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I've been reading reviews for MONTHS on here and boarded the Victory with a very low expectation based on many of the reviews. Hope this helps!
Your documents say 2:30 but we got there about 11:00 and walked right through the signup process. They started boarding at 12:00 and we were right there and got to go on immediately. We were in fact the first people into the lido area for lunch. There is a duty free liquor store right there and we were being all sneaky trying to figure out creative ways to get them through security. Not one person checked us so we after buying lots of little one ounce bottles we got back off the boat after lunch and visiting our room and dropping off carryons and went back to the liquor store and bought lots of bottles. They were in a carryon bag and as long as it wasn't obvious -- they didn't ask and we didn't tell. It was this way at every port. As long as it was in your bag and not an obvious liquor bag -- they didn't take it. More
We had quite the liquor collection by the end of the cruise. Back to embarkation day -- got off the boat after lunch and walked around San Juan. By about 1:30 the line to get on the boat was huge! Glad we went early (flew in the night before). San Juan is very quaint by the docs and we had a great time walking around. Back to the boat about 5:00 to get ready for dinner. It was casual and anytime dining in the dining room. My husband had been dreaming of his chocolate melting cake and it was cooked solid like a hard brownie. They did manage to pull it out and get it better the next night. The muster drill was late at 9:30 but it wasn't awful and was over shortly. I did see kids with their jammies on ready for bed after! My 8 year old was fine and we went up on the deck for the departure party and they had fun music and dancing while we pulled out.
I read so many awful things about the boat and how old and gross it looked. Every ship has a theme. They are always flamboyant and loud. This one was no exception with its nautical theme. But it was fine. The boat was clean for the most part. I did see where people had thrown down empty food containers, fries spilled on the stairs, an ice cream dropped. I don't blame the employees of Carnival for that. I blame the white trash passengers that can't clean up after themselves. The ship was clean and there were constantly employees wiping things down, moping, vacuuming, and cleaning. There were also hand sanitizers in lots of places to use which I like. Overall -- it was great. Our room steward was awesome. Knew our names, made sure we had ice in morning and night (to go with our bar!). Very attentive.
I was equally prepared for mediocre food based on reviews. I've traveled a lot and eaten in some of the best restaurants so I have a high appreciation for excellent food. This was not bad. I mainly stick to seafood of sorts when traveling and I was never disappointed. There were a few appetizers that I didn't think were fantastic (oysters Rockefeller) but my entrees were always good. Many people in our group ordered multiple apps and two entrees never without a problem. Prime rib one night was ordered and my son ordered it medium rare and it was very good. Others ordered it done and it was not so good, they ordered another one cooked differently and Carnival was happy to do so. I can't say they were the speediest of sorts and our waiter was very difficult to understand. Sometimes after entrees it was difficult to find a waiter to get a drink ordered. I do agree with the service of the waitstaff -- could use a bit of improvement there. But not awful. They did get to know us and learned I liked hot tea with my dessert and my kiddo liked hot chocolate with his and they would automatically bring it. That was nice. We ate every night in the dining room. The entertainment was cute and we were upstairs next to the railing so always grabbed our drink and stood by the railing to watch. We enjoyed. We ate breakfast two times in the dining room and found that we could get the same stuff for the most part on the lido without the slow wait time. Breakfast seemed to be painfully slow in the way of service. So the rest of the trip was eating outside by the pool. We only had lunch one time on the boat -- the first day and the day at sea. Lido -- mediocre buffet food what you would expect.
We attended a couple of the family comedian shows and it was cute. The kids enjoyed it. We walked in late to one of the dancing/singing shows and there were men half dressed in football jerseys dancing around with flair. I don't know if it was supposed to be sexy, funny, or what. We couldn't take that. Cheesy. The juggler was entertaining and adults and kids enjoyed. Most of the nights we spent in the casino or having drinks walking around the lido deck. Can't say a whole lot on the entertainment or the seminars and shows. Casino is fun -- won some nights, lost some nights. Typical options for any casino. We attended the Minute to Win it show (although called something else) and the 50 or so people in there were mainly kids but they only had people over 18 participate.
We had a late flight Sunday so we were one of the last groups to get off. Out of the room by 8:30 we sat around the pool until about 11:00 and got off. It was easy and quick. Grabbed a taxi at the port there.
It was a great cruise with a great itinerary (see excursions). The ship was perfectly fine. Loved that we could bring on our alcohol. This was my fourth cruise and third on Carnival. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We did the Black Pearl pirate cruise. They pick you up at 10:00 and take you down to their pier -- not very far. Then you cruise out to a sunken ship to snorkel. Water was beautiful , fish were okay -- a bit far down and not any pretty coral or anything to see. After that we got back up and went to another area and there were the turtles. We saw about 3 different ones. They were feeding the turtles so they were coming around. It was beautiful! Got to touch them as they swam by. Lunch was pretty good of steak or chicken or tuna. Then side accompaniments. They had beer and rum punch as well which was available immediately on getting on the boat. Crew friendly and helpful. After all that they pulled out the plank and the rope swing which was a big hit. The ladies floated in the water while the men were jumping from the rope. My husband would swing out first and then swing back and pick up our 8 year old and then swing back out over the water. Everyone had a lot of fun with that. After that we slowly cruised back to port with the music playing and everyone dancing in the sun enjoying the weather and cocktails. We got back about 3:00. GREAT excursion and everyone had a fabulous time and we had a group from age 8 to 66. We booked this on our own -- not through carnival. I believe it was $80 for an adult and $40 for the kids.
