First let me introduce our family. We are a middle aged couple, married 30 years and we were accompanied by our 23 y.o. daughter and 18 y.o. son. We have cruised once before on the Carnival Triumph and loved it with no complaints except for in the dining room. But that is in the past. We loved Carnival and have never considered another cruise line.
So here we go..... We flew into Orlando because we had plenty of time and wanted to drive along the coastline to Miami. We arrived in Orlando on Saturday morning at about 10:30. I had reserved a mini van for us (lots of luggage) from Budget. Our van was waiting for us and we were ready for our vacation to begin. We had a room near Miami Airport because that is where we had to return the car in the morning. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn Miami Airport West/Doral Area. The motel was OK, not the best. I expected a nicer place being near the airport and all. The have a deal to stay and get free transport to the port. We wound up getting a cab instead because the van going to the port made other stops and we didn't want to do that. The cab for 4 was $30.00 to the port. But it was quick and the driver was very nice.
So we arrived at the port about 10:30. (15 min. drive) I should say right here that we saw the old Sheraton Biscayne Bay being "imploded" that day....it is gone now. They are building condos there. As I said we arrived at the port at 10:30, the luggage went very smoothly. We had 8 large bags and I tipped $10.00. He seemed thrilled that I gave more than $1 per bag. haha So we went right in the building, there was a line to the door. When we got in line we just stood there for about an hour. It never moved for that hour but once it did, it went fast and smoothly. I didn't see any difference for those with funpass and those without. We went through all the checkpoints and when we got to the area where you usually sit in chairs and wait we went right onto the ship. This was about 11:15. So I would say embarkation was very smooth sailing once our line started to move.
When we got on the ship it was pretty empty. I would say there wasn't more that 200 people on yet. We immediately got my son his coke card....$42.00 for over 18. I think it is about $32 for under 18. We walked around an empty ship and ordered a drink at the Casino Bar...probably the first of the day for the bartender. He was a young man from Russia and very UNfriendly. I expected a big smile and a "welcome aboard"...but didn't get it. Later we did but not from him. Having the "gold" card this time (for past guests) we did hear a lot of "welcome backs" from everyone. That was nice. And yes, people with the red and blue cards wanted to know why ours was gold. After exploring a bit...even though we didn't need to (we were on the Triumph, exactly the same floor plan). I will say I think the Victory is prettier than the Triumph. I loved the green.
The ship was very clean....nothing looked as if it needed painting or anything like that. I have no complaints about that. We proceeded to the Lido Deck to eat. The pools were closed. On the Triumph they were open. They did open an hour or so later I think. The food at the buffet was as always. Plenty to eat and to choose from. By the time we ate we went to the Pacific Dining Room to check out our seats. They were closed for a wedding. So I checked at the Atlantic and they wouldn't help me with this. Many people were doing changes there. I never did get into the Pacific until our "late" dinner seating. We went ahead and ate and changed it to early starting the next day. We had table 355 which was a booth near the windows. It was fine for us but you could not see the "entertainment" each night when the waiters would sing and dance. We wanted early seating just because we are hungry by about 4 or 5 and would also like to take advantage of the midnight buffet. The early seating was at 5:45. We had very good service in the dining room all week. After eating and all we decided to check our room.
As we walked down the hall we could see our luggage was one of the first ones outside of the rooms. All 8 pieces!!!! plus we sent our "carry ons" with them also. It was all there and we went into our room by about 1:15. We had cabin 8430 Verandah Deck. This room was directly under the Lido Deck and the pool. I was a little afraid of that but it was GREAT!!!! It was very easy to go up one deck for food or a drink whenever. There was no problem with noise at night. The only time we noticed anything was if we had the balcony door open, we could hear some of the partying and moving of chairs but this was day time so no biggie. When the life boat drill came (about 3:45) my complaint is that there were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of luggage by the elevators....it was hard for all those people to get around them...a hazard really.
Our first "problem" came about 2 am when we went into our room to go to bed. As I said there were 4 of us....all adults really. Our bed was a queen size.....loved the new bedding by the way....and there was a bunk that came out of the ceiling. Well here we were....4 of us but only sleeping for 3!!!! So I went to the Purser's desk and told them the problem. They said there were no rooms available so we would have a rollaway bed brought it. I was NOT happy about this but what else could we do. I was very surprised that they do not keep a few rooms available for any problems that may arise. Soooooooo we had a rollaway bed for the duration of the cruise. I had the room steward take it out every morning so we could walk in the room...haha This worked out just fine.
