The only negative we heard about the program came indirectly, from a parent shrieking at their unyielding child: "You're going to Camp Carnival, and you're going to like it!"
Other than the single incident, it's quite clear that the youths really have an enjoyable time aboard Victory. Carnival has activities set up for every age group, from toddlers to teens. Children's World (Spa Deck), Victory's dedicated kid's spot, features arts and crafts, movie nights, Gameboys, PS2 and music. Carnival breaks down the groups as follows: Under 2's, kids between the ages of 2 - 5, 6 - 8, 9 - 11, 12 -14 and 15 - 17.
All age groups are supervised by hip counselors, with regularly scheduled activities taking place between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., after which Night Owl parties -- late-night group baby-sitting with a more fun name -- are available for $6.75 per hour, per kid (plus 15 percent gratuity per child).
Up on Sun Deck (12), there's an outdoor area with a kiddie pool and playhouse for the younger kids, though despite walking past this area every day, I honestly never saw any kids there.
Also on Sun Deck, there's a spot just for the teens (No Grownups allowed!) called Club O2 where 13 - 17's may be found playing cards and talking about things that interest them, namely dating, music and video games. There was also a daily teen disco in Club Arctic, available two hours before the club became adults-only.
Many of the daily age-appropriate activities, such as Outburst!, ship drawing contests and "name that tune" took place in Club Arctic.
Note: Many kids also seem more than content roving the ship in packs, playing games of their own invention (and of Camp Carnival's invention, like the unsupervised scavenger hunt), or peering covetously through the glass windows into the adults-only Club Arctic.
Carnival attracts an outgoing set of North American couples, families and multigenerational groups. The average passenger age is in the 40's. Expect an influx of families in the summer and over school holidays.
We mean this in the nicest way: The 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory has a comfortable worn-in feel. The overall operation, much like the captain's daily weather and navigation briefings, comes off as effortless. In harmony with the gentle rocking of the ship, it's easy to fall into a sleepy rhythm.
As such, Carnival Victory serves as an excellent intro to Carnival Cruise Lines for the uninitiated -- and a quick escape for the line's aficionados.
As (modified) member of the Destiny-class of vessels, Carnival Victory has all the traditional Carnival accouterments: an exuberant main dining room and a two-deck Lido buffet complex; a bright, centrally located casino; a bar-line promenade; an impressive spa; a comprehensive Camp Carnival program for kids; a daily schedule of jocular activities; and more than enough places to drink and socialize.
The ship also features a few contemporary touches, including a sushi bar and drive-in style poolside movie screen.
It's admirable that no one tries too hard to please -- from the tabletop dancing dining room waiters, to the dryly sarcastic blackjack dealers, to the amiable bartenders who call you "chief" or "boss." Most of the nearly 2,800 passengers give the impression of being quite content with this, and why wouldn't theg? There's no pressure placed on the ship to be anything that it's not, and the guests feed off this.
For a Carnival first-timer, it's also relevant to note that while Carnival has, in the past, been pigeonholed as the slack-jawed, party line (perhaps the line itself is guilty of emphasizing this rep with its own "Fun Ship" distinction), in reality it offers a more impressive range of options than it's given credit for.
But ultimately, you get a week of evenhanded leisure at a decent price. It's like a comfortable dream, of which you remember little more than a general feeling of well being.
During the day, beachy or port-specific attire is the norm. Carnival's evening dress code is typically "cruise casual," but on one night during the voyage "cruise elegant" eveningwear is suggested. On cruise casual nights, the line recommends sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cut-offs), long dress shorts and collared sport shirts for men, and casual dresses, casual skirts or pants and blouses, summer dresses, capri pants, dress shorts and jeans (no cut-offs) for women. Cruise elegant dress means dress slacks, dress shirts and sport coats (suggested not required) for men and cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses for women. On elegant nights, passengers may choose to dress more formally in suits and ties, tuxedos or evening gowns.
|Fitness and Recreation|
Carnival Victory has four pools and countless lounge chairs located on the open upper decks. I never had any issue finding a lounge chair, either with the masses or away from them. The ship's four pools include Sirens' pool (all the way aft on Lido deck), featuring a retractable roof; Triton's Pool, centrally located on the open portion of Lido Deck; the King of the Seas pool (Panorama Deck), the drainage receptacle for the Carnival slide; and the Children's Pool (Sun Deck), a small splash pool. There are showers located by the pools for lowering your body temperature if you've worked up a sweat either baking under the Caribbean sun or dancing to the Lido Deck reggae band.
