Post Cruise -- We flew to San Juan on Saturday and stayed at the Marriott Stellaris that I booked on Priceline for $115.00. The cab ride was funny because the cab driver didn't understand where we wanted to go. There was a Celebrity ship in port and although we said Marriott Stellaris she kept heading to the Celebrity port. The whole time we kept saying we were not going to a ship she just kept driving right up to the ship. When she stopped we said no "Marriot Stellaris Hotel". Speaking loudly must have worked because she said "Oh Marriott, OK", and off we went. We just shook our head and laughed.
We were very happy with the resort. I wanted something on the beach and it was great. The room wasn't ready when we arrived so we changed in swim suits and had lunch at the resort. It was pretty pricey but we were starved and didn't want to waste time looking for something else. We wandered the beach and before we knew it the room was ready. They moved us to a pool cabana room and we were worried about pool noise, but there was none. It actually worked out great because as any family knows it seems like you make 40 trips a day to the room so having a close room to the beach was very handy. To save suitcase space & weight I decided to buy sunscreen and bath products at Walgreens in San Juan. It was a good idea, but it didn't work as well as I had hoped. The selection of shampoos and such were quite picked over and I had more trouble than I thought I would have getting what I wanted. So in hindsight I would not do this again. We had dinner at Orozoco's that was recommended on the San Juan board and we loved it. It was very good and nice and close. We just did breakfast at Starbucks.
Embarkation Day -- After Starbucks breakfast we laid out on the beach for a little while then headed to ship. No problems getting on. Lines went well. We left the luggage with the porters and went to CVS for wine. Got our cards and got a few mini bottles of vodka for DH in the duty shop. We put the mini bottles in his short cargo pockets. Then at the security gate we put them through the x-ray machine then reloaded the pockets then on the ship. We got on the ship, ordered a bucket of beer, and got our first lunch on Lido. By the time we finished our cabin was ready and we dumped our carry-ons and left the ship. We spent the afternoon tour El Morro fort then made our way to Barrachina for a Pina Cololda (which was delious). Back onto the ship and our luggage was delivered and we unpacked, showered and dressed for dinner. The muster drill, which was not adequately announced, was at 9:30 then sail away. We did not like the late sail away. All evening we just wanted to move on from San Juan and seemed so late.
St Thomas -- DH & DS scuba dove with Blue Island Dive and had a great dive. They were up and off the ship right away and there was only 1other person on their dive so you couldn't get more personal than that. DD & I slept in and wandered off the ship to head to Sapphire Beach. It would have great if it wasn't down pouring rain. We got there and no sooner got our chairs then the first downpour began. It let up after a while and did some of the beach snorkeling and that was wonderful and despite no sun was worth it. Then just as we got back out of the water it began to down pour again so we decided to go shopping instead. So we shopped for a while then met DH & DS for lunch. Then we did the port shopping then back on the ship. By then the sun came out so we laid out by the aft pool and got a drink of the day. Not bad. Showered, dressed for dinner, then did our nightly sushi and cocktail hour followed by late dining. At this point I say we wished we did Anytime Dining. Our last cruise late dining was fine, but for some reason this time 8:15 was just too long. Unfortunely when we inquired they said that there was a waitlist of 100 people wishing to switch to Anytime so we stayed with 8:15.
Sea Day -- Slept in, worked out, ate on Lido, and then went to get a chair. We did not have any problems finding chairs for us. It was about 11:00am and we wanted toward the Aft Upper Level on the side. Quiet, great sun, and perfect for all day sunning. At one point we went to the Serenity Deck to check it out. It was very full and there was no room to sit. Most people were napping up there. The kids wandered here and there and except to get lunch we just stayed, read books, and chilled. Perfect sea day.
Barbados -- We spent the day with Gina and her crew on Calabaza. This was the best day. If you can book with Gina I can't recommend it enough. She and her crew did everything to make our day great from wonderful rum punch, great food, to beautiful snorkel locations. The boat was great and there were not too many people. This was a memorable day for my family and the one we were looking forward to the most and it did not let us down.
St Lucia -- This is such a beautiful island. We were in awe of the mountains, rainforest and beautiful little towns. On this island we did Cosol's all day tour. This was not the best fit for my family. While during the planning part of trip everyone thought the tour would be a good idea, it didn't quite workout that way. We are more of a do/action family where we like to participate in our tours and not just driving tours. So while the tour was everything that was promised, it wasn't a good match for us. Plus this is very long. It begins just after you pull into port and goes right up to when you need to get on the ship. This island also was not our favorite beach island. The location of Jaseclouse beach was beautiful, the beach and water was the rockiest.
St Kitts -- We booked the Â½ rainforest tour with My Island Tours with Javin. This was better because we got to do things and get out of the car for activities. Plus it was a shorter tour and we got spend our afternoon a little more on our own schedule. Javin was a great tour guide. He was interactive and personal which was so nice. It was great getting to know him and his island. St Kitts is so cute and just lush and green. We got to climb onto the black rocks for some amazing sea pictures that reminded us of Hawaii then we hiked in the rainforest. We were a little disappointed the hike ended so soon, but it was beautiful seeing the bamboo forest and all of interesting plants of the rainforest.
