This was the first cruise for my wife and me. Since we cannot compare it to other cruises, my point of reference is land based experiences. I intentionally did not set any expectations except to have a relaxing vacation. It certainly was that.
EMBARKATION: We drove to the pier, arrived app. 12:30 PM. The wait was long in my opinion, about an hour and a half total. Having the Sign & Sail information completed ahead of time may have been helpful once you spoke to the counter person. Getting there was the tiring time. We made it on board around 2PM.
Muster drill was nothing special. I understand it is regulations.
We sailed out, grey skies, a little chilly. That did not stop us from being on Lido Deck, seeing the Statue of Liberty, kicking back our first "beverages".
SURROUNDINGS: Very nice. The themes were brought out through the dEcor. It was eye candy for a while. We didn't tire of it. We just became used to it by the end of the cruise. There were maintenance people always cleaning something.
DINING: Two words....Rigoberto Romero! He was our waitperson and was THE MAN, hands down. He was very friendly, efficient and personable. We were not rushed in any manner. In my opinion, went out of his way to make sure we were happy. On the first formal night, when they were serving dessert, I asked for the lobster tail for dessert (since I didn't have that as a main entrEe). It was there in a minute. Truly a class act. He made our cruising experience special.
Regarding the food, I'd have to say 80 percent of the dishes were above average or exceptional. Being somewhat an amateur chef myself, their presentation skills were very impressive. The other 20 percent was okay. Escargot was excellent (never had it before). Lamb was excellent, as was the stuffed quail. The salads were average. The buffets and room service food was good, but not a "wow" factor. No complaints, really. The pizza was very good! I was pleasantly surprised. Breakfast buffet was average.
Room Steward was Leonardo. He provided excellent service. The ice bucket was always filled, and the room was very neat.
ENTERTAINMENT: I attended "Living in America". The lead vocalists were very talented. The dancers were entertaining. However, the live 11 piece band/orchestra was outstanding and tight! Any band that can play "Chameleon" for bumper music cannot be all bad! I did not go to see "Vroom". My wife liked it also.
I am torn on the magicians. They were very good, as it is difficult to perform magic to a captive audience. They were technically clean. I just felt personally wanting to go to a different level. The second magician (Rand Alexander?) had stage illusions. The audience loved him, as he hit their funny bone. I personally felt a disconnect with him. Except for his story about visiting a sick boy, which led into his "snowstorm" illusion, I did not have a vested interest. He was very good, the audience approved and I have no complaints about the performance. My idea of presentation is different. I guess that my idea of magic is not down the comedy road. Again, just my personal taste.
The calypso band on Lido deck was very enjoyable. I did have the outdoor hottub to myself. The highlight for me musically was the Sergio Manzo Trio. They played jazz most afternoons and evening in the cigar bar. They seemed to develop a following throughout. I got to speak with the musicians, very cool. If you wanted to chill out, that was they place to be. Vodka & tonics went down very smoothly there.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Boston was a walking tour of historic sites with Lee. He is a very knowledgeable gent. It was educational and enjoyable.
PORTLAND: We went to Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. Over-ridden with tourists. My wife and & took our tour guide's advice and went away from the crowds. Had a pleasant cup of coffee, without all the elbow-bumping. Portland itself is a pretty cool city. We got some local coffee to take home.
SYDNEY NS: Very quaint town. Traditionally not my cup of tea, but made the most of it. We did not take an organized excursion there, just hoofed it on our own. We saw several historic houses there, including the Jost House. If you want to get a leg up on historic Sydney, I would recommend a visit there. It is within reasonable walking distance from the ship.
HALIFAX NS: Went on the Peggy's Cove tour. That is a Zen moment. If & when we go back there, I easily could sit on the rocks and just take in the ocean. Absolutely breathtaking.
If you book the excursions through Carnival, you are paying a premium. Granted it is a profit stream for them. The other factor is that you do not have any hassle with it. We experienced no problems whatsoever.
Loose Ends: We made friends on that cruise, one of which we will keep in touch with. We had our "spot" for happy hour. It made the cruise much nicer.
The slots in the casino are so tight, the reels squeaked when they spun.
The gym, in my opinion, was adequate. The treadmills were okay, but well worn. I certainly wish they had cross trainers. That would have been preferable for me. The bikes had no where to place a sport-drink or CD player.
I think it was safe to say that the majority of passengers on this cruise were older, as in retirement age +. That did not pose a problem for us. The bars were less crowded after 11PM!!!
In conclusion, we would do this again in a heartbeat. Will we try other cruise lines? Perhaps. Would we be comfortable cruise on the Victory again? Absolutely.