For entrance to the Carnival slide, head up to Sky Deck (14) and get ready to propel yourself down a slowly snaking tube into a receiving basin of alarmingly slimy water. The slide is too enjoyable, however, to allow bacterial fears to keep you from participating. Many of the youths will slide down, sprint up, slide down, sprint up, etc. thirty times in a row.
Tucked on a corner of Sun Deck (12) is a nine-hole mini-golf area. The rubber and Astroturf holes are modest in size with small croppings of faux-rock hazards. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete all nine holes, so you may want to play a few times -- more than seven is considered rude.
On Spa Deck (11), one deck below the funnel, there's is a running track (10 laps to the mile) along with a couple of shuffleboard courts.
Located all the way forward on Spa Deck (11) is the ship's fitness facility. There's plenty of equipment -- bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, a motley collection of free weights, and weight machines -- available to help maintain anyone's svelte physique. The gym also houses two hot tubs, a steam room and a sauna, as well as men's and women's locker rooms. Specialty classes (yoga, Pilates) are available for $12. Personal trainers are also available for an additional charge.
Also on Spa Deck, you'll find the full-service Spa Carnival. This 15,000-square-ft space, operated by Steiner's of London, offers everything from hot stone massages to Ionithermie Detox and the trendy GTW Teeth Whitening. Take advantage of the special port prices, where you'll save about 10 percent.
Carnival Victory has two main dining rooms, both spanning two decks: q the Lobby (Aft) and Atlantic (amidships). Each sea-themed venue (stoic mermaid heads, seahorses, fish murals) has two set seating times for dinner (6 and 8:15 p.m.), serves up to 900 people and features a second floor wraparound balcony. Passengers also have the option to sign up for My Time Dining, Carnival's flex-dining program. You can make reservations or show up anytime between 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. (Note: One of the restaurants has a designated My Time section.)
The majority of the pink-clothed tables seat eight or more, and the color and layout of the rooms give the impression that you're in a massive wedding reception hall.
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 (blue cheese salad, gazpacho, fried shrimp), mains (linguini with sausage, oven roasted turkey, petit filet) and choices "from our comfort kitchen" (beef brisket, shrimp & fries). Vegetarians always have a dedicated main (tofu steak) and healthy options are designated as such with a little heart. Desserts, including the notorious chocolate melting cake, finish off the meal.
Carnival Victory's more casual venue is the two-deck Mediterranean Restaurant, located on Lido (8) and Panorama (9) 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 the healthier items, like fresh fruit, yogurt and dry cereals. There's an omelet station (the lines can get long) where you too can enjoy an omelet cooked with your choice of fillings.
If you're aiming to consume something more exotic for your first meal of the day, like Lobster eggs Benedict, head to the Atlantic or Pacific dining rooms for open seating breakfast.
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, ostensibly offering foods from places like Mexico and India.
Beyond the usual buffet station offerings, but all located in the same general Lido Deck area, the Yangtze Wok (near one of two entrances to the Mediterranean Restaurant) offers made to order stir-fries; The East River Deli (located by a second entrance) features a variety of interesting sandwich choices -- salmon with cream cheese on a bagel, hot corned beef and pastrami on rye with mustard -- but the resulting sandwiches, with their fatty processed-tasting meats and untoasted bread were a bit disappointing. Just outside the Mediterranean Restaurant, Lido Deck's Mississippi BBQ serves burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and french fries; also on Lido Deck, Pizzeria Arno (available 24 hours and located a convenient one flight up trip from our cabin) serves pizza.
A popular sushi cart is rolled out nightly.
