This is a review of our cruise on the Carnival Victory in December 2011.
Before I start let me tell you something about us so you can see the kind of people we are. I cruised with my girlfriend. I am 38 and she is 43 and her son is 14. We have been on 3 Carnival Cruises before on the Carnival Conquest at Christmas 2009 (Western Caribbean) and Carnival Glory at Christmas 2010 (Eastern Caribbean) and Carnival Magic in 2011 in the Med. We enjoyed all of those cruises so were really looking forward to the Carnival Victory Cruise in a part of the Caribbean we have never been too before. We live in a small island called Guernsey in the Channel Islands which is in between the UK and France. The island is a UK Crown dependency although we do not like to think as ourselves from the UK. We are Guerns !
This is a 100% honest review and as much as I love Carnival and its product I am not going to say Carnival is amazing and the staff are the best and the food was perfect etc. There were some good and bad points on this cruise and we will write them here.
Please remember these are our opinions which we are entitled too.
We left from Gatwick airport to fly to Charlotte in North Carolina on the 24th of December. We then transferred to San Juan airport on the same day getting there at about 22:30.
We got our luggage quite quickly and got to the taxi rank first so we got to the Sheraton Hotel in old San Juan within a few minutes. It only cost $22 which we did not think was bad at all.
The hotel was ideal for what we wanted. Its not 5 star but there is nothing wrong with it for a few days stay and of course it is right opposite the cruise terminal so on the 26th we just had to get our luggage and cross the road. It must have taken 5 minutes in total.
Once inside the terminal we had our bags searched, I assume they were looking for rum runners! We got through the check in process within minutes and on the ship really quickly. This must have been one of our faster embarkations (admittedly we have only ever done 3 before !) We were on Lido soon after 14:00 eating our lunch. We were not able to get into our stateroom until after 14:30 but that was not a problem by the time we finished lunch.
We were in balcony stateroom 7346 which is on the Empress deck. The room is tired and I think it is fair to say are other parts of the ship are too. I know I have high standards so maybe its just me. Carnival Victory was put into service in 2000 so I guess its bound to look tired in places after several hundred thousand people have been cruising on her.
One thing that makes the stateroom look tired is the CRT television still in the room. It works still works perfectly fine but just to look at it instantly looks old. I assume its only a matter of time before Carnival Victory goes into dry dock for a refit and these will be swapped out.
We never went to breakfast in the dining room so we can't comment on that. We had breakfast on Lido. This was one an area that I was surprised about as there always seemed to be queues. The Carnival Victory is the smallest Cruise ship we have been on and therefore has less people on it but there were always queues for food. It did not seem to matter what time of day you went to get food there were queues. This really annoyed me and I ended up one day just not eating breakfast as I hate queuing.
The next day I did get breakfast on Lido and thankfully there are trays on Lido ! Woo hoo! There are no more trays on Carnival Magic or Dream (i believe) and I personally think this is a real pain. The breakfast was the usual Carnival offerings which is absolutely fine.
Generally all the food on Lido was good.
We were assigned to the Pacific dining room for our evening meals. We had a brilliant waiter called Antoine from the Dominica. He looked after us really well.
The food is fine. I would not say its excellent but it certainly is not bad. It seems to us that there is less variety on menu but maybe that's just us?
I have a wheat allergy and so I follow a Gluten Free diet. I let Carnival know this before we sailed and sure enough I got Gluten Free food.
I am very grateful that they do serve Gluten free food but I have to say that the Gluten Free bread and Pizza is horrible. I assume that the bread and pizza base are made following the same recipe which leaves a horrible sort of baking soda in your mouth. I noticed this in food in the UK a few years ago but these days Gluten free bread etc. in the UK has really improved. Lets hope that Carnival change their recipe soon. Thanks for trying though Carnival.
The first night on the ship is a bit strange as Carnival Victory leaves port at 22:00 so there is no assigned dining. Instead dining is any time so you just turn up to eat as and when your ready and then you are assigned a table for that night only.
One tip though is that the safety briefing is at 21:30 so eat early enough so you can still attend which of course is mandatory. NOW having said that we turned up for the safety briefing at about 21:20 as we did not know where our muster station was so we went early to find it. The safety briefing started at 22:00 ! It was finished by 22:10 ! That was so annoying. Standing round for it to start. In our opinion this is NOT advertised enough so first timers do not know what they have to do and when. On previous ships the safety briefing was pointed out much more. I know its boring but it has to be done.
This pretty much sets the trend for the whole ship for the while cruise. The time for an activity is just a guide! If something is due to start at 15:00 it will probably start later !
The shows on the ship were nothing special. I say that because this is our 4th cruise and well the shows are pretty much the same as the other 3 we have already seen. That's not to say they are bad they are just repetitive.
We did find this ship to be very friendly in terms of the crew and staff. Some people have said that the kids are noisy on this cruise but while we did see some of this to a degree it was no worse then on any other cruise. I would not worry about this.
The 31st of December was of course New Years eve. There were quite a few events going on around the ship. There was a pub crawl too which was a first for us on a ship. There was also a conga in the restaurant on one of the nights too.
It seemed like everyone on board was on Lido just before midnight. It was amazing to see so many people in one place on the ship. The Carnival staff served free champagne for everyone about 10 minutes before midnight. The cruise director Karl with a K stood in the middle of Lido and sang and did the count down. At midnight the captain sounded the ships horn and everyone cheers and shouted etc.
That was weird in a nice way. So many people all celebrating the same thing in one space. I guess you just had to be there.
Karl was the British cruise director and he is very funny. He does a very good job in terms of being seen around the ship and also with announcements. Not too many and enough to keep you informed. Not too many sales announcements!
One night Karl did a show of his own with some singing and magic tricks etc. I can only assume he must have been an entertainer at some point in his career.
This is a ships review so I am not going to say much about the islands we visited, Barbados, St Lucia, St Maarten and St Thomas. We got to all islands on time and generally left on time give or take 15 minutes.
How do we size up our cruise?
Well queues for food is guaranteed at just about any time! Generally these are not too bad and are not a show stopper.
Events do not usually start on time but again we on holiday so not a problem really.
Food is fine throughout. People friendly. Islands beautiful.
The ship is nice and small and you never really feel crowded. We loved this cruise. With 4 islands and only 1 sea day that is great. We had a lot of travelling to do from the UK but it was well worth it.
I would definitely like to do this cruise again.
Next cruise The Carnival Breeze in Europe. Can't wait!