My wife of 25 years, 20 year old daughter and 14 year old son left a cold and snowy Gaylord Michigan winter night seeking a warm, exciting adventure filled Christmas vacation. We were not disappointed. The weather was excellent the ship was fun and the destinations were exciting. We arrived in Miami a few days ahead of the December 23rd sailing. We stayed at a Best Western on the Northern boundaries of South Beach. For those looking to find a place before or after a sailing do not book this hotel. The rooms are worn, dirty and noisy. The food is terrible and it is overpriced. The only thing good about this hotel is its location on the water. There are too many other hotels in the same price range that have nicer rooms and amenities. While in South Beach we took the obligatory "Duck Mobile tour". If you have never been in a duck mobile it is an amphibious duck shaped vehicle designed with the intent to give you a wacky ride through the streets of South Beach as well as a water ride around the islands and homes of many celebrities. The driver and the tour guide (wish I could remember his name) were absolutely hilarious. This is not a trip for those looking for culture, but rather a fun and historically informative trip.
We have been on several other cruises but never on the Carnival line. In fact many people had warned us not to travel with Carnival. There reasons were the alleged service issues, rowdy passenger behavior and bad food. These warnings proved to be flawed. The Victory crew was superb from embarkation to the disembarkation. I would gladly choose to travel with Carnival again if all their ships and crews are this good. They really did a great job even while working on the Christmas holiday away from home and their families. Imagine doing this while watching all us have fun. They did a Great Job!!!
Embarkation in Miami was a breeze. We arrived at 11:00AM and were on the ship by 11:45am. Unbelievable how easy it was. Our cabins were ready by 2:00PM as promised and our bags were there by 3:00PM
Dining -We originally had an 8:30 seating in the Atlantic Dining room. This proved to be too late for us so we asked to be switched. With no hesitation they switched us to the first seating (5:45) in the Pacific Dining room table 335. Our tablemates from Fairbanks Alaska and London Ontario were great conversationalists. I had a great time and looked forward to meeting them at dinner every evening. The food was excellent in the Dining room. Every meal was done just right. The lobster on formal night was my favorite. Also try the prime rib. The night I ordered it I am sure it was the best I had ever had. The chocolate melting cake for desert was good most nights. I did note as someone else mentioned the cake would be runny and gooey and some days dry like cake. Its texture could have been more consistent. My only tip for dinner is to remember that you can get as many servings of anything as you want. I had two lobster tails. I met someone who had four. All you have to do is ask for extra. The food service was excellent. We had Clyde (Philippines) as our head waiter. His service, timing was consistently perfect. He never flinched when I asked him for extra servings or something not on the menu. His assistant (cannot remember his name) is to be commended too. The drink waiter named Roman (Ukraine) was my personal favorite. His daily questions "how about a double Robert" was a favorite. In our family this phrase became sort of mantra every time someone ordered a drink.. When I had a hard time deciding what to drink Roman had great ideas too. If you don't have Roman as your dining room drink waiter he can also be found at the pool serving drinks. Once you meet him I am sure he'll keep your glass filled as often and with what you desire not to mention his sense of humor is great!! The Mediterranean - Lido dining- buffet room is another story. There is nothing special about the food here. Typical cafeteria style foods. This is the one area I think Carnival could improve on. Expect long lines during peak dining times. Breakfast was the same every day. To escape this mediocre food we utilized the open restaurant seating option for lunch and breakfast. It is offered in the Pacific dining room. The product offering was diverse, fresh, hot and well prepared here. I was also a little more comfortable eating here due to sanitary reasons. This is especially after watching how some passengers serve themselves in a buffet line. The pizza bar was good too. I am not sure it was the best I had ever had but tasty. The Memphis Bar BQ had excellent burgers freshly made. They are not open 24 hrs as the pizza station is. The lines can get long here too. They have a steak sandwich worth waiting for. There is another Sandwich station too. It is located between two pools on the Lido deck, Starboard side I believe. I tried the Ruben and quite frankly it was well worth the wait in line. In fact I tried it a couple of times. Great sandwiches!!
