I have been waiting to write my review for 18 months. That how long this trip has been planned. It is long but I hope it will be helpful to future cruiser as your reveiws have been for me.
We left 5 inches of snow in Columbus Ohio on Sat 24 before the cruise, first time I have flown since 9/11. Big changes, but did just fine. We stayed at the Radisson on Biscayne Blvd. Great! We went to the Bayside Market via the people mover(free) but took the hotel shuttle($1 per person) back to hotel.
The room was to die for two of the wall were all windows over looking the bay. King size bed, down pillows and comforter, I felt like a VIP. The hotel also had a shuttle to the port ($4. per person)
We went to the port at 11:00 am got there by 11:15 and was on our ship by 12:30. This was our first cruise the ship is fantasic. Just like the pictures of seen.
We were upgraded from Rivera deck to Upper an inside cabin. It suited us just fine. Plenty of closetspace. I really like the one closet was made to hang long gowns very nice. I also liked the free use of the safe. I used my AAA card it worked just fine. We met our stewart Amick first thing and shook his hand, he was great, we saw him twice a day, they work so hard. Anything I need he got. Our luggage came before dinner. I told Amick, he was my new best friend. We got the lay of the ship and started eating (ha!) that's all you do. We,( we traveled with 32 people from my church adults only this time) walked around and stood up on deck to get a view of the bay. The crew did push the drinks and pictures, but we just said no thanks and that was that.
The muster drill could have made me sick and clostrophobic but it didn't last too long. If you aren't tall it could make you feel closed in. I'm 5'8" so that only bothered me a little.
Anything you want and as much as you want.
Dinner was something else, we had the sweetest little girl, her name is Patcharee, but she likes to be called Lilly, we were so fond of her that everyone in our group that had her gave her extra tips. She remembered how I liked my steaks, and how my husband likes two containers of dressing. She made our trip and she has only been working for Carnival for two months. Her helper didn't have much personallity, but maybe she was new too. But she worked hard also. You could have anything you wanted and if you wanted two you got it. She always wanted to make sure we liked our meal. If you added up all the meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner, 24 hr. pizza, mid-night buffet, and ice cream and room service for two it would have totaled at least $1000 for 7 days. I thought the food we ate was top notch. I'm not going into detail about every meal, but we were a group of 32 and had nothing but praise for the food.
They were good also, I especially liked how the comedian had a PG show and then they told you in advance that they also did a late night R show. There were 3 men they were really great. Two dance shows and a magic show. Wonderful.
Our CD Steve Castell was nice and a very talented juggler. They had bingo every day a little pricey $20 a game but lots of people participate.
They did alot of games during the day. Sorry to say after the first night of trivia, which I love, I quit going. The young lady in charge was being heckled by a man who had too much to drink, it was hard for anyone in the crowd to have fun. But at one point she nicely went over and put masking tape over his mouth, the whole place applauded. There was something truly for everyone. My husband did what he wanted and I baked in the beautiful sun.
Ports of Call:
San Juan, St. Martin, and St. Thomas
San Juan was a wasted stop, we all felt with all the history that could have been experience, we missed it because of the late time 5:00 pm. Also it was very dirty and we felt unsafe and we were traveling in a pack. You would think it would benefit the city as far as tourist money to come earlier.
St. Martin was beautiful, the shops, what bargains. the further you walked the cheaper things got. The water was gorgous. The venders really need to learn the work no. But I'm sure that's how they make a living. but beware, if you act like your interested they will swarm you like a hungry animal.
St. Thomas, was beautiful too. The bargain weren't as good as St. Martin. All three stops had a great amount of poverty, which really broke your heart.
This was a trip of a lifetime for us, we have been married for 27 years and this was the first trip without kids. Speaking of kids there weren't more than 150 kids on board if that many, and the ones there I thought were well behaved. A great time if you would rather be with mostly adults. There is something for everyone. Good music can be found everywhere, I especially loved the classical piano music in the lobby. I was surprised that there was no country music though.
I only had a couple of things ore this trio would be perfect but it was so close that I'm almost afraid to try another but I'm afraid I'm hook.
