Victory Rocks: Carnival Victory Cruise Review by PG_NC

Carnival Victory 5
Member Since 2008

Overall Member Rating

Victory Rocks

Sail Date: March 2009
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: San Juan
Background: My wife and I have been on 5 previous cruises. 4 with Carnival and 1 with Royal Caribbean. We like Carnival because it offers a casual cruising experience and has excellent programs for children and is usually the most cost effective. We usually cruise with our kids (now ages 14 & 18) but this was our 20th anniversary so left them at home with the grandparents. My wife hates days at sea as she has claustrophobia and feels trapped on the ship so this itinerary was perfect for a week cruise. Neither of us has ever been to the Southern Caribbean so that was an added bonus. We decided to go all out and book an excursion at every port using as our guide. We were not disappointed and ended saving a bunch of money.

Travel: We flew Airtran direct from Atlanta to San Juan the day of the cruise. The plane left and arrived within minutes of its scheduled times. The plane was completely packed as we flew the day of embarkation. Arrived at More the San Juan airport at 1:30pm. Noticed as we walked through the airport that all chairs were full with people on the floor and standing around. We guessed correctly that it was full of cruisers trying to get back home as we arrived (more on this later). Retrieved our luggage within 10 minutes of landing and out the door to catch a taxi. Stood out by the road and couldn't get a taxi to look at us until a helpful person informed us that we needed to stand in line off to the side in front of a little kiosk that said ground transportation. This took less than 10 mins and in line we met a wonderful couple from Canada (hello Jerry & Denise) that was also traveling to the Carnival Victory. We decided to share a cab. Cost= $19 + $1 US for one way trip, no cost for sharing. Did notice the group waiting for the Carnival shuttle in the airport by baggage claim, they continued waiting as they won't leave until the shuttle is full (and it cost more). During our cruise we ran into our Canadian friends at least 10 times and even had booked the same tour on St. Lucia, not such a large ship after all.

Embarkation: This was one of the easiest procedures we have ever had. There was a bit of a line outside the port waiting to get through port security as we arrived. This took about 10 min. to get past and the porters were present to take your larger luggage for $2 US per bag. We sent 2 bags via the porters that we didn't get until after 9pm so make sure you have everything you need in your carry on baggage. FYI, the baggage scanner at the port only accepts smaller bags. Once in the port we found minimal lines and only a couple of stops which took about 10 min. to get past and just before security we wandered into the duty free liquor store. We purchased 3-6 packs of diet coke which we carried through security and onto the ship without a problem. Did notice a Carnival person sitting at a desk as you board to take any alcohol you purchased but many people put their bottles in their carry on and walked right past. Went straight to our room which was ready when we arrived at 2:30pm.

Stateroom: Standard Carnival inside stateroom with an added wardrobe in the corner by the bed. It was in the corner where the TV used to be mounted and the TV was on the counter which took up too much counter space. The bathroom was larger than I remembered and no step up into this one. It looked newly remodeled and was very clean. The twin beds were pushed together and made up as one. Plenty of storage space for our clothes. Room was cleaned twice a day and hardly ever saw our cabin steward the entire cruise.

Ship: The Victory was in excellent shape considering it is 9 years old. Parts of the carpet are worn and stained but for the most part in good shape. This model ship is one of our least favorite as you can't get to the rear dining room on the 3rd or 4th floor directly but have to go to the rear of the ship on the 5th or higher floor and come down either by stairs or the elevators. Since we were seated in the Pacific (rear) dining room this was an issue for us the entire cruise. The large kitchen is placed between the dining rooms to make it easier to get food from the single kitchen to each dining room and thus blocks access straight back to the rear dining room from the front half of the ship. Carnival has added a large outdoor screen that plays movies as well as CNN in the am. Didn't have much time to explore the ship as we were busy off the ship most of the time.

Cruise Director/Entertainment: The cruise director was Wee Jimmy (Weeeeeeeeee JIMMY!). His infectious laugh and genuine enthusiasm added to our enjoyment of this cruise. The past couple of Carnival cruises that we have taken we noticed the cruise directors seemed to be retreads of the same tired activities and jokes (which is fine if it's your first Carnival cruise). We did notice some tried and true Carnival activities and jokes but also a number of new and different ones. Wee Jimmy would ask for willing people to present a talent on stage at different times and he would always get something of interest and interject polite fun with/at the people involved. This was a welcome addition. Hats off to Wee Jimmy and his staff. The Carnival Capers (the on ship news/information guide) was more of an advertisement than helpful. Missing was a daily weather report for the next port, I am sure the ship gets very good weather reports but why not pass it on? No daily announcement that the ship was cleared at each port so no one knows when to get off. We noticed this at the first port waiting up on the Lido deck when we noticed people getting off; from then on we waited in the stairwell when we needed to get off early. No double announcements as reported in earlier reviews, this maybe because there were few Spanish speaking people on this cruise. We didn't notice the rude behavior or line cutting as reported either. Most of the people we met were polite and well mannered in lines. The entertainment was hit or miss. The comedians were both funny and worth seeing; the juggler was both funny and amazing to watch. The magician was neither funny nor amazing and he appeared bored during his show (as if performing on a cruise ship was beneath him). The "broadway" style shows are tired and not much different from the other 4 Carnival cruises we have been on with the singers just so-so. We didn't make it to either comedian's adult show (too late for us as we got up early for our excursions each day) but heard that they were full of adult language and content and just as funny as the family shows.

