We sailed on the Carnival Victory leaving on April 10th, 2011 out of San Juan, Puerto Rico as a 7-day cruise to the southeastern Caribbean.
The cruise left San Juan with stops at St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. It was our 3rd Carnival cruise (16th overall). We have sailed on NCL 12 times and Royal Caribbean once. Both my wife and I are 54.
It was our first time on a Carnival ship in 8 years. We looked forward to this cruise as we had a chance to visit a few new ports of call for us. While this was a port intensive cruise, we decided in advance that we would only take tours on two of the islands. For the rest of the cruise, we would relax and not rush around to wake up early in order to get off the ship with everyone else on board.
Arrival in San Juan
Our day started by having to scrape the ice off of the windshield of our car before running last minute errands. (We couldn't wait to go to a warm weather location after the long cold snowy winter we had in CT. We left mid-afternoon for the drive to Newark. Our vacation started off on a good note, we were bumped up to first class for the four hour flight from Newark. We arrived in San Juan very late in the evening the day before our sailing on the Victory. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel which was only a few miles away (cab fare was $23 for the two of us with 3 bags). Our hotel, the Caribe Hilton was just outside of Old San Juan which is where the cruise terminal for Carnival ships is located. We had booked the resort hotel only a month prior through Priceline.com for a rate of $120.
Day 1 - Embarkation Day San Juan, Puerto Rico
It was a sunny day with temps in the low 80's F.
We woke up and spent our morning relaxing and walking the beautiful grounds of the resort hotel. Our room was in the Garden Wing overlooking their nature sanctuary. In the nature sanctuary we found peacocks, geese, ducks, and a variety of fish in two ponds. After that, we walked along the seashore starting at the San Geronimo fort and then along the water to the other end of their property which had wonderful views of the ocean. We did not bother with getting breakfast as it was $26 a person and we would have plenty to eat on the ship. We checked out at noon and had a taxi take us to the Carnival cruise ship terminal ($18). On the way there (only a few miles) we could see the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas and the Caribbean Princess across the harbor at their cruise terminals. The cruise terminal for the Carnival Victory is in Old San Juan across from a Sheraton Hotel.
When we were dropped off at the terminal at 12:30 pm, there was a very short line for security before walking into the terminal building and joining the queue for the sign-in process. After 15 minutes, we had our key cards and left to go though the rest of the terminal to get to the ship. Along the way, you could buy soda, water, and wine that you could bring on board with you. We did buy a few 8-packs of Diet Coke to bring on board. We had to go through a security checkpoint where they x-rayed our carry-on bag. After that, we boarded the ship where they told us that our cabins would not be available until 2:30 pm, so we headed up to for a quick bite to eat up on the lido deck buffet and a little exploring of the ship. Our cabin was an inside cabin on the Riviera deck (room 1245) which was starboard forward on deck 1.
We went to our cabin at 2:30 pm to find one of our two pieces of luggage outside of our cabin. When we went into the cabin, the message light was blinking on our phone. I called the desk and was told that I needed to go off the ship and down to the security office. When I went there I was told that I needed to open my bag and they explained that they were looking for a screwdriver. What I had packed in the luggage was a tiny screwdriver used to fix eyeglasses. They stated that Carnival has a policy of no tools allowed and they considered the 3" screwdriver a tool and confiscated it. After that, they escorted me to a separate gangway to get back onto the ship with my released luggage so that I did not have to go through the terminal again.
The ship's scheduled sailaway was not until 10:00 pm, so we decided to walk off the ship to explore a little of Old San Juan. We stopped by the local Hard Rock Cafe. We had not been to this one in over 12 years. After that we passed by the Cathedral and the fort area called "El Morro".
We returned to the ship by about 4:30 pm. We unpacked our clothes and took a few badly wrinkled items to the laundry room we found on nearby on our deck to use the iron and ironing board there (there are 6 of these rooms on the Victory). We then explored the ship a bit more before dinner.
