"6-Night Bahamas" on Carnival Victory "A sea of blue and all the colors imaginable await you" ~Bahamas.com
Cruise Booking / Background / etc. Total price of $1254 was a huge bargain, because it included everything, cruise cost - plus - destination/port charges, fuel surcharge, and taxes.
Destination Review is first, followed by the Ship Review.
Reaching the Bahamas. We left Norfolk at 5pm on Monday evening, cruised all through Tuesday, and arrived in Nassau harbor at 11:30am on Wednesday. The islands of the Bahamas are all fairly flat, so we were only an hour from our intended arrival in Nassau before I ever spotted land. D and I went to lunch prior to arrival, and before we had finished, the ship had already passed Eleuthera, and was making the sharp turn around Paradise Island into the port of Nassau.
The Bahamas. We sailed to the ports of Nassau on New Providence and Freeport on Grand Bahama. The average October temperatures were More
almost exactly what we experienced. The daily highs were perfect - around the mid 80s, and the water temperature was reported as 84°F at Blackbeard's Cay (one of our excursions out of Nassau), and at 81°F at the Viva Wyndham (on Grand Bahama).
At-a-Glance, this is what we did during our 3 days in the Bahamas: Wednesday: Nassau Day-1: (Arrived 11:30am) Taxi across to Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island where we spent 5 hours. Walked through/ explored Atlantis during that time. Thursday: Nassau Day-2: Blackbeard's Beach Break excursion, 9am-1pm. Explored downtown Nassau for shopping and had a drink at famous Senor Frogs bar. (Departed Nassau 10:30pm) Friday: Freeport: (Arrived 8am) Viva-Wyndham Fortuna Beach excursion, 8:30am-2:30pm. (Departed Freeport 3:30pm)
Nassau - New Providence. Port of Nassau. When I arrived on the forward observation area of Deck 7, the ship had just rounded the western end of Paradise Island past the Hog Island Lighthouse, and sailed into Nassau Harbor, heading toward the port. Paradise Island was off to the left, with the larger buildings of Atlantis visible; directly ahead was the Prince George Wharf (pier), where the two cruise ships are already docked; and off to the right was the island of New Providence. This was not the most picturesque of harbors that we'd seen. Looking north towards Paradise Island was nice, but, it was downright ugly if you looked south towards New Providence and the commercial shipping dockyards.
Prince George Wharf was the pier facility where the Carnival Victory docked, near Rawson Square in the heart of downtown Nassau. This was a very large pier, with birthing areas for as many as four large cruise ships, along with several small patrol ships of the Bahamas Navy (i.e. Royal Bahamian Defense Force, RBDF), and at least a half dozen smaller commercial fishing vessels and workboats. On top of that, there was still room along the New Providence waterfront for more commercial vessels, the numerous water taxis that shuttled visitors around the harbor, and for several tourist tour boats, private boats, and sailboats! Because the pier was so extensive, it took about 10-15 minutes to walk from the ship all the way around to the end of the pier where you passed through the processing building (Festival Place) and onto New Providence.
Cruise Ships in Port of Nassau. When we arrived in Nassau on the Carnival Victory, there were already two cruise ships in port, the Norwegian Sky and the Royal Caribbean Sovereign of the Seas. Later that day, the just-launched Holland America Eurodam also arrived. At that point there were 4 cruise ships in port at once! The Sky left the evening of day one, and the Sovereign left early the next day. During day two, we watched the Carnival Fascination cruise into port. Later that evening the Disney Magic showed up. Six cruise ships in two days accommodated at the Port of Nassau - it really is popular - and there wasn't any problem with crowd control or delays.
Nassau Waterfront. There is a whole lot more to Nassau that the limited area of the waterfront that we saw.
* Festival Place. Once you exit the pier, in order to head into town, you must pass through Festival Place. This building was very colorful, and even had a small clock tower. Within the building was a mini-mall of sorts, selling mostly handcrafts, but of course, food, alcohol, and cigars. The set-up reminded me of a theme park, where they channel visitors through the souvenir shops before and after you get to the big thrills rides. This was a good place for tourist information (I picked up a Bahamas map and a Nassau street map here) and there was also a post office. * Rawson Square. The heart of the shopping district, which stretched along the waterfront and Bay Street for 3-4 blocks in each direction. There was everything from upscale duty-free shops (arts, perfumes, jewelry, clothing) to low-end souvenirs and T-shirts. There were also a restaurants, fast food joints, and of course, many liquor and 'Cuban' cigar shops. The shopping is aimed at the thousands of cruise ship passengers that get channeled right here from Festival Place. * Straw Market is set up in a very large 'permanent tent' building, where you are supposed to have an opportunity to barter with the locals over everything. (They did barter - or more precisely - they continued dropping the offered price until you agreed to it or until they reached whatever their minimum offer was to be.) Anything and everything that you might find in a flea market is sold here, along with some local arts and crafts. However, it's set up in extremely tight rows, leaving little choice but to brush against customers passing in the opposite direction. * Senor Frog's. Mexican restaurant and bar, situated right on the Nassau waterfront. It is probably the most well known gathering place in Nassau, very popular with both locals and tourists alike. They boast of a "friendly and casual atmosphere where you, your grandma, kids, and every age in between are sure to have fun". We sat in the large, open-air, Tiki-hut styled bar area overlooking the harbor and the cruise ship pier. Walking around the bar, and taking photos with all the girls, was an employee in a giant blow-up frog costume. It was maybe 12 ft tall, and I noticed that the screen where the occupant looked out of was about dead center in the stomach of the costume. We sat at the bar and tried the Senor Frog's signature light-green namesake drink. It has somewhat of a secret recipe, but I did find out that it contains Tequila, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, and then 'filler' ingredients. For a drink with three liquors, it seemed to me to be amazingly sweet and devoid of alcohol. * Ft. Fincastle / Queens Staircase. This tourist spot is less than a 1/2 mile from Rawson Square, but it seemed to be in another world. As I walked away from the waterfront, the surroundings deteriorated rapidly, and I decided to turn back.
Paradise Island [afternoon, first day in Nassau]. This was our first activity in the Bahamas. The beaches on Paradise Island are said to be superior to any on New Providence - so that's where I had suggested that we head on our first day. Paradise Island is a small island (formerly Hog Island) adjacent to Nassau, connected by two bridges that cross Nassau Harbor. Generally, in most travel sites, the two islands are treated as a single destination.
Getting There. You can reach Paradise Island from downtown Nassau by taking a taxi or boarding a water taxi / ferry from the waterfront. We choose the taxi because it could drop us off right at the entrance to Cabbage Beach. The taxis were minivans, which you shared with as many other riders as they could squeeze it. It was a reasonable flat rate, set by the local government, of $4/person. From the drop-off point, it was only a few hundred feet over the dunes to reach the beachfront.
Cabbage Beach [Paradise Island] is said to be one of the premier beaches in all of the Bahamas. I beg to differ with that opinion, as you'll read below. From its western end, now locally called Atlantis Beach, to its eastern end at Snorkelers Point, the white sands stretch over 2 miles. The 'public section' of Cabbage Beach begins just east of the RIU hotel, about a 5-minute walk away from the Atlantis property. It does not have any public facilities, other than those operated by Atlantis and the other hotels. A row or two of palm trees fringed the beach, behind which was a dense growth of pine trees (called Casuarinas or Australian pines as I learned).
Our Time There [12:20-5:15pm]. As we walked over the dunes, before our feet even hit the beach, we were approached by the 'locals' and offered lounge chairs and umbrellas. D said she'd like a chair, which was $10 for the day. When I said that we wanted only one, the enterprising young man offered me 2 chairs for $15, so I took it. It turned out to be a good decision, as I spent more time on the beach than I generally do, because the surf was very rough this day. I wasn't too impressed with Cabbage Beach, and I wouldn't classify it as all that picturesque (compared to many other Caribbean beaches that we've seen). The sand was only maybe 50 ft wide from trees to surf (less where the hotels projected out), full of ocean debris, and somewhat coarse in texture. It was however, very deep and loose, which made walking a little bit of a struggle when out of the compacted sand along the surf line.
