Carnival Victory - August 18 - 23, 2008 New York to Canada - five nights round trip
This is my twelfth cruise - fifth on Carnival
In response to a request for additional details, I have been writing my review while on the ship, so that everything is fresh in my mind.
Saturday, August 16 - fly a way day
Since I would have to fly in on Sunday, August 17 at the latest, I decided to go one day earlier and spend a little time in New York City, so I flew in on Saturday, August 16. I bought the JetBlue ticket about two days before JetBlue decided to charge for the second bag. When I arrived at the airport I was told about the charge. I mentioned that I purchased the ticket prior to the charge and I was able to check two bags for free.
For the most part I watched the Olympics, including the USA/Spanish basketball game while flying across the United States. We flew over Manhattan and I had my camera with me. Unfortunately the batteries I just charged failed, so I missed a great photo opportunity. This is the second time this has happened to me. I need to remember to check my batteries each time I put a new set in the camera.
The non-stop flight between Burbank and JFK arrived around 3:20pm (a little early) and soon I was listening to the taxi dispatcher yell at someone - my welcome to New York. Before 4:00pm I was in traffic in a taxi headed to the Novotel Hotel at 52nd and Broadway.
I arrived at the hotel prior to 5:00pm, checked in and went back out into the city to explore a few blocks in each direction from my hotel and grab dinner. Then back to the hotel to call my sister and parents to tell them that I was on Broadway. ?
I understand the weather in New York yesterday was rather stormy. The weather I arrived to was beautiful, clear, sunny and around 80. Nonetheless, I only got about four hours of sleep last night, so I wrote this and decided to relax, watch the Olympics and catch some shut eye.
Sunday, August 17 - a day in NYC
When I left my room I walked toward the elevators. Next to the elevator bank is a window that looks out on the cruise docks. The Norwegian Dawn and the Norwegian Spirit are docked. I decide to walk over and see how things are. It is a zoo. I've been to piers with three ships docks that looked better.
I continue to walk toward the Intrepid, which unfortunately is in dry dock, so I don't get a chance to tour it. However, I notice a line of taxis coming from the upper level. I check with one of the police officers directing traffic and he confirms that if I want to catch a taxi on my return (I do), I do so on the upper level. Good, because the upper level cannot be any worse than what I witnessed on the lower level.
I spot H&H Bagels across the street. While I on the Norwegian Jade I ate one dinner with some people from New York who claimed New York bagels are better than Western Bagels in Los Angeles. So I get a couple of bagels and as I thought, they are the same. Sorry New Yorkers, but Western Bagels bagels are very good, and as good as a New York bagel.
I then walk over to Central Park. Normal rules of walking and driving seem to be just a suggestion in New York City. Yesterday I watched as someone made a wide right turn and was lucky not to be T-boned by the taxi I was in. Today I watched as a woman looking to her right threw something in the trash and then walked out into the street against a red light with a parked van to her left. If someone had been coming she would have become a hood ornament.
At any rate I estimate that Central Park is about five miles long and I only got about one mile in. After all this walking I was pretty tired and decided to head back to the hotel to watch some of the Olympics and get some rest before dinner.
When I get back to the hotel I am confronted by a line that runs from Hair Spray, past the hotel's front door, and around the corner. Apparently it is a matinee performance. I notice a steakhouse next door to the hotel that I decide to try out for dinner. The service was top notch and the food was okay. However, to be honest, I've had better steaks for less.
Then it is back to the hotel to watch more Olympic, type this and get ready for tomorrow.
Monday, August 18 - embarkation day
I left the hotel about 10:50am and by 11:20am on was on the ship. Nonetheless the short trip did have its interesting moment. The taxi driver had no idea where the cruise ship dock was, nor did he even know what a cruise ship was. Fortunately I had the instructions from Carnival on how to get to the dock. Yes, I knew where the cruise ship dock was, but not where the taxi entrance was. The information taxi drivers need to get anywhere in New York City are the cross streets (12th and 55th in this case).
After checking in I went to my cabin and let the cabin steward know that I was dropping off my stuff. Then off to explore and photograph the ship. Once I was done with that it was back to the cabin to relax a bit and catch up on the Olympics.
At 3:00pm our role call group had agreed to meet by the aft pool. Prior to then one of my two suit cases arrived. I put away my clothing and wondered why two suitcases checked in at the same time did not arrive at the same time.
Our small gathering was interrupted by the muster drill. Upon returning to my cabin I still noticed that my second suit case had not arrived. After the drill I asked one of the room stewards if the suite cases were still being delivered. Yes, but if I don't get it by 8:00pm I should go purser's desk.
