8 of us from upstate new york booked this cruise about 10 months ago...
We arrived in Puerto Rico the day before, and stayed that the Atlantic Beach Hotel. Not the best hotel, but for one night it was perfect. Clean, inexpensive, right on the beach, and they made the best pina colodas we had all week!
Embarkation went smoothly, we were allowed to board early but chose not to, just walked around old san juan and found a nice local bar to hang out at. If you have never had a mojito from puerto rico, you MUST! However you have to find a place that makes them fresh, no mix, and boy are they refreshing :-) We went to board the ship around 3pm and were on within a half an hour. This was my second time on the ship so I knew what to expect. very similar to other ships I've been on. I have never had ANY complaints about service, every crew member you see is working hard to make your trip enjoyable.
We had 4 balcony rooms in our group and none of us had any issues here. Everything was very clean and well kept. The blow driers in the bathroom, however, are not very powerful so I recommend you bring your own, I learned this my first time on this ship when it took an hour to blow dry my hair the first night!
The food, in my opinion, was fantastic. Considering they have to feed 4 thousand people 3 times a day, they do a damn good job! The lines were very long on the day at sea, but we dealt with it. Breakfast wasn't too bad if you got up early enough which wasn't a problem for me since I like waking up and watching us pull in to the islands from my balcony :-)
We actually took part in the chefs table the final night of our cruise. If you haven't heard of this, look it up on the message boards because it is something that I recommend to everyone. The food was phenomenal. We were able to tour the galley before hand, which was VERY clean and cool to see what happens behind the scenes. It was surprising to know they make EVERYTHING from scratch! None of us went hungry and our waiter joked with my boyfriend every night claiming his food baby as his, not mine, haha.
The one thing I was slightly annoyed with was the public announcements that the cruise director made several times a day. I understand that some announcements are necessary, but the ones that lasted 10 minutes, and then repeated in spanish for another 10 minutes, became very annoying! Besides this, I really have no complaints. Yes there were a lot of locals on the ship, but I just see them as people on vacation as well. Line cutting and rudeness was seen coming from all types of people, not just one specific race so please don't stereotype!
We REALLY enjoyed the piano bar and went there almost everynight, it was very entertaining. We also went to several of the adult comedy shows which were all very funny. We only had the chance to check out one of the production shows, VROOM, which I really enjoyed because I am a music person and it was a "music-through-the-years" type of show.
St. Thomas- if you are lucky enough to be there on a week where victory is the only ship then you will enjoy this port! we were the only ship there and it was soooo nice to enjoy magens bay beach without any crowds. Such a beautiful beach, nice sand, calm crystal turquoise water!
Barbados- Booked a catamaran and did some amazing snorkeling and swam with/touched sea turtles. AMAZING. Such beautiful creatures (my fav, I have a sea turtle tattoo!). Open bar the whole time and the buffet lunch was very good food. Booked with Heatwave, which apparently was destroyed in the recent hurricane but they have replaced their catamaran with others. Only about 20 people on board which made it a fun & intimate experience. Barbados also has super soft sand if you plan on going to the beach. Very nice!
St. Lucia- Love this island, been here 3 times, but this was our least favorite this time. Went to reduit beach. VERY crowded and it was very hot and sticky which just made us a little miserable. plus I think we were all slightly hungover from the barbados catamaran haha. Still a beautiful island though I recommend a tour or all-inclusive resort instead of the beach.
St. Kitts- FAVORITE island. It is breathtaking and so under-developed still. A lot of fancy golf courses, resorts, and mansions brand new or still being built. Cockelshell beach did have some dried up seaweed and debris on the beach (not everywhere though) from hurricane but I think thats what makes it so natural and beautiful. So serene. We sat right in between the two bars/lounge chair sections and felt like we had our own private secluded beach. Sand a little rough but thats what you can expect with volcanic islands.
St. Maarten- Went to orient beach. Large, beautiful beach with soft sand but covered with lounge chairs/bars so there really wasnt room to just lay out by yourself, so we purchased some chairs and still had a good time. Little windy that day but the sun was still shining so no complaints here! Except, well, all the vendors that walked by asking you to buy there stuff when you're trying to relax and soak up the sun! I felt like placing a sign next to my chair that said no thank-you! But they kindly walk away when you say no thanks.
Although sad, all good things must come to an end. We were zone 17, so we were able to get off the ship at about 930am. Went very smoothly, only a slightly long line to go through customs which moved very quickly. If you have never flown home from the san juan airport, just a helpful tip... when you arrive inside the airport BEFORE you check your bag with your airline, you MUST get your bags screened at the USDA first... which was located directly to the left or right when you walk in, just follow signs for agriculture screening. Some people were not doing this (because no one directs you to) then waiting in line with the airlines only to find out they had to get out of line and go back to have their bags checked, big hassle.
Overall this was a great trip, the ports were all beautiful, food and service was great on the victory, would recommend this vacation to anyone looking to have a good time!