Holiday Inn Express Condado - We thought it was a great choice for our one night in San Juan - reasonably priced, clean and in a good location. We walked to Cafe Angel for dinner. Great authentic Puerto Rican food, but the service was SLOW so don't go if your are in a hurry. We were not so it wasn't a problem - we were just happy to be in San Juan after a long travel day!
Embarkation - Sunday, February 6th
We didn't have to check out of the hotel until noon so we grabbed a bite from the complimentary breakfast and walked over to the beach. We also found a farmers market that had all sorts of local vendors selling home grown/hand made items. After some sampling/purchasing we headed back to the hotel to pack up and grab a taxi to the port. There were plenty of taxis available right in front of the hotel so we grabbed one and were at the port around 12:00.
Once at the port we got in line for security and walked right through. No porters approached us to take our bags so we just rolled them with us up to the terminal building and handed them to the guys putting them on the conveyer belts. We headed upstairs and got in line to check-in and after a short wait for our zone to be called and the trip through security we were on board around 1:00. We had a nice relaxing lunch on the Lido deck and decided to just hang out until the rooms were available.
At 2:30 the rooms were ready. We had an oceanview room (2281) and were very pleasantly surprised with how much room we had compared to our previous cruise. We left our carry on bags and decided to head out to explore Old San Juan for a few hours. We ended up walking up the hill to see San Cristobal Fort. It was hot and we were worn out but it was totally worth the hike for the beautiful views along with the historical aspect of the fort itself.
Once back on the ship we decided to freshen up and head to the dining room for dinner. I can't remember what I had each night, but everything was good - my favorites were the seafood Newberg on the second night, the crab cake appetizer on the last night and the chocolate melting cake every night! Overall we were very happy with the food quality and selection on the ship. We had Anytime Dining and ate in the dining room every night. Some nights service was a little slow, but we always left happy and full!
It was Superbowl Sunday so our muster drill would not be held until the next day. We headed to the Caribbean Lounge to watch the game. GO PACKERS!
St. Thomas - Monday, February 7th
We decided this would be a beach day so we prearranged with Airforce One Tours for a ride to Sapphire Beach ($20/person roundtrip). Papa Bear himself met us at the dock at 9:00 a.m. and took us in an open air van to the beach. The beach was beautiful and we could see St. John and another island in the distance. We rented chairs for $7 each and had a wonderful day relaxing in the sun and playing in the water. My son rented a boogie board for an hour ($5) and although there weren't really strong enough waves he had fun. My son and husband also enjoy snorkeling so they walked down to the end of the beach where it is rockier and saw quite a few fish. There was a waitress walking around to take drink/snack orders and I tried the famous Bushwhacker (YUM) while my husband had something called the Pain Killer (NOT SO YUM!). At 1:00 Papa Bear was back to return us to the ship (we arranged the time we wanted to leave with him when he dropped us off). He took the scenic route on the way back and stopped at an overlook so we could take pictures of the harbor where our ship was docked. The view was AMAZING!
After some shopping it was back on the ship and we headed to the Lido deck to grab some food. This would become our regular routine after island excursions. We loved sitting in the aft of the ship by the grill/pizza bar where it was less crowded. My husband and I also spent a little time almost every afternoon in the adult only Serenity area while my son hung out with my parents. We LOVED this area of the ship and in the late afternoons we never had a problem finding chairs. We had our muster drill right before sail away and then headed back to our room to get cleaned up for dinner. Our evenings usually consisted of getting dressed, going to get a cocktail, finding our photos taken that day (and making sure to destroy them if they were bad!), heading to dinner and then catching the evening show. Tonight was the Welcome Aboard show which was just a short, fun little show to give us an idea of what entertainment we could see during the week. We really enjoyed Cruise Director Brad and his staff.
Sea Day - Tuesday, February 8th
We slept in this morning and ended up having breakfast in the dining room. Not a big selection on the menu, but the food was good and it was nice to be served in a quieter/calmer setting than the buffet. After breakfast we walked around to explore the ship a bit then found some open chairs in the back of the ship. Most of the chairs by the main pool were taken by the time we got there, but we prefer the quieter area anyway.
