We are writing this review as a way to re-live our fantastic cruise and to hopefully answer some questions that others might have. If you have any specific questions, please ask! A little about ourselves?we are married and in our late 40?s and we love to cruise. This is our second cruise on Carnival and we already look forward to our next one! We love the beach, snorkeling and being active?although not extreme athletes! We are not big drinkers but enjoy a little social drinking?however, partying is not the point of our cruise! We always look for ways to save money and hopefully our tips can give you some of the information that you are looking for or give you suggestions on how to save a few bucks on your cruise.
Our flight from Atlanta arrived in San Juan at 4 PM on Sunday, May 1. We had pre-booked transfer from airport to the port in San Juan through Carnival?this is highly recommended and went very smoothly. We arrived at the port close to 5 PM and then began the process of More
embarkation. We were on the ship by 6 PM and off to find Room 8416. After finding our room, we went to CVS to purchase wine and soda. Walk to the end of the sidewalk in front of the port and turn left?CVS is down towards Senor Frogs and just passed the Sheraton, on the right hand side. Sundays are very congested in San Juan. It took us about an hour to walk to CVS, get our supplies, walk back to the ship and wait in lines again. We were told ?off the record? that we could go back to CVS as many times as we wanted (you can only bring one bottle of wine or champagne per person) but once was enough as we had been travelling since 3:30 AM! Our luggage was at our room by 7:30 when we got back from CVS. There was no time for us to tour old San Juan because of our late arrival however, we were staying an extra day after the cruise and knew that we would have time to see the city.
We freshened up for dinner and went to the Atlantic dining room. We had chosen anytime dining as we love having the flexibility to eat when we want. After dinner we went out on the Lido deck for the Sail Away party. By this time it was drizzly and rainy. We left port about 10:10 PM and after watching San Juan fade into the distance, we went back to our cabin as it had been a long day and we wanted to be up and our early in St. Thomas.
Our room was as expected?a king size bed, TV, small table with a chair and a vanity area with a stool to sit on. There was plenty of closet space and bathroom shelf space. We were happy to see that our Rum Runners had made it safely and had not been detected. (www.rumrunnerflasks.com ? check it out! They saved us a bunch of money on drinks). Alcoholic beverages will cost you on Carnival?be prepared to pay from $8-9 per drink.
Room 8416 is in the very back of the ship and is an inside stateroom. Beware! When you are coming into port, the engine causes the entire room to shake and vibrate and it is loud. We were on Veranda deck in the very back of the ship and we felt a lot more motion than we did on our last cruise (we were located midway on deck 7). The movement wasn?t anything more than a slight annoyance and the noise actually woke us up in the morning and got us moving. No complaints! As for complaints?there are many negative remarks about Carnival Victory on the boards (cruisecritic.com and the Carnival reviews)?we were a little hesitant about booking this cruise but we couldn?t pass up the fabulous itinerary. Again, we are fairly easy to please people and do not like to complain. If you are looking for something to complain about, you can always find it.
Monday, May 2 ? St. Thomas
Everyone tries to get off this ship early in port. We went to the breakfast buffet on Lido deck and found it to be crowded. No one had discovered the omelet station yet so that?s where we got our breakfast. Do this in the first day or so, after that it will be crowded!
After breakfast, we walked off the ship and found a taxi to take us to Secret Harbour. The taxis are right there?all you have to do is tell them where you want to go. There were about 14 of us on an open air tram (some went to Coki Beach, some were taking the ferry to St. John and we were the only 2 going to Secret Harbour). We paid $10 each (one way) to get to Secret Harbor which is a good 25-30 minutes from the port. This ride gave us the opportunity to see a lot of the island and to experience the twisty turning roads. We did our research and had decided on Secret Harbor based on reading a lot of reviews?we were looking for an uncrowded beach with good snorkeling. When we arrived at Secret Harbor, we asked the driver to come back at 12:30 to pick us up. We like to stay on the beach for a few hours and then head back into town to do shopping. There were only a handful of people on the beach when we arrived. The first thing we did was rent a float from Aqua Action (www.aadivers.com) and paid $10 each. The chairs on the beach were for those staying at the resort but we don?t always use chairs and didn?t bother to rent them since we had the floats. As time went by, the sun gave way to clouds and we had a brief rain shower. The beach got a little more crowded but never more than 40 people. We snorkeled, floated on our raft and walked the beach. There is a little beach bar called Blue Moon that we bought a newspaper from but did not eat or drink there. All too soon it was time for our driver, Godfrey, to pick us up. We packed up and went to meet our taxi and he was already there waiting for us! He took us back to town and dropped us off. Again, we paid $10 each. We take our own snorkeling equipment which also saves some money and allows us to snorkel at any beach and not worry whether they rent equipment or not. After a bit of shopping, we headed back to the ship. On the way we stopped at the little bar next to the ship and ordered a Bushwhacker?the best on the island! And it was delicious! Total amount spent on taxi and rafts was $60.