St Maarten -- Orient Beach Day on our own. Last day we just slept in, worked out, and wandered off the ship on our own. This was such a relaxing way to spend our last day on our cruise. We loved Orient Beach. It was like a picture postcard with crystal blue water and white sand beach. I had picked Orange Fever for our beach location and we had a little problem finding it since we were dropped off at Bikini Beach instead of Pedro's. I know where it was located from Pedro's not Bikini Beach. Eventually we found it and were very happy. We parasailed and had lunch and drinks and called it when the clouds moved in. By the time we got to port it was raining. We wandered port to clear out the last of the kids souvenir money then went back on the ship for our last night. If you are worried about naked people, don't. Kids don't notice them, just us adults do. This beach is too beautiful and fun to miss it because you may see some boobs walk by.
Ship -- We loved the ship. Our last cruise was on the Valor and DH did not like the patriotic theme for that ship. We did like the sea motif of the Victory. It is circa "Kathy Lee Gifford Carnival Commercial" so it was fun and bright and we like it. The layout was similar to the Valor so we found everything very well. The Photographers set up everywhere caused traffic headaches on the Promenade deck, but we managed.
Room -- We were in a category 4J cabin. It was great. It was our first window cabin and we liked it. No noise from the theater above us. We could not hear anything from outside or any noise from the door that leads out to the deck. We did very careful checking for what people could see from the outside and you cannot see in. It was strange opening the curtain in the morning and seeing people right outside our room but we knew they could not see in.
Staff -- Everyone was so nice and pleasant. Our room Stewart was great; our servers were very attentive and knew what we asked for regularly, cocktail servers were happy and pleasant. We always like to find a bar where no one is there and we always end up talking to the bartenders. Everyone we spoke to has worked for Carnival for over 9 years. They say that they like Carnival and are happy with the company and how they treat them. They do rotate ships and like different things about each one and they go home every 6 months. They all seemed very genuine in their comments.
Food -- We were happy with the food. Buffets -- For breakfast some mornings were worse than others with the lines. I had trouble getting an egg white omelet. One morning it was no problem and I had it fast, the other 2 mornings, both at a different omelet station, it was a problem and took a long time. If I didn't want an omelet I just went to the aft food stations and got my food really quickly, then went to the desert station and got my fruit and I was out. The lines were for the main buffet lines. For the bacon lovers, and there many, bacon was served by staff in the main buffet line but at the rest of the stations you could serve yourself to your little hearts content. I was amazed by the amount of bacon people got. We did eat in the MDR on the last morning and that was fine. Lunch - no problems food was good and fast. Snacks -- We had sushi every night and that is our favorite. Some afternoons we hit the French fries for a midafternoon snack. Dinner -- We at in the MDR every night. We enjoyed dinner. I would say our steaks were hit a miss with how they were cooked, and the flavor of something's were a little bland, but I didn't have to cook or clean up and had great service. So that made dinner great no matter what the meal was. I didn't see any big attire mistakes and my DH & DS did wear shorts every night except for formal nights.
Miscellaneous --Workout Facilities (Spa) --We used them almost every day. There were fine and the classes where OK. I did a total body class, yoga class, and ab class. They were all doable for a novice person for those types' classes. The machines where fine and usable, although I did struggle for balance using them while we were at sea ?. Entertainment -- We a couple of comedians and the Welcome show. They were OK. I don't remember the names. I do like the addition of the Punchliner's club so we can see the comedians right away that are new from our last cruise. The past guest cocktail party was different than our last cruise also and we really were happy on how they handled it on this cruise. Having it in the theater with drinks and hors d'oeuvres being handed out was very nice. Last time it was in the disco and we had to stand in line trying to get drinks and food and didn't get much of anything. This way we could sit and relax and there was plenty of food and drinks being brought to our table.
Club O2 -- My DD loved the club. She joined the first night and enjoyed all of the evening activities that they had. It took no time till she and her new ship friends spent all of the on board time together. One issue that we had is that the sign up for Club O2 was at 11:00pm on the night that we set sail. My husband said that the hallway was jammed packed with teens that didn't have parent with them so they were not allowed to sign up for Club O2. We believe that since it was so late most parents went to bed or were already involved in their own activity. These teens are not allowed to bring the paperwork with them since they could forge their parent's signature so they were stuck till they could bring their parents another time. I believe if they sign up could have been earlier in the evening much of this could have been avoided. Now for my 18 year DS he did have problems meeting kids. The first couple of nights he hung out with us, how lame, and even went to bed early after seeing a comedian alone, even more lame. Eventually he got to know my daughters friends, many who were close to his age and grade since he is a senior in high school, and hung out with them when they were not in the club. While I do get all of the arguments for not allowing 18 year olds in the club, it was rough. One girl turned 18 while on the cruise and she was not kicked out of the club.
The only 2 things I would do differently is do Anytime Dining, and make sure to skip the car ride tours, otherwise it was great.