Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Victory
Sailing Date: August 26th, 2006
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Victory Cruise Review
We just got back from our first cruise,
and had a great time aboard the Carnival Victory. “We” were my wife, my kids,
ages 5 & 8, my Dad and my sister. Dad treated, as he felt he should watch us
enjoy our eventual inheritance! We took the 5-day trip to St. John & Halifax.
The long and short of it is this- It was a great trip, and we would do it again. Carnival definitely knows “fun ships”, and did a great job of it. The ship and staff were great.
Now for the details, if you care.
We decided to carry our bags, which wasn’t that bad. Dropped the family off at the sidewalk, and then went to park the car. The rest of the family started onto the pier. There was a little chaos, but that could be attributed to hauling 2 kids and about 1000 lbs of luggage. Next time I think we will take the time to lock the bags and attach tags. Check in was pretty easy and within 30 minutes, we were in our cabins.
We had one interior and one balcony cabin, which were right across the hall from each other. The cabins exceeded my expectations of what we would find on board ship. They were as roomy as a New York City hotel - not bad for being on a ship. Our stewards (Arthur & Warissa) were fantastic, always tending to the cabins whenever we weren’t there. Fresh ice, made up beds, clothes piled neatly and towel animals that our kids just loved. The rooms were clean, well ventilated, and very comfortable.
Being on board this ship is all about eating. As a guy who can pack away the food, I had met my match. Open seating for the Pacific and Atlantic dining room for breakfast & lunch, and assigned seating for dinner- the only place you will be served finer food is in a dedicated gourmet restaurant serving only a few hundred diners, and paying over $100 per person. These guys push out a meal a second, but you would never know it from the food- it was fantastic. Our wait staff (Wayan & Endra) was also fantastic and very attentive. They were professional, without being stuffy, and made us feel right at home.
There were plenty of other options, as well. The Mediterranean room had great buffet style food. The East River Deli and Yangtze Wok on either side had good food. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a grill in the aft pool area, and a pizza joint on the other side that was open 24 hours a day, serving gourmet pizza, calzones and Caesar salads. Finally, the kids couldn’t get enough of the self-serve ice cream stations. Juices, iced teas, coffee and milk were all include, Soda and booze cost extra.
I went into this trip with a little skepticism, anticipated being fleeced for high priced, low alcohol content drinks. Because of that, I smuggled in some flasks, for emergency use only. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the drink & beer prices were very competitive with on shore establishments. Good bottles of wine were priced as low as $25 per bottle, beer was in the $4.50 to $5.50 for domestic and imports, and my dad’s beloved Rusty Nails (scotch & Drambuie) were only $5.50. Mind you, they add 15% gratuity to each purchase, so carrying change to leave at the bar is not necessary. And, despite that the gratuity was built in, none of the bartenders acted like they were owed anything- they all worked hard to serve us, and did so in a very friendly and professional manner. Overall, if you plan on pounding booze, you may want to bring in some supplemental bottles in your luggage. But if one or two drinks a night is your limit, don’t bother- the prices are right.
One of the best features of this trip was “Camp Carnival”, which was much more then just a babysitting service. While there is no charge for this service, these folks truly earned their money. We made a point of tipping the staff, as they are not part of the tipping policy. They group the kids by age, and have a schedule of events that kept the kids occupied. We fell into a routine of feeding the kids breakfast, and then dropping them off for the morning. Then we had our own leisurely breakfast and reviewed not just our agenda, but the kid’s agendas as well. From there, we planned our day. On days when we were at sea, we would pick up the kids for lunch, feed them and spend some time with them. Then we would drop them off at Camp Carnival again at 2pm until dinnertime. Sometimes, the kids wanted to eat with their friends, and sometimes, they ate with us. Camp Carnival closed at 10pm, but then they offer the slumber party from 10pm until 1am, for an additional cost. On days when we were in port, we would give the kids the option of going into town, or staying in camp. When they stayed in camp, the staff would serve them lunch. They always chose camp. One day I did pull them out of camp, kicking and screaming, since I felt the would really appreciate going for a ride on Theodore Tug in Halifax. Fortunately, they did appreciate it. The kids had a great time on this cruise because of Camp Carnival and their staff. There was a good blend of family time, and time spent with kids our own age (both grown ups and children!).
There are a few things to keep in mind;
I thought the photographers were a little pushy, and the cost of the photos was a little high.
The cruise line earns a profit from the shore excursions. In the days before the Internet, it was worth spending the extra money to make sure that the trip was safe and reputable. However, with the advent of the Internet, I would not book any excursions, unless you like a fixed agenda. Do some research on the ports you are visiting, make some phone calls, and plan your own excursions. You can do exactly what you want for half the cost.
Try to fit in some down time. I thought that I would be bored out of my mind while on a boat for 5 days, especially when I have nothing to do with the sailing of that boat. Not the case at all. I was so busy, I’m glad we got back on Thursday so that we had the weekend to catch up on sleep and relax. We had to put our foot down one night, and put the kids to bed by 7pm. Their normal sleep pattern is from 8pm to 9pm to 6am to 7am- so they get about 10 hours of sleep. But while on board, they were having fun in Camp Carnival until 10pm, and where back up at 7am the next morning.
Tips- Carnival will charge you $10 per day, per person for gratuities. They tell you how this is broken down between the staff (55% for your wait staff, 10% for bistro staff and 35% for stewards). However, you should also budget some extra money for additional tips at the end of the trip. While none of the staff or cruise directors wanted to give advice of what was fair, when pressed, one of them thought that if you truly liked the service, figure for another $10 per day for each waiter, steward or Camp Carnival Counselor.
If you are planning on taking a trip, make a point of studying the maps of the boat, and know how to get around. We learned that Deck 5 is the main thorough-fair to get fore and aft, but was like driving through town. We found deck 8, which pretty much runs the entire length of the ship, past the cabins. This is like taking the neighborhood route. There are 3 elevator/stair ways systems, fore, amidships and aft.
My only suggestion for Carnival would be regarding the pools. For the cruises to Canada at least, it would have been nice to find a way to heat the pools. The weather was typical Northeast maritime weather- 60’s to 70’s, breezy, cloudy, damp, etc. Since the pool temps were around 70 degrees, only polar bears and children went swimming. If they could find a way to heat the water by 10 – 15 degrees, those pools would have gotten more use, even in marginal weather.
Overall, I give them highest marks, and would recommend the trip to anyone, especially with families. Carnival does a great job on these fun ships.