My family and I sailed on the Victory February 25th to the Western Caribbean. We flew down the day before and rented a car from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. This worked well for us because we would have had to use two cabs or purchased Carnivals transfers which would have cost us $360.00 round trip. The mini van only cost $140.00 w/insurance for one night. We were able to take a shuttle to the Port of Miami the next day for free. We arrived around noon to the Port and were on the ship by about 1pm. There were lines but all seemed to move fairly quickly. All in all a pretty smooth experience. We had booked a balcony cabin for ourselves and put our four sons, ages 20, 16,12, and 7 across the hall in an inside cabin. That worked pretty well for us and it was nice to be able to have two bathrooms to use. The muster drill went smoothly and fairly quickly, although they did pack you in like sardines during the drill but I suppose that was a necessary procedure. After that the ship sailed as planned. The rooms were clean and well kept and we barely saw our cabin steward, which was just fine with us. He was very accommodating when we did make a request which wasn't too often. We spent very little time in the rooms, except for the balcony. The balcony was very private and quiet.
Our days at sea were busy, for which I was glad. I was afraid we would be bored but that was never the case. They had many activities planned throughout the day and we often found ourselves going to the Port Talks given by the cruise director, Jorge. Jorge was hysterical!!!! He truly entertained us and our kids. He really has missed his calling as a comedian. We also saw the Newlywed game, played Bingo, saw the ice carving demonstration and a bunch of other activities as well. All of the shows were entertaining. The dancers were good and the singers were good. I wouldn't say they were grammy material but they still put on a good show. The comedians were all pretty funny, there were three in all. They did both a family show and an R-rated show at midnight. There were two other singers on other nights who were excellent, great showmen! My only complaint on days at sea was the fact that the music/band on deck was too loud. You couldn't sit around and have a conversation with anyone. The entertainment was good, just too loud. The other problem is that people would get up very early and throw their towels on chairs, making it difficult to find available lounge chairs throughout the day. I wish that Carnival would find a way to police that situation a little better, although I know that could be difficult.
Our days at Port were very nice. In Costa Maya, we split up and did the horseback riding and off-road cart adventure. They were nice excursions but very overpriced, as were all the excursions through Carnival. I would definitely do my own thing if we go again. For example, we asked about jet skiing in Costa Maya, the guy we spoke with started out at 95 dollars and would have settled for 60, but we were waiting for the rest of our party to meet up with us,so we declined. Our excursions in Costa Maya cost $600 dollars, which was very expensive. The shopping area was nice, but the locals were very pushy, so I would stick to the stores that Carnival promotes, unless you don't mind bartering. They have a nice pool area there as well and we sat around there, ordered drinks and snacks and relaxed. Grand Cayman was very nice as well. Again, we spilt up and did two different excursions. Four of us went on the Snuba excursion and the other two did the Island Tour and Stingray City. The Snuba was awesome according to my husband and three of the boys. The other tour was nice but my seven year old freaked out when we got in the water with the stingrays and no one helped me out with him except for the other passengers. I found this very annoying considering I was the only person there with a young child. All the pictures of this tour show people in waist deep water but when we got there it must have been high tide as the water was up to my neck. I wish I had more time to shop there but we had to be back on ship by 3:30pm which cut things very close. This is a tender port, so we had to take a boat from the ship to the port. I think Carnival had this pretty well organized but one woman kept pushing her way through the crowds without saying excuse me and I found that annoying. Her family quickly put me in my place by telling me that she had claustrophobia. Still, that doesn't excuse her from being polite, plus...why would anyone with claustrophobia want to cruise?!?! Other than that, things went well here. I would still not book tours through Carnival as there were people on shore offering similar tours at much more reasonable prices. The cost of our tours totaled $400. My husband took one of these tours because the Snuba tour didn't start to 1:30 and he came to the island at 9:30am with us. So, he took an island tour for 20 dollars a person and when he was concerned that he wouldn't be back in time for the Snuba, the driver hooked him up with someone else to get him back to port. I found this comforting because they are always warning you not to use the local tours, but I really think these people make an effort to get you back to the ship on time.
Our last port was Jamaica, I booked an independent tour with Phil Lafayette, whom I had read about on this website through another review. This was the best decision I made. His tour included Dunns River Falls, River tubing and a tour of the city. It was great. He let us lock our belongings in the van, and stayed with us the whole time and we were dropped off at a shopping area by 1pm. The shopping area was a short walk from the pier. The cost was 55 dollars for adults, 45 for children under 12. Carnival didn't offer childrens discounts on many of their excursions. This excursion cost us around $350 dollars with tips included. For me, Jamaica was the prettiest port among the three we visited.
As for food on board, I can't complain about anything I had. My kids tried new things and enjoyed them. Desserts were awesome, including the warm chocolate melting cake and the grand marnier souffle! Yummmm. Entrees included Filet mignon, quail, duck, lobster, chicken, a vegetarian selection everynight and a Spa menu that featured low fat, low calorie selections. Appetizers were equally as tasty. On deck 9, Lido deck, they had a grill that served burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and steak sandwiches along with french fries. All were tasty and you could find my children there throughout the day. The 24 hour pizza place was also very good and great to just pick up a quick snack. They always had a buffet area on lido deck, which served breakfast, lunch and dinner. We only ate breakfast there, but it was hot and tasty every time, no complaints. We also ate breakfast in the main dining room as well, which I think tasted a little better than the buffet. We ate lunch in the main dining room one day and found it to be very good as well. We had dinner in the dining room everynight. I went and looked at the midnight buffet but didn't eat. It was nice but not as spectacular as I would have imagined. We just didn't feel like eating at that hour, especially since we had late seating for dinner and didn't finish until about 9:30pm each night. The waiters danced each night at dinner, they all seemed to really enjoy what they were doing and were truly entertaining. Everywhere you turned there were photographers taking pictures, this was good and bad. Good because we aren't usually dressed up and looking so good for pictures and bad because they were very expensive. Each 8 x 10 was 19.99 and then you could buy smaller sizes after the initial purchase. I spent a fortune on pictures but I can't help but wonder how much money Carnival actually makes on these. I think that if they lowered their picture prices or offered some kind of package pricing if you take all the pictures that they would actually make more money because people would buy more. All the pictures that you don't take just get recycled. I know I would have bought more if the price was better. I wrote this on a comment card for them, hopefully they will consider it. Anyway, overall we had a wonderful time and would probably cruise again if I could find a cruise that is the right price. All the extras really add up and when you multiply that by 6....look out. I have no problem with Carnival and would probably choose them again. This was my second time and my childrens first time cruising. They would love to go again and hopefully some day we can. I was nice not having to make beds and cook all week.