Service throughout the ship -- but particularly in the dining room -- was fantastic and friendly, and the staff will gladly cater to those with special dietary needs (gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) with advance notice.
Pacific Dining Room (Decks 3 and 4 aft), Atlantic Dining Room (Decks 3 and 4 midship): Carnival Victory has two main dining rooms -- Atlantic and Pacific -- each spanning two decks. Both floors of the Pacific, as well as one floor of the Atlantic are for set-seating dining, with each sea-themed venue (stoic mermaid heads, seahorses, fish murals) offering two set seating times for dinner (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Passengers also have the option to sign up for My Time Dining, Carnival's flex-dining program, which takes place on one floor of the Atlantic. Passengers participating in My Time Dining can make reservations or show up anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. Each restaurant serves up to 900 people on two levels. The upper level is set up balcony-style, offering views of the diners below.
The majority of the pink-clothed tables in both dining rooms seat eight or more -- although My Time Dining seemed to offer more tables for two and four -- and the color and layout of the rooms give the impression that you're in a massive wedding reception hall under the sea with dark woods and bright blue and green glasswork.
The dinner menu in the dining rooms is limited, but there is enough of a variety to make choosing difficult. Choices are broken down into starters (spinach and artichoke dip, cream of broccoli soup, escargot, alligator fritters, stuffed mushrooms), mains (beef brisket, lasagna Bolognese, blue crab ravioli, spareribs, Japanese sea bass) and desserts (chocolate melting cake, apple pie, sugar-free orange cream cake, ice cream). Always-available options include shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, salmon, grilled flat-iron steak, grilled chicken, fried chicken, french fries, an Indian vegetarian option that features different veggies each night, steamed rice and vegetables. Diners can also purchase selections like lobster tail and filet mignon for a $20 upcharge. Items that contain soy and nuts are clearly marked, and gluten- and lactose-free options are also available upon request.
The Pacific dining room also offers open-seating breakfast and lunch each day (except embarkation day). Standard lunch offerings include a variety of soups (New England clam chowder), sandwiches (club, beer-battered fish) and salads (caprese). On sea days, the aptly named Sea Day Brunch is featured. Menu items range from omelets, bacon and hash browns to more crazy choices like Froot Loop-crusted French toast.
Note: The Pacific Dining Room can be difficult to reach from the front of the ship, as the galley blocks access to it on Deck 3. Your best bet is to go down to Deck 2 and follow one of the cabin corridors along either side of the ship to the last set of aft elevators or stairs before going back up to Deck 3.
Mediterranean Restaurant (Decks 9 and 10 aft): Carnival Victory's more casual buffet venue is the two-deck Mediterranean Restaurant, located on Lido (9) and Panorama (10) decks. It's fashioned after an (ersatz) seaside Italian villa, with alternating pink and teal paneling inset in (darker) pink stucco walls. Standard greasy breakfast choices are offered daily, including scrambled eggs, breakfast meats and fried potatoes. You can also choose from healthier items, like fresh fruit, yogurt and dry cereals. There's an omelet station (the lines can get long) where you can enjoy an omelet cooked with your choice of fillings.
For a typical lunch in the Mediterranean buffet, you'll find made-to-order pasta, salads, hot entrees like chicken Parmesan, carved beef, baked salmon with bearnaise sauce, etc. There are also daily theme buffets; on our sailing, they included Italian, American and even a "chocolate extravaganza," featuring a ridiculous number of chocolate desserts.
If you feel like opting for a more casual dinner than what's afforded by the main dining rooms, the Mediterranean turns into Good Eats, which offers a carving station and self-serve items that might include New York strip steak, broiled pork chops, potatoes and salads.
Chopsticks (Deck 9 aft): This window, located at one of the entrances to the Mediterranean Restaurant, serves dishes like sushi, vegetables, pork or chicken with noodles, chili and seafood during lunchtime.
Carnival Deli (Deck 9 aft): The Carnival Deli, found at the Mediterranean Restaurant's other entrance (the side opposite Chopsticks) is open 12 hours a day and serves a variety of made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches -- turkey wraps, tuna on white, smoked salmon on a bagel, pastrami on rye, grilled Rueben, grilled ham and cheese -- and salads.
Comfort Kitchen (Deck 9 midship, port): Just outside the portside (left) front entrance to the buffet, by Triton's Pool, passengers can enjoy comfort food like hot dogs with toppings, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, apple pie and chips with salsa from lunchtime into the evening.
Off the Grill (Deck 9 midship, starboard): If you're craving a poolside burger, this is where you'll find it from lunchtime through the evening hours. Located just outside the starboard (right) front entrance to the buffet, by Triton's Pool, the walk-up counter offers burgers with a variety of toppings, as well as French fries, coleslaw and potato salad. Veggie burgers are available on request.
Pizza Pirate (Deck 9 aft): The ship's only 24-hour food source (excluding room service), Pizza Pirate offers margherita, four cheese, pepperoni, mushroom and other slices around the clock. Lines tend to be excruciatingly long for large chunks of the day and late at night when all other eateries are closed. However, the pizza found there is some of the best we've ever tasted on a ship, so it's worth the wait. (Gluten-free pizza is available by request.)
Swirls (Deck 9 midship): These standalone 24-hour machines offer soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt. Cones and small dishes are available, and each machine offers two flavors (usually chocolate and vanilla, but we've also seen strawberry) at a time, as well as a twist option.
Room Service (a la carte pricing): Room service is available 24 hours a day, and while there are some basic fee-free items like sandwiches and salads, Carnival has started charging anywhere from $1.50 to $6 for hot items like French fries, wings, shrimp, quesadillas and pizza.
Continental breakfast is also available. Simply mark the card found in your cabin with your choices, jot down a time, hang it on the outside of your cabin door before 5 a.m. and someone will deliver your food.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Deck 3 forward, Atlantic Dining Room; $5): As part of Carnival's Seuss at Sea programming, the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast takes place in the dining room once per sailing. Featuring red and white pancakes (stacked to look like the Cat in the Hat's head topper), green eggs and -- you guessed it -- ham, this fun meal is well worth the $5-per-person surcharge. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome if there's availability.
Chef's Table (Deck 4, Indian Library; $75): Also available on all of Carnival's ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75. The experience is offered once per cruise on sailings of five nights or fewer and twice on voyages of six or more nights.
Coral Sea Cafe (Deck 5 midship; a la carte pricing): A short walk from the South China Sea Club Casino, you'll find the Coral Sea Cafe, which serves coffee, cappuccino, espresso, milkshakes and various desserts -- large cookies, chocolate cakes, pastries, chocolate-covered strawberries -- for a fee. The coffee is substantially better than the free stuff located throughout the ship, and prices are less expensive than what you'd pay on land ($1.95 to $5.95). Snacks range in price from $1.25 for a chocolate-covered strawberry to $2.95 for a piece of cake or a fruit tart. There's also a small ice cream counter that scoops extra-fee flavors like peanut butter cup, rocky road, pistachio, double fudge brownie, French vanilla and cookies 'n' cream for $2.95 (small) or $3.95 (large).
Drinks packages -- both alcoholic and nonalcoholic -- are available for purchase in advance or at the beginning of each sailing.