Food: Food in the dining room each evening was mostly excellent with a miss fire here or there. This was based on our entire table of 8 as we couldn't try everything. Since this was our anniversary we thought about asking for a table for 2 but passed as we always enjoy meeting new people and we weren't disappointed this time either. We sat at a round table for 8 with 3 other couples. We hit it off with everyone at our table and became fast friends(Hello Scott, Dorothy, Rich, Sandy, Tim & Cindy). So much so that our waiter, Alex, would have to shoo us out so he could get ready for the late seating (usually 5 minutes before the next seating was to start). The waiter was excellent and running all the time but our assistant was rarely seen leaving our waiter to refill water/tea glasses or get more bread. I recommend eating in the dining room as the food seems much better than the buffet style served on the Lido deck. Highlights for us were the BBQ ribs (fall of the bone tender), Prime Rib, Jerked Pork, Red Snapper, Shrimp/Lobster. Some not so good were the pasta and chicken dishes which seemed dry and overcooked. The desserts were also hit or miss with the Crème Brulee under cooked and runny and the Tiramisu excellent and some of the best we have had anywhere. The popular chocolate melting cake was too rich for me but enjoyed by most of the table. We noticed the portions seemed to be bigger this time, no need to order 2 or extra. We had a hard time finishing a full course meal each night even after missing lunch most days. Did make it for lunch twice and would recommend the Deli highly. Have had it before and it didn't disappoint this cruise either. The pastrami on rye grilled was excellent as well as the Reuben. Didn't get to try the pizza or the grill but heard from others that both were good. Tried the Chinese Wok but didn't finish it as wasn't very good.

Ports: Will leave this for the individual port review below.

Disembarkation: This is where the wheels came off the train. We docked before 7am but didn't start calling numbers until after 8:30 and it started slow. Once called we made our way down from level 9 without problem (using the stairs). Picked up our luggage and through customs without a hitch. Wheeled our luggage out of the port to another taxi stand were we hooked up with another couple to share a taxi again to the airport for the same cost. Once we arrived at the airport we walked into a mess. The airport was completely full of people as we made our way to the airline desk. We found out after waiting in line for 10 min. that we had to get all of our baggage scanned by the USDA before the airline would accept it to be checked. We went to find the end of the USDA line which is when we found out that the mass of people in the airport were all in line for the inspection and the line went everywhere. We followed the line to the end and waited and people cut in front of us from all over. There was no organization or turnstiles to help people with where to go. No information that an inspection would be required from either Carnival or the taxi driver. This inspection line took over an hour to get through then off to the airline line which took another hour then 45 min. for security and we arrived at our gate a full 3 hours after arriving at the airport. It was a good thing we had a 2pm flight or we would have missed it. We will never fly through San Juan airport again on a weekend. The airline employee told us it was like this every Sat. & Sun but the airport didn't increase staff or do anything extra to accommodate the extra people from the cruise ships. I would recommend that you stay over in San Juan and fly on Monday if you can afford it and don't want to fight the crowds.

Summary: Except for the mess at the airport we felt this was the best cruise we have ever taken and would recommend it to people looking for a port intensive cruise. Try to avoid the airport on Sunday if possible. Less

Published 04/04/09
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Cabin review: 4D Interior

