, they would have gotten us out.
Sea conditions were pretty calm on the way north. I get sick on a Ferris Wheel so the fact that I didn't use any scopolamine on the northward leg is testimony to something or other. Of course, once we hit Montauk there really wasn't any reason to look past our railing since whatever was out there wasn't visible and we knew there was a bow to the ship only because that's where they keep the foghorn. For all I knew we never got more than 50' off shore and until we hit port in St. John we could have been sailing in circles off the coast of New Jersey.
In St. John we payed a cab driver $45.00US per hour plus tip to take us around and point our the places we would have seen IF we could have seen them. I know it sounds like we got taken, but Taxi Tom was friendly and it was worth the money to give us the laugh and stick him with a story about tourists so stupid that nobody's ever gonna believe him. Even the famed Reversing Falls were in neutral during our visit and there wasn't a restaurant we could find that had both lobster AND a table for eight at the same time. SOOOO wives go back to shopping and men take kids back to the ship two hours early.
Getting back aboard was one of those nightmarish experiences that only Stephen King or a cruise ship can dream up. Aside from the standard one lane/two way traffic with 3000 people and assorted wheelchairs and walkers, the staff at the metal detectors just kind of tossed all the shopping bags through at once. They came out in no particular order and since there are only two places that everyone shopped, ALL the bags looked the same. Also, half of them are held by husbands who have NO IDEA what their wives bought. This makes for a truly strange and desperate version of Secret Santa, keeps the line from moving at all efficiently, scares a lot of men to death and leads to some hellacious fights back in the cabins. The military has a term for this that starts with "cluster" and I've rarely seen a more apt idiomatic definition.
The evening means Arcade for the kids, Bingo and Casino for the wife and karaoke with Marci for the rest of us. Once the Adriatic crowd figured out that Simon and Paula weren't there scouting things got nicely relaxed and a lot of fun was had by all. About the only downside (which is true pretty much all over the ship) is that the drink waiters are more persistent than gnats at a barbecue. Plus I think there are more of them.
Next morning is Halifax. The bad news is the fog came with us and we didn't think it was worth the money just to let Taxi Tom corroborate his St. John story. The good news is there is a serious lot to do on the waterfront AND if that wasn't enough, the tall ships were in. As a result we never got more than fifty feet inland and had a great time anyway. Halifax is definitely a "return to" city for us if we can just figure out what day is summer. We enjoyed Halifax so much that we found a new strategy for boarding the ship — don't get on until they are pulling the brow up behind you. If you've got nerve enough to play chicken this way, the lines are not bad at all.
Heading southbound, Neptune decided to show his sense of humor. Thankfully, I remembered my seagoing terms for LEEWARD ( the side to throw up on) and WINDWARD ( the side not to). Thank you P. J. O'Rourke for those. Anyway, all that scopolamine we didn't use on the trip north got used on the trip back but only by the supersensitive people. The normal people did just fine and my wife never came out of Casino so it didn't matter to her at all.
Last night out was the LEGEND'S show which was the only one we saw. While the artistic merits may have been questioned by some (except for the last guy who was dead on) the fun of the show is absolutely worth the occasional "cat on a blackboard" vocals and amateur dancing resembling grand mal seizures.
Next morning I'm up at 4:15 AM to watch the approach from Long Island all the way in. Took many pictures NONE of which come out but they're digital so the only cost is my ego and who cares about that.
Debarkation is the first time Carnival gets it right. Sit in the cabin until they call yellow then walk right off the ship, pick up the bags and dive into the typical New York mob scene of everybody going everywhere at once. I didn't care, I was just glad there wasn't a line. Our friends doing self serve were off and gone by 7:00 AM. The rest of us were ashore waiting for the limo by 10:30. Really easy.
We enjoyed this trip (but then we aren't totally right when we travel) and the minor annoyances were mostly just that, minor. There are things Victory does really well but other things not so much.
To the good are great overnight rations, specialty food outlets (BBQ , Deli and Chinese), genuinely friendly entertainment staff (see: Marcie in the Adriatic Lounge), and extremely competent, if somewhat distant, housekeeping staff (I KNOW some people prefer that). To the downside are crazy long lines everywhere and aggressively demented traffic flows; food and service in the dining room which is just meh (I can't comment on the Lido buffet since we could never get to it) and pools with approximately 3 square inches per person. I didn't have any real problem with kids but if you are honestly expecting to get wet with just adults you might try standing in your shower with a really close friend (or not getting caught if the friendship is more recent).
In summary, I think we would do this itinerary again just without the continuous fog, for which I would blame Carnival if I wasn't absolutely positive someone else will. However I think Victory, while generally OK and certainly very green, is just too many people on not enough ship. Perhaps another Carnival class would better suit us but the general consensus of six adults was that, on balance of all good and bad, Sun Princess was just better (except for Marcie and the overnight food).