Although it wasn't crowded, the area where we landed did contain most of the bathers. By walking 5 minutes towards the eastern stretch of the beach, you could get to a section almost without anyone on the sand, and walking past the hotels towards Atlantis was almost the same. The slope of the beach was fairly high, which continued out into the water, so that only maybe 20~30 ft from the sand you were in over your head. The surf was really rough this day. It was rough enough that D was plowed over and mauled within minutes, and decided to not venture in again. I went in-and-out a half dozen times, never staying in for more than 10-15 minutes (it was tiring fighting the surf), and got the washing machine treatment twice. One thing I hate - which would cause me not to return, the local vendors wouldn't leave you alone. Every few minutes you were offered drinks "no fun without the rum" they would preach, T-shirts, hair braiding, shell jewelry, etc. - non stop, and as I was walking - drugs.
Atlantis is a Mega-Resort and Casino located on Paradise Island. I got there simply by walking west along the beachfront from the public section of Cabbage Beach to Atlantis Beach. It was about a 5-minute walk to eastern side of the grounds, and about another 5 minutes walk to reach the main Atlantis Beach Gate. Atlantis Beach, as it is now known, was formerly the western third of Cabbage Beach, and thus, is just a single continuation of the same strip of sand. In order to swim here you are supposed to be a guest of the Atlantis Resort, but I don't see how they could enforce that, as there is no barrier, just a few red cones (which I guessed marked the boundary), and no one confronted me.
What I Saw of Atlantis for Free. It is a huge place with extensive grounds, a large lagoon, numerous pools, waterfalls, fountains, waterpark-type attractions, dozens of buildings, shops, restaurants, a large elaborate casino, outdoor marine ponds/tanks, and a large aquarium. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and there are many statues, murals and carved marble and stone. For no charge, you can wonder around the grounds, patronize the shops and restaurants, gamble at the casino, view about 20 percent of the aquarium, and of course, take all the photos that you want (which I did). I walked from Cabbage Beach just beyond the RIU hotel, then entered through the main Atlantis Beach Gate, and eventually left through the gate nearest to the Beach Tower.
* Paradise Lagoon came into view as I crossed the wooden walking bridge. There is a man-made beachfront that almost completely encircles it, where lots of guests were sunning and swimming. * Mayan Temple was off to the right of the main pathway. It has four waterslides and is partly surrounded by a large shark tank. The lower third of the front slide is a 100 ft long clear acrylic tunnel runs underwater right through the shark tank! * Royal Towers is the most photographed building on the complex, contains the famous Bridge Suite spanning between the two buildings, one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world. * Predator Lagoon is a series of tanks in front of the Royal Towers and the Casino, disguised to look like a natural series of lagoons. I idled along here and spotted several giant Manta Rays, with wingspans over 10 ft! There were also large and small sharks, barracudas, tuna and/or jacks, and other smaller stingrays. This is actually the open upper end of some of the aquarium tanks that I'll see a little later as the 'open' section of The Dig. * Paradise Gazebo is a swim center and restaurant right on the lagoon. I walked along the sandy beach of the lagoon from the Royal Towers all the way around to the Gazebo. If I had been so inclined, I could have gone swimming in the lagoon, or any of the pools, without a wristband (I don't think any of the hotel guests are required to have them). Maybe I would have been stopped on the waterslides, but I doubt anywhere else. * Waterfalls and Fish Ponds. There were a number of these in front of the Convention Center, which I walked by / around on my way to find the aquarium. * The Dig is the Atlantis Aquarium, a series of tanks located beneath the Royal Towers and Casino, and is the world's largest open-air marine habitat. Hundreds of different aquatic species can be spotted in the Dig's tanks. Wreckage and debris on the bottom of the floors is supposed to represent the "Lost City of Atlantis." About 20 percent of the aquarium is open free of charge. The tanks that I saw contained Manta Rays (which can grow 6 to 22 ft), Eagle Rays, Southern Stingrays, Nurse Sharks, Barracuda, Tarpon, Groupers, Black Jacks & Bar Jacks, Ocean Sunfish, Ocean Triggerfish, and a lot of large silver schooling fish such as mullets.
Thursday: Nassau second day:
"Blackbeard's Beach Break" excursion, $36. "An excursion to Blackbeard's Cay is your chance to escape to a tropical island. After a 25-minute boat ride through the crystal clear waters of Nassau Harbour, you'll arrive at a tranquil little resort named in revere of the most feared pirate to ever visit the Caribbean, Edward "Blackbeard" Teach. There you can sunbathe in a lounge chair, let the satin-like sands run through your toes, or let the tantalizing waters caress your body. Relax to the sounds of island music while enjoying a beverage at the island's two bar facilities, including the famous "Bacardi Beach Bar". There is also a fully stocked souvenir store, volleyball and basketball for playful competitions, spacious air-conditioned restrooms, and freshwater showers. Note: Food and drinks are available at your own expense. A hat, sunscreen, and beach towel are recommended."
Boat Ride to Discovery Island: The excursion destination, Blackbeard's Cay, is a beachfront resort on the small Discovery Island, which is located about 3/4 mile offshore, due north from Cable Beach, New Providence. The island is close enough to shore that you can see the hotels of Cable Beach when swimming at Blackbeard's. There is also a Sandals Resort on the other (north) side of the island. We boarded a 65 ft motor-powered catamaran named the 'Coral II' off the Nassau waterfront at the foot of Prince George Wharf, and left the dock at 9:22am. Captain 'Marvin' announced that the 2 1/2 mile trip out to the island, which turned out to be very relaxing and enjoyable, would take 22 minutes. We cruised through Nassau Harbour, past all the shops, Senor Frog's, and the elaborate British Colonial Hilton (BCH), past the Hog Island Lighthouse, out between Arawak Cay and Silver Cay (under the 30 ft tall light-duty bridge connecting the two cays), and then past the very unique Crystal Cay Lighthouse. After that, we were out into the open water of Delaport Bay, which was the most picturesque turquoise-blue that you could ever imagine. When we entered the bay, Discovery Island was about 1 1/2 miles in the distance. I enjoyed watching the island come into view, and then growing ever larger as we approached. We arrived at Blackbeard's dock at 9:50am, the cruise took 28 minutes. We had to be back on the boat for the return trip at 12:45, so we had just shy of 3 hours to enjoy Blackbeard's Beach. BTW: Discovery Island was called Balmoral Island until 1992.
Blackbeard's Resort [9:50am-12:45pm]. I thought that this place, for swimming and relaxing, was very nice. The only thing it lacked was decent snorkeling. The beach was clean, and the sand was very fine with a soft texture, an even tan color, and contained little rocks or debris. There were 4 or so rows of lounge chairs set up in long arcs paralleling the surf. The water was again (for lack of a more descriptive word) a beautiful turquoise with darker patches of blue, and the surf was nice and calm. The water temperature, on the life guard's board, was recorded as 84°F. There was a large cordoned-off swimming area, (I'm guessing) around 300-400 ft wide and a good 200-300 ft out. The slope of the beach and into water was very gradual, so that the depth at the outermost edge of the swimming area was maybe 12 ft. The sea floor in the swimming area was white and sandy with a small amount of sea grass / turtle grass, a few medium-sized rocks, and not much of anything else. Off to the left side, there were several large outcroppings of rocks, the resort buildings, Bacardi Beach Bar, another bar & grill, a couple shops, first aid, and the restrooms.
Stingray Pen. Off to the right side of the beach was the boat dock, which made up one wall of the large, enclosed, stingray pen. For $56 there was a Stingray Encounter excursion, where visitors were given snorkeling gear and allowed to swim (and even pet) the stingrays in the pen, prior to relaxing on the beach. But they weren't in there for very long (maybe 30 minutes for the extra $20) - because when I got out of the water from just my first snorkel-around, the pen was already cleared of visitors. There were a good number of Southern Stingrays in the pen, which I photographed from the dock.
Snorkeling at Blackbeard's. First off, I'll state that the snorkeling wasn't all that good here. I traversed practically the entire perimeter and the outer third of the large cordoned-off swimming area, and didn't find any semblance of a reef or established coral. The outer third I mentioned did contain a lot of sea grass and various other marine plant growth. Within this limited environment was only a few small fish, widely disbursed. I made a single attempt to snorkel over to see the Stingrays in the pen, but I was whistled off by resort personnel. I had read in CruiseCritic.com that viewing the Stingrays from the outside was possible (and therefore no need to pay the extra $ to swim in the pen), but it looked like Blackbeard's has put an end to that. Also, I didn't venture out to deeper water, or to the eastern side beyond the ropes, because there was a steady stream of jet-ski traffic zipping by there. OK, here's what I did see.
