Note: This review was originally written in 2006, and updated by the writer in 2010
to account for details that are no longer applicable.
Overall, our five-night cruise on Carnival Victory to Halifax and Saint John was
very enjoyable. This was by no means an elegant cruise—and we knew that going in—yet
we highly recommend it to anyone who wishes a quick getaway to two wonderful ports
while enjoying good food, service, and entertainment.
SHIP HISTORY.Carnival Victory debuted in October 2000, the third of the line’s three
Destiny-class ships. (Carnival Victory and Carnival Triumph were later reclassified
as Triumph-class, given their slightly larger size and additional deck compared to
Carnival Destiny.) She was built at the Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyard, and was
the third Carnival ship to top 100,000 tons. According to Carnival’s Web site, her
vital statistics are as follows:
ARRIVAL AND EMBARKATION. We opted to fly from Boston to New York to avoid the four-hour
drive. As the flight time is only one hour and there are numerous flights every Sunday,
we went against tradition and flew down the morning of the cruise. Upon arriving
at LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal at 10:45 am, we gathered our luggage and
quickly hopped into one of the many waiting taxi cabs. Forty-five minutes and $37
later (including tip), we arrived at Pier 92, where CarnivalVictory had just finished
disembarking passengers from the previous cruise. We were directed to a row of chairs
in which to wait until embarkation was to begin. At 11:40, a mere 10 minutes after
arriving at the terminal, we were called to check in. This took just a few moments
as we had completed our paperwork online, and had our credit card authorization form
ready to go. We followed the clearly-marked signs to the gangway and—after posing
for a “Welcome Aboard” photograph and another photo for security purposes—boarded
CarnivalVictory for the first time.
FIRST IMPRESSION. Having been on near-sister ship Carnival Destiny previously, I
had some idea what to expect in terms of layout. Yet, once I stepped onboard, directly
into the ship’s lobby on Deck 3, I found stark differences in décor. Whereas Carnival
Destiny’s atrium felt dark and closed in to me, Carnival Victory’s lobby seemed larger,
brighter, and more welcoming. I thought Carnival Victory’s décor beautiful—the photos
I have seen simply do not capture the elegant shades of green in the lobby. Certainly,
a lot of the design is whimsical, but it works. I wonder how many of designer Joe
Farcus’ critics have actually been onboard these ships as opposed basing their opinion
solely on other peoples’ photographs.
SAILAWAY. A glitch with our dining assignment resulted in a delay that allowed us
to experience the wondrous trip down the Hudson River…and more. While I could not
bear to look at the lower Manhattan skyline, changed so drastically nearly five years
prior, I knew when we were in the vicinity as the ship’s whistle sounded in tribute.
The mood changed when we approached the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. This is a tall
cruise ship–13 passenger decks, and several below. I heard that we had just 5 feet
to spare when going under the bridge. We were on the next-to-top deck, near the base
of the funnel, and the view was amazing. It truly looked like there were inches—not
feet—to spare. All those on deck gave a round of applause once we cleared. Our voyage
was off to an exciting start.
CABIN. Of all the ships we have cruised, Carnival has the largest and most comfortable
standard oceanview cabins. Our family occupied Cabin 2281, a category 6A triple not
far from the forward elevators. This was a very convenient location, just one deck
down from the main lobby and dining rooms, and I’d recommend it. Our two twin beds
were pushed together, and our son slept on a sofa bed that was converted to a single
bed in a way that did not use additional floor space. We loved the upgrades Carnival
recently made to its bedding, and I slept better on this cruise than I had in weeks.
The cabin boasted an incredible amount of storage space. One of the three wardrobes
contained two shelves plus a magnetic-strip safe, while the others had ample hanging
space, even for my long gown. We also had a desk with three deep drawers and two
additional shelves for storage. We made minimal use of the two shelves within each
of the two nightstands. In the bathroom, we had a corner mirrored medicine chest
with 3 shelves. The shower was equipped with a curved shower rod and two wall-mounted
units that dispensed Dove body wash and shampoo. If you have a favorite conditioner,
bring it along. The wall-mounted hair dryer by the sink worked well on my long hair.