Knowing this was a Christmas time cruise we planned on the many families with children. What did surprise us and many others we spoke to was their behavior. This trip I noted many people let their kids run freely around the ship, unsupervised, and at all hours of the night. There were many groups of teens loudly running the halls after 1:00 Am. I even noted one night at 3:30 AM a loud group of these teens delivered their highly intoxicated friend to her parents' cabin. After getting sick in the hall the intoxicated teen's mother had a few loud moments with her daughter in the hallway for us all to hear. All this at 3:30AM.... All they had to do was go into their cabins as the cabins we were fairly soundproofed with the exception of the cabin door leading to the hall. Please note that I do not hold Carnival responsible for people's actions, some people just do not know how to act in public or supervise their children. I am concerned though as to how these underage kids could obtain alcohol and drink it to the point of inebriation without someone from Carnival taking note.. My guess is they smuggled the alcohol or were provide it by someone of legal age as I never witnessed any obvious underage children drinking in the bars the few times we did sit down for a drink. On the other side of the coin there were many children and younger people who utilized the youth programs. I overheard many positive comments concerning these facilities from both adults and children. For the most part the kids were no problem. In fact this cruise being Christmas had a special Christmas show where the children -teens from the Kids programs were allowed to take part in.
Speaking of shows we went to all but one. They were all good. I had read where some complained of the showgirl type outfits used in one show might be too revealing. I disagree as I saw more skin at the pool and beaches than the show. Carnival really makes it known that this one show has Las Vegas style outfits during one show. People are fully warned the showgirl's rear ends don't have much cloth on them during some portions of the show. My opinion is if that offends you don't go to that show. There are plenty of other things to do. The cruise director Malcolm is a hoot. He is a natural for that position. I heard some people didn't care for this little hoot he does from time to time. To be honest it didn't bother me or seem to bother most of the other guest. Make sure you catch Malcolm in the Legends show as he has a special role. The assistant cruise director from Australia is another story. She calls bingo and quite frankly has a terse approach towards entertainment. I was turned off by her sarcasm to her audience. I guess it could have been just a bad day. Needless to say I only saw here once as I chose not to return.
We had two Cabins, one with a balcony for my wife and I. The other an inside cabin across the hall for our children. I personally will never sail without a balcony. There is nothing like having a little space outside that is somewhat private. Its a place to be when pulling into port early in the morning or leaving late in the evening. Just a great amenity worth the extra cost in my opinion. The bedding is new from the last dry-dock repairs done in late October as I understand it. All I can say is it is extremely comfortable. The lighting is excellent. Storage space is adequate. Two closets for hanging clothes, and numerous drawers for folded clothing. The bathroom is good sized. One of the biggest we have seen on a cruise ship. Plenty of shower room. I weigh 190 lbs (a least before the trip) and had no problem with space. Plenty of counter space and storage in a wall "medicine cabinet" for my wife and my cosmetic goods. Our cabin steward Enrique was very efficient and made sure everything was perfect on a day to day basis. We tipped him generously. He deserved it. We had great towel service. If we left one on the floor Enrique would replace with clean dry towels. I am sure there were a couple of times we went through three sets of towels in a day. I also noted that everywhere you went morning or night there were employees cleaning the common areas. Not just spot cleaning but deep cleaning and polishing. My guess is the carpet gets worn quicker by the constant carpet washing and vacuuming than the foot traffic. It was amazing how often they clean and it shows. I have read other posts complaining about the colors used to decorate the ship and its nautical theme. Seems a little overboard to me. I guess I like the opulence of the color schemes used. Something different, not a hospital white ship for sure. If colors matter to you take a look under youtube.com and search for the Victory cruise ship. I have come across several short videos showing examples of the colors and decor. I personally have never been on a cruise ship where they are not a little overboard with colors/decor. This ship is no different.