After the muster drill it was time to see how the ship backs into a river. Given where we were docked the river's current would push us into the dock. However, even before the ship started to back out I saw the trick to backing a large cruise ship into a river. It was sitting at the end of the pier just waiting for the ship to move far enough from the dock so it could slip between the dock and the ship - and push. Yes, the trick to backing a large cruise ship into a river is a tug boat.
Soon I could see that the bow was swinging around, which of course meant we had cleared the dock and would soon be moving forward. It also became apparent that space along the starboard rail would be hard to secure, as that is the side the Statue of Liberty would be on. However, I had allowed for this. I have a starboard side facing balcony. I stayed on deck so I could get a few photos of Manhattan.
Then as we got close to the Statue of Liberty I went downstairs to my balcony. Still no suitcase but I would worry about that later. I did notice that they were no longer delivering luggage, so as visions of a water soaked suitcase danced in my head, I took lots of photos of the Statute of Liberty. Then it was back up on deck to watch the ship pass under the bridge.
It was now well into the first sitting (I have late dinner) and I still did not have the second suitcase. So after realizing how much I would have missed if I had early dinner, I also thought this would be a good time to go to the purser's desk, since half the people would be eating dinner.
From the upper balcony the line by the purser's desk looked long. However, when I got down to the purser's desk I realized many of the people were just standing around. I was only in line for a few seconds when I looked to my left and discovered a few suitcases lined up along the wall, including mine. Seems the room tag had come off. So I guess that $30 tip per bag I gave the porter didn't help much. Do you know how hard it is to get a $30 bill? You have to trade the bank ten $3 bills. Next time I'll just bronze the room tag. I'm kidding about the size of the tip. I did tip the porter, but not $30 per bag.
Finally it was time for dinner. I had tried to find my table earlier. However, the line to see the maitre'd was long, so I went in the upper level of the Atlantic Restaurant (the mid ship restaurant - the Pacific Restaurant is the aft restaurant), where my Sail & Sign card said my table was. However, there were no numbers on the tables and the only person I could find was new and did not know where my table (number 200) was.
This time I entered the restaurant from the rear entrance and found I did not have far to walk. The good news, I had a large ten top table as I had requested. The bad news, it is right there by the door. My table mates are social able, so that is good. One mentioned the sunset photo he had taken and I realized I forgot to go out on the deck before dinner to get my own sunset photos - oops!
I also learned that the early seating was full. Some had tried to get the earlier seating and could not. I noticed that there are a lot of families with young children in the second seating. In fact, this cruise seems to be very popular for young families, which is a little surprising, given we are not going to warm weather destination.
Service was a little slow. All but one of the ten of us through the main course was very good. Also, given my clear view of the rear entrance to the Atlantic Restaurant I am able to pick up on the reason I don't like the layout of this class of ships (it is the same as the Conquest class). Many people trying to get to the front of the ship come to the dining room door and suddenly realize they are about to walk through an active restaurant. Some don't let that bother them; others do, and find another deck to walk forward on. For Carnival, only the Spirit class ships allow people to walk from the front to the back on any deck.
Given all the walking I had done the day before, I am tired and looking forward to a good night's rest and a relaxing day at sea.
Tuesday, August 19 - day at sea.
I left my drapes open knowing the morning sun would wake me up. However, it is so overcast that I am able to go back to sleep without closing the drapes (my cabin faces the rising sun this morning). After a while I decide to get up, shower and dress. However, I don't leave the cabin until the room steward knocks on the door (which is actually my plan). I leave to do some shopping so the room steward and his assistant can do their job. When I return my room steward opens the door for me.
I decide to walk forward on deck nine, the Lido deck. Per the TV the pools are 59 degrees. However, this does not seem to be keeping the many children out of the pool. I also note that the breakfast lines are long. No problem, I'm not hungry and tomorrow I'll just eat early while all the lazy people are still asleep.
My goal today is just to relax. I did a lot of walking on Sunday and a fair amount yesterday. The next two days are port days, so today I have a short list of goals. The souvenir and gift shopping is done. Because of all the recent media attention to art auctions, I decide to watch one. I'm not going to register, so I cannot bid. I also want to take more photos and give the pools a try; though likely it will be the hot tubs, given the rather cool pool temperature.
Finally as the sun slips behind the ship I'll do a little relaxing and watch the world go by on my balcony. While most would find the outside air temperature of 67 degrees to be a bit chilly, I find it perfect.
I just got back from sitting through 35 minutes of the art auction. I was there for a reading of the most important rules, including that all sales are final and that 15% will be added to all bids, so that a piece of art where the winning bid was $100 will actually cost $115. The auctioneer described three of the paintings as collectible, including the first one where he was looking for an opening bid of $39,000. Never once did I hear him say you should only buy a painting because you like it. Based on my limited experience, the media stories are accurate.