This brings me to our room steward. His name was Danella (not sure of the spelling) and we did not meet him for 3 days....not good in my book. Last time around we met our girl first thing and I tipped her that day and at the end. This guy was not so good. First off we had a bottle of water that was already open.....we only had 3 life preservers....and many other small incidentals. As I said we didn't meet him for 3 days and he was nothing to brag about. He made us a towel animal 3 times....we do not bring drinks or coolers on board so he didn't have to go out of his way to accommodate us with that stuff. He did fill the ice bucket of course. He charged us for about 4 sodas that we didn't consume....I caught it while checking my bill on the TV....so I told him about it and he took it off. Oh, did I mention he finally introduced himself on the 4th day and that is when I told him about the water and being charged for the sodas we didn't drink. He always took our beach towels at night but didn't return them until the next afternoon. So on port days we always had to hunt him or someone else down to get us some fresh beach towels to take with us to the beach. One day one our of towels had dried, caked on food. I guess it was "washed in" and "dried in"....it was GROSS!!!
Monday was a sea day. We got up pretty early (about 7) and called room service for some coffee and juice. We got ourselves ready for the Lido deck. We went up about 8 am for breakfast and hoping to find some deck chairs near the pool This was a pleasant surprise from what I've been hearing about deck chairs. We found chairs close to the pool with no problem at all. We got 3 chairs and laid down. One at a time we went up for some breakfast to eat out there. The breakfast was the normal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, bagels, cereal, and fruit. The fruit consisted of cantaloupe, honey dew, and bananas, apples and oranges. Nothing special really. They had a lot of dried cereals to choose from and 3 or 4 different types of danish. They do make omelettes or fried eggs too. The line for those is pretty long. The lines in general were not long for breakfast until about 9 to 9:30. We saw this everyday except on port days, then the lines get long earlier. But a lot of people must get room service those days because when I ordered just coffee they told me it would be about 45 minutes on those days. (I didn't order it ahead of time). So as always there is a lot going on on deck on a sea day...little things on the stage outside, the band is always playing and people bustling about. It's always fun. I never saw more than a few chairs being "saved" with just a book or a pair of shoes. The entire week we had no problem finding chairs around 8-9 am. By mid afternoon it was a little more crowded. This is probably a good time to talk about the food......The buffet was quite boring really. I remember there being a lot more of it a year and a half ago on the Triumph. There were many times all the food except for the deli would be closed down. I think they close the buffets around 2 and if your hungry.....you can have pizza or a hamburger that's about it. This was a sore spot for us because they advertise 24 hour buffet.....this is in no way the truth. When breakfast is finished about 11ish they start the lunch and it was always after 12 before they opened the lines. People would be waiting....In my opinion they should close down 2 of the lines (there are 4) and start them up one at a time. The breakfast was exactly the same every morning....yes, you can go to the dining room but we didn't do that. The breakfast on the Lido never changed. One thing that we really hated was on the last night.
Saturday night we went up to the buffet about 11:45 for the midnight buffet. Well to our surprise the deck was almost totally closed off. All the chairs were up on the tables and they were cleaning for the next group of cruisers coming on the next day. There was NO buffet that night only hamburgers and pizza. Not good!!! We were extremely mad about that. They only seemed to care about getting ready for the next crowd. We were hungry!!!! And everyone was complaining about that. We were burned out on hamburgers. I have always heard people brag about the pizza. Maybe it's because we are from Chicago, but in our opinion that pizza is just "Tombstone" frozen pizza. Something I would take out of my freezer and put in the oven. Not very good at all. But I guess when you have a choice of a hamburger or pizza its good. ha
On to the dining room. As I said we are from Chicago so we know good restaurants. I am not at all impressed with the dining room food. Our service this time was GREAT!!!! Can't complain there, it's just the food. Most of the time we didn't even know what it was on the menu. We felt like "country bumpkins" or something.....most things we ordered we didn't eat. I will say the prime rib was fabulous and the desserts were pretty good. The chocolate decadence the first night was to die for.....wanted more!!!! The flourless chocolate cake was great too. Between the 4 of us we ordered steak a couple of times. And NO my husband could NOT get shrimp cocktail any night of the week as many have reported. So to sum up....about the food, we did not eat like pigs and didn't gain a lot of weight, we were hungry quite often.
The bar service is always good...no complaints at all. I tipped all my favorites on Saturday afternoon and they all seemed thrilled and grateful.
