We took the Carnival Victory for seven nights out of San Juan from Oct. 10 - 17, 2010. We were my wife, my three year-old daughter, and me. Our cabin was number 2341. The week overall was fun and fulfilling. However, some very rude conduct by Carnival employees dampened the fun. Here's my assessment:
Embarkation: The Carnival staff processing the check-ins were courteous and efficient. There was a significant problem in the terminal, though: both escaltors to the check-in lobby were broken, and Carnival placed a sign in front of the sole visible elevator that suggested that the elevator was out-of-service as well. So everyone--grandma and little kids included, had to be somehow transported up the very long escalator manually. Only when we arrived at the check-in line did a Carnival employee tell me we that could have walked to the other side of the building to use an operational elevator.
Food: Very good. Typical Carnival fare, including their ubiquitous tom turkey and stuffing, escargots, lobster tails, etc.
Dining room waiter: Excellent. He was Freddy from Peru, a great guy. Every evening, he made animals out of napkins for my daughter, which she really enjoyed. He also did magic tricks for us.
Cabin steward: He kept the room clean, and he was reasonably polite until the very end (after the gratuities had been charged to my credit card). The ship did not debark timely. We were permitted to exit the ship at 11:00 AM (tag number 25, late flight out). At 9:20 AM, Juan, the cabin steward, knocked on our door. When I opened the door, he said abruptly, "It's time to leave. We have to prepare the room." While I did not in any way object to the message, a please and a thank you were conspicuously absent. I told Juan as we left for Deck 3 that he should use please and thank you in the future.
Cabin: Relatively spacious and comfortable. Hot water was abundent. The linens were very comfortable, as usual. In our Main Deck, midship cabin, noise from the bars or disco was not an issue.
Security guards: At least two of them need refresher training on being courteous to guests. One snapped at me when I tried to sit down at an empty Deck 3 table that he wanted empty, but had not cordoned off. Another was abrupt when I climbed the gangway in Barbados while she was not at her proper post to process my ID card.
Bar staff: Very friendly, gracious, and efficient. The cigar bar is excellent, and Ali, the bartender there, is really nice.
Public areas: Very pretty and acceptable. A few spots of threadbare carpeting do not bother me at all.
Here's the biggest factor playing into whether I was satisfied with the onboard experience: On Day One, the Atlantic dining room had a sign in front of its back doors saying that dinner would be served until 9:30 PM (no assigned tables and mealtimes on that day). I confirmed the veracity of the sign with a friendly Filipino crewman stationed at that entrance, near the elevator bank. When we arrived at 8:45 PM, the woman at the hostess stand refused to seat us. I explained to her the sign's contents and my conversation with the Filipino crewman. She rudely told me multiple times that it was "impossible" that such a sign existed at the back door of the Atlantic dining room and that I must have been on Deck 9 when I saw it. She asked me to show her the sign. We walked over to the back door of the dining room and it was gone. She repeated her claim that it was "impossible" that the sign had been stationed there and that I must have been on Deck 9. At that point, I was furious and told her that I have been on many cruises, that I know the difference between the Lido Deck and the formal dining room, and not to patronize me. She denied patronizing me and we parted company. I submitted a letter, via the information desk, to the executive dining room management detailing the episode. Two or three days later, the maitre d' visited me at dinner and apologized.
Would I repeat this cruise? No. Will I travel via CCL again? Certainly, as the corporation is kind of like AT&T was in the 1980s: it's a near monopoly. Yes, NCL and Royal Caribbean are available, but most ships sailing out of Florida and San Juan are owned by CCL.
If I had an experience at my local Denny's like the one I had at the Atlantic dining room on Day One, I would never return there for another breakfast.
I found it notable that, for the first time ever, I was not offered a feedback form to fill out before debarking at the end of the cruise. I was told by a guest services staff member that Carnival would be e-mailing me the form. I'm still awaiting that e-mail.
Overall, this cruise gets three stars out of five.