Carnival Victory Cruise 2: Boarding and exploring ship

ABOARD THE CARNIVAL VICTORY: Leaving the sterile steel-and-concrete cruise terminal to board the Carnival Victory, I saw the woman ahead of me stop and marvel at the huge nine-deck ship atrium.

“Oh, it is so gaudy,” she said.

“I love it,” responded the woman next to her.

I agree. With both of them.

The Carnival Victory is definitely decorated to the hilt. Flashing lights. Lavish turquoise and sea green colors everywhere. Statues of mermaids and seahorses. Four glass elevators zooming up and down.

The nine-deck ships atrium is a popular gathering spot

The décor is themed to depict the various oceans and seas of the world. To me it is quite appropriate for a cruise ship and I’m very happy with my first impressions of this 18-year-old-ship.

One of the biggest cruise ships when she was launched in 2000, Carnival Victory underwent a major renovation in January. I don’t know what the ship looked like before the makeover but she’s a beauty now.

My cruise is going to be brief so I have a lot of ship to cover in my three-day venture. Tomorrow we will be in Key West. The day after in Cozumel. And then one day at sea before returning to Miami.

Carnival Liberty has 3,400 passengers aboard on our cruise, according to Monica in guest services. “The two states that we have the most guests from are Florida and Georgia because it is easier for them to drive to the ship terminal,” she added.

I didn’t expect so many passengers but this is summer when schools are out – the ship is packed with families and children – and it is close to July 4th when many people want to travel and celebrate.

Stage shows are presented in the Caribbean Lounge

Although our cruise has many repeat cruisers, this short cruise is particularly popular with first-timers, Monica said. “It lets them see what a cruise is like and if they like being on a cruise ship,” she said.

Two of those first-timers – Karen and Bob from Atlanta – said they chose this Western Caribbean cruise for their 5th anniversary celebration. “So far, we like it. But we just got on the ship,” Bob laughed as the couple stood in line for the buffet lunch on the Lido Deck.

Of course, popularity has its price. Long lines.

                                       Choosing to skip long dining lines

In my first day aboard the Carnival Victory, I noticed the lengthy food lines, packed swimming pools, crowded bars and difficulty finding seats to watch the nightly Dive-In Theater movies. But I also found a way to beat some of those lines – dine early.

I had picked the Your Time Dining option in the Atlantic Dining Room on Deck 3 Forward and am glad I did. That is always my dinner choice when it is offered. That means I can choose to have my evening meal in that dining room anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m.

The Lido Buffet has comfortable booths and tables for dining

Other dining choices include reserved Early Dining at 6 p.m. in the two-story Pacific Dining Room on Deck 3 and Deck 4 Aft or the upper Deck 4 Forward of Atlantic Dining Room. The Late Dining option is offered in both of those restaurants at 8:15 p.m.

I like Your Time Dining because I might be busy ashore or doing something on the ship and not want to stop for a reserved seat for Early or Late Dining.  To each his own but I prefer to dine early so I can walk around the ship, enjoy the evening’s show (two productions are offered at 8:15 and again at 10:15), listen to music in the bars and enjoy peaceful time on my cabin balcony before going to bed.

For my first night, I arrived at the Atlantic Dining Room shortly after it opened at 5:45. The place was almost empty and I was given my choice of where to sit – a table for one by the window so I can watch the ocean roll. My serving staff of Maribel and Yasser both thanked me for dining early.

My cabin has a private balcony with two chairs and a small table

Come 8 or 9 o’clock, Maribel said, passengers would converge on the Your Time Dining room and some might have to wait with beepers until seats are available. I plan to dine at 5:45 each evening on my cruise.

Of course, cruisers also have the option of eating in the more casual Lido buffet on Deck 9 or at other specialty spots around the ship. And room service is always available.

I’ll write more about dining, entertainment, the ship and other ship activities later. Right now, I’m comfortably settled on the ship and think it is a mighty fine place to be.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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