Carnival Victory - Canada/New England: Carnival Victory Cruise Review by DiverGal

Carnival Victory 4
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Carnival Victory - Canada/New England

Sail Date: July 2007
Destination: Canada & New England
Embarkation: New York (Manhattan)
I've found other people's reviews so helpful, I wrote one hoping it might help someone else.

This was our wedding cruise, so my now-husband and I gathered our group of 18 family and friends together in Manhattan on July 9th for a Fun Ship cruise to Canada. We were joined by 34 non-sailing guests. I'm writing a separate wedding review over in the Honeymoon forum, and will post only about our cruising experience here. We booked a total of 6 staterooms through the cruise line and a Personal Vacation Planner we had used on a previous occasion. His attention was exemplary; he kept in touch, answered all our questions about cabin amenities, and applied discounts as they became available.

My husband and I are 44-50, and this was our 8th Carnival cruise. The group we traveled with had teens (16, 17 and 18) and adults ranging from 25 years to 84 years. Half were first-time cruisers. We chose this cruise because departure from New York meant more of our Philadelphia-based More family could come to the wedding. The itinerary was short enough some of our cruising guests could fit it into their work demands, whereas a longer cruise would have meant they could not be with us. Also, we had sailed the Victory before and remembered her fondly.

EMBARKATION. Some of our group spent a few days in New York seeing the sights, others drove up from Philadelphia (a little over 2 hours drive), and one couple flew in from Milwaukee that morning, landing at Newark at 9:30 a.m. and arriving at the port at 11 a.m. Carnival wanted us there at 10:30 a.m., we were all there by 11, and a representative of the cruise line ushered the lot of us ahead of the VIP guests onto the ship a little after 11:30 a.m. for our 1 p.m. wedding. The terminal by then was busy but not crowded, and lines at the check-in counters were still short. From what I could tell, my husband and I were the first guests onto the ship. Stepping into the soaring green atrium was like stepping into the Emerald City, a perfect start to our cruise! The crew apparently knew we were the bridal couple (must have been the big dress I was carrying), and pointed us in the right direction to the forward elevators. The fire doors on our deck were closed but not locked (we later found out that others were) and we proceeded immediately to our cabin. Our guests were shown where the wedding would be held and then allowed to walk around the ship. All but a few guests have never been on a cruise ship and got the biggest kick out of simply seeing the ship! Some are already planning their first cruises based on Lido deck burgers and how much fun the passengers appeared to be having.

CABINS. My husband and I booked a category 12 suite (7294) on the Empress deck for ourselves because, as he put it, "Might as well do it once!" The suite is huge! This proved to be a good thing because the business of getting into my wedding dress required some space. The suite has a sitting area with a couch that will seat at least five adults, two chairs and a table we would later put to good use playing pinochle. The table was badly nicked at the edges, enough that I got a scratch on my leg once when brushing past. Part of the sofa folds out into a bed, if needed. There is a refrigerator, which I tipped our steward to clear out, as it was stocked with mimi-bar beverages for purchase. I found the location of the safe less than ideal: it is in a cabinet under the counter, instead of being at standing eye level in a closet. The dark wooden cabinetry is nice, but shows some scratches and could use a swipe with a little scratch cover to enhance its appearance. The sleeping area has a queen size bed (really two twins pushed together) and plenty of drawers. The bed(s) was comfy enough, but two beds pushed together is a really lame set up for any couple that actually wants to sleep together. There's a ridge down the middle that disallows sleeping in the middle of said queen-size bed. Adjacent to the sleeping area is a vanity/dressing room I absolutely loved, with a nice deep sink and lots of mirrors and closet/drawer space. The bath has a nice big (for one person, tight for two) whirlpool tub and shower unit with sliding glass doors. I really enjoyed this feature, and appreciated the whirlpool all the more because I'd hurt my knee the week before. The whirlpool was downright therapeutic! The bath comes equipped with a wall-mounted blow-dryer I never used, but I did use the freebies: four strips of sample toothpaste, two razors - male and female versions - some skin lotions, antacid (which I simply tucked in my bag) and a book of four excerpts from Harlequin's romance/suspense line. As a fiction writer myself, I got a special kick out of the latter and read the whole thing. Each excerpt is perfect reading length for one session of whirlpool, so the book became part of that enjoyable routine.

