First of all I would like to say that the Carnival Victory may be one of the older ships in the fleet but has been maintained in all her glory and charm. We have sailed on one of the newer ships and much prefer the quiet elegance of this ship.
Arrival via American Airlines from Canada to San Juan was flawless. I was worried about our connection thru JFK and that we would not make the ships departure in time but had no problems. People always comment and say that you should arrive a day before your cruise to make sure that you make it there but we had no problem, the trick is leaving early and arriving approx. mid day. We left at 6am and arrived in Pueto Rico at 1:30 which left plenty of time to pick up our luggage and get to the ship. We took the Carnival transportation from the airport to the port and was worth the price of $15 each. They took care of our luggage and we never saw it again until it arrived in our room around 9pm that night. It is perfectly safe this way, and all we had to carry was our carry on luggage. Arrival at the port was without flaw and we were quickly on the ship after the necessary check ins in approx 1 hour after leaving the airport.
Once we arrived on board we were given our room keys #2454 and deposited our carry on luggage there, were able to grab a quick bite on board as the buffets were open and then we still had time to go back into old San Juan to visit this beautiful heritage city. Don't miss this city, worth the time. We also were able to pick up our two bottle of wine we were allowed to have on board and a case of coke.
We made it back on the ship well before the 8:30 cut off time and had time to grab a quick bite to eat and make our way up onto the Lido Deck for sail away party. Excellent time and quite spectacular
St. Thomas was our first port of call, and after visiting the Harley Davidson store, which is right across the street from the ships port, we found a lovely open air jeep type of taxi and were given a extensive tour of the island for $20 per person, which included several stops along the way for photos. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the island and this showed in his tour. We were then taken to the outside market in the downtown area where he let us have some time to shop before taking us to whichever beach we wanted to go to for the afternoon. We choose Megans Bay where there was a $4 entry fee per person. I don't think this was worth it for the beach, however it was lovely and the water was warm and calm, but in hindsight I would have gone to Sapphire Beach, which was much nicer and had lots of areas to snorkel and quieter. Our tour guide was back to pick us up at 3:30 and deposit us back at the port which still gave us time to catch a drink at a local bar before getting back on the ship..
The next day was at sea and believe me, there is always something to do aboard the Victory. From ice carving demonstrations to various contests and dance lessons. You also are invited to several information sessions which describe the next ports of call and of course the shopping adventures at each port, well worth the time to go to these, and a nice break from the hot sun. The kids took part in the slide and pool activities but really, who wants to swim in a small 15x15 pool that has a whole bunch of sweaty people in it????. We were also given the opportunity to change our late seating dining to the early seating and I suggest this to everyone. The early seating just gives you more options for after dinner entertainment.
Barbados was the next port of call and a beautiful island. We had read about swimming with the turtles but with four of us I thought it was too expensive to take the excursion at between $90 and $110. So I did some research and found out that the excursions all go to Payne's Bay and dock approx 20 yards off shore to let people off to swim with the turtles. We took a taxi there and did the same thing for the $25 taxi ride. We rented two chairs and umbrella on the beach for $15 and had a glorious day. Walked the beautiful beach and then took the city bus back for $2 per person, and it was safe and not scary in the least. If the girls had let me we would have taken the bus there as well but were not quite sure where to catch it in town. It is only about a 5 min walk along the ocean drive to the stop.
St. Lucia was the next stop and I had pre booked a tour with Spencer Ambrose Tours here for $85 per person. We were picked up right from the port and taken by bus on a 2 hour tour from Castries down to the bottom of the island where we boarded a speed boat to a beach located between the two pitons. Here we were given lunch and allowed to snorkel and beach for 2 hours. The beach was not one of my favourite and I found it very crowded for my liking, not much to see snorkeling as well. We were then taken back by water on a huge catamaran where the rum punch and music were free flowing. We stopped briefly at a small area called Marigot Bay and this is where I would have preferred to stay, beautiful beach and swimming so if you do not take a tour go here.
St. Kitts was the next stop, and I must say my favourite island. We hired a taxi to take us on a tour of the island for $20 per person per day and it was well worth the money. He took us all thru the city and thru the countryside up to Brimstone fort. We stopped at a beautiful mansion that was once owned by a relative of President Jefferson. Here there was beautiful gardens and the local people made batik cloth, a must to see. We then traveled to Frigate Bay which is a newer development on the island, good opportunity for time shares and beautiful, down to cockleshell beach where we stayed for 4 hours and then were picked up by the same taxi driver. Just a note, where they let you off at the beach, walk farther down to the blue umbrellas where the beach is nicer and chairs are in better condition, cheap bear, bucket of 6 for $14 and good hamburgers and pizza at the restaurant. Loved this island, if we ever return we will rent our own car, and they pick you up at the port, to see the island at our own pace and can stop at several beaches.
St. Maarten was the last stop, here we just took the water taxi over the the main beach and spent the day between the beach and shopping which was just behind the beach on the main drag. We got 2 chairs, umbrella, 2 water floaties and a bucket of 6 beer for $20...great deal but again don't go to the first place as soon as you get to the beach, walk a short way to get a better deal. The beach was amazing here and because it was so hot, had to wear flip flops to walk on the sand, we spent a lot of time in the water. We didn't make it to Maho Beach to see the planes, much to my children's dismay, but will on another trip to this island.
San Juan was our disembarkation port and I must say Carnival handled this in an efficient manner. You are given tags in your room the night before you leave and place these on your luggage and that gives you the number of group you are in to leave the ship. We were number 27 which was near the end and so we did not get off the boat until around 9:30 but it gives you lots of time to have one last breakfast in the dinning room and wander around the ship for one final time.
We spent the day in San Juan and stayed overnight before leaving for Canada the next day. A nice relaxing final day at the beach and a great way to end our holiday.
Final Pros: Siguel our drink waiter in the dining room was the highlight of our trip. He always had a smile on and my girls loved his antics...which made up for the sour-puce faces of our waiters who I don't think really liked their jobs. Don't forget to go to the front of the ship to find the workout area, thru the spa...did not find to the second last day. Equipment new state of the art and plenty of aerobic and yoga classes, beautiful view from the front of the ship. Tip your room stewards, they work hard and long hours...and just the thought of them cleaning our daughters room was worth their tip. Don't pay attention to those who say the lineups for the buffet are long...they aren't we never had more than 5 people in line before us. Sandwich, BBQ and sushi place are all worth it. Even the dessert and coffee place is worth the extra money you have to pay, we had a 6 layer piece of carrot cake and 2 Spanish coffees one night and it only cost $9 and soooo worth it. Don't miss the chocolate buffet lunch on the St. Maarten day, worth going back to the ship for lunch.
Cons: can't think of much other than trying to walk the long hallways in high heeled shoes, ha. Also they are very strict on attire for breakfast in the dining room, but its much nicer to eat up on deck at the buffet while you are pulling into port anyway. I wish they had the hot tubs up and running in the morning...closed until 10...would have been nice to take a hot-tub with a coffee while you were pulling into port!!!!