Carnival Victory Cruise Review by John&John: Great Cruise and Great Itinerary
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Great Cruise and Great Itinerary
We are middle aged and have cruised 4 times prior to this cruise.
We flew into San Juan a day earlier and stayed at SJ Suites Hotel which was quite reasonably priced through Expedia. The very large room was fine and the bathroom very clean. We had one of the few exterior rooms and we had a large window that faced the street. The Saturday nightlife was very very loud but we were able to fall asleep. We are heavy sleepers but did wake up when there was a cacophony of car horns blowing. I believe we just happened to get lucky and get the noisy room.
The location of the hotel was great as we were able to walk a couple of blocks Sunday morning to the SuperMax and pick up some soda.
We walked down to the ship (about ¾ of a mile) to ask when check-in would begin as our documents had the earliest check-in beginning at 2:30 PM. They told us usually about 11:30 AM.
We walked to the ship with our luggage (scoped out a wide sidewalk smooth More route ahead of time) in tow and checked in (no line whatsoever) at about 11:30 AM. We visited the duty free liquor store and made a couple of purchases and put them in our carry-on bag so we didn't have to lug them around.
Around noon an announcement was made that boarding normally begins at 1 PM, but today they were going to board beginning at 12:30 PM. We boarded in Group 1 right after the VIP's.
While entering the ship there was manned table setup to "check" liquor purchases and those with the duty free bags were forced to check their liquor (much to their surprise!?!)
We went up to the Lido deck and had a nice lunch and then went to see (if by some great stroke of luck) if our cabin was ready. (Cabins are not supposed to be available until 2:30 and the doors to the cabin areas were all closed.) We went down to the Riviera Deck and the doors were open and our cabin was ready. We met our cabin steward and changed into our bathing suits, grabbed our towels and headed to the pool.
We weren't sure of how the Victory would be since the cruise came at a great price, but we were very pleasantly surprised. The ship is in tip top condition. The bathroom in our cabin looked like new and had been recently re-grouted.
Breakfast: We ate a few days in the dining room (open seating for breakfast) and always had Eggs Benedict - it was great - cooked just right and not too much hollandaise sauce. We also spilt a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Hey, we're on vacation!
Lunch: The dining room is only open for lunch on sea days and since this itinerary doesn't have any sea days it isn't open for lunch at all.
Dinner: The meals in the dining room were just great and the food was delivered hot to our table (which we did not experience on our last Carnival cruise).
I noticed that they've starting pairing some of the more expensive entrees with less expensive ones. The filet mignon was a petite filet paired with boneless beef short ribs confit. While I expected an equal portion of each, the filet mignon was not petite at all and the ribs were barely a forkful, which was fine with me! The lobster tail (and it was so small) is paired with tiger shrimp (which were really quite good). You can, however order additional entrees if you don't have enough food. It's actually a good thing that they've kept the entrees on the small side as most people find this amount of food to be just right. Those that like larger meals can order additional entrees. This method makes sense to minimize waste.
The first night at our assigned table we ordered 1 cheese plate (it's on the dessert menu) to enjoy with our wine. A small taste of brie, swiss, gouda, port salut, and blue cheese. After ordering it a second time, it was ready for us each subsequent evening.
Excellent meals: lobster and shrimp; filet mignon; chateaubriand; jerked pork loin; rack of lamb; and veal parmesan.
We shared the duck on the first elegant evening and it was chewy and tasteless - good thing we also both had the lobster/shrimp!
Excellent desserts: Crème BrûlEe; Bitter and Blanc; Tiramisu (best I've ever had anywhere).
The apple pie was not very good. It needed apples!
We also enjoyed Cappuccino every night with dessert.
Now for the Buffet:
Breakfast was OK. Very basic - not great variety (but you can go to the dining room). Made to order omelet stations were good, except the only ingredients available were ham, cheese, vegetable mixture (peppers, onions, mushrooms...) and I can't eat onions and would have like mushrooms in the omelet. (On our Valor cruise the ingredients were all separate.)
Lunch was good. Different hot items to choose from. The "Taste of Nations" lunch was a nice alternative to the regular buffet.
The buffet food was not always hot - mostly barely warm. Remember folks this is a buffet and as far as buffet food goes it was mostly very good. I found the fish and chicken dishes to be quite tasty. Sometimes you have to wait for a new tray or whatever.
Buffet alternatives are pizza (24 hours), East River Deli, and Yangtze Wok, Mississippi Grill (hamburgers and hotdogs and maybe veggie burgers) and there's always room service (which we didn't use).
Dinner Buffet - never went to it.
Sushi Bar was open every night from 5:30 PM- 8:30PM (except for the Captain's Cocktail Party) which seems strange since they no longer are serving Hors d'oeuvres at the Captain's Party.
Mississippi Grill - good hamburgers and hotdogs with all the toppings!
Yangtze Wok - didn't manage to try it out!
Pizza - we're hooked on the De Chevre pizza (goat cheese and wild mushrooms) and never had it for a meal. We split a slice for a snack two nights. Had the calzone one day for lunch and it was good. Didn't try any of the other pizza choices but all looked really good.
Late Night Bistro: Didn't go
Mexican late night buffet - didn't go (They have this one night)
The nightly shows were very good (don't expect show quality that goes with a $100 ticket). The magician happened to be the same magician as our last cruise in October. The juggler was a brother (?) of the juggler on our last cruise.
There's no show the first night (it's a welcome talk) and one show on Monday night @ 10 PM (the theater was packed with people standing) and one show Saturday night @ 10:30 PM. The other nights there was an early and late show.
Miniature golf was available.
We found the service to be great in all aspects - dining staff, stateroom services, bar staff, purser's desk, etc.
We have done a fair amount of snorkeling on Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii, St John's, Cancun, Cozumel, etc. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Victory Interior Riviera 1320
Port and Shore Excursions
Our first of two stops was where we hoped to snorkel with the turtles. It was an area somewhat crowded with other tours doing the same. They asked us to skip flippers here as we would be in close proximity to the turtles and each other. We thought it was going to be a bust but after about 10 minutes we encountered a Hawksbill turtle about 2 1/2 feet long. The mate was feeding small fish to it to keep it around. We also had the pleasure to encounter a sea turtle - it was big. It was wild to have this giant turtle swimming with us. Turtles have to come up for air every 20 minutes or so when active and that's what it looked like this giant turtle was going to do right where we were. He didn't come up for air, but continued to swim for a while.
Our second stop was a ship wreck. the wreck itself was nothing special, but there was reef nearby where the snorkeling was great. Lots of different kinds of coral and loads of fish.
After this the catamaran sailed near a quiet beach and they served us a nice lunch with carrot cake for dessert. Now that we were done snorkeling, we could have a few drinks! After lunch there was time for a hal;f hour swim in the ocean prior to heading back.
They made a Pina Colada for everyone!
Swimming was OK here and we opted to try some conch fritters for lunch.