Who: Me, 30 SF from NB, Canada. 8 previous cruises -- all with CCL.
What: Carnival Victory, Southern Caribbean Cruise (OV Cabin, 2398)
When: Feb 26th -- March 4th 2012
Where: St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Why: Best Friend's Honeymoon
We stayed at Embassy Suites Hotel and Casino. Would definitely stay here again; facilities were amazing, if not a little bit pricey. Paid $15 for a taxi for three from SJU. Free Hot breakfast and a fabulous, resort style pool. We found a little shop nearby and picked up some bottles of wine. A taxi to the pier the next morning cost $26 and took approx 20 minutes.
Possibly the quickest embarkation I have experienced in 9 cruises. We were dropped off at noon but then had to wait about 30 minutes for friends to show up. Once we were in line, we breezed through check-in and were on the ship by 1pm, if not slightly before. Easy peasy.
Because of the late sail away from San Juan, we had open seating on Sunday. This threw me- apparently I have an embarkation day routine I don't like to have messed with!
We ate, drank and lounged around for a bit, then unpacked as our luggage had arrived. We napped, and met friends for supper at our normal dining time; 815. Unfortunately, the muster drill was scheduled for 945, so we had to scarf down dessert and rushed to the drill. Following which, we pretty much went to bed.
We had booked the St. John champagne catamaran excursion at 1145. ($89.99).We got off the ship at around 11 and explored the shops at the pier until we met our guide. The taxi ride to the other side of the island took about 15 minutes, and we were quickly on board the cat. A rocky, but awesome, hour long sail toward St. John's Honeymoon Beach was filled with fun facts and the 'worst tour ever' by the amazing crew. After a quick safety briefing for the snorkelers, we were escorted by dinghy to the shore. We had about an hour on the beach, and were picked up and brought back to the cat for the champagne! Liquor flowed freely, and there were cheeses and bread available as well. The sail back was a bit smoother, and took another hour. We made it back to the ship about half an hour before sail away. I would definitely recommend this excursion.
We napped and made it to our fist 'real' dinner of the cruise. Just the three of us to a table. After, we watched some karaoke in the Black and Red Seas lounge, then stayed up for the punchliner comedy shows before heading to bed.
Not much today- explored the ship, ate some food, drank some drinks, had some hot tub time.
I should mention, as this being my third time on Victory, she is aging. Our cabin door was sticky, and wouldn't close all the way unless slammed. The curtains were coming off the hook, the closet door was sticky, and our safe was finicky. Our faucet leaked and the TVs have not been updated. There was a spot on lido which was roped off all week, and certain elevator panels were out of order. I noticed some cosmetic updates; the carpet and upholstery had been replaced since my last visit, but overall, victory is fading fast :(
Other things that have changed: You can no longer check your S&S balance on your tv. The transactions are there, but the total is not. Very sneaky. The dining menus were also no longer available on the TV. I missed this.
None of this ruined my vacation in the slightest, i just thought I'd mention it.
It rained today, so we took the $2 shuttle downtown and shopped the malls before heading back to the dockside shops where we shopped and drank for a couple of hours before getting a few stamps and postcards and re-boarding the ship.
It was raining, and half of our group was on an excursion, so the other half took our time getting off the ship (around noon) and stuck pretty close to port. We wandered around the port-side shops and then ventured into town. We did not see very many tourists in this area, and the shops we went to were mostly local shops; not a whole lot of touristy souvenirs (which we were actually hunting for). After about 30 minutes 'on the outside' we went back to the ship.
I did find out there is another pier with more shopping just a water taxi away, but we were not interested in getting back out there so we called it a day.
After two days of cloudy showers, we were ready for the beach again, so we booked the "Beach Extravaganza." A bit pricey, at $46 but we did not want a repeat of wandering around downtown, so we opted for the security of a Carnival operated tour. The bus took us through the winding, at times very steep roads on our way to Cockleshell beach, with stunning views of Nevis. A relatively small beach, we did not find it to be over crowded at all. Buckets of beer for $10; same price as an umbrella *Grumble grumble.* It took 45 minutes to get to the beach, we had about 2.5 hours there and then 45 minutes back to the ship. We left at 10 and returned shortly after 2pm. We shopped for souvenirs and had a drink at Fat Tuesday's before stumbling back to the ship.