* Flyingfish. Seen fleeing/flying across the water out in front of the boat as we made our way through the open water heading north towards the island. D also spotted a few when we were returning later in the afternoon. * Bar Jack, I saw small ones here in the grass (6~10 inches), and then larger ones tomorrow at Grand Bahama. * Common Octopus, unfortunately I saw him prior to bringing out the underwater camera. He was actually out in the open, and spotted easily. Then I followed him as he made his way along the bottom and finally hid under a rock. * Quillfin Blenny, there were many of these large blennies in the grass, but I'm not entirely sure about the ID. * Sand Diver, looked a lot like a large blenny, hanging out in the grass. * Ringtail Surgeonfish, med to dark blue body with distinct white ring around tail base. First time I've seen them in the Atlantic/Caribbean, even though I saw plenty of them in Hawaii. * Blue Tang, saw a few surgeonfish/tangs large enough to distinguish as blue tangs. * Slippery Dick had made a home in one of the cinderblocks used as an anchor point for the swimming rope. Every time I approached him, he darted back into the protection of one of the spaces in the block. * Damselfish, lots of small indistinguishable reef damselfish. * Sand Tilefish, plain-looking white fish that hung out in the sandy areas. * Cushion Sea Star. A common starfish - saw only 2 of these here, but many more tomorrow.
Friday: Freeport: We left Nassau late Thurs night and arrived in Freeport at around 7:30am Fri morning. The ship left Freeport in the late afternoon, so the only activity we did was our Fortune Beach excursion.
Freeport - Grand Bahama. Freeport Harbor. I watched the entire entrance into the Freeport. Sunrise wasn't until some time after 7am, and we were due to arrive by 8am, but by 7:30am, the ship was already pier-side. So, I didn't see much, because once it was light enough to see, the ship was already practically at the pier. I didn't miss anything, because what an ugly harbor it was! "Freeport makes most people go - Yuck!" ~CruiseCritic.com member. I agree. It appears that Freeport has put no effort into beatifying the harbor for the cruise ship passengers.
Pier Facility. The Carnival Victory docked in an industrial area, primarily a port area for cargo vessels, right in the midst of working dockyards/shipyards. No passenger pier facilities, no shopping or tourist area catering to cruise ship passengers - nothing. There was just a weed-choked, 12 ft high chain link fence surrounding the pier, with a single ancient-looking guard at the opening - not even a gate. (On the way back in he didn't even check for IDs.) The area surrounding the pier was nothing but warehouses and industrial buildings.
South-Central Beaches. Once you leave the Freeport/Lucaya area, you can virtually have your pick of white sandy beaches which stretch endlessly all the way east for upwards of 20 miles, and once you're past the resorts, they're largely secluded.
Fortune Beach, on the south-central coast of Grand Bahama, is a special gem because of its beautiful waters and white sands, dominated by the all-inclusive resort property of the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach (see our excursion below). Plus, there is a beach accessible reef ideal for snorkelers, and you are at the doorstep of both the Lucayan National Park and the Rand Nature Center for further adventures.
"Viva-Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort Day Pass" excursion, $92 "Spend a fun-filled day at Grand Bahama Island's only all-inclusive beachfront resort. Nestled on the southern coast of Grand Bahama, this palm-studded 26-acre beachfront, all-inclusive paradise, features 1200 feet of white sandy beach with warm tropical waters, a beachfront swimming pool, cocktail and snack bar, beach and disco bars, three restaurants, and on-site Viva Dive Center. Breakfast and lunch buffets, snacks, unlimited beverages, and use of all facilities are included. Towels and chairs are provided on the beach. Everything you want in one all-inclusive package."
Beach facilities, lunch buffet, UNLIMITED alcohol/beverages, pool & games if you wanted - everything - this was a very nice excursion. We went for a full day beach excursion to relax, get some sun, snorkel, swim, and just get away from it all, and this place fulfilled our expectations.
Getting There. The trip from the port to Fortune Beach was by bus. We left at 8:35 for the 40-minute ride to Fortune Beach. The driver did point out some places of interest, like the island's only McDonald's, the only Exxon station, the only this, the only that, but there wasn't much to see in Freeport/Lucaya. Once we left the city, I was disappointed to find that the road was too far inland to see the coastline. We arrived at the Viva-Wyndham at 9:15am, and we were told to meet the bus for the return trip at 1:45pm. So, we had 4 1/2 hours to enjoy the beach.
Viva-Wyndham Fortuna Beach. What a beautiful beachfront. Palm trees interspersed between Tiki-hut style permanent wooden umbrellas with built-in tables - shading sets of four lounge chairs, larger shade cabanas, a beachfront bar & grill, and a watersports building (paddle boats, kayaks, small sailing-catamarans, snorkel gear, and for a fee, jet-skis). As advertised, the sand was powdery, white, and soft, and the '1200 feet' of beach was several hundred feet wide from the pool & main buildings to the surf. The water, again, was a beautiful blue-turquoise-aqua color, and according to the post board, was 81°F. The surf was very calm with almost no waves, and the slope of the beach was very gradual. The swimming area was again cordoned off, but immense. It stretched just short of the entire 1200 ft of beachfront (the exception being where the watersports building was), and extended out for at least 300~400 ft.
Our Time There [9:15am-1:45pm]. D spent a lot of time relaxing on the beach and took a few dips in the water. I spent most of my time snorkeling, three sessions in all (see next). I had a truly delicious cheeseburger from the beachfront bar & grill. Speaking of that bar, early I had a cherry slushy (from the whirling machine) with some rum thrown in for good luck. Later, I had a few to many Bahama Mamas - and I'd have to say that they were the best Bahama Mamas that I've ever had. (I wish now that I had asked for his exact recipe - because there are way too many variations of this drink.) At 12:45pm, D & I went to the lunch buffet. There were salad, fruit, desert, and sandwich stations, and a hot food area that had about 4-5 choices. I got a piece of broiled fish (tasty), some beef-and-peppers Asian stir-fry (ok), and a piece of baked chicken (way too dry), along with some fresh fruit. D got a much better piece of chicken that she said was tasty, I don't know what else, some fresh fruit, and a tasty piece of chocolate cake. After lunch, we had only about a 1/2 hour left, so I took one final dip in the ocean.
Snorkeling at Fortune Beach. The snorkeling here was EXCELLENT! I had to swim well out from the beachfront, maybe in excess of 150 yards, but once that far out, there was a very extensive established hard and soft coral reef. There was a marine traffic hazard buoy marking the shallowest part of the reef, which made it easy to locate. The sandy bottom around the reef was about 20-25 ft deep, but, the shallow section of the reef was less than 2 ft below the water surface. There was probably thousands of fish on this reef, dozens of different varieties, with the most prevalent being the dense schools of (mostly) 6-10 inch Snappers and Grunts. What I saw.
