We were on the Carnival Victory 5-day cruise to Canada that departed from New York on Saturday, August 9, 2008. We drove into NYC and arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:40 AM. We dropped off our checked baggage at the bag drop off, then drove up to the parking on the top level of the pier. Embarkation went very fast. We were on the ship in about 20 minutes. We received our sign and sail cards, which acted as a charge card and a room key. They said that we would be allowed in our rooms at 1:30 PM, so we took all of our carry on luggage with us and went to the buffet for lunch. This was our first time on a cruise ship and it was amazing. We found our way to the Lido deck and on the way to the buffet, we passed the sign up table for beverage (soda) cards. We purchased our cards, I think the adult card was around $34 and the kids card was $25 each. If you drink a lot of soda, I'd recommend purchasing this card. I think the card paid for itself in less than 2 days. We found a seat in the buffet right next to the window. The food here was great. We relaxed here for awhile since we couldn't access our room until 1:30 PM. Just before 1:30, we went up to our deck (Verandah Deck 8). We waited by the elevators for awhile, and the doors were opened around 1:32 PM.
Our room was very convenient, right near the forward elevator on the port (left) side of the ship. When we entered the room, I was surprised at how big it was. I expected something much smaller. The room contained our bed, plus a sofa and for my daughter, a pull down berth. The bathroom had plenty of room in it, with a cute shower stall. The room itself had lots of storage space. We had checked 5 bags of luggage, and there was enough room in all the closets to store the suitcases, plus our backpacks and small bags. These rooms were definitely designed for functionality. Our room had a balcony which contained 2 deck chairs and a small table. We unpacked our bags, stored everything in the closets, drawers, and other cabinets. As we were unpacking, our room steward came in and introduced himself and explained everything. I can't remember his name, possibly Antonio, but he was very thorough and said if we needed anything to call him. He came into our room a few times a day and replaced used towels, turned down the beds at night (and left mints). He was also very good at making towel animals, which we found on our bed each evening.
DINING ROOM: When we originally booked the cruise, we requested the early 6:15 pm dinner seating. When we got on our ship, we found that we were assigned to the 8:15 PM dinner in the lower Pacific dining room. They said if we talk to the Maitre 'd, we might be able to change this, but then we decided to stay with the 8:15 dinner so as not to be so rushed. The Pacific Dining Room is at the back of the ship, and our rooms were closer to the front. However, this was great because the long walk gave us some much needed exercise. We ate our dinner in the dining room every night. Our waiter team consisted of Francisco and Villya. They both provided exceptional service. The dining room food was amazing. The best dinner was probably the Flat Iron Steak (which I had on 2 different nights). All of the meals were delicious and well prepared. The desserts were amazing also. My favorite hear was the Warm Melting Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream. After ordering sodas to drink on the first night in the dining room, we arrived at our table (#410) every successive night to find our sodas already waiting for us. Francisco always kept our water glasses filled and Villya always gave us a choice of which hot roll/bread piece we wanted from the bread basket. Our dining room experience was definitely beyond what we expected. And one more thing about the dining room. Our table was a 4 person booth that we were assigned to. I liked this privacy rather than having a huge table filled with 10 or 12 strangers. The dining room dress code was casual, except for Sunday night, which was formal night.
