Disclaimers: Despite the complaints you'll see below, I really did have a good time on this cruise. I believe in making lemonade out of lemons and not letting Murphy get the upper hand. For those of you who like to see pictures, stop here. I don't have a camera. The following represents only my experience and my opinions. If I don't speak to something you have a question about, please ask.
Sunday - Travel Day
I flew AirTran non-stop round-trip from Baltimore to San Juan. I flew in the day of the cruise and arrived at the airport at 3:30. My bag was one of the first off the plane and I was in a taxi on the way to the port by 3:45. I arrived at the port at 4:00, dropped off my one big bag, tipped the porters and went through the process of getting on board. I was in my cabin by 4:30. So far, so good.
I hung around my cabin (1A-2445) for a while hoping the bag would show up sooner rather than later. Apparently this is where Murphy joined me on the cruise. After an hour I walked around the ship, booked my St. Thomas excursion and had a drink. I had to go up to the excursion desk because the TV remote didn't work for the ship's menu. Left a note to have it replaced. New one works fine. Then back to the cabin a look to see if my bag had arrived. Nope.
So I went to dinner, which is open seating the first night. Most of you know that on cruises from San Juan about half of the passengers are from Puerto Rico. No biggie. Except that I was put at a table for 10 with a family of 6 who didn't speak English. For all intents and purposes, I don't speak Spanish. Shortly thereafter, a single gentleman from New Jersey joined the table, along with a lovely bilingual couple from PR who graciously handled the translations for us. Awkwardness averted and a good time was had by all.
Rick from NJ and I discover we have the same dining assignment and he finds out it's a booth for 4. Not my style. So I ask the Maitre' D to move me to a bigger table. No problem says he. A note will appear in my cabin the next day with a new table assigned. It does and I'm moved.
Meanwhile, after dinner and the safety drill I head back to my cabin to unpack. Not gonna happen. No bag. It's now 10:00 and the ship is moving. I'm thinking I'm going to be spending my day in St. Thomas doing some serious shopping instead of the snuba I had planned. I try calling guest services - no answer. So I go up there and prepare myself to deal with the long line and there it sits - my bag, sans tags. Now, I printed out 2 tags, covered them with packing tape and stapled them to my bag on both of the 2 handles. When I gave the bag to the porters, the tags were there and intact. So somewhere along the way, the tags "fell off." Thanks Murphy! So I didn't get to unpack until almost 10:30 that night. Afterwards, I went up for a nightcap and then off to bed.
Monday - St. Thomas:
After breakfast I head out to meet the tour for my Snuba adventure at Coral World. For some reason we're a very small group. Lovely. Even better, they split us into 2 smaller groups when we're going to snuba. The experience was terrific. After instructions and a safety briefing, we were in the water for a good hour at depths between 10 and 20 feet. Good enough for me. Lots to see. Great fun. Afterwards we have about an hour before we're taken back to the ship so I finally get a good look at Coral World. World? Really? Maybe neighborhood. I had no idea it was so tiny.
Anyway, back to the ship for lunch and leisure time. I find the adult hot (warm?) tubs at the back of the ship and settle in to relax. Perhaps they need to put the adults only sign up in more languages than just English. If I want to spend time around children, then I'll go elsewhere. I'm in the adults only tub. Yes, that was me screaming at the splashing boys in the other tub to get out, which they did.
First night at my regular dining table. Looking forward to meeting my dinner mates for the week. Not happening. Apparently Murphy told them all to go eat elsewhere. So there I sat, all by my lonesome at a big round table for 8. Lots of attention from the wait staff, but not the experience I wanted.
Did the usual evening routine of a show of some sort and a night cap. Then off to bed.
Tuesday - Dominica - oops, no, it's a Sea Day.
OK, get out the lemonade press. Instead of river tubing in Dominica, I get to have a nice lunch in the dining room, there's afternoon tea and a wine tasting. Plus, I found the newly installed Adult Serenity area on 12. This must be what they did during the drydock. There was definitely no other ship improvements noticeable. Nice area, lots of padded chairs and loungers and one huge hammock. And the tubs are big and really hot. I spent most of the day here. Although why they put the Adult Serenity Area right outside the children's clubs is a mystery to me.
Is it possible that Murphy left the ship at St. Thomas. Nope. Murphy is still with me.
When I take my shower tonight I notice that there's a problem with the shower unit. It's sprung a leak and the water pressure is weak. In addition, the showerhead keeps turning towards the wall. Have you ever tried to shampoo your hair one-handed? Not easy to do. A call to guest services has this fixed right away and I have a brand new shower unit.