SHIP LAYOUT AND DÉCOR. Other than a few obstacles here and there, which I will discuss
in a moment, we were very pleased with the ship itself. The theme of the ship is
“Oceans,” and the ship was beautifully decorated throughout. I even enjoyed the touches
of whimsy such as the seahorse statues holding up the stairwell banisters, the seashell
design that adorned some of the carpeting, and the huge, coral-like chandelier in
the main show lounge.
It didn’t take me long to find my favorite spot—the outdoor promenade deck, in a
deck chair under the lifeboats. The chairs were resin with very comfortable removable
pads. The location on Deck 3 was close enough to the water to hear the marvelous
sound of its displacement by the ship. The promenade is teak, but not a wraparound.
There were about 30 chairs on each side, and passengers made good use of them.
I also enjoyed the ship’s library, located on Deck 4. I came here often to write,
as the surroundings were beautiful. It is richly decorated in warm wood tones; and
subtle shades of red and dark green on the ceiling. There were a few hours a day
during which the library was staffed and the bookcases unlocked (not much of a selection,
unfortunately), but the room was always accessible. Finally, the central pool decks
were very well laid out and I loved the tiered design that offered ample seating
and easy access to the lido areas.
That said, there are a few areas on the ship that didn’t quite appeal to me. First
was the frustrating layout on Decks 3 and 4, most noticeable when searching for the
Pacific Dining Room, located aft on those two decks. I had expected this, but still
managed to get lost a couple of times. By Day 4 of the cruise, I had finally figured
out some tips for navigating these two decks:
(1) For the Pacific Dining Room, take the aft elevator to either Decks 3 or 4. Alternatively,
take the amidships elevator to Deck 4 and cut through the Internet Café and Ionian
(2) For the Atlantic Dining Room, use either the forward (lobby) or amidships elevator.
(3) For the photo shop, library, main show lounge, shore excursion desk, pursers
desk and lobby bar, use the forward elevator only.
I also felt that Lido Deck could use some improvement. For some odd reason, the 24-hour
pizzeria and 24-hour ice cream machine were located near the designated adult pool
on our cruise, aft on this deck, as is the grill. These eateries could be moved near
the main pool so that this area truly becomes an adult oasis. It is obvious that
the current set-up contributes to the widespread use of the adult pool and hot tubs
by underage passengers.
Finally, while the Caribbean show lounge was beautifully decorated, there were enough
interrupted sight lines to make this a bit uncomfortable. The lounge is three decks
high, and the upper two decks extend 270 degrees, limiting the view of the stage
as you sit further from the center. This is one of those show lounges in which you
need to arrive at least one-half hour early for the best seating.
DINING. We were very impressed with the quality and quantity of food on this ship.
We took most of our meals in the dining room. Breakfast and lunch were open seating,
and our requests to sit alone or with others (as the mood struck) were always honored.
Service was a bit spotty during those meals, but the food was good, particularly
the two lunches. Dinner in the dining room was superb. In some cases, the quality
was far superior to that which we had experienced on Celebrity Infinity a few months
prior. It is not served with the same flourish, however, but I’ll take better food
rather than a show any time. I did find it unusual to have only three utensils in
the place setting—but as I did not have to set the table or wash the dishes, it did
not bother me in the least.
I’d heard that Carnival changed its menus recently, and we were very pleased with
the results. We enjoy trying entrées and appetizers that we would not normally have
at home, and there were plenty of choices. Among our favorites were foie gras crème
brulee appetizer, tilapia with eggplant tapenade, sirloin strips, and Grand Marnier
soufflé. I also enjoyed the lobster tail—a compliment indeed given that I am from
New England and practically live on fresh whole lobster during the summer. And, the
cheese plate was served with thin toasted bread, a far cry from the Saltines I’ve
seen on some other lines.