After spending the afternoon soaking up some sun, me and my mom decided we wanted to try tea time at 3:00. We loved this! We met some very nice people and had cucumber sandwiches and salmon along with our tea. Then came the cart with the gorgeous desert choices. The chocolate fruit tart we chose was the best dessert we had the whole trip. When I originally booked this itinerary it was because it didn't include any sea days. However, once Dominica was cancelled we ended up with one and it ended up being a nice relaxing day on the ship.
Tonight was elegant night in the dining room and we enjoyed our prime rib and lobster tails. After dinner it was off to the Vegas style show in the Caribbean Lounge. We weren't impressed with the shows on our previous cruise (RCI), but were happily surprised with this show. The singers were good and it was fun cheesy Vegas style entertainment!
Barbados - Wednesday, February 9th
We booked a half-day snorkel cruise with Shasa Catamaran Cruises. This was our favorite excursion of the trip! We met our driver at the taxi area and were taken to the beach where Jason and Julius met us with the catamaran. After boarding and getting settled we headed to the area where we would snorkel with the sea turtles. Absolutely amazing! We were given strict instruction about not chasing or grabbing them. Julius got into the water to feed them and assist anyone who needed it. After that we sailed over to a shipwreck sight and coral reef where there were more fish than I could have imagined! I normally don't enjoy snorkeling as much as my husband and son, but I loved this and would highly recommend this tour. Jason was a great captain and answered any questions we had about the island. We were also served as much rum punch, beer or soda that we wanted. Since we were only doing the half day cruise we were dropped off at the beach around 1:00 and then driven back to port where we did some shopping.
Once again we got back on the ship, went and grabbed a late lunch on the Lido, enjoyed the sail way from the Serenity area and then got dressed for dinner. Tonight was the show featuring a juggler. My parents took our son so me and my husband could go gambling and check out some other entertainment on the ship. They said it was just okay - some of the juggler's jokes were pretty stale - however my son enjoyed it!
St. Lucia - Thursday, February 10th
For this port I had arranged for us to join a group from our roll call who had scheduled Herod's island tour. Because we had a bigger group than he was used to, Herod had to arrange for a bigger boat to accommodate us. Unfortunately, something fell through at the last minute and Herod had to scramble to get another boat the morning of our excursion. It was a little nerve wracking waiting to find out if we were actually going to get to go, but although we left almost an hour late it ended up being worth the wait. Herod went above and beyond to make sure we had a good trip despite the delay. We had an amazing boat ride across the island to our first stop - Jalousie Beach. We spent about an hour and ½ at this beautiful beach between the Pitons. My husband and son enjoyed some amazing snorkeling while me and my parents enjoyed the beach. Along with the rum punch, beer and soda Herod brought us snacks of sandwiches and chicken wings prepared by his mother. Delicious! Next we took a speed boat to a beautiful black sand beach where we stayed for about ½ hour. After that back in the speed boat for our scenic trip back to the pier. St. Lucia is a beautiful island and I'm really glad we took the tour via boat. Despite the rough start Herod really came through and I would definitely recommend this tour.
Back on the ship for our usual - snack, relax, dinner, show. Tonight was the Vroom show which we really enjoyed. Rock and roll cheesy fun!!
St. Kitts - Friday, February 11th
This was planned to be another beach day so we slept in then went to breakfast in the dining room. After gathering our beach gear we headed off the ship. After a little shopping and agreeing to let my son get his picture taken with a baby monkey we found someone to take us and 2 other families to Cockleshell Beach for $10/person round trip. On the way to the beach our driver stopped at the scenic overlook where you could see both the Atlantic and Caribbean. Amazing view!