We'd had our fill of excursions, and chose to do our own thing again. I had been to St. Maarten 2 or 3 times before, so I was completely comfortable taking the water taxi across and walking the streets in search of whatever. I love the palm-tree lined, narrow, cobblestone streets here more than most things in this world. Most of us found what we were looking for and headed for the beach. Another $5 for a chair (but included an umbrella this time) and we were good to go. We only spent about an hour -- 90 minutes here, and broke off in smaller groups to make our way back to the ship. I wandered around a bit more taking in the "That Yoda Guy" museum along the way.
Pretty smooth. We had zone 26 and were off the ship at about 1030. We went through Immigration with no lines, grabbed out suitcases downstairs and were out of the terminal in about 20 minutes. We got a taxi for the 5 of us straight away and were at the airport by roughly quarter past 11.
We were scheduled to fly out at 4 that afternoon and headed straight to the airport. What a zoo that was. I've heard stories about the San Juan airport on the weekends, but this was like nothing I've even seen in all my years of travelling.
First was the (relatively short when we arrived but seemed to get longer later on) line for our bags to be screened by agriculture, only to have the stupid orange stickers fall off waiting in the next line to check-in to the airline. Which was about 400 people long! We waited some time in this 2nd line and finally made our way to the front, where we printed off our boarding passes and waited for the gate agent to help us with our luggage. In the meantime, another agent mentioned there was an earlier flight (at 130. It was currently about 1200). We said sure, then were left waiting for a good 15 minutes while our agent went on break? (We assumed, as she gave us no indication she left for any other purpose.) Finally our luggage was weighed and paid for, our new boarding passes were in hand and we rounded the corner to security.
Another long line, we ended up skipping to the front once we told an agent we were 40 minutes away from boarding and were through in about 10 minutes, all told.
I couldn't be happier to have been getting out of San Juan earlier than anticipated, and I will not be eager to return. From start to finish, cruising from SJ was a logistical nightmare.
Highs and Lows:
I was disappointed in the entertainment after dinner. We had late seating, and on 2 or 3 of the evenings, the 'main' show was before dinner! I hate this, as it gave me no options after dinner save for the Punchliner Comedy, which I've had my fill of thankyouverymuch. As a result, we only made it to one of the production shows; the legends show on the last night and the 'magic' show, but only because we rushed through dinner and caught the 'early seating' show at 9 something.
Our bar waiter in the dining room, Kristina from Bulgaria was a star! I've never had service like hers in 9 cruises. Love, love loved her.
Bagi, our waiter was better than I've had in a few cruises as well.
Our room steward was forgettable, and i don't even think i knew his name.
My first experience with the new menus, and there were things I missed (though nothing specific comes to mind), but overall I felt the selection was on par with what it's been for 8 years, so no complaints.
5 ports on a 7 day cruise was a bit much for me to be honest. I normally LOVE Sea days, and only having 1 was a downer. It made the rest of the week seem rushed, and busy, busy, busy. It's Thursday after getting off the ship and I'm feeling like I didn't even have a 'vacation.' But that's a personal preference; I've had friends who have loved having a different port almost every day.
Victory is still one of my favourite ships, regardless of the things I mentioned above. I just love her decor more than any other ship. Overall though, I do prefer the 'that much more' you get on a Conquest Class ship.
My next cruise will be my 10th with Carnival. And platinum, if I get in there before the Loyalty program is changed. I've nothing booked; there was no FCC desk on Victory. But I'm leaning towards petering out (It's time for a change) with a shorter cruise (all of the others have been 7 days). That or going out with a bang, and maybe a chance for Carnival to win me back with one of the bigger and badder ships :)
Time will tell...
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