We mean this in the nicest way: 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory has a comfortable, worn-in feel. The overall operation, much like the captain's daily weather and navigation briefings, comes off as effortless. In harmony with the gentle rocking of the ship, it's easy to fall into a sleepy rhythm.
As such, Carnival Victory serves as an excellent intro to Carnival Cruise Line for the uninitiated -- and a quick escape for the line's aficionados.
The vessel's theme -- the high seas -- carries through the ship via a largely green and blue color scheme, complete with dark woods and blue-green Tiffany-style glass domes in both the atrium area and the entrance to the Pacific Dining Room. Busts of mermaids and mermen adorn the Pacific and its counterpart, the Atlantic Dining Room, and seahorses can be found anchoring the railings in stairwells throughout the ship. (Be careful: When taking turns too tightly on the stairs, we found ourselves slamming into the seahorses' noses more than once.)
A (modified) member of the Destiny-class of vessels, Carnival Victory has all the traditional Carnival accoutrements: an exuberant main dining room and a two-deck Lido buffet complex; a bright, centrally located casino; a bar-lined promenade; an impressive spa; a comprehensive Camp Carnival program for kids; a daily schedule of jocular activities; and more than enough places to drink and socialize.
The ship also features a few contemporary touches, including a sushi bar and drive-in style poolside movie screen. In a 2015 overhaul that mostly updated carpeting and soft furnishings, the ship received a couple of Carnival's Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements, as well: the Alchemy Bar, Skybox Sports Bar and Punchliner Comedy Club. Other 2.0 features -- like Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina, found on many of Victory's fleetmates -- are markedly absent.
It's admirable that no one puts on airs -- from the tabletop dancing dining room waiters, to the dryly sarcastic blackjack dealers, to the amiable bartenders who call you "chief" or "boss." Most of the nearly 2,800 passengers give the impression of being quite content with this, and why wouldn't they? There's no pressure placed on the ship to be anything that it's not, and the guests feed off this.
For a Carnival first-timer, it's also relevant to note that, while Carnival has, in the past, been pigeonholed as the slack-jawed, party line (perhaps the line itself is guilty of emphasizing this rep with its own "Fun Ship" distinction), in reality it offers a more impressive range of options than it's given credit for.
Ultimately, you get a sailing full of evenhanded leisure at a decent price. It's like a comfortable dream, of which you remember little more than a general feeling of well-being.
It's also a ship that lends itself to celebrations of all kinds. On our three-night sailing, there were 134 birthdays, 58 anniversaries, 31 honeymoons, three family reunions, two weddings and one marriage proposal.
Carnival attracts an outgoing set of North American couples, families and multigenerational groups, many hailing from cities within driving distance (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Alabama and the Carolinas). The most common states from which fly-to-port passengers are drawn are New York and California. The average passenger age is in the 40s. Expect an influx of families in the summer months and over school holidays.
During the day, beachy or port-specific attire is the norm. Carnival's evening dress code is typically "Cruise Casual," but on one night during the voyage "Cruise Elegant" eveningwear is suggested. On cruise casual nights, the line recommends sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cutoffs), long dress shorts and collared sport shirts for men, and casual dresses, casual skirts or pants and blouses, summer dresses, capri pants, dress shorts and jeans (no cutoffs) for women. Cruise Elegant dress means dress slacks, dress shirts and sport coats (suggested not required) for men and cocktail dresses, pantsuits, or elegant skirts and blouses for women. On elegant nights, passengers may choose to dress more formally in suits and ties, tuxedos or evening gowns, but that isn't common.
Carnival recommends $12 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $6.10 to dining room services, $3.90 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15-percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.
Note: On sailings departing September 1, 2016, or later, gratuities will increase to $12.95 per person, per day ($13.95 for those in suites).