My husband and I were joined on the Carnival Victory by our daughter, her husband, and three grandchildren in celebration of our 42nd wedding anniversary. We drove to Miami (about two hours) and arrived about 10:00 AM. We had purchased the ... Read More
My husband and I were joined on the Carnival Victory by our daughter, her husband, and three grandchildren in celebration of our 42nd wedding anniversary. We drove to Miami (about two hours) and arrived about 10:00 AM. We had purchased the Faster to the Fun package for our three cabins and although check-in was a breeze, we still waited about an hour before the ship began boarding. Once on the ship we arrived at our cabins to find only one of them ready. Apparently the last occupants had overstayed their welcome a bit, as it was explained to us. Soon they were ready though and we dropped off our bags, completely awed by the size of our "aft wrap" verandah starboard on deck 8. Our daughter had the "premium balcony" cabin on our starboard side so the steward opened the door connecting the balconies and it was just amazing, like being on a private yacht we had so much deck space for our family! The three teens had the interior across from us so of course they spent a lot of time hanging out on our "deck"! We quickly made our way up one flight of stairs to the buffet, which was not too crowded yet. The food was very good and plentiful; there was something for everyone, including roast beef carved by the slice. As others have mentioned, the only included drinks available are lemonade, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. We were able to find a nice table big enough for our family and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. The dining area itself is very beautiful but does get quite crowded at times. By the aft pool deck there is a pizzeria with wonderful pizza, a grill with the usual cookout type food which we sampled in coming days and found to be very good, as well as soft serve ice cream, which our teens sampled every time they walked by!
After lunch my husband and I went back to our cabin to unpack and have a bit of a rest while everyone else went to the pool deck to enjoy the great water slide; they loved it! At 3:45 PM it was time for the lifeboat drill. I have to say that this was the worst safety drill ever in our nearly 40 cruises! It was nothing short of brutal for those of us who are seniors and find it difficult to stand in rows of passengers four deep in one place for 45 minutes outside on a closed-in deck with very little air moving. Less than 10 minutes of that time was actually used for the safety drill. Although my husband is mobile, he is a disabled veteran who finds it very difficult to stand for any length of time. I cannot imagine why we were subjected to such abuse. Honestly, this was really our only truly negative experience on the whole cruise.
At 6 PM we headed to the Pacific Dining Room for our Early Seating appointment. At table 609 we received very fine service and attention from our waiters who soon learned our names and used them throughout the cruise. We found the food to be very good in general, prepared and presented nicely, and while we didn't absolutely love every thing we ordered every time, for the most part we were very happy with our meals. The chicken dishes in particular were juicy and tasty, and my family enjoyed the lasagna bolognese though it was very different from the Italian cuisine that comes from my kitchen! Although we had been forewarned, it was a shock to see an extra $20 charge for steaks, lobster, or surf and turf on a MDR menu. Three of us ordered filet mignon one night anyway, since our amazing travel agent Nancy had scored each cabin $100 onboard credit somehow. And so we splurged. Those steaks were several inches thick and melt-in-your mouth perfect! On Elegant Night lobster and shrimp were offered, but we found them to be rather mushy and undercooked. Not horrible, but we've had better. I had wine every night; even tried the new Gifft wines from Kathy Lee Gifford and found them to be very nice indeed as well as easy on the budget.
Upon returning to our cabins, we found them readied for bedtime, complete with towel animals and chocolates! Our cabin stewards were efficient and personable throughout the cruise. In fact, we found the staff on the Victory to be very friendly, atmosphere to be very relaxed, and the service outstanding on all levels. Since it was nowhere near bedtime, we explored the ship from top to bottom, wandered through the shops and purchased some necessary items, and spent some time our balcony. We are not the type who typically enjoys going to shows so I cannot comment on that aspect. We preferred to spend family time together instead. Our teens were not interested in the teen club thing. They wanted to hang out with us, imagine that! Finally my husband and I were ready to call it a night while the others were ready to work out in the gym! Our cabin was laid out in a triangular shape, with a sofa in one little alcove, and a table and two chairs in front of one of the two huge picture windows. The dresser and flat-screen TV were in front of the other window. The bathroom was quite tiny, but had a nice medicine chest with a door so things could be stored away from sight. The ship is 15 years old, but has well-maintained high-quality fittings in my opinion. My husband and I love vintage ships, and our favorite cruises were on the QE2, the Regal Empress, the Oceanic, the Britanis, the Ocean Breeze, and other ships that are sadly no longer with us; so the Victory is not really old--it is just a matter of perspective, is it not? The QM2 is also a great ship that just gets better with age! The beds in the Victory are very comfortable. We are very picky about beds because of our various aches and pains. We slept well on these beds. We have heard reports that the replacement beds after the 2.0 upgrades are very hard and a great disappointment to some Carnival cruise aficionados. That is too bad because the beds at the moment on Victory are very sleeper friendly!
