November 28th, 2004 sailing on the Carnival Victory. My husband and I surprised our two daughters (ages 13 and 5) with a cruise on this ship. It departed from Miami.
Embarkation: The lines were long but we had completed a fun pass and we were through the line in about 20 minutes. The lady who checked us in and took our passports was excellent; she was very informative and friendly. We were able to quickly make our way through and board the ship.
Cabin: We were in cabin 8282 on the verandah deck which was an inside cabin. We had requested that the two lower beds be converted into a king with the two bunks above. By the second night our two beds were brought together but we were disappointed that the beds were still made as twin beds with separate bedding. We asked for the king mattress but it was never provided. The room was always kept clean and tidy and we had no problems with towels or bedding. The room steward brought cookies for our girls the first night and made towel animals 3 out of the seven nights. The cabin comfortably held all four of us without any major difficulty and other than the bed we had no complaints.
Dining Room: We found that our waiter Dennis and his assistant Ulla were excellent. They remembered the names of our girls and went out of their way to be nice to them. They always remembered to bring appetizers for our youngest at the very beginning and always provided crayons. In fact the dining room experience was the best we have had in any of our cruises and in fact it is the only time we have ever been excited about going to the dining room.
Alternate Dining: The deli food was very good and my husband ate many turkey sandwiches. The kids loved the pizzeria and the staff at the pizza place were excellent, going so far as to remember what kind of pizza our eldest ate and how many slices at a time and that she always had Caesar salad with the first two slices. The lines at the buffets were long and there were times that we noticed that the lines could have been alleviated by making some minor changes such as the placement of the omelet station. By day four of the cruise we noticed that they appeared to be rationing 2% milk and it could only be obtained by asking but it was always politely provided. The food quality was good, it was not the Ritz but it was always edible and always hot. We noticed that the staff in the alternate dining areas was not as talkative as we had become accustomed to on other cruises but any staff person that we initiated conversation with always replied cordially. The room service was excellent the food was hot, fresh and made just the way it was requested. We ordered BLT's for four as well as a few other things and had our order in 13 minutes. I was impressed.
Immigration: This is one of those areas that will bring up the negative. Because we were on the eastbound cruise we actually went through Immigration in St. Thomas. This entire morning was a disorganized mess. Our notice said 7 a.m. but the PA started with the announcements at 6 a.m. The only credit that they get is that it did proceed in an orderly fashion row by row. Our largest complaint was that the ship was well aware that everyone on board was awake at the same time that day and everyone wanted breakfast. Why on this earth they had only one lane open at each buffet upstairs and only one dining room open we will never understand. We waited in line for 30 minutes with a hungry and cranky five year old and this is the exact same problem we had last year. Foolish me I thought that last year was an aberration but clearly it is the norm. This is something that needs their attention desperately.
Camp Carnival: For our five year old this was amazing and the camp alone made the whole trip worthwhile in her book. The staff was largely excellent with the exception of one girl who yelled at my eldest for taking a picture of her sister in camp. The staff person never could explain what the big deal was but we did not encounter this person again and all was well. The negative is that Camp Carnival falls apart in the 11-13 age group. Our eldest and several of her friends described this group as lame and they all expressed that the leader was not the best. I went to see what the problem was and found that the counselor was nicely curled up in a chair with a magazine and was not interacting with the kids at all. The program itself is strong but this particular counselor was not an asset to Camp Carnival. Overall we appreciated Camp Carnival and were extremely pleased with their efforts.
Entertainment: We thoroughly enjoyed the shows, especially Vroom. We loved the Christmas show and that the dancers all stayed to have their pictures taken with the children. The dancers smiled and talked to many children and each and every one of the dancers we encountered were delightful. The cruise director was lousy, but really I am sure that there were cruisers that liked him but my husband and I don't enjoy comedians that have to laugh at their own jokes to get the audience going. The comedians were decent. The Karaoke hostess was charming and we greatly enjoyed this. We avoided the casino because the smoke was just too thick.
Overall: Overall this cruise was an excellent value. This was the first cruise with our children and we all enjoyed ourselves. The Victory was clean and tidy and the service that we personally received was good. The room steward could improve and the Cruise Director could stand to take up a different line of work but all in all we were very happy cruisers.