Just back from Victory's 03/30/08 Sailing. This sailing was fun, but had a bunch of positives and negatives. I find myself surprised that this sailing had so many negatives. Far more than past cruises. Would I do it again? Yes, however I might choose a different ship, and or port of embark.
EMBARKATION: Leaving from the port of Miami really wasn't bad. Dropped the bags off, and went to park. The parking signs put you into a loop and aren't correct, which the security guy agreed happens a lot. After parking, and checking in, we had about a 30 minute wait due to late disembark. Overall, not bad.
SHIP APPEARANCE: I really liked the greens, it really was pretty. Overall the ship really looks good. I'm not a fan of the over use of the pink/corral look which has aged.
SHIP LAYOUT: I have read about the choppy layout of the ship, and while you do learn your way around, it is inconvenient, and just rather annoying.
STABILIZERS: Do they really work? I've been in worst storms and this ship really had some issues.
EVACUATIONS: We had at least 3 separate evacuations. The first was the Sea Day before San Juan. The evacuation was announced and the aft open decks were cleared. Apparently a lady slipped on LIDO and smashed her face critically. A coast guard helicopter hovered over and raised up the evacuee. When we arrived in San Juan, debark was held up to evacuate someone via ambulance. After St. Maarten, we had to return to St. Thomas to offload a crew member who was critically ill. (Thus requiring them to shutdown shops and casino due to US Waters) It was a site to see the Pilot jump on to take us into the harbor. The last two days we just kept expecting another one, but it didn't come.
Ports of Call:
San Juan - We did a self guided walking tour of Old San Juan. Would have preferred more traditional hours rather than the evening visit. This was our least favorite of ports, however, it was still nice. Wish we could have done the fort, etc. Next time.
St. Thomas - Took a taxi in and shopped in downtown. It was nice. Unlike some of the other places I have been, this stop did not have the pressure salesmen lining the road outside there shop. It was a friendly stop. We took the skyride up to Paradise Point (Note: You can make as many trips as you like with the wrist band you receive. FYI- you have to exchange your cruise tickets, so there is no real point to getting them in advanced. Pictures were great, and the bird show was fun.
St. Maarten - This was our favorite stop. We booked Joyce Prince (www.joyceprince.com) for a private tour ($150 for the 3 of us for 4 hours). She was amazing! She was friendly, and informative hitting the things we wanted to see. If anyone is wondering if they should book Joyce, DO IT! She'll show you the good, the bad, and the everything. Joyce had mentioned that she would be taking us by RIMA on back street, and we would see the best prices on everything. We had seen RIMA at St. Thomas in many shops, so we took note of the prices. Apparently they resell to lots of shops throughout the islands. The prices we found were half or more off. While I was skeptical, and while I am sure she gets a commission for bringing us in, the prices and selection was well worth the wait.
FOOD: I must say that I was a little disappointed with the food this time. The Beef dishes kept coming tough, and note very good. The Steak the first night, the Filet Mignon, and the Chateau Briand were awful (and 2 of the 3 were favorites last cruise.) Dining room breakfast came out tepid (not hot). The buffets were ok, but always had long/slow lines. The gala buffet was very nice.
STAFF: One of the shining portions of the trip was the staff. Everyone we met was very happy to be there, and so friendly. Our room steward was INCREDIBLE. He kept everything in perfect order, and became my two year olds best friend. She fell in love with Ahmed. Everytime we walked the hall, she would look for Ahmed. He always took a moment to engage her. He spoiled her with extra chocolate, and even a second towel animal on her pillow. He was a complete opposite of previous stewards which weren't very good. Our Wait staff was also awesome. Wilber engaged my 15 year old (our head waiter). Santos (our assistant waiter) was also very good. Wilber kept us laughing the entire time, and other than the fact he brought out the poor food, he was excellent!
MAITRE D: Was there one? He came by on Friday Night and did a quick intro (think...fishing for a tip)
CRUISE DIRECTOR: I am going to be very careful when I address this. Honestly, I got the distinct impression that Malcom is really an immature social host that some how got the Cruise Director. Simply put, he isn't very good. He is funny, and in that regard is good. He lacks the organizational aspects that makes a good cruise director. There were constantly typos in the Capers, incorrect details, etc. Anyone who watched the poor attempt at a Morning Show on Channel 17 (NOT 16!) really revealed so much about Malcom. He had no control. Another example was debark in San Juan. He gave bad advice: For example: DO NOT TAKE YOU PASSPORT OFF THE SHIP! (Ok, ummm, if you get stuck in St. Maarten, how are you going to fly back without it????) His assistant Ingrid was just as poor. They didn't work as a cohesive team. I could go on, but will just leave it at that. Oh, and the WOO-HOO didn't bother me.