1. I only came across two people not pleasant but rude. One was at the excursion desk and the other was at the casino, okay so I just wanted play nickels and she wouldn't take my pennies. Then I need to cash a traveler check for some extra tip money and I got the same unpleasant girl.
2. The excursions, don't to it. They are overpriced.and buyers beware of the wording on the Carnival excursions..read the fine print. We only took one,(first cruise and limited budget) so we choose the best one for us. Trip to Mageans Bay and Paradise Point $35. NO water mat, no snorkel gear, and no tram ride. All we got a very expensive taxi ride. I wasn't the only one upset, there was four taxi-vans full that we not happy. At St. Thomas there is a Taxi commission that sets the fares for the rides and someone needs to give it to Carnival. I went to the desk and told them I felt cheated and why. The 1st Purser(title on his badge) heard me and tried to tell my the the tram ride was included and I just didn't give my ticket to the right person. He said he even heard the tour person and I just didn't do something right with my ticket. Then he read the description of the tour, yes it was nothing more than a taxi ride. I just about cried, and I told him how wonderful my first cruise had been but I was disapointed in Carnival for taking advantage of a new cruiser who trusted Carnival to giv eme the best for my money. The next day a received a letter from the person in charge of excursions with an apology and coupons for photo and he thank me for my input. I bet that poor cab driver didn't get much of that $35. But this didn't ruin my trip, but next time I will do my homework.
We weren't in any hurry because we were staying an extra day. The rest of our group took their own bags and left early. After everyone had their turn we were off the ship by 11:00. What a zoo though after you left the ship. Our luggage wasn't too are to find. But next time I'll invest in a bigger suitcase.
I hope this review is helpful. I had a great time! Thankyou CruiseMates for all your education. I know I was better prepared because of you.
Pamela S. Myers
Just got back from the Victory. First time cruisers traveling with our two daughters (ages 2 and 5 ½), and eight other family members.
We left Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at 7 am and arrived in Miami around 5 pm (connection through Houston). Grabbed our luggage and went looking for the Dollar rental shuttle. We decided to have a full day in Miami to sightsee before embarking on our cruise so we rented a van. This way we also had transportation to the Carnival pier the day of the cruise.
Sunday, the day of the cruise, everyone got up early so we'd have time to make a trip to the pier with half of the group, come back, return the van, and take the Dollar shuttle to the pier with the other half of the group. By the time we got to the pier there were tons of people lugging their luggage. The people who got there early already had their luggage in big bins, we on the other hand had to leave it where our shuttle left us, out there by itself in the middle of all the dust (major constructionat the Carnival pier).
I had filled out the Fun Pass for each member of the group so as we went in to register most of the group went to the Fun Pass line (which was as long as the other line, but does move faster because there's less paper work for you to fill out). My husband and I were told to go to another line because we had a stroller. People on wheelchairs or with strollers actually have a separate line. You then proceed into another big room where everyone is waiting to embark and you get your "Sail and Sign" cards. Then it was time to embark. You smile into a machine that takes a very flattering picture of you and in you go, through security machines and on to the gangway.
The first Carnival employee you encounter is a photographer, right on the gangway, to capture how you looked as you embark on your vacation (which is probably tired from chasing luggage and kids and filling out forms and getting in lines.).
The first thing we did was find our cabin, and even though it wasn't ready we put our carry on in the closet and went exploring. Up to the Lido deck to take a look at Miami and to find that our luggage was still in the same dusty spot (not a very comforting feeling). Then to the buffet for our first meal on the ship.
I will now summarize the rest of our experience in categories.
The ship: The Victory is a beautiful ship. We had never cruised before and were very impressed by the size of the ship. It has a "Seas" décor with everything related to the ocean. Our girls counted all the mermaids they could find. It's true that the carpet in the hallways is very stained, and I also noticed that the carpet in the buffet area is very dirty (you can't help but notice when your child is having a tantrum and sprawling herself all over the carpet).
The entertainment: Every night there is a show. Vegas style shows, comedians, a magician and even a talent show. Steve Cassel the cruise director was hilarious and did a great juggling act. There are quite a few bars, a disco, an arcade, a casino and plenty to do in the evening.
