This was our third Canada cruise on Carnival Victory - three years ago this was our first cruise (just to see if we'd enjoy cruising) and we were hooked. We're a family of five - mom and dad late 40's and sons 16, 11 and 7. We had a great time; no, the weather did not cooperate completely, but you can't have everything. We live about 2 hours north of NYC, so this is an easy cruise for us. Earlier this year we sailed an 8-day cruise out of FLL on Liberty; the Canada cruises on Victory are a nice getaway for us, with no flying or hotels required. I'm going to do a day-by-day review, followed by my thoughts on the different aspects of the overall cruise. Hopefully I'll be able to post some photos in the next few days as well.
We arrived at the terminal around 11:15 and were having lunch (and a Funship Special) on Lido deck by 12:30. Parking was no problem, and the lines in the terminal were long but they moved. Our cabins were ready at 1:30 - balcony cabin 8364 and inside cabin 8366 right across the hall. (When one son asked about why we didn't get them a balcony cabin too, I replied that when they have the money to pay for a cruise, they can have the cabin of their choice. Until then, they're in an inside.) We met our CC roll call friends at 3:00 by the aft pool - hi to duchess, mom23boys, sorcamc and carma3. It was nice to meet all of you. Lifeboat drill was at 4:30 and we actually sailed a few minutes early. What a beautiful sailaway! The weather was great and there were lots of boats in the harbor. We stayed on deck until we sailed under the Verazzano, then went to dinner. We had 6:15 dinner in the Atlantic dining room, just as we requested. After dinner, DH went to bed (he has a bad leg and was just too tired), while I registered the kids for Camp Carnival, then visited the Irish Seas Bar and went to the Welcome Aboard Show.
8/12/07: Day at Sea. This was a great day, weather-wise, after reading all the reports of bad weather. It was sunny and warm, and Victory's Lido deck looked more like a Caribbean cruise than a Canada cruise. All the deck chairs were taken (a first for me on this itinerary), the slide was open, and there were lots of fun deck games. The pools were cold (64.4 degrees), but the hot tubs were full. I noticed a sense of relief among the crew; as CD Malcolm explained, the three previous cruises had very poor weather and everyone was very excited to have such nice weather. Dinner this night was formal. I would describe dress as 5% very formal, 5% very casual, and 90% just fine for formal night - jackets and ties for men, nice dresses for ladies.
8/13/07: Saint John. In contrast to the previous day, our day in Saint John was cloudy and cool with occasional showers. No fog, though! We decided to walk the Harbour Passage, which runs along the waterfront to the main bridge. You can walk over to the Reversing Rapids, but given DH's bum leg we decided to skip that portion of the walk and go back into town. We walked up to the City Market, which is a fascinating market with food, crafts, and souvenirs. Our main goal was a bag of Canada wintergreen mints; oldest son fell in love with those the first time we visited Saint John, and the version we can get in our supermarket is but a pale imitation. Yes, we did find the mints! Yes, they're gone now! Yes, he'll have to make do with the supermarket version now! We then went to Grannan's at Market Square for lunch, then back to the ship. Oldest son found a knit winter hat in the market next to the pier - he spent most nights of the rest of the cruise proudly wearing it. After we sailed, the fog rolled in. And it stayed....
8/14/07: Halifax. We didn't know we were docking until we felt the thrusters kick in a little before 9 - then we walked over to the port side and saw that we were at the pier. Up until then, the fog was so thick we might as well have been out in the ocean, for all we knew. We hired Jonathan Duru from Your Cab to take us to Peggy's Cove. He gave us a great tour - roads off the beaten path. He hoped to show us some harbor seals, but it was just too foggy. We spent about 45 minutes at Peggy's Cove, then returned to Halifax along a different route. Jonathan dropped us off downtown, where the Busker's Festival was going on. Buskers are street performers; we saw musicians, jugglers, magicians, comedians, etc. And by midday, the fog did clear. We went to Stayner's Wharf for lunch (Keith's Ale on tap!) then enjoyed the entertainment, did some shopping, and were back aboard. Then the fog rolled in again - it cleared sometime overnight.
This was our third trip to Halifax - the first two times, we did a lot of walking downtown, visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, walked up to the Citadel, took harbor tours, etc. This was something a bit different, and I'm glad we tried it.
8/15/07: Last day at sea. This sea day was windier and a bit colder than the first, but there were lots of deck activities going on. We tried the miniature golf on deck 12; golf was very popular on both sea days. I found it very amusing to try to play golf on a moving ship in the wind; the ball had a mind of its own. I gave up keeping score. Aside from that, we played cards, did some reading, and packed up.
