Pre-cruise: We arrived in San Juan on a Continental flight from Newark at 12 midnight. We took a taxi to out hotel Quality Inn El Portal ($132.49 incl taxes per night). Taxi cost $14 plus $1 per bag. Check-in was easy and staff were very helpful. Free coffee in the lobby and in the room. Breakfast on the rooftop was complimentary and was very good for a continental breakfast - loads of everything and a great view and welcome breeze. A taxi to town was $17. We decided to take the bus for 75c. We were waiting for 15 minutes when two came along and took us to the Bus terminal opposite the cruise dock. Problem was that we had our cases. Kokonuts restaurant opposite pier 2 will stow your bags for $3 per day, well worth the money and frees you up to see the city. It also saves you time - can you imagine the cost of getting a taxi back to the hotel to collect the luggage and then back into town again - that's $51. We did it all for $7.50.
Embarkation: Was a absolute breeze. We arrived at the port at 2PM and we had our 'Sail and Sign' cards an on the ship by 2.30PM. The Victory also allows passengers to embark in Barbados, these tend to be British passenger whereas North American passengers embark in San Juan. It is interesting to note that the Barbados to Barbados cruise is twice the price as the SJU to SJU cruise. I think Carnival have figured that Brits are willing to pay more than Americans for the same product and thus charge accordingly!!!!!!!
The Ship: Carnival Victory is a huge ship with 14 decks. At maximum capacity it carried 3427 passengers and 1400 crew. That said at no time did the ship feel overcrowded. The ship had numerous lounges, an Irish Bar, casino, stores, photography outlets but no speciality restaurants. The ship had a poolside cinema, golf, water slide, 2 pools and 5 hot tubs. The Caribbean lounge was the theatre that spanned upwards over three tiers - this was probably the worst ship theatre I was in as the lower tier was on one level so you had trouble viewing between people's heads. On the upper decks there were numerous rails and supporting poles that obstructed your views. The gym was excellent with a huge range of equipment, however it was at the front of the ship - the windows were so low that you could not see out as you exercised. The sauna and steam room were free to use but we did not use the spa facilities.
The cabin: We had an inside state room on deck 8. It was made up a a double bed but we asked the steward to separate them into and L-shape and it gave us far more room. The cabin was quite big with a reasonable bathroom where the shower did not soak everywhere. Towels were beautifully white, pressed and in plentiful supply. The cabin steward worked effortlessly tidying and making up the room every time we left it - leaving the customary towel animals every night while we were at the show.
Dining: The breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent. A sandwich bar, burger/hot dog joint, Chinese takeaway were open until 1.00 am each day - therefore food was always available especially when one returned from shore at 4.30PM missing the lunch buffet but too early for dinner. Dining was at 6.00 and 8.15PM - we opted for the latter. There was also anytime dining from 5.45 - 9.30PM. We were assigned to the Pacific lounge. The food was excellent and our waiters Tunc and Amornrat looked after us really well. The food was excellent and my wife fell in love with the warm chocolate melting cake and ice cream - it was far too heavy and chocolatey for me. Steak was available every night and it was always cooked the way your requested it.
Entertainment: Including the venue the shows were very poor. There was no show on night one which was understandable considering we did not set sail until 10PM but the sail away party was excellent thanks to Marcello the assistant cruise director who had a crazy sense of humour. The deck party on night 4 was good fun. The dancers put on two shows. This first was very American - featuring songs about each American state - it was OK only. The second show 'Vroom' featured songs of the 50s, 60s and 70s, again it was only OK but the costumes were excellent. Both show seem to measure success in terms of number of costume changes. On the other nights we had a very wacky illusionist who embarrassed the audience rather than entertained - his performance was actually creepy. Another night we had a juggler and a comedian Percy Cruz. They were fun. The second night saw the Cruise Director mimicking singers like Elton John and Roy Orbison followed by an other comedian - he was funny even if bordering unpolitically correct. The final night we were 'entertained' by fellow passengers in a talent contest - the least said the better!!!
Ports of Call/Shore excursions
We did not do any of the ships tours as they were very expensive. We booked our own, however, we probably spent more each day but we packed more in on each day.
In San Juan we did our own things here. We walked along the waterfront, visited El Morro and San Cristobal Fords ($3 each), had coffee in Plaza das Armas, went to Church in the Cathedral, took loads of photos before embarking on the ship.
Disembarkation: Very easy but they do kick you off very early - no hanging around until 11AM. We took a taxi to the Airport - $20.