I found few things disappointing about our stateroom, but one was the medicine cabinet space: two slim units on either side of a large center mirror. Half the space in both cabinets was taken up by extra rolls of toilet paper and boxes of tissue/feminine disposal bags. There were only the two of us, and we travel light, so that didn't become an issue, but if we were a group there would not have been enough room for toiletries. I like clear counter space in bathrooms. True, I could have asked the cabin steward to clear out the supplies -- and he would have -- but as there was room enough for our stuff, I didn't bother. On the plus side, everything was spotless!

Our guests were originally booked in 5 balcony staterooms on the Empress deck, but then Carnival surprised us by upgrading them all to category 11 mini-suites (7138, 7142, 7148, 7158 and 7162) on that same deck. Everyone was thrilled with their staterooms, which came with mini-bar and fridge, and held three people comfortably. The mini-suites have a smaller sitting area, with one chair and a sofa that can be made up as a bed. The vanity area is slightly smaller than the bigger suite's and doesn't have a sink. It has lots of closet space. The bath is the same with the whirlpool tub/shower combo.

One drawback of the whirlpool tub/shower combo is the high step-over into the tub. That wouldn't be a problem for most people, but my elderly mother with her knee and hip replacements found it daunting. She ended up sponge bathing and using the spa showers. Her bathing needs would have been better accommodated by a regular cabin shower. Even with my gimpy knee, I found the high step into and out of the tub a bit of an obstacle. The tub has well-mounted safety bars, which I used. Just a note for the similarly challenged.

Both suite categories have longer but not wider balconies with two chairs and a table. Two of the cabins asked their stewards for lounge chairs, which they got. Two asked to have the divider between their balconies opened, giving them shared back-door access between the cabins.

Within minutes of first finding our stateroom, my husband and I met our cabin steward. He introduced himself and asked if there was anything we needed. I told him I would be needing lots of ice, as I had an injured knee. (I did not have the bum knee when I booked the cruise - or the wedding - by the way, it happened right before.) If I left out a big zip lock bag, could he fill it? No problem. After the steward left, my husband got into his suit and left so I could dress. Forty minutes, one corset, garter, tiara, dress and some lipstick later, I went downstairs to get married.

PUBLIC ROOMS AND SPACES. We got married in the Ionian Lounge on deck 4, which is a beautiful space, and Carnival did a fantastic job making it look right for the occasion. It became a favorite place to visit for one guest because it hosts the cigar bar and jazz music at night. Right next to the Ionian Lounge is the Internet Cafe. Little known is that passengers who use the midship elevators can cut through the Internet Cafe, then the Ionian Lounge, to the aft elevators and the upper level of the Pacific Dining Room. No way to get around the Atlantic Dining Room, though, to go forward. The wedding reception was held in the Arctic Disco, which is directly upstairs on deck 5. On our previous trip on the Victory, I'd thought the disco overdone and garish. Well, it IS a bit much with video screens covering the walls, but somehow it worked well for the reception! Some of the young people ended up spending time there because of the large dance floor and had high praise for the DJs, G-Flip and Tomex. All of Victory's public rooms are a bit over the top decor-wise, but that never bothered me. There's real wood and some inspired use of ceramics. I love how the ship's spaces resonate with color and texture, from the frosty gold of the Adriatic Lounge with its stage and tiers of curved seating, to the dark enclosed ambience of the disco, to the open white and cream elegance of the Coral Sea Cafe. The Black and Red Lounge (aptly named) and the emerald green Seven Seas Atrium are fun and dramatic. The Caribbean Lounge is standard Carnival fare, three levels of spacious seating, though it gets packed for shows. My least favorite space, to be honest, is the Mediterranean Restaurant on the Lido deck. To me, the color combination feels a little forced. It doesn't help that the space itself seems constrained, smaller than it actually is. The upstairs of the restaurant is actually nice and quiet - perfect for board or card games - but there's no way to get there by elevator except from midship or forward, then walking back. The aft elevators only go up to the Lido deck.

People grouse about the layout of the ship, with the 3rd and 4th decks not going through. I don't disagree, remembering how frustrating it was the first time I took this ship five years ago. So I'm not going to downplay that sentiment. Those who take the ship, however, soon learn to work around this drawback by utilizing passenger decks and stairs as well as the public decks to move from one end of the ship to the other. The people most disadvantaged are the elderly or mobility-impaired, who after dinner end up trapped outside the Pacific Dining Room for several minutes until they can get the aft elevators to another deck. Another problem with such limited access to this 3rd floor entrance to the dining room is that before the doors open it can be like a cattle yard as every arriving elevator delivers more people into the already crowded area. At times, the elevator doors open and people can barely get off. We knew enough from our previous voyage to simply come five to ten minutes into our seating, which allowed us to come in behind the crowd.

