Travel to Port of Embarkation -- Very stressful. When arriving in the port we realized that the ships coming in were behind schedule, therefore, there were literally thousands and thousands of people checking and claiming luggage. Our cab driver didn't speak much english and took us to the Valor instead of the Victory. Me and my boyfriend weren't aware of this right away amiss all the chaos, so we had to high tail it across the port (which was a very long way with five or six pieces of luggage). No one was really helpful in telling us where to go. Luckily, we found where we needed to be and the rest of the cruise was "smooth sailing."
Ship & Stateroom -- I was very very impressed and in awe when I stepped onboard. It was not only my first cruise, but since my boyfriend made all the arrangements I had no idea what to expect. The ship was of a "sea" theme with greens and blues. It was very relaxing. I almost felt like I was in an underwater world.
Our stateroom (balcony suite) was a lot bigger and roomier than I expected. It was very very clean and the layout was in good feng shui. I am glad we spent the extra $$ to get the bigger room. There is nothing like champagne (from the mini bar) on the balcony after dinner or even better breakfast on the balcony at sunrise. It was well worth the money.
The pools were overpacked with screaming kids. It was not relaxing in the least. Part of the reason we booked the cruise on that week was because we figured the kids would be back in school. We were wrong. I dipped in the pool a few times here and there but it wasn't a main activity of my day. I tried lounging and reading a few times but it was very hard to find a chair, and when I did find one it was either broken or VERY uncomfortable. Luckily, my boyfriend and I are adventurers and night owls. On days of port we were on excursions and at night we were living it up, therefore, we would spend a lot of our downtime in the afternoons relaxing in our cabin to have enough energy for the nightly activities.
Dining -- Both of us aren't very big on formal dining and we like to follow our own schedule, so we only took advantage of the actual dining room on a couple of nights. The hash browns in the morning and pizza and a beer by the pool in mid afternoon hit the spot. The alternative dining for dinner also met our standards. Simple good food. We only ordered room service for breakfast on days we were at port because our excursions were early. My only complaint was the coffee....ewww.
Activities -- A lot of the time I felt as though I was at a combination of day camp and a wedding. There was a lot of silly games with a lot of encouragement for passenger participation where they would take advantage of the drinkers looking for a way to embarrass themselves.. It did make for great entertainment on the cabin tv though! So if you plan on participating, make sure that your aware that you will be on every cabin tv for the duration of the cruise...over and over and over again. They had a ton of organized activities and would remind you of them over the loudspeaker on the hour. You can't possibly be bored.
Service -- The service was amazing. Our cabin stewards were more than helpful. My boyfriend is a little messy and we would come back to find our underwear and pjs neatly folded in a pile. Our shoes were all lined up, and every night after dinner we would look forward to our towel animal. We didn't know about the towel animals, and the first night we were in hysterics (and a little tipsy from our dinner wine) and we immediately started taking pictures with the animal. It became our routine every night. Drunken towel animal pictures after dinner! The bartenders and waitstaff were all super friendly as well.
Entertainment -- We saw one or two shows. They were okay. Nothing spectacular. We really enjoyed the midnight adult only comedy hour. The comedian was from my boyfriends home town and after the show we got a chance to chat with him and take some pictures with us. The nightlife really had something for everyone. We hit all the spots a few times. Our favorite was the black and red bar (not sure of the exact name). It caters to people in our age bracket who aren't big clubbers. Lively live music and a lot of fun dancing in a more intimate setting. On our cruise one of the passengers even played for us a few nights. It was rocking and reminded me a lot of the places I frequent at home. The club was a lot of fun, very dark, very loud, typical club. The piano bar is something worth checking out. Go there after midnight and you will have a blast. Everyone is drunk and happy, the piano man is singing ranchy songs, and its a great place to meet people as its very intimate. If you just want to have a beer away from the crowd and watch the news or a game, visit the little sports bar hidden at the far end of the casino. There was never anyone in there, no loud music, and you can even play video poker for money on games built into the bar. It turned out to be a really good meeting place and to get warmed up for the night after dinner.
Shore Excursions -- If there is anything I learned while on this cruise it is BE ADVENTUROUS. If we didn't do all the excursions we did I probably wouldn't have enjoyed my time as much. I have friends who have been on cruises and don't take advantage of excursions and they report having less fun than the people who did. This is what makes your cruise! In mexico, we drove ATVs through the jungle, visited some Myan ruins, and had lunch and a swim on a beautiful private beach. It was amazing. At night we took the senor frogs party boat which was your typical Mexican spring break experience. Rum punch free flowing on the boat and a really fun time at Senor Frogs. There we met another couple also traveling alone and we wound up hitting it off with them and spent the rest of the cruise hanging out.
Grand Cayman was my favorite. We loved it so much that this year we had a hard time deciding if we wanted to go back there for a week or go on another cruise (another cruise won out!). We shopped, took in its beauty, and went to stingray city to swim with the rays. It was amazing and its not an expensive excursion. Worth every penny.
Jamaica was probably my least favorite. It was overcast that day, it was our last port and we were a little run down. The locals were friendly but very very pushy. We swam with the dolphins which was again....an amazing experience. The DVD they sell is very good quality and worth buying. And then we went to Dunn's river falls. While beautiful and a lot of fun it was way way way too crowded. We also didn't realize that we needed a locker, and we didn't have cash on us to get one, and the atm was broken, and it was this whole big mess until my boyfriend finally decided to put our bag with our belongings on his back and suck it up. We were behind a big family reunion of Jamaican decent who were overly joyed to be there. Yep...grandma, grandpa, all the cousins, the whole gang! They proceeded to stop every five seconds and take a big group shot, meanwhile I'm standing on the edge of a cliff where if I make one false move I'm history. Other than that the falls itself were a sight to see. You don't need to actually hike up them to see them and you can exit the hike at any point by going off to the stairs on the side.
Disembarkation -- It was typical. Very much like moving cattle. I remember it being a couple of hours to get off the boat and then once you get off you have to go on more lines and wait more. Our flight back to ny wasn't for awhile and we went to some aquarium/zoo type thing in miami which was nice. At that point though I was exhausted and ready to go home.
Summary -- It was a great vacation. So much that we are doing another one in a couple of months (will be a year from our last). Unfortunately, I wont have the awe of newness of a cruise ship like I did last year. No matter how many cruises I go on in my lifetime the Carnival Victory will always be special to me. It was a great ship for a first cruise and an experience that I will always cherish.