I have to start out, as others have; this is a port intensive itinerary! There really is so much to do in such little time. Our group really enjoyed this cruise for the most part. These are such beautiful islands, and it is a shame Carnival is dropping Dominica from the itinerary.
I am going to cover the cruise as well as the hotels we stayed in prior to and after the cruise, in San Juan. I will also touch on some of the things you may have read about in other reviews of this cruise also.
Some of the things on the ship and cruise - The hair dryer in the bathroom is an Elite Wall-mount hairdryer IPX3 made in Italy. I did not use it, my bride did, and had no problems with it, although others we know were not happy with it, bring your own if you like, there are plugs in the cabin you can use. Drinks - We ordered all of our booze through Carnivals Bon Voyage Department, it was waiting in our cabins when we got on board. We stopped at CVS in San Juan and purchased Cokes, Red Bull and water (Red Bull and water for me as I don't drink alcohol). Elegant Nights - There are two on this cruise. The first is held on Tuesday night, the evening of the visit to Dominica and the second is Thursday, the night of the visit to St. Lucia. You can dress down a bit and get by on this if you like.
Carnival, the fun ship?
Ok, my bride and I had never sailed on Carnival, we prefer another line. We booked this cruise 9 months before sailing, and friends of ours were just singing the praises of the Carnival fleet.
Really? Our PVP was an arse, would not return calls or emails after we paid off the cruise, about 6 months prior to sailing. Then Carnival switched the PVP and while he would respond, it was on average 2 weeks for an answer.
The staff of the ship was overall stellar, our steward Jeoffrey was great, Our head waiter Su and her assistant Nat were exceptional and our Maitre De, Dario was great. The room service staff was more than below par, the bartenders not so friendly. Guest services, good job.
I don't know about the rest of the ships in the fleet, but this one has little to offer for entertainment, perhaps with the heavy itinerary Carnival believes everyone will be drop dead tired after dinner, who knows? Really though, aside from our group and the friends we know from Cruise Critic who were on the cruise, not so much fun on the fun ship.
The ship, the food, the nightmare?
The ship is very well taken care of, however it is showing use, carpet in corridors shows where it has been patched, and replaced on the walls, paint peeling in elevators, the list could and should go on, however it is scheduled for a retrofit. While they are at it, I would hope they do an extensive overhaul on the elevators, the aft elevators were taxed with the dinner crowds, and one car was out of service the entire cruise.
The stairs all seemed to be in nice shape, and as the elevators were taxed, we got to use the stairs a lot, not so much fun after a day of island combing. More so not so much fun after dinner, although it was the first cruise I was on where I lost weight.
We had balcony cabins on the port side of the Verandah deck while others in our party had inside cabins, layout of the cabins was similar. Yes the bathroom (head) primary color is pink, however I thought it was relaxing, and really, are you taking a cruise to spend all of your time in the head? We had three balconies in a row, and had the privacy panels opened, making for a rather fun balcony area. Lots of people visited, sorry if we upset any of the neighbors.
The cabin is laid out well, easy to get around, plenty of storage (remember there is room for bags under the bed). That leads me to the bed; get some new ones when the ship is being refit. Please. The beds while they were semi comfortable, were broken in, nice dents from many bodies. The pillows were great, as were the linens.
I read a lot of reviews about this ship prior to sailing, had a bit of fear regarding the food, I mean come on, can it really be that bad? Well rest your mind on this one; the buffet is that bad, maybe more.
For some reason there were lines at the buffet, puzzling as the food was perhaps the worst food I have ever tried. If you are familiar with Golden Corral, you know bad food, yet they score higher marks that the Victory. Please don't think I am a food snob. I really enjoy food and understand the process of feeding a ship full of people. I tried the buffet on Sunday night, the food was not good. I figured as it was turn over day, hey give them a break they had a lot to do today. Tried it again for some breakfast 3 days later, same experience, ok I will give them one more shot and try a dinner there, no good. Really the food at the buffet was nasty.