Ports- The first port for our cruise was San Juan. It seemed like a beautiful town as we docked right in the historic district. The only problem was the time. You do not get there until 5:00PM.. A real short visit as we had to be back on board by 10:30PM... We basically walked and toured the historic fort. Shopped for jewelry. I got a great deal on a watch there. We then ate dinner and watched the people in the streets. The second port was St Thomas and my favorite!!! We read an earlier post concerning a private tour guide named Sonny Liston Tours. We took that advice and found him just outside the ship. We booked him as well as with other people for the day. The costs were less than half the cost of what a trip like this would have been if booked on the cruise ship. Without a doubt he was the most entertaining tour guide we have ever had. We basically went shopping, went to the top of the island as well as a couple of hours on a beautiful beach. The best part was his way of entertaining you as traveled. Be ready to laugh, clap and sing and be sung to as you travel. It was a day to remember!!!! Remember to get Liston Sonny (his real name) as your driver -guide as he also has a couple of other taxis with employees as drivers. I don't believe they are as entertaining as Liston aka Sonny Liston is. Last stop was St. Marteen... We docked on the Dutch side of the island. The view of this port is just awesome. We chose not go to the beach the water taxi takes you too across the bay of the shipyard. I just couldn't imagine swimming in the same area as where the ships dock but to also miss out on exploring this beautiful island would be a shame. We took a private taxi - van with a group of three people from Salt Lake City whom we met that were from another ship. We took the taxi to the French side of the island. It was 25.00 a person for an all day service. We shopped on the French side then spent four hours at Orient beach. Orient Beach is a sugar sand beach with an awesome view. We parasailed here. a great view. A bucket of beer here goes for 17.00us dollars. A bucket holds six beers a far better deal than the 5.00 a beer on the ship. Please remember this is a clothing optional beach. There are some people who choose to wear little or nothing on this beach. If this type of beach offends you then the water taxi beach on the Dutch side of the island might be better suited for you.
The other days are sea days. We chose to sun worship but there are many other venues of entertainment available for those who like to stay out of the sun. There is no way I can remember all the shipboard activities but a short list includes the Casino, Tea times, spa times, shows, bingo, art lectures, ship tours such as the galley tour. If someone wants to have fun doing an activity there is always something going on. Night life. To be honest we didn't really go to any of the bars or nightclub type activities this trip. When I walked by them they were full of people. I can say that several people told me they enjoyed the piano bar. I guess the piano player was talented and fun. I heard several people complain the Arctic Club opened too late. This is a disco type bar. It opened sometime after 10:30PM???? One thing I noticed about this ship as well as other cruise lines is the growing trend to offer restaurants that serve food for an extra cost. I refuse to utilize these services as I am concerned the next step the cruise lines might take is charging for more and more foods such as dinner. I worry cruise ships will follow the airlines and start charging for everything. Unfortunately not everyone sees it that way. There is a coffee - desert store on this ship that seemed to have a constant line of customers. One could buy premium coffees and ice cream here for an extra charge. No shortage of patrons here. Me I got my free coffee from the Lido deck restaurant and served myself soft serve ice-cream from the Taylor Soft Serve machines found on the 9th deck.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We chose to self disembark. This means roll our own luggage out the door. We were told first we would have to leave by 8:00AM as we would be the first to disembark. We later learned from the purser that we could leave as we wanted. Those who chose to have their bags delivered off the ship had to wait until their zone number was called to correspond as their bags were off loaded onto the dock and eventually the baggage carousel. After having breakfast we rolled out bags out to customs around 10:00AM. We were through customs quickly. No problems with disembarkation. Carnival really does a great job!!!! In the past we have used R. C. for our preferred cruise line. After our last trip with R.C and the poor service we received versus the great service we received from Carnival Victory I don't think there is any question that we will use Carnival again.