I just got back from my first cruise and loved it!
The ship: Carnival Victory was beautiful and very well kept- extremely clean- but the decor was a little dated.
Service: Amazing! I can't say enough about how well we were taken care of! From the gangway staff who greeted us on the first day and answered all our questions to the bar staff who somehow managed to remember our favourite drinks to our room steward who made adorable animal towels every night and turned our beds down for us to the photographers (who were everywhere!)- everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful, and did their best to make sure we were well taken care of and having a wonderful time. I was incredibly impressed by the service on the ship.
Entertainment: Carnival definitely lived up to its reputation as the Fun Ship. Every night we got a brochure detailing the next day's concerts, games, events. And believe me, there would have been enough to keep us busy on the ship all day! We went to the two big deck parties- lots of music, conga lines, silly dances. We went to a few of the after dinner shows- VROOM and City Lights were pretty good. My favourite was the Legends show on the last night- fellow cruisers had auditioned in the karaoke bar to sing some of the greats- Madonna, Garth Brooks, Sinatra, etc. I was impressed by the talent on board! We also went to a few of the comedy shows, quizzes, etc. The funniest night on board was the Marriage show. Definitely definitely a must see. The cruise director, Karl with a K, was just what I expected- funny and a little cheesy. Even the restaurant waiters put on a show every night- gathering on the steps to sing to us.
Food: The breakfast buffet was pretty good- standard fare of eggs, bacon/ham/sausage, pancakes, cereal, fruit, etc. I only tried the lunch buffet once and wasn't a huge fan of the food. The dining room food was, for the most part, excellent. I had five fantastic meals and two lousy ones. The 24 hour ice cream bar was, of course, delicious! We did 'Your Time Dining' which was convenient. But if I had to do it again, I would probably do the assigned dining times. Be warned though, while all the food is included (except for one cake and ice cream stand) the alcohol is not included and not cheap- a drink will run anywhere from 6-10 dollars.
Day 1 Embarkation in San Juan We arrived a day early and stayed at the Hotel Milano- very conveniently located to the port- about a 15 minute walk. Clean, friendly. We boarded in San Juan around noon. It went very smoothly- we were checked in and on the ship within 30 minutes. Our luggage arrived within a few hours. Spent the afternoon by the pool on Lido deck. For dinner I had fruit cocktail, the mahi mahi (which was absolutely delicious that night!) and creme brulee. After dinner we went to the Sail Away Party on Deck.
Day 2 St Thomas We planned an excursion with Daydreamer and Coconut Cruises (www.daydreamervi.com). An all day Sail and Snorkel trip. It was fantastic! It was a pretty small catamaran- about 20 people on board. The crew- Granger, Joe and Teal- were incredibly attentive. We were given breakfast (muffins and fruit), lunch (deli sandwiches, 3 different salads) and snacks. And an open bar with everything you could ask for- juices, mimosas, rum punch, and the absolutely delicious 'Pain Killer'. We had three snorkel stops- Love and Go Beach, Honeymoon Beach and a third. I never felt rushed, there was lots of time to chill out on the catamaran or go swimming. We saw stingrays and sea turtles as well as lots of fish. The only thing lacking- the crew didn't have much to tell us about the history of the island etc. It was more of a fun in the sun kind of trip. We got back to the ship just in time to board. Had dinner in the dining room- spinach salad, lamb, and chocolate melting cake. Dinner was absolutely delicious and that chocolate melting cake was to die for! Had a quick drink in the lobby and went to bed early.
Day 3 Dominica I LOVED this island. It was probably the poorest island we went to on the cruise and the least developed. We booked an excursion with Levi's Bumpiing Tours- the Roseau Valley Best. It was the highlight of my trip! Levi was our tour guide for the day and he was wonderful! He told us about the island, pointed out interesting flowers, mountains and waterfalls. He was a lot of fun and seemed to be enjoying himself as much as we were. I can't say enough about how great he was and how wonderful he made the day. He also provided us with unlimited cold drinks and beer all day. We did three stops- a one hour hike to Middleham Falls. It poured rain for about half the time we were hiking but I had a great time walking through the rainforest in the rain. The only problem with the rain was it made the falls too heavy for us to be able to get into the water when we got there. Our next stop was Titou Gorge. The best stop on the tour. First we jumped into a pool of water, swam through a gorge to a waterfall. In one area the current was so strong that Levi had to use a buoy to pull us across a pool of water. Again, the water was so heavy from the rain we couldn't climb the waterfall. Still an amazing sight! Our third stop was at Trafalgar Falls. We walked past the falls to a series of hot springs. Spent almost an hour hanging out in the springs. Back on the ship it was elegant night. It was kind of nice seeing everyone all dressed up. For dinner I had baked mushrooms, lobster and shrimp, and cherries jubilee. The appetizer and dinner were delicious. Dessert was okay. We saw VROOM that night- great music, over the top costumes. Lots of fun.
