Ocean Victory Expedition Cruise Ship Review
Built for some of the world’s most remote locations, Ocean Victory is an expedition cruise ship offering the latest in ship technology, the very best in adventure and scientific gear and a plethora of comfort and amenities for those who appreciate a higher-end cruising experience. As much a learning experience as any you’ll find at sea, Ocean Victory has features that bring guests a deeper level of understanding of the regions they’re traveling, and the bevy of experts on board are readily available to enhance the experience both on the ship and when out exploring off-the-beaten path locations.
Features like the cleanest burning fuel in the cruise industry and dynamic positioning and stabilization systems make for a more eco-friendly journey that leaves the environment as pristine as it was meant to be.
With multiple stateroom options, all spacious with plenty of storage capacity, guests can curate their vacation based on needs and preferences, including individual ability levels. With an older guest demographic, you won’t find boisterous nightlife or a crowded pool deck, making for a more laid-back experience coupled with adventure both on and off the ship.
With a guest capacity under 200 people and around a 2-1 guest-to-crew ratio, exceptional service was abound from the stateroom attendants and dining staff to the front desk and everywhere in between.
Editor’s Note: Ocean Victory is a chartered vessel operated half the year by American Queen Voyages and the other half by Albatros Expeditions. The sailing we joined was under the operation of American Queen Voyages. Most of the bridge, dining service and hospitality staff remain the same year-round while the naturalist experts, excursion guides and representatives on board from each cruise line will rotate depending on which company is currently in operation.
Porthole Cruise and Travel Ship Rating: 4.4 out of 5
Editor’s Note: The sailing we reviewed was operated by American Queen Voyages. Menus, dining times and service may differ when the ship is under another operation, though dining locations on board will not.
Dining on board Ocean Victory starts early at 6am with the coffee bar in the deck 5 Expedition Lecture Room. An all-in-one coffee machine can make you a classic drip, espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate and a number of other specialty coffee drinks with just a touch of the screen. Also available are a variety of teas and a water/ice dispenser which is very handy for filling a water bottle before a day ashore. Some pastries and fruit were also available on certain days, though guests will have to wait until 7am for the full breakfast buffet.
Breakfast in the main dining room consisted of a number of both hot and cold offerings like a cereal and oatmeal bar with various fruit and nut toppings, a selection of fresh fruits and a variety of breads with a self-service toaster. Hot offerings like eggs, bacon, and home fries remained consistent throughout while specialty items such as breakfast tacos, eggs benedict, pancakes, waffles, sausages, breakfast burritos and more rotated daily throughout the cruise. Orange, cranberry and apple juice are available via self-service or ordered through the waiter. There was no made-to-order breakfast menu available.
A buffet-style lunch was held in the smaller, specialty restaurant on deck 8 starting at Noon and the options varied daily, though there was always a selection of deli meats and cheeses, a salad bar with a number of vegetables and dressings available and a dessert bar with pies, cakes and ice cream. Guests can expect to find various fish, chicken and beef dishes available along with options like potato or macaroni salad. On one day of the sailing, the dining staff set up a fresh sushi bar with several different types of rolls. The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating, though on a warm day, many of the tables outside were in the sun, so get there early if you like sitting in the shade or indoors.
A highlight of each sailing is a deck barbecue with options like ribs, roasted chicken, and even a full pig roast with various barbecue sauces for each item. Also available during the once-a-sailing deck barbecue were burgers, sausages, roasted vegetables and fresh breads. Pending the weather, the deck barbecue is held outside on the pool deck or inside the specialty restaurant.
A 3pm tea featured a selection of finger sandwiches ranging from deli meats to egg and tuna salad. Tea time also had a selection of sweet treats like cookies, pie and cakes for guests to enjoy.
Starting at 5pm, pre-dinner cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres like fried wontons, breads with various cheeses and spreads, pork loin slices, calamari and more were available in the deck 5 lounge. There was also a smoothie shot of the day presented alongside the snacks. The daily debrief with a presentation of the next day’s schedule happened at 6pm.
Dinner began at 6:30 following the briefing and guests entering the dining room could view a preview of each dish on that night’s menu on a sidebar prior to seating. Seating was open with plenty of space and different guest groups often sat with each other to fill out larger tables.
The dinner menu consisted of both a red and white wine selection for the evening, though guests can request a specific vino not on the menu that evening. There were always two appetizer options, two soups, two salads and four entrees available on the menu which rotated daily as well as a “always available” menu consisting of a grilled lobster tail, prime sirloin, grilled chicken breast, grilled Alaskan salmon, the chef’s vegetable, a baked potato and french fries.
Artfully presented and specifically labeled for allergens like nuts, fish or eggs, the main courses were often large and varied from poultry and beef entrees to fish like salmon, halibut and crab legs. One of the four entrees available was always pasta like fettuccine or gnocchi. The dessert menu featured a few staples like ice cream, sherbert, and a cheese plate with new, specialty options nightly consisting of various cakes, pies, puddings and more.
The restaurant stops seating at 8pm which is important to note as room service is only available during main dining hours. If you’re the kind of person who gets late-night hankerings, eating late is the better option as there is no dining available to guests after 8pm.
The very first feature guests will notice when they arrive at port for embarkation is Ocean Victory’s unique bow shape. Called an X-Bow, the front of the ship appears a bit like the beak of a bird, gradually sloping down from the bridge down to the surface of the water. Designed by Ulstein Group, a shipbuilding company with more than 100 years in business, the bow serves to make the ship easier to handle when seas are rough, as well as reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency. It also stands out at the pier or floating in a bay as the shape and two-tone blue color scheme is certainly eye-catching.