Well, I have finished all my goals for today except two. Next I am going to hit the pools, or more likely the hot tubs and then I'll be on my balcony relaxing and watching the world go by, even though with the overcast I can only see about two or three miles (I should be able to see about twenty miles on a clear day).
Wow, that was the most interesting swim I have done that did not include stingrays, dolphins or seals. First of all the TV lied. I was in the middle pool and the water temperature was a lot closer to 90 than it was to 59. The hot tubs were actually hot (not just warm).
Whatever the water temperature, things really got interesting around 2:30pm. First it got dark. And some people left the pool. Then one light started flashing and some people thought it was lighting and more people left the pool. Then there was some real lighting and everyone else left the pool. So I decided to walk back to the aft pool which has a cover, which is now closed. However, the pool was netted close, while the hot tubs were still open. Nonetheless, everyone's attention was now on the hail that was coming down (the sliding cover has a glass top.
So I walked back to the open lido deck to see what was up. Now it was raining - hard! It looked like someone had dumped trashcans full of ice out. Also there was a waterfall coming down the stairs, which reminds me of a joke one CD told. A passenger and captain are at the base of some outdoor stairs. There is water coming down the stairs from a hose on a higher level that someone forgot to turn off. The passenger looks at the water coming down the stairs, then at the captain, back at the water coming down the stairs and then back at the captain and says, aren't you worried about this? The captain responses, no madam, I only get worried get worried when the water is going up the stairs.
Well with all the rain I decide to go inside and work on this. Then relax it bit in the cabin. I decide to pose for formal photos with the early group and get that out of the way. One person is taking photos from the bottom of one set of stairs. The problem is the barricade is on the other set of stairs. So anyone who can read ends up walking through the photo. I point out the obvious error. The photographer tells me that the intent was to block both stairs. So I point out that no one is shooting on the other set of stairs. This doesn't seem to register with him at all. I decide to just drop it.
Before going to the Captain's Cocktail Party I step outside on the Promenade deck. I look outside and wonder what that orange band is. There is an orange band between the ocean and the very dark clouds. Then I realize that I missed the sunset again.
The introduction of the senior staff is held in the aft show lounge, not the larger forward main show lounge. It just doesn't seem to have the same flair in the smaller lounge.
Then it is time for dinner. Three people from last night don't show up, but one new person does. Our table is not as lively as it was last night. The service is faster and once again everyone but one (the same woman as last night) finds the food to be very good.
I decided to take in the show tonight. It is called Livin' In America and is pretty good. Well tomorrow is our first port and I've got an early morning tour.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 - Saint John
I am up before the sun. This time the problem is the exact opposite of yesterday. Now there are no clouds. Nonetheless I take a few sunrise photos. We are also closer to the port than I expected. The TV says we will arrive at 8:00am. However, the Carnival Capers says that we will arrive at 7:00am - and we do arrive at 7:00am.
There are more people in line for breakfast than I expect at this early hour, and then I realize why. There are not enough service stations. Nonetheless, I find a cook to order omelet station with only one person in line. After I finish, as I am walking back I notice another omelet station with a very long line. Sometimes it pays to scope things out before deciding which line to get into.
Well my tour leaves in half an hour, so it is time to get ready and head down to the pier. Before joining the tour I take a couple of photos of the ship. Later I am very happy I did so. I am on a photo tour that will visit just up river from the mouth of the Saint John River. We also visit a couple of other places where we can get good photos of the ship, including the highest point in Saint John.
The most interesting thing about this area, too me, is the great difference between high and low tide. We are not at the far end of the Bay of Fundy where the greatest tidal differences are found. Nonetheless, the tidal difference in St. John is 28 feet. This is enough to change the direction of the flow of the river. By visiting the river twice, at the beginning and end of the tour, we get to see the change in the flow of the river. We arrive at low tide and the river is full of white water rapids flowing down to the sea. At the end of the tour the river is calm. No white water rapids at all. About the time the ship leaves I am sure the river is flowing backwards.
Upon our arrival at the ship at the end at tour I can see that the ship is sitting about 16 feet (about three meters) higher than when the tour began. Something that it easily verified by comparing the before and after photos I took.
The tour is much different than the tours I am used to in the Caribbean and Mexico. There are no beggars or street vendors. Saint John is very much like any American city. The tour guide's primary language is English and there are none of the jokes along the lines of, if you liked the tour my name is Maria and the driver's name is Juan. If you didn't like the tour my name is Mary and the driver's name is George. Also, I did a little souvenir shopping. There was no sales pressure and a simple, "I'm just looking" was the only comment need when asked, "Can I help you?"