The Victory's itinerary is an unusual one in that passengers can board the ship in both San Juan or in Barbados. Because of this and the fact that our first stop is in nearby St. Thomas, the ship does not leave until 10:00 pm. They do not have organized dining or shows that night.
For dinner, we went to the open seat dining in the Atlantic Dining Room. After that, we went to the Ionian lounge for a British Style Pub night. They had a husband and wife duo singing pop songs. They also had trivia which we won and received our first "Ship on a Stick" award on the Victory.
The muster drill was scheduled for 9:30 pm, so we headed down to our muster station on deck 4 outside. We did not need to bring our life jackets with us for the muster. After the drill, we went topside before the 10:00 pm sailaway party. After watching the lights of San Juan fade into the distance we went down to check out a few of the bands playing in the various lounges.
Day 2 - St. Thomas, USVI
It was a partly cloudy day with temps in the 80's F with a nice breeze.
We arrived at the port of St. Thomas shortly before 7:00 am and docked at a pier close to the center of town. They did not announce that the ship was cleared, but I saw people walking off by 7:30 am.
We had been to St. Thomas a few times before, so we were in no rush to get off the ship. We had a late leisurely breakfast before we headed off the ship. We were the only ship at the Havensight Piers, but off in the distance we could see the Caribbean Princess docked. The Havensight Cruise pier is about 2 miles from the center of town (Charlotte Amalie). There were plenty of taxis that offered $4 per person fares.
We had decided to stay in St. Thomas. The only thing we did was walk to the nearby Skyride Gondolas in order to go up to Paradise Point to see the view from up there over the harbor. They had a restaurant and several shops there. They also were playing Caribbean music and had some entertainment including a stilt dancer and crab races. The views from there were terrific and you could easily see Puerto Rico off in the distance. After a few hours, we took a gondola back down to the Havensight Mall and then back to the ship.
Sail away from St. Thomas was 5:00 pm and you had to be on board by 4:30 pm.
This was the first evening of assigned dining. We went to the Pacific Dining Room where we found our table which was a small booth for 4 people. The booth was next to the stairs that led up to the second floor of the dining room. At the booth, we met a couple from Toronto.
The evening's entertainment in the Caribbean Lounge was the "Welcome Aboard Show" hosted by the Cruise Director "Karl with a K" with appearances by a few comics, dancers, and singers.
Since tomorrow was a sea day, we stayed up late. We went to the Punchliner Comedy Club to listen to a few comedians in the Adriatic Lounge hosted by Ja-Mel of the CD staff. There were plenty of live musical acts playing the lounges as well. This was the case every night. The comedy club offered family friendly shows early in the evening and adult humor in the later hours.
Day 3 - Day at Sea
It was an overcast day with spotty showers with temps in the low 70's F and breezy.
We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast late in the morning.
There were plenty of chairs around the pools this day. The Victory has 3 main pools. The Triton's Pool and King of the Sea Pool are found mid-ship on the Lido deck while the Siren's Pool is found aft behind the Mediterranean. The Siren's Pool has a retractable roof cover and for this day, it was covered to allow passengers to use the pool regardless of the rain showers.
Because of the weather, all of the scheduled activities by the pool were moved inside to the casino bar stage.
All day, you could see each of the various islands that were along the way to Barbados including Dominica and Martinique.
The main show in the Caribbean Lounge was a production show called "City Lights". The show was a Vegas style song and dance show with two singers and about 15 dancers. It was an entertaining show.
Later on, they had the comedy club open and music in the various lounges.
Day 4 - Bridgetown, Barbados
It was a slightly overcast day which cleared in the afternoon with temps in the low 80's F.
We arrived at the port of Bridgetown by 07:30 am. They announced that the ship was cleared and we could disembark at 09:30 am.
There were several other cruise ships in this particular port. This included the Norwegian Dawn (which we have sailed on), Aida Luna, Thomson Destiny, and Fred Olson's Braemar. We figured it would be chaos trying to rush off the ship for tours, so we had previously decided to relax a bit in the morning before heading off the ship to explore Bridgetown. This was the first time we had been to Barbados.