We dined at the buffet several times—once for breakfast, twice for lunch, and a number
of times for mid-afternoon or late-evening snacks. With the exception of the scrambled
“eggs” that should be avoided at all cost, the food was very good. The sliced beef
I had here was quite tender, and the salads very crisp and flavorful. And, the pastrami
sandwich from the deli was remarkable. I usually don’t like buffets as I am a light
eater for breakfast and lunch, and standing in a long line for just one or two items
does not appeal to me. Yet, there were a number of aspects of this buffet that I
liked. Cloth napkins and utensils awaited diners on the tables, and there were no
trays, making this feel less like a cafeteria. I also liked that there is an upstairs
seating area that few passengers seem to know about. Let’s keep that one a secret.
SERVICE. As is typical, service ran the gamut from excellent to fair. The ship was
kept fairly spotless both in the public rooms and on deck. Our cabin steward kept
our living space in good order, and saw that we received everything that was to be
delivered to us. Our waiter and assistant waitress were also very good, and attentive
to our needs. For example, when we mentioned that the Carnival repeaters’ party was
scheduled to begin just one hour and 15 minutes after the beginning of our meal,
they ensured that we got through dinner with time to spare while not making us feel
We ran into only one issue that we did not consider minor. When we boarded, we learned
we were assigned to the latest of the four dining times, 8:30 pm, rather than our
requested time of 6:15. (Note: At the time, Carnival did not confirm dining times
upon booking. Additionally, this cruise pre-dated the introduction of the open “Your
Time Dining” option.) So, we knew to see the maitre d’ immediately upon boarding,
and found him in the Atlantic dining room (nothing mentioned in the daily program;
we just knew to do this). We were quite surprised when he told us it was the line’s
policy that no changes could take effect until the following evening. He was quite
pleasant, and explained that he would put us on a wait list for early dining, which
we received the second evening. Still, as this was our first experience with Carnival’s
onboard service, it did not make for a good impression. Fortunately, it was not indicative
of the service we were to receive the remainder of the cruise.
DAYTIME ACTIVITIES. Our two sea days offered the usual art auctions, trivia, pool
games, casino tournaments, and a very nice afternoon tea. I did find that the schedule
for the second sea day was comparatively slim, which is something I had not noticed
on other cruises. Port day offerings were very limited—the main activity offered
during our times in port was a noon-time big-screen movie—which didn’t affect us
as we spent these days ashore, but I’m certain there were passengers who would have
preferred to stay onboard for at least part of the day. Still, my son and I enjoyed
our tea time, and I also had fun in the slots tournament, although I didn’t qualify
for the final round. We also could have gotten temporary tattoos had we wanted, but
decided to pass this time. Yet, this might have been the right amount of activities
for this cruise. Most passengers seemed content to spend time in the pools and hot
tubs, many braved the water slide, and others—like us—enjoyed gazing at the ocean
from the comfort of a deck chair.
EVENING ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT. Generally, the production shows were excellent.
“Living in America,” was well organized, had great sets (including a boxing ring)
and good singing and choreography. Special effects on “Vroom” were great, and more
than made up for the seemingly random order of songs toward the end.
The Welcome Aboard show was more tolerable than most. The timing was unusual in that
it was offered only once, rather than separate showings for early and late dinner
seatings, but the reason became evident during the show. (And, sorry—for the enjoyment
of future passengers, I will not disclose what this was.)
My son and I did not care at all for the magic show. Let me put it this way: My husband
chose to skip the show in order to do laundry, and I became jealous.
Shows were introduced by cruise director Dana Hodson, who was a far cry from the
lounge-lizard-showman type we had on our last cruise. Dana said straight out that
he is not part of the entertainment—he is an information source. Still, he was a
skilled emcee and did his job well, despite a spiel that was contrived at times.
Aside from the production shows, our family also enjoyed the classical music played
by Trio Lirica in the lobby bar just prior to and following dinner, and the 50s/60s/70s
dance music in the Adriatic Lounge provided by Bestsellers. (Yes, we have eclectic
tastes.) Unfortunately for us, the only jazz music was in the Ionian Lounge, which
was also the ship’s cigar bar and was, not unexpectedly, too smoke-filled for us.
PORTS OF CALL. We chose this cruise solely for the itinerary and were not disappointed.
