This was my first cruise, therefore I have nothing similar to make comparisons. What you will read are my perceptions of my experiences. I am in my late 40's and work in the Customer Service field and understand what needs to be met, as far as "customer satisfaction". There is one word that describes this entire cruise, INCREDIBLE.
First, allow my to start with the embarkation. I would highly recommend self embarkation. We arrived prior to noon time, were seated for about a half hour and then they began to board us in a very organized manner. They were using a new software (boarding agents) and while the flow was smooth, it will most likely get better in the near future. In short, we were in our rooms by 1pm.
Now let's talk about the food services. Yes, the buffet lines might be long at times, but that was never a significant problem. I found the selections at all meals, including the buffet, to be more than adequate. I would recommend the 1st seating for the evening meal, and the Pacific Dining Room. The Head Food Server, Garry, and his crew, were polite, punctual and entertaining. I made it a habit to always choose foods that I would not normally be eating at home. Each meal was a delicious treat. The desserts out out of this world too, AND, most importantly, the portion size was perfect! Breakfast and lunch was spent on the Lido deck, and as I mentioned before, I never encountered any significant problems (certainly not worth any negative commentary).
Stateroom service goes beyond expectation. The Steward introduced himself within an hour of arrival. Everytime the room was empty, ie, went for a meal, it was miraculously tidied by the time I returned from my activity. I was totally "blown away" by this service. The towel animals were a cute way to top off their housekeeping expertise. If you are someone who likes to just stay in the room, then, it might become annoying. Therefore, do yourself a favor and get out and enjoy the multitude of onboard activities!
That's the next area to address. There is something for everyone. Being an early riser, I was able to enjoy walking the ships outside decks quite peacefully. The mid section of the ship tends to attract more people, and if you are seeking excitement, that's the place to be. It can be a challenge to find more quiet places, but if you put your mind and feet to work, you will find them. By the way, I would also recommend a balcony room, if affordable. You can always retire to your own room and balcony if you are in need of some solitude. One other tip, try to get a room toward the back end of the ship (the 7th floor/Empress was the best spot)
I took in the main show (with the Victory Dancers) two nights, and while it might not be Broadway or Vegas, the entertainers were, in my opinion, excellent. All other entertainment venues are well worth experiencing, if only for 15 minutes. One of the most impressive functions during the evening was Karaoke with Marcie. It is MUCH more then you could ever imagine. I normally go to bed by 9pm, but on this cruise, it was usually after 11pm. If you are a "night person" you will have no problems finding the"fun" on the ship! One other note, Malcolm is quite the entertaining Cruise Director, and if you miss any of his daytime activities, you can usually catch it on the ship's TV system (as well as checking on your spending, the dinner menu, Captain's Log, etc...there are a few other stations to keep you up to date with the news).Read your daily schedule, which is provided the night before.
St John NB is a quaint and small city. If you decide to take one of the shore excursions, take a look at the Photography one (for 3 hours)(you can choose either the am or pm excursion). We got great tips from a local St John photographer and the chance to check out some of the local sights. In the afternoon, you can go back to the City Market which connects to the Mall and shop. While the weather became very cloudy and foggy in the afternoon, it never rained (maybe a little mist).
Both days @ sea were refreshing. If you want to get some sun, I would recommend going out around 10 or 11 am. I know that's early for some, but you won't have any trouble finding a chair. Again, if you want a more "less noisy" spot, head to the back part of the ship. If you like to work out, go early, if not, then try during normal meal times, might not be that busy at those times. I never had any problems, as I went early in the morning. Also, I would recommend a visit to the spa, well worth the investment. My sister and I had the Ladie's Night Special and it was extremely stress relieving and refreshing.
On the last full day at sea, if you are interested in seeing either dolphins or whales, it is not impossible, but you will need to have some patience too. Getting off (Debarkation) the ship this morning was a breeze. Once again, I would recommend self debarkation. There were a few "pushy" people, but that is to be expected anywhere you go. The Victory staff were efficient and courteous at ALL TIMES. I would rate this staff with a A+, hands down. How they do it was absolutely amazing to me.
Again, this was all my personal opinion. Sounds too good to be true, but it was worth every dollar spent! The Carnival management should be extremely proud of the Victory's staff. Will I go again??? You bet!!!