SHIP: The Carnival Victory is a stunning ship. I was very impressed with the multi-story atrium. The blue/green color design was very relaxing. We explored the ship between 2:00 and our departure time of 5:00 PM. This gave us plenty of time to learn our way around and find out where everything was. When we booked the cruise, I picked out the cabin from those available. I was happy with my choice of cabin, being right near the forward elevators (easy to find) and on the Verandah deck.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We didn't take any shore excursions at St. John. We got off the boat and walked around the area ourselves. For Halifax, we signed up for the Peggy's Cove and Double-Decker Hop On/Hop Off bus. The Peggy's Cove part was exceptional. Our tour guide, Bob, was extremely knowledgeable and kept us well entertained on the way to and from the cove. We learned a lot of local history and other facts about the area. I would definitely recommend Peggy's Cove. The second part of our shore excursion was the Double Decker Hop On/Hop Off bus. This was basically a tour where you would take the double decker bus around the city through either the waterfront route or the town route. When we "hopped off" at one stop, they said we could catch the next bus and continue on. Busses come by every 10-15 minutes. Well, we waited for about 20-25 minutes at one stop and not a single bus came by. We ended up walking about 5-6 blocks (and they were long blocks) to another bus stop on the route. We waited here for almost 30 minutes and again not a single bus came by. My daughter wanted to see the Maritime Museum, so we ended up walking another 4 blocks to the museum. I was tired by the time we got to the museum and ended up sitting more than looking at everything. After the museum, which was very interesting, we went outside to the Double Decker bus hop on/hop off pickup site. Again, no bus for over 25 minutes. We weren't alone here. There must have been over 20-25 people waiting for the bus here. Finally, a regular large bus came by to pick us up, the tour guide getting a lot of complaints from everyone waiting). This bus took us back to the pier and we reboarded the ship. I later went to the Shore Excursion desk on the ship and complained about the lack of the Hop On/Hop Off busses. The Carnival employee wrote everything down and said he would email the tour company and find out about it. I didn't expect anything would come of it, but the next day I received an envelope in our room. It contained a letter of the Shore Excursion Manager apologizing and they credited me back a portion of the tour cost. I didn't expect this, and was very pleased with how Carnival handled the situation.
CAMP CARNIVAL: My husband took my daughter to the orientation session about Camp Carnival. She was in the Circle C group. They did have several activities,but she choose not to participate in most of them. The one bad thing was that some times unsupervised kids would be running around the ship. I don't blame Carnival for this, I think it's up to the parents to make sure their kids behave properly. I rarely had any trouble, but a few times kids were having races up the stairs or would jump in the elevators and hit all the buttons.
ACTIVITIES: The first day or so we didn't do any of the activities. Later on we went to the 10:30 PM shows in the Caribbean Lounge. I played some bingo (but didn't win), went to the Tea Party and we did a few other activities. Our Cruise Director was Malcolm Burn, and I think he did a fantastic job. His DeBarkation Briefing was very good and he made would could have been a very dry and boring talk into a comedy show, while still emphasizing the important points that the passengers needed to know.
OTHER: Other than that, I played the slot machines a few times, but didn't win big. Bought some souvenirs in the shops on board the ship. Ship photographers were everywhere and took pictures at dinner and when getting off the ship. We didn't plan on buying any of these, but the quality of the pictures were great and we ended up purchasing several.
DEBARKATION: After the debarkation briefing, we decided on leaving 3 of our bags outside our room for them to take off the ship. We would carry off the other bags ourselves. This was a good choice, because lots of people ended up carrying their big down the stairs because the elevators were packed. We waited in our room until later, than took our carryons down the the ramp into the pier. We found our bags and waited on the long line for customs. Although the line was long, it kept moving. We cleared customs and walked outside. Not being familiar with the piers, our car was parked at Pier 92 (departure pier) and the ship arrived back in at Pier 88. We walked the short distance pulling and carrying all of our luggage. We couldn't get the Pier 92 freight elevator to get us up to the parking deck. A man came over (I'm guessing he worked there) and told us we'd have to take the escalator up. No way was I going to be able to get all of our bags on the narrow escalator (we were hot and tired already), so this guy picks up and carries two of our suitcases up the escalator for us. THANK YOU to whoever you are !! What we didn't realize and should have done was for one person to get the car and the others to stay with the suitcases at the pier that we arrived at. A lesson for next time.
CONCLUSION: This was our first cruise and we all enjoyed it. I was impressed with the Carnival employees. Everyone, no matter what their job was, was very friendly on board and always said hello if you passed them in the hallway. All the workers seemed to do their jobs with pride and they were all willing to help if asked a question. The ship was kept very clean, food was always available somewhere, everything was exceptional. I would definitely recommend this cruise to everyone. We had a great time and I can't wait to go on another Carnival cruise again.