The other traffic disaster is the photo gallery on deck 4 forward. Laid out around the atrium, the gallery is already narrow, and is easily jammed by people squeezing through and around each other either to see photos or simply moving through the area trying to get to the upper levels of the Caribbean Lounge or the forward elevators. I avoided the photo gallery at peak hours.

The casino is accessible and not overly loud once you move past it. Although most of my group did not gamble, one son really enjoyed losing at craps and one of our friends won a couple hundred dollars at slots! Those who used the casino said it was great fun, though quite smoky.

DAY 1, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. After the wedding, reception and photos, we barely got back to our cabin in time for me to change out of my poofy dress before the muster drill. Photo ops notwithstanding, I absolutely did not want to go to muster drill in a wedding gown! I had hoped to make my change quickly enough to limp upstairs to meet a CC group on the Lido deck, but they called muster drill before I could do so. Sadly, we never did get to meet them or any CC people. We were among the last of our station to appear, so got to stand in the front of the press of fellow passengers, a minor blessing in the summer heat. It was in the upper 90s that day. After much sweating, we were released and made our way back to our room.

New York is a great sail away port! The only bad thing about it was our timing. Our party had early seating in the Pacific Dining Room. Out of our group of 16 at two big round tables (440 and 441) in the center of the main floor, only 8 showed up at dinner the first night. All had sailed before. The first-timers were, one and all, up on deck admiring the Manhattan skyline and snapping pictures of the Verranzano Narrows Bridge and Lady Liberty. Frankly, that's what I would recommend for all New York cruise virgins with early dinner seating. The views are not to be missed! My adult sons tried to join us at the dining room later - much later - but were not allowed in because 1) it was too late and 2) one was wearing shorts. No problem, they knew where to find the food on the Lido deck!

At this point I have to mention Sandra, the assistant hotel manager on the Victory. She served as the ship coordinator for our reception, so we first met her there, but for the rest of the cruise, every time she saw us, she called us her "honeymooners" and managed to make us feel extra special. She was always in front at the Pacific Dining Room, every day, morning or night, and always made a point to greet us and our families. We loved her!

After dinner, the rest of the extendo-family ran off to have fun. We did the honeymoon thing and went back to our cabin. We later heard from Mom that the Welcome Aboard Talk with Cruise Director Malcolm Burn was wonderful! She learned so much and laughed like crazy. From that first night on, she attended every one of the CD's shows/talks and has become his biggest fan. She even loved his ship announcements. When I asked her at the end of the cruise what was her favorite part, she said, "Malcolm Burns!" So much for the ship or Canada.

DAY 2, DAY AT SEA. We got up early to see the sunrise from our balcony. Good thing we did, because we didn't see the sun most of the rest of the day. The day was chilly and fog moved in while we were at breakfast. We collected the other early risers - my Mom, his Dad, sister and brother-in-law, and my crack-of-dawn brothers - and went to sit-down breakfast in the main dining room. The seniors (and gimpy me) appreciated the service. Sandra cheerily saw to it we had a nice large table overlooking the aft wake. My youngest brother reminisced about his days in the Navy and my other brother (the engineer) pontificated about engines. The food was fine, if predictable. I don't think the breakfast menu - which so far has been the same on every Carnival ship we've sailed - has changed in several years. The ships change, the destinations change, the crews change, but the breakfast menu stands firm against the passage of time, which makes ordering easy. Over the course of the cruise, I tried several things, but liked the ham and cheese omelet and the Eggs Benedict most. The orange juice was generally good, although on the last day it tasted watered down - perhaps because it was. They did run out of bananas on the last day.

After breakfast, we went our separate ways. The Shore Excursion desk was open, so we made our way there. We'd tried ordering tickets from the TV, but the system was unbelievably balky and slow, then ultimately said our folio was invalid, which didn't make sense. By the time we got 5 tickets for the Photography Tour of St. John at the desk, the early tour was sold out, so we got the afternoon tour. We ended up with an extra ticket when Mom opted to go on the Moosehead Brewery tour with the rest of my beer-loving clan. Surely someone would want a free tour? By the way, the TV was also wrong about the dinner menu one day. We stopped checking it after that. We learned later that not one of our group succeeded in purchasing shore excursion tickets through the TV. It was totally useless for that purpose, so I'd suggest anyone taking this cruise order tickets ahead of time or else head right away to the Shore Excursion desk rather than waste their time trying to use the TV.

