I returned last week from my 05/13/13 sailing on the CARNIVAL VICTORY. This was my 15th cruise since 2006. My Carnival PVP called me with the good news that my name appeared on a list for a FREE CASINO COMP! My new BFF, haha. I grabbed it immediately and got two friends to tag along. I was able to get the GRAND SUITE 7306 and it was a great room..... More on that later. I have also cruised NCL and RCL. Although I enjoy Carnival, I do critique what I see and my overall experience in hopes the cruise line and future passengers may benefit. I tend to cover multiple captions in detail and I hope that my experience is helpful to you and possibly the cruise lines.
I try to change up my cruising as far as stateroom locations, itinerary and what I do onboard to keep my cruising fresh and new with experiences so they don't become boring. I'm one that is always up to attend different meetings, gatherings, and explore on my own as well as take an unexpected excursion. Keeping an open mind and doing this, I've managed to meet different people and discover places and experiences I probably would never have. I chose this cruise for two new ports for me. Since it was a last minute cruise my plans were RELAXATION and SPONTANAETY for this trip. My last cruises were DEC 2012 (solo)-IMAGINATION & SEPT 2012-LEGEND (Review of the week)
SHIP: CARNIVAL VICTORY
I sailed on this ship back in 2006 on a CANADIAN itinerary out of NY. From what I can recall, it did not appear to have many upgrades or at least none that really stood out other than the Serenity Deck. I do admit I am not a fan of the Triumph-class layout of the ship. I always feel like the stadium like layering of the deck chairs by the pool make it feel a little tight and cramped. I also do not like how the decks do not all stretch from end to end and you need to move from deck to deck to navigate the ship because of the dining room locations. With the layout of the outside upper decks cutting off ¾ of the way forward, it always feels like a smaller ship to me. It always gives the feeling of compacting passengers to a smaller open space. The ship was always clean and the crew takes good care of their ship.
ITINERARY: Miami-Day at Sea, Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, Nassau, Miami. MIA airport is a short fifteen minutes from the port. There is one formal night on day two, making this a perfect RELAXING getaway trip. The ports were great and offered something for everyone: Exploring, Relaxing and a little Adventure.
TAXI TRANSPORT: I flew in early with one friend and we met the other at MIA airport so did not purchase the Carnival transport. An easy to locate TAXI for all three of us only cost a flat fee of $25 with a couple dollars tip for our bags. I like flying directly to MIA over FLL. It's a short 15-20 min drive and if you ask the driver would stop and wait at a local CVS along the way if you wanted to pick up any carry on water or juice mixers.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the port about 11:00. Since we had a suite we had Priority boarding and were directed to the VIP check in desk. No lines and were literally walking onto the ship after about a 5 minute stop at the desk. This was my same experience as a Platinum member; membership definitely has its privileges here! My two friends who are GOLD and RED level could not believe how fast our check in was. We took embarkation photos and boarded by 11:30. Our stateroom was ready so we dropped our carryon bags and our vacation had begun.
CABIN: GRAND SUITE EMPRESS Deck 7, #7306, MID SHIP.... This was my first time in a Suite. It has 2 twin beds (convertible to a KING) and a pull out sofa with a double bed. It is 345 sq. feet and appeared to be the width of two regular balcony cabins to get the idea of its size. For location purposes, it is directly center of the ship and a couple levels above the lifeboats with no view obstructions. The balcony is twice the width of a regular balcony and had 4 chairs and small tables. It has a very nice BAR area with glasses and multiple shelves. Most of the walls were mirrored which made the room itself feel even larger than it was. The usual amenities included a small stocked FRIDGE, SAFE, 32" flat screen TV, Robes. There is a separate changing area that connects the bathroom, and has a small sink.
The BATHROOM was VERY SPACIOUS all tiled with a nice SHOWER/JACUZZI TUB. The full stateroom itself appeared to be about the size of your average HOTEL room. We never had any problems with noise. Although I would settle for paying for a regular balcony or smaller stateroom, I could see grabbing a suite during one of Carnival's "more the merrier sales" with reduced costs for the extra two passengers. You could comfortably fit a family in one of these rooms and not be climbing over each other.
On a bad note: The pull out sofa was VERY uncomfortable. It had plank boards with a very thin mattress pad so there really was no give to the mattress at all when you slept on it. We ended up adding the extra Quilt and blankets we found in the closet on top of what was already there for extra padding. I was pretty surprised this was the type of sofa that was provided for 2 of the occupants in a "SUITE accommodation." Our third passenger would have benefited more from a roll-a-way bed to be honest.
ROOM STEWARD: VILMA and her assistant GODAY greeted me on the 2nd morning as we were in out and about on day one. She was extremely courteous and always took the time to say hello and ask how my day was. Beyond that she never disturbed me at any point during the day and THAT, IMHO is what makes a good room steward; one that knows your name and schedule and can work around it without disturbing your vacation. They really eliminated ANY worries regarding the cleanliness and status of our stateroom. They are an asset to the Carnival crew.
