As a first time cruiser, I found these reviews to be extremely helpful... going back even 3 years gave me ideas on what to bring (walkie talkies, alarm clock, extra hangers); But let me state for all readers: this is a FAMILY CRUISE. There are many children on the ship. As stated in a previous post, the price of this cruise makes it very attractive to families. SO, if you're looking for peace and quiet... not on this cruise!!
After reading that we could arrive in Manhattan as early as 11 a.m., and "first come, first board", my group decided to get there at 11:30 - rather than 2 p.m. as originally suggested! It took awhile (half an hour) to get through all the documentation, but the cruise personnel were all great. We entered the ship on the "lobby" deck, and after a quick drink, grabbed a few deck plans at the information desk. (these were like bibles for the first 2 days!) Also, we purchased the almighty "soda card" (Approx. $25 for kids, $30 for adults). We found the Lido Deck, and had lunch. By 1:30, our luggage had arrived in our room, so some of us put on swim suits, some of us just got into comfortable cruise gear! The pool water was cold and salty, but hey, it's refreshing! We were prepared for the 3:30 lifeboat drill, and at 5:00, off we sailed. Once again, Cruise Critic reviews came in handy. Instead of battling it out with the minions on the Lido deck to watch as we passed Manhattan, we found the front of the ship on Deck 7, and had a few people with us enjoy the sights, especially of the VZ bridge.
We had an 8 pm dinner in the Pacific Dining Room. Before the cruise, we had a hard time deciding whether to take the 6 or 8 pm dinner, especially with children. We chose 8 pm, and had no regrets. With all the activities going on, we got back to our rooms at 6 pm, so this gave us an opportunity to shower and change without rushing. Yes, we were a little hungry at dinner time. But our waiter (from Jamaica), his assistant, (Christian.. I remembered his name!) and the "drink guy" did a great job. We had 22 members in our party, and we all sat together at 3 tables. I've read in these posts that some people did not want to switch seats for fear of confusing the waiters. Unfortunately, we had to make several switches among kids and adults; but the waiters never had a problem remembering who had received soft drinks, who liked beer/cocktails/pina coladas, and who enjoyed extra bread with their dinner. The dinner itself was great. There are many choices for appetizers and entrees. Everyone who ordered steak and prime ribs thought they were great. I had various dishes during the cruise - from steak to chicken to seafood combination (of course the lobster on the night it was available). Not one dish was bad. I've read some reviews where there were complaints. But as someone who lives in New York City, the dishes at dinner on the Victory compared very favorably with most NYC restaurants. Some of the appetizers were small... so I would have a salad AND shrimp cocktail. Several people in my party had soup and salad. The waiters would have brought us 3 appetizers if we wanted; they were so in tune with our requests. The children's menu was great, as far as the under 12 crowd was concerned. For dessert, the melting chocolate cake was great ...We tried having breakfast in the Atlantic Dining room on the first morning. Breakfast was good... it was like being at a diner.. Everything you could want was available. But my better half enjoyed ordering room service, and my children enjoyed picking their own food, so to the buffet on the Lido deck we went. We always had our choice of tables, so no problems here. The omelet station was not crowded... Lunch at the buffet was crowded, as many Cruise Critics have posted previously. BUT if you waited until after 1 pm, seating and lines got better.... I got very friendly with the cook serving Chinese food, and he always gave me extra.. (There goes the diet!) The deli on the other side of the Lido deck had excellent pastrami, corned beef and chicken salad sandwiches; Second Ave. Deli would have been proud. According to my teenager, the pizza was great. He should know, as he had 3 pies a day. (Seriously, he ate there so often, we tipped the pizza guy..) I would compare the pizza to Dominoes or Pizza Hut... not to the great Brooklyn pizza New Yorkers know about.
The shows at night were good. Most posters agree, but some commented that they were not Las Vegas quality. I sat thinking about that during one of the shows. Listen, we're not paying Vegas prices for these shows; I would compare them to what you would see in the Catskills, They were enjoyable, and that's all you can ask. One comedian started telling X rated humor during his regular show, and I didn't think that was too smart. His humor was not for children. When he came back at midnight, and did racier humor, it was great though. (especially his comments about Malcolm, the cruise director). Speaking about Malcolm, I didn't find him to be as annoying as other critics. Yes, he does his Woo-Hoo shtick, but he keeps it to a minimum. There were passengers who did it way too often when he was on stage. His talk about the excursions and debarkation were very good, with excellent details.
Excursions: We took the advice of one poster, and waited until we got off the ship in St. John to see what was available. One of our party took the horse drawn trolley, and commented that it was very crowded. After hearing that, we just walked around, and that was fine. As Malcolm had "warned" - these are not big cities.. more like Poughkeepsie (NY). In Halifax, we were greeted by some great bagpipe music... hopefully you're on the side of the ship that can witness this. Some of our party went kayaking; some took the amphibious vehicle tour. They had great comments about those 2 tours.. well worth the $$$. I took the double deck bus tour with my teenager. It's a nice tour, but not as exciting as the previous 2 mentioned! We did stop at the Maritime Museum, and learned about the Titanic. Afterwards, we had some lunch in a Chinese restaurant (I felt like I was cheating on the Chinese cook on the ship!!) Some in my party took the whale watching tour. As you can imagine, no whales were spotted. Then, when they went to see lobster catching... well.. the cages had pre-caught lobsters; The final insult - they were supposed to learn how to properly eat a lobster. They were given a "pamphlet" for that.
Some Cruise Critic [members] had negative comments about the crew. Even after 6 days, I found the crew smiling, polite and helpful. I don't know too many employees I work with who are like that after 3 hours! Most of the cruise employees work long days, but still smile after 12 hours. I found this amazing. Another item.. I went to the gym several times. They have plenty of equipment, and great showers and steam rooms. (The shower in the gym was better than the one in the room!) Also, the view .. is spectacular. The gym is in the front of the ship, so you see everything the captain sees. Also... a "big secret" - there are 2 Jacuzzis here. Since adults are the one using the gym, very few kids were in the Jacuzzis. Now if they'd move the teenage camp away from this area, NO kids would be here at all!
Activities - as mentioned before.. there's no way you can read a book on this cruise!! With all the music, the casino, the games, shopping (I found a watch $!5 cheaper than the local outlet mall!), Classes (I took kick boxing), internet (available for a fee), well.. if you're not up until 1 a.m.... something is wrong!!!