A pair of fin stabilizers built by Rolls-Royce helps reduce the roll felt on board while in motion and a very high-tech positioning system allows for a “virtual anchoring”, meaning the ship can remain within 2 meters of its intended position at all times without having to drop anchor and disturb the ocean floor.
Of the decks accessible to passengers, guests will spend the most time on decks 5, 7 and 8. Deck 5 is home to the reception area, the main restaurant, the Explorer Bar & Lounge, the Expedition Lecture Room, the Voyager Library, the Ocean Boutique store and a very unique inside observation deck. What makes this observation deck unique is the wildlife platforms that fold down from the hull into dual viewing platforms on each side which offer spectacular views of the bow and surrounding ocean. Just a few meters above the sea below, the platforms make for one of the best places on board to spot wildlife and capture photographs.
Deck 7 is where guests will find the bridge as well as the four deluxe suites with the most square footage and largest balconies. Deck 7 is also home to the pool deck which features two hot tubs flanking an infinity pool with thick glass on either end, giving it a luxurious look and feel. However, don’t expect to be taking a dip in the pool at your leisure. The pool is filled only during days in port as while the ship is moving, water moves a bit too much for a safe swim and tends to splash up over the sides. For Alaska and Antarctica sailings, you may not get to swim in it at all. However, the hot tubs are open 8am to 8pm everyday and for warm weather repositioning sailing, the heat can be turned off to create two plunge pools with excellent views.
Surrounding the pool and hot tubs are lounge chairs and tiered seating coming down from the pool offering ample space for all. The Fiesta Bar is right there as well so guests don’t have to go far to enjoy the beverage of their choice when by the pool. Deck 7 is also where you’ll find a small spa where treatments and offerings vary by which cruise line is operating your particular voyage. If you aren’t tuckered out from a day exploring, a compact gym on deck 7 has treadmills, ellipticals, rowing machines and a few other features for guests to work off that extra piece of cake at dessert.
Deck 8, the topmost on board, is home to an observation lounge and outdoor deck. Not only is the lounge a full bar, but it’s also where the ship’s science comes to life via microscope banks on each side. Water samples collected from the ocean by the ship’s onboard naturalists are placed on slides and put under the microscopes to view everything from plankton to shrimp larvae and everything in between. The microscopes project to flat screen televisions in the lounge so even if you aren’t looking in the eyepiece yourself, you can still see what’s swimming around in the tiny drops of seawater.
Peering down from the aft of the ship, the fleet of zodiac boats are visible just waiting to get out and bring guests on excursions or to shore, as they also serve a tenders for ports without pier-access. Zodiacs are loaded from the mudroom on deck 3, where adventures ashore are staged. The large room full of lockers is an important feature for preparation before going ashore, particularly in a place like Antarctica where strict environmental regulations require equipment to be free of contaminants prior to use. Guests have their own locker to help get dressed in whatever adventure gear they’re using that day and openings on each side for loading guests into the zodiacs make the process quicker.
There are 93 staterooms available on board Ocean Victory with a max capacity of 186 guests. There are eight categories of stateroom ranging from the deck 3 standard staterooms with porthole window to the suites with large balconies on deck 7. Staterooms are only found on decks 3, 4, 6 and 7 with, the smallest being 157 square feet and the suites at a very spacious 445 square feet. Most staterooms feature a private veranda, though deck 7 did have french veranda rooms in addition to the four deluxe suites.
Storage space was ample, particularly for suite guests who will enjoy a walk-in closet and more than enough drawer space for all sorts of clothing and other items. A blue and cream motif found throughout the ship carries over to the stateroom giving it a clean and modern look and feel. Bathrooms feature a shower, sink and toilet, but you won’t find any bathtubs on board, even in the suites. Bath amenities were provided in dispensers attached to the wall as well as in individual packaging.
Each stateroom had at least one flatscreen TV, safe, bathrobes, and beds that convert from two singles to a queen. There are also options with some staterooms to open the balcony divider for those traveling with a group.
Regardless of where your cabin is located, you’re never far from anything and it’s fairly easy to find your way around after just a day or two on board.
Entertainment on board Ocean Victory comes in a couple of different forms. You won’t find highly produced shows or acts, but there is plenty of enrichment to be found as well as some fun in the evenings.
A highlight of sailing on Ocean Victory is the daily lectures on a wide variety of topics hosted in the Expedition Lecture Room on deck 5. These lectures ranged from tips to using your cell phone camera to in-depth discussions of wildlife, the ocean and in the case of the sailing we attended, history lessons on the Mayan culture of the Mexican regions we visited. Lectures were hosted by the naturalists and guides on board and offer valuable context about the region surrounding the ship. Lectures change based on the sailing, though some, like the phone camera tips seminar, remain consistent across most itineraries. No more than an hour long, the lectures were informative and well-attended by guests looking for a sense of enrichment in their cruise vacation.
In the evenings, a guitarist would set up in the Explorer Bar & Lounge and play from dinner’s end to 10pm. A songbook packet with lyrics was available so guests could follow along, a bit like karaoke. The songs were mostly well-known classic rock tunes but Katherine the guitarist/singer would take requests if asked. A grand piano also sits in the lounge and guests were encouraged to sit down and play if they felt so inclined. If happening night-life is part of your cruise agenda, Ocean Victory may not be the ship for you. However, the evening performance was usually well-attended and fostered a sense of camaraderie and community among the guests.