Embarkation The CARNIVAL VICTORY was sailing from the Passenger Ship Terminal on the west side of Manhattan. This is the traditional cruise ship terminal in New York and can be accessed easily by car or taxi. However, on days when there are more than one ship at the terminal, the traffic can be backed up for blocks. Fortunately, the VICTORY was there by herself on the day I sailed.
Because it was a short cruise, I was able to pack everything into one bag. This enabled me to carry (or more accurately, roll) my bag onto the ship, which appeared to be encouraged in Carnival’s materials. The advantages of carrying your own bag are (1) you know it will not get lost and (2) you have all your things as soon as you step onboard. Most people, however, appeared to check their bags with the porters waiting at the entrance to the pier. Stewards seemed to be delivering bags to staterooms even after the ship had sailed.
The embarkation process went smoothly and followed the usual pattern of going through security and then waiting for a representative to process the ticket and give you a plastic card/key.
The Ship The CARNIVAL VICTORY is a very large ship of 101,000 gross tons. On this particular voyage, she was carrying approximately 3,000 passengers, which meant that a fair number of her upper berths were being employed as her lower berth capacity is 2,700. Even though there were so many people, the ship did not feel crowded. Certainly, there were times and places where you might run into a crowd but there were places to be alone and many of the activities involved less than 20 people. The ship was built at the Fincantieri shipyards in Italy, which builds many ships for Carnival and its affiliates. Inside the décor was not over the top. Rather, it was like a modern hotel, albeit more Hilton than Four Seasons. The casino, of course, had a Las Vegas atmosphere but the Ionian Bar was rather conservatively done and looked like a gentlemen’s club. In general, the decoration was pleasant but not memorable.
Along the same lines, the passenger accommodations were nice but not luxurious. The bed was quite comfortable and there was a large television with a fair selection of movies and other stations. The bathroom was fairly large by cruise ship standards although very little of the space was devoted to the shower. There was a useful basket of samples including razors, toothpaste, moisturizers and even a novel.
VICTORY entered service in August 2000 and has gone in for refits every two or three years since. As a result, the ship did not look heavily used.
The Passengers. Carnival’s ticket prices are set so that most middle class people can afford them. As a result, one sees a wide cross section of the population rather than a passenger complement skewed towards professionals as on the higher-priced lines. Moreover, because the prices are set at an affordable level, there are numerous families with children and family reunions onboard. The lower price and the short four day itinerary also attract a younger crowd than one finds on most cruise ships.
The Staff. Everyone of the staff that I met was very friendly and seemed interested in making sure that one had a good time on the ship. The people at the Purser’s desk were cooperative and helpful. The cruise staff was friendly and contributed to making the activities entertaining. During the sea days, the waiters were organized to sing and/or dance after dinner. Here, there was a mixed level of enthusiasm - - some really got into it while others disappeared into the galley.
The Atmosphere. This ship is very informal. During the day, people essentially wear whatever they like, often shorts and tee-shirts. In the evening, the dress code moves up a notch but not as far as jacket and tie. Polo shirts and shirts with a collar for men and casual dresses or pants for women are most common. In fact, on the formal night, the only people wearing formal gear were the officers and senior staff and one fellow who apparently did not get the memo. There were a considerable number of jackets and ties and cocktail dresses but no tuxedoes or formal gowns.
Entertainment and Activities. Carnival promotes itself as the “Fun ships” and the staff makes a considerable effort to establish a light-hearted atmosphere. However, no one chases you around trying to embarrass you into participating in the various events. You can do what you like. Some events, such as the Hairy Chest competition, may seem a little on the crude side. But, there is also a very nice afternoon tea complete with a classical music string trio. In other words, there is a spectrum of things to do appealing to different tastes.
The production shows in the theater were very good and were built upon rock selections rather than standards from the 1930s and 1940s. This is a recognition that today’s adults - - even those at retirement age - - were brought up on rock. There were also performances by two comedians. Both gave “R-rated” midnight performances in addition to their evening performances. The announcements warned that these late shows were “not for those who are easily offended.” Not surprisingly, the midnight shows attracted large audiences who came in hopes of being offended. The Food The chefs on the VICTORY did very well with mass market foods. The hamburgers were excellent and could be ordered with a variety of toppings so that one could indulge ones burger fantasies. This was true for burgers in the dining room as well as the Mississippi Barbeque Hamburger stand. Along the same lines, the pizza, available around the clock, was quite good, fresh and almost addictive.
Going beyond mass market foods, the cuisine was uneven. I had a very good salmon fillet but the person next to me rejected hers. For the most part, the dishes at the main meals ranged from acceptable to good. There was always a variety of choices and one could order more than one dish. Thus, on the night with lobster tail, one could also order the steak to create a Surf and Turf combination. However, the meals apparently are produced in the galley as a unit and the waiters cannot take the entrée from one dish and add it to another. As a result, in the Surf and Turf example above, one could order the lobster and the steak but they arrived at the table on two separate plates complete with the vegetables that accompany each. It was up to the passenger to put it together.
On one night during the cruise, there is a grand buffet, complete with ice sculptures and displays of the chefs’ most ambitious creations. There is a preview, which is very well-attended, before the horde descends upon these creations.
Itinerary This was a “four-day” cruise to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada from New York. In counting the number of days, it is standard practice to include the embarkation day. In this case, it was probably justified as several of the ship’s facilities were open and operating as soon as passengers walked aboard, although not the casino or the shops. The voyage down the Hudson River and out of New York harbor is spectacular. Afterwards, the ship was in full swing. The first full day is a sea day. During the summer, it can be foggy on this route and it was so on this voyage. However, there were numerous activities going on inside the ship to entertain the passengers. In the evening was the captain’s reception and the first of the production shows. The next day, the ship arrived in St. John and by midday the fog had burnt off. Most people abandoned the floating resort in favor of going ashore. While most people seemed to have had a pleasant time ashore, several commented that there is not all that much to see there. The final day was another sea day. By this time, the weather was much improved and one could see whales and dolphins from the open deck, which was well-populated with sun worshipers. As on the first day, there was an array of activities including trivia contests and the Beanbag Toss Championship - - a contest that involves an unexpected amount of skill and talent, my success at which I owe to a rigorous fitness regime. Often on the last day of a cruise, nothing much happens on the last night. However, on the VICTORY, the last night was as active as any of the previous nights. There was a full production show and a midnight comic performance. As the cruise director said during one of his announcements, “You can sleep when you go home.”
Conclusion. The CARNIVAL VICTORY produced a good, light-hearted experience. My photos and my profile of the ship are posted at http://www.beyondships.com/CARNIVALVICTORY.html