Background: My husband's parents generously booked a Carnival Victory cruise to Canada for our entire immediate family, including five adults and four grandkids, ranging in age from 7 to 11. A local travel agency in NJ called Starr Tours very conveniently bussed us up to NYC to pick up the cruise. However, I hesitate to recommend them because my mother-in-law paid for three oceanview cabins for our group of nine, but instead we got two inside cabins and one oceanview cabin. She paid extra to get what she wanted for her family, but Starr Tours failed to deliver. However, our tour director on the ship, Joanne (also with Starr Tours), was very friendly and tried her best to help us.
Ship Info: The ship is built like a maze. To reach the dining room on the 4th deck, for example, you can only use the "fore" elevators. The "aft" elevators will put you on the wrong side and you will have to go to the fifth deck, walk to the other end of the ship, then return to the 4th deck and enter the dining room.
Cabin: Our inside cabin had two upper and two lower beds. The room was more spacious than I expected, with plenty of closet space, a TV, and a roomy shower (but no window!). The beds were very comfortable with a cozy comforter, two pillows each, and extra pillows in the closet.
Decor: The decor looked like a 1980s version of art deco design, with lots of peach and jade, black marble, sponge-painting, and mermaids. The bronzed mermaid sculptures in the dining rooms were very anatomically correct. I considered making cloth napkin wraps for them because I was getting cold just looking at them.
People: If you don't like crowds, don't go on a cruise. During the "at-sea" days, more than 3,000 people congregated at the pool and buffet areas on the 9th deck, and the casino and shopping areas on the 5th deck. Some people are more considerate than others. Other reviewers complained about misbehaving children, but I noticed inconsiderate lounge-chair hogs of all ages. At 9 a.m., our fellow cruisers placed hats and towels across entire rows of lounge chairs and disappeared until after lunch. While our kids played in the pool, my husband stood for two hours, surrounded by nonexistent sunbathers.
Pools: There were two pools and four jacuzzis on the 9th deck and a third pool and jacuzzi higher up. The pools were filled with chlorine-treated sea water, which was strong enough to bleach out my daughter's new swimsuit. One of the jacuzzis on the Mediterranean deck was designated for adults only. The water temperature was a little warmer, and the adults could relax without getting splashed. The weather cooled as the ship traveled north to Canada, but a retractable roof sheltered the pool area each night on the Mediterranean deck.
Children's programs: Round-the-clock activities were available from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. with no extra charges until 10 p.m. Our kids didn't participate very much because we were more of a self-contained group. However, they did spend a lot of time challenging each other and other passengers on the giant chess board on the Mediterranean deck.
Housekeeping: I never met the cabin steward, but I always knew when he came by ... first to clean the room in the morning and then to turn down the beds at night. The kids were delighted one night to discover a towel monkey hanging from the ceiling.
Dining: Our server, Jin, was very friendly and went out of his way to accommodate our children. Jin's job description also included a nightly song-and-dance routine with the other servers, much to the delight of the kids and everyone else in the room. Jin offered many kid-friendly meals or sides to accompany the main entrees. The menu highlights included lobster tail with shrimp, filet mignon, Cornish game hen, a vegetarian Indian entree (my mother-in-law raved about this), lobster bisque, shrimp and lobster crab cake, Grand Marnier soufflé, and of course the classic chocolate melting cake. Some misses were the NY strip steak (order it cooked medium and slice it thin to make it chewable) and panko-crusted shrimp (it came with curly fries).
Disembarkation: Getting off the ship was faster than expected. We packed our luggage and set it out the night before, leaving only what we needed for the morning. Our tour director, Joanne, helped us disembark smoothly and quickly and got us on the bus by 9:30 a.m. and home by 11:00 a.m. Chuck, our bus driver, helped us avoid a big traffic jam and get home faster.