CAPTAIN: He seemed friendly, humorous, and jovial. However, he seemed EXTREMELY old. (anyone else get that impression?)
CAMP CARNIVAL: One of the big reasons for selecting Carnival was the fact they take 2 year olds. We attended orientation, and received our cordless phone (no beepers anymore). NOTE: These are COOL! I have commented at the Purser's Desk and via letter that they should be made available to RENT. While we had walkie talkies, the phone was a huge plus in keeping in contact with folks in the cabin, etc. Our initial problems with the CC was they were not changing my daughters diaper. 2 times she was soaked through when I picked her up. I spoke with the director, who apologized and would bring it up in staff meeting, reminding everyone of the hourly diaper checks. It did get better the next day, but went back to not happening the following day (ever poopie diapers). I noticed when picking up and dropping off, my little one was not really being supervised. I made little peek stops and had my suspicions confirmed. At pickup, they get a mic and call out your childs name to come to the door. I'm sorry, my two year old isn't responsible enough to do that yet. She would ignore the pages. When they finally would try to figure out who she was, she never had her name tag on, nor shoes, and this would keep it going. For dinners, I was shocked to see 1-2 counselors responsible for 30-40 kids. The two 2 year olds just got lost in the shuffle. They never once asked what she eats etc, and I watched as they asked the kids if they wanted burgers, Pizza, Chicken, etc. The older 2-5's could tell you, the younger ones just stared at them. When we left Emma on the ship for our excursion, we attempted to leave a contact phone number and was told, we can't call you, there would be a charge for that. Amy, the director overheard it and said if there was an emergency, they WOULD call regardless of the cost. Also, many of the kids were give the T-Shirts they colored, and other goodies through out the week. Guess what, Emma never had any of them. We finally began asking, and was told she must have not been there when the activity was done (SHE WAS!) Finally Amy begrudgingly gave her the shirt and bag. This put a huge damper on the cruise for me and my wife. I felt guilty taking my daughter to Club Carnival, because I knew she wasn't being cared for or given the attention a young 2 year old needs. Its hard to go enjoy yourself with that on your shoulders.
My 15 year old loved Club O2. However, I must also say she was concerned about that going ons happening there. Ashley the Club O2 director, was a cool "friend" to the kids and made sure they knew they could do whatever they wanted. She told them to dance or make out to there hearts content, because there parents couldn't see it...no adults allowed. She partied with them. When walking by I was really shocked to see from the door the make out sessions, and more. My daughter confirmed that there was very open sexual activity happening (I'll save the graphic descriptions). I assumed there would be activities to encourage kids to be involved and busy to avoid that. I really didn't think there would be overt sexual activity permitted infront of the director.
SHOWS: I enjoyed both productions, the comics, and the Legend show. I thought the magician/illusionist (Magic Moments with RAND WOODBURY) was one of the best I have ever seen. I LOVED the story he shared at the end....(From Memory) He said on the Celebration when it was doing 7 day voyages out of Miami. Every week they would stop in St. Maarten back when the roads weren't even paved. He found out by accident that one of the crew members would take the day, and disappear. This crew member would take crayons and gifts to the local hospital. This crew member in his broken English asked the magician to come with him on one of these trips. He went and performed card and coin tricks for the kids. After he had been doing that for a while, the crew member pulled him away into this one childs room. He really builds the story at this point, and says little did he know this was going to change his life. This child had (liver issues?) and was undergoing treatment. He asked this kid what kind of a trick he wanted, card or coin. The kid picked up a snow globe and shook it and said, can you make it snow? Rand told him he would do that trick for him next week, and performed some other tricks. The next week when he went back to that hospital he figured out how he could do this, and after visiting this kids, went to this kids room to find an empty bed. He inquired and found out that the child had been flown off island for treatment. Rand then tells the audience that he always ends his show with this illusion, to keep a promise he had made in person... and he makes it snow on stage with the paper he has been ripping during the story. I saw many tears as he finished the show...I myself was holding them back.
One word: Disaster. Ingrid as well as the officials are both equally to blame. They had less than 1/2 the ship debarked by 11:30! I'll just leave it at that.
So finally in summary, I did have a pretty good time (in contrast to my last trip that was incredible).
I found a bunch of areas that need improvement.
Should any of these things keep you from going on this ship? No.
Oh, and I was wondering, could it be the reason why they are putting Victory on the southern route (destiny's old route) is because of the stabilizers? They wouldn't be needed or missed near as much, right?
TIme to move on, and find they next cruise I am going to start counting down too...