PORTS: GRAND TURK, HALF MOON CAY & NASSAU, BAHAMAS
GRAND TURK: 7:00 am- 2:30. Easily explored during this timeframe, but you will wish you could stay there forever. Get up early and enjoy every minute you are there!
This Port is a lovely small tranquil island and simply breathes RELAXATION. If I did my research correct, this port received Carnival assistance to rebuild after a hurricane destroyed most of the docking area a few years back. A wise investment if you ask me to keep this little island accessible to tourists. There's not a large city and barely has any traffic or cars on the roads. One side of the island is just raw scenic and nature. (Similar to Cozumel) The whole island can easily be explored by bike, scooter or golf cart. There is one main road that circles the island with a few off-spur side roads that follow the beach. COCKBURN TOWN is the main area everyone flocks too.
We chose to not do a ship run excursion and rent bikes directly from a vendor located at the port. This vendor booth had just opened up only two weeks prior, but don't fret from doing business with them. They are the company responsible for all the importing of cars and trucks to the island. They decided to expand to BIKE (MAY 2013) and soon GOLF CART RENTALS (JUNE 2013).
We paid $25 for a full day of BIKE RENTALS. We got a map of the island with some key points to see. The attendant NEIL ADAMS was very pleasant and helpful. I suggest bringing a small bungee cord that you can strap a small backpack or bag to the back of the bike and not have to carry it on your person. It takes about 1 ½ hrs. to bike to the opposite end of the island and reach the lighthouse. We didn't go that far and heard from others that it was very beautiful but you could not climb the lighthouse. About ½ - ¾ the way up the island are two dive shops. The larger one BAHIO dive shop where we stopped is the larger one and offers snorkel rentals and boating trips out to the ocean SHELF or LEDGE. It cost $20 for the Snorkel rental and $40-45 for the 15 min boat trip out to the big drop. Pay the extra for the boat trip as there really was not too much to see just off the beach as far as snorkeling. The water is crystal clear and you may spot a few fish in the immediate swimming area, but no coral.
PASSPORT STAMP COLLECTORS: About halfway to the dive shop from the port there is an IMMIGRATION OFFICE. If you stop there they will stamp your passports for FREE. Ask the Bike rental to locate it on the map for you.
NOTES: ISLAND AUTO RENTALS: firstname.lastname@example.org ask for Neil or Anthony
I look forward to visiting this island again and if you need a QUIET vacation far away from civilization THIS IS YOUR ISLAND!
HALF MOON CAY (Private Island) 9:30am - 5:30
This island was acquired by Carnival when the company purchased Holland America Cruise lines. It is a great beach getaway with a bunch to offer for those that are not your average beach dwellers. It is a TENDER PORT and you will need to report to the show lounge and acquire TENDER BOAT # and will be called when it is available to board. It is an easy process. Excursions and VIP tendering will need to arrive 45-1hr early before your excursion time. Since this is a CARNIVAL run island you won't find any private excursions but they do offer a few onboard to purchase: Horseback riding, Parasailing, Snorkeling, Wave Runners etc.
The ship provides a cookout buffet style lunch on the island with the usual drink and dessert extras. There are two large bar areas for mixed drinks and several kiosk carts to grab, water & beer. Several side tucked away covered pavilions are provided to eat under that you will pass while making your way to the beach area. You may grab a beach chair, hammock or just spread out your towel and relax. There are for rent small foldable shade cabanas, Sturdier build CABANAS with AC or for the pricier cost a full BEACH HOUSE setting with living room and hot tub. The immediate area off the off the buffet is where the major part of the ship passengers nest. As you walk farther around the "Half Moon" of the beach it becomes more private and better your chances to snag a hammock.
My PVP said if I liked Co-Co Cay I will LOVE Half Moon Cay and he was not lying. I would return here without even a second thought. It is just beautiful and the water was clearer than anywhere else I have ever been to.
NASSAU, BAHAMAS 7:00am -- 5:00
In past reviews I have mentioned that this is a port of call that I wouldn't mind staying on the ship. Or I have suggested that you book an excursion and make the most of the time there because the immediate port area doesn't offer too much. I've been here many times and even stayed on a week's vacation in CABLE BEACH many years ago. This trip I left the excursion choice up to my two friends. Since none of us had ever been INTO ATLANTIS and used their beaches and water park we decided to spend the cash and try it out. As I mentioned at the start of my review I am up for new things and I am glad I agreed to try out this opportunity and see what all the excitement was about the famous ATLANTIS RESORT. When I stayed in Nassau back in 2006 I was able to see the Aquarium and Paradise Island, but not the water park area. Since we were visiting this time during their off season the ATLANTIS FULL ADVENTURE W/ LUNCH was a reduced price of $114. When we first arrived we spent the first half of the day checking out the Aquarium and "THE DIG" at the resort and got a few great photos of the abundance of fish, sharks and famous large MANTA RAY. Once settled in by a pool we grabbed Lunch at one of the food stands on our ticket. I remembering saying to my friends that overall I didn't feel the "ADVENTURE" was living up to the "PRICE" for the excursion as it seemed to be Pools, Sun and Beach. Something we could of got back onboard the ship..... Then we found the water slides & tubing fun! We had a blast on the 3-mile River tubing and slides the rest of the day and now the "PRICE" was paying off.