At the last minute we decided to take a tour that left the cruise terminal building at 12:30 pm. It was a 3 hour tour that first visited Banks Beer Brewery and then a Mount Gay rum factory. ($56 per person)
From the ship, they had shuttles constantly running to bring you to the cruise terminal which was about a half mile away if you did not want to walk. The piers are located about a mile from the town and they had shuttles and taxis to bring you into town. The cruise terminal had a variety of shops.
After we got on the shuttle for the tour, we passed through downtown Bridgetown. The driver gave us information on the island nation's history and pointed out landmarks. One landmark was a statue of Lord Nelson in Heroes Square. This statue was built several years before the famous Nelson column found in London. Our first stop was Banks Brewery. Here we received a short introduction on the brewery's history and watched a video. In the room were the original tanks and control panel used to brew the beer there. After that, we went to the bottling building where we saw rows and rows bottles going along on conveyors through the bottling process. It was like watching the beginning of the old "Laverne and Shirley" TV show. The tour ended at a sampling area which was a covered area surrounded by trees and flowery bushes. We had 30 minutes to sample as much beer as we wanted to try. They offered about 12 different varieties including non-alcoholic drinks.
Next, we went on the shuttle bus to the Mount Gay Rum factory. Here, we were brought into a room to watch a video. After the video, we went into a sampling room where they poured out shots of 3 different rums for everyone. They also left a bottle on the bar in case anyone wanted to sample more rum. We are not rum drinkers, so we gave our sample glasses to other patrons. After the sampling, they took us to a building where they blended and bottled the rum.
Everyone on our tour agreed that they enjoyed the beer tour better.
We arrived at the terminal by 3:30 pm and found a bar just outside that had buckets of 6 Banks beer for $15. We just sat back in the shade and watched the view of the ocean as we drank beer and chatted with other passengers from the many ships in the harbor there. We were back on board by 4:30 pm and the ship sailed away at 5:00 pm.
For the main show, the "Variety Showtime" juggling show was in the Caribbean Lounge with a juggler named Manuel Zuñiga. After about 15 minutes, we left as we did not find his show very entertaining.
After the main show, they had live music in the lounges, but no comedy acts.
Since we were getting up early the next day for one of our two planned tours, we made it an early evening.
Day 5 - Castries, St. Lucia
It was a cloudy day that started off with pouring rain, but cleared with temps in the high 70's F.
We had booked a tour of St. Lucia, so we got up early for breakfast. We wanted to be able to get off the ship once it had arrived in the port city of Castries. At 6:00 am we were off the coast of St. Lucia. By 7:45 am, we had pulled up to the dock. There was no announcement, but they were letting people off by 8:15 am.
Across the harbor was the Celebrity Constellation at another cruise terminal.
We had booked a tour online with Spenser Ambrose. We chose the West Coast Delight tour for $65 per person. At the cruise terminal, there were several persons holding "Spencer Tour" signs. They were waiting for us at the cruise terminal for 30 minutes after they had cleared the ship. We waited for about an additional 30 minutes before our group got onto a small air-conditioned passenger van that could hold 12 people. In it, our guide named "Small", had a cooler with water, Piton beer, soda, and rum punch.
Our tour was to take us down the west coast of St. Lucia starting at Castries, the capital city, and down to Jalousie (Jealousy) Beach which was between the iconic mountains of St. Lucia, the Pitons.
Our first stop was at a viewing spot over the water where we were shown a rock arch over the water. We watched as a small tour boat went through the arch. Our next stop was at a viewing spot over the Roseau valley which played an important part in the banana plantation history of the island. Next we stopped by a banana plantation where we learned that it takes about 8-9 months for a banana tree to grow and produce a single bunch of bananas after which it is cut down since a tree only produces one bunch in its life. We sampled bananas, banana chips, coconuts, and other local fruits while there.
