Saturday, April 2, 2016

Carnival Victory Spring Break Cruise

Port Canaveral

Last weekend, Ron and I took a 3-day cruise on Carnival Victory. This was our second time on Victory, but since our last cruise in 2014 the ship had moved from Miami to Port Canaveral and had gotten a face lift during dry dock. I was looking forward to seeing what had been changed or added.

Since it was Spring Break season and Easter weekend, the traffic was heavy on the drive to Port Canaveral. I don’t remember ever seeing so many out-of-state cars! I started playing a game to see how many different state license plates I could spot - Kentucky, Georgia, Rhode Island, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, Texas. North Dakota??? The lower gas prices must really be helping out our tourism.

Boarding had already started when we got to the port at 11:30 and we were on the ship by noon. First stop was the Lido deck for lunch. I remembered from last time that the lines at the Lido buffet on Victory were heinous. It was still early so we decided to take advantage of the relatively short lines and get our lunch from the Pizza Pirate and Chopsticks stations (pizza for Ron, Chinese for me). We ate at a table by the Sirens’ pool at the back of the ship where it was peaceful and quiet. Ron and I have discovered that to avoid the chaos at the buffet, you have to keep going back and back as far as you can go. Most people just stop at the first table they see. This works pretty well for the first day or two until everyone learns their way around. :-)

Unfortunately, the Sirens’ Bar didn’t have any limes for my traditional “welcome aboard” mojito. The provisions for our cruise were still being loaded onto the ship and limes hadn’t made their way to the back yet. But they did have them at the Seven Seas Bar in the atrium so we enjoyed a drink there while we people-watched. Of the Carnival ships we’ve been on, I thought Victory had one of the prettier atriums. Yes, it was very green but I liked the Famous Bodies of Water theme and the seahorses on the staircases and bar stools.

Carnival Victory atrium
Seven Seas Atrium

Carnival Victory atrium

seahorse staircase


The cabins were ready at 1:30 so we headed to our cabin around 1:45. Our suitcases were already sitting outside our door. Yay! We had booked a guarantee balcony cabin and been assigned cabin 8201, all the way forward on Verandah Deck. When I found out our assignment, I was a little worried about getting seasick since I still had a clogged ear leftover from the flu. But as it turned out, I didn’t need to worry. The seas were so light the entire cruise that I hardly felt the ship moving. Plus we had a pretty cool view of the bridge from our balcony.

Our cabin was large with plenty of storage space, but from what I could tell, nothing had been updated during the dry dock. The bathroom was still 1990’s mauve. They hadn’t even replaced the little tube TVs, which would have been a simple upgrade. I’m really not picky about TVs and rarely turn one on during vacation, but even I was starting to think that those tube TVs were looking a little silly. :-)

Carnival Victory balcony cabin

towel animal


We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and watching the sail away from our balcony. There were a couple of dolphins fishing around the Disney Magic, docked next to us. As we made our way down the channel, people at Fishlips and Grills hooted and waved. I love sail aways.

Disney Magic

Port Canaveral
leaving Port Canaveral

bridge and Port Canaveral jetty

Once we were out at sea, Ron and I went down to the Promenade Deck for a pre-dinner drink. One of the biggest changes made on Victory during the dry dock was the addition, or conversion I should say, of two bars. The Aegean Bar had been turned into the SKYBOX Sports Bar and the Caspian Wine Bar was now the Alchemy Bar. I had been looking forward to trying the Alchemy Bar, a cocktail and martini bar with a vintage-pharmacy theme. The drinks all looked interesting, and I hoped to try as many of them as possible during our cruise. I decided to start with “The Antioxidant” (grapefruit vodka, Aperol, tangerine, fresh lime juice and a dash of orange juice). After mixing my drink, the bartender, Ioana (pronounced “you wanna”), heated a slice of orange peel with a lighter to release the citrus oils and then squeezed the peel to produce a quick flame. Then she rubbed the peel around the rim of my glass for a little extra flavor. So good! Ron chose “The Perfect Storm”, which had rum, strawberry purée and a fresh rosemary sprig. Since the bar was small, it was easy to chat with the bartenders and the other guests, so there was a lot of “Ooo, that looks good! What did you order?” I could tell we were going to be spending some time at this bar. :-)

