Part Six -- Disembarkation, Post-Cruise and General Thoughts
Sorry about the delay in finishing this...life got in the way. Anyway, here's a wrap up on the two cruises.
Although we're frequent cruisers, we always go to the disembarkation talk to see if anything's changed. Butch did a great job of giving out the necessary information while keeping us all laughing.
We chose the self-assist, in which you must carry off all of your own luggage. Since we drove to the port and had no reason to be off early, we asked to make sure we could stay onboard after self-assist was called. We were told it was fine to stay until Final Call for all guests.
Disembarkation morning we packed up our last few overnight things and were out of the cabin around 7:30 am. We headed up to Lido for breakfast with all our stuff, to give our steward plenty of time to clean for the next people.
We sat and chatted with friends until Final Call. I think we were off the ship around 10:15-10:30. Once off, there was a huge line for Customs and Immigration, but it moved fairly quickly. We reached our car just before 11 am.
We decided to do one night post-cruise in NYC, so our flight wasn't scheduled until 9 pm the next day. At the debarkation talk, Malcolm instructed everyone to grab breakfast and then return to their cabins and wait to be called. That seemed odd, since it would give the stewards less time to clean, but since we didn't like our steward anyway we did as instructed. Malcolm did state that self-assist was welcome to remain onboard until Final Call.
The morning of disembarkation was one of the Assistant Cruise Director's rare appearances. She made the zone announcements for debarking. Can we say rude and pushy? Self-assist was called by decks beginning at 7 am. By 7:20, she was through calling ALL of the self-assist decks. I can only imagine the mess at the gangway! Then she started with rude announcements -- "Hello? Where is everyone? I said FINAL CALL for self-assist! Get down here NOW!" We were in no particular hurry, so we ignored her, as our plan was to stay onboard as long as possible.
She then raced through calling the zones for non-self-assist. We had received a letter from the Purser the night before, since Dad has special needs. If we wanted, we could join the other special needs guests in one of the lounges for assistance off the ship. The designated meeting time was 10:15 am.
We didn't join the special needs group, since we didn't need help. I'm not sure whatever happened with them, since FINAL CALL for all guests was made around 9:45. We were sick of sitting around by then anyway, so we left. Overall, not a very good ending to the cruise.
I can't speak for post-cruise on the Glory, since we simply drove home. For the Victory cruise, however, we spent the night in Manhattan at a different youth hostel.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the stories of "rude New Yorkers" are not true. People generally keep to themselves and don't go out of their way to say hi, but they are extremely approachable. If you take the time to start a conversation, they are more than willing to give directions, make suggestions or just stop and chat.
The HI-NYC is beautiful, so much nicer than the Chelsea Hostel where we stayed pre-cruise. There is a huge staff, all friendly and accommodating. We arrived well before check-in, and were able to store our bags in immense lockers that cost $5 for 24 hours. A single locker held two suitcases and two large, stuffed backpacks.
The hostel offers a lot of activities and tours, but with limited time we decided to go out on our own. Central Park was just a block away, so we headed there first. We had never been, and couldn't believe how vast it actually was! It sometimes has a bad reputation for being dangerous, but we saw tons of families as well as single women, and it did not feel dangerous at all. In fact, we met some of the nicest and most helpful people there. We ambled through the park, eventually making our way to Strawberry Fields and the Dakota. We tried to make it to the carousel, but after 45 blocks or so, plus a lot of hills, Dad's ECV ran out of juice. So we walked it out of the park and grabbed a cab back to the hostel.
It still wasn't time to check in, but the hostel allowed us to store the scooter in a locked room. We then headed out on foot, Dad using his cane, to explore the wonders of the NYC subway.
It was so easy! The only problem we noticed is that a lot of stations are not handicapped accessible. We looked at the map to see which stations are accessible, and it's certainly possible for wheelchairs to get around by subway, but it would have taken us out of our way. Since Dad was on his cane, we decided just to use the closest stations. I was surprised that there were very few escalators, just lots of stairs. If you have mobility problems, this is definitely something to consider.
However, if you're okay with stairs, I highly recommend taking the subways. It's $2 per ride anywhere you want to go, as long as you don't emerge from a station along the way. There are also unlimited ride cards in various lengths, but we just paid the $2 a ride since our time was short.
Next up was the WTC site. There is a museum, but we didn't have time to visit. Instead, we walked the pedestrian bridge that runs alongside and took a lot of pictures. It was my first time seeing the site, and it really hit me. It's wonderful to see that a lot of construction is happening there now though. A memorial and some things are in the works.
Dad was starving by this point, so we walked down the block to the World Financial Center. I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but there was a very nice little cafe inside with outdoor seating on the waterfront. We had a great meal while watching the sun set over the Statue of Liberty. Manhattan is pricey though, that meal would have cost $25 (we shared) in most places, and was over $50 there. Worth every penny though!
Next we took the subway to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. We walked around and got some great photos. Then we headed to the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram.
There is a story here. For years, I worked at Universal Orlando on Kongfrontation. In that ride, King Kong was on a rampage and intercepted guests that were being evacuated from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island via tram.
When we were last in NYC, in 1994, I was working the ride and wanted nothing more than to see the actual tram on which it was based. So we took a cab to the station, only to find out it was closed for repairs! So ever since, riding that tram has been my goal!