8/16/07: Debarkation. I had every intention of getting up early to arrive in NY Harbor, but only partially met those intentions. I did wake up in time to go under the bridge (around 5:30), but when I saw it was still pretty dark I figured I'd get lousy pictures and decided to go back to bed. We finally docked around 7:00. Victory has gone to the zone debarkation you may have read in reviews of other ships; first they do self-assist, then they debark by zones listed on luggage tags they give you the day before. Zones 1-5 are reserved for VIP and foreign nationals' debarkation; we were Zone 15, and were off the ship around 9:30. (We don't do self-assist; generally we're not in a hurry.) This was the easiest debarkation in NYC of the four we've done to date - the porter was able to bring our bags right up to the parking area, instead of having me and kids wait at the curb with the luggage while DH brings the car around. Even with a dead car battery (the dock maintenance staff gave us a jump), we were home by 12:30.
Cabins: We had great cabin stewards, Hong and Bei. Hong especially was great; he noticed a maintenance problem with the Pullman in our sons' cabin and had a repair person there within an hour. He always took time to talk with us and kept our cabins immaculate. Our cabins were Verandah deck, port side aft; we could hear people walking on the Lido deck at night, but we really didn't have any other noise issues with the cabins.
Food: As noted above, was had table 123 in the Atlantic dining room for 6:15, which is what we requested. Our wait staff was Agusto and Kristian, and they were great. Agusto liked showing our youngest son some magic tricks; he was still doing them this afternoon. He also saw youngest trying some of our lobster, and brought him his own plate (after he ordered something else). No complaints about our food at all. Jean-Pierre was our maitre'd; he was very entertaining and took the time to go around the dining room and talk to guests. (Someone we met commented that the maitre'd in the Pacific dining room was next to invisible.) We did both breakfast and lunch at the Lido buffet, and they were fine. There were lines at times, but nothing I thought was out of the ordinary for a buffet. I never waited long for food.
Staff: The CD was Malcolm Burn. We sailed with Malcolm two years ago when he was the assistant CD on Conquest, and it's nice to see him with his own ship. He was funny and not terribly intrusive with announcements. His signature line is "Woo Hoo"; I think some people may have tired of it, but there were enough folks going around saying "Woo Hoo!" that I think it rubbed off. Malcolm's assistants were a lot of fun with the games.
Activities: There were lots of activities going on; I did bring home my Capers and will try to get them scanned (I'm having some computer issues currently). Lots of bingo games, trivia games, hairy-chest, ice carving, newly-wed/not-so-newly-wed, etc. We also went to tea the first sea day (it was very popular and they didn't have nearly enough servers for the event) and did the galley tour the last sea day. (Open to everyone.) There were also a couple of groups that booked this cruise and performed during the cruise - a band and a dance troupe. They got their own listing in the Capers with a "not affiliated with Carnival" note. We didn't go to the shows; we've seen "Vrooom" and "Living in America" twice, so we figured we wouldn't take up space in the lounge. I just wish there were more options for people not attending the shows - most of the musical venues were closed during the show.
Music: The Lido band was "Tropical Fire," and they were very good. Maybe calypso music sounds funny on a Canada cruise, but it worked well on our cruise (would you rather listen to a bagpipe?) "Simple Friends" was the casino bar; I agree with Dance4fun's earlier review that this band was completely misplaced. They were a good dance band, but no one could dance in this venue. Peter Kraft was in the piano bar; he was pretty good and had a good following, but what is it with piano players who need to play"New York State of Mind?" Back in February on Liberty, we spent two hours in the piano bar and heard it twice. This past Tuesday, we showed up in the Irish Seas and it was one of the first numbers Peter performed. On vacation, I'm really not in a New York state of mind.... There was a good jazz trio in the Ionian Lounge, which was our favorite lounge. I'm not a smoker, but DH likes a cigar and this was a great venue - they were a good group. Sorry, no reviews of the disco or the acoustic player. Marcie was the karaoke hostess; we're not into karaoke, but our oldest son and some of his Club O2 friends showed up for karaoke one night wearing their bathrobes. Marcie didn't miss a beat; she called all of them up to do a rendition of "Splish Splash." I'd like to have a recording....
Kids' Activities: Camp Carnival was great for both our 7 YO and 11 YO, even if the "Hunt for Funship Freddy" didn't result in a Freddy sighting (I assume there was a miscommunication on Freddy's part). Our youngest came home with a number of art projects that he really enjoyed making, and the counselors for both groups were very good.
Again, with our oldest son, he decided to have a separate vacation; we saw him on shore and for dinner. The last night the Club O2 kids decided to pull an all-nighter; Dan almost made it, but decided to take a nap from 3 to 5 a.m. I think we're lucky he managed to make it off the boat this morning.