Mom bustled off to see Malcolm's Travel and Shopping Talk and the rest found things to do all the rest of the day. Although I had been reading about the lack of activities on the Victory, that was not the case with our collective group. Those of us who had cruised before passed on things the first-timers gravitated toward, like the art auction. I'd Tarkay'd out a few years back, but the others found the art auction fun, as they did the Disco Dance class, which I think is silly. Cruise ships were new to them; they enjoyed exploring the Victory, and browsing in the shops, and simply stopping to listen to music in whatever lounge had it, or people-watch. Only the 18 year old complained about nothing to do, mostly because he was in the tween gap between Camp Carnival and free-wheeling adulthood. He eventually found lots of fun in the casino, coming out ahead in nickel slots. The most common complaint was, "Darn! I wish I'd known about that!" My three sons declared a contest to see which would get the first ship-on-a-stick and attended just about every trivia contest. Mom liked bingo, though complained about the cost of cards and that Malcolm should be doing the calling. My husband's clan just lost out on winning the Shipwide Scavenger Hunt, but definitely had the best live mummy when they wrapped Dad in their cabin's week supply of toilet paper. Husband and I joined most of the gang in the Caribbean Lounge for a game of Movie Trivia. The cards were marked Action, but the movies were all musicals. We couldn't tell Donald O'Connor from Danny Kaye, but had fun.

That night was the Captain's Dinner, attended by all but my vegetarian son, who is also an iconoclast. This is as good a time as any to address the subject of food on board.

DINING AND FOOD. A few individual dishes aside, the food on this voyage was not exceptional. It was generally good, however. The main dining room menus had a nice variety, with many familiar favorites making return appearances, allowing some assessment as to whether the quality is holding up. It's all subjective, of course. Those in our group who had cruised before agreed that the Caesar salads were good but not great, for example, and we regretted how salad options had been scaled back by putting the Caesar salad on the menu every night. The first-timers loved the Caesar salads. The mushroom soup also came up short. My father-in-law embarrassed me by saying in front of our waiter that mine was better, whereupon I admitted I use Carnival's recipe (yes, I bought the cookbook), giving everyone a good laugh. Not to say the meals were lackluster: everyone raved about the duck, including the duck snob in the family, agreeing it was the best any of us had ever eaten. The lamb the first night was excellent, pink and juicy, and those who ate the prime rib gave it high marks. The lobsters were large and cooked to perfection. Compared to previous voyages on this ship and others, the dessert menu is sparser than it was (at times, the Lido restaurant had the better options), but the individual desserts were very good, though none were spectacular, though one person in our group always ordered the chocolate melting cake and might disagree. Our waiter and his assistant - Hoshang, who called himself Charlie, and Shaun - were excellent, and my only regret is that they didn't learn our names. I know it's difficult - and I can barely remember new people's names myself, so am not about to hold it against anyone - still, it's a nice touch to be addressed by name at dinner, and I reflect back most fondly on those folk who do so. Even so, the service was superb and they kept even the fussiest eaters happy, even bringing dishes not on the menu for the vegetarian when he expressed disappointment in the lone vegetarian offering. They rate with the best servers we've had on any cruise! Some in our group found Desmond, the singing maitre d', amusing, and a few quipped they would tip him more if he would stop singing. I liked his singing. His singing, interestingly enough, was more understandable than his speaking. He worked the room and seriously creeped out my 16 year old niece when he bent over and crooned next to her ear. It was all good fun, though. The nightly performances by the waiters were fun, especially at the Captain's dinner. One night my oldest son, an adult, tried to get up on a chair to dance with the waiters, but was dissuaded because of liability. Thank goodness! That was my thought, too! He and my niece joined the waiters dancing on the floor and everyone had a great time.