* Snappers: I saw many, many of the 'schooling' snappers such as Schoolmaster and Bluestripe, Mahogany Snapper distinctive with it's brick red tail and fin accents, but I also saw a large number of snappers with paler pinkish / flesh-tone accents and tails, which were Mutton Snappers. To a lesser extent, I saw Gray Snappers which display a dark band through the eye when in shallow water. I also saw a lone, huge, Yellow Snapper, which may have exceeded the 18 inch size that my book states. It swam right up to me, and I got a great photo. Yellowtail Snapper, I'd seen these frequently before, only the ones that I saw here were far larger, numerous ones in the 15-20 inch size swimming in the open. * Grunts: I saw many, many of the 'schooling' grunts such as French and Bluestripe, to a lesser extent, but still plentiful Caesar, White, and Sailors Choice (sailors grunt). I saw a single Margate, the largest fish in the grunt family, perhaps 22~24 inches. It was a beautiful turquoise color, and I got right up close for a great photo. * Parrotfish: Midnight Parrotfish (terminal) very dark blue body with bright whitish-blue bursts on its snout. Redband Parrotfish (terminal and initial phase). Stoplight Parrotfish (terminal and initial phase). * Porkfish bright yellow body with thick black bands and thin blue stripes. It swam right up to me near the surface (looking for a handout?) and got almost startling close, so I got an excellent photo. * Palometa, almost translucent-looking in the water, very long dorsal and anal fins (like an angelfish). Swam close to the people, right in the surf line, where I saw them as I was getting into and out of the water. * Blue Tangs: Many of the mature Blue Tangs that I've seen many times before. Blue Tang (young juvenile) body of all bright yellow prior to turning blue with maturity, only 2-3 inches long. Blue Tang (transitional juvenile) light sky blue body with yellow tail still remaining. * Surgeonfish: Ocean Surgeonfish, in small schools. Doctorfish, light gray with numerous, very thin, darker body bars. Ringtail Surgeonfish - a lot larger than the ones that I saw at Blackbeard's. * Damselfish: The ever-present, curious Sergeant Majors, which weren't schooling, but rather swimming singly above the coral; Sergeant Major purple phase, out of the 1000s of sergeant majors I've seen, this was the first time I saw one in the purple phase. Reef Damselfish, saw a lot of small, mostly dark-colored, small, non-descript damselfish all over the reef. * Mojarra, saw a few fairly large ones (12~15 inches) cruising near the sandy bottom. * Tiger Grouper. Big heavy fish with definite vertical light-colored bars on a darker blue to greenish body, with some yellow accents on the fin tips. Groupers can change their color at will, but the bars ID it as a Tiger. * Bar Jack. I saw a few individuals, and then a large school (maybe 50 or so fish) swam by at a rapid pace, but I did manage to get a photo of the tail end of the school. * Honeycomb Cowfish, the two 'horns' over its eyes give it away, but the honeycomb pattern wasn't too distinct. * Yellow Goatfish, catfish-like, feeding on the bottom. * Pluma Porgy. A large member of the porgy family. * Bluehead Wrasse and a number of other wrasses. * Silver Porgy - common, silver body with large eyes and distinct black spot at the base of the tail. * Cushion Sea Star. A common starfish, most were manila-yellow, but some were almost whitish, and some a deep orange.
Port of Norfolk, VA: Info, Boarding/Embarkation & Departure. Half Moone Cruise Center [1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk]. This was a new cruise terminal that opened in Norfolk in 2007, taking over for (and right adjacent to) the previous Nauticus terminal that we had used in 2004. The new terminal is named for a fort that once stood at the site. We left the Courtyard Norfolk, where we had stayed overnight, at 11:30am, arriving at the terminal around 11:45. Even though the stated embarkation time was 1pm, everything was already underway when we arrived. I dropped off D and our luggage (big bags) with the porters at the terminal roundabout, and headed for the Cedar Grove parking lot. $70 to park ($10/day), and hopped on the shuttle bus back to the terminal. This time around, the busses were full-size touring versions, with porters loading the large luggage in big compartments under the bus (for passengers who didn't drop their bags at the terminal). Also, these busses have much higher passenger capacity - so everything went much, much faster.
Embarking was very easy from the Half Moone facility, which the "Cruise Norfolk" site promises to be "flawless and fast", and for once, the advertisement wasn't lying. You walk upstairs, down a short over-the-water walkway, and arrive in the main processing area. There was no wait - and we proceeded right to a desk. We were processed, welcome-aboard photographed, and on board by 12:45. One hour start-to-finish, and that included at least a half hour getting back and fourth to the parking lot. It's amazing to me how the mighty WWII Battleship Wisconsin [860 ft long, 57,000 tons], once one of the largest ships afloat, looks so small in comparison to the Victory [893 ft long, 102,500 tons].
Departure. D want 'aloft' to the upper deck to make some final phone calls, while I staked out a table poolside and ordered a bucket-o-beers while listening to the start up of what was billed as 'calypso music party' for the bon voyage. We were due to depart at 5pm, and even though I never heard a departing whistle from the ship, I realized by 5:05 that we were moving away from the dock under the guidance of the tugs. We turned a complete 180° and headed up the Elizabeth River, past Portsmouth and the Norfolk Naval Base, across Hampton Roads Bay (during which time it got dark out), and finally past the Cape Henry Lighthouse and out into the Atlantic Ocean. We saw a large assortment of Navy ships as we cruised by the Navy Base.
Carnival Victory - Ship Review Carnival.com: "True to her name, there are no losers aboard the Carnival Victory, only very satisfied cruisers." Launched 2000 (2004 refurbished); Ship size Large Passenger; Tonnage 102,500 tons; Ship length 893 ft; Passenger capacity 2,758; Ship width 116 ft; Total crew 1,100; Passenger Decks 13; Officers nationality Italian; Total Staterooms 1,379; Captain Gianpaolo Casula; Speed 22.5 knots (25.7 mph); Propulsion 2x20MW electric motors, 2 shafts, 2 variable-pitch props; Class Destiny-class (Destiny, Triumph, Victory)
Our Opinions: The ship's decor is all Carnival, much more glitzy (Vegas styled) than the other lines, but that is not a bad thing, as both D & I liked it. The ship is big, the largest we've been on. To their credit, I never felt that any venue we attended was ever overcrowded. Here are some of my foremost comments in 'bullet' form, I'll elaborate on them throughout. * We enjoyed our time on the ship and had no complaints about the Carnival personnel. However, the low quality of many of the passengers aboard left us with the feeling that it will be a long time before we cruise Carnival again. * The dining room food was excellent, and our waiter, Nenad (from Croatia), was absolutely top-notch. * Siren's Pool (aft pool with retractable roof) was the place to swim - it was never crowded. * Cruise Director Malcolm Burn was one of the most entertaining and funny CDs we've experienced. * Cocktails were NOT overly pricey, mixed drinks such as margaritas or Bahama mamas were around $5. * As for the main pool deck - Triton's Pool was too tiny for the ship's capacity, and the King of the Seas Pool was rarely open. There was actually an over abundance of lounge chairs so that there were always some available. * The two hot tubs near Triton's Pool were filled constantly, yet the two near Siren's Pool were never opened. * The ship's layout was confusing due to the two-story main dining rooms which prohibited you from walking fore-and-aft on those decks. D & I realized "we can't get there from here" many times in the first few days. * There was nothing that could be considered a Rock & Roll bar on this ship.
About Carnival in General: D & I were aware of Carnival's reputation, but we really wanted to give them another chance, and we were interest in comparing them to NCL, which we had cruised our last 4 times. It had been 11 years since our first cruise on Carnival. As I understood it - during those ensuing years, the Carnival Line had made a serious effort to transform their reputation from one of 'Party Ships', to one that they now call "The Fun Ships" suited for anyone who wants to have a good time - including the 'seasoned' cruise passengers that all the cruise lines covet.
I'd have to say that there definitely was improvement in two areas: (1) The quality and selection of food, especially in the Lido Buffet, where the 'satellite' food stations offered a very varied daily menu. I thought that the dining room food was equally excellent both cruises, but there appeared to be more 'A1' entree selections this time around, and our waiter, Nenad, was absolutely top-notch. (2) The inside stateroom we occupied, and its bathroom, were much roomier.
However, in several aspects of general life aboard, Carnival still appears to be somewhat below the other lines. The fare for a Carnival cruises is, and due to their demographics will probably always be, cheaper than the other lines. This will always make Carnival more appealing to lower income passengers than the average passenger on other lines. These passengers, en mass, were sometimes overwhelming in their uncouth behavior, but general drunkenness wasn't the problem. Not to say that we didn't have a good time, we did, but we were constantly bombarded with bad manners, rudeness, loud and obnoxious conversations/arguments, and general poor conduct that we hadn't experience on other cruise lines. The ship did appear to keep most of the kids in check - and for that they should be commended. However, rarely seen on other cruise lines, there were an inordinate number of couples that brought their diaper-wearing toddlers on this cruise - and brought them into the pool.
Entertainment / Activity / Recreational Areas Victory Pool Deck (Lido Deck 9) contains terraced sunning areas, two pools, three hot tubs, and the waterslide in the main central deck area, and another retractable-roof pool and two more hot tubs on the aft deck.
Triton's Pool is the main pool, centrally located in the open portion of the central deck. As always, this main pool was too tiny for the ship's capacity. In addition, a large number of couples brought their diaper-wearing toddlers into the pool, so that it was a bit disgusting to those of us who think about what must be leaking out of those diapers. Hot Tubs, two of them, were at the forward end of the pool. They were small (maybe 6-person capacity), but appeared to be perfectly placed for relaxing in while watching the poolside theater screen. These two hot tubs were filled constantly. The pool was flanked on either side by the shaded areas filled with tables and chairs. Tables were sometimes tough to obtain, but with some diligence, and only a little bit of baking time on a lounge chair, I could usually come by one eventually.