They have a quick breakfast line, which is very handy as the morning room service was pathetic. Spoke with Dario about this, he tried to rectify it, but after two days it was crap service again.
Now there is a saving grace to this, eat at the main dining room, well for dinner at least, breakfast was really hit or miss. The Eggs Benedict were different, never had them with hard poached eggs before, hopefully never will again. But that is another story.
Really if not for our friends from Cruise Critic and the main dining room staff, I would have nothing good to say about this onboard experience. We ate in the Atlantic, were supposed to have anytime dining, however as with a lot of other things in our cruise with Carnival, that was also buggered up.
The aft pool adult only is a cool idea. Really neat during heavy seas.
I probably could write a book on the bad, but that would not be fair, because overall we had a great time, and have already planned our next cruise with our friends. However it is not on Carnival.
The ports of call.
San Juan is interesting. A lot to do, maybe we will go back someday. We stayed in the Tres Palmas Inn the night before the cruise, I would recommend that no one does this.
St. Thomas is the one port on this cruise that we had been to before. We still enjoyed it. As we had port side cabins we had a great view of the port when we arrived. Shopping downtown was our agenda for the day, there were lots of signs of recent storms about, but it was still nice downtown.
Our next port was Dominica. We had planned on this to be our 'sea day' and only went into the town for a couple of hours, before heading back to our balconies pier side for laughing and joking all day. We did eat at the 'Garage' in town, great food. Staying on the ship most of the day, allowed us lots of time for learning about the ship and enjoying time with our friends, then we got dressed up for the formal dinner.
Barbados. What a great port! We spent the day sailing and swimming with Gina on Calabazas tours, by far one of the most awesome days of our lives.
St. Lucia, we spent another day on a charter, this time we went whale watching with Hackshaws, found pods of Pilot whales, dolphins and a great tour of the outside of the island as well as a stop for lunch. Great day.
St. Kitts, well as the trip had been so filled with so much to do by this time, I took a day off. I walked about the port side shops, went walking alone for a few blocks in town, found a food store and bought some soda to take back on the ship. My bride and friends did and island tour with a local which they enjoyed. I spent most of the day on the ship, reading in the cigar bar, enjoying a couple of local St. Kitts cigars I picked up.
St. Marteen, a nice spot, we walked about a bit, did some shopping when we were not dodging tropical storm type rain and wind. The port was a bit torn up from the hurricane of a week before. We were ok with getting back to the ship midday and staying onboard.
Our last night was spent packing and getting ready to disembark in San Juan. They pulled into port at 6 am and begin the disembarkation process at 8:30 am. We were off the ship by 10:30 am. We walked across the street to the Sheraton Old San Juan and waited for our room to be open. Spent the rest of the day resting up for the flight home the next day. Now originally we had reservations for Tres Palmas again, however after one night in that dump we booked the Sheraton prior to sailing, the Sheraton was so much nicer, a very nice suite, for 10 dollars more than the dump. Room service was great, close to shopping and food and felt a lot safer also.
Got up Monday morning and got a cab to the airport, followed the advice of other reviews and went straight to the USDA check, then checked our bags and waited a short while for our flight to DFW.
Overall, it was a cruise, and we love to cruise. Would I go out of my way to sail on the Carnival Victory again, most likely no. The ship is poorly designed for public use, in my opinion. I prefer a ship I can walk around the promenade deck on, no such luck on this. A lot of up and down to get forward and aft, some of the deck plans made no sense and a lot of the decoration was just gaudy.
I started this review right after the voyage thinking I was being overly critical, tempering it here and there and did not finish this review until after the fire and issues on the Splendor. Now really with that in mind, I don't have a lot to complain about, it could have been far worse.
But as with all cruises, you really will have to weigh the good and the bad, then go with your own heart as to whether or not you want to sail this ship. You may like it, you may love it, you may be disappointed, however you will have spent a week in paradise and that is really worth all the rest.