That evening after dinner we went to Cha Cha Cha Dance lessons and then we went to the Serenity (adults only) deck and sat in a hammock overlooking the water. We didn?t go to the welcome talk from the cruise director as we knew it would be on TV all week (and it was!).
Tuesday, May 3 ? At Sea
Today we took advantage of not having to get up early and we ate breakfast in the Pacific Dining Room. After breakfast we went out to the pool and were lucky to find 2 lounge chairs right next to the pool. We stayed at the pool until 1 PM when it was time to eat (again)! After lunch we went to Disco dance lessons and stayed for the Love and Marriage Show?if you haven?t seen this one, it?s pretty funny. Since we were on a Carnival cruise a year ago, we realized that many of the evening shows are the same. We aren?t really big fans of shows so we skipped them this year. That being said?if you like that kind of thing, you will probably like them.
Today?s drink special was served in the ever popular Coconut Monkey Head glass. You have to have one but just so you know?they are expensive?$17 but that included a drink!
This was our first Elegant Evening. We got dressed for dinner and then took formal portraits before eating. Lobster and prime rib were on the menu this evening. One of the things that we try to do is to take a picture each day as we are leaving the ship. They make nice souvenirs of the places we?ve been and look good in a scrapbook. The photos are $12 each. We went back up to the Serenity Deck after dinner and relaxed in the hammock and then went to to Merengue dance lessons in the disco.
Wednesday, May 4 ? Barbados
Today the engine noise and vibration woke us up bright and early. We at breakfast and got off the ship about 8:30. Once we found where we were going to meet our excursion, we had about 45 minutes to kill. We generally do not purchase Carnival excursions. We have heard that they can be very crowded and are usually more expensive but do the exact same thing as the local excursions. Plus, we like to support the local economy when we travel.
Our excursion today was with Shasa Catamarans and we can?t say enough good things about the tour. We were picked up at the specified location at 9:30 AM and after a brief ride to the beach (that again allowed us to see the island) we got on the catamaran about 10 AM. Our first stop was to snorkel with the sea turtles. Since we were a smaller boat (12 of us plus 2 crew) we got to the snorkel stop first. Julienne fed the turtles and we snorkeled?it was awesome! The turtles were hungry and swam all around us. Since we were the first boat there, we were finished as the other catamarans started anchoring. After this stop, the rain started. We waited for it to pass over before we went to the second snorkel stop. The second stop was above a shipwreck and coral reef. The guide told us that there would be a million fish in the water and he was right. I have snorkeled in other locations including Key West, Cancun, Cozumel and St. Thomas and this was the best snorkeling I?ve ever seen. It was fantastic. The rain held off although the sky was cloudy. After snorkeling we headed back to the beach to be driven back to the ship. Before getting into the van, they washed our feet (to get rid of sand) and had beach towels placed on the seats for us. Oh, did I mention that beer, rum punch, water and soft drinks were provided? This was a 3-hour tour that cost $60 per person. For information, www.sashacatamarancruises.com. The tour guides were professional and we highly recommend this excursion.
There was a Cinco de Mayo party tonight which they had to move inside to the Casino bar due to rain. At midnight, a Mexican buffet was served which was delicious.