We had been to Saint John twice previously and Halifax three times, and enjoy returning
as there is so much to see and do. For those curious, we remained on ship’s time
(Eastern Daylight Time), although we crossed into the Atlantic time zone. This put
sunrise at approximately 4:30 am and sunset at 8:00 pm. Temperatures both days were
Saint John, New Brunswick
8:00 am - 4:00 pm
It was a glorious day in Saint John. We disembarked at about 9:00 and went on a self-guided
walking tour using information from the Saint John tourism department (http://www.tourismsaintjohn.com.)
Our tour was called “The Loyalist Trail” and included sites in old Saint John, such
as the spot where the Loyalists first landed after fleeing America during the Revolution,
and spots where they settled. The trail was estimated to take 1½ hours, but took
us 3 as we made many stops. Among these was Trinity Church, which contains the Royal
Coat of Arms of the House of Hanover, rescued from the Old State House in Boston
during the U.S. Revolutionary War. Being from Boston, this captivated us, as we had
not heard the story before.
Other stops where we lingered were the Jewish Historical Museum, City Market, the
Old Burial Grounds, King’s Square, and the Saint John Firefighters Museum. All were
interesting and educational. There was a lot of history I did not know—such as the
Great Fire of 1877—so we made a quick stop at the New Brunswick Museum Shop in the
Market Square Building to purchase a few new books for our library. (We did not have
enough time to visit the museum itself, but will make it our first stop on our next
trip.) While at Market Square, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Grannan’s—I had the
seafood crepe, my husband had the lobster roll, and our son downed a large, adult-sized
portion of fish and chips.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Our day in Halifax was superb. With each visit, we find something new to do. Today
it was to visit the Pier 21 Immigration Museum, adjacent to the cruise terminal,
and later traverse more of the city by foot. The Immigration Museum was amazing.
It is set in the exact location where 1.25 million immigrants entered Canada between
the years 1928 and 1971. There were numerous exhibits encompassing the immigrant
experience, including arrival by ocean liner, customs, transfer to railroad, and
a welcome to one’s new home. The best, in my opinion, were the areas devoted to the
largest group of immigrants—war brides—and the videos in which people who once passed
through these doors shared their stories. Not surprisingly, each was poignant.
Our walk was long and pleasant. As it was a nice day, we walked along the boardwalk
to the Halifax Historic Properties, where we shopped for a bit and enjoyed the harbor
views. We then ventured back toward the city center. One spot I wanted to see was
Saint Paul’s Church, which has a piece of metal lodged into one of its walls from
the 1917 Halifax explosion. The metal was determined to be steel from one of the
two vessels that collided in the Harbor that day. (For those who have not yet been,
I highly suggest a visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to learn the history
of this wonderful city—we didn’t have a chance to go there again on this trip, but
it is a favorite place.)
DISEMBARKATION. This was very quick and painless for us. We did not opt for self-disembarkation,
and as we were considered to have an early flight (defined as prior to 2:00 pm),
we were instructed to wait in the Ionian Lounge. From there, after all self-disembarkation
passengers were called, we were escorted off the ship by a crew member at about 9:30.
We found our bags quickly in the terminal, and a porter assisted us to the ground
level, where we did our usual routine of flagging a taxi on 12th Avenue to avoid
the crowds at the taxi stand by the terminal. We made it to LaGuardia Airport early
enough to be offered seats on a 10:30 flight, three hours before our scheduled departure,
and were back in Boston by noon. Yet, I emphasize that we got very lucky with this
timing—recall that passengers on the prior cruise had just finished disembarking
at 11:30—and strongly suggest that future passengers heed the cruise line’s recommendation
to book flights departing after 12:45.
FINAL THOUGHTS. Despite a few nuisances, we truly had a marvelous time on Carnival
Victory. Compared to other cruises we’ve taken, this one held up nicely in most respects
and fell short only in those categories we had expected it would (such as a less-than-formal
atmosphere). Still, we found Carnival much improved over our last cruise on the line
six years prior, and would undoubtedly repeat this ship and itinerary in the future.