I am loving me some St. John and St. Maarten!: Carnival Victory Cruise Review by 1iowafn
Overall Member Rating
I am loving me some St. John and St. Maarten!
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: San Juan
+ means a POSITIVE comment -means a NEGATIVE comment +/- means a NEUTRAL comment
Travel from Detroit to Atlanta to San Juan- +smooth no problems +XM Radio onboard +/-internet service is $5/ day (transferrable between flights) +free coffee provided in AirTran area of Atlanta terminal +/-$15 charge for each checked bag
San Juan- +++excellent dinner/ flamenco show at Barrachina Restaurant, snapper ($28) and pork chop stood out, one hour show included 3 female/ one male dancers, a singer and guitar player, pina coladas were created here +St. Cristobal Fort was a nice walk (self-guided) good views of Old San Juan/ sea, $3/ adult +stayed at Sheraton Old San Juan, nice, located directly across street from cruise ship terminal +/-Punto De Vista is a local nightclub located a block from hotel has a live salsa band on weekends, Senor Frog's is next door to Sheraton +all locals seemed genuinely helpful and friendly More +driving is predictably painful in a city with ancient streets but we never saw anyone get angry or honk their horns +/-Mass at San Juan Cathedral is 9/ 11 am on Sundays (11 am was in Spanish, suspect 9 am was in English), lasts about 90 minutes and is open-air +/-unable to find MaiTai ingredients for smuggling onto ship (we did bring on a 12 pack of beer) -Bacardi Distillery, and on/off trolley were closed due to Father's Day +/-very hilly in Old San Juan so anticipate strenuous walking
The Ship +early boarding at 12:30 was very easy +condition of ship is not nearly as rough as cruisecritics reported- not new, but not nasty either +++cruise director (Brad)was great- very effective communication for onboard events/ excursions etc ---alot of people were looking for a place to dance, but club scheduler doesn't seem to know that. (obvious answer is below) A latin band pretty much owned the Adriatic Lounge, but the only times it was ever busy was for salsa lessons and a comedian, ie not for the band. +++Caribbean Ecstasy (reggae) draws a crowd everywhere the play- even in the middle of a passageway. They never played in a lounge. +++food was very good overall/ much improved over last cruise +++very friendly dinner staff -cabin steward never did introduce himself --major mold event in shower was taken care of somewhat after calling housekeeping... +/->50% of deck chairs do not lay flat, although there was always plenty of available seats -did not watch a movie on deck- it rained every night, selection was lousy anyway ---on deck television is a mess (usually just had a live camera of the Lido deck running) Need to run music videos, or replays of lounge shows, or informational videos regarding excursions, or World Cup soccer games, or almost anything other than what they did. The Freedom used to run a video of underwater sealife that was way more entertaining than what they ran this week. +++Life Fitness equipment in spa +++salsa/ meringue dance lessons given by Marcelo (asst Cruise Director) ---do we really need 20 photographers on Promenade Deck??? I say NO! +/-regarding shows in the lounge: Best costumes we've seen, but dumb props (blowup guitars and Beatles heads?) Very high energy performances, except for very long gaps between stage set-ups Female dancers the best we've seen, males not so much. Both singers have the strongest voices we've seen, but stop using Village People songs!!! Rand Woodbury (magician) and Percy Cruz (comedian) were good. +++"Carnival Legends" (passengers talent show) was the best show I've seen in three cruises, several fine performances, but the guy who sang Frank Sinatra ROCKED!
St. Thomas- Went to St. John for the day. There is some shopping on the pier, but did not spend enough time to get much of a feel for it.
St. John- Beautiful island- seriously hope to return and rent a condo for a week or two. (not an official port of call for this cruise) Trunk Bay has the best snorkeling we have ever experienced, and the beach is amazing in general. Tangs, urchins, angelfish, ray, barracuda, octopus etc. Nice laid back Caribbean feel, plenty of seaside bars in Cruz Bay.
Dominica- why would a cruiseline stop here?! Ick. Lots of hustlers and probable pickpockets walking the street. They do not take "no" for an answer- they follow you.
Barbados- most commercial port we saw- very clean and busy. From what we saw, it is very populated. Appeared to be very little in terms of excursions to arrange on the pier, ie everything available is affiliated with Carnival. Sandals built a resort assuming they could force the government to grant them private beach rights, but after 20 years finally gave up without ever opening.