The 24-hour pizza on the Lido deck rated among the best on all our cruises, and proved a favorite of all. My vegetarian son asked for additional veggie toppings, which the pizza maker was able to provide, making for a very happy herbivore. I eschewed the Lido buffet entirely this trip, in part because my sore knee made navigating lines and crowds painful, so I relied on the kindness of others to fetch me burgers and soft-serves. The burgers were excellent, especially with fried onions and 'shrooms, and were my favorite snack. My vegetarian son preferred the Lido buffet for his meals, though, as it afforded him more options, particularly on Indian food night, than the main dining room. Everyone agreed the buffet food was decent, though nothing special. Exceptions were fried chicken one night and the roast lamb on our last day at sea. The dessert stand had some outstanding chocolate pudding cake. Unfortunately, the layout of the restaurant lends itself to long lines forming at the buffet, with significant waiting time. I tried the deli once, ordering a Reuben sandwich, which was tasty enough but soggy, so I passed on Reubens from that point on. There was plenty of other good food to eat. We didn't use room service this trip.

At the end of the first day at sea, most of the family, 14 strong, blew off "Living in America" (the two who saw it said it was worth seeing) and went to the upper level of the Mediterranean Restaurant for a mega-game of Cranium. That level is a bit off the beaten path, so was unoccupied. The game includes charades and people basically making fools of themselves, and at times the staff gave us odd looks. Security walked by a few times, looking amused, so I don't think we were causing any trouble. This family loves playing games and the Mediterranean Restaurant is a great place for card games, especially. DAY 3, ST. JOHN. I was really looking forward to St. John, because on our last cruise to Canada two years ago, we'd had such dense fog that day I never really saw more than twenty feet in front of me. We did the church tour that time, sadly not offered this trip, and the churches were lovely, but I saw nothing of the town or the Bay of Fundy. This trip, the fog was less, but still foggy. We got up early again, shepherding the elders to breakfast. After we were seated, we were joined by my youngest son. The waiter graciously found a way to seat him with us and took his order. When the youth found out his hash browns amounted to two small medallions barely a half-dollar in size, and asked if he could get three more orders, the waiter brought them promptly. Son joined us at breakfast from that day on and word must have been out, because on the last day they brought him so many hash browns they were arrayed on his plate like poker chips. We still had the extra ticket for the Photography tour, so offered it to my son, who accepted even though he had only his cell phone with which to take pictures. On the other hand, he's a photobug with that darn phone!

Because our tour was in the afternoon, and my bad knee made me pass on walking around town, we hung out in the Lido restaurant. Suddenly my sister-in-law says, "That's her!" "Who?" "The assistant at our table last year on the Fascination!" Sure enough! It was Neli, who was so wonderful to us on that cruise. She didn't remember our names, but was quick to refresh herself about us, and every time she saw us after that, she would come over to say hello. Some of the staff do become almost like friends, and it's always great to see them again.

After lunch, our little group for the tour went ashore and did a bit of shopping in the terminal just off the ship. St. John is really improving its tourism facilities, and the people could not be friendlier. The terminal, like the city, is clean, well-maintained and adorned with flowers at every turn. I tucked our purchases into my tote bag and we went off to find our tour, half expecting it to be cancelled because of the fog. We soon learned St. John cancels nothing because of fog. The photographer who conducts the tour is wonderful, and very informative. It is geared to both amateurs and pros. My son is an artist and photographer for the website of a major news network, and he said he learned a lot. So I recommend this tour. We visited several visually exciting sites, including the Reversing Rapids, Martello Tower, City Market, and Loyalist graveyard, and learned all kinds of new tricks for taking great pictures. No sooner had we returned to the pier and cleared the Canadian authorities -who were super nice and very efficient - with my son stopping by the shops again to buy a talking moose puppet he could use to annoy his co-workers, when the sky opened and we got soaked getting back on the ship. I have yet to see a clear panoramic view of St. John (or the Bay of Fundy), but I enjoyed this port and this day the most of the entire cruise.

Other members of our party took the Moosehead Brewery tour (excellent), the Reversing Rapids tour (only okay, compared to a previous trip when the rapids were more ferocious), the Bicycle Tour of Covered Bridges (invigorating - and it was sunny just a short distance from the harbor), St. Martin's (wonderful side trip!) and the Historical St. John by Horsedrawn Trolley tour (informative and fun). My oldest son took his laptop to the local Hilton, which has free internet access. His idea of relaxation was to clear out his mailbox for work. All came away loving the people of this city and saying they'd like to come back sometime. A lone bagpiper played as the ship departed.

Most of the family went to see the "Magic Moments" show and came away unimpressed. My husband and I went right from dinner to see the Carnival photographer who had photographed our wedding. It was a debacle. The man treated us rudely. Anyone caring to read about our experience with a Carnival wedding photographer can get that story on the Honeymoons forum shortly. Husband then became grumpy, so we went back to our cabin and worked on getting in a better mood again.

