We traveled with a group again for our 8th consecutive Spring Break cruise.
Most of us were from the Chicago area. Most of us left 2 days prior to the cruise on Sunday to get to San Juan and enjoy that port. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Carolina PR. 2 nights. This hotel was picked b/c of proximity. to airport, van rentals (3), pool, and price. Vans were rented at: National airport location and Charlies (2). We used Charlie's b/c of shuttle to cruise pier at their Condado drop off location. It worked out very well. Shuttle to pier was fast and easy. National was less money and Charlie's gave no multi vehicle discount.
HoJo was acceptable, clean,and location for what we needed was good. Communication prior to arrival was poor as I tried several times to email and fax them concerning confirmation of 8 rooms/bedding type needed. Lobby was nice, rooms a little dated, elevators on Sunday morning were extremely slow. After waiting 15 min for elevator on 6th floor, we lugged our 45 pd bags down the stairs 6 floors. Continental breakfast on top floor provided an adequate meal but nothing special. Views were very nice and items for breakfast were refilled consistently. Pizza/Italian Restaurant in hotel was good. We enjoyed our meal arrival night and would recommend if staying at hotel. Saturday night we walked several blocks to another restaurant which was good but not outstanding. Several restaurants are located so you have plenty to choose from.
Embarkation: drop off at pier with rental vans is a zoo. A Lot of congestion at the port, however after return of vehicles and using Charlies Cars shuttle, we had an easy time at embarkation. It took us 45 min. to get on ship and up to Lido deck for lunch to meet the rest of our group. Very much enjoyed the 10pm leaving San Juan as we love walking around OSJ and the various sights.
Our Stateroom on the Victory was in a good location for us, and easy to get to dining room, atrium, disembarking. Our room was slightly worn, room steward never introduced himself, and no amenities basket in bathroom on this ship/sailing. The room steward however always took good care of our needs and we have No Complaints.
Dining Room: We had Early dining for most of our group. We loved our location in the back next to windows to see sunsets and wake of ship. Our wait service was OUTSTANDING and personable. Experienced new Carnival menu and found it to be adequate but liked previous better. Most of the time our food was very good and cooked to our liking. We ate every night in MDR. Our group did enjoy the entertainment in dining room.
Excursions: Booked independently
St. Thomas: Took public bus ($2 p/p) to Red Hook Ferry(RT $12 p/p) to St. John. Cab ($3p/p) to Trunk Bay. Enjoyed 3 hrs then back to Havensight for shop.
Sea Day: Group sunbathed, slept, Hairy Chest Contest, Ice Carving on deck.
Wine Tasting, Fun Shops, Spa.
Barbados: Took cab to Mt. Gay Rum Tour ($7 p/p) then another cab to Boatyard Beach ($12p/p) for the day.
St. Lucia: Booked Cosol Tours for full day adventure. Very good!
St. Kitts: Booked Rosevelt Taylor for 4 hr tour. Another great tour with beach time at end.
St. Maarten: Booked Bernards Tour (again !) for fab tour. I have more details of all our tours within the ports section of CC.
San Juan: Pre-Cruise We walked OSJ with free touring guide available online. With van rentals we drove to OSJ and parked in lot near Sheraton. After breakfast at La Bombonera, shopped, walked to several sites, and then left and drove to Bacardi Rum Factory. Spent several hrs enjoying and then drove to El Yunque Nat'l Forest. It was pouring rain so we drove thru stopping at waterfalls. Good thing we all had waterproof camera's and rain ponchos.
Post Cruise: Stayed one add't night at Verdanza Hotel near airport. Lovely hotel with nice rooms and beautiful pool area. Rested at hotel and left next morning for airport.
Ship Entertainment: Shows were good, however they do repeat if you go consecutive years on same cruise line. Comedians were hit or miss. We were lucky we had gone to the better show. Group enjoyed the Karaoke Bar and several lounges, disco.
Kids Club: The kids (13-17) did not go to any kid club activities because they hanged around together as their entertainment. With the many port activities we planned they were pretty tired at night so we did not have any curfew problems.
Disembarkation: We had one family in our group who did self assist and they were quickly and easily at airport in plenty of time for 11am flight. The rest of our group had flights on Monday so we were one of the last to get off ship. After taking our time to get downstairs(no rush) when our number was called, we still had to wait 10 minutes and it started getting very warm. People were stuck on stairwell too, so take your time when your called. There is still a wait time and it can get uncomfortable. Once we were allowed off ship, we got a Porter to assist us and he got us transportation to hotel quickly. There were 20 of us going to same hotel.
Summary: Ship a little worn. Staff very friendly. Food was good but liked previous menu better. Don't wait in lines at Buffet like cattle. Many venues had no lines (like at bkfast for eggs)and we got service right away. The scrambled eggs in buffet are POWDERED and YUK!! I got fresh eggs at the Yangtze Wok (anyway you want them) and GREAT service. They were very friendly and knew our Chicago group well as we all went there b/c of service.
Did not spend much time on ship as with previous cruises b/c of port intensive itinerary. What we did experience was very good and I would certainly recommend this ship to those who like the itinerary. Be prepared for not too much down time to relax. I could hardly make the deck party on Wednesday night or late night comedy. We had a great time.