Tuesday was the day we went to Costa Maya. We were supposed to go to Cozumel. That is the main reason I booked this cruise. I will be the first to admit I was upset when we were told a few weeks in advance we would not be docking there. But we were up for anything because after all...we were on a cruise and making the best of it!! We docked early and had coffee in our room as always. We took our time going to breakfast and it was crowded but not terrible. Same breakfast as always...a bit boring but we ate. We got right off the ship. No tender here so it's fast and easy. The dock is long, some took the tram to the end but we walked. It is probably about a 1/4 mile but it's on the water of course so it's a nice walk. At the end of the pier is the big pool everyone talks about and a lot of shops. It seems a lot of people just stay there for the day but we wanted to go to Majahaul, the little fishing village. We went past the pool where all the taxis and buses are and found the golf carts. The buses and taxis all look to be brand new. We rented a golf cart for $65.00 for the whole day. It is $30 for a couple of hours. We had to leave a driver's license and anyone over 18 can drive it so we all took a turn. The road leading out is a highway for awhile so we stayed close to the side so others could pass. The other half of the way is very bumpy, bad roads but it was still fun. It took about 15 min. to get there and you park in a football field. When we got off we walked toward the beach (very close) and a lady approached us to come to their place.....cleanest bathrooms on the beach. It was called El Faro. The one with the green chairs I read about. It was a nice place....and a clean restroom as promised. The chairs are free and there were plenty. We had about 10 drinks, quesadillas, tacos, chips and salsa and the bill was $48.00...and I tipped $20. Service was great!!!! The food was very good too. We immediately had a massage....$20 for 40 minutes. The massage was WONDERFUL!!!! I paid the $20 and tipped $10. My daughter did the same. We stayed on the beach, walked around a bit, drove our cart around in all for about 4 hours or so. We met some fellow Cruise Critic members there. The original poster of our roll call as a matter of fact. Had a great time. The vendors are very pushy but just keep walking. I bought some vanilla, a large seashell, and a little cotton dress there. The prices are too high but they come down at least half of the original asking price. All in all we loved Costa Maya and would go back again for sure. The people were very nice there too. There is another area about half way from the beach and the dock...the Drinking Donkey. A very nice area for eating, great food.
Wednesday was another sea day.....not much to report. We went down to the pool around 8:00. We didn't have any problem with saved deck chairs. The breakfast lines do not get long until about 9 to 9:30ish. We would get our breakfast and eat on our deck chairs. The Lido didn't get really crowded until around 10 or so. By 1:00 we would get out of the sun and showered and changed. Then just do our thing until dinner time. Thursday was the day we docked at Grand Cayman. This is NOT going to be good. Hold onto your hats folks!!!!! We docked early and right away I knew we were not in the usual dock because we had been there before. We went down about 7:50 because we had a 9:00 excursion with Native Way to do the stingray tour. We got on our tender in about 15 minutes...very quick. When we got to the dock it was horrible.....not really a dock at all. It was basically a pile of old concrete and rubble with a small building with bathrooms. All the tour groups were holding their signs and it was pure chaos. We found Native Way and were told our 9 am would now be a 10 am tour. First thing I didn't like!!! But oh well. Also they told us the bus ride would be about 30 min. rather than 10 min. because of where we docked. We got on a bus that holds about 20 people and were on our way. When we got to the dock for Nativeway we immediately got on our boat and off we went. It started to sprinkle a little bit but it was a pretty ride. We were extremely disappointed in stingray city. I have read about it for a long time and couldn't wait to go...it was a MUST!!!! We saw about 10 rays...not what I expected at all. We spent about 30 min. there. There were a lot of boats out there by this time. The water is about waist deep, maybe a little more. Then off to the coral reef. It was cold and raining so we didn't even get off the boat. About 20 min. later we were on our way again. The free drinks consisted of a gallon of fruit punch and a gallon of water that you could pour yourself. Not what we expected and not a party atmosphere at all. The ride was nice and the water was beautiful but not worth the money at all. I did purchase the video and am waiting for it to arrive. By the time we arrived back and got on our bus again we had about 2 hours left in GC. We had them drop us in town to shop and eat; we were starving. We ate at Breezes.....great food but $90.00 and then we had 10 min. to shop. Took a taxi back to our "so called port" and OH MY!!! There had to be 5,000 people there if not more. As I said this place was nothing more than dirt and piles of broken concrete and piles of old wood with rusty nails in it. HORRIBLE!!! All these thousands of people were outraged....it was pure chaos. We stood in line for 2 1/2 hours What a way to end our already bad day in GC. Later I heard many people say they hated GC and would never come back...because of how nasty it was. I tried to explain how if we had gone to the other dock how beautiful it is.....but its hard for anyone who has never been there to know. Carnival really screwed up with this one.....they had no one outside trying to keep the lines in order, no one explaining anything....people were very angry. To make matters worse I heard from others that once they got on the ship there was no food to be had other than pizza and burgers.....because it was close to dinner time. After waiting in line for hours they couldn't even get food when they got back on. By the time we got on we had 15 min. to get ready for dinner. If it wasn't Thanksgiving we wouldn't have bothered but we wanted our turkey dinner.......which speaking of that it was horrible. Everyone all over the ship talked about what a horrible Thanksgiving meal it was. They had other choices of course but we wanted the turkey. Why can't they just make old fashioned turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn....etc....????? It was "gourmet".....blah!!!!!! So I guess GC was a major bust. By the way, the reason for docking at another dock had something to do with the swells of the ocean.....not sure what entirely but that was their reason.
