ARRIVAL IN SAN JUAN- After flying 7 hours from Los Angeles to San Juan, we grabbed our luggage from 'Baggage Claim', and headed outside to catch a taxi to Pier 4, to check-in our luggage, and head over to El Morro fort for a visit. Our flight arrived in San Juan just before 10AM, which gave us a good 12 hours before the Victory would be sailing. Once we arrived at the pier, there were many people coming off the ship from the previous sailing, terminal personnel, taxi drivers and passengers like myself, having luggage checked in early. We gave our 3 bags to a port worker, along with our baggage tags, tipped him, and walked up the street to catch the free trolley that goes around Old San Juan. A resident told us it would be better if we caught a cab instead of the trolley, if we didn't want to wait for 30 more minutes for the next trolley. Even though we could have waited, we decided to jump in the cab and pay the money, just so we wouldn't be sitting there doing nothing. We arrived at El Morro, visiting for 1-1/2 hours, then walked back to where we were dropped off, and caught another taxi back to the pier.
EMBARKATION- By now, it was around 2:30PM, and a long line had already formed. As we entered the terminal, we went up an escalator to the 2nd floor, which is where the check-in process would take place. The line moved pretty fast, IMO, and after that, we were greeted by a young guy passing out a flyer for the liquor store inside of the terminal on the 2nd floor. He advised us if we bought anything there, it would be allowed on the ship; this was a shock, even though others on Cruise Critic mentioned about this liquor store. We purchased just a bottle of Malibu coconut rum and 12 cans of Coke, then got in line for the security check (that liquor store is filled with all kinds of hard liquor, but not much for mixers; I only saw a few soda choices available). The check-in process took close to 1-1/2 hours, and we were now walking up the ramp to get aboard the ship. As I walked into the 3rd deck entrance to have my picture taken for my 'Sign & Sail' card, the young girl taking my pic, scanned my card, then stated that I needed to visit the Pursers Desk, but she couldn't tell me why. We walked over to the Pursers Desk, to see what the problem was, and the girl said to me, "I don't see anything here with your name. Do you have any 'special needs'?" I looked at her and laughed, stating, "No I don't", then we left, got into the glass elevators, then headed up to our cabin/stateroom, on the Lido Deck, deck 9. Our luggage was already there, so we opened the door, walked in, and began looking around. The room (balcony stateroom) was very clean and tidy; no complaints whatsoever. We relaxed in the cabin, until the muster drill that took place at 9:30pm, and set sailed to St. Thomas just after 10.
THE SHIP- Once we had the chance, we took a walk around the ship, checking out the atrium, eating areas, lounges & the Lido Deck outside by the Triton Pool; everything looked perfect all around. It had the feel of being in a floating Las Vegas-style resort, with everything within reach, if you wanted it.
DINING- The food on the ship ranges from mediocre to very good, depending on where you decided to eat. The food on the Lido Deck outside, has lunch & dinner, serving pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken strips and other 'fast food' stuff, and for breakfast, omelettes, eggs, pork items, oatmeal, toast, danish, fruits and much more. Some of the food offered in the Mediterranean Restaurant, includes various hot foods (some not labeled), a deli, a sushi bar, salad bar and dessert bars. The last 4 nights of the cruise, we opted to eat dinner in the Atlantic Diningroom. We requested late seating, but got early seating, which was okay; no biggie. Our table sat 4, but the other guests never showed up, which we liked. Our waiters are very cool and attentive, and we enjoyed conversations with them when they were free to talk. The food was pretty good there; I enjoyed their steaks, shrimp & chicken dishes; great salads & steamed veggies. Twice I had their 'chocolate melting cake' which is very rich.... and good. For better food and great service, it's better to eat in the diningroom, and you don't have to deal with the crowds or searching for a seat.
ENTERTAINMENT- We watched a couple of the 'Victory Dancers' shows, and they were quite good, but we didn't go see anything else. A comedian who was suppose to show up, wasn't able to make it, and nothing else interested us.