NOTE: Everything on the resort is NO CASH & CHARGE or RESORT CARD purchasing. I believe there were one-two stands that did accept cash, but all the rest were NO CASH. EVEN the LOCKER RENTALS was NO CASH... so be sure to bring a VISA or MASTERCARD with.
After a long day at the resort, we walked around the shops outside ATLANTIS to pick up a souvenir or two then grabbed one of the "every ½ hour shuttles" back to the ship. The destroyed tented straw market has been rebuilt at the port with a sturdier cement building. SR FROGS is located at the end of the pier as well.
PASSPORT STAMP COLLECTORS: Just before you exit the PORT building (where they check your ID) there is an information desk on your right. Ask them about passport stamps and they will direct you just outside to the IMMIGRATION office and you can get your passports stamped there for FREE! Many passengers are not aware of these opportunities and usually you just need to ask. Happy Stamp collecting!
FELLOW SHIP PASSENGERS: This is a topic I usually try to cover in my reviews because although Carnival technically has no control on who books a cruise, it reflects the "type" of passenger that chooses certain itineraries as well as what the age-range to help others choose vacations times. I thought it was a nice quiet relaxing vacation since it was just before Memorial Day and kids are still in school. Most passengers on board seemed to be on a vacation same as us for a quiet mellow relaxing vacation. It was a FUN SHIP, but this time of year wasn't your overly-rowdy crowd. Casino was always packed and lines were not too unbearable for food or drink.
FOOD/DINING: We had LATE 8:15 dining. I normally book this so we do not have to rush to get ready on pert days. Originally, I had planned to check in with the Maitre D and request to have a smaller quieter table for the three of us. We decided the first night to check out where our luck of the draw sat us and see what table mates we were matched up with. I am very happy we did. The three of us sat with another group of three and we had a great time at dinner each night. Once again I have nothing bad to say about the food on the ship. It was always hot, minimal waiting and delicious. The food & service in the Dining Room was sufficient and perfect for the laid-back trip we were having. Our servers were great and not over the top "trying too hard to please us" Honestly I don't even recall our waiter formally introducing himself, but instead attended to us as if we were old friends and knew each other already. The rest of the cruise my party chose to eat at the buffets for breakfast and lunches. We used the sit down breakfast and ordered room service one EARLY port morning which was PROMPT and satisfying.
STAFF: (I split this up into several captions) WORKING STAFF: No Complaints at all. I can honestly not find anything bad to say about the crew on the ship. It almost felt like they picked up that this group of passengers were sailing for relaxation more than partying and went with the vibe. No one was too over the top "forcing the: got to have fun" atmosphere. Honestly, it was a nice welcomed change for this trip at sea. Everyone did their job efficiently and courteously so you couldn't ask for more. Information, Excursion, dining, housekeeping, officers, shops, bar service, casino were all great! Everyone was always positive.
CRUISE DIRECTOR- "GOOSE" was informative and almost seemed to blend into the background with passengers and crew. Nothing really stood out about him for me except he was not that overbearing and allowed his crew to run the ship smoothly. It almost seemed as if this crew has been together for a while and has a good working repertoire going. I do have to give a big appreciation for withholding all EARLY announcements over the PA system on Port days when we docked at 7am. Those of us that are not early risers very much appreciated it.
ENTERTAINMENT: Unlike my past cruises I not once made it into the SHOW LOUNGE and tried to experience different parts of the ship on this trip. I think I enjoyed the relaxation of my stateroom Suite and balcony more on this sailing than any other sailings I have done. I did make my routine deposits into the casino, but in the end I came out ahead by a whopping $8.00! At least I was ahead and not in the hole I guess so no complaints. :) It just goes to prove that there are lots to do while onboard and sometimes you just need to break out of your norm and try different things.
I did not use the SPA or CAMP CARNIVAL so have no comments to make here.
DEBARKATION: We chose to opt for SELF-ASSIST and said goodbye to our relaxing vacation around 9:30.
LIKES: GRAND SUITE, PRICE, ITINERARY, PORT of CALLS, FOOD, SERVICE, CLEANLINESS, and never forget the "WCMC": warm chocolate melting cake. mmmm Appreciation for the withholding of EARLY AM announcements for those not wishing to be woken up.
DISLIKES: The hard plank based sofa bed in the suite, over-all ship layout especially near the pool (but that's just my preference)
In the end, this was an unexpected FREE Cruise from Carnival as a Casino Comp. So I would have been happy just to leave port and it rained all week. My intentions for this trip were to seek spontaneity and relaxation and Carnival provided all of that. I must say I enjoyed this cruise maybe even more than past trips but for different reasons. I met a few new friends along the way and discovered to more fantastic ports I would highly recommend to others as well as look forward to visiting again. I normally suggest the IMAGINATION (Key West-Cozumel itinerary) as a nice FIRST TIME cruise itinerary, but this itinerary ranked right up there for another option.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me via cruise critic under handle: wiskt