Just returned today from the Victory's first sailing to Canada for 2004. My two children (girl 9 and boy 12) and I had a great time. With a few exceptions the Victory met our expectations.
Prior to sailing: Spent two great nights in New York.
Embarkation: We were scheduled to set sail at 5:00 on Saturday, and were told by Carnival not to even consider arriving at the port before 1:00 for the boarding time of 1:30-4:30. Also was told by Signman to be prepared for major traffic congestion at port. He suggested arriving around 3:00. We did not listen to either and left our hotel at 11:00 and did sit in a major traffic delay for about 30 minutes, but was well worth it. There terminal was virtually empty. There were no lines to check in, and we were onboard by 12:00.
Cabin: We had a great cabin. We were on the Empress deck. Our steward was very attentive, and pleasant. I think it really helps to tip him as soon as you meet him. He made some great towel animals. While we were only three in our cabin, we chose a quad. This is in the brochure with the sideways 8 with a squiggly. It had a comfortable queen bed, a twin sofa bed and a twin wall bed. We had plenty of room. Plus a balcony. If you can get a balcony it is worth it.
Entertainment: The Vegas style shows were good. I thought the magic show was pretty weak, and didn't really give the comic much of a chance. The Ionian lounge was a comfortable place for jazz and cigars.
Casino: The casino is placed just were I guess Carnival wants it to be. It seems to get anywhere you have to pass right by it. Or in my case right through it. It is small and gets very crowded around 10:00-11:00.
Dining: Food, food, food. Who didn't already know that. The East River Deli was a real surprise. The pastrami was quite good. The Yangzte Wok was a huge disappointment. The menu is very very limited each day as are the hours. I love chinese food, but only ate there once. Pizza, pizza, 24 hours. I think my daughter ate enough for a year. It was hot and not bad. The buffets were pretty standard and average, as was the dining room. We were a bit disappointed at first when we had a table all alone. Your dinner table can really help make for a lot of fun. However, our wait staff Rolando, and Marlon were fantastic. They really entertained the kids.
Cleanliness: I thought the ship was clean and well maintained. It had its rough spots. But any hotel/resort that handles that many people would.
Cruise Director/staff: I thought Skippy was just okay at first, but he kind of grows on you after 5 days. There was something about Simon I just have not figured out yet. As for the other staff members. Two things really stick out the most. How everyone smiles and says hello. Whether it is a guy shampooing the carpet or someone busing a table. The other refers to the busing of tables. Carnival has some incredibly great looking women working for them. I saw women busing tables, that looked like models (well almost).
Ports: I said to myself it was not about the ports before we left. It was more about the ship. Well, I have re-thought that a bit. Saint John was quite boring. There was not much there for me. The Reversing Rapids Ride looked good. We did not do it. Halifax was better. More shopping, more to do.
Camp Carnival: If your kid says " I am not going to Camp Carnival" they really miss out. I have heard others say there kids think it's not cool. These kids have a blast. For 9-11 they can come and go as they please. For 12-15 it's basically not even supervised. The kids love it. I only saw my kids at dinner. They were so busy with the kids they met, and activities they had.
Debarkation: If you are not going to carry your own bags off. Cheat and leave when the first color is called. Most of the bags will be ready. It is a zoo outside. If you want a cab tip the starter, or you may wait a long time until your number is called.