Carnival Victory Alchemy Bar

Alchemy Bar Antioxidant

Ioana at the Alchemy Bar

Dinner was in the Atlantic Dining Room. We had Your Time Dining, which I was very happy about since I don’t like the traditional dining times. 6:00 is too early and 8:15 is too late! Plus it’s nice to be able to get a table for two. The food was good but service was slow between courses. I think the problem with Your Time Dining is that the cruise lines try to treat it the same as traditional dining. Even though people are arriving at all times, they still bring out all the food in large batches.
After dinner we went to the piano bar but the singer was playing more solos than sing-along music so we didn’t stay long. To be fair, one of the reasons we left so soon was because we got trapped by a drunk young woman in the “I love you, man!” stage. Gotta love Spring Break cruises! After we escaped, we took a walk around the outside deck before heading off to bed.

Carnival Victory Atlantic Dining Room
Atlantic Dining Room

dining room mermaids



The ship didn’t get to Nassau until noon so we spent a leisurely morning having breakfast at the buffet, wandering the decks and watching the cruise director doing his Morning Show on the big screen by the main pool. Then we sat on our balcony to watch as we pulled into port. The enormous NCL Escape had arrived before us but was having trouble tying up to the dock due to the winds. Our smaller Victory was more nimble and we ended up docking first. :-)

Carnival Victory pool deck

Carnival Victory mini-golf
mini-golf area

morning show

Baha Mar

NCL Escape in Nassau

Since it was Good Friday, we knew that a lot of Nassau would either be closed or booked solid. So we’d signed up in advance for the See Nassau the Fun Way on a Segway tour. Our tour group met on the pier at 1:15. There were 10 of us in the group – two other couples and a family of four with teenage boys. We all climbed into a van for the short ride to the Segway home base where we were outfitted with helmets and knee and elbow pads. Then our tour guides, Mona and CL, showed us one by one how to get on and off our Segways, steer and stop. (Stopping is important!) Ron and I had ridden Segways before so we just played on the practice course until everyone was ready to go. Soon we were on our way, riding all the way down to the east end of Junkanoo Beach and then back to the Fish Fry, an area of colorful local restaurants and bars, where we took a break for liquid refreshments. After everyone had finished their Kalik and we were back at the home base, CL divided us into two teams for a skills test/relay race. All the men were on one team and the women and children were on the other. We had to navigate around a series of cones (there was a 5-second penalty for knocking over a cone) and then ride back to the starting point. The winning team was the team who finished fastest. The men won all three races but it was still a lot of fun. And I didn’t knock over any cones!

Nassau Segway Tour

Nassau Segway Tour

Nassau Segway Tour

Nassau Segway Tour

Fish Fry

Fish Fry

Segway race

After the tour, Ron and I decided not to take the van back to port. Instead we walked across the street to the Fish Fry for some conch fritters and conch salad at Goldies. The conch fritters came out quickly but for some reason the conch salad took an hour! Why? I have no idea since conch salad isn’t even cooked; it’s just chopped conch and vegetables marinated in lime juice. Oh well, the ship didn’t leave Nassau until 8 o’clock and we weren’t in a hurry. It was a nice day, partly cloudy and not too hot, and we ended up walking back to port. All along the way, the beach was filled with families enjoying their day off together. That was nice to see.

