Sunday, January 26, 2014

Carnival Victory - Part I

Carnival Victory


The problem with taking a cruise in January is that you never know what the weather will be like. We’ve been cruising over MLK weekend for the past five years now and for the most part we’ve been lucky. But as our cruise on Victory neared, the temperatures on the weather forecast got lower and lower. On the drive to Miami, we stopped at the rest stop on Alligator Alley and it was 56 degrees with a fierce wind. Everyone was bundled up in scarves and jackets except for a few people in shorts who apparently hadn’t gotten the memo that it was COLD!

When we got to the port at noon, they were just starting the boarding process. We were assigned to Boarding Group 10 so we had a wait a bit but we were onboard and exploring the ship by 1 o’clock. I loved Victory’s theme, Famous Bodies of Water. All the restaurants and public areas were named after oceans or mythological sea creatures, like the Atlantic and Pacific Dining Rooms, the Caspian Sea Wine Bar and the Tritons Pool. I especially liked the Atlantic Dining Room. It was 2-stories high with a dramatic staircase, statues of mermaids and mermen, and wavy blue lights. It was very pretty. Well, except maybe for the mermaid heads lining the walls. They were a little creepy. :-) The Seven Seas Atrium was decorated in greens and blues, with a deep green ceiling that gave the area an underwater feel. And there were seahorses everywhere – on the door handles, on the bar stools, on the stairway banisters. People on Cruise Critic warned about the stairway seahorses. Since the seahorses’ snouts stick out farther than the handrails, they will “bite” you if you walk too close. Fortunately, we made it through the trip without any seahorse attacks.

Carnival Victory atrium

atrium elevators

Seven Seas atrium

the seahorses look innocent but don't be fooled
After the muster drill, we went to the pool deck for the sail away party. I joined in for a few dances, but when the sun started to go down it got chilly so we headed for our cabin. We had an ocean view cabin on Deck 1. The cabin was dated but huge, definitely the largest cruise ship cabin we have had yet, with lots of storage space. And there was a nice gift waiting for us on the vanity table - $25 Cruise Cash from Mary. Thanks, Mary!!

Carnival Victory cabin

The luggage arrived just as we got to the room, so we unpacked while we watched the sunset from our window. Now let me just say that Ron is the world’s worst packer. He always waits till the last minute, then throws everything into the suitcase and forgets something important. A couple of years ago, I wanted to dress up for formal night. Ron packed his suit but forgot his dress shoes. We ended up having to rent shoes from the tuxedo rental shop. When I bought myself a new LBD for this cruise, I pestered Ron for weeks to make sure his dress clothes still fit since he’d lost so much weight last year. A few days before the cruise, Ron finally got around to trying on the clothes. That’s when he discovered that he didn’t have any dress pants! He must have given them to Good Will when he cleaned all the too-big clothes out of his closet. So we had to make an emergency shopping trip to find him new pants. He did remember to pack his shoes this time, but not his belt. More importantly, he’d forgotten to pack his cell phone charger. Not that we were going to make any phone calls, but we needed the phone’s GPS to get us back out of Miami. We checked in the ship’s gift shop but they didn’t sell phone chargers so we would have to wait until we got to Key West to look for one.

By the time we finished unpacking, we were ready for dinner. We had signed up for Your Time Dining, which was located on the lower deck of the Atlantic Dining Room. There were plenty of tables for two but, wow, they were really close together! I’m a fairly small person but I couldn’t get between the tables to my seat. It reminded me a hilarious thread on Cruise Critic ( discussing whether it was more polite to bump into your neighbors’ table with your butt or your “groinal region”. Fortunately, one of the tables next to ours was still empty so I didn’t have to make that decision. We just pushed the empty table over so I could get through without taking out the wine glasses.

Anyway, because the tables were so close together, we ended up chatting with the couple next to us. It turned out that they were lucky to be on the ship. After they had driven three hours to the airport and were about to board their plane, they realized that they had forgotten their passports. They called their family, who tore their house apart, found their birth certificates and faxed them to the cruise line. So maybe forgetting shoes or phone chargers isn’t so bad. It could be worse!