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Port and Shore Excursions

Booked tour with Lawrence of Antigua $35pp US ( Lawrence said in his email that he had plenty of room on this tour for extra people if we wanted to bring friends, well we did as 2 couples from our table went with us and no problem. We had a great time. Lawrence took us to some of the prettiest sites we have seen in his big bus. Total there were 5 couples with room for at least 4 more. He stopped at all the major sites and let us out to spend 10-30 min at each to enjoy. There was an extra $5pp US fee for the National Park but worth it at is can't be used at multiple spots. Lawrence also had bottled water and local beer to drink. Stopped at Devil's Bridge (my favorite), Shirley Heights, Nelson Dockyard and well as view of Eric Clapton's house. Finally a stop at the beach, if you want to stay and have Lawrence pick you up later it costs an extra $10. Found this tour to be much better than any cruise tour and very inexpensive.
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Booked a tour with Glory tours ( it wasn't scheduled until 11:30 so walked to town after the ship docked. The taxi/rickshaw drivers were ever present and annoying as we walked. Once we reached town, which was only a 15 min walk we found the shopping terrible and over priced. People on the street frequently calling out to you to come in their story or take a tour with them. Same problem with the walk back to the ship, felt like taking a taxi just to get them off our back. Sarah from Glory tours met us at the appointed spot 10 min early and gave us a personal tour. During the drive she gave a detailed history of the island, its people and geology. She answered any question and gave an excellent tour. The wild life reserve was an excellent spot to see the green monkeys as well as other animals. Harrison's cave was nice but not as impressive as I thought. The tour is a 30 min tram ride through the cave with 2 - 5 min stops inside the cave. Difficult to take pictures as the tram is moving and the light is low. The cave does have many waterfalls in it as well as interesting rock formations. Sarah did call ahead and we walked right on to a tram while people arriving by car had a 1.5 hour wait. Then a tour of the east coast as we wound our way back to the ship.
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Booked the Roseau Valley Best tour with Bumpiing tours ($60pp US. Met by Levi Baron, owner and operator then handed off to our very capable and excellent tour guide Garry (hello Garry!). This tour blew us away. If your looking for an eco-tour that has some hiking this is it. The hike to Middleham falls is a bit strenuous but Garry knows just when to rest. The hike is well worth it as the falls are awesome. Make sure you wear your bathing suit and water shoes or sandals. The tour van was perfectly sized for our group of 8 and stocked with bottled water, local beer and soda. From the hike off to Titou gorge which is a short swim to the water fall, what an experience! Garry ensures everyone is safe with a water belt and he carries a life ring on a rope for anyone needing extra help. Make sure you have a water camera or yours is sealed in a waterproof holder. Then its off to Trafalgar falls and the hot springs. Garry took us off the beaten path to a spot without other people and let each of us sit under a small waterfall as the warm water fell onto your head and shoulders. Finally ended at Champagne reef for snorkeling. Unfortunately the surf was too high to snorkel. With many beers consumed along the way a great time was had by all. If you do an excursion on Dominica, it must be one of the many choices that Bumpiing tours has to offer.
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Booked a Kayak & Snorkel package from The Tour Store ( $50pp US. Arrived at the appointed time to find that the tour time had changed to 2 hours earlier so we missed it. They tried to call us but we didn't get the call as we were on ship. Did have a message on our cell phone once we got back to San Juan but that didn't help. The staff was helpful in trying to book something else but nothing sounded good to us. They cheerfully refunded our deposit. We then took a tour from one of the local people standing at the end of the pier with a tag line of "Cruise ship tour but not the cruise ship price" Very true. The tour ended up being the worst one of the trip but only cost $20pp US. Wish we had spent more and got a better tour. The island is very scenic but we only saw a bit a most of it from a moving van, didn't get out much. Talked with other cruisers who did the Brimstone Hill/Train tour and they loved it. Same with beach tour of Cockleshell. Will know better next time.
Read 1321 St. Kitts Reviews

Booked Cosol tours ( in St. Lucia at $65pp US. My wife and I spend considerable time trying to determine which tour was the best, this or Bumpiing tours on Dominica and this one won but by a hair. We found ourselves in Cosol's van with 3 other couples for a total of 8. Cosol had at least 4 other vans with other drivers. Cosol was awesome. He has you busy the entire day seeing, doing, eating and drinking. I can't list all of the things we did but he does on his website. He keeps the vans small so each driver can give a more personal tour and he makes frequent stops so you can get out and take pictures and better experience the tour. Don't eat before starting this tour or you will miss out. With an early stop for bananas (fresh from the plantation) to an early lunch stop with 3 tables filled with local food as well as unlimited rum punch, bottled water, soda and beer you shouldn't be hungry or thirsty. Beware of Cosol's spiced rum, it packs a punch however I do recommend trying at least one shot:-) On the return trip to the ship as everyone is worn out he makes a stop for hot bread and cheese, boy is this good with a cold beer. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. BTW, if you take this tour please do us and Cosol a favor. Cosol loves apples, sneak an apple or 2 off the ship for him. I can't think of a favorite part from the mountains, to the volcano and sulfur springs, on to the beach you get to from the water taxi between the piton mountains or the food it was all awesome. Thanks Cosol!
Read 1136 St. Lucia Reviews

Had booked an excursion with Spiderman Island tours for $23pp US. He picked us up at the cruise ship right on time and took us down town for some shopping first. Found a number of stores closed up and found that the ports are hurting too as the visitors are spending less. Did purchase some jewelry here as well as t-shirts at good prices. The tour left on time and followed the itinerary as listed on the website ( The tour was good but not great. I would compare it to a general island tour from a cruise ship but with a much cheaper price. Spiderman aka Conrad was personable and informative but the scenic spots seemed to be at commercial spots or filled with pushy vendors. The open air truck made it nice for picture taking but not so good when it poured the rain. Can't blame the weather on the tour guide but we had better tours to come and the rating suffers with comparison.
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