St. Lucia is a very hilly and mountainous country. The roads are very hilly and wind back and forth with lots of pot holes. Sitting in the van for a long time might be difficult for those who get motion sickness. Our tour guide told us he has to get new brake pads for his van every three months.
Along the way to our next stop, we were shown cashew trees, banana bread trees, and calabash trees. We then stopped at the fishing village of Anse La Raye for a washroom break. Nearby was the oldest Catholic Church on the island. We went inside the church for a few minutes before we left for our next stop which was a viewing spot over the town of Castries. From here we could see the Pitons as well as the volcano with sulphur clouds rising from it. In Castries, we stopped by a bakery to get samples of Creole bread that was warm and buttered. It was very tasty. It was here that we met up with Spencer Ambrose himself who stopped by to say hello and apologize for our late departure from the cruise terminal. He was having a busier day than normal with the two ships in the harbor and a lot of passengers using his services.
We then drove to the volcano where we got out and were given a brief history of the volcano by a local guide. The smell of sulphur was very strong in the air. After about 15 minutes, we got back into the van to go to the fishing town of Soufriere. Here, we then got onto a small boat that raced us over to Jalousie beach which is nestled between the two Piton Mountains, Gros Piton and Petit Piton.
At the beach, there was resort that owned most of the beach side area. But, off to the left was a cluster of trees and straw covered tents with chairs that allowed us to sit back in the shade to enjoy the view. You could swim or snorkel while there. They provided a lunch with jerk chicken, rice, salad, and potatoes. We had the option to stay here for an hour and then take the van back for the 2 hour drive to Castries or stay for two hours and take a boat back to Castries (for an additional $10 per person).
We opted for the van ride and on the way back stopped at a few other viewing spots including one that overlooked Castries and the ships on the harbor. Small was a terrific guide and brought us back to the cruise terminal by 4:00 pm. We really enjoyed this tour and would recommend it to anyone first coming to St. Lucia.
We found a small bar by the terminal serving Piton beer at a low price which we enjoyed for the remaining 30 minutes in St. Lucia with fellow passengers.
Sail away was 5:00 pm.
The main show for the evening was another Vegas style song and dance show. This one was called "Vroom" and was a selection of pop and rock songs. Everyone seemed to enjoy the show.
Up in the Arctic Disco, they had the CD staff with their "Latin Night Fiesta".
We made it another early night to be ready for tomorrow's tour of St. Kitts.
Day 6 - Basseterre, St. Kitts
It was a mostly sunny day in the low 70's F with a nice breeze.
At 6:00 am we were off the coast of Nevis and could see Montserrat in the distance.
We pulled into Basseterre harbor at 8:00 am and we able to walk off the ship by 8:30 am (no announcement).
St. Kitts was the other island where we had booked a tour. So we got up early again for breakfast in order to be ready to go off the ship.
At the pier with us was the Thomson Destiny and in the harbor was the Wind Star.
We had booked a tour online with Thenford Grey who met us at the cruise terminal at 9:00 am. He had a small air-conditioned bus for 16 people.
We started the tour by being introduced to the Governor General of St. Lucia (Sir Cuthbert Sebastian) who was in a car in the area in front of the cruise terminal. We then boarded our small bus and started the tour going through the city of Basseterre while Thenford gave us the history of the island and local landmarks. We stopped along the water's edge to view pelicans diving into the water for their meals.
Our first stop was at Romney Manor. This estate was once owned by Samuel Jefferson II, the great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. In 1834, the owner at the time Lord Romney freed his slaves. Now it is home to botanical gardens on its grounds of 10 acres as well as Caribelle Batik. Here we had about 45 minutes to view the demonstration of the Batik process and walk the grounds. Thenford was very well versed in the flora and fauna of the area. He was reciting both scientific and local names of each plant or tree. While there we spotted several families of Vervet "Green" Monkeys which have a larger population on the island than humans. Thenford reminded us that there is only one letter different between pet and pest.