St. Lucia- very scenic island (rivals St. John's for beauty), very diverse geography ie alot of volcanic/ sand/ stone formations along shore, huge oil depot here (Venezuelan), Piton Beer was our favorite local brew of the trip, Cosol Island Tour was full/ gone by the time we got off the boat (9 am).
St. Kitts- Seemed pretty small, ferry available to nearby Nevis. Some passengers reported suspicious people following them on the street once you got outside the main port shopping area. The guys on the pier were the most aggressive yet in terms of competing for your attention. No white sand beaches here.
St. Maarten- if taking ferry over to Anguilla you must have your passport (we did not), taxi rides from Phillipsburg to Marigot ($7), Marigot to Orient Beach ($7) and Orient to Phillipsburg ($7), definitely the best official port on this cruise, shopping on pier is lame, but excellent downtown (lots of bars, cool shops, live music on beach), everything is price-negotiable here, there is a white sand beach in downtown if you don't mind swimming in the harbor, recommend water taxi from pier to downtown ($6 round-trip), although you could walk a mile each way if you want.
St. Thomas- +++self-guided tour of St. John. Taxi to Red Hook ($10), ferry to Cruz Bay ($6), taxi to Trunk Bay ($6) for snorkeling ($4), which was excellent! Return trip was a reverse of above, and total cost per person was $48. Left ship at 7:30 AM, and we were on the beach by 9 am. The snorkeling excursion to Trunk thru the ship costs ~$80 each, and they did not arrive until 11 am and left at ~1 pm. Going on your own will allow you time in Cruz Bay, which is where the shops/ bars are. Very easy to do on your own!
Dominica---- self-guided 45 minute walk on pier included one beer. Could not get back on the boat fast enough.
Barbados- ++ +Tiami Turtle Snorkeling Tour, 4 hours ($70), absolutely awesome crew- very fun. This is more of a party than a snorkeling excursion. Swam with/ touched turtles. (turtles only- no reef) Heavy rain= "green water", ie cloudy/ minimized visibility is possible. Then on to a beach for swimming/ diving off the boat. Complimentary beverages as soon as snorkeling complete- LOTS of rum. (Romeo mad sure your cup didn't go empty, even if you were in the water!) If you like to collect things, this is a good place to look for "ocean glass". (excursion is exclusive to Carnival, ie no walk-ups) T.I.A.M.I= This is a Moving Investment
St. Lucia- ++Maximum Chill/ JJ's Cruiser Sea Tour (arranged on pier, not affiliated with Carnival, $45) 4.5 hours, water taxi to Marigot Bay for a sea tour, and on to Soufriere Bay for snorkeling (barracuda, tangs, grouper, butterflies) on black sand beach (some parts are pretty rocky) at Asne Chastanet ("Bachelor" episode visited here), exceptional beach restaurant, complimentary beverages on the way home (rum in punch was 180 proof!), ask for Darwin/ Randy
St. Kitts- +/-shopped for awhile, then watched Portugal- Brazil World Cup game in an outdoor bar
St. Maarten- +++self-guided trip to Orient Beach (French side, ie clothing optional) was excellent! White sand and clear blue water, prototypical Caribbean beach, paid $15 for two chairs/ umbrella, but should have shopped around more- same price farther down the beach included free drinks, did not find any snorkeling potential
Random thoughts: There was a large number of Latino guests on the cruise, and we observed zero issues with that. (contrary to some comments from cruisecritic.com) Unless you have a problem with great looking women who dress very nice every night.... St. John, Barbados and St. Maarten stood out above all other islands on this trip. Taxi's in the Caribbean are pickups with benches installed in the beds. Weather was overcast/ rainy 90% of trip. Caribbean women are tall, ie 6' and up. (especially St. Lucia) If returning to U.S. via San Juan, you MUST go through USDA inspection PRIOR to checking baggage at ticket counter
Summary: I am a 48 year old male, travelling with wife and in-laws. (frequent cruisers) 7 ports in 7 days was a little too intense for us, but Dominica and St. Kitts did not interest us and provided good rest days. While we were very satisfied with Carnival and the cruise in general, we are making plans to stay on St. John exclusively next year. Other than St. Maarten, we really don't have the urge to see any of the other islands again, so this makes the most sense to us. Less