In addition the tour guide was knowledgeable and a delight. If you have any interest in photography I recommend this tour. I did gain a few helpful pointers.
Back at the ship I took more pictures of the ship (to show the difference in the height of the tide) and the surrounding area. Then I finished off my souvenir shopping and once back on board I grabbed lunch at the buffet and took it to my balcony to eat. Then it was time to catch a little of the Olympics (men's volleyball) and a quick nap (I went to sleep late and woke early).
After that I decided to go to the early repeat passenger party even though I have late dinner. Then it is off to the photo gallery to see if I like any of the new photos. Out of the six formal photos I had taken I only buy two because the photos cost $22 each. If the photos were more reasonably priced I might buy more.
While waiting for dinner I have a view of the sunset from my balcony. I snap off about seventy photos of the sunset (fortunately digital photos are free).
Today at dinner four people don't show up, though I now think a couple of them have changed to the early dinner. The fourth no show was the person who was not happy with the last two dinners. We discussed the tours we were on. All of us enjoyed our dinner.
Tonight's show is a magician. However, there is a show about climbers on Everest on TV that I decide to watch instead. Afterwards I catch Olympics and then it is off to bed.
Thursday, August 21, 2008 - Halifax
Well, I woke up just before sunrise this morning, but I was lazy and stayed in bed. I decided to check our progress on the TV. At 5:30am we were 20 nautical miles from Halifax. At the rate we are going we would be in Halifax at 7:00am. However, we are not schedule to arrive until 9:00am. At 6:30am we are 85 nautical miles from Halifax. If this is correct (which I am sure it is not) we will not arrive in Halifax until 11:00am. At 8:00am we are -5.2 nautical miles from Halifax, which means we are six land miles into the city. In short, the information on the TV is worthless.
After a nice shower I am ready for breakfast. However, I'm not hungry, so I work on this and will just relax until we get close to the port. Then I'll greet the port from my balcony.
Well it is 8:30am and unfortunately the dock is on the other side of the ship from my cabin. So we are on time (or perhaps a little early), and now I am a little hungry, so I go up to the lido deck for a snack and then to the pier for the Halifax City tour.
The tour guide was great, but the tour suffered from the same problem all city tour excursions suffer from, too much bus and tour guide and not enough exploration of interesting things. Sure, a park is a great place to get out and stretch one's legs, but beyond that the park is not that interesting. Nonetheless, overall the tour was pretty good.
After the tour I did a little souvenir shopping and then boarded the ship to drop off some stuff (including my wind breaker - it is too hot). There is a rather long line to get on the ship, and I didn't figure out what the problem was until I disembarked again to walk along the boardwalk. There is only one way in and out. Not one way each, just one way. Passengers could board, or disembark, but not both at the same time. The bottle neck is inside the ship. Carnival needs to come up with a better plan than this.
The walk along the boardwalk was interesting and fun even though I didn't buy anything. I think the pleasant surroundings and perfect weather may have had something to do with it. Re-boarding was easier simply because it was now 4:00pm and the all on board is at 5:30pm, so there are less people leaving and thus the boarding was a lot smoother.
After all that walking in the heat I decide to take a nap. I'm up in time to watch us depart. Then I grab a pre-dinner snack. But at 6:00pm only one of the four serving lines is open. One other line has food but is not open. I find out it is for the kids only. Apparently Camp Carnival has some sort of special problem going for the kids tonight that includes dinner.
Back on balcony I enjoy the snack and get some great sunset photos. Then I work on this and when I am done, it is time for dinner.
Nine people showed up for dinner tonight, one person who was not there the first night plus eight of us who were. I believe the other two moved to the early dinner. Everyone enjoyed their dinner tonight, including the woman who did not like her dinner the first and second night (she skipped the third night).
Afterwards I checked for new photos, but didn't find any I liked. Then I took in the show again. The crowd really liked it, and while I did also, the two shows I have seen left me feeling like something was missing. Half way through this show I realized what it was. There is too much choreography. The dancers seem to me to be moving because they were told to, not because it was the natural thing to do. No matter how good it is, choreography can be over done (sometimes less is better). Nonetheless, as I said, the crowd really got into the show, and the show received a standing ovation.
By now it was late and back at my cabin I was taking in the Olympics. The problem is the TV signal is coming from Denver, while we are on New York time (and the too cities we visited are one hour ahead of New York). Thus, what is on at 11:00pm in Denver is on at 1:00am here. Apparently I fell asleep, woke up, fell asleep, woke up … by the time I turned off the TV it was 4:30am my time. No worry though, the last day is a sea day and my only goal is to relax. One of the great things about cruising is the ability to set your own schedule.
