You Can't Beat This Itinerary!
I chose the Carnival Victory for two reasons: 1) the amazing itinerary of 7 islands in 7 days; and 2) the low price. When you consider how much we were able to see and do in one week, for under $500 per person, it feels petty for me to complain about the little things on this trip that were less than perfect. I have no doubt there are better cruise experiences out there if you're able to pay for them, but we're not, so we left our bad attitudes and crankiness at home and had a great time on the Victory.
Cabin: We always book inside cabins so as to save our money for other expenses. It was kept extremely clean by our steward, and the bed and pillows were very comfortable. It was your typical Carnival cabin with plenty of closet space, a cramped shower where the water often splashed out into the rest of the bathroom, and a small table and chair. No complaints.
Food: Let's be realistic. If you want a top-notch gourmet meal, stay home and go out to eat at a four star More
restaurant in your hometown. This is a low-priced cruise, and they have to cut some corners and rely on frozen food items in order to stay profitable. There were hits and misses throughout the cruise, but there is never a shortage of food choices. If you don't like your steak, send it back and ask your waiter to bring you the chicken, or move on to dessert and be glad to have saved a couple hundred calories.
Anytime dining: As a party of two, I enjoyed the anytime dining because we were always given a table for two instead of having to be seated with a group of strangers. If you prefer to socialize with a group, then you should probably choose one of the set dinner times.
Entertainment: I have one big complaint about the showroom...the volume during music shows was way too loud! It felt like my ears were bleeding. I appreciate that Carnival provides different shows during the week and it's not just singing and dancing every single night like on another cruise line that begins with a C. Some of the shows were better than others of course. The comedians were my favorite performances. Other than the main show each night, we didn't experience many of the onboard activities, as we were off the ship and in port every single day. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Victory Interior Upper 6219
Near the end of a hallway where there is very little foot traffic/noise passing outside your cabin door. Close to the forward elevators, showroom, atrium, and shops. No complaints about this cabin.
Port and Shore Excursions
Barbados has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Our taxi driver steered us to spend the day at Paynes Bay, a short drive from the cruise ship terminal on the very blue Caribbean side of the island. If you book a snorkeling excursion, Paynes Bay is where they will bring you by boat to feed and see the turtles. This means that as a Paynes Bay beachgoer, you have an excellent chance of seeing turtles just by swimming out and exploring on your own. I did! The locals at Paynes Bay can get tiresome, as it seemed like every five minutes somebody would wake me up from my nap to try and sell me something. They were polite about moving on when I said no thank you. Of course, when you do want something, like a beer or a plate of food, all you have to do is snap your fingers and somebody will be more than happy to fetch it for you. Some of the pros and cons of visiting a beach that is very popular with tourists...
Definitely book an excursion in Dominica, whether you do it through Carnival or through an independent vendor. It's the least developed of the cruise ports on this itinerary, and there isn't much of anything to see in the neighborhood where the cruise ship docks. Dominica isn't much for beaches either.
We did a river tubing excursion with a company called Antours. It was a lot of fun and the long drive to the river gave us an opportunity to get out and see the island.
It rained on our debarkation day in San Juan, but I have been there several times before. On a sunny day, I recommend that you pick up a Frommers or Fodors guide and take a self-guided walking tour of Old San Juan. Be sure to visit El Morro, the bigger of the two forts. It's worth the small fee for admission to take in the views (bring your camera!). If you get stuck in the rain, head to Bacardi for their free tour.
On St. Kitts, we booked a tour and visited three of the top sites on the island: Clay Villa, a historic plantation house with gardens and exhibits that you just have to see to believe, Carabelle Batik, where you can learn how batik fabric is printed and pick up some truly unique souvenirs, and Brimstone Hill Fortress, where it's worth the climb to the top of the hill for the views of the island. Our tour guide even threw in an extra for us--a quick visit to a site at the top of the island where we could take some great photos of the spot where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean.
Quick tip: You can either book this excursion through Carnival, or contact Clay Villa and book one of the three tours offered on their website. If you bypass Carnival and book directly with Clay Villa, you'll get a better, longer tour for a slightly lower price. It's a no brainer!
On St. Lucia, we booked with Cosol Tours, along with about 50 other people. It's a very popular tour, and for good reasons. We had a six-hour excursion, saw so many things that I can't possibly list them all here, but some of my favorites were tasting all of the local foods, including bakery-fresh bread, and the 1 hour of snorkeling at a protected marine sanctuary where we were surrounded by colorful fish. I should add that we were split into groups of about 12 people per tour guide, and that free drinks were provided throughout the excursion (this can be good or bad depending on the people in your group and how well they handle their alcohol). St. Lucia overall seemed like the cleanest island we visited, with the least amount of trash strewn by the roadside and that sort of thing.
While many people like to shop in St. Thomas, I prefer the beaches. Magens Bay is a must see. It isn't a good snorkeling spot, but perfect for swimming and a very beautiful setting. If you want to get away from the crowds to a more secluded beach, try Secret Harbor. It's a small beach with just one restaurant and one bar on site, but makes for a very peaceful day. There are no locals pestering you to buy things, and there is some good snorkeling over by the rocks.