Formal night tonight. I get all dressed up and head to dinner, with a book just in case I'm alone again. But lo and behold, I arrive at a full table. However, it's another family from Puerto Rico. Truly lovely folks, but language is a struggle.
Wednesday - Barbados:
I have an excursion planned with Glory Tours. Without going into detail, the tour didn't match the description. However, I did have a good time although I was disappointed not to spend more time interacting with the turtles. But my time at Accra beach was terrific. I have corresponded with Sarah from Glory Tours and am satisfied with the resolution we reached. This was a new tour and needs to be tweaked. I noticed she's changed the description already and it now better reflects the experience.
Anyway, after the tour, I picked up my standard 6 Calypso rum cakes and headed back to the ship. Apparently this is where I left Murphy. Good riddance.
When I get back on board my S&S card is making a funny sound (I get a buzz instead of the ding) and I'm directed to guest services. The card is defective and they make me a new one. I notice that the card says I'm at table 540. The card I got in my cabin said table 538. I inquire about this at dinner. I'm supposed to be at table 540. Much better - there are two guys from Dallas, my friend Rick from NJ and a rotating overflow group from a party of 14. The rest of them are at a nearby table for 10. Happy dining ensues.
A quick stop at the casino costs me a few bucks. Not very friendly in there tonight. I'm off to do something else.
Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving in St. Lucia:
Herod's Land & Sea Safari Tour is everything you've heard and then some. Despite the hurricane damage that prevented us from visiting the waterfalls, we had a terrific time. We drove from Castries to Soufriere, with a stop at the Sulphur Springs volcano, and a stop for a taste of the local bread. There were also lots of photo stops, including the Pitons, Marigot Bay and a banana plantation, where we ate the sweetest bananas. The Creole buffet lunch at his Mom's was out of this world. One of the best meals I had all week. We ended up at a beach resort property (closed because of the hurricane), but still a lovely place to rest and/or snorkel. Almost everyone on this tour was from our roll call and we had a great time. The ride back in the boats was definitely an E ticket ride. (If you don't get the reference ask someone who remembers those tickets from Disneyland.) There were short stops to see and hear the bats and a quick visit to Marigot Bay.
Usual nighttime activities. If it wasn't a show, it was the R-rated comedians in the lounge. Funny guys. Or maybe it was the drinks and the company - who knows?
Friday - St. Kitts
Today is The Tour with Thenford Gray. Another fabulous day. Great tour, great guide, fun group of people. Lots of photo stops of beautiful sights. We did a bit of an island tour on the way to Caribelle Batik and Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. Then off to Cockleshell Beach for lunch, some beach time and my long-awaited aloe massage. Very relaxing.
Back at the ship it's the same old, same old. See above.
Saturday - St. Martin
Today's tour is with Bernard. All around the island, a stop at Maho to watch the planes land, a stop at Marigot for lunch and shopping. I found the French bakery and a croque monsieur and a raspberry beignet (or in English, a grilled ham cheese sandwich and a jelly donut). It tastes much better in French. Finally a stop at Orient Beach for more R&R. Another terrific day.
Tonight is much the same as always, except it's time to pack. This is also my one night in the casino where I luck out at the roulette table and win back my previous losses. I break even. I'm not greedy and don't want to hang around to give any of it back. Besides, it's been an entertaining 90 minutes and I have go finish packing and put the bag out.
Sunday - Time to go home.
Since I have a 4:00 flight, I'm in one of the last groups to be called. A few of us gather in one of the lounges and wait until we are almost personally escorted off the ship. Last call time for us. While we wait, we enjoy treats from the coffee shop. It's funny to be paying cash for anything onboard.
The flight home is on time and uneventful.
General Overall Impressions of the Victory:
The ship is in need of some serious cosmetic work. It looks old and worn. The food can best be described as adequate. It just didn't seem as good as on previous cruises. I sampled all the venues and very little jumped out as excellent. Nothing was bad, just not great.
I saw 2 production shows and a magician. They were all fine; again, nothing exceptional. The new comedy club was a nice innovation. I only saw the R-rated shows and for the most part they were funny. I didn't go into the piano bar because of the smoke and I'm not a disco or deck party person, so I didn't go there. For a smoking venue, the casino was bearable and I didn't notice the smoke much at all. For the first time in the 3 times I've had virtually the same cabin, there was more noise and movement than usual, causing me to wake up very early every morning. The bedding was wonderful as always.
Service throughout the ship was good, most everyone was friendly. But again, nothing exceptional. I wasn't moved to leave anything extra besides the basic auto-tips. This cruise was definitely all about the ports, most of which I would definitely visit again. But I have serious reservations about sailing from PR again. I just wasn't happy with the entertainment concessions made to that group of passengers. But I had no complaints about the behavior of any of the passengers on the ship.