Just returned from at 7 day cruise to the Southern Caribbean. Departing from San Juan, we visited the ports of St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Marten and Barbados. I'm traveling with my hubby and 1 year old son. First real post-baby vacation! We are semi-active 40 somethings from Philadelphia PA, and this is our 5th cruise (2 with Royal Caribbean and 3 with Carnival)
I'll leave out commentary about the flight, and go straight to the pros and cons:
PROS: 1. Embarkation in San Juan was very smooth and uneventful. The terminal building there was nice, short lines, air conditioned. Once you've checked in there's a place to buy bottled water and alcohol, so lugging these items from home was pretty unnecessary. 2. The staff was efficient and pleasant. Attentive but not overly so. 3. Itinerary was awesome. Got to see alot in a short period of time. Disembarking at each port went quickly and smoothly. Kudos to the crew. 4. The price of the cruise itself was VERY reasonable. We paid $709 each, plus $300 for the toddler. 5. Fellow cruisers were a nice, laid-back group of friendly folks. Luckily, the ship was not overrun with unruly, ignorant children. No drunken frat-party behavior either. Quite a few non-Americans on board; I find it fun to meet people from other places.
CONS: 1. The food was ATROTIOUS!! Imagine the worst Old Country Buffet in your area, then remove 2/3 of the food items. Seriously, this is clearly where Carnival is cutting corners! Even the dining room was unimpressive. Lacked imagination, bland, and not alot of it. I can't even say one meal was better than the other. Breakfast was gross, lunch was "kiddie" food (pizza, burgers, pasta, etc.) and the seated dining was a waste of time. Staff worked hard, but hey, you can't polish a turd!! 2. Drinks were super weak. Just for the hell of it, the hubby and I started drinking on empty stomachs to see if we were imagining things. I didn't get buzzed one bit!! Even the wine is suspect. Stick to beer. 3. The ship itself is very clean but is showing signs of wear. Chipped paint, rusted areas on the balcony, worn carpet, etc. Just needs a rehab. I'm not a fan of Carnival ships in general because they're too gaudy...colored lights and crazy patterns can cover only so much. 4. The cabins - again, put some money into upgrading the accommodations. How about flat screen TV's? New balcony furniture? Additional storage? CLEAN shower curtains? The cabins just look like a well-used Holiday Inn. 5. Evening entertainment was non-existent. Karaoke for HOURS and a corny comedy show. EVERY NIGHT. Thank God we had islands every day, else we'd be sorely pressed for entertainment. 6. Limited excursion selections. Hubby and I have been to these islands before and have done some really outstanding excursions through Royal Caribbean (Adventure of the Seas). Since we had the little one with us, we didn't need much but beach time. I felt bad for our fellow cruisers because Carnival didn't offer anything interesting.
I understand that Carnival is a more moderately-priced cruise experience. We cruised the Glory and the Freedom and neither were as budget as what we experienced on the Victory. We got what we paid for, in every sense of the word. If you can look at the ship as simply a means to get from point A to B, then you won't be disappointed. It's just too budget for me, we won't be cruising Carnival again.