The food: Personally I thought the buffet food was boring. I always read about the midnight buffets and quite frankly they are not worth staying up for. Even the gala buffet was disappointing. Instead of the buffet, they should maybe have a fruit and small snacks table set up the whole evening. We really enjoyed the dining room and I think that if we didn't have 2 kids with us, we probably would have gone there for lunch and dinner every day. The food was great and the service excellent. All you had to say was "I'm not sure which one I want" and you'd get both.
Service: In the dinning room the service was excellent. On the Lido deck there are a lot of people working, not necessarily smiling all the time (they work 16 hour days), but you can ask for anything and you get it. Our room steward did not introduce herself and my husband didn't actually find out who she was until almost the end of the cruise. I thought the fact that most are not proficient in English lowers the quality of service you get. I don't think our room steward spoke English very well so she didn't approach us.
Maitre d': Saw him twice for a combined time of less than 30 seconds. Worth a tip? I don't think so.
Photos: They take a ton of pictures every day, and every day a ton of pictures ends up in the garbage. They are just too expensive. They make most of them in an 8 x 10 format, which costs $20. If you want it in a 5 x 7 it's only $6.99 but you need to buy the 8 x 10 first. I think they should make them in a 4 x 6 proof size and charge you for the actual size you want. We ended up spending $100US for 6 pictures. We would have bought more if they were more affordable.
Sail and Sign card: You can check your balance on the TV screen in your cabin. We did it everyday and found mistakes. I have a feeling that a lot of people don't check and assume everything on the bill is correct.
Ports: We stopped in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. We didn't book any excursions because we felt they would be a waste of money because we had two small children. Instead we enjoyed the beach and shopped at every port. We did notice that what we did do on our own was also offered by the ship as excursions, but it was well worth it to do it on our own. In Cozumel and Ocho Rios the ship docks so you can leave when you want. In the Grand Cayman the ship tenders. They told us to pick up a number at starting at 8am, so we went for breakfast and then picked a number by 8:30. We ended up being number 12 and having to wait 45 minutes for our turn. Piece of advice, pick up the number then go for breakfast.
Camp Carnival: What a great program!! They run activities from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm, with a break for lunch (12:00 - 2:00) and a break for dinner (5:00 - 7:00), this is when Camp Carnival takes kids to the Mediterranean dinning room and feeds them. The camp counselors do a lot of activities with the kids. They provide the list of activities for the duration of the cruise from which you can decide which activities your child will enjoy. You can also plan your activities around Camp Carnival. It is not only a good place to take them so the parents can have some "adult" time, but also a place where your child can play and have fun. In our case, because our kids are 2 and 5, I think if they didn't get a chance to just play, they would have been bored.
Debarkation: We had to get up at 5:00 am (to line up by 6:00 am) to pick up our passports and go through customs. The customs officials only showed up at 7:00, so needless to say we waited a long time in line. Not only did we have to be there early, the whole family had to be there to pick them up. By the time we sat down for breakfast we had been up for 3 hours. After breakfast we got our carry-ons from our cabin and headed to the Caribbean Lounge and waited for our colored tags to be called. It took quite some time. A lot of people kept being called to the purser's desk and until all those have cleared we all have to wait. Once we were on the gangway on the way out it didn't take long to get our luggage and get to the shuttle to the airport. I must say that with our luggage they decided to play a trick on us, because only one piece of luggage was by our color. My husband had to run around all the other deck colors to find the other two. We had Carnival transfers so we quickly got on the right shuttle and off to the airport.
Tipping: Carnival has a new tipping policy where $70 is automatically added to your account. Every sail & sign card gets $70 added. It works out to $10 a day. Some people in our group preferred the old envelope way of tipping, so the first or second day they went to the purser's desk and removed the $70 from their account. You can also do it on the last day if you want. We thought the amount was fair and we left it as it was but you can add or subtract from the amount depending on how you feel about the service you got. We also had to make sure that we had a stack of $1 bills, because as soon as you leave the ship you start tipping anyone who touches your luggage. Amazing how fast those bills go. We had Carnival transfers for the shuttle to the airport that specifically state that what you paid for them "includes fare and ALL gratuities", but when we arrived at the airport we were reminded by the bus driver "don't forget the driver" and he actually stood outside the door while everyone got out so we would tip him. I feel that he did his job, which is to drive the bus, which he is paid to do, so I didn't tip him, neither did most of the bus when they found out that the transfer already included the tip.