Goldies Nassau
conch fritters at Goldies

conch shell

Junkanoo Beach

Junkanoo Beach

Ron and ships

ship bows

That night was Elegant Night, which used to be known as “lobster night”. But Carnival recently changed their Elegant Night menu on the short cruises and eliminated the lobster. I was curious to try out the new replacement dishes. I ordered the sea scallops with truffled risotto, the blue crab ravioli and the grilled jumbo shrimp. The scallops were delicious and nicely presented. I gave them an A+. But the other dishes were not very impressive. The ravioli had too much sauce and an odd flavor. And the shrimp was OK but it came with a side of potato salad. What is elegant about potato salad?

But the bad part about dinner was the service. I don’t know what was going on, but my chair was facing the wait team’s stand and it was total chaos. The waiters would bring out huge trays of food but nothing was in order so they had to look under every cover to find the dishes that went together. Then they couldn’t clear anyone’s plates because there was no place to put the dirty dishes. We waited 20 minutes for our dessert and when we got it, they didn’t bring the sauce for Ron’s soufflé and neither of us had any utensils to eat with. We finally just walked out in frustration. Crazy!

scallop appetizer

shrimp entree

Elegant Night portrait

So I had my dessert at the Alchemy Bar instead. This time I asked Ioana to make me a spicy version of “The Deal Closer”, which was kind of like a chocolate martini but Ioana added half an ounce of habanero vodka. It was awesome! I should have stopped there but I really wanted to try more of the menu so next I ordered the “Fiery Tropical Passion Martini”. I should have known better - I can’t drink two martinis! We went to the late night comedy show after that but when the show was over, I was still a little fuzzy and had a major craving for pizza. We went up to the Lido deck for some pepperoni pizza from the Pizza Pirate and it was absolutely delicious. Now I know why people eat pizza at 1 o’clock in the morning. :-)

Sea Day

We woke up to sunny skies and the ship at a complete standstill. Odd… We found out later that because of the wind and current, we’d traveled too far the night before. Since we didn’t want to arrive back in Port Canaveral that afternoon, the captain had decided to stop the ship and let us enjoy the spot of sunshine.

After breakfast at the buffet, Ron and I went to the Indian Library to meet for our “Behind the Fun” tour, a guided tour of areas of the ship that are normally off limits to guests. Even though we’d done the tour before on Carnival Paradise, I figured that with a different ship and different staff, it would be a new experience. But when we got to the library, guess who our tour guide turned out to be. Giselle from Paradise! That was pretty funny. :-) She actually recognized us too since I took notes during the tour. Apparently not many people do that.

There were 15 of us in the tour group. After we were wanded down by security and Giselle had confiscated everyone’s cell phones (no cameras or recording devices allowed), we made our way through the Atlantic Dining Room to the galley. The dining room was decorated for the Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast, another new addition for Carnival. It looked really cute but I think I would have gotten tired of the music by the end of breakfast. :-) In the galley, we met with Executive Chef Michael. The chef on Paradise had spent a lot of time talking about how much money he made and how important it was to “control the cooks”. Chef Michael seemed much more personable and concentrated on food preparation and cleaning procedures. He told us that cruise ships are inspected twice a year by the USPH and have to receive a score of 86 out of 100 to pass. Victory has received a score of 100 five times, which Chef Michael compared to winning the Super Bowl five times. That’s a big deal!

We each got to sample a chocolate-covered strawberry before moving on to our next stop, the show lounge, where we met Jemma the Dance Captain and Chris the Entertainment Technical Manager. In the women’s dressing room (Jemma said the men’s dressing room was too messy), we got to see all the costumes laid out for that night’s show. Chris explained how difficult it is to bring a new show to a ship. Because some of the set pieces are so large, they actually have to cut a hole in the hull during dry dock to switch out the pieces. Chris said it is easier to move the ship to a different port than to change the show. He also told us that the theater has 100 lights but no spares, so preventative maintenance is very important. It reminded me how self-sufficient a ship has to be. You can’t run to Home Depot when something breaks.

