Carnival Victory Cruise Review
A good option for short, inexpensive cruises, but those who want Carnival's latest upgrades might wait until promised renovations are in place.
Neither one of Carnival Cruise Lines’ oldest nor its newest ships, Carnival Victory arrived on the scene in 2000, following close in the footsteps of its infamous sibling, Carnival Triumph. Though they’re essentially twins in size, capacity, facilities and floor plan, as with the rest of the Carnival fleet, the ships each have their own distinct design theme. Aboard Victory the theme is the seven seas, with venues named after the world’s oceans and seas, guarded by life-size buxom mermaids and larger-than-life sea horses. The décor is not as loud as is found on some Carnival ships, but no one will call the interior landscape subtle.
We didn’t expect to be dazzled by our brush with Carnival Victory, but we found the overall operation to be a fairly smooth-running machine. Still, we encountered a few issues that convinced us that Victory was ready for a dalliance with Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 upgrade program—a renovation is not scheduled until 2014. Until then, Carnival Victory uses Miami as its homeport, for inexpensive four-and five-night forays into the Bahamas, the northern Caribbean and Cozumel.
About Our Cruise
Carnival Victory does shorter trips to the Caribbean out of its Miami homeport, year-round—perfect for long-weekend vacations, especially for those who live in Florida. The ship’s vivid interior design pays homage to the world’s oceans and seas, in bold strokes. It’s a big vessel, weighing in at 101,509 tons and carrying 2758 passengers (at double occupancy). Although we enjoyed our cruise, the overall experience was hit-and-miss in a few key areas.
Take the accommodations: Our Ocean View cabin offered luscious bedding—we could barely drag ourselves from it each morning—and, at 220 square feet, there was ample elbow-room for two guests. But we didn’t care for the unsightly carpet stains, purple splotches dappling the floor; our cabin steward said the stains are found in a number of cabins, a problem that originated during original installation, years earlier.
We were also annoyed by sound leak, a recurring complaint we’ve had with all our Carnival cabins. There was a lot of noise from the hallway—every conversation passing by our cabin was audible through a vent in our cabin door (it almost sounded like someone else was in our quarters shuffling about), not to mention children bounding up and down hallway. The thin walls allowed some sound leak from neighboring cabins (though we wouldn’t call our neighbors particularly noisy). There was shuffling and banging from above, and it turned out our cabin was under one of the galleys. One morning at 4:30 a.m. we were wakened by clanging and scraping noises from upstairs—it sounded like someone wielding car parts, bottles and cutlery.
Carnival Cruise Line sells fun, not cerebral, and there were boisterous activities scheduled through the day and evening: From the hairy chest contest to a digital scavenger hunt, and from randy comedians in the Punchliner Comedy Club to cha cha dance lessons, we ample opportunity to let our hair down. But for anyone in search of restful escape, Carnival Victory may not be the ride for you. This was a noisy ship—and we’re not just talking about the partiers. The engines rattled and roared more than we like, ship announcements by the cruise director were loud enough to drown out the sound on a TV in cabins, and a generic pop music soundtrack seemed to play 24 hours in common areas, taking a breather only in the wee hours. Fortunately, we found a secret hideaway most other passengers overlooked.
Carnival Victory is not exactly rife with dining choices. Of particular note: There’s no steakhouse, a standard feature we’ve enjoyed on all of Carnival’s newer or recently renovated ships. This means meals were concentrated into just two areas, the main dining rooms (one designated for those signed on for traditional, assigned seating, the other for those on the Your Time Dining plan) and the very busy buffet option. Fortunately, our meals in the Pacific and Atlantic dining rooms were generally good—not spectacular, but varied and with a few tasty surprises. Although a couple entrées arrived lukewarm, servers were responsive and accommodating. Despite a pizza station and a Chinese counter, the Mediterranean buffet restaurant offered limited choices, and much of it was bland and/or over-salted.
The good news was that we signed up for the Chef’s Table, an option offered on all of Carnival’s ships, and it was a fine (if pricey) splurge. Given the shortage of meal choices on Carnival Victory, we recommend budgeting for this dinner and booking soon after you board—the experience is limited to just 12 guests per evening (and not necessarily conducted nightly).
Carnival’s modestly priced cruises often lead to good value, especially for those who can book months out or last-minute, when the best deals often appear. The Ocean View cabin we sailed in can usually be had for less than $100 a night, per person, and balcony cabins aren’t usually priced much higher. While we prefer a ship with more varied dining options, Victory made up for it to some degree with a plethora of drinking venues—each night the ship came alive with activities. In sum, for an inexpensive cruise of less than a week, Carnival Victory delivers the goods. But for those who prefer a ship with the latest bells and whistles, we recommend sailing on Carnival Victory after promised upgrades and renovations are put in place.
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