All in all it was a great vacation. One that I am looking forward to repeat in the near future. I hope my review has provided useful information. Delia DaSilva
My mother and I (I'm 23) flew from Richmond to Charlotte and then Charlotte to Miami, but our second flight left about an hour late because they had to de-ice the wings, so we landed in Miami around 1:10 pm. There were a lot of cruisers on the flight so everyone was anxiously awaiting their bags.
There were several Carnival reps around gathering people for the buses. We hadn't arranged for that and after asking about it, decided to stick with our plan of getting a taxi.
We got to the pier around 2 pm and as soon as we stepped out, a porter gave us a list of guarantee cabins so we could find our cabin number (we booked a balcony guarantee). We found it, he marked it on the tags, and we went into the terminal. After security, we joined the line and it took us probably about 30 to 45 minutes to get through everything-the initial checking of documents, getting our cards, getting our pictures taken, and actually getting on the ship.
We went directly to our cabin to check it out. I was really happy going with aguarantee cabin because we were on Deck 8, mid-ship (8-375), and it was a great location. It was really convenient to the Lido deck-we could just pop right up there so quickly to grab a drink, some food from the buffet, etc.
I should probably add here that both of us are first-time cruisers. I had researched everything so thoroughly and read so many good things about having a balcony (and I love balconies anyway) that I decided to go with it, and I'm probably spoiled now because I don't think I could ever resort to an inside or oceanview cabin!
After checking out the cabin, we went exploring around the ship-checking out all the bars, the dining room, the casino, the pools-just wandering and finding our way around.
One thing I will say about the Victory and the ships in that class is that at first it's kind of confusing getting around, and it gets less confusing as you go along-but I don't think we really got the hang of it until the last day, and both of us are good with directions!
There is one particular thing that makes it difficult to get around-the position of the Atlantic Dining Room. There are two dining rooms, the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Pacific is the main dining room, used for Open Sitting for breakfast and lunch as well as the 5:45 Main Sitting for dinner and the 8:00 Late Sitting. The Pacific is located on decks 3 and 4 Aft. The Atlantic is used for just the 6:15 and 8:30 dinner sittings, but it is located on decks 3 and 4. in the middle. So it's closed most of the day, and there's no way to get around it.
There were many a time where we were trying to get to the Pacific dining room or the bottom floor of the Caribbean Lounge and ended up standing in front of the Atlantic dining room, looking at closed doors. It was so confusing that the Info Desk put a sign up that said "How do I get to the Pacific Dining Room?" Basically, we had to go back up to Deck 5, walk across, and then walk back down to Deck 4 or 3. I'm sure there's a good reason for why the Atlantic has to be there, but it is the one design flaw I saw with the Victory-and I assume the other ships in that class are the same way. My advice-walk AFT as far as you can before going down to get to the Pacific, and FORWARD as far as you can before going down for the Caribbean. It takes a while to get the hang of it.
As far as the rest of the ship goes, it's beautifully decorated. The theme is "seas," and everything is named accordingly-Aegean, Atlantic, Pacific, Adriatic, Caribbean, etc. Most of the ship is done in greens, blues, and dark wood. I'll admit, some of it gets to the gaudy side-the Mediterranean Restaurant for one-but most of it is really well done.
The two most striking rooms on the ship, in my opinion, are the Adriatic Lounge and the Ionian Room. The Adriatic is very classy; it's where they have the Captain's Cocktail Party, art auctions, and music in the evenings. The Ionian room is done in a classic Greek style with columns, marble and maroon leather chairs. They have a jazz trio play in this room, and they also have a classical trio some afternoons for "Classical Music and Tea Time," which is a great way to relax before dinner. It's also the only indoor place where you can smoke cigars. There's a Card Room to one side and the Internet Café to the other.
