We are veteran RCCL cruisers; a married couple in our fifties. This was our first cruise with Carnival. First, the high points...
Embarkation was quite simple, one of the quickest I've experienced. Since this trip is short, my husband and I had only one bag each, so we were urged to "self-assist" instead of checking our bags with Carnival. This turned out to be a great idea at embarkation, but no help at all at disembarkation. More on disembarkation later.
The ship itself was good-sized without being overwhelming. The rooms were spacious, but the walls seemed thin - I could hear the TV clearly in the next cabin. Providing useful little amenities (toothpaste, razors) was a nice touch.
Although we only visited one port (St. John), there were quite a variety of shore excursions offered. I highly recommend the "St. Martin and Bay of Fundy" excursion. Just the right pace, a delicious lunch, and a wonderful guide. Try the dulse - a local delicacy that looks like onion skin but is quite fishy. The guide says locals snack on dulse like potato chips, but it's definitely an acquired taste!
The band in the casino lounge was first rate. In fact, there were far more people dancing to the live band than there were in the much-larger Arctic lounge. The theater entertainment overall was very good, although Carnival had to substitute a movie when bad weather caused one of the acts to miss boarding the ship. Note to Carnival: the $1.50 charge for popcorn during the movie was cheesy.
I did not travel with children, so I am unable to comment on their activities.
Now for the low points...
In my humble opinion, any cruise line has three basic, core responsibilities: good customer service, good food, and comfortable accommodations. If the cruise line gets those things right, everything else is gravy. If it doesn't, nothing else matters.
The number one complaint I heard all over Victory was about the service. Dining room service was slow and service staff seemed to be poorly trained. There are service basics that every diner waitress knows - serve from the right, remove from the left, keep the coffee cups and water glasses filled. On Victory, waiters leaned across diners to serve, and woe to those that expected a second serving of rolls. (Maybe a blessing, since some of the rolls were rock-hard on the first night). I personally experienced, or heard from friends about rude service at the photo desk and at the Formalities shop.
Surprisingly, the food in the Mediterranean buffet restaurant was much better overall than in the dining room. The dining room soup was uniformly abysmal. On various nights, my party ordered gazpacho, navy bean soup, and lobster bisque. All of it was watered down and fairly tasteless - my gazpacho was very much like the liquid from a can of whole tomatoes, and there was not a single bean in the navy bean soup. Some of the Carnival "signature" dishes were amazingly bad - eggs benedict portions were a peculiar yellow color and usually burnt; molten chocolate cake usually wasn't. I ordered poached eggs very well done; they arrived runny.
Dinner entrees were uneven, and often incomplete. Vegetables were missing from some plates, and portions were sometimes amazingly skimpy - a fruit plate held two thin slices of mango, a blueberry, a raspberry, and a quarter of a strawberry!
The disadvantage of the buffet was the long, slow-moving lines. They could generally be avoided by dining later, or by dining at one of the casual dining areas scattered around the ship. By the way - the chicken fingers at the burger stand are not to be missed!
Activities - If you decide to take this cruise, think very carefully before selecting late seating for dinner. Many of the evening activities are scheduled during the late seating dinner and, unlike other lines, there are no duplicates earlier or later to accommodate the late diners. In fact, there is only one show so if you are an early diner you will wait hours to see the review.
It's true, this trip was bound for Canada, so you should not expect sunshine and balmy breezes. However, believe me when I tell you: THIS SHIP WAS COLD! Shivering-under-the-covers cold, can't-sit-in-the-theatre-without-a-jacket cold. Good luck trying to raise the temperature in your cabin - the only thing chillier was the response from the purser when we complained about the cold. Tip: close the ceiling vent (we had to figure this out for ourselves, then we were able to share with our shipmates).
Finally, if you're concerned about spending time in smoke-free or child-free areas, good luck. There are many posted smoke-free areas but the ventilation system spreads smoke from the smoking areas around. Also, there was not a single day when we did NOT see children in the "adults-only" pool.
Disembarkation was painfully slow. We were told that delays were caused by people coming down before their area was called. If so, Carnival should have turned them back without processing them, rather than making everyone else wait for hours. Many of the announcements were unclear. For example, several announcements called "all self-assist" passengers before the ship made a correcting announcement and resumed calling people by floors.
In short: if you are just happy to be on a cruise, and you love the Canadian Maritimes, this cruise is for you. If you love fine food and world-class-service, you might want to look elsewhere.