I will cut to the chase to summarize our recent cruise on Carnival Victory. We traveled with our 3 kids and want to share the kids experiences as well since I didn't see a much feedback on the previous posts we read prior to our cruise. My wife is from Puerto Rico so we mixed visiting family with a 7 day cruise on May 29. We booked a balcony cabin on the Lido deck with a inside cabin for the kids across the hall. We have cruised on most of the big cruise lines (RCCL, NCL, Disney, Princess, Carnival, Holland). This was our second Carnival cruise and we selected this particular cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that we were bringing our kids with us ages (2, 12, & 15). We have cruised the Caribbean before but this itinerary offered us some islands we had not seen before and only one sea day. We booked all of our excursions separately with independent providers. We typically do not book excursions with the cruise line as you can find better and more personal options if you do your research. Although I have to say that I think Carnival excursions are competitively priced compared to other cruise lines with a decent variety of options.
First off...Let me say that I think Carnival provides good value for the money. You will not find the best service, food, staterooms, or entertainment. If that is important to you, than you might want to look at other higher end cruise lines and you will of course pay more. Bottom line...What we did find on this cruise was a good overall cruise experience with some great ports. Here is a summary of highlights, pros, ok's, and cons.
Highlights - Clearly the ports. Primary reason we chose Carnival over RCCL leaving out of San Juan was the variety and number of port stops. We enjoy immersing ourselves in the local culture and learning about the history of the islands. This itinerary offered us some islands we had not visited before (St Lucia and St Kitts). With only one sea day it can be a bit tiring if you don't plan your time in the ports. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to have the sea day towards the end of the cruise.
Pro's - Getting on/off the ship was a breeze compared to other cruises we have taken. No offshore tender boats made getting to ports a non-issue. Embarkation/Debarkation was also very smooth and fairly efficient. I liked the comedy show options over the cheesy vegas shows.
Ok's - Rooms are standard for most cruise ships. We have seen better and the small shower with the curtain that sticks to you is less than optimal but to be expected. Food in dining rooms was decent not great. We had dine your time seating and although we always got seated right away it typically took almost 2 hours for the meal to be completed. Quality of food was ok in dining room. Ate in the buffet on Lido deck a couple of times for breakfast and as expected it was "buffet" food. Not sure what others expect when they go to the buffet. Better off going to the dining room where you get served and don't have to deal with lines. Kids activities and Camp Carnival areas were ok. I still think Disney sets the standard for kids activities and facilities. We did use the little kids camp for our 2 year old especially when we were in port and she seemed to like her time there although I think there is room for improvement. See cons below. Our teens went to the teens only clubs and thought they were just ok.
Cons - One of the disappointments for us and our two year old daughter was there was no place to take a nap in the kids camp. During the day when in port, little ones are bound to need a afternoon nap. Nothing...not a quiet room for them to lie down or even a mat in the corner of the room. This made no sense to me and the counselors were really not that sympathetic and somewhat cold to the issue. We ended up bringing my daughter a blanket for her to lie on the floor but clearly she did not sleep well. On every other cruise we have taken there has always been a quiet area for the smaller kids to rest. Other big con was no mini fridge in the rooms. Kind of a bummer when you need to keep kids drinks cold.
Overall, even with the cons I listed I would recommend this cruise. Every line we have cruised has it's strengths and weaknesses and Carnival is no exception. Ports of call and a decent ship made this cruise worthwhile and a good value.