Of course, there are bars galore-a Lobby bar, 3 pool-side bars, a casino bar, and a whole row of them on the 5th floor Aft. We frequented the Irish Seas Piano Bar the most. It's a nice room with dark green paint and a mural ceiling, and best of all, Ron the Piano Man plays there nearly every night from about 10 pm-2 am! The piano spins while Ron takes song requests, plays and sings. It's a lot of fun and he did a great job even though he had a cold during our cruise. By the end of it, he was up for drinking martinis instead of TheraFlu, but he did remark that this was the quietest cruise he'd been on since Canada. We heard similar remarks, so I guess our cruise crowd was pretty dead. Still, we had a great time in the Irish Seas. They have full bar service thanks to a few barmaids who make sure you keep getting drinks. I recommend getting there early and sitting at the bar, and I definitely recommend going at least one night! We loved it so much we went back again and again.
And now for some grades.
Embarkation: B+ Pretty much as expected with wait time in lines. I'm sure it's probably a lot better getting there earlier but since our flight was late we came in a little later than planned and during a pretty big rush. Everyone was in a good mood, so waiting in line wasn't too painful. After the really big initial line, everything spaces out pretty well and then everyone wanders up to the lunch buffet once they get on ship.
Food: A- The only reason I'm giving it an A- and not an A or A+ is because I didn't particularly enjoy the Lido deck buffet. Basically you can eat at the Mediterranean Restaurant (Lido deck) for breakfast (8-12), lunch (12-2), dinner (6-9), or you can eat in the Pacific Dining Room for breakfast and lunch, and then your normal sitting for dinner. I would recommend going to the dining room. It's Open Sitting for both breakfast and lunch so they'll put you with other groups of people, but this was never a terrible thing. Sometimes you end up with a group that's chatty, sometimes not.
Breakfast is really good and you get more of a selection than you do with the buffet. For lunch, though, there is a better selection at the buffet, and we normally would eat at the buffet instead. They do post the menu for the day outside the Pacific (Lower Level), so you can check out the lunch entrees and decide. Anyway, the buffet wasn't terrible, but it's not nearly up to par with the dining room food. They do have nice fresh fruit and frozen yogurt and ice cream, but I wasn't really impressed with the entrée selections. On the other hand, the Pizzeria and the Mississippi BBQ (burgers, hot dogs, fries) are both good. There's also a deli and a Chinese food place, but we never tried those. Dinner, every night, was great. A+.
Service: A+ I read so many varying things about quality of service so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. Our room steward, Joseph, introduced himself the first night and did a great job the whole week keeping the room clean and producing some very cute towel animals. Our head waiter Carlton and assistant Primosz were both attentive and always gave us whatever we wanted. Every other employee we encountered was unfailingly friendly and polite. They were always working on cleaning the ship and we never saw an employee idle. We ordered room service one night and it came very quickly. I'll agree that the service wasn't really that "personal" - it was more on the efficient side-but they did their jobs really well and we felt that the service was great.
Condition of ship: B+ Yes, there are water stains on the carpets in the cabin hallways. This is not really bothersome considering that you spent about 0.3% of your time in those hallways. The rest of the ship was kept in good condition; the employees were always cleaning, vacuuming, or polishing.
Entertainment: B+ We did spend a lot of time in the Caribbean Lounge for shows and other activities, and we saw nearly every show. The Las Vegas-style shows, in my opinion, are not great. Maybe they are to some people, but I'm just not really into that kind of show. There were 2 of them, "Livin' in America" and "Vrooom." The comedians were both very funny (although we didn't go to the R-rated show either night). A magician was scheduled for one show but didn't make it, so Steve (the Cruise Director) did an amazing juggling act, which was great. We also saw a sword swallower, which was pretty cool.
Other entertainment. Bingo is expensive but we played and played, never winning. the Newlywed/Not-So-Newlywed game is a must-see. Horse Racing was really funny, I would encourage placing bets... Trivia was fun although the questions seemed more suited for the middle-aged crowd (which I am not a member of!). Overall the activities and shows were very entertaining. This being my first cruise, I wasn't aware that they would have a guest talent show, but we went and were so impressed-your fellow guests may be very talented!