DAY 4, HALIFAX. The fog persisted for our stop at Halifax, though it lifted in the afternoon. The temperature was warmer than in St. John, and very pleasant. Husband's spirits restored, we joined the usual suspects for breakfast, then scattered, as everyone had something different they wanted to do. This was the third visit to Halifax for my husband and I, so we took a relaxed approach. Leaving the ship, we shopped for a bit in the terminal building. This open shopping area has some excellent vendors. I was delighted to find my favorite Canadian craftsman still operating there and bought several (more) of his wooden spoons and kitchen utensils. Maple sugar candy. Warm woolly socks. We then returned to the ship, where I visited the spa and ended up scheduling nothing because I thought the prices too high. My husband and I then hunted down some burgers for lunch. We found other family members and organized a high stakes pinochle game in our stateroom. After that, it was some therapy in the whirlpool tub. I came out to find my husband asleep, so I went out on the balcony. It was directly above the exit from the terminal, so I could see everyone coming back onto the ship. I also could see the drive where the tours buses pulled in. They'd pull up and people would pour out. It was late, and getting later, toward the time when the ship would depart, and people would get off the buses hustling. I'd wondered if I would be able to recognize any family members just by the tops of their heads, and sure enough I recognized my artist son's spiky do. Had he gotten off a tour bus? I shouted but he did not hear. I did see him jump, though, when the bagpiper started tuning up! Naturally, he stopped to take a picture. Also, at this time I met our neighbor in the next stateroom. This very nice gentleman sees me waving and says, "Hi! You must be the newlywed." (He was not psychic - we had a big sign on our door.) He then said, "Thank you for being so quiet!" I laughed and thanked him for being quiet, too. We had a really nice chat that left me wishing I could know him and his companion better.

Our group took several tours. The late-arriving son had simply walked up to a local tour bus, asked if there was room, and ended up going to Peggy's Cove for picture-taking. The fog rather limited his appreciation of the countryside ("The tour guide tried, but we couldn't see anything out the windows"), but he said he got some really great pictures at Peggy's Cove. Another family group was there at the same time, but they somehow missed each other. The teens liked climbing and jumping around the big rocks and getting sprayed by crashing waves. Mom and my brothers went on the Double-Decker trolley and were a little ticked when they learned about FRED, Halifax's FREE tourist bus that makes a regular circuit. Um, I'd sent everyone that link just two weeks before the cruise. If there's anything this cruise proved, it's that people don't read my emails. They enjoyed jaunting around Halifax and visited the Alexander Keith Brewery and a glass-blowing shop. My sister and her husband went on the Nova Scotia Fishing Adventure (excellent), continuing even when several of the signed passengers ditched because of rough seas. According to them, there were ten foot swells, which sounds like a lot to me (but what do I know). They caught several fish, and released all but one. The boat had a GPS system, so navigated the fog without problem. A few people got quite sea-sick, though. The son with the laptop stayed in his cabin this stop and read a Harry Potter book.

Husband and I enjoyed dinner in the main dining room, then popped over to join sister-in-law's family to get an Old Time Photo taken, after which we spent the rest of the night in our cabin. Connubial bliss and all that. Other members of the family went to see "Vroom," and said the show was excellent, the best show of the cruise. We woke up briefly to make our way to the Lido deck for the Gala Buffet picture taking at 11:30 p.m. After taking some pictures of pretty food, we went back to our cabin without eating a bite and tumbled back into our ridgy bed.

