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Amazing islands, fantastic ship
First of all, we are a family of 4 (including son 21 & daughter 17) who were all on their second Carnival cruise. We had previously sailed the western itinerary to Mo Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel out of New Orleans. We decided to fly in on Saturday (Air Tran) and stay a night in San Juan pre-cruise. Great idea. San Juan is a lot of fun and has lots to see. We stayed at the Le Consulate Hotel in the Condado District which is halfway between the airport and the Harbor/Old San Juan area (15 min taxi ride either way). We loved this hotel because it is small (about 20 rooms), has a great pool area complete with waterfall, and was an easy walk to a few great eating establishments. They only had about 5 rooms taken that night so it felt as if we had the whole hotel to ourselves. We visited Old San Juan Saturday evening and loved it. This is the time to see Old San Juan because much of it is closed on Sunday when the ship is in port. But it is VERY lively on Saturday More
We checked out Sunday morning around 11am and taxied back to the airport to recieve our luggage which had arrived a day later than us. Apparently, our luggage wanted to stick around in Atlanta for an extra night. We were reunited with ALL our belongings and after hugs and high fives, proceeded to the Cruise port. Note to all future cruiserscarry a change of clothes and a toothbrush in your carry on...you can thank me later.
Embarkation was a breeze. If you use the Funpass, you will walk right up to the counter and avoid all the lines. And, of course, we visited the liquor store located in the terminal and purchased enough rum and bourbon to last the week. Zip it in your carry on and proceed.
The Victory is a beautiful ship. The staff, especially our cabin steward Jayson, was always courteous and helpful. We found that the island a day itinerary did change our cruising habits a bit. We saw no shows the entire week in the showlounge, but we did enjoy the movies a couple of times on the big screen on the Lido deck. This is a great addition. Nothing like a "drive-in movie" type experience on a cruiseship with the ocean breeze, a frozen drink, and a box of popcorn. This was also our first balcony rooms. I cannot emphasize enough how much better having balconies makes your cruise. Coffee in the morning on your balcony as you enter each port is almost as good as a drink there in the evenings as you watch sailaway everyday. This cruise is MADE for balcony rooms. I will never cruise without them again! We had dinner in the dining room (Pacific) 4 nights, hit the buffet twice, and room-serviced dinner one night. Food was always very good and the service was excellent.
All in all, this was a fantastic cruise. The ports are all amazing and the ship was the perfect host. For my family, this cruise is now the standard by which all future cruises will be compared. Great job Carnival! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
After 4 straight excursions, the family wanted a beach day. Antigua is the perfect beach day island. We decided on Darkwood beach after lots of research. This was another home run. Darkwood is a "postcard" beach. White sand gradually enters blue water with almost no motion or waves. Water clarity is off the charts. Cliffs at either end, palms swaying behind us, the island of Montserrat visible in the distance, a bar/restaurant, restrooms, and waverunners to rent for my teens. Throw in the fact that on this mile long stretch there were probably only about 20 people (all from the Victory) here with us. This was my "Corona Commercial" day. Umbrella, lounge chair, and a bucket of beer. It just doesn't get any better than Darkwood for a relaxing beach day. Oh...St Johns, Antigua is a really nice shopping port, too. Leave yourself some time to visit the downtown area by the ship. Great island!
We woke to the sounds of forklifts and industrial equipment. From our balcony we watched as these machines loaded and unloaded freight from everywhere. What a change from the beautiful piers at St Thomas and Dominica. This is a VERY industrial port. We had booked the 5 Star Cat with Turtles through Carnival excursion and knew that the view would change soon. It did. As we left the port area, the beauty of Barbados opened up before us. Beach after beautiful beach. Seaside mansions owned by the worlds rich and famous like Simon Cowell and Tiger Woods. We arrived at the area where the turtles gather, donned our snorkeling gear, grabbed our underwater cameras, and hopped in. Turtles were everywhere! Dozens of them swimming in every direction. We filmed them, fed them, and swam along with them until we had exhausted ourselves. This is not to be missed. Throw in a great lunch and beach stop, and this tour is well worth the money. Took a nice SLOW sail back to the port with open bar provided and then took advantage of the nice shopping area beside the pier before reboarding. Great day!
