Here is a fair critique of our Family Cruise. We purchased the five night cruise from Carnival's web-site back in April. We were automatically connected with one of their cruise agents. Their agent was very helpful and informative and answered all our questions over the telephone without having to use a travel agent. The cruise line telephoned us a few days prior to departure to make sure we understood what was required of us, and if we had any questions. This was the first time cruising with the whole family, My wife and two daughters (9 and 12).
Embarkation: The cruise line stated they would begin boarding @ 1pm. We arrived @ 12 and were on the ship within 15 minutes. Very smooth and quick boarding process! Went immediately to lido deck for lunch and sun. (Bring bathing suit etc. as a carry on and begin your vacation immediately.) Cabin was not ready yet and was not available to @ 3pm. Lido 9 starts to get crowded around this time so get lounge chairs upon eating. Cabin: (Room 1231) We had a cabin stateroom with a large window. My wife was taken back how large the room was for a cruise ship. The four of us stayed in one room. My two kids had the couch and pull down bed. The beds are really quite comfortable and are the best in the business. Plenty of closet and drawer space. Don't forget to utilize the space under the twin beds for luggage storage. Victory's reputation for large bathrooms was on target. The shower was great. Nice (free) amenities added for comfort. Cabin steward was very friendly and made the place spotless at least three times a day. He came and introduced himself to us and gave us a smaller life vest for our youngest daughter.
The ship pulled away from the berth at 5pm not allowing enough time for much viewing from the upper decks due to the fact our dinner seating was at 6pm. Keep this in mind if you don't live in New York or New Jersey and want to take in all the sites while cruising the Hudson River out to sea.
Dining: We chose to eat in the dining room every night for dinner. We were assigned to the Atlantic Dining room 6pm seating. Our table was not the best. We had our own table but were on the second tier obstructed from the waiter's performances every night. Staff was Excellent!!!!! Our waiter and assistant were very professional! they attended to all requests. Dinner was not rushed and enjoyable. Food choices were outstanding. We sampled just about everything and have to say we had no complaints. Feeding 3,000 people is no easy chore, the cruise line provides a very good meal under these circumstances. One couple sitting behind us was impatient because their food was not coming quick enough, and berated the poor matre d'. Matre d' came to our table every night and asked if we were satisfied.
Entertainment: I can't believe the quality of entertainment this ship had. My wife and I have been going to Off Broadway and Broadway shows for years and rate these shows on par with them. INCREDIBLE! Enough said! Lounge musicians and piano player were outstanding! Karaoke was a blast. Kids loved it. Camp Carnival: my kids utilized Camp Carnival when they saw something that captured their eye. Camp was fun when used but staff seemed like they were getting a little burnt out from all the summer kids on the ship. Service: The crew was extremely helpful and polite. Some were hard to understand with language barriers but after a couple of drinks, it did not matter. After all it's the Big Apple!
Value: I felt that this cruise is great for it's value. We has a good time even though the New England weather was not cooperating. The Food, Staff, Entertainment, and lodging alone was a good bang for the buck. Fun is a personal thing and if you couldn't have fun on this ship you have problems and should not cruise.
Debarkation: Debarkation was a snap. 3,000 people getting off a ship is not easy with only one gangway. If you follow the crews direction and attend the final nights 15 minute debarkation meeting you will have no problems. We were off the ship in 20 minutes when our floor was called. If everyone cooperates the process is very simple.
Now for the downside. Carnival knows how to really pack them in. If you do not like crowds and don't like your personal space violated this cruise is not for you. Eat early on the buffet. The longer you wait the lines get bigger. Utilize the Breakfast dining room. There are hardly no CLOCKS on the ship. Cell phone time is not correct. So you were constantly guessing what time it was. Ship crew needs to explain ship time to actual time to guests taking excursions. We wasted an hour in port figuring that one out. In room TV has only a few channels. NO Children's channel on a ship with over 400 kids on it is not a good idea when weather is not cooperating. Photography! Photos are nice and we purchased a few, but don't harass people when they are trying to eat with a Pirate or Mountie photo. They should do this before or after dinner.Hence my user name NO MORE PHOTOS!!!!!! please e-mail with any questions.