Background - My wife and I are in our forties with two children. We have been on 13 cruises. This was our first cruise with Carnival Cruise Line. We were Carnival "snobs" and did not expect much. We booked this cruise as we wanted a short cruise with the kids over the July 4th weekend. This was the only ship departing New York with an itinerary less than five days. We decided to give it a try.
Ship - The Carnival Victory was built in 2000 and is nicely appointed. It is showing some wear on the exterior and Carnival is not as vigilant with the exterior maintenance as Royal, Cunard or Norwegian. The focal point on the promenade deck (deck 5) is the casino. It seems everyone spent their free time at the casino or at the casino bar. We do not gamble or drink much, so this was not attractive to us. Furthermore, you had to go through the casino or try and skirt around it in a clogged passage way to get from one end of the ship to the other. That was tedious, especially during portrait nights. The dining rooms were nice and airy with good lighting. Camp Carnival is huge on this ship and the kids loved it. More on that later. The pools are not heated, so the water temperature was a cool 59 degrees, which kept most people out of them for the entire cruise. The hot tubs were slightly warm, but not as hot as you'd like them. The Lido buffet was crowded during meal times, so getting there early was imperative.
Accommodation - We had an 8A category balcony stateroom. It was great!! My wife and I had a comfortable king bed. My youngest son slept on a pullout cot and my oldest slept on the pull down bed from the ceiling. The storage space was plentiful and the shower was very roomy. We really liked the room and everyone slept well.
Dining - Food was pretty good as long as you stuck with the basics. Anything fancy was bland tasting and the spa selections especially lacked flavor. The dining room staff were definitely stretched too thin!! My wait staff was very friendly and eager to please, but they had five other tables to serve, so the service was slow and food arrived cold on occasion. Carnival needs to make some changes here. Desserts and pastries were a big highlight. Especially the danishes at breakfast and the chocolate melting cake at dinner. Kudos to the pastry chefs!!
Itinerary - The only stop was St. John, NB Canada. It is a nice town and the highlights tour gave you a good flavor of the city. The best attractions are the City Market and the Reversing falls. It is only two hours long, so the kids (ages 10 and 4) enjoyed it too. Go in the morning and then you have time to go back to the ship and use the pool or walk along the waterfront and stop at the waterfront market for a little shopping.
Children's Facilities - Camp Carnival is great!! The kids loved going to the activities each day. My youngest was in the 2 to 5 age group and loved the face painting, dancing, shirt coloring, movie nights, snacks, books, late night parties, meeting Fun Ship Freddy, etc. My oldest was in the 9-11 age group and had fun playing videogames (PS2 and Wii), the water balloon wars, movies, dinner parties, late night parties, etc. The camp counselors were terrific and we loved them. It made our vacation, and the kids' vacation, most enjoyable.
Embarkation/Debarkation - The easiest and most efficient process from New York we have ever had. On the ship within 45 minutes of arrival and off the ship at the designated time. Kudos to Carnival!! Overall - It was a very enjoyable short cruise and I would go on Carnival again with the kids. On our own, my wife and I would want something a little more elegant and more diverse in adult activities.