Ports: A- I picked this ship particularly for its itinerary because I wanted to go to St. Maarten and wasn't interested in Nassau. For some reason, I just knew I would prefer St. Maarten, and it turned out to be my favorite of the three. By the way, I did not do a Carnival shore excursion at any of these ports-they are all simple enough to do on your own if you're willing to be flexible and explore.
The only slightly negative part about the ports is that the San Juan stop is at night. Still, Old San Juan is nice at night, especially if the weather is pretty mild-we had a good time strolling around the streets and just exploring, but of course it'd be nice to see in the daytime. Since it is the first port, everyone rushes to get off the boat at 5 so you may encounter lines in the Deck 1 Forward stairwell. For the other two we didn't really have that problem.
In St. Maarten I would recommend Dawn Beach, which is beautiful. However, it's good to know that taxi fare in St. Maarten can be high especially if you're traveling alone or with one other person. It cost two of us about $27 round-trip to Dawn Beach, which is still on the Dutch side. It is a fairly long ride from the pier, but if you're planning to take a taxi to the French side, it might be pretty expensive. The water taxi right off the pier will take you to and from downtown Philipsburg for $5 per person.
In St. Thomas you can walk right from the pier to the Paradise Point Tramway and take it up to the top. It does have some beautiful views and there are a few shops and a café at the top. There are taxis everyone with drivers constantly asking if you want to go downtown or return to the ship, so getting into downtown is very easy. There is a shopping mall right at the dock but downtown Charlotte Amalie is pretty and has a little more atmosphere. I would have liked to go to Coki Beach or Magen's Bay in St. Thomas, but I had sunburn from Dawn Beach so we skipped that and went back to the ship to swim in the shade while the top decks were empty.
We had a very annoying US Immigrations visit when we docked in St. Thomas. Starting at 5:30 am, US Citizens had to report with their passport to one area, non-US Citizens to another. We learned about it in our Capers the night before, but the start time of 5:30 was recommended for those on early tours, so we took our time (mainly because I wouldn't get out of bed) and went at about 7:30. The line was ridiculous. We had to go to the Adriatic Lounge, but the line stretched almost to the front of the casino (quite a distance!). We were in line for a good 30-45 minutes, which was unfortunate since I was a little hung over from the "Riviera" drink special of the night before. We eventually got processed through and were given a little white sticker that seemed to have no purpose, as no one ever asked me for it again. Anyway, apparently that had its benefits because we didn't have to go through Immigration when we docked in Miami.
I did find it a tiny bit taxing to do 3 ports in 3 days. I really feel for those who have 5 ports in a row, and I would never want to be on a ship with that kind of itinerary! The good thing about Victory is that the times you're in port vary-it's not just 8-5, 8-5. Besides, I think it's pretty unlikely that you'll spend all 7 hours (or 10 in St. Thomas) in the port, out and about. We couldn't do it; maybe some people can. So plan your time accordingly and don't feel rushed-we came back to the ship for lunch, showers, and a break in both St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Then we'd go back out to do shopping or poke around a little more. All the ports are beautiful and I want to go back to each of them.
Debarkation: A+ This gets an A+ because my mom and I did something called "self-assisted debarkation," which was announced during the Debarkation talk and in the Debarkation Capers. Typical debarkation, as you may or may not know, consists of setting your luggage outside your cabin door between 6 am and midnight and then leaving when your luggage's color tag is called the next morning starting at 9:30 am. However, if you had not gone over your Customs limit, had nothing to declare to Customs, and chose to take all your luggage off the ship yourselves, you could leave between 7:30 and 8:30 am.
My mom immediately jumped on this idea even though our flight from Miami wasn't scheduled to leave until 5 pm. Once we found out that we could standby on an 11 am flight, I was game. We only had one suitcase and a couple carry-on bags, so it was really simple for us. At 7:40 am, they made the announcement that self-assisted debarkation had started, so we went down to the lobby, joined the line, and were off the ship in about 20 minutes. You'd think that taking all your luggage off yourself might deter those carrying 7 or 8 bags, but ohhh no. They were there too, but didn't slow things up too much. We got off the ship, went through the terminal, popped out to a taxi and got to the airport around 8:30. If you can do this and it's an option, I would highly recommend it. I would have liked to stay on the ship, have breakfast, laze around, whatever, but we ended up getting home 6 hours earlier than planned, and after 7 days, that was pretty nice.