That night we decided to forgo the casino and go to the piano bar. There were two drunken ladies who kept yelling out the answers to the “Name That Tune” songs. Another lady was ready to punch them. It was entertaining – so much drama over winning a 24k gold plastic ship on a stick. :-)

Carnival Victory Atlantic Dining Room
the Atlantic Dining Room

Atlantic Dining Room

dining room mermaid

Key West

The next morning we arrived in Key West at 7:30. After a leisurely breakfast (there was no reason to rush since nothing opens in Key West until 9), we headed out in search of a cell phone charger. We walked half way up Duval Street before we finally found a Radio Shack. Hurray! It was warmer that day, but still chilly. We’ve been in Key West in July and it is definitely more comfortable walking around in 65 degree weather than in 95 degrees. Still, 80 would have been nice...

Custom House

Island Time

Sloppy Joe's Bar

Key West conch train

conch shells

Since we’d been to Key West before and had already hit most of the major tourist spots, we decided to try something different and go to the Shipwreck Museum. The museum was set up like a shipwrecking warehouse in the mid-1800s when the wrecking industry made Key West the richest city in the U.S. We were guided through the museum by an actor portraying Asa Tift, a Key West wreck master who also built the home now known as the Hemingway House. I would have liked the tour to be a little less Disney-esque and a little more educational but it was interesting. Afterwards, we climbed to the top of the 65-foot observation tower for a great view of the town and the ship.

Shipwreck Museum observation tower


Next we headed down Greene Street for lunch at Garbo’s Grill, stopping on the way at Tattoos and Scars Saloon for some beer-to-go for Ron. We discovered Garbo’s Grill two years ago. It is basically a tiny food cart with really awesome food. The last time we ate there I had the Korean BBQ Tacos, and Ron’s been trying to recreate them at home ever since. This time we shared the shrimp tacos and the Korean tacos. I couldn’t decide which was better. They were both amazing!

Conveniently located across the street from Garbo’s Grill was our favorite hot sauce shop, Peppers of Key West. We spent about an hour there, sampling all the goodies. Our hot sauce “bartender” was a great salesman and pretty soon we’d bought as much as we could carry. We should now have enough hot sauce to last us until our next trip to Key West.

It was time to head back to the ship, but first we stopped at El Meson de Pepe to pick up a mojito. As we walked through Mallory Square, we realized we didn’t need to rush. The line of people waiting to board wrapped all the way down the pier and half way to the Custom House! The wait didn’t bother me because it gave me plenty of time to sip my mojito. When we got past the security check point and onto the pier, we just sat down on one of the pier benches and enjoyed the sunshine until there were only a few people left in line. We were almost the last ones back on the ship.

Peppers of Key West
Ron and Susan in Mallory Square

Carnival Victory in Key West

Neither one of us had slept well the night before so we spent the rest of the afternoon napping in the cabin, waking up just in time to watch a beautiful sunset before dressing for dinner. That night was “Elegant Night” and the food was extra good. I had Greek salad, a farfalle starter and lobster with shrimp. The lobster was cooked perfectly and was tender and delicious. Ron and I both had the Bitter and Blanc, a white and dark chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Yum!

After dinner, we stopped by the Caspian Sea Wine Bar for the Mini-Martini Tasting. I did the tasting on our Paradise cruise last year and loved it. You get to choose four out of the eight different martinis. This time I picked three new drinks – Caribbean Sunset, Melon Crush and Pomegranate Breeze. I already knew what a Cosmo tasted like so I skipped it and repeated the Spicy Chipotle since it was my favorite last time. It was still my favorite, along with the Caribbean Sunset, which had Stoli Razberi and Ohranj, cranberry juice and lime juice. The bartender, Silvia, was a lot of fun and could pour eight martinis at one time (she said her record was twelve). Pretty impressive!

formal portait glitter background

formal portrait staircase

mini martinis

Silvia in Caspian Wine Bar
Silvia pouring eight martinis

Before heading off to bed, we made a lap around the decks to see the ship's lights.

Victory blue lights


  1. Groinal region--that's hilarious!
    I love the pictures--especially the formal ones of you and Ron.
    We really liked our Shipwreck Museum tour when we went last year. Did you try to lift the bar of silver?

    1. I could only lift one side of the silver bar. :-) It's hard to imagine how the divers were able to bring those up from the bottom. We wanted to go to the Mel Fisher Museum too but there wasn't enough time. I wish we'd had a few more hours in port!

  2. All the pictures are great. You must be hording all the hot sauces at home because all I see at work is Cholula.