King of the Seas Pool is a small, square pool at the base of the waterslide, which I had read, used to be the receptacle for rider of the slide. However, there must have been a change in the design. Now, the slide ends in a long, horizontal run out, which parallels one side of the pool. As far as I witnessed, this pool was closed most of the cruise. There was another hot tub just forward of the King of the Seas Pool, literally under the waterslide. It was opened only periodically.
Victory Slide is one of the largest waterslides at sea, a snaking tube that is over 200 ft long. For entrance, you had to climb up 4 decks to Sky Deck 14 (no deck 13). I had a desire to go down it, but somehow the opportunity never arose. It was open for limited hours on several days, but it never jived with a time when I was out on deck swimming. I had hoped that I'd ride down it on the final day (as we returned to Norfolk) but the weather and sea conditions precluded that.
Sunbathing Terraces stretched, in tiered levels, from the Triton Pool and hot tubs on Lido Deck 9, up to, around, and beyond the King of the Seas Pool and the waterslide, all the way to Sun Deck 12. There was never any difficulty finding a lounge chair, either when the pool area was filled to capacity or not. Negotiating the terraces reminded me somewhat of an obstacle course, forcing you to check out the scenery whether you were prone to or not.
Sea Side Theater is a very large outdoor movie/video screen that was hung off the decks right above the Triton Pool, (added during the 2004 refurbishment). By my guess, the screen was about 30ft wide x 15ft tall. It was flanked by two banks of speakers. Even at noon on a sunny day the screen was bright enough to see the image, and even with a deck full of noisy passengers you could still hear most of the audio. It was on 24/7, showing movies or concert video during prime hours, and Nickelodeon during the day (even though there were way more adults around the poll than kids). Overnight, and I mean through the hours of 4am-7am (yes, I was up several times during those hours), there was a beautiful hour-long continuous-looping ocean life scenes video set to classical music. It was very enjoyable the first and even the second or third times (I entertained myself by trying to name all of the reef fish), however, when I'd seen it 8-10 times, I began to wish that they would play something else, anything else.
Poolside Entertainment. As I said, the poolside theater was on 24/7, except for the short periods of time when there was live entertainment. There did exist a small poolside bandstand, about half way up the Sunbathing Terrace, however, it was never used. Instead, the live entertainers performed on the deck above the Triton Pool, below the movie screen. * Calypso Music Sailaway [5pm Mon]. The poolside band "Addiction" was poor, at best, consisting of just two people, a female lead singer, and an accompanist on a steel drum. All of the background music was from a Karaoke machine. I always enjoy the live Caribbean-style poolside bands - so this was very disappointing to me, and to top it off, they never played for more than 1-hour. * Poolside Calypso Music [noon Tues]. I gave Addiction another chance - more of the same. Disappointing. * Pool Games [2:45pm Tues] consisted of just two events. Pearl Diving, between three different, 4-person, male-female teams. A dozen golf balls were thrown into the pool, females first dove after them, and then the males. Team with the most total golf balls found won Carnival's 'Ship on a Stick' trophies. A Limbo Contest followed. Anyone and everyone could participate, whether you just ducked under the bar or when under in the correct back-bending limbo style. * Sailaway Deck Party [11:30pm Thurs]. I wasn't expecting much from this party to 'celebrate' leaving Nassau, with music again by Addiction. I got less than expected. There really was no party at all, except for some extra cocktail stations serving drinks out of faux coconuts, but that's it. They did project a video image of Addiction up onto the big screen, but that wasn't anything to write about (but I guess I did anyway).
Sirens' Pool was located all the way aft, and featured a retractable roof. The roof was kept closed overnight and when the ship was underway, but opened at 7am each morning while we were in port. I watched it being opened several times. Siren's Pool was the place to swim - it was never crowded, and it seemed that no kids ever found it. Hot Tubs, there were again two of them near Siren's Pool, but they were closed and had signs "high chlorination in progress" for the entire cruise.
Sirens' Veranda. The area around Sirens' Pool was also my favorite place to sit and relax, read, kick-back, etc, any time (day or night). The space was unnamed, so I gave it this one. There were well over 30 tables here, so there were always tables available, more than half of which (the ones running down the port and stbd side) remained in the shade even when the roof was open. The tables in the aft portion afforded a nice view (through windows) of the wake of the ship, although the chlorine smell could get overpowering around those tables nearest to the hot tubs. Two of the satellite food stations (Mississippi BBQ and Arno River Pizza) and Sirens' Bar, all of which I'll talk about later, were located within this space. The entire area also had a very nice-looking dark wood-stained floor.
Caribbean Show Lounge was a very ornate, large, 3-deck high, high capacity, Vegas-style theatrical stage/theater. The design was quite different from other 3-deck main theaters we'd seen. The lowest (stage) level, which featured arced couches with small accompanying tables, was arranged on one single flat level, with no elevation for the seating in the rear. I never sat there for a show, but my quick-view assessment lead me to believe that you'd have nothing but obstructed sight lines from the entire back half of this level. The upper level was a highly sloped continuous horseshoe that encompassed both the 4th and 5th decks. Viewing was very good for at least 2/3 of the seating. The very ends of the horseshoe butted up against the stage curtain wall, so you were looking at the back of any performers near the front of the stage. * Welcome Aboard Show [10:30pm Mon]. Hosted by CD Malcolm, the first 1/2 hour was a small sampling of the entertainment that would be presented in the show theater for the rest of the week, first the Victory Dancers did a choreographed routine, then the two vocalists Janae Longo (female) and Sean Andrews (male) performed, neither one of which had what I would consider a stunning voice, and then there was a 'big band' musical number by Sean Leahy & the Victory Orchestra. The second 1/2 hour was a stand-up performance by comedian Will Marfori. * Will Marfori: "He is not a disabled person who is funny... he is a funny person who happens to be disabled." ~Stalliononline.com. Will was born with Cerebral Palsy, to a Philippine father and Caucasian mother. His handicap and his mixed-race origins are the entire source of his material, which I'd say elicited a few good chuckles but wasn't LOL funny. He had an audience-interactive style, and his self-depreciative joking about the difficulties of living with his handicap (every cop he's ever met has thought he was drunk) made him very likable. D, said he was great - but ever-the-caregiver, she immediately related to his 'damaged goods' persona, and I believe that her opinion was biased a bit high. My favorite part of the show was his impressions, Elvis - with Cerebral Palsy, Mr. T - with Cerebral Palsy, Mike Tyson - with Cerebral Palsy, very funny. He later performed an Adult-Only show (see Adriatic Lounge). * Cruise, Travel & Adventure Talk [11am Tues] by CD Malcolm Burn (Bronx, NY). Malcolm was a young, very tall, thin, black man with his heart in the Bronx - i.e. Yankee fan (oh God). I'd have to say that he was one of the most entertaining and funny CDs we've experienced. He made even informative talks like this one very enjoyable. First, he introduced the rest of his 'Entertainment' Staff: Assistant CD Ingrid (Toronto, Canada), William (South Africa), Marky-Mark (Hollywood, CA). He gave a lot of generally good info, including the 'trick' to getting to the ship's bow observation deck (helpful, because I hadn't yet figured that one out), and then went over the available Excursions. He just glossed over our "Blackbeard's Beach Break" excursion, instead concentrating on the alternative one where you swam with the stingrays. But, he highly praised the "Viva-Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort Day Pass" excursion that we had already booked for our day on Grand Bahama. * Millionaire Game Show [9pm Wed]. Run just like the Millionaire show on TV, hosted by Marky-Mark. A single passenger participant at a time, being asked (in this case) pretty simple questions, all in a quest to reach the top level where they were amply rewarded with - what else - the Carnival Ship on a Stick. We saw only the second half of the show after getting out of the dining room. * Showtime [10:30pm Wed]. A non-descript name for a show that had two entertainers, each doing a 1/2 hour performance. First was Tia Thompson, the very strong-voiced comedian & singer that we had seen 11 years ago on our first Carnival cruise. She was actually a fill-in for the scheduled performer, juggler Victor Zuniga. The second half of the show was a dead-pan delivery style stand-up comedian Michael Panzeca. * Tia Thompson: "Experience for yourself what it means to be "Entertained" with musical comedy." ~Tia. Pieced-together excerpts from her site: She is a comedian/actress/vocalist who combines pop, rock, rhythm & blues with unique humor and comedic flare, taking entertainment to new heights with her one-woman show. That's a pretty good description. She definitely has a wide range of talents, and a very entertaining personality. No one in the first few rows of the audience is safe during her shows, as she