A short walk from the South China Sea Club Casino, you'll find the Coral Sea Cafe, which serves coffee, cappuccino, espresso and various desserts -- large cookies, chocolate cakes, pastries -- for a fee. The coffee is substantially better than the free stuff located throughout the ship.
There are also several highly intoxicating soft serve ice cream stations, available 24 hours a day.
Room service is available 24 hours a day, and it's fee-free. You can get a variety of food items delivered to your cabin, including sandwiches, cheese and crackers and booze too.. We must give commendation where commendation is due. They will accommodate bizarre requests without the slightest bit of scrutiny or judgment. A fair-skinned tablemate who became dehydrated after an extended sunning period ordered nine juices, which were brought to her without the slightest appearance of suspicion.
Continental breakfast is also available. Simply mark the card found in your cabin with your choices, jot down a time, and someone will deliver your food.
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.
Cabins are standard Carnival offerings (which means they are well-sized for a mega-ship). There are 444 verandah cabins (185 square feet with 35- to 75-square-foot balconies), 327 standard oceanview cabins (185 square feet [with a few larger 220-square-foot versions]) and 530 inside cabins (185 square feet). The decor features peach bedding, a red pleather couch, and Formica closets and drawers -- the absurdly comfortable beds trump any questionable design elements. Bathrooms in all categories have showers, a hair dryer and a medicine cabinet. Carnival includes free toiletry/amenity kits; ours included disposable razors, soap, shampoo and conditioner, breath mints, emergen-C energy booster and a Binaca-like Listerine product.
All cabins have TV's, radio, phones, and an adequate amount of closet and drawer space. Most have twin beds that can be converted to a king upon request. Although we kept our beds separated, a nice feature of Carnival cabins is that their beds are genuine twins, so instead of combining to form a queen as on most other lines, you have a king-size bed. TV channels include CNN, Fox News, a music video station, a Carnival station (replays of your cruises' Match Game and Newlywed (Not So) Newlywed Show, as well as port excursion overviews by cruise director), and a channel dedicated to Carnival Corp. advertising.
You'll also be relieved to hear that the towel animals remain a Carnival mainstay. My traveling companion was enamored of the towel animals to the point where suspicions arose. Be it the elephant bunny mutant, the seal with bifurcated tail doing a split (transformed into manta ray with a flick of the wrist), or the hanging monkey with sun glasses, Greg insisted on each animal's preservation, even in the event that we ran out of towels for shower use. (That never happened -- thanks Leslie the room steward.) Each night I was forced to waste valuable camera memory on said creatures.
If you need anything ironed or laundered you can simply point out what needs doin' to your cabin steward. Be sure to check the rate sheet prior to requesting this service; we paid $13 to have four items ironed (three shirts at $3 each, one pair of pants at $4). We also shelled out $15 to have a sack of laundry cleaned and folded (no jeans or dress shirts allowed). There are six small self-use coin-laundry rooms (with irons for use) if you're a self-motivated type.
Though seemingly disparate, the Joe Farcus-designed public spaces share the common theme of "the high seas." The stairwells host illuminated murals of mermaids and other mythological sea-beings. The names and decor of hallways feature references to Roman sea myth, as in "Neptune's Way," and their Greek counterparts, "Odyssey Hall"; the theme bars, restaurants, and activity rooms have imagery of sea horses, mermaids and mermen, and, again, references to the world's ocean in their names (South China Sea Club Casino, Black & Red Seas Bar, Caspian Wine Bar, Virtual Sea game room, etc.). Throughout the ship, the coloring is comprised of the many hues of the oceans. And as the piece-de-resistance, the Atrium is tied together by a massive, multi-colored hanging fish sculpture.
If you have no sense of direction (I've been told that I don't), you may find yourself retracing your steps when trying to get around the ship. Navigation is honestly pretty simple though. As on other Carnival ships, Promenade Deck (5) and its nine-deck high atrium (stretching up from 3 to 11) is the focal point to remember. Fanning out from there, you'll find the ship's main features, including the Carnival shops (logo clothing, liquor, perfume, jewelry), the casino, bars and lounges, etc. When you're in the atrium, don't forget to pause to consider the design elements of the cavernous space -- the focus being the Tiffany-style glass dome in translucent shades of greens and blues.