Our next stop was to visit the World Heritage Site called Fort Brimstone Hill. This large fortress was once called the Gibralter of the Caribbean. From its highest vantage point you can view 7 different islands on a clear day. It has been restored and offers wonderful views of the surrounding area. Thenford provided cold water for us.
We then drove back through Basseterre again heading to the southern most point of the island to visit a beach at Cockleshell Bay. Here there were a few restaurants and bars along side the beach. They also had a small menagerie of animals with monkeys, goats, and pigs. We stayed there for 2 hours before returning to the ship. Several passengers went swimming and snorkeling while there.
We returned to the ship by 3:00 pm. Sail away was 6:00 pm.
At 5:15 pm, they had a party for Returning Guests in the Caribbean lounge (We had received an invitation the prior night). They offered drinks and finger foods while showing a video of Carnival's history and pictures of all of the Carnival ships past and present. They pulled an invitation to award a bottle of champagne to the winner along with a photo op with the Captain.
In the Caribbean Lounge they had a magic show called "More than Magic" with Rand Woodbury which was just OK.
For the late evening, they had the comedy club open with two new comics in addition to the musical acts in the lounges.
Day 7 - Philipsburg, St. Maarten
It was another nice day with mostly sunny skies and temps in the mid 80's.
We arrived in Philipsburg by 6:30 am. They did not announce that the ship was cleared, but I could see passengers getting off by 7:30 am.
There were no other cruise ships in port, but we spotted a large 240 foot yacht (the C2, the Creek) moored next to us.
We had been to St.Maarten/St. Martin before, so we had decided to go off into Philipsburg to visit a few places along the boardwalk and relax at a bar. The cruise ship terminal is located just outside of Philipsburg. They had water taxis to shuttle you over to the center and the beginning of the town's boardwalk district. An all day wrist band cost $6, but you could buy a one way ticket for $4. You could also catch a taxi or just walk the mile and half into town. There were several shops at the terminal.
We took the water taxi, which runs every 10 minutes, to the beginning of the boardwalk. We walked along Front Street before returning to the boardwalk.
We visited the local Hard Rock Cafe which recently opened in Philipsburg on the boardwalk. This was my 54th different HRC visit. We then strolled down the boardwalk visiting a variety of shops before ending up at a beach side bar to have a few beers and admire the view while sitting the in the shade. Several of these bars offered beach chairs and umbrellas along with drink specials.
We took the water taxi back to the ship by 4:00 pm.
Sail away was at 5:00 pm.
In the Caribbean Lounge, they had a show called "Carnival Legends". It was a show based on fellow passengers acting and singing like famous artists like James Brown, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estafan, Elvis Presley, and Elton John. We decided to pass on the show and just went to our cabin to pack before heading out to take part in a few trivia games to end our last evening on the ship.
We had been given luggage tags and information on disembarking the ship. If you wanted to have your luggage brought down by the ship's porters, you had to have your luggage outside your cabin with your luggage tags attached by 11:00 pm. If you were a U.S. citizen, you also had the option for self assist debarkation which allowed you to carry your entire luggage yourself and leave the ship prior to others that wanted to use the porter service.
For the late evening, they had the comedy club open in addition to the musical acts in the lounges.
Disembarkation Day - San Juan, Puerto Rico
We were scheduled to arrive in San Juan by 6:00 am.
By 5:30 am, we were heading into the harbor. You could see that the Caribbean Princess was already docked and the Adventure of the Seas was about to dock.
Between 7:00 am and 8:00 am passengers using the self assist debarkation process could get off the ship on deck 0 forward which was only one deck below our cabin.
They would not make announcements until 07:15 am, so it was up to you to head down on your own.
All passengers were to be out of their cabins by 08:30 am that day. Non U.S. citizens had to debark from deck 3 lobby.
We left our cabin and walked down the one flight of stairs at 07:20 am and after a short wait for customs, we were at the taxi stand in front of the terminal by 07:40 am. Our taxi ride ($23) took about 20 minutes.
