Just got back from the Carnival Victory cruise and had to share my review and experiences with all.
7 Day cruise to South Caribbean from San Juan, PR. Sailed August 19 2012
Embarkation was smooth however the gangway had some mechanical issues; so we had to wait about 1 hour before we were able to board. Some people may suggest to arrive one day earlier to the port to avoid the stress associated with boarding. However, we booked the earliest flights out of our city (Toronto) and managed to arrive in San Juan just after 12 pm. Taxi service to the Port was approx 25 US dollars for 4 passengers and 4 pieces of luggage - travel time was about 25 minutes.
Ports of call were US Virgin Islands, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Maarten. All of the ports were wonderful and expect to be bombarded with locals trying to sell you island tours right after the pier. We had not booked any excursions with Carnival and instead opted to do some exploring on our own. As such, you are able to go do most of the activities on your own if you plan ahead and schedule timing accordingly. For some, this may be hectic, so its your own call.
To be honest, most of the island tours except for Barbados can be done within 2 hours time. If this does not suit your needs, I recommend that you check out the excursions through Carnival.
Service on the ship was exceptional. All the wait staff, hotel staff, entertainment and management staff provided excellent service and attitude. I guess this is the money you pay for. They work to your schedule if possible and will not hesitate to go the extra mile.
Dining wise, Carnival's Victory could have been better. The buffer up at Lido (Deck 9) had the same fare (with exception of a few changes) for the entire 9 days. The buffet had a variety of foods including BBQ (Hot dogs, fries and burgers), Sandwiches, Chinese, Japanese (5 - 6 pm) and daily "theme" days including Mexican, American and French. This same applies for all three meals.
However, the casual/fine dining up in Level 3/4 is totally different. Here, guests are required to dress appropriately for the dining atmosphere. We had 3 formal nights of the 7 with 4 as casual nights. The menus along with the staff were beyond exceptional and I have nothing but praise and gratitude towards them. I enjoyed the fact that we could order more then 1 of each item... :D
Cabins were what was advertised on the Carnival's site. We had a room with 4 beds, 2 twins, 1 sofa bed and one drop down bed (from ceiling). Space wise was adequate for 4 adults. Cabins were cleaned and dressed approx 2 times a day (Morning and Night) and were very well maintained. Again, nothing but praise and gratitude for the hotel staff.
Onboard activities are a hit or miss depending on your style and interests. I really enjoyed their comedy clubs during the later hours of the night (18+). Their fitness center was well stocked with machines and towels. They even have steam, sauna and shower stalls! Since we had 4 people in the room, I went to shower in the fitness center after working out and "steaming".. lol
If you enjoy live entertainment, Victory will have something for you in store. They even have a night club, but was only packed for a few nights.
Disembarkation was also very smooth from our experience was we only had carry ons and no checked luggage. Just be patient with the immigration and customs. We were out by 9:30 am (Zone 29)!
Overall, this was a good cruise for your hard earned dollar. Of course, many on board items such as Internet (75 cents/minute) and alcoholic drinks ($5-10) were pricey but pretty much expected and standard throughout other cruise liners. I am pretty much split between Royal Caribbean and Carnival at the moment... Maybe a next cruise will decide?
Thanks for your time and I hope this provided some insight to your future cruise!
P.S: Shout out goes to the staff of Carnival Victory, Happy Cole and Eddie Capone for their service, professionalism and laughter!