constantly pulls people on stage and subjects them to a variety of funny situations and actions. The best part of this show was her rendition of a Diana Ross song where she pulled three couldn't-be-more-dissimilar guys out of the audience to sing backup as the "Supremes" - an 85 year old who she christened "Pop-Pop", a red-neck that I think she called "Sparky", and a young black guy she named "Soul Brother" - each of whom was given a wig and a feather boa/stole. Hilarious! * Michael Panzeca: "Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable." ~michaelpanzeca.com. Much of his comedy stems from his background as an addiction counselor for over 20 years. The bio section of his site said 'under construction', so I don't have much on him. The photo was of a much younger Michael, with a full head of hair, while the Michael we saw was completely bald. He was OK, again good for a few chuckles. He told a number of stories of people's run-ins with the police, a few of the 'Darwin Awards' type stories, where criminals do really stupid things and get caught, and he told a few jokes that I already knew, probably from circulating e-mails. Maybe he wrote them? * TV Trivia Challenge [7pm Thur]. It was actually a name-that-TV Theme Song, hosted by Marky-Mark. They played about a 10-15 second audio clip of various old and new TV Theme Songs, and you had to guess the shows and write them on your scorecard. We ended up with a score of 13/20, and the winning teams (a tie between 2) said that they had 18. What else - Ships on a Stick. * Silver Screen Challenge [7:30 Thur]. Approximately 1-minute video clips of five different movies were played on the big screen, and then 4 questions per movie were asked. Movies were: (1) Gladiator, (2) Twister, (3) Pirates - Dead Man's Chest, (4) Spiderman II, and (5) Rings - Twin Towers. Some of the questions were specific to the scene just shown, and some were general questions about the as-yet unmanned movies. We scored 14/20. The single winning team said that they got all 20 questions! Ships on a Stick for them. * Magic Moments [10:30 Thur] starring magician Rand Woodbury, who has worked for Carnival Cruise Lines for the last 21 years. I read that he was one of the first magicians to introduce a magic production show to the cruise industry. For someone who is as accomplished as he in the magic business (enough to have written several books, produced multiple videos, and currently conducts workshops to train illusionists), I didn't think that his act was all that entertaining. He mostly did magic tricks at the front of the stage, a single disappearing-lady-in-the-box illusion, and slight-of-hand disappearing toilet paper trick with an audience participant. * Disembarkation Talk [11am Sat], hosted by CD Malcolm. You usually get some good info here, generally on the subject allowable totals for alcohol and other purchases.
South China Sea Club Casino. The first thing you noticed upon entering the casino was the blue sculptures of noble-looking guardian lions. All total, there were six of them, five of which were the same, and one that had only a small variation. Each had a stylized Chinese-looking head, with a large collar from which hung Christmas-looking ornaments, each with one front paw poised over a small globe. The different one, instead, had a small lion cub under his paw. The rest of the casino was done up in bright lights, red columns, and a lot of ornate gold and blue fixtures. The casino did not seem to be very heavy with smoke, even though there appeared to be a lot of smokers - there must have been one hell of a good ventilation system. There were many slot machines, and D was pleased to find slots of penny, nickel, and dime denominations.
Seven Seas Atrium. Elegant, nine-deck-high, with glass elevators that provide easy access to public rooms on multiple levels and the passenger counters at the bottom. The focus is the Tiffany-style glass dome at the top, in translucent shades of greens and blues, tied together by the Seven Seas Bar located in the center of the bottom level. * Cocktail Piano Music with Natalina. At various times, a classical pianist played a Baby Grand behind the Seven Seas Bar. I sat briefly several times in the Atrium's lounging chairs around the bar and listened to the pianist. The music was beautiful and soothing, and she was very tall, impeccably dressed in black, and very elegant looking. I also sometimes listened to her playing from the Galleria Shops one deck above, while D was shopping. * Name That Tune [2pm Tues]. I didn't attend this, but I did listen through about 5-6 songs of the competition. I was watching / listening while leaning over the railing from the Galleria Shops one deck above, while D looked through the various offerings. Pianist Natalina would play about a 10-second Pop music selection on the Baby Grand, and the contest participants would guess the name of the tune on their score sheets. There were a number of non-players on the deck above with me that kept - rudely - shouting out answers. * Classical Music with the Cassovia Trio. A few times that I passed through the Atrium, this trio was performing.
Neptune's Way Promenade The indoor 'promenade' was a wide corridor running along roughly 2/3 of the length of the ship's starboard side, on Promenade Deck 5, decorated in a green color scheme that matched the atrium. Off of this were many of the ship's public spaces (casino and most of the clubs/lounges). As I said, the ship had an odd layout, with the two deck dining rooms, so the only way to traverse the ship fore-and-aft to access the lower decks was to come up to this level and walk along Neptune's Way. The Electronic Route Progress Board was located here. This was a feature that I liked a lot. The ship's entire route was initially marked by white lights, with a blinking red one at the present position, and blue ones marking the past progress. I never failed to glance at the board whenever I passed it. The Sushi Counter and Mermaid Bar (where we frequented) were at the head of Neptune's Way. The Bandstand was also at the head of Neptune's Way. While either at the Mermaid Bar or sitting on the lounge chairs spread out from the bandstand, at various times throughout the cruise, I saw / listened to the following bands: * XOP played several sessions called "Funky Party Music" and "Party Dancin' Music". They were from Los Angles, CA. The lead singer was the tall, black guy in the fedora - he kept it pulled down low over his eyes and never took it off. I enjoyed their performances, which featured a whole lot of live music, with only limited amounts of lyrics.
* Chris Martell Trio played repeat sessions called "Live Jazz Music". Classic stuff, some of what was enjoyable, and some of what (to my untrained ear) sounds to be disjointed. * Flashy also played repeat sessions called "Variety Music" which I might have seen, because I remembered seeing what I thought was part of the Victory Orchestra performing, but it may have been this group.
Boat Deck Promenade was the open deck area beneath the lifeboats - a quiet, secluded alternative to the other open decks. D & I strolled along here several times while gazing out over the deep, blue Atlantic Ocean. * Life Boat Drill [4:30 pm, Mon]. Same as always, every passenger has to don their live vest and assemble at their 'muster' station. However, on this ship it was either very unorganized, or else, the passengers were very reluctant to participate. D & I, who made it out to our position by the requested 4:30pm, had to stand around uncomfortably in our life vests waiting for numerous late arrivers who didn't assemble until nearly 4:50pm. Then, there were many who couldn't figure out how to get the vests on, and had to be helped. Because of all this, the drill didn't end until after 5pm.
Mini-Golf Course tucked on a corner of Spa Deck 12. The Astroturf holes were small with 'rock' and 'tunnel' hazards. At times it was crowded, crawling with kids, but often there was no one there. There was a locker labeled "Mini-golf equipment", but there was nothing in there when I attempted to play one early morning. The only time that I did play, I picked up a club and ball that had been left near the railing. * My 2 Holes Played [10am Sat]. Yes, that's all. The final day of the cruise, I decided that I might as well try a round on mini-golf. I started behind two young boys (maybe 8-10 years old). While they were on hole #3, and I was on #2, five adults joined up with them (yes 5!) Cut right in on hole #3, and just started sharing the two clubs and two golf balls. Loud, rude, slobs who decided to try to eat breakfast while playing, all the while dropping a mess of food on the course. Plus, one was smoking, with no care as to where she flicked her ashes. Since I was a single, when they seemed to be finishing the hole, I asked if I could play through. The answer I got, and I quote "We was here first." This coming from the head slob who just 5 minutes previous had CUT in on hole #3. I left.
Sports Areas on Spa Deck 11, one deck below and under the whale-tail funnel, was a running track (10 laps to the mile) along with a couple of shuffleboard courts. The two Ping-Pong tables were located on the starboard side of Deck 12. * Ping-Pong Tournament [10am Tues]. I played only this one time. No tournament per se, just 10-or-so people who showed up playing each other, no winner continues or losers drop out, just playing.
Our Stateroom 2207 was on Main Deck 2. As always, we booked an inside stateroom, however this one was actually on the starboard outside of deck 2, forward, but without any outside view. * It was larger than we'd experienced before - Carnival states that standard staterooms on Victory average 195 sq-ft (staterooms on our last NCL cruise averaged 165 sq-ft). * Rather than side-by-side or parallel, our two beds were at a right angle to each other. * No in-room refrigerator (mini bar). So, I couldn't make use of my recent habit of buying the bucket-o-beers, and storing some in the fridge for later.