We had nothing planned for day 2 and after the long day snorkeling at St John, we thought we would walk into Roseau, do a little shopping, and maybe catch a bite to eat. As we walked off the pier we were literally chased by tour guides. We noticed, however, that the further away we walked from the ship...the cheaper the tours were getting. When one offered to take us pretty much everywhere for $10 per person, we finally agreed. He took us to the Botanical Gardens (very small and more like a park), The lookout at Morne Bruce (awesome view and great for pics), Sulphur Springs (interesting...but not worth the trip by itself), and on to Trafalgar Falls. The Falls are awesome. I even let my kids talk me into leaving the viewing platform and crawling over all the boulders to get to the base of the falls. This is the part of Dominica I will remember. Just beautiful. I have to add that once we arrived back on board the Victory, several of our friends told us that they had taken the river tubing excursion and had a blast. They just went on and on about it. So maybe next time, thats what we'll do! Either way, get out of Roseau as quickly as possible. Nothing to see there at all and the rainforest here is just to gorgeous to miss.
We had read quite a bit about Cockleshell Bay and decided to taxi out that way for our last day. Caught a taxi in Basseterre (which had maybe the best off-the-ship shopping of all the islands) and proceeded to Cockleshell Bay. The ride to the Bay is worth the trip by itself. Several scenic overlooks that you won't want to miss including the famous "Atlantic on the left, Caribbean on the right" shot. 20 minutes later we arrive. This is a great "last day" place. The beach itself is nice, but what makes Cockleshell famous is the circus-type atmosphere. Monkeys, goats, and Wilbur...the 300lb pig. There are more people here-popular now with the cruise crowd. We saw many of the friends we had made on the ship wandering around the Raggae Beach Bar and the various animal areas. After a few hours that also included lunch, drinks, and even pictures made with a baby monkey, we gathered our gear and headed back to the Victory for the last time. St Kitts will surprise you. It's very beautiful and a lot of fun.
We booked a 7 hr tour w/Spencer Ambrose to Jalousie Beach and the Pitons for our day in St Lucia. This turned out to be a fabulous day! We had booked this tour with our Cruise Critic friends (shoutout to Lori, John, Pam, Paul, Eva, and the gang) and the 12 of us had Spencer himself as our guide. St Lucia is geographically spectacular. Dramatic peaks and valleys around every turn. Nice mix of scenic overviews and food stops along the way. But the star of the show is Jalousie Beach and the Pitons. This beach is world-class. One mile of white sand beach bookended by Gros Piton and Petite Piton. 3000 ft peaks rising straight out of turquoise water is something to see. And the snorkeling here...fantastic. Because the dropoff in water depth is so dramatic, you have deepwater/shallowwater transition areas. Huge coral walls, schools of squid, lobsters, barracudas, and my first Moray eel to mention just a few. And all of this within easy swimming distance of shore. You have got to go to Jalousie Beach! And...I highly recommend Spencer. He let us design this trip to do what we wanted to do and provided interesting island history and many laughs. His coolers are full and you won't want this trip to end. Probably my second favorite vacation day ever!
My wife and I had visited St Thomas on our honeymoon many years ago. We had also visited St Croix previously. So we decided on a day cruise by catamaran to St John for our day here. This was an incredibly good decision. We chose Dream Catamarans that we booked through St Thomas Cruise Excursions. We taxied over to the Wyndham Hotel where the cat was anchored and found much to our surprise, that we were the only 4 booked for that day. We had the boat and its crew to ourselves. I cannot thank them enough for not cancelling us! They took us to 3 of the best and most beautiful snorkeling spots on St John and the barrier islands that surround it. We saw our first shark while snorkeling (a 4 ft Nurse Shark) and also a rather large octopus. There was in addition, hundreds of gorgeous, multi-colored fish and coral reefs of every description. The beauty of the waters surrounding St John cannot be accurately described. This was, without question, one of our favorite vacation days ever.