Friday, August 22 - day at sea
I finally get out of bed at 9:30am and leave the cabin for breakfast and picture taking (the ocean is glass smooth) at 10:30am. This gets the room stewards a little out of their normal rhythm. Thus when I return at 11:30 the room has not been made up yet.
About one hour later the room steward shows up, so I leave and explore the ship. I end up finding Club O2 (for the fifteen to seventeen year olds) and Circle C (for the twelve to fourteen year olds). Both are all the way forward on deck twelve.
After exploring the ship for a while I return to the cabin and find everything cleaned and made up. So I catch the Olympics for a while and upload my photos (so far I have taken 701). Then it is out to the balcony to work on this and watch the world go by. It is not an exciting schedule, but it is what I need, and the next two days will not be so carefree. Actually, come to think of it, the next seven months worth of days will not be so carefree (my next cruise is not until April 2009).
I do my packing and then go to dinner. Everyone enjoyed dinner, including the same woman who didn't like the first two dinners (she really liked the baby back ribs). We hung around a little after dinner was over and just talked. Then it was back to the cabin to put the luggage outside. I filled out and submitted my comment card. With that done there is nothing to do except to wait until it is time to disembark tomorrow morning. So to fill the time I turn on the Olympics and work on this.
Saturday, August 23 - debarkation
Well once again the TV was wrong. It said we would arrive at 5:00am in New York. We arrived at 7:00am. I woke up just before we went under the bridge. So I watch our arrival from my balcony. Unfortunately the Statue of Liberty was now on the port side, so I didn't get any sun rise photos of the Statue of Liberty. Also we are docked in a different pier. When we boarded the dock was on the starboard side of the ship. Today it is on the port side of the ship.
I look over my bill and there is an extra $2.24 charge for an in room beverage. But I didn't have an in room beverage. I speak to my cabin steward and he takes care of it. Just to be sure I go to the purser's desk to get a corrected bill printed out. The line at the purser's desk is very short. Unfortunately the lines for breakfast are very long, for both the buffet and the sit down restaurant. So I return to my cabin to work on this and give my cabin steward and his assistant an extra tip.
Unfortunately this morning I realized I made a small mistake. Because I am a member of the Carnival Vacation Club (CVC) I receive a zone one luggage tag. The room steward also drops off the normal luggage tag, which are zone seventeen. I used the zone one luggage tags. However my flight is at 4:30pm and I don't think I will be allowed in the airport until 12:30pm, so I want to be one of the last off the ship. Once in the airport I can play games on my computer to keep me entertained until it is time to board the plane. Fortunately I can say on the ship if I want. I don't have to leave with the first group.
Well the method for calling the groups was sure strange. Groups one through twenty-two were called between 9:15am and 9:30am. Groups 23 through 32 were called between 10:15am and 10:30am. I waited for the last group to be called and was one of the last off the ship. The line kept moving and I was in a taxi by 11:15am and at the airport by noon. While driving away from the dock I noticed the Norwegian Spirit arriving. I am sure it was late, though I don't know why.
This taxi driver provided the full New York experience. I don't know, perhaps the driver thought he would get a bonus based on the number of horn honks and lane changes he made.
By 12:30pm I was all checked in and discovering that JFK was built before air conditioning was invented. Fortunately there are plenty of electrical outlets and so after playing several games I figured I would finish this off.
I am flying on Jet Blue non-stop from JFK to Burbank. The plane looks very new. This is confirmed by the flight crew which states that the plane entered service on August 7, 2008. So the plane is only sixteen days old. JetBlue offers direct TV during the flight. The feed comes from New York. I watched the Olympics. When I got home I turned on the Olympics and ended up watching the same thing I just saw three hours earlier.
Looking back I am disappointed that Carnival is no longer providing envelopes at the end of the cruise for those that want to tip extra (that was true for both this cruise and my July cruise). I do like having the tips put on the Sail & Sign card, but envelopes should still be provided for those that want to tip extra.
I enjoyed the cruise and met all my goals. The main two goals I had were to sail past the Statue of Liberty and to relax. Other bonuses were sailing on a ship I have not been on before and visiting two ports I have not have been to before.
Though I did enjoy the cruise, it did not rise to that extra special level of being one of my favorites. Of course a major contributor to that is the fact that this is a shorter cruise (it just wasn't long enough). I might try this cruise again, but if I do it will be a one week fall foliage cruise.
I hope my review provides some helpful information to anyone interested in taking this cruise.