ST. THOMAS- We had visited St. Thomas a year ago, so we didn't feel the need to schedule any island tours. We opted to catch a taxi over to Coki Beach, stayed there for 3 hours, then headed back to Havensight. We visited 'Paradise Point' to have a bite to eat, drink their famous Bushwacker, and take more pics, before getting back to the ship by the 4:30 return time. If you choose to go 'Paradise Point', it's nice to take the skyway tram to the top if you don't have a car to get you up there. Just for the ride, it's $18 per person roundtrip, but worth it, for the view, food & Bushwackers.
DOMINICA- We arrived in Dominica, and looked for our tour guide; I chose 'Fredos Taxi & Tours'. Lucky for us, we were his only two guests that day, and had the van with just the 3 of us. Fredos is a native of the island, so he spoke about the history of Dominica, while driving us northward through many neighborhoods, pointing out different industries that thrive on the island, and we eventually made a stop at Mr. Nice's Fruit Stand. The fruit was free, but it's nice to leave a tip if you have small dollar denominations. We sampled island fare like bread nuts, which are small nuts that are boiled in salt water, and taste like potatoes (real good); roasted cocoa beans; pineapple; yellow and pink grapefruit; bananas & coconut. Fredos made us a treat by inserting a cocoa bean into the banana and topping it with a candied coconut mixture.... took a bite of all three flavors at once and it was delicious. After leaving the stand, we headed up the country road to visit the Emerald Pool. It was crowded there, but it didn't take long to reach. The cost there is $5 per person, and it's advisable to wear comfortable shoes, since you'll be walking through the jungle for the short hike to the pool. They will charge you $1 to use their restroom facility, if you need to change or use the restroom for anything. After leaving that location, we eventually made it over to the Trafalgar Falls, which also costs $5. We were met by a guide in the parking lot, who guided us through the jungle, and up the walkway heading to the waterfall. She gave us a lesson in botany, as well as some history of the area; great job. Once we arrived at the viewing area of the waterfall, she took a picture of my boyfriend and I together, with the waterfall behind us, and we made our way back towards the park entrance; we even sample some vegetation she mentioned to us, that's good to eat fresh or in teas; very natural. After seeing the waterfall, Fredos took us to the botanical garden and eventually the overlook called Mourne Bruce, where you get a great view of the town of Roseau, the cruise ship and the ocean. Overall, the tour was wonderful and the price was perfect. I do recommend him for touring this island.
BARBADOS- We get to the town of Bridgetown, Barbados, and due to there being 5 ships in port, we had to take the offered shuttle buses from the ship to the main terminal entrance. Once we arrived at the terminal, we walked outside the front, to look for our tour. This tour, "Coast to Coast Panarama", is the only tour I booked directly via Carnival's website. I was looking just to see some of the historic areas of the island, and to have some beach time afterwards nearby. We got a history lesson about Bridgetown, the schools, churches, agriculture and made our way inland, to cross the island to the eastern side. Their island grows lots of sugarcane as well as other crops. Our first stop was at Bathsheba Beach, where we were given 20 minutes to walk around and take pics of the beautiful palm trees, oceans, and huge rocks that are close to shore. There were locals there trying to sell things to us (cut up sugarcane, which was good; or taking pictures of a green monkey, which I opted not to do). The sugarcane guy 'pushed' it on us, and when we later just gave him a dollar for it, he didn't care too kindly for that (even though we kept on telling him "no"). It's just good to keep on walking if you're not interested. We later hopped back in the van, and headed inland up the hill, to make a stop at a beautiful viewing spot, and to get a cup of free rum punch. It was pretty good, so I bought a second cup. After returning to the port, due to time constraints, we didn't get to visit Rockley Beach, so we opted to go to Malibu Beach (recommended by a taxi driver), which was just a 5-minute ride away. The beach was free to enter and nice, but has small rocks in the water; having water shoes is a good idea, but not necessary to enjoy the water. There's a walkway you can use to enter the beach, so you don't have to pay $15 to enter through a building that offers tours and other services. If you go to this beach, and the taxi driver doesn't drop you off by the free walkway, just walk a minute back to it. We stayed there for a little more than an hour, and there happen to be a cab driver already on the beach to take us back to the port, with a few other folks. Inside the terminal, we shopped for souvenir shirts, caps and a rum cake. Their shuttle service will take you back to your ship, if your ship happens to be farthest away.