Thankfully, this time it was open. The tram is part of the Manhattan Transit Authority, so subway fare cards are accepted. In addition, if you take the tram within two hours of getting off the subway, it's considered a transfer and no additional fare is charged.
The tram was everything I hoped it would be! We took about a million pictures, drawing giggles from people who use it as regular transportation. I was impressed at how accurately Universal had reproduced the tram itself and the stations, as well as the views of the city and the Queensboro Bridge.
Once across, we paid 25 cents bus fare and took the local bus around the entire island. Roosevelt Island is really pretty, and I wouldn't mind seeing it during the day.
It was pretty late by this point, and we hadn't checked in at the hostel. So we took the subway back. Check in was easy. We were assigned to a six bed coed dorm, and our roommates were friendly. The price was right too, how else can you sleep on the Upper West Side for $40 per person?? Dad got some really interesting spaghetti from a Mexican pizza place across the street and we hung out in the hostel's gorgeous courtyard with a bunch of interesting international travelers.
The next day we got a late start. When I went online to print boarding passes, I checked my debit card statement. There was a huge fraudulent charge posted, so I spent the next few hours on the phone trying to get it resolved (on a Sunday, which meant even more headaches).
Finally we headed out. We had wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty, but by this point it was late enough that we decided not to try. Instead we took the subway to the Staten Island Ferry. We got bad directions from the employees at the first station, who said that the 1 line to the ferry terminal didn't run all the way on Sundays. So after following his directions and changing trains and getting off at some other station, we found out that the 1 line does indeed run on Sundays, necessitating backtracking and getting back on our original train! Time consuming, but not too bad.
The Staten Island Ferry is just fun (and free!) We got food from the cafe in the terminal and poked around Staten Island for a bit before heading back into Manhattan. We had missed the Central Park carousel the day before, so we decided to find it before going back.
We came out of the subway at Columbus Circle and walked just five blocks to the carousel area. Then it was a rather long hike to actually reach the carousel, and Dad was a bit sore by the time we arrived. It was worth it though!
The ride costs $2 per person, and I have never been on a carousel that goes that fast! We were joking that it was the only we'd ever ridden that should come with motion sickness warnings
It's also beautiful, one of the last remaining old wooden, hand-painted carousels in the country.
By this point, it was time to go back and retrieve our luggage for the flight. We had spent more time than we had realized, and by the time we got our things it was about 6:30 pm.
Our flight was out of LaGuardia, for which taxis charge metered fare rather than a flat rate. The hostel had estimated $55 for a cab ride, before tip! There's an airport shuttle, but it was $20 per person and made a ton of stops.
So we decided to be adventurous and take the bus. The stop was about seven blocks from the hostel, and it's a local Harlem bus that eventually goes to LaGuardia. What better way to see the Harlem area?
The cost was $2 per person on fare cards, but the driver actually waived Dad's fee since he was on the scooter. All the buses are kneeling, so those with disabilities might want to consider just taking buses rather than subways. It was super easy, and going through Harlem at night was cool. We got great photos of the Apollo and other landmarks.
We reached LaGuardia just after 8 pm. Unfortunately the bus dropped us off at Arrivals rather than Departures, so we had to drag our luggage through the entire airport. We cleared security in no time, as there was absolutely no line, and made it to the gate by 8:30 (for a 9 pm flight
). Turns out the flight was delayed, so we grabbed dinner from a vendor right by the gate and waited to board.
The flight was smooth and the crew friendly. We made up a little time in the air and landed just after 12:30. When we received the scooter, however, it turned out that instead of simply removing the battery, someone had opened up the battery case and disconnected the wires. They then taped the wires with layer upon layer of packing tape. It took nearly 20 minutes to get all the tape off so Dad could use the scooter!!
By the time we made it to Baggage Claim, our luggage had been pulled into the Baggage Office. We had to go claim it. The supervisor asked for photo ID and boarding passes. I had managed to completely misplace our boarding passes, but when he saw we had passports, he said those were better anyway (another point in favor of getting passports!). We also filed a complaint about the way the scooter was handled.
Finally we called for the Holiday Inn shuttle, where we had left our car parked. The shuttle was quick and the ride was short. Our car wouldn't start when we reached it, but some very nice guy in the parking lot gave us a jump. After driving around looking for a 24 hour McDonald's (we were starving!) we got home just before 5 am. Whew, long day!
What can I say? It's my favorite ship, primarily because of her crew! Everyone's wonderful, Butch is amazing, and the entire cruise was fabulous!! I'd sail her again in a heartbeat.
I adored the itinerary. New England and Canada are beautiful! Except for our cabin steward, the crew was great as well. But the activities are way too limited, the atmosphere is too subdued for us, and Malcolm is definitely not our favorite cruise director. Also, the ship is kept incredibly cold.
If you're just looking to get away and relax, the Victory may be the right atmosphere for you. Nothing was "wrong" with it at all, and we really enjoyed certain things. But it's definitely not the usual "Fun Ship" experience. Don't judge Carnival as a whole based on the Victory.
Would I sail her again? Possibly. I definitely want to go back to those ports, but I'd look at other ships that sail that itinerary and consider all of the factors carefully. If I did Victory again, it would be based on price and itinerary, not shipboard experience. By contrast, I'd gladly sail Glory to anywhere, or to nowhere at all. Give me the Glory doing donuts in the ocean for a month, and I'll be perfectly happy
I'll get the modified cabin photos up soon.