At the base of the atrium, Lobby Deck (3), next to the Purser's desk (starboard) and the Tour Desk (port), you can head outside onto a sliver of open deck; one side of the ship is typically sunny, the other shaded. Both are good choices for quiet reading and/or dozing. These chairs are a bit more difficult to come by, however, as the slivers of deck are popular during the day.
Adjacent to the Ionian room is the ship's 24-hour Internet cafe. There are six terminals; the charge is 75 cents per minute, but you can bring the cost down to $0.30 if you buy 1,000 minutes ($300). Look out for Internet specials. On my sailing, between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. on a Friday, there was a buy two minutes, get one free deal. Victory also has Wi-Fi hot spots in the Ionian lounge and Club Arctic.
The miniscule Indian library, located on Atlantic Deck (4), is used less for the selection of reading materials and more for people playing board games, taking part in the unsupervised chess tournament or attending the near-daily Friend's of Dorothy or Friends of Bill W meetings.
Almost every night in the three-deck high, state-of-the-art Caribbean Lounge there's some sort of entertainment. Every type of act is represented, from a Vegas-style illusionist/magician to R-rated comedians and singing/dancing/cabaret acts. On the final night, following Powerball Bingo, Victory features the Legends Show, a talent revue comprised of passengers performing as Elton John, Cher, the late-great James Brown, etc. It's typically one of the best attended shows of the cruise -- and the only show where obtaining an outstanding seat was a challenge.
During the day, there's your standard "Fun Ship" schlock, including hairy chest and belly flop competitions (leaning over the railing of Panorama Deck affords an unobstructed vantage), the Match Game, trivia, and bingo and slots tournaments in the Casino.
An outdoor movie screen showing concert videos, movies and sporting events is located midship on Panorama Deck (10).
The South China Sea Club Casino is the ample casino with bright red columns, ornate gold light fixtures and blue sculptures of noble-looking lions -- you know, the things you'd see in China.
Promenade Deck's Virtual Sea game room features a solid selection of (nearly) first-run arcade consoles. Perhaps a bit pricey at least $1 per play, but an enjoyable diversion nonetheless. I watched my friend have a psychological meltdown while playing Crazy Cabbie.
The Ionian Room, Atlantic Deck (4) aft (which feature a combination Ionic and Doric column rather than simply an Ionic -- for shame!) is a comfortable cigar bar with red leather chairs, Hellenic columns and glass display cases with Grecian Urns. You'll find jazz here. If you can tolerate cigar smoke, it's a great place for a pre-dinner cocktail. After you smoke your cigar and drink your scotch, you simply head a touch more aft for the Pacific, forward for the Atlantic, go down one flight, and you've arrived at your dining destination, slightly more relaxed/completely intoxicated.
Aft, all on Promenade Deck, you have the Black & Red Seas Bar, a nightly karaoke hang, and one of the most popular spots on the ship; The Caspian Wine and Caviar Bar featuring portraits of Czar Nicholas (and wife Alexandra), a ruler known for his love of wine, bloody suppression techniques, and summary execution following the October revolution of 1917; and The Irish Sea Bar, a sing-along alcove fashioned after a traditional Irish pub that features a piano player. Connected to the casino on the port side, the Aegean sports bar is a modest-sized hang with about eight TV's.
For late-night partyin', there's Club Arctic, with its kaleidoscope of floor to ceiling TV's, inset half-circle dance floor, and surrounding seats to watch and mock at fellow passengers spazzing about. The Adriatic Lounge is a more adult hangout. Modeled after a French salon with columns and gradually ascending steps, it's a bit more elegant and a bit less in your face. This spot features more traditional couples' dancing, rather than the improvisational hip-hop groovin' found in Club Arctic.
Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. (Note: on Victory's cruises out of Barbados, tips must be prepaid.) A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.
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