Thursday, May 5 - St. Lucia
We were told that there was only a 30 percent chance of rain today. The sun was shining when we got off the ship and we promptly found Spencer waiting for us. Our excursion was with Spencer Ambrose Tours (www.spencerambrose.com) and we did the Jalousie Beach Break ($70 per person and well worth it). We met up with Spencer about 8:15 and we were on the boat by 8:30 and arrived at Jalousie Beach about 9:10. What a beautiful beach! Soft white sand, excellent snorkeling, clean restroom facilities, all the delicious rum punch and Pitons Beer you could drink (soft drinks and water also provided). Because we got there so early, we had about 5 hours to enjoy the beach and we were able to get one of the free chairs and an umbrella for shade. The Pitons are gorgeous and so is this beach! We saw beautiful fish while snorkeling (they do rent equipment but we brought our own as snorkeling gear was not included in the excursion). At noon, we were fed a delicious Creole lunch that included: jerk chicken, plantains, potato salad, coleslaw, salad, etc. that was prepared locally. We left the beach at 2 PM due to the increasing clouds and on the way back it rained off and on and then mostly on! We did stop to see a local fishing village, Bat Cave, Lover?s Tunnel, the hotel where the Bachelor was filmed and a few celebrities? homes including Mick Jagger, George Foreman and Sophia Loren! Except for the rain (which was actually coming down pretty hard by the end) this was a perfect excursion.
Tonight was the second elegant night and again we did portraits before dinner. After dinner we sat at the Casino Bar and people watched before Salsa Dance lessons in the disco! After dancing, we went to Carnival Quest in the Ionian Bar. As we walked in we were ?warned? that this was an R rated show, and I don?t think I?ve ever laughed so hard in my life. Imagine seeing my husband skipping around the room with another man!
Friday, May 6 ? St. Kitts
Since we had spent the previous day at the beach, we decided to skip the beach today and do a tour of the island. We went in a taxi (van) with 6 other people. The tour took about 3 hours and cost $20 each.
It was a great way to see the island. We stopped at the Batik factory, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a local market place, several local vendors? stands and at the overlook where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Brimstone Hill was not included in the tour unless the group decided to go. As a group, we decided to go and had to pay an additional $8 per person. I really don?t like forts but I am glad that I let the others talk me into it?the views were breathtaking! One of the things that we had talked about doing in St. Kitts was renting a scooter and doing the tour ourselves. We are so glad that we didn?t as the roads are narrow and winding and of course, they drive on the left-hand side of the road. After the island tour, we were dropped off in town where we did some shopping and then stopped at a casino with an outdoor restaurant very near the ship. We had a bite to eat before getting back on the ship and having lunch! Several people that we talked to went to the Marriott and purchased a day pass. I do not know what the cost of that is but they said it was beautiful. Because the water is choppy, I do not think you can snorkel there. Next time in St. Kitts we will explore the beaches. We did not see the resort area at all as our tour focused on the local part of the island.
Saturday, May 7 ? St. Martin
We had decided beforehand that we were going to go to Orient Beach. We did not take our snorkeling equipment however, there were people snorkeling there. We got there about 9:30 after taking a cab ($6 each) from the Dutch side of the island where the port is located. Again, this allowed us to see a bit of the island as we drove to the beach. When we got out we were behind Kontiki Beach Bar so we decided to purchase 2 lounge chairs and relax. At this point, the beach was not crowded but as the day went on, it became more crowded. The chairs cost $7 each and did not include an umbrella which was fine because we wanted to get some sun. The water is beautiful but where we were sitting?there was a lot of seaweed. Kontiki is located in the middle of the beach and eventually we wanted to walk. We started by going to the left and within in a few minutes, yes, we saw nude people. But no seaweed! We walked as far as we could to the left and then back to Kontiki and to the bar for a drink?$9 for a Miami Vice but it was delicious. We then walked to the right and passed several other beach bars including Le String which offered beach chairs for $7 and those included an umbrella and a free drink. The further we walked to the right; we saw the famous Orient Beach sign and then realized that this was the nude part of the beach. Again, no seaweed! There was a lot to do at this beach besides people watching?there was a water trampoline ($10), parasailing, snorkeling, beach bars and little beach shops. We stayed until about 1 PM when we started to burn and decided to call it a day. If you walk towards the Orient Beach sign you will see taxis lined up and all you have to do is tell them that you want to go back to the ship. We asked to be dropped off downtown and did some shopping and then found an outdoor restaurant facing the water for lunch (or at least a snack until we got back to the ship)! We shared a cheeseburger and had an iced tea and diet Coke and our bill was $22. Total spent in St. Martin was $70.