On the next morning we enjoyed continental breakfast delivered to our cabin. The rest of the family went for a big breakfast in the dining room which they said was great. Eggs Benedict done just right was the report we received. We spent time on our balcony reading and getting some sun until the ship docked in Key West, then headed off the ship. We walked all over the town, stopping to see the sights and shop in some of the stores. We live in Florida, so we can drive down to the Keys anytime the fancy hits anyway. It was a lovely day. We took lots of pics at the touristy places in any case!
Once back on the ship we grabbed a quick lunch in the buffet. After reading and napping (I think the youngsters went to the pool) it was time to get ready for Elegant Night. Our family takes this very seriously, so ladies wore formals and men wore suits and ties. After dinner we had fun getting our photos taken in various settings. It turns out that the photographers are very skilled on this ship. Although we usually don't buy photos on a cruise, we ended up spending quite a bit for them this time around. They really turned out beautifully. As the evening wore on we proceeded to lose some money in the casino (really does not pay out well at all) then changed clothes and went to the gym to work out. It's open till 11:00 PM. The steam room and sauna closes @ 10:00.
The next day was cloudy and rainy. After burgers and fries on the ship we walked all over Cozumel but hired a van when it started pouring rain. The plaza area that Carnival has built right at Puerto Maya is rather like a setting in Disney's Epcot, with organized street musicians, pristine "duty free" stores, rather a "contrived" experience. The port is several miles from town. There are good shore excur.sions available which we have enjoyed on previous cruises. We returned to the ship so we could enjoy the facilities while fewer people were onboard, and decided to skip the MDR so everyone could do their own thing for dinner. My husband was exhausted and went to bed early. I read my book while everyone else enjoyed the movie on deck and ate as much pizza and ice cream as they could I'm guessing...
The Sea Day was fun. The adults parked themselves on the Serenity Deck but the kids ate more ice cream and went to the gym since they were unable to find deck chairs at 10 AM! People continue to save deck chairs for the day, and honestly, nothing is done about it. It is very crowded when all passengers are onboard. We went to the SeaDay brunch. Some of us had steak and eggs, but the menu was rather limited compared to our expectations. Not everyone found something they liked on it unfortunately. They would not allow off-menu orders either. After lunch we had some packing to do so returned to our cabins. I attempted to watch TV while busy packing but as others have said the channels available are the most limited of any recent cruise we've been on. Of course on some of those old liners years ago we had no TVs at all! We spent the rest of Sea Day shopping, in the Casino, enjoying our balcony, sampling whatever food venues we had not tried. Dinner back in the MDR was enjoyed by all. Several of us ordered Mahi Mahi and it was excellent! On each night the DR staff entertains with dancing and VERY loud music. This was a bit over the top in our opinion but all in good fun. One puzzling thing was that the baked Alaska was served with shredded melon pieces on top. Very odd and not at all fitting. We scraped it off. Strange. After dinner we walked around the ship, checked out the sales, and picked up our photo orders. Visited the wine bar and had a nice California Merlot. We spent the rest of the evening on our balcony before turning in. We were very sad that this cruise was nearly over since it had been a very good vacation.
The last morning was relaxing because we planned it well and because Carnival rocks! We had put out our suitcases the night before and at 8 AM we all vacated our cabins and went for a leisurely breakfast in the MDR. Bravo to Carnival for not limiting its services on the last morning! Room service breakfast is still available, and Eggs Benedict is still on the menu in the DR! Woohoo! The Onboard Charge Cards can still be used, photos can be purchased, as well as specialty coffees and pastries. I really appreciate these things about Carnival. Since we were not in a hurry, we took our time and it was about 9:30 when we walked off the ship, picked up our luggage, and breezed through customs. Easiest debarkation ever! (Unfortunately my brand new hard shell luggage was badly damaged. I need to see if anything can be done about that). We were in our car and on the road in no time. The new Port Tunnel is open, making it very easy to get to and from the port using I-95.
We had a wonderful time on the Carnival Victory. Everything was certainly not perfect, but then nothing ever is. (Well, except maybe our 10 day crossing on the QM2 last June but that's another story-you can read my review on that trip!) Carnival is a great product for families, with something for everyone (with the exception of ballroom dancing). Very few venues exist which can please everyone in a family from ages 13 to 67, but Carnival Victory managed it in our case, and we hope to do it again in the future! Read Less