We are a family of four (Mom, Dad, 14yr old son and 18yr old daughter). My husband and I travel extensively for our jobs, and we have taken many family vacations throughout the world but for some reason, only decided to cruise now. The itinerary for the Carnival Victory appealed to all of us, and not having cruised before, didn't want to have days at sea, just in case we didn't like cruising.
Marriott Renaissance hotels are my favorite brand of hotels so I was excited to find one in SJ and booked a night before and after the cruise at the La Concha Renaissance. We arrived on July 3rd and I'm glad our experience at this hotel did not sour the rest of our trip. Our room was not available until 2 hours after their posted check-in time. The staff will not give us a time of when our room will be ready. I called the Marriott Customer Care number from my cellphone and even they got the run around. We had breakfast buffet at their Level 25 restaurant the next morning. We had to ask the wait staff for coffee, juice, water and refills. I was thinking that it must be the culture in PR, but after eating at Old Harbour Brewery, Senor Frogs, Myan Chung and Aquaviva in SJ, this was not normal. Don't get me wrong, the room and views are amazing - just not the service I've been used to in other US hotels. The room availability issue was the same on the return trip. 2 hours wait for the room.
All in all, the cruise on the Carnival Victory was amazing.
The Embarkation was a little crazy - I've read both good and bad reviews on this before the trip, so we were forewarned. The line before the security check was unorganized, with VIPs cutting in line. Some security personnel allowed it, some didn't. Oh well. We got on the ship early with our luggage then went back out to walk around Old San Juan. Getting back on the ship, you still have to go through the same security line. I wished that once you had your room card and got off the ship, there's a separate security check in like the ports when you get back on. My timing was a little off in booking this cruise because of the 4th of July. A lot of stores were closed and roads were closed due to the parade. The trolley did not operate this day.
The hubby and I had a balcony on the Empress deck and the kids had an inside stateroom right across the hall. The staterooms are roomier than I imagined, with plenty of closet and drawer space. We ate lunch at the Lido deck and the buffet food was good as buffet foods would go and lots of variety. We were immediately offered the drink special and the hubby and I each had one. The only bad thing is, the 30 minutes we sat on our table, we must have had 20 offers of refills on our drink - it was getting annoying.
There was open seating for dinner and we immediately decided we will eat in the dining room when we can - the food and service was fabulous. One morning, we were late for breakfast and ate at the Lido - it wasn't that great - so when we woke the kids up in the morning to go to breakfast, and they're dragging, we just gave them the option to eat on the Lido and that's all it took to get them up. :p
I love the Cruise Critic board. I learned so much before the cruise: - Going the the secret place on the forward area on Deck 9 leaving port was amazing - My son asked for seconds most nights; he's going through a growth spurt; our waitstaff was WONDERFUL - Rudi and Purba! Before my son can ask for seconds, they will typically clear his plate and bring the seconds even before he asks and they're rewarded by my son's GRIN. :D - My daughter is a picky eater. She ordered mac and cheese one night, chicken nuggets and fries another; On Elegant night, we were able to pre-order Fettuccine Alfredo for her - My son left his room card in the game room machine so got him a free lanyard from the casino
The entertainment we saw were fabulous. Comedian Percy Cruz and Magician Rand Woodbury were hits with the whole family. Cruise Director "Karl with a K" did a great job. We did bingo some nights, casino other nights. We were quite disappointed though with the participation on the activities. We were going to participate in the Digital Scavenger Hunt and were the only ones to show up! My husband and I showed up for a Trivia game and there were like 5 of us. It's a ship with thousands of people so I don't understand...
Our rooms were straightened both morning and night, thanks to our room Steward Kerry.
I wore my Sea Bands most of the time. We were on the Aft and not sure if it's rockier on that side. Maybe next time we'll try to get a Mid stateroom.
Disembarkation was a cinch. We had our luggages out the door before 11PM, they were gone the next morning. We had breakfast in the dining room, got the rest of our stuff from our room, waited in the Coral Seas in the Promenade for our number to be called, when it was called, went down to level 0, got a porter to help with the luggage, lined up for Custom check and we were outta there.
Got a taxi to La Concha and went through waiting-for-room-hell again. We headed back to Old San Juan after getting into the room to change and freshen up. We had a terrific time at Senor Frogs watching the World Cup game.
Oh, two things about San Juan: 1. Make sure you discuss with taxi driver the cost - one taxi demanded $20 when the posted rate was $12 2. When leaving San Juan, at the airport, you have to go through USDA inspection first before checking in with your airline.