Lounges / Bars Adriatic Lounge was modeled after a French salon with columns and gradually ascending steps, the décor was a bit more subdued than the rest of the spaces on Victory, tans, yellows, and white. Some of the smaller shows were staged here. * Captain's Welcome Aboard Party [7:30pm Tues]. Always a good event to attend - no, not because you get introduced to the captain and his senior crew, but because there are free cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Most often you get champagne, or a single cocktail, but here there were many choices, wine and pre-prepared cocktails (about 5-6 different ones) carried around by the waiters. The freebie drinks were small, but unlimited, served in tall, thin aperitif glasses. This is where D first tried a Blue Margarita. I started off with two Whisky Sours, and then I had a Rum-Punch. Hors d'oeuvres were Hawaiian meatballs, chicken wontons, and stuffed mushrooms. * Late Night "R" Comedy Special [10:45pm Tues] starring Will Marfori. Again, pleasingly funny, but without any real Adult humor. D waited for the meet-and-greet with Will after the show. He was talking with a single other person (who he seemed to know). She complimented him on a good show, but he stated that he didn't think the audience enjoyed it much. I thought to myself that the audience's lack of reaction was because they, like I, were expecting Adult humor. * Midnight "R" Comedy Special [10:45pm Fri] starring Michael Panzeca. This second of his shows, with Adult-Only humor, was better than his big theater show. Everything was delivered dead-pan, while he puffed on a cigarette, and drank from a bottle of beer sitting on his stool. Many of his funny stories started off with "So, while I'm stabbing this guy..." or "After I hit this guy with my car..." Then he got R-rated, when he started telling several of the genre "So, I was *** this girl..."
Ionian Room was a comfortable lounge with perhaps one of the more adultish relaxation atmospheres of any space on the ship. It was decorated with wood paneling, Greek vases, and thick, deep, red leather armchairs and sofas, and what I could best describe as an interesting parquet ceiling. * Super Trivia 1 [1pm Tues]. Hosted by William, with a very different format than we were used to. Six teams, D & I teamed with a retired couple. Three rounds, each round consisting of each team picking in turn a block from a bag (each block representing a different topic of questioning), then getting first shot at answering that question. If they missed, then the question was passed to each team in succession until it was answered. When you got the correct answer, you rolled a giant block numbered 1-6, and your team received the points rolled. We Won with a score of 18. * Super Trivia 2 [1pm Sat]. Same format, same host. This time our team added another retired couple. We Won again with a score of 18 again. Our total of 36 points for the two sessions won us, you guessed it, Carnival Ships on a Stick. * Another rude incident. While halfway through Trivia Sat afternoon, a family/group of about 10-12 passengers entered the Ionian Room. They came in to smoke, this was one of the lounges that allowed it (it was drizzling out). They started indiscriminately shouting out answers (most wrong) to the Trivia questions. Host William at first nicely asked them to stop, but they were too stupid to realize or too rude to care that they were affecting our game in progress. William had to tell them (again nicely) that he would have to have them removed if they didn't stop!
Mermaid Bar (i.e. Trident Bar) was located in a perfect spot on Neptune's Way Promenade, just outside the casino, adjacent to the Sushi Counter and the Bandstand that I talked about earlier. It was a very nicely appointed area with a beautiful gold sculpture of four mermaids rising from the center of the bar. Its actual name was the Trident Bar (the four mermaids were holding tridents). However, D & I had already been calling it the Mermaid Bar - so the name stuck. * Sushi & Cocktails. We enjoyed many evenings at this bar while eating sushi and drinking Blue Margaritas and Bahama Mamas. At other times I had a Gin & Tonic and a Jack & Ginger from this bar.
Irish Sea (Piano) Bar, near the rear of Neptune's Way, was fashioned to look like an Irish pub - the shamrock decorations were the give-away. It was a piano bar, where patrons gathered around a circular bar decorated with piano keys, in the center of which was a revolving stage with the pianist and his Baby Grand. We looked in a few times and saw just the lonely piano player with only a few passengers around him. * Elton John / Billy Joel Sing-A-Long [9:30pm, Mon]. The pianist was Peter Rossetti. "He Stunk!" is an exact quote from D, when I asked her opinion of him later. She is a die-hard EJ & BJ fan, so her opinion counts. BTW, I thought he was pretty bad also. Funny, there was a pair of obviously drunk women there (with their husbands/boyfriends) who seemed to think that the performance was great - and were singing along while trying to remain upright at the bar. * I tried Carnival's signature drink, the "Fun Ship" which was featured on the cover of the drink menu. It sounded good, made with rum, vodka, amaretto, apricot brandy, and fruit juices. It came in a souvenir cup, filled with ice and fruit juices. If there were 4 liquors in there - then they were doing a good job of hiding.
Triton's (Pool) Bars, a pair of crescent-shaped bars that sat adjacent to the main swimming area. Since we did have a few drinks around the pool, it would have to be said that we did, in fact, utilize these bars, even though we never saddled up to them. They were in the shade of the overhanging decks above, so they were actually very popular with a rather large crowd of 'redneck' types, hanging out at the pool wearing their jeans, cowboy boots and hats, with no intention of swimming.
Seven Seas Bar, located in the central atrium, had the glass elevators ascending and descending behind it and the Passenger Desks and general lobby lounging areas surrounding it. For such a central location, it appeared to me to be underutilized and never crowded. At various times, a classical pianist Natalina played a Baby Grand behind the bar.
Black & Red Seas Bar, again Neptune's Way - aft, and as the name implies, it was all blacks & reds, one of the more memorable and distinctive rooms that I've seen on a ship. When I first saw the room, I figured that it would be the Rock & Roll bar - but unfortunately, no such bar existed on this ship - a shame. This was the karaoke hangout.
Dining Options. Carnival's idea of "Flexible Dining" means that they feature two seating times for dinner, Main Seating at 6:15pm and Late Seating at 8:15pm. This is a far cry from the Freestyle eat-anytime-that-you-like policy that we've gotten so used to on NCL. We opted for late seating, because it was generally hard to make the early one after being ashore all day. * One of the first things we did after boarding was we went to the maître'd and requested a table-for-two, which he accommodated without any hassle at all. * Day 1, 3pm. D was surprised to find the Lido buffet closed. This is not NCL I reminded her.
Pacific Dining Room. There are two main dining rooms, Atlantic and Pacific - of which we were assigned to the latter. The Atlantic dining room was located amidships, and our Pacific one was all the way aft. Both spanned two decks, the Lobby Deck 3 and the Atlantic Deck 4, with the second floor being a wraparound balcony. Both have similar sea-themed décor (mermaid/men statues and faces, seahorses, fish murals) in what I would otherwise describe as wedding reception hall-like. * Our waiter Nenad, from Croatia, was excellent. Besides having all the top-notch abilities of a good server, he was also very personable. He told us about his home country, about his job duties at Carnival, and generally seemed pleased to talk with us at any time, about anything. Best of all, he appeared to enjoy his job immensely. * Elegant Evening #1 [8:15 Tue] was the first Formal Night. D & I both got the featured entrée, broiled lobster tail and grilled tiger shrimp. A nice-sized tail, cooked perfectly, and three large tiger shrimp on a skewer coated with a tangy sauce - delicious. We commented on how much we enjoyed it, so Nenad brought us a third plate to share (I had the shrimp and D had the tail). Appetizers: shrimp cocktail (D), stuffed mushrooms (I). Shared desert: Chocolate melting cake. o I really don't know what is wrong with the passengers on Carnival. Prior to lobster night dinner, a crowd began to form while waiting for the doors to open. We waited on the wide staircase above the crowd. Down in the 'trenches' there was a ridiculous amount of pushing & shoving going on. We even had a few people rudely push through those of us on the stairs. What?!? Do they think that the ship is going to run out of lobster? Or are they just that hungry that they can't wait an extra minute to get in? Rude. Crazy. * Dinner [8:15 Thur]. D: Shrimp cocktail, grilled salmon (a dish she always loves), chocolate melting cake. I: Beef sate in peanut sauce (two skewers, very tasty), grilled lamb chops (excellent, three chops at least 1 inch thick, gilled so that they were still pink inside, moist, succulent), and cream brulée. * Elegant Evening #2 [8:15 Fri] was the second Formal Night. D: Shrimp cocktail, both grilled salmon and grilled shrimp entrées, ice cream. I: Escargot (I have to get this every cruise, this one was covered in a cheese crust), Asian grilled grouper (sticky duck-sauce styled glaze with sesame seeds, very tasty) and grilled shrimp entrées, baked Alaska. * Dinner [8:15 Sat]. D: Shrimp cocktail, prime rib (she got the end cut that she prefers), chocolate melting cake. I: Lobster bisque soup, Caesar salad, prime rib (rare like I like it), ice cream. We also shared an extra entrée of crab cakes (not too bad, but a little blander than Maryland-style we're used to with Old Bay seasoning). o Chocolate melting cake dessert: The exultations on the CruiseCritic site were numerous for this. All chocolate. It comes in a tall custard bowl, a heavy chocolate cake top layer with an extremely thick liquid center (like melted fudge). It made even me long for a glass of milk. D loved it. * Galley Tour [4pm Sat]. A very disappointing, less than 5-minute stroll through the galley, without any narration. They didn't put any effort into it, so I won't either.
