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CRUISE VIEWS

Carnival's Victory Over Petite Ships

October 15, 2000|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

The new Carnival Victory, like its sister ships Carnival Destiny and Carnival Triumph, is huge. The 101,509-ton vessel carries 2,758 passengers based on two people per cabin, with enough additional third and fourth berths to boost the potential load to 3,470. Add the 1,100 crew members, and you get more than 4,400 aboard this city at sea, too big and bustling to suit everyone.

The line continues to emphasize tonnage and passenger capacity with its new ships, culminating in three upcoming 110,000-ton vessels that will carry 2,974 passengers at two to a cabin: Carnival Conquest in fall 2002, Carnival Glory in summer 2003 and Carnival Valor in fall 2004.

Three new, slightly smaller, 86,000-ton ships are also on the drawing boards, carrying 2,124 passengers each: Carnival Spirit in April 2001, Carnival Pride later that year and Carnival Legend in the summer 2002.

As for the Carnival Victory, designer Joe Farcus continues to polish and improve his "entertainment architecture" aimed at dazzling passengers. He said the materials that go into furnishing and decorating the Carnival vessels are of a much higher standard than passengers will find in comparable hotels and resorts.

Farcus named the public rooms after bodies of water. They run the gamut from the obvious (the larger of the two dining rooms is the Pacific, the smaller the Atlantic) to the clever (the jazz club is called Black & Red Seas because the designer associates the colors red and black with jazz).

The most dramatic spot aboard is the atrium lobby, with its Seven Seas Bar and a stained-glass panel overhead that gives the sensation of being under the sea. The cozy Irish Sea Bar looks like a combination Irish pub and piano bar, with remote-controlled spotlights and microphones aimed at any passenger who feels like belting out a tune.

Notable on August's two-day media cruise was good-to-excellent cuisine, a greater variety of food options, classier service and in-cabin amenities baskets, as well as bathrobes supplied for all passengers in outside (with window) cabins and suites.

The self-service food areas on the top deck have also expanded to a mind-boggling array of choices: a 24-hour pizzeria with chicken Caesar salad; the Seaview Bistro alternative dining room; the East River Deli with pastrami, turkey and corned beef sandwiches; the Mississippi barbecue; the Yangtze Wok with specialty Chinese dishes; indoor and outdoor buffets; and a quick-stop lunch hour spot serving everything from fried chicken and onion rings to lobster salad.

New aboard Carnival ships is an Internet cafe with access to e-mail and Web sites, and the Formality Shop, which rents tuxedos and sells fresh flowers and fine chocolates for special occasions.

In the always-busy Nautica Spas (more than half the passengers aboard other Carnival ships schedule treatments), operated by Steiner of London, posh new pedicure chairs have been added, along with a fresh juice bar, a mirrored aerobics room, sauna, steam rooms, European slimming and toning therapies and personal fitness instructors.

Children's facilities continue to expand aboard these vessels. Carnival President Bob Dickinson estimates 250,000 children will have cruised on its ships by the end of 2000, the same number of passengers the whole industry carried a couple of decades ago. "When these kids grow up and think about vacations, cruises are already in their mind-set," he said.

One of the special guests aboard the media cruise was Panama's second vice president, Kaiser Bazan, who announced to the assembled media that his country is coming back into the cruise destination business after almost two decades. New terminals and shopping centers are being built in Cristobal on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal and Balboa on the Pacific side.

Published fares aboard the Carnival Victory for a seven-day Caribbean cruise range from $1,339 for a windowless cabin to $3,189 per person, double occupancy, for a cabin with window. Air fare is extra. Early booking and what the line calls super-saver rates can bring the fare down as low as $113 a day per person, double, in the bottom category--inside cabins with upper and lower berths.

Carnival Victory makes alternate eastern and western Caribbean cruises this winter from Miami. Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, are on the western itinerary. San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John islands are on the eastern one.

Next summer the ship will make four-, five- and seven-day cruises to Canada, departing May 21 and 28 from Boston and from June 2 to Sept. 29 from New York.

For a free brochure or more information, see a travel agent, call (800) CARNIVAL, Internet at http://www.carnival.com.

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Shirley Slater and Harry Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month.

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