My husband and I wanted to take our 4 year old son on his first cruise. We waited until about 3 weeks prior to decide this, so finding a reasonably priced cruise was a bit more challenging. Add to this the fact that DH and I did not want ... Read More
My husband and I wanted to take our 4 year old son on his first cruise. We waited until about 3 weeks prior to decide this, so finding a reasonably priced cruise was a bit more challenging. Add to this the fact that DH and I did not want to go to Nassau (again!), and did not want to spend a fortune as we were not sure that son would like it, and it became more difficult. I found a 4 night cruise to Key West and Cozumel for the three of us for around 1000.00 and decided to go for it. The cruise was aboard the Carnival Victory. I was skeptical at this point, and nervous, as Carnival has a bit of a bad rep for being a party boat. I also recalled thinking their boats were way rockier on the waves when I cruised them last, 3 years ago. But we decided to give it a go!
The first challenge I encountered (and I will leave a review in the correct section as well) was parking. DH and I live in Florida, and though we live in a major port town, usually cruise out of Canaveral. Park and ride is easy there, and we like that. Miami, not so much. The terminal is 20.00/night, and I immediately ruled that out. I then looked at shuttles/hotel combinations, but those were high as well. I finally decided on Premier Parking, after reading reviews here (the one on 2nd ave). Our GPS took us right to the garage (they do caution on their site that it may not). The parking was VERY full, but we did manage to secure a covered spot (they are NOT all! The top level is open). We took our keys with us, and the shuttle took us to port. I was comforted by the fact that no once could move our car, and the cars next to us were on the same boat, so they wouldnt be moving either. The vans were a bit older and rougher, but I would say it took 20 min or less to get loaded up and off to port. The ride was short, 15 minutes or less. The total cost was 42.00, 1/2 of what the terminal charges.
Once at the port, it did take a while to board, as the lines were quite long. With RC, we usually are in the Gold line and go right through, but Carnival did not have it set this way. A small annoyance, no big deal.
Once on board, we made our way to the welcome buffet. The lines for hot dogs and burgers was long, so we went in. The inside buffets are average, with a chinese food window, (very) small salad bar, fruit, and some hot foods that are nothing special. There are not many of those, either. The desert table is also small compared to other ships. Only lemonade and tea were offered, which is typical. There is another small grill on the other side of the buffet, on Lido deck, as well as a pizza and deli pick up. The pizza is sub par, but that is also typical.
The cabins were actually spacious compared to previous cruises on RC. The bed was a full King, with a twin set up for our toddler, and there was plenty of closet space, counter space, and the bathroom had sink space! Much better for us. The TV actually had several cable channels too, not just cheesy cruise replays. This was a huge positive over RC for us. Our steward was great, he always remembered our names, and did a great job for us. We also received our luggage by 4:00, which was great.
There was a water slide on board, and several smaller pools- no large center pool. I did not like this as well. There were several hot tubs also, and a kids pool. The kids pool was small, and did not have nearly enough chairs. Nor did the adult area we visited while our child was in camp.Finding chairs was a battle, and there were not enough pools for the kids- and there were ALOT of kids on this boat, which we liked since we brought ours. I would also have enjoyed this boat had we not brought him, it is good for families and singles.
I did not feel as entertained as I have on RC. The show and activity times were a bit off. Some shows were pushed so late that we did not make them and some were spread too far apart- think one game show at 5, then the next comedy at 9:30. The Love and Marriage game show was cute, and the Pat G. comedian was funny, but Lester (the comedian) at the 9:30 show was not even amusing at all. I walked out. He laughed at his own jokes even when no once else did. It was awkward.
Another thing I noted is that drinks were slighter higher priced than other cruises. RC often had drink specials for 5.95, with others for 7-8.00 (mixed drinks). I usually get the drink packages, but did not this time, as the specials make it more affordable. Not this time. The cheapest special was 7.95, with most costing 8.95 or more. Each time my husband and I both got a drink, it was 23.00 or more with tax and gratuity.We were going to buy a package (Cheers) for him, as he would use it more than I, but if one of us purchased, we were both required to. I was told that even if I had had a medical condition that precluded me from drinking, I had to buy it if he did.
There are lots of lounges and bars on board, if you like to drink and hang out. The casino is a bit small, but fun. I did win some money :) I hate the smoking though, it was miserable to be surrounded by clouds of cigarette smoke.
The gangway is easy to access and we did not have to wait long to debark at ports, which was nice.
Camp Carnival was available for our son, and we did use it some. I was disappointed to see it not open at all the first day of departure- our son was amped up and ready, only to be sent out. During the day time, the kids do not do a lot, but in the evenings they did face painting, t shirts, cereal necklaces, etc. You have to pick up by 10:00 not to be charged. You can also choose to take your kids to dinner, or let them eat with the Camp. Overall, our son enjoyed this service.
Photo gallery was a mess, many pictures were not put up on walls and were in big bins we had to dig through. I doubt I saw 1/2 of ours- not that I wanted to buy, they were poorly shot, and in hideous poses.
Dinners were a pleasant experience for the most part. We were seated with another couple who had a 6 year old son, which was nice. The food was good most nights (not all!), actually better than RC was on our last trip. Each night featured multiple different appetizers and main courses to try, as well as a staple menu with "safe" choices. They did have Lobster, Prime Rib, Sushi, Ribs, crab cakes, salmon,and several other really good choices that I enjoyed. The shrimp are very small in the app and the meals, and DO NOT ORDER THE MEATLOAF. Other than that, it was not bad. The deserts were always good. They did do a "show" during meals, but I did not see it as we were on the 2nd floor. We also ate breakfast here- it was decent, better than the buffet, as the food was fresher and hotter. They were a bit stingy with the pastries and juice, whereas RC leaves these out as a buffet even in the dining room for breakfast.
We attempted to settle our bill on the kiosk with a different credit card, and received a receipt, but were charged on our original card anyway, which was annoying. One word of warning: If you use a credit card, the cruise line places a hold on your card for every dime you spend, AS WELL as charges you for your total bill. The holds have stayed on our card for 7 days now. I called American Express today, and was told after 8 days the charges fall off if the merchant (carnival) does not pursue payment. We are expecting them to be off tomorrow.
We purchased alcohol on board, and received it around 7pm our last night. Our luggage was picked up later, with no issues. Debarkation went smoothly, with no big hold ups.
The boat was rockier than RC- that did not change, but did not bother me as much. The people were not partying too ridiculously, and there were lots of families. We only had one irritating group near us who woke me shouting at 3am one night.
Our shuttle picked us up after about 20 minutes or so. We arrived back at our car without incident. Our car was safe and untouched, and we had no problems.
The best part: NO QUINCENIERAS this time or tour groups!!!