Day 4 Barbados This was probably my least favourite port. We woke up late and had breakfast on the Lido Deck. When we got off the ship we took a taxi to the Mount Gay Rum Factory. I actually enjoyed the tour and the rum tasting there. Then we took a taxi into Bridgetown. Horrible idea. We got dropped off downtown- it was disgustingly hot, crowded, full of tacky tourist shops. After an hour of wandering around we went back to the ship and hung out on Lido deck by the pool until dinner. For dinner I had proscuitto, jerk pork (delicious!!!) and lime sherbert. There was another deck party that night and afterwards a Michael Jackson Thriller dance lesson- which was absolutely hilarious! After that we chilled on Lido deck and watched the Blind Side on the big pool side screen.
Day 5 St Lucia Woke up early and had breakfast on the Lido deck. This is the only day I took a Carnival Shore Excursion. Catamaran to the Pitons. It was okay. The catamaran felt a bit crowded and it was too big to really feel like you were close to the water. We only had one swim stop of about half an hour. And it wasn't actually in sight of the Pitons. They provided us with all we could drink rum punch and beer and sandwiches and bananas. We were back by early afternoon and again I spent the rest of the day on Lido deck by the pool. (If I could do this day again I would have taken a Cosol tour which everyone raved about.) I had an absolutely amazing dinner that night- escargots, a tomato salad, grilled basa, and the chocolate melting cake. We went to the City Lights show that night (it wasn't as good as VROOM) and then to the late night comedy show.
Day 6 St Kitts This was our beach day. We took a taxi to Cockleshell beach and spent the whole day there. The beach was okay. We swam, went banana boating and got some sun. There are two beach bars and I think that Reggae bar was better than the Spice Hut. Back on the ship we spent a few hours on the Lido deck. For dinner I had a portabello mushroom salad, the mahi mahi (this time it was really dry), and the melting cake again (can't go wrong with that!). We went to the Marriage Show and Magic show. Both were very good.
Day 7 St Maarten/St Martin Again, I LOVED this island. It was the most developed and prosperous of the islands we visited. It was also the most interesting since it is divided between the French and the Dutch, each half with its own language, laws, and culture. I took a Bernard's tour. Bernard was very informative. We had quite a few stops. We started in the Dutch capital, stopped at a nature reserve to see (and hold!) some sea urchins and other interesting animals. The we spent two hours at Orient Beach. This was an absolutely beautiful beach! White sand, blue blue blue water. Tons of water sports and beach bars. I could have spent days there! From Orient beach we went to the French capital Marigot. This was a really cute area. Tons of restaurants and market stalls. My only complaint was that we only spent half an hour there- hardly enough time at all. I would have liked at least an hour there. After Marigot we went to Sunset Beach which was quite an experience! The beach is right next to an airport so you see airplanes passing right over your head to take off and land. We spent almost an hour there. From there Bernard dropped us off downtown Philipsburg. We went to the Guavaberry Rum Factory (they make the world's best Guavaberry Pina Colada I've ever had!), did some shopping and walked back to the ship. That night for dinner I had crab cake (just one but it was delicious), absolutely terrible panko shrimp, and my favourite warm chocolate melting cake =) That night we went to the Legends show and then just hung out on the ship, taking pictures, having drinks.
Day 8 Debarkation in San Juan This was an early morning- we had packed and given our bags away the night before. We had to be out of our room by 9AM. Ate breakfast on Lido deck and then sat outside waiting for our debarkation number to be called. Everything went incredibly smoothly. Spent the rest of the day in San Juan.
All in all Carnival Victory was an incredible cruise! I would absolutely recommend it to anyone!