Tip for the San Juan airport: you have to have all of your luggage inspected by the USDA prior to checking in. There are a few USDA stations in the terminal. One had a long line while the other had no line at all.
Carnival dining is based on traditional seatings. The Victory has two main dining rooms with assigned seating, the Pacific and the Atlantic. They did offer "Your time Dining" which allowed you to show up at either MDR and, after a short wait, they would seat you for dinner. Since that was similar to NCL Freestyle dining, we tried to change our dining option to that. But, we found out that option was totally booked.
In addition to the MDRs, they have the Mediterranean buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck. This buffet area has two floors of seating. Inside they had a Wok station and a Deli sandwich bar. Just outside the buffet area are a 24 hour pizza bar and a Mississippi BBQ bar. They offered 24 hour room service with a limited menu.
There is a sushi bar (free) just outside of the Trident Bar in the Casino from 05:00 pm to 07:00 pm. The Coral Sea Cafe offered coffees and pastries for a fee.
After the first 3 nights, we opted to just go to the buffet instead having formal dining. We preferred just picking out our food and sitting down instead of sitting through a 1 ½ to 2 hour dining experience.
For breakfast, the buffet lines can get quite long and tables are a premium, but most people did not try to use the tables on the second floor of the Mediterranean buffet area. Also, the island by the stairs to the second floor usually had the same foods offered in the breakfast buffet, but nobody went to them.
For breakfast, they had fountains with OJ, Passa-Guava Juice, Apple Juice, and unsweetened ice tea along with water. For the rest of the day, these fountains offered lemonade, iced tea, and water.
Bar Service -
We are beer drinkers and Carnival offered beer bucket specials where you would get 4 beers with a $2 discount.
They did offer daily drink specials.
Past Guest Program -
We are rated as Gold Members of Carnival's Past Guest Program and we were invited to the Past Guest party.
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions.
We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they offered during the cruise. We met up with several friendly people and we enjoyed their company and conversations. We did win several times over the cruise. We gave all but one of the "Ship on a Stick" trophies and medals to kids playing in the games.
The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, so we cannot comment on the slots and gaming tables.
They had plenty of talented musicians on board to entertain people at various locations and times.
But, there was only one full band, Toda La Banda. Other than that it was a single musician or a duo.
One of the locations for live music was a stage at one end of the Casino. This did not lend itself for listening to musicians as you had the constant dinging of slot machines and talking by the gamblers in the area along with limited seating.
From time to time, they did have the Show Band playing in the Atrium lobby or in the Casino.
They had a separate disco and another lounge for karaoke singing.
Karl with a K (England), the cruise director was always at the stage shows and a lot of the game shows. He was very good at his job and is a wonderful singer in his own right. The rest of the cruise staff were very friendly, especially Matt (England), Chris (Australia), Ja-Mel (Texas) and Nickbrown (Maine).
We did see the captain on a few occasions.
The ship -
The ship was built in 2000 as part of the Destiny class for Carnival and had renovations in 2007.
The fitness center had a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. They offered spinning classes for a fee.
The running track was found on the spa deck. A sign posted stated that it takes 10 laps to complete a mile. But, I think that it is probably more like 11 to maybe 12 laps for a mile. I was running 5K at about 4 minutes faster than my usual pace. I do not think that could be attributed to sea breezes.
The promenade deck did not wrap around the ship. We always enjoyed walking the promenade decks on ships and we found this disappointing.
As mentioned, the lido pool deck has three pools. There is a large water slide as well. There are several hot tubs next to each pool.
A newly created Adult-only Serenity area is found on the Spa Deck with two hot tubs, lounge chairs, and hammocks and a drinks bar.
The Spa has several treatment rooms. In the segregated areas, each one has a sauna and steam room. Since these were segregated, we decided to not use them as we like to relax together. They offered spa treatment specials during port days.
We constantly saw crew members cleaning and polishing.
Navigating the ship was difficult at first. The one trick to remember is that you cannot walk from forward to aft on decks 3 and 4 due to the Atlantic dining room. So if you want to get from one side of the ship to a room on deck 3 elsewhere you have to go up to deck 5 or down to deck 2.
