My family of six just got home from a 5-night cruise to Canada on the Carnival Victory. My children's ages are 20, 18, 14, & 11. I have also cruised Princess (a long time ago) & Royal Caribbean (4 years ago). Some things were better on RC than Carnival and vice versa as I will explain.
Embarkation: We saved money on airfare by embarking from NYC, only 3 hours from our home. We arrived at the port around 11:30 a.m. It was a bit confusing what to do with the luggage. My husband pulled the car over (like at an airport terminal) and dropped the luggage off. Since we did not have Carnival luggage tags, I needed to fill out tags for each of our bags. I recommend obtaining the tags in advance if possible to avoid this. We parked our car in the adjacent parking lot for $150 (5 nights). Very easy. The ship did not start boarding until about 12:15. There was already a long line. Before entering the ship, our passports were checked and we each received ship cards that you used for everything: payment, room keys, identification. We immediately found our rooms. Excited to check out the food, we immediately went to the Lido Deck 9 to eat. Overall, boarding went quite smoothly. Three of my children did not get their luggage until 10:00 p.m. We were starting to get a bit worried. In case that happens to anyone, go to Deck 3 near the Pursers desk to find lost luggage.
Stateroom: We stayed in 3 inside cabins on the Upper Deck on level 3. The location was perfect since it was 1 level from the thoroughfare of the ship, deck 5, 2 levels from our dining room (deck 4) and 3 from the Lido Deck (9) where the pools are as well as casual dining. I thought the cabins were roomy and larger than those on R.C. However, the decorations are rather plain. My husband and I had a king size bed with very comfortable bedding; the other 2 cabins had 2 twin size beds. Our steward was very friendly, made the room up twice a day and made towel animals each night (which the kids loved). As far as the inside room goes, I would have preferred a balcony room, but we probably saved at least a thousand bucks by getting an inside room and when you multiply that times 3 cabins...The main problem with the inside cabin is that it is soooo dark and you can't tell what time of day it is when you wake up. Make sure you bring a portable alarm clock because there are none in the room. Finally, the bathroom is equipped with many handy items, namely: a hairdryer, liquid soap and shampoo in the shower, bar of soap for the sink area, 2 small tubes of Crest toothpaste, his and her razors, and some fiber chews.
Dining: Prior to arriving on board, I received a confirmation stating the we received early seating,6:00 p.m. which I requested, but upon boarding, I found out we had late seating at 8:15. If you have late seating you also have late shows which don't begin until 10:30. We immediately went to the maitre'd to request early seating, as did about 50 other guests. Apparently, there was a huge group on board that requested early seating. Not expecting an accommodation of our request, we were pleasantly surprised the following day to find out we were switched to early seating. So if this happens to you, immediately upon boarding, go to the maitre'd on level 3 at your dining room.
The waiters were wonderful, always smiling, and the food was fabulous. Everything I ordered was perfect except the filet mignon. Mine was tough but others enjoyed theirs. My 14 year old ordered a different steak each night and enjoyed them all. I usually ordered seafood. And if you can't make up your mind like my husband, order 2 meals. At first, you feel sinfully glutinous, but by the 3rd night, we didn't care. I usually ordered 2 desserts, one of the specialties and the chocolate melting cake which is to die for. I checked to see if the recipe was in the ship's cookbook, but it isn't. Whaaa! Ask for 2 scoops of icecream with your melting cake. You'll see what I mean.
For casual dining go to the Lido Deck on 9. I was pretty impressed with this setup for lunch but not so much for breakfast. I do recommend you find omelet station - the only place here where you will find real eggs. Otherwise go to the dining room for breakfast for eggs benedict or belgian waffles, but it takes a lot longer. There is nothing you can't find during lunch on Lido deck. There are 2 main buffet lines which vary each day. The lines are the longest here. My favorite was the Taste of Nation line which offers a different food selection each day. i.e. Italian, Indian, French... There is also an Asian bar which offers different entrees each day as well as a soup. In addition, there is a grill which offers hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled chicken and frenchfries. Finally, there is a 24-hour pizza counter that offers about 6 different pizzas, also quite good. My children loved the 24 hour icecream too which is located on Lido at a couple different locations.