DAY 5, DAY AT SEA. After the usual dining room breakfast and hearing about everyone's adventures, we scattered again. Mom hurried off to see the Towel Folding demonstration in the Caribbean Lounge, happy knowing it would be followed by another talk (Debarkation) from Malcolm. She also liked to watch him on TV. Dad wanted to start on his packing. The three sons - one of whom had just finished reading the penultimate Harry Potter book - were still intent on getting that elusive ship-on-a-stick (how hard can it be if Mom has three?). Our friends were hitting the casino again, for the slot tournament. The teens were, oddly enough, more interested in playing cards. Everyone found things to do between the ice carving, art auction, bean bag tosses, and game shows. Husband had a headache in the afternoon and fell asleep in the cabin, so we missed the Newlywed Game. The family was all there and wondering why we never showed, but it was because I didn't want to wake my husband. Well, truth be told, I actually did try to wake him, but he seemed a bit grumpy about it, so I let him sleep. According to Mom, Malcolm asked, "Isn't there someone here who was married on the 9th? Someone married on the ship?" I'm sure he knew some couple had been married on ship, and I felt bad about us not being there. Mom and company says the couples who were in the game were great fun, though. Several family members took the Galley Tour, which they really enjoyed. After dinner and the ritual giving of tips - we tipped pretty liberally this trip, including people beyond our cabin steward and dining team - we began packing and making the rounds. While I was talking to my eldest son about how there might be more to taking a cruise than an opportunity to read Harry Potter, the youngest son finally won his ship-on-a-stick in a game of Action Movie Trivia (mislabeled Musical Movie Trivia). It is now sitting on his desk at CNN in Atlanta. DAY 6, BACK TO NEW YORK. We slept late, so missed the sail-in, which is every bit as good as the sail away. Mom and her early-rising clan caught it, though. Mom still talks about what a thrill it was to step out onto her balcony at 4:30 a.m. and look straight at the Statue of Liberty. They went en masse up onto a forward-looking deck and watched sunrise over the Manhattan skyline as we sailed in. I'd done that on a previous cruise, so know the feeling. It's fantastic, and well worth waking early to do. Great pictures, too! We had our last breakfast, son with his hash browns piled high, and talked about getting back home to our pets (big pet-lovers here) and our lives.

Debarkation was a breeze, not only because Mom and the other first-timers had memorized Malcolm's every word and therefore knew exactly what to do. After that leisurely breakfast, we got together in our big cabin and waited until last call for self-assist, whereupon we trekked down the corridor with all our luggage, got an elevator quickly, and pretty much walked off the ship with only a short wait in line. Everyone had their IDs and custom forms ready, and we breezed through immigration. We said our goodbyes in the terminal and it was sad to see all our guests depart. Our limo service picked us up without any hassle at curbside and whisked us back to Philadelphia.

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS. I forget which night we had the Past Cruisers reception, but it was not really worth going to this time. The movie was the same one we'd seen a few times before. The drinks were free, but we're not drinkers, so one each was enough. The hors d'oeuvres were nondescript. The band, "Simple Friends," was good but we could see them at other times. A lucky young man won a bottle of champagne. I was disappointed there was no chance to win (or even a chance to win a chance to win) a free cruise, or any other cruise line-related "prize." A tote bag, maybe? Coupons? A hat? Anyway, I don't know if I will attend the next Past Cruisers reception just to get a free drink.

Our towel animals were uniformly excellent. We held towel animal competitions, as we had four different stewards between us, and there was a clear winner. But all were excellent.

Overall, the food was a letdown on this cruise. We've had the same dining room menus before, better prepared, on other Carnival ships. None of the food was bad, really, just not as much of it was memorable.

The staff was attentive and friendly, some were outstanding. I encountered exemplary service, like having my ziplock always filled with ice and waiting in the fridge so I could ice my knee, but there could have been slightly better service during the high crowd in the Lido restaurant, when tables could have been cleaned off just a little faster. It wasn't that the staff wasn't trying, though, because every time I saw them they were working very hard.

The aft elevators are slow because of the ship's design, something physically challenged passengers might want to plan around.

This was a family-intensive cruise. Lots of kids and young people. They didn't present problems as far as I could tell and weren't overly noisy, no more than kids are usually. Those I saw were well-supervised and well-behaved. People who find large numbers of children annoying might want to take this cruise when school is in session, though.

The infirmary is very well run. We ran into a concern with one of our elders who forgot to pack part of his prescription medicine. The infirmary staff conducted an interview, checked their stock in case they should have some (thyroid med) and determined our family member could safely continue his cruise without taking the medication. We are medically savvy enough ourselves to know they weren't just blowing us off – we'd just hoped they might have some at hand. While there, we saw another passenger being sent off ship because of a medical emergency. The staff was attentive and genuinely involved and they struck us as being very competent.

IN CONCLUSION. The Victory is not a perfect ship, nor the Canadian itinerary without its pitfalls -- we loved St. John and Halifax and even liked the cool weather, but not so much the fog). This was, however, a great cruise for a fair price and we had a wonderful time! We're definitely cruising Carnival again. Alaska and the eastern Caribbean are on our to-do list. Less

Published 07/19/07

Cabin review: 127294

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