ST. LUCIA- Wow! This is such a beautiful island.... the best island we visited, IMO. We opted to use 'Cosol Tours', which has been getting rave reviews from previous cruisers who have visited St. Lucia, and took his tour. When we made it into the port's building, we met up with our driver, Bompy, who mentioned Cosol was tending to passengers from another ship, and would meet up with us later. After waiting 15 minutes or so for the remaining 11 people going in our same van, we were off. We took a southbound direction through Castries, heading towards the hills. Bompy did an excellent job, giving information on the island, as he drove along the road. We made a stop at a banana plantation, where we sampled some he had in the vehicle already, then he explained to us the process of growing bananas on their island. Each bunch is covered with a blue transparent plastic bag, which is to keep bugs and birds away from the fruit, so they're able to be sold in perfect condition. After leaving the plantation, he took us to spot up the mountain, to have breakfast. We sampled traditional island foods like pate, fried fish balls; banana ketchup; banana bread and many other things I can't remember the names of. They also had water, rum punch, beer and Coke available to drink.... I was full after that. We get back into the vehicles, and headed to a viewing area above the town of Anse La Raye, to see a fishing village below and the ocean in the background. We visited the Toraille Waterfall (cost covered in the tour price) and the Sulphur Springs volcano, with the 'rotten egg' smell of sulphur. A guide educated us on the volcano and we took a few pics. Bompy then proceeded to take us to a beach, where we could stay if we wanted, or take a free water taxi over to the secluded white sands of Jalousie Beach. Wow! This was worth the ride over there, and the beach was very nice. We were told we'd have 45 minutes to be there, but we were there for more like an hour. You can swim, snorkel, buy food or drinks at the beach if you wanted. This beach is situated between both Piton mountains; so picturesque (Bompy also stopped on the side of the road where tourists take pics of Pitons in the background). After returning to the 'okay' beach where Bompy waited, Cosol was there, along with his other drivers.... he was told my Bompy that I wanted to meet him. We shook hands, and he provided us with more drinks of beer, rum punch, soda and water.... oh, and his own island concoction that's sure to make you say, "Whew!", if you dare drink it. On our way back to the cruise port, Bompy made his last stop to get us piping hot, fresh baked bread that was buttered (shaped like a turkey drumstick to me) and cheese.... it was delicious. We took a quick drive over to Mourne Fortune for a view of the ship from a high location, and made it back to the pier safely for reboarding of the ship. This was by far the best island I have ever taken. I highly recommend his tour to anyone visiting St. Lucia. Contact Cosol via his website.
ANTIGUA- We get to Antigua, and proceeded to search for our tour company in the designated spot we were told; no one was there. I passed up a man standing near the exit gate who resembled a man from the company's website, so I walked back to see if that was him, and sure enough it was him, Sean. We were originally going to take a private tour, and pay more for it, but we agreed to tour with other passengers, to save money; We used 'Scenic Tours Antigua'. Our tour guide's name was 'Charles in Charge', and we waited for 30 minutes, for his open-air vehicle to fill up with 19 more people, and we were off. He drove through the town of St. Johns, heading inland, providing a little of the island's history. We eventually arrived at the English Channel and Nelson's Dockyard, for a short tour with a guide. The cost is $5 to enter, and you save that ticket, for entry into Shirley Heights, for later viewing from a scenic overlook above the harbor, and the island of Montserrat with its smoking volcanos, is very visible to the southwest from that vantage point. We stayed here for approximately 10 minutes, then Charles drove us to another lookout point nearby. At this point, he asked if anyone was going to a beach, and only the two of us were interested. Charles asked if we were okay with riding with another driver who was taking 4 other people to a beach, and it was fine with us. We paid him his fee, and jumped into the other van. The driver didn't specify which beach he was taking us to, but it was a good 20-25 minute ride. We were growing impatient, but when we arrived at the beach, it was a beautiful site.... Darkwood Beach. The beach has what we were looking for: nice sand; turquoise water; lounge chairs & umbrellas to rent, changing facilities and food & drinks if you wanted. We stayed for 2 hours, before taking the 30-minute ride back to St. Johns to meet the ships. Nice tour, nice price.