We opted for our own tour out to the beach. After getting through the port gate we were accosted by lots of guys with baby monkeys and offers to take you somewhere. It was a bit overwhelming. The local police are there to make sure the drivers don't cross the line and are treating the tourists okay. We had one policeman question a driver named Scooby and said he is legit and if hes not, come tell me after. So off we went with Scooby to the beach. We negotiated first and I want to say it was like $6/person to get there and back with our group of 8. We went to the black sand beach and I'm sorry I can't remember the name of this one. It's been three weeks and I did so much research it's all fading. The beach area was very small on the end we were at. We rented to sets of chairs and umbrellas for $10 (two chairs and an umbrella). There were lots of shells on the beach and out in the water for the kids to hunt for. It was a good beach for that. I read about the amazing array of aqua life here and I believe they all enjoyed it but I didn't go out. There were several little bar and grills on this stretch of beach some nicer than others. We ate at the one down on our end and it was actually really good food. There were wild monkeys and mongoose also there but they were in a different area and were used to the people and we didn't interact. I've never seen a wild mongoose! There were people offering massages and they are a bit aggressive and don't know when to accept no. They use fresh aloe limbs for the massage oil which was pretty neat. I got my feed and bottom legs rubbed for $10 for about 5 minutes. We told Scooby what time to come get us and he was back promptly waiting on us. We didn't pay him until we got back to port. We all loved the downtime of the beach and hanging out. The people trying to shove monkeys on you is a little annoying at the port. All to make a buck with your picture being taken.
We booked a tour through Simon Says. It was a tour through the island first. Beautiful curvy island. We stopped along the road and had fresh off the tree bananas. Fantastic! My son who never eats bananas ate three of them! Then we stopped in one of the towns and Simon -- our tour guide (and owner) bought us some home made fresh bread. Hot from the oven and delicious. We made our way around to the waterfall -- a bit small and underwhelming and crowded with everyone getting in. The kids all jumped in and swam. Not clear but cold fresh water. Then we went to the volcano -- you just stand in front and smell the sulfur. Then on to the mud bath. It's really more of hot natural spring water and then bars of mud that they go up onto the volcano and bring back down. You lather yourself up with this mud bar and then stand in the sun to dry off. Kind of neat. The spring pool is sooooo hot! It says its 100 degrees but the water was so scalding you can't stand in it. They would take buckets and pour over you to get the mud off. HOOOOT! There were cold showers to rinse off in as well. Then on to Simons house for home cooked chicken lunch -- very good! After that a speedboat tour around the island to the base of the pitons and snorkeling. That part wasn't so great with a miscommunication and the boat leaving us there with no snorkeling equipment. So can't tell you how good it was. That was the only down part of the trip. Over all I would recommend it. Full day but you get to see a bunch of the island. $85 for adults and $40 for kids I believe it was.
We spent a week here a couple years ago and the island is pretty small so we knew it pretty well. We rented a car for $100 for the day right there at the port and drove around showing our family. Went to Orient beach just for a quick walk around -- rougher waters but very pretty still. It's on the French side so yes there were topless bathers. We then drove over to a grocery store so we could pick up some goodies for my 8 year old son to take back to his class. He's in a French emersion program so he can speak the language. He got a kick being able to interpret the groceries for us. We drove through La Grand the French town and headed towards Maho beach for the airplanes. I had researched the departures and arrivals so we can hit the right times. I had no intention on staying here so long but we stayed here for hours! The airport was very busy and the waves were big and the kids loved them. The beach is small and there is a bar/grill there. When the planes took up everyone would run up to the wall and get sand blasted. Stupid but we all laughed and ran down to the water running from the wind. It's amazing. My 66 year old step dad got right up there every time trying to not get knocked down from the jet breeze. We ended up ordering food there at the bar and again, not my intention but it was a fantastic lunch. Before we knew it the day was over and had to head back to the ship. Dropped off the car and got on board.
We wanted to go to St. John and Trunk Bay from the reviews I read. Wanted something my son could snorkel at and not be so crowded. They had the underwater guide I thought would be a great start. LOVED THIS PLACE. It took about an hour to get there. It was first a $10 per person taxi to Red Hook then we took the ferry over which was $6 per person. Then we got off and took another taxi to Trunk Bay which was $6 per person and then a $4 park entrance (it's a national park so if you have a membership you get that discounted entrance). Then same prices back. So $46 per person. On the way back someone from the ship said they had booked this as an excursion through Carnival and it was $75 a person! Same exact thing we did. The beach was beautiful with shade. We spent most of the time bobbing in the clear water. Minimal waves, snorkeling was great. My son was hesitant and didn't want to do it and as soon as he started seeing the fish he was hooked. We took summer sausage cut up and the fish love it. Careful they get a bit frenzied with it! It was not very crowded and we had a lovely time. There was a place to rent snorkel equipment and buy drinks and food. Restaurant did not take credit cards but the snorkel place did. Bring lots of cash.