My husband, my 13-year-old daughter and I drove down to Miami from Atlanta the day before the cruise. I had used Priceline to book the Doubletree Surfcomber on South Beach. Though the room was a little small for the three of us, the hotel itself was nice and right on the beach. After breakfast, on the morning of the cruise, we spent a little time walking on the beach. That turned out to be a mistake as we didn't get to the port until a little after 12:00 p.m. and the line was already quite long. On my previous two cruises, I got to the port around 11:00 a.m. and never had much of a line to deal with. I have definitely learned my lesson and will make a solid effort to get to the port no later than 11:00 henceforth. I kind of lost track of time but I believe it took us around 50 minutes to make it through the line. I had filled out all our information online but the FunPass line was actually longer than the line for those who had not done the FunPass. Altogether, from arriving at the port to actually stepping onto the ship took about 1½ hours.
The Victory looks great. Having sailed on the Triumph last year, I was familiar with the layout. Personally, I preferred the more subdued dEcor of the Triumph but my husband (this was his first cruise) thought the Victory's dEcor was beautiful. He loved the mermaids and seahorses.
This being a Christmas cruise, the ship was adorned with nice holiday decorations. The decorations were very understated and quite similar to the ones I saw on the Triumph last year.
We had booked a balcony guarantee and found we were assigned to cabin 8229 on the Verandah deck. It was more than a bit cramped for the three of us, especially since the cot for my daughter was placed directly in front of the loveseat, which rendered the loveseat unusable. The cot was not the fold-up kind, so we were just stuck with it even during the day. Fortunately, we were rarely all in the cabin at the same time, so it wasn't that big a deal. I would have preferred that the loveseat made into a bed instead though, which I believe is the case on the newer classes of ships. The balcony helped add some extra space. My husband liked to hide out there while my daughter and I were dressing for dinner or whatever. Our team of stewards did a great job keeping the cabin clean.
We had early (5:45) seating in the Pacific dining room. Our dining team at table #530 was comprised of Nelson and Sergio. The service they provided was fabulous. Nelson was particularly attentive to my daughter and always made sure she was happy with her food selections. From what I've observed on both my Carnival cruises, the dining room staff, for the most part, seems to be great with kids. The food was always really good. I didn't have anything I didn't like, though I liked some dishes better than others. My favorite of this trip was the salmon glazed with (I think) honey and bourbon. We missed the filet mignon (my usual favorite) because it was served the night we were in Cozumel. We were so tired and hungry after our day on the island that we decided to hit the buffet that night instead of showering and changing before dinner.
The Pacific dining room was the one used for open seating breakfast and lunch. We had breakfast there every morning. We found that to be much more enjoyable and relaxing than the buffet which, depending on the time you got there, could be rather crowded. We did, however, have lunch at the buffet on sea days simply because we were usually on the Lido deck lounging in the sun and it was much more convenient. The lines for the buffet were usually pretty long at lunch as well, but seemed to move fairly quickly. I thought the buffet food was pretty good, not great but certainly more than just edible.
The formal nights were the 2nd night (Monday) of the cruise and 6th night (Friday). Christmas dinner was, of course, served on Christmas night, which was also the last night of the cruise. I can't remember all the selections on the menu, but everyone in my party ordered the turkey and dressing. Last year on the Triumph, we were given the Christmas menu as a keepsake. On the Victory this year, we were given a print of a watercolor of the ship.
On this cruise, we had three full sea days and three ports of call. Our first stop was Cozumel. We had a rental car booked with Avis,which required about a 5 minute walk to the International Pier where the office was located. I had made the reservation for the cheapest car they had (a subcompact) but because we didn't pick the car up until about 10:00 a.m. Cozumel time, all the cheap cars were gone. We got a Jeep for the same price! The first thing we did was drive to Paradise Beach for a few hours to swim and hang out in the sun. After lunch, we drove around the island to the uninhabited side for some great views. We then stopped at San Gervasio to check out the Mayan ruins. The self guided tour around the site takes at about two hours. It was nearly 5:00 when we finished the tour and headed back to the Avis office to return the car. We then went back to the ship, grabbed some dinner at the buffet and went back out for a little shopping around the pier area before calling it a day. The Victory set sail from Cozumel around midnight.
Our next port was Grand Cayman. I had tried to book a rental car here too but because of the hurricane, there just weren't that many available. Instead, we caught a taxi ride ($4.00/person) to Sea Grape Beach for more sun and swim time. The hurricane damage to the island is still quite evident, though the islanders are hard at work putting everything back together. The beaches, however, are in great shape. We had lunch at the beach and then headed back into Georgetown for a little shopping. I should mention there were 7 ships in port that day, so it was pretty crowded everywhere we went. The Conquest was also there that day, so the tenders were spread sort of thin, which meant a really long line waiting to get back on the ship. As it was hot and humid with no shade available, the wait was not a lot of fun.
Our last stop was Ocho Rios on Christmas Eve. We had booked our own tour with Phil Lafayette. We had great fun going to Dunns River Falls and river tubing. Phil also gave us a highlights tour of Ocho Rios, all the while sharing loads of information about his beloved Jamaica. I'd have to say Ocho Rios was our favorite port on this cruise.
These are the highlights of a great vacation. We had lots of fun but managed to get in some relaxation time as well. I would cruise the Victory again without any reservations.