January 2015 - 5 Night Eastern Caribbean (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Victory
In 1991 I took my first Carnival cruise (on the Mardi Gras, if that tells you anything) and swore off cruising for the next 15 years, vowing to never take Carnival again under any circumstances. Deciding to give cruising another try a few years ago, I have since taken Royal Caribbean (great experience) and NCL three times (possibly my favorite, but willing to try others) and have rediscovered the benefits of taking a winter cruise (I'm from the midwest and a warm break in winter is NICE).
On January 19, we set sail on the Carnival Victory (let by-gone's be by-gone's, certainly Carnival has improved?), a ship chosen due to it's itinerary and perceived value. I do not hold myself out as a seasoned "cruiser" but can compare this ship to my most recent experiences with Royal Carib. and NCL.
The Victory is a tired ship. Rust abounds and frankly, in spite of it's patina it just did not seem all that clean. I have heard elsewhere the ship is due for re-fit in March 2015, but how long does it make sense to wait when in the meantime customers such as I are turned off by a ship in this condition? No "washee-washee" before entering dining rooms was encouraged, the lighting dim, serious lack of clear signage directing you about the ship, smelly public toilets. This ship also had SMALL swimming pools and the overall layout of the ship did not allow a "straight path" from one end to the other on all floors (up, over and back down was the requirement). There were always guests milling about and trying to interpret the poor signage.
We had a sixth floor port side balcony. Our room steward (Samidi) was wonderful, but seemingly overworked. Considering value paid, the room was fine. The steward kept it clean and attended cheerfully to any special requests. The bathroom was "tired" with cracking grout, water leaking from shower to bathroom floor and was not designed for use by more than one guest at a time (as compared to more modern ships). But is was "OK."
Food was marginal at best. As compare dot my other recent cruise experiences, corners were cut on quality, name brands, etc. of food products including produce (in my opinion). The fruit was not as tasty, the dairy (yogurt for example) off brand, pasties not as enticing. But, you do get what you pay for and I would not call it "bad," just not as good as the other cruise lines I have experienced.
Most obvious, to me, was the "lack" of staff. The crew to guest ratio is lower than other ships on which I have sailed and it was obvious in all aspects. You had to search for a pool waiter, bartenders overwhelmed, no signs of the constant cleaning I have witnessed on other ships, etc. Little things, or lack of them, do add up.
We did attend the two theater productions offered and I will say they were exciting and well produced.
Never Say Never, but I will likely look elsewhere for my next cruise. Not that this was a "bad" cruise, but for me I would like to spend a little more money for better food, cleaner facilities and more attentive service.