Lido Buffet, or what Carnival Victory now refers to as The Grand Buffet, is the more casual food venue, consisting of one primary cafeteria-style restaurant (Mediterranean), and FIVE satellite food stations, two within the space of the Med, and three outdoor ones surrounding it. All of them operated somewhat together. * Within all the food stations that constitute the Lido Buffet, we ate all of our on-board breakfasts and lunches, and two dinners (one when we were pressed for time in order to catch an on-board show, and one when we just didn't feel like getting out of our beach clothes).
Mediterranean Restaurant: Another 2-deck design, spanning the Lido Deck 8 to the Panorama Deck 9. I liked the décor of this area a lot. It's fashioned after a seaside Italian villa, with alternating pink and teal paneling inset in (darker) pink stucco walls. There was a huge skylight over the entire center section (the serving area). Standard breakfast choices were offered daily (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, fresh fruit, yogurt and dry cereals) with either pancakes or French toast. There were several omelet stations (I went to the under-utilized one at the Mississippi BBQ). For a typical lunch there were salads, hot entrees like a chicken dish, pastas, baked or broiled fish, etc, a variety of meats at the carving station, and large cheese, fruit, and desert sections. There were several island counter areas where you could get 24-hour refills of coffee, iced tea, or water, which also included OJ, apple juice, and some other juice choices during meal hours. There were also 2-3 soft serve ice cream machines scattered about the area, available most hours of the day. * I had no problem with the quality of the food, but then, I'm generally easy to please as long as the food isn't greasy. * The carving station was good, which served roast beef, turkey, ham, and even prime rib once, however, I always had to ask if there was less-well done roasts, or else skip the overdone ones. * For some reason the upper level of the Med Buffet wasn't discovered by many passengers. There was never more than 1 or 2 tables in use, and I frequently lingered up there after an early breakfast. * The lines could get to 15-20 minutes during peak lunch or dinner hours - but that's par for the course.
East River Deli, located along an interior wall of the Mediterranean space, featured a variety of interesting sandwich choices, or select-your-own-combination choices. * D tried one of their specialty sandwiches. I never tried one, although the Rubens coming off the griddle tempted me.
Yangtze Wok, the second satellite station in the Mediterranean space, which was said to offer Asian stir-fries. However, I never had the opportunity to eat there - I made attempts, but found it closed even though it was hours when I thought it should have been open.
Main Pool Grill. Near Triton's Pool, there were two satellite food counters shoe-horned into the spaces behind the two Triton's Pool Bars. They are unnamed on the ship's deck plans, but in the Carnival Capers, this one is simply referred to by its location "Main Pool Starboardside Forward". * The daily menu didn't vary - burgers, dogs, fried chicken (either strips or pieces), and French fries. The lines were always excessively long. * Sat afternoon we tried the burgers and chicken strips. The burger wasn't very good, just excessively large. The chicken strips, however, were very tasty, moist and tender.
Taste of Nations was the second unnamed food counter behind the Triton's Pool Bars, referred to only by its location "Main Pool Portside Forward", however, its daily fare was always called "Taste of Nations" so I'll name it that. * Daily themed buffets, offering a selection of foods from a specified country or region of the world. I ate almost all of my lunches from here. And get this - there was never any line. I suspect, that due to the passenger make-up on this cruise, not many people were willing to experiment. * Tues: "India" was excellent. Spicy Tandori chicken, tangy & spicy grouper, and some king of grilled meat ka-bobs. * Wed: "Caribbean" had one memorable dish, what else, Jerk Chicken. Tasty, but not as spicy as I would have liked. * Thur: "Mediterranean" was primarily Greek & Italian. Gyros (skipped), an unpronounceable grilled chicken on skewers (very tasty, went back for seconds), lasagna (heavy with chopped meat, ok), and sausage & peppers (skipped). * Sat: "American" - a cop out, same food as Main Pool Grill. We did get our seconds on chicken strips from here.
Mississippi BBQ was the outdoor satellite station located under the retractable roof of the Sirens' Pool. At lunch it served much the same fare as the Main Pool Grill. In the morning, it operated as an omelet station. * The two times that I had eggs over-easy, and my one omelet (peppers, mushrooms, cheese), came from the Miss BBQ.
Sushi Counter. This was definitely an afterthought, but a good one. Just a small kiosk placed at the head of Neptune's Way Promenade, right next to the Mermaid Bar. There were three choices each evening, two pre-prepared sushi rolls, and one fresh fish that the sushi chef would slice and place on sticky rice. * Again, perhaps due to passenger make-up, the sushi counter was under-utilized, and good for me, there was never any line. * Many evenings, we sat at the Mermaid Bar enjoying several mixed drinks with plates of sushi (well I had multiple plates). * There was a limit of six pieces of sushi per person (2 of each type). Which, if there was a high demand, or a line, I could understand the need for. Often, I was the only person at the counter. I would get my six, walk 10 ft over to the bar to eat, (D would help if there was a no raw fish variety), walk back to the counter, back to the bar, eat, repeat, bon appetite.
Arno River Pizzeria was a food preparation area housed under the retractable roof of the Sirens' Pool. This was the ship's 24/7 food counter. It served 8 different varieties of pizza, all with very Italian-sounding names, but lacking where it counted most, in the taste. They also had garlic bread, and Caesar salads and calzones (we didn't try them). * I tried a slice with mushrooms-olives, and one with broccoli-peppers-onions, neither left me wanting another. D tried the garlic bread, which she said was OK, but didn't even like the look of the pizza.
Coral Sea Coffee Cafe, located along Neptune's Way, served specialty coffees and various desserts (large cookies, chocolate cakes, pastries) for a surcharge ($1~$4). We never sampled anything, and I don't know why. We must have stated a least a dozen times that we were going to try the multi-layer chocolate cake that was under the glass-domed display, but somehow, we never did. This place smelled wonderful as you passed by (actually, sometimes the sweet smells were overwhelming).
Return / Disembarking Large luggage had to be set out between 9-11pm the night before arrival, which was kind-of early, but workable. Our arrival back in Norfolk on Sunday, was around 8am. Carnival now uses a numeric system rather than their previous color-key system to stage passenger departure. We were assigned a fairly high number 23. We ate a leisurely breakfast in the Lido Buffet, where we heard the first of the passenger departures being announced. After returning to our stateroom, we waited until about 9:30, and they had still not progressed past departure #6. We made our way to the Caribbean Show Lounge, to wait with many of the other passengers. For some reason, this process took exceptionally long on this ship. It was after 11am, 3 hours after arrival, before the announcement for departure numbers 20-25 were called. After that, it was a quick exit, suitcase pick-up at the pier, through customs, and onto the shuttle bus. It was exactly noon when we finally left the parking lot for the ride home. Less
Our Stateroom 2207 was on Main Deck 2. As always, we booked an inside stateroom, however this one was actually on the starboard outside of deck 2, forward, but without any outside view.
* It was larger than we'd experienced before - Carnival states that standard staterooms on Victory average 195 sq-ft (staterooms on our last NCL cruise averaged 165 sq-ft).
* Rather than side-by-side or parallel, our two beds were at a right angle to each other.
* No in-room refrigerator (mini bar). So, I couldn't make use of my recent habit of buying the bucket-o-beers, and storing some in the fridge for later.