The reviews on this site were helpful in many ways. They pointed out certain issues in advance which enabled us to plan around them. We had a great time without any of the rude people that other reviews mentioned - but we had planned ahead to avoid long lines.
San Juan Airport arrival - we used a porter to carry our bags. It came with a big plus - we avoided the large line for cabs to the boat. The porter was $5 and the cab was $23 for the three of us. I wouldn't spend money on the less convenient transfers available through the cruise line.
The Ship: this is our second sailing on the Victory. It's a beautiful boat. We took advantage of a last minute opportunity to upgrade to a suite. It was a little bigger than the usual balcony rooms and came with VIP boarding - a big plus. We used a second porter when we got to the pier...a very worthwhile $10. The VIP boarding process is very quick - less than 15 minutes from arrival to getting on the boat. Cabin tips: More
Balcony lights only work in port for safety reasons. The A/C control is in the ceiling vent.
Some advanced planning / tips: I'd avoid the buffet by having breakfast in the 3rd floor dining room. If you are getting up early for an excursion, you can order room service for no additional charge. You'll probably have to call them to remind them in the morning to bring the food when you want it. Some people (including us) just gave up without calling. When you call, the food shows up quickly. The service at the restaurant was good and the food was pretty good. Some people experienced long lines at the buffet. I'm not sure why they did that. The restaurant had plenty of open tables. For lunch, we did use the East River deli and Pizza place on deck 9. Make sure to ask for the most fresh pizza. The fresh pizza is very good but some of it had been under a heat lamp for too long. You can also get freshly made cal zones. I learned quickly to ask for the freshest pizza.
St. Thomas: we got off the boat and tracked down a cab at the end of the pier to go to Meghan's Beach. The cab driver and locals were polite. It was beautiful and had beach chairs, etc for rental.
Dominica: we decided to stay on the boat to make this our "day at sea". We had heard of the hagglers off the boat and we didn't want to do an excursion every day. We were rewarded with no lines at the buffet for lunch. The pool was also wide open.
Barbados: The 5 hour Catamaran snorkel with the sea turtles was a great way to experience Barbados. I highly recommend it.
St. Lucia: We did the bike / hike tour to the falls. It was a great time. We are in reasonably good shape and did the trip without building up much of a sweat. Some people were a little winded but the view of the falls was worth it. The downtown area where the ship docked looked very rundown. We had a 30 minute bus ride to where the bike ride began. The first five minutes were in the downtown area. I was glad to be on the bus for that part. After we exited town, the views and scenery were beautiful.
St. Kitts: we just walked off the boat and enjoyed some of the shops around town. Independence Square is an easy walk from the ship. The locals were polite. One woman offered to braid our 3 yr old's hair for $2. When our toddler gave up after just three braids, the woman asked for $6 ($2 per braid). We just laughed and walked away after paying her the $2 that she had quoted. I think she just asked in case we fell for it - she didn't protest when we walked away. She just wished us a nice day. Like many islands, some of the buildings were run-down but we felt safe walking around town.
St. Marten: We took the $6 pp round trip water taxi to town. The shops were great but you could easily just hang on the beach in front of the shops. I'd go back to spend a week in St. Marten.
San Juan airport departure: we had VIP service so departure was a bit easier. It's never pleasant. The cab ride back to the airport was $25 for the three of us. The airport was very crowded. Remember to screen your bags through USDA before trying to check bags with your airline (that was a very helpful tip from another review on this site). About 1/2 the people didn't know to do that so they waited in three lines (one to check into the airline only to be turned away at the counter; 2 at the USDA and then 3. back to check the bags again at the airline). If I were doing it again, I might take an excursion for the morning of San Juan. Those people get off the boat quickly and have some place to store their bags rather than waiting at the airport until 1:50pm. We spent a total of 4.5 hours waiting for our flight because we were off the boat quickly.
We had a great time on this cruise - especially with the help from other reviewers on this site. Less
Carnival Victory Cruises to the Southern Caribbean