Once we got to the beach we all agreed what time we wanted to be picked up and headed off to find a spot to plant ourselves for the day. We were dropped off at the Reggae Beach bar, but because it was after 11:00 it was pretty crowded. After finding the infamous Wilbur the pig who lives on the beach we headed further down the beach. We ended up renting chairs and an umbrella from a guy between Reggae and Lion's Beach Bar. He had tacked up a piece of paper that said "Seaweed Beach Bar" on a palm tree - instant beach bar!. Along with chairs and umbrellas he also had a cooler so we could buy beer/rum punch/soda directly from him. The snorkeling wasn't good here, but my son loved playing in the water and collecting shells while me and my husband enjoyed the beautiful view of Nevis from our beach chairs. Later in the afternoon we wanted a snack so I walked down to Lion's and ordered the shrimp plate for us to share. It included several large grilled shrimp along with rice and beans, various grilled vegetables and coconut slaw. DELICIOUS!! After a few more beers it was time to head back to the ship.
Because we had a later sail way and stayed off the ship longer we decided to see the early show and then go to dinner after - I love the Anytime Dining option! The show tonight was a magician and although his illusions were okay something about him rubbed us the wrong way. He had a very jerky attitude and it felt like he was annoyed at being there. We also decided to try the adult comedy show later that evening. This was also a miss for us - we just didn't think the guy was very funny. Just not a good entertainment night for us I guess!
St. Maarten - Saturday, February 12th
Is it our last island already?!??! We had arranged to do an island tour with Bernard's Tours for this day. Our driver "The Mailman" was an awesome guide and kept us supplied with rum punch/beer/soda while giving us tons of info about the island's history. We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks for pictures before our first beach stop - Orient Beach. We were here for two hours and although it was a beautiful beach it was packed. We could have gone down the beach where it was a little less crowded, but we ended up just renting chairs and an umbrella from Pedro's where we had been dropped off so we would be close to where we were being picked up($10 for two chairs and one umbrella). We laid out, played in the waves and then took a walk down to the other end of the beach. On our way back we noticed how cloudy it had gotten and as soon as we made it back to our chairs the skies opened up. Our time was almost up for this stop anyway so everyone loaded in the van and we headed off a little early for our next stop - Marigot.
By the time we got to the French capital the rain had stopped and the sun was coming back out. We had a ½ hour here so we walked around the open market and then went to Sarrafina's for some french pastries - SO GOOD! Back in the van to head for our next stop (and the main reason for booking this tour) - Maho Beach.
We have watched YouTube videos of the planes flying over Maho Beach but it is nothing like actually being there. We were there for almost an hour and got to see several props and a couple of big jets land right over our heads! SO COOL! We were also there long enough to see a jet take off and almost blow away the brave (stupid) people standing at the fence line. After that excitement it was time to get back on the bus and head back to the ship.
Tonight the main show was the Legends which only had one showing at 10:30 so, after starting our packing (boo!), we got cleaned up and decided to try the family comedy show before we went to dinner. We liked this comedian better and my son thought it was cool that he could actually attend. I would have liked to have gone to his adult show later that evening, but I ended up being too tired to make it. After one last fabulous dinner in the dining room we headed back to our room to finish packing to get our stuff outside the door by 11:00. We ended up skipping the Legends show and called it a night. We had late flights and our debarkation zone was 24 but we still knew we wanted to be up early to get dressed and have breakfast in the dining room before it closed.
Debarkation - Sunday, February 13th
Although we didn't want to leave we managed to get up and had a relaxing breakfast in the dining room before we had to be out of our rooms by 8:30. We took our carry ons and staked out a spot on the Promenade deck past the casino and across from the arcade. My son had several tokens left over so he used them in the arcade while we sat and waited for our zone to be called. Around 10:30 we were finally called and off the ship we went. No problems finding our other luggage and going through customs. Once outside the terminal building we found a representative from San Juan Happy Tours and arranged a short city tour with transportation to the airport for $25/person. Our flight wasn't until 4:00 so we got to make short stops at the capital building and Old San Juan. It was a beautiful day and we loved getting to see all the families flying kites in front of El Morro Fort before having to get on a plane and head back to reality!
Overall we had a fabulous vacation and would definitely recommend this itinerary. We are more interested in the ports than being on the ship so it was perfect for us that there was only one sea day. We loved the size and layout of the Victory and found it easy to navigate. Everyone was friendly and we had great service from our cabin steward to the dining staff. Entertainment and food in the buffet was better than expected. We especially loved the pizza bar and grill for a quick bite after being in port all day. However, we definitely preferred the meals in the dining room.