This was my 8th cruise, 6th on Carnival. We stayed at the Hollywood Beach Marriott the night before. (Nice property I would recommend it booked it through a deal on Traveldeals for $179. per night including a $50. room credit, free parking and free breakfast buffet.)
Boarded the Victory at 1:30 after a very short time in line (20 minutes). The ship is nice NOT beautiful! We sailed on the Triumph last year and it is exactly the same ship as the Victory but the Triumph was nicer.
Overall we had a great cruise but I must say that the food was NOT as good as on previous sailings.
First stop was San Juan and we had planned on doing a little shopping and getting back on the ship. It was 4:30 when we arrived and decided at the last minute to take a City tour for $20 that was being offered by a local vendor when we got off the ship. By the way, we were traveling with our 2 sons ages 7 & 9 and my mother age 70 and sister. The children were free as long as they sat on our laps- it worked out great! We saw a couple of forts and landmarks and they dropped us off downtown to shop. Not a lot of shopping though most shops were closed or closing. It was a 9 block walk back to the ship. We felt perfectly safe and enjoyed this a lot.
Next stop was St. Maarten where we rented a car from Arthurs Car rental (a small minivan, held 6 passengers). We enjoyed Orient Beach (a few topless woman, but everyone loved this beach the most! And the children adjusted quickly after telling us about "the ladies who forgot their bra-things!") The beach was beautiful and the people on St. Maarten were so nice. It is easy to see why they call this the "Friendly Island" We then went to Maho Beach to see the airplanes flying over head and that was awesome! After Maho we were stuck in a huge traffic jam (we are told this is a everyday around 4:00- island rush hour!) Be aware if you rent a car or go out on your own to leave plenty of time to get back to the ship! This traffic jam really cut into my shopping time. I jumped out of the car in Phillipsburg and spent 10 minutes buying everything I could from the street vendors. Cheap! Cheap! The best shopping of the whole cruise! We dropped off the rental car and got back to the ship just in time to board. We loved St. Maarten and definitely will return for a land based vacation there.
Next stop was St. Thomas and we took a Island, shopping and beach tour with Godfrey Tours. We had heard great things about Godfrey on this board but we did not book this in advance. Again, we got off the ship went to the place where everyone was waiting to pick up tours and taxis and asked a guard where to find Godfrey and he told us to wait off to the side and he would call him. Godfrey was there within 5 minutes to pick us up and was soo nice (even though we didn't have a reservation- he was very happy to take us.) The tours was $25. per person including children and was well worth the money. Also, he and Sunny Liston (the other big local tour operator now work together) Met Sunny also, again very nice man and would trust either one for a great tour.
My only complaint with St. Thomas was Coki Beach. Both Godfrey and Sunny tell you he will take you to whatever beach you want to go to but, then tell everyone that Coki is the best and is free to get into. Well, it is free but much smaller and not as nice as Megan's or Sapphire. Also, we felt like we were in Jamaica at Coki Beach-there were a lot of shady looking character lurking around smoking pot and a lot of not so nice Rastaferians (excuse the misspelling) Good snorkeling ¶sailing but just an OK place to spend a few hours.
Also, if you are looking for knock off designer purses, St. Thomas is your place. Coki Beach and local vendors at the open air market in downtown had 1,000's. $35. each and very good quality.
Back to the ship: Overall well maintained. Try to catch Vroom (Rock and Roll show, Living in America, and the Magic Show. All where great! The food was just OK not a lot of menu choices in the dining room as there had been on previous sailing. Buffets were Ok not great. NY Deli was very good and I highly recommend the turkey sandwiches. Lines do get long but if you avoid eating lunch between 12 & 1 your wait will be significantly shorter. Lobster night and the Deck party are must dos! My children loved camp carnival. This if the first cruise that we have been on that the boys enjoyed the children's program. They wanted to spend all of their time there. The Gym was pathetic! Worn out equipment needs to be replaced.
The Cruise Director Malcolm was not that great. We all loved Fillipe (Flipper) and thought he would make a better choice for cruise director. Malcolm was not that friendly and seemed a little stand offish and perhaps tired.
Overall, we had a great time because WE made it a great time. Yes, there were a few disappointments along the way but we wanted to have fun and we really did. We will definitely cruise again soon but may go back to Royal Caribbean or NCL for better food choices and to compare.