The hallways with odd number cabins were on the starboard side while the even numbered cabins were on the port side of the ship.
We tried to find a bridge viewing room, but had no luck.
We always book an inside cabin. Our cabin had more than enough room for the two of us. The closets had about 16 hangars. There was plenty of hanging space, but we wished they had some more shelves. We stored our 3 pieces of luggage under the beds. There is a safe but, there was no small fridge in the cabin. They did provide a small bucket of ice.
The location of the cabin was perfect for the port days as we were only a few steps away from the gangway. Going up to the Lido deck on deck 9 in the morning was a mini-workout. We try to do the stairs as much as we could. My morning routine was to walk up to the Lido buffet with insulated mugs to get our morning tea while getting ready to face the day.
Smoking was a problem for us on this ship. Smoking was allowed in the lounges and casinos and the outside dining areas. At times, we chose not to go into a lounge to hear music due to the cloud of smoke inside them.
The main show room was the Caribbean Lounge which holds about 1,000 passengers and has entrances on 3 decks. There are some poles to contend with on the main floor of the lounge. We always found a seat for a show.
Comparing Carnival to Norwegian Cruise Line
We have gone on a few cruises and feel that the big three (Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean) are comparable with slight differences between the three.
For this cruise we kept an open mind regarding Carnival as we enjoyed our previous cruises with them.
As stated, we prefer Freestyle dining. The assigned seating on the Victory allowed for consistent service by the same wait staff (and ours were very good). It just wasn't that important to us. We also did not feel like sitting around for the nightly dance show by the wait staff in the dining room on the Victory while others probably do, to each their own.
Comparing the physical layout of the buffet areas between the Victory and the Jewel class Norwegian ships, we think that NCL has the clear lead over Carnival. The lines for breakfast and lunch could seem to take forever on the Victory. The separate buffet stations on the NCL ships allow everyone to pick and choose wanted they wanted in a more efficient manner. But, the Victory has trays for much easier handling of the food compared to NCL which does not use trays. That was a bonus as we only had to make one trip to get our food and drinks.
Food quality was similar although my wife (who enjoys a good steak) felt that Carnival grades of meat were superior to the NCL MDR fare. Both of us felt that the Victory offered much better dessert choices in the MDR and buffet areas night after night.
Another physical layout issue is the open decks. The NCL Jewel class ships has several open decks to the front and aft of the ships while the Victory only allowed for the sides of the ship on its promenades. For pool users and sun lovers, the Victory is a clear winner with open spaces around the pools while the NCL ships offered more shady areas for relaxing (which we prefer).
We do enjoy the views of the large atriums on Carnival ships, but can understand why NCL does not have them so that they can have more cabin space available to sell.
We are not smokers and my wife cannot be around smoke. This was an issue on the Victory, much more so than on the NCL ships which limit their open smoking areas.
For entertainment, we do prefer the production style shows of NCL versus the Vegas style shows on the Victory. But all of the shows are enjoyable.
For musical acts, they are comparable.
One thing that Carnival takes the clear lead is regarding activities on the ship after 10:00 pm. They had plenty of planned activities, comedy acts, and live music. We felt it was much more so than on most nights of a NCL cruise.
Our feelings are that these cruise lines are so similar; it would come down to itinerary and price to sway us either way.
We enjoyed our cruise on the Victory. While it was port intensive, we tried our best to relax as much as possible. We would not hesitate taking another Carnival cruise.
Here is a link to photos we took on our cruise:
I have a PDF of all the Fun Times (6,104kb in size). If you want a copy, send an e-mail to the following e-mail address. Please be sure to have "Victory Fun Times" in the header so that I do not delete it as spam:
If you have specific questions regarding the itinerary, you can send me an e-mail at the same address.
We have also booked a 7-day cruise from Venice to Civitavecchia on the Norwegian Jade in October and are already looking forward to it.