ST. KITTS- Our last port of call is the island of St. Kitts; I'd been looking forward to this one. Once we exited the pier, we met our tour guide, Thenford Grey of 'Grey's Island Excursions'. We introduced ourselves, and headed to his parked van, with the other passengers joining us. He took a westward route through the town of Basseterre, giving us a history lesson of the town, showing us churches and government buildings, and other significant landmarks. As we made our way through small towns, along a coastal, scenic road, we finally made it to Romney Manor, which is a place once owned by the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. Thenford gave us a lesson in botany, in regards to the many flowers, plants and trees that are endemic to the island; loved it. We took our own self tour of the property's tropical gardens and later watched as a woman demonstrated batik designing. Our next stop was the Brimstone Hill Fortress. We went inside of the visitors center to view a video of the historic fort, then walked up the very slanted walkway to reach the fort's main entrance. We toured the outside, taking pictures, then made our way inside to see the multiple rooms, cannons and other important areas of the fort at that time. Once this part of the tour was complete, the tour guide drove all the way to the southeastern edge of the island, where we stopped at Timothy Hill for panoramic views of the island of Nevis and other beaches to the west down below. We get to Cockleshell Beach, where we had 1 hour and 15 minutes to do what we wanted. We chose not to get in the water this time, so we walked around, took a few pics then opted to have lunch at 'Reggae Beach Bar & Grill'. The place was pretty packed and the food was good, but it was most annoying to eat and have to keep swatting flies away (they need to do something about that.... seriously). When our time there was up, a group of 8 people didn't show up at the van at the time specified by the tour guide. He had to go look for them, while the rest of us waited anxiously in the van, wanting to get going, so we wouldn't be late returning to our ships. Thankfully, they showed up only 5 minutes late, and we were off. The island has lots of sheep, goats (and dogs), you can see roaming freely around the areas. Nice island; great tour for the price.
DISEMBARKING- Since we were going to be staying overnight in San Juan, we were in one of the last groups to be able to leave the ship. We waited in the Caribbean Lounge until our Tag number was called. It took about 10 minutes to walk off the ship, after getting in line; they checked our passports and 'Sign & Sail' cards, and we were free to go; no other stops; that went smoothly.
OVERNIGHT STAY- We stayed the night at the 'Holiday Inn Express' in Condado, which was fine. The rooms don't have carpet; tile instead which is good. The room was large but the bathroom was small. We weren't familiar with places to eat around there, so we opted to go to "Chili's" around the corner, which wasn't so bad, but it seems like an old location, in need of renovation.
Now, I'll discuss what disappointed me on the cruise ship. Passengers pay good money for cruising, and should be able to at least enjoy their vacation to the fullest. Carnival should be ashamed. Their Lido Deck food is okay, but to ONLY offer lemonade, tea and water from the dispensers, was pathetic. You're only allowed to bring a certain amount of beverages onboard the ship, and thankfully, I brought enough Coke to last me the 7 days (even having one can left to bring home). There seems to be a lack of security on cruise ships. Most of the evenings on the ship, we had to deal with groups of people roaming the ship, being extra loud with their voices, to intentionally disturb other people. They not only talked loudly and even did this between the hours of 10PM to as late as 2AM, they sang, ran, stomped their feet and danced in the hallway. I peered through the peep hole once around 1AM, to see what was going on, and a young girl around 18-20 years old, walks by and yells "Room service!". I personally hadn't confronted anyone about this behavior, but those people were doing that intentionally to irritate other passengers; they didn't care, since it's obvious Carnival would do nothing.
Going by what we experienced on this cruise, and seeing with our own eyes, at least 70%of the passengers on the ship were probably residents of Puerto Rico. The few loud and discourteous ones were not a good reflection on the Puerto Rican people on the cruise, as was stated in other reviews prior to this one. I don't have anything against other nationalities, but I feel it would have been better if it was more diversified on the ship. A woman who was on a tour with us on St. Lucia, mentioned to us about a kid who looked to be 10 years old, sitting in the Caribbean Lounge at 10PM, watching a comedy show, and he began heckling the comedian who was on stage.... no Carnival employee did anything to escort this kid out, not even the cruise director Malcolm Burn, who was back stage and witnessed it. This will be the last time I take a cruise out of San Juan's port; others have seen the same exact behavior of groups of people on their southern Caribbean cruise out of that port.