Next stop on Friday.......Ok this brings us to Friday and Ocho Rios. We have been to OR before so we have done the falls. This time we had no plans except to get off the ship. Probably go to the beach near the pier and of course margarita. Well as we docked it was raining.......cats and dogs. We had our usual breakfast and went on our way. My son who is 18 went on the Bob marble tour through Carnival. He LOVED it!!!! The bus took about 30 people into the mountains of Jamaica. They saw a lot of Jamaica that we don't see...lots of little towns, houses, the way the people really live. When they arrived there were Jamaicans everywhere giving them "pot" and also trying to sell it....but there was plenty for free!!!!!! Other than the obvious...he loved the sites, the scenery, the atmosphere. My hubby, 23 y.o. daughter and I went to the shopping area (in the rain) and found our way to margarita. Since it was raining so bad we stayed there. The place filled up soon after and it was one big party. Along the way we did manage to stop at "Gem Palace" and bought some blue diamonds. haha Yes I spent a lot of money.....the only island in the Caribbean with blue diamonds. If you go by tell Richie Jan and Amanda sent ya!!!!! Sooooo on to margarita....we stayed there about 4 hours and partied and well....we got DRUNK!!!! I am 49 and have never been so drunk. That's the truth..but hey, when in Jamaica......hehe Seriously though the place was filled with Victory sailors and we all had a ball. I forgot to mention we missed fridays formal night....well, you can guess why!!!!!! On to Saturday.....this night is always sad. However, we made the best of it and it was the best night of the cruise. We met a lot of friends along the way and we all met up and had a blast closing everything down. We started the day as always on the Lido. I will say this day is the busiest day out there...everyone wants those last rays of sun to take home a tan.
Saturday night we partied hard and like I said closed all the bars down. To summarize the week....I would say DON'T miss the rated R comedy show with Thomas Brown.....he was hilarious and its a NOT miss show. The hypnotist was not so great, a lot of people had that opinion not just us. The welcome aboard show (the first night) was good. A little predictable if you have cruised before but still fun. Many people on the ship complained about the bar waiters/waitresses in the show lounge as being too aggressive. Didn't bother us but many it did. The best bartenders on the ship are on the Lido (Smoking Bar) Romeo and Tommy.....the are awesome, tell em we say hi!!! I tipped them well on Saturday afternoon. I said earlier how we didn't care for the dining room food but service was good. Our biggest complaint was the midnight buffet being non existent Saturday night....and that the buffet was closed a lot of the time.....don't advertise 24 hr. buffet if its not that...and its not. I did not find the casino area to be very smoky at all. The promenade area is NON smoking....on the Triumph that whole area was smoking....I did notice this time more NON smoking areas than before. I think I mentioned a few times we did not find the buffet lines extremely long at all. One of the ice cream machines was not working the whole week...not a big deal. The ship was very clean....the new bedding is awesome. We loved Vince in the Piano Bar...went there every night. The "cover" band in one of the lounges was extremely good!!! They could play/sing anything. They performed for the Fiesta night after Costa Maya at midnight on deck.
Debarkation was not so bad. We went to the dining room for breakfast. The food was good and fast. I've heard of a lot worse about debarking. We patiently waited for our floor to be called. First they called "self assist". I think they called about 4 colors before us. As we got off the elevator it was a big crowd...nowhere to go but right there. There was a group of 8 blind people in the midst of the crowd. I helped them find their way to a "safer" spot away from the crowd and promised to find them some help out of there. It took me awhile to find any employees...I had to go to the purser's desk and tell them they needed some help. It was only a few minutes later I saw someone help them through the crowd. We stood there about 1/2 hr. I guess, maybe longer before we moved. Once we did though it kept moving as we got off the ship. Went right through customs, no questions asked. Our luggage was easy to find...all placed in sections by tag color. We got out to the taxis, many, many waiting and we were off. Did not find a van for Budget. It was about 10 am I think before we were in a taxi (a van).
In conclusion I would say we LOVED our cruise and would go with Carnival again and again. There are things they can improved for sure especially with the buffet and the dining room food. at least for us anyway. There was a lot of big family groups on this cruise, probably because it was Thanksgiving. I heard a purser say there was 1,000 kids on the cruise. Our last cruise was in March so the crowd was much different.