Next we walked through some of the crew areas – the crew lounge, mess and training center. Giselle explained that the dining staff trains in the crew mess first until they are ready to serve guests. Crew members have a 6-month contract and typically work a 70-hour work week with a maximum of 14 hours a day. Ron asked if they had to punch time clocks and Giselle said yes, their clock system was called “Fun Time”. Ironic. :-)

On Deck 0, where the majority of crew activity takes place, we walked past the morgue and the brig (which fortunately were not in use). We also got to see the ship’s laundry and some of the food storage areas, including a very brief stop in one of the freezers. Brrr, too cold for me!
Then it was on to the engine control room, “the heart of the ship”. This was Ron’s favorite part of the tour, probably because Ron, unlike me, actually knew what all those buttons and lights meant. :-) We weren’t able to go into the engine room itself for safety reasons but Antonio, one of the Second Engineers, gave us a look at it on the live monitors. They were actually in the middle of replacing the armature on one of the six diesel engines. Ron and I were amazed that they could do that while we were at sea.

Our final stop was the bridge. Giselle pointed out a new man-overboard system that was being tested, which used infrared sensors. We also noticed a glass window cut into the floor of the bridge. Giselle said that this allows the officers to see exactly how far the ship is from the dock. When a ship docks at a port for the first time, they paint the Carnival funnel logo on the dock to mark the spot. The next time the ship is at that port, they can line the window up with the logo. I’d seen those funnels on the dock in Nassau and wondered what they were for. Now I know!

Then Captain Isidoro Renda came onto the bridge and we had our picture taken with him as a group. He was very gracious and took time to answer everyone’s questions. There was a little girl on the tour who was completely star struck by the captain. After the tour was over and we were headed back to the atrium, she was talking excitedly. It is fun to see a young person discovering what could turn into a lifelong passion. I think we had a future cruise ship captain in our group!

Behind the Fun Tour

strawberries and towel animal

towel animal

It was noon by then, so Ron and I headed off to the Seaday Brunch in the Pacific Dining Room. I love the Seaday Brunch – it’s so much more civilized than the buffet. :-)  Usually I order one of the breakfast items, but we were both in the mood for lunch this time so Ron had the pork chop and I had the bacon macaroni and cheese. Yum!

fruit plate

bacon macaroni and cheese

Pacific Dining Room fish
sculpture outside the Pacific Dining Room

The sunshine was still holding out so we changed into bathing suits and went in search of lounge chairs on the Lido deck. We finally found two together at the back of the ship above the Sirens’ pool. We spent the afternoon relaxing, taking a few rides on the pool slide, and napping. At some point during my nap, the ship started moving again. We were on our way back to Port Canaveral! Around 4, we went down to the cabin, where we sat on our balcony and enjoyed a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, a gift from Chef Michael for taking the Behind the Fun Tour. Now that’s what I call vacation.

Carnival Victory pool slide

on the slide

yellow umbrella

strawberries on balcony

When we went to dinner that night, my heart sank when we were seated at the same table as the night before. I hoped the wait team didn’t remember that we’d walked out! But service turned out to be fine, not great but definitely a lot faster and more organized. I ordered a little bit of everything – sushi, crab cake, tomato and mozzarella salad, mahi mahi and (of course) chocolate melting cake. From our table, we could see a pretty sunset out the big windows.


The trip went by too fast! We had one last drink at the Alchemy Bar and watched another show at the Comedy Club. We went to the “secret deck” to see the stars, but the peace kept getting interrupted by the roving groups of teenagers who were roaming the hallways and jamming the stairwells. I guess they weren’t ready to go home either. So it was back to our cabin, where we had a beautiful view of the full moon from our balcony.


  1. The "I love you, man" stage - heehee. The behind the scenes tour sounds very cool. Laura's original boss in Austin came to iFly from cruise ships with his wife. He was entertainment coordiantion, and his wife was a dancer from the shows. They had some great stories.

  2. The Disney Magic! That's the ship the kids and I were on when we did our Disney cruise a few years ago. So fun.

    Great memories! I love the picture of you and Ron, can I get a copy for the calendar?