Victory Cruise Lines Victory I: cabins, dining, entertainment and prices explained

Victory Cruise Lines Victory I: cabins, dining, entertainment and prices explained


Victory Cruise Lines was bought by partly British-owned American Queen cruise company in 2019, heralding an impressive refurbishment of both ships with plans for more updates and a new ship to join the fleet in 2021. Very unusually, it sails all five of North America’s Great Lakes as well as offering trips along the length of Canada’s St Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic. The 200-passenger ships are small enough to get through the locks and canals that link the lakes and regulate the region’s powerful rivers, calling at places larger cruise ships can’t get to. And from 2020 there are plans to extend its range with winter cruises in warmer waters around southern USA.

THE WOW FACTOR

Victory I is a small ship with limited onboard facilities but its free daily excursions are extraordinary.

On its Great Lakes cruises, for instance, passengers are driven to Port Colborne on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to board an open-deck catamaran that gets you up close to the perpetual spray of the awe-inspiring horse shoe-shaped falls – followed by lunch and wine tasting at a nearby vineyard and free time in the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Every day is full of surprises, not least Cleveland in Ohio where the excursion to the newly rejuvenated city includes free tickets to the waterside Rock & Roll Hall of Fame plus a trolley car tour of the civic centre’s neoclassical buildings and lively new districts in former industrial areas, then over to the landscaped university campus to visit the world-class Cleveland Museum of Art.

On Lake Michigan’s pretty Mackinac Island the included tour starts with a horse-drawn carriage ride past authentic colonial buildings to the well-preserved fort then a buffet lunch at the spectacular Grand Hotel that includes everything from oysters and giant prawns to baked salmon and beef.

THE LIFESTYLE

It’s all about relaxing; after a jam-packed day of top-class free excursions passengers return to Victory I to sit on deck 5 in the sun, read or chat in the deck 2 Compass Lounge with its sofas and chandeliers or have a drink in the adjoining wood-panelled bar.

Bar drinks and wine with meals are included in the cruise price, which adds to the buoyant mood.

Most guests are retired Americans but there are also Canadians, Australians and the number of British passengers is expected to grow.

There’s a spa treatment room for massages and facials and a small gym with a couple of bikes and running mill.

Sometimes the ship will stay in port until around 9pm, so there’s the opportunity to eat out or take a walk after a quick dinner, which usually starts at 7pm. And every night there is live music in the lounge with plenty of dancing – especially to the slow songs.

STATEROOMS

For a small ship Victory I has an impressive choice of cabins, starting with the Owner’s Suite that has a queen-sized bed and sitting area including a sofa bed and dining table plus complimentary mini bar, evening canapes and laundry service.

The Owner’s Suite is around double the size of the other six grades of cabins, which range from 145 to 185 square feet and are equipped with a desk and chair in addition to a queen-sized bed or two twin beds.

Cabins on deck four have mini-refrigerators and two chairs outside on the deck but these are on the promenade, not private balconies, between communal seating at the front of the ship and The Grill restaurant at the rear.

All the cabins have shower rooms, with plenty of storage space for toiletries, and storage includes a wardrobe and two sets of shelves so there’s more than enough room for guests’ clothes. The cabins are not massive but they are all newly carpeted and wallpapered and the two large picture windows provide good views. They also have TVs with a range of American channels plus information about the ship’s route and daily excursions.

ENTERTAINMENT

Daytime entertainment, when you’re not off the ship on the free excursions, is a mix of fairly traditional cruise activities such as bingo, quizzes and a version of Mr & Mrs that brave passengers join in quite willingly.

There are also a few lectures on scenic cruising days, such as the Great Lakes eco-system, and every day there’s a briefing about the next port and excursions.

After dinner the house band plays pop and rock from the 1950s onwards, often themed to a particular country, and if the ship sails after 9pm there may be a guest band on, such as a Motown group from Detroit.

DINING

There are two eating options: The Coastal Dining Room, which will seat every passenger in one sitting if necessary and is waiter-served, and The Grill, a small buffet restaurant on Deck 4 with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Coastal Dining Room is on deck 1 with good views through the windows so you can see the water or port while you dine. Waiting staff are exceptionally good humoured and helpful – some even do magic tricks towards the end of the meal.

It has a breakfast buffet similar to The Grill that includes hot and cold choices and you can also order dishes such as omelettes from the menu. Lunch and dinner are both waiter-served with a varied menu that includes local produce wherever possible and the wine waiters are very attentive.

The Grill has a smaller choice of meals but it’s bright and sun-filled and the staff are always happy to get you drinks or food from the buffet to save you getting up.

Evening meals are four courses and main dishes range from grilled fish and prime rib to lasagne, moussaka and biryani; there’s lobster for the Captain’s Dinner night. Afternoon tea is served in the Compass Lounge on scenic cruising days, when you’re crossing the sea-like lakes, and guests are treated to a cake stand full of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream plus fruit tarts, macaroons. For the Venice-themed tea there’s chocolate Sachertorte.

And there’s always tea, coffee and cookies available in the Compass Lounge and The Grill – which has free ice cream available almost all day.

FACT BOX

Victory I has several new cruise itineraries for 2020, including St Lawrence Seaway Exploration from Halifax in Nova Scotia on Canada’s Atlantic coast to Buffalo on Lake Ontario in New York state, calling at Quebec City as well as Montreal and Port Colborne for Niagara Falls.

Also new for 2020 is its Provincial Passage to New England, with a hotel stay at Niagara Falls before sailing from Hamilton on Lake Ontario then along St Lawrence River and out into the Atlantic right down to Portland and Boston.

But the Great Lakes remain its focus, sailing from Chicago to Toronto or vice versa, calling at Mackinac Island, Sault Sainte Marie, Manitoulin Island, Detroit, Cleveland and Port Colborne for Niagara Falls.

Its 11-day Splendor Of The Great Lakes cruise departing regularly from May to October costs from £5,575 per person, two sharing, and includes return flights and transfers, pre-cruise hotel night, all excursions, all bar and restaurant drinks, wi-fi and gratuities (01223 568904; lightbluetravel.co.uk).

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