It was a lovely Sail Away from St. Martin and we tried to take in everything we could knowing that we would be back in port in San Juan in the morning. As we were sailing away, we saw a plane landing over Maho Beach.
We are always a bit melancholy on the last night. And I swear, the song that the waiters sing really brings a tear to my eye!
Sunday, May 8 ? Debarkation in San Juan
Our debarkations zone was 16. We left our cabin about 8 AM and went up to the breakfast buffet. As we were eating they began calling zones. It took a while to get to our zone but once they did, we made our way down to Deck 0 and into the terminal to get our luggage. Yes, this was crowded and not much fun but it?s just something that you have to do. We got through customs very quickly?we were asked if we had passports and if we were bringing any fruit with us?that?s about the extent of it. I didn?t even have to show my passport. We rolled our luggage right across the street to the Sheraton (we paid $169 for the room which put the total just over $200 for the night. We heard from others that you can get the room for about $100 on Priceline.com) and we had planned on asking them to stow our luggage until our room was ready (check-in time is posted as 3 PM). To our surprise, the room was available right away and we were napping by 10:30 AM! We went to the pool for a few hours and then explored Old San Juan. The first order of business was to find a restaurant that served authentic Puerto Rican food. We had been told to eat at Raice?s but there was a big crowd in front of it (it was Mother?s Day) and we were starving and didn?t want to wait. We went into a little Sports Bar type restaurant right next door called Lupis and honestly, it was one of the best meals that I had the entire week! After eating we continued our tour of Old San Juan. As already mentioned, the area was packed. Many of the little shops were open but by 6 PM they were starting to close. We headed back to the hotel to reorganize our suitcases (we were near the 50 pound limit) and we then stood on the 9th floor terrace of the Sheraton and watched the Victory sail out of port.
Monday, May 9 ? Leaving San Juan
We were granted a late check-out (noon) as our plane did not leave until 4:20 PM. We ended up leaving the room about 11:30 and the bellman got us a taxi to the airport pronto! The cost is $19 no matter how many people are in the taxi plus $1 per bag. The ride to the airport took about 15 minutes. When you get to the airport, no one really tells you but you have to put your bags through the USDA inspection and get a sticker for the bags. We didn?t realize this until we had stood in line at AirTran for about 15 minutes then had to get out of line and get the inspection then get back into line! Hopefully this tip will save you some time and frustration! Our luggage made the weight check?not sure how we did it but I bet drinking the rum helped! By 12:30 we were cleared through security and at our concourse where we had about 3 hours to kill. We ate lunch at one of the airport restaurants where we sat for about 90 minutes watching CNN.
Our flights were on time and we arrived in Dayton, OH about 11 PM. We realized that we hadn?t eaten anything (except for those tiny bags of pretzels) in about 10 hours. Since our bodies were used to the Carnival diet?finding food was a priority! We arrived at our home in Cincinnati about 1:30 AM and immediately began planning our next cruise.
A few tips
? We purchased a waterproof beltbag from www.thewaterproofstore.com that my husband wore around his waist while we were on excursions and at the beach. The bag allowed us to stash our money sail and sign cards and our camera so that we didn?t have to worry about them when we walked the beach or snorkeled. This little bag was a lifesaver for us!
? It usually takes me about an hour to get ready for dinner each night. To save time, my husband would go to the fitness room and sit in the steam room for about 20 minutes and would then shower in the fitness room. He said that the showers were bigger than the ones in the cabin. Meanwhile, I had the bathroom to myself to get ready and all he had to do was shave and get dressed when he returned.
? Although there are hairdryers provided each cabin, I encourage you to bring your own if you use a blow-dryer to style your hair. The ones provided are outdated and take forever.
Overall, this was an awesome cruise. The staff on Carnival Victory are the best! We loved our room steward, Buddy. When walking down the hall to dinner we were treated like royalty?it felt like we were walking the red carpet. We received excellent service from everyone. The food was good and there was plenty of it. There was always something to do?or not do.
Don?t worry about the negative reviews?as I said, people can always find something to complain about. Less
Carnival Victory Cruises to the Southern Caribbean