Comparing the food to RC, I'd say dinner on RC was a tad better, but the casual dining selections on Lido was by far superior.
Oh, I forgot, there were a couple of midnight buffets. I went to the dessert one. Here's a tip: about 20 minutes before midnight, get in the picture taking line. It just so happened, that they closed off the picture taking before we got to the front and we were 2nd in line to eat! Otherwise the line is looong.
Entertainment: My husband & I thought the shows were out of this world, and we've been to Broadway many times. The first night was my least favorite but still entertaining by the comedian. The 2nd night were the Victory dancers and singers. Third night was the magician/comedian. He was almost more comedian than magician. My kids wanted to see more magic. I thought he was quite good, but he was bordering on inappropriate for children. The 4th night was my favorite: Vrooom! with the Victory dancers and singers. It was high energy the entire time. My husband & I loved it so much we went to the late show as well. The 5th night was the Legends show. Throughout the week cruisers/crooners try out in the karaoke bar for one of the star parts. The audience votes for their favorite Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Ricky Martin, etc. and they all perform in the Legends show on the 5th night.
Shore Excursions: I will never do another Canada cruise, at least with my kids. It's just too cold and the ports were a bit boring for them. We chose not to sign up for any of the ship's astronomically high excursions. When you have a family of 6 it just gets too costly. We stopped at 2 ports, Saint John, NB and Halifax, Nova Scotia. At Saint John, we walked from the ship to the Old Country Market, basically a mall. Just outside the mall, near the water, we found a stand that sold Reversing Falls sightseeing tours. For our family of six it cost $158. If we would have booked it on board, it would have cost $360. Unfortunately, the tide was low when we went out so we did not see a reversing fall...just heard about it. A bit disappointing. We also went to the New Brunswick museum in Saint John because someone gave the kids 4 free tickets. My husband & I purchased our tickets for about $8 each. This museum was nice, but the one in Halifax is much better.
In Halifax, we chose to walk around town. Near the wharf we went to the Maritime museum which has Titanic remnants as well as many other maritime displays. My kids especially liked the Titanic section. If you're not doing a paid excursion, I'd recommend this for families with older kids. We also walked up to the Citadel, a former British fort. My older boys seemed to like this the most; they didn't want to leave. I and my daughter were less interested and I usually like historical things. Were I to do it over again, I would skip the reversing falls tour at Saint John and do the Harbour Harper tour at Halifax. This vehicle travels on land and sea to the various places of interest and costs about the same as the reversing falls tour. I also heard from some older ladies at dinner that the excursion to Peggy's Cove in Halifax was wonderful.
Activities: Daytime activities is where I'd say Carnival needs the most improvement, at least for my family type. My younger boys (11 & 14) checked out Camp Carnival but really weren't interested. They can play video games at home. Unless you are a gambler there isn't much to do during the day. The best thing they had going was the Marriage game (like the Newlywed Game). Otherwise, there were bingo, slots & blackjack tournaments, all costing more money we didn't want to throw away. They had trivia games which got boring after the first day. Other ships offer movies during the day. The victory's big movie screen is outside on Lido, which wouldn't be too bad, but they don't show movies until 9:30 at night! The weather was too cold for swimming and half the time the hottubs were closed for some reason. The RC cruise I was on offered ice skating, roller blading, rockcliming and movies all during the day. For this reason, along, I will probably never cruise on the Victory again. It seems they spent the majority of their entertainment allowance on the evening shows, which are extraordinary, but...
Overall comments concerning the ship: It was a tremendous value for the money. The Victory dancer shows alone would cost $100 each per person and are Broadway worthy. The food was amazing, especially the many offerings on the Lido Deck. The rooms were roomy as far as ship cabins go. The overall appearance of the ship was not elaborate. I've seen better, and the daytime activities were disappointing. Be mentally prepared for a cold cruise and that shouldn't bother you. I would recommend this cruise to singles and childless couples who like to gamble and hang out in bars (because there are plenty of them). Hope this was helpful.