A few last things-- I had read about the Cruise Director on the Victory as some British guy Mike, but our CD was a guy named Steve Cassel and the ACD was Tim Somebody. I gathered that Steve is a pretty seasoned CD, and he was funny in a kind of. goofy, nerdy way. He is a fantastic juggler, but I wasn't totally thrilled about him as a funny, approachable guy. I liked Tim more because he seemed more real-Steve at times could be a little fake. He did a good job with everything, but I never really "liked" him.
The in-cabin movie selection sucks. They show movies I've never heard of and then repeat them at the end of the cruise. They did have a couple good movies, but overall it was pretty poor. I know, I know, some of you are saying, "Like I would want to be watching a movie in my room when I'm on a cruise!!!" but sometimes you do, and we ended up watching an Olsen twins movie one night when we were getting ready for dinner. Bleh.
I had a great time during my first cruise on the Victory and although I want to check out some other ships, I would sail on her again. If you get involved in all the activities and explore the ports, you'll have a great time too. I hope this review has been helpful!
2 day Cruise to Nowhere from Norfolk Oct 17-19, 2003
Arrived in downtown Norfolk about 12:20pm, parked in the Town Point garage, and walked across the street to the cruise terminal/pier at Nauticus. There was no line and we were through check-in, security and photos, and onboard by 1pm. We had decided to save money this year and just get and inside guarantee. We were assigned cabin 6289 on the Upper deck. A large room, with beds made up as a king.
Having been on Destiny, which I did think was very "neon" in décor and a bid gaudy, the Victory was a pleasant surprise. We knew the layout of the class, but liked the Victory's colors and décor.
We sent directly to the Atlantic dining room, to which we had been assigned for late seating at 8:30pm, only to find that we were seated at a table for eight and had requested a table for two. Marko, the Matre d' was very accommodating and set us up with a nice table on the upper level.
We enjoyed embarkation lunch in the Mediterranean restaurant on Lido deck, where the Chinese wok, deli, buffetlines, Mississippi BBQ, and Pizza kitchen were all open. Lifeboat drill was about 25 minutes later than scheduled, so we sailed about 4:45pm. It was a sunny day, in the low 70's, the outstanding pool band Ecstasy was playing, and Karen even sunned in her bathing suit. With sunset about 6:20, we were still in the Hampton Roads channel at sunset.
We found our favorite wine and martini bar at the Caspian Bar and enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails. At dinner hour we reported to the dining room only to see from the entrance that someone was seated at our table. I asked to headwaiter to check, and she moved the couple. She said to wait a few minutes until the table was ready. No one came to advise us, and finally at 8:45 we just walked to the table and sat down. The wait staff did an outstanding job of accommodating us at that time and by the time of the main course we were right on line with everyone else.
I brought my own wine to the dining room each night, prepared to pay the $10 corkage fee. We were not charged either night. The waitress, however, knew little about wine other than how to uncork it..not offering me a taste and immediately filling my wife's glass to the brim. The second night I asked her to just let it breath after opening and I'd pour. We had no trouble with it during boarding. They x-rayed the boxes and asked if it was wine. I said yes and they sent me on my way with two bottles of champagne and two of dinner wine. I had carried a copy of the policy from the Carnival website FAQ's that allow it.
The menu the first night was not memorable, but good. I had gazpacho, and rack of lamb and Karen had catch of the day: tilappia. Dinner the second night was outstanding. I enjoyed smoked salmon, strawberry bisque, Caesar salad, three lobster tails, and cherries jubilee, followed by birthday cake.
Both nights the dining room staff paraded and danced during dessert. They actually appeared to be having fun and enjoying it.
The shows both nights were outstanding, possibly some of the best we have seen aboard Carnival. The lead songstress, Diana LaSalla, has an awesome voice and vocal range, and Kevin Jayroe, the lead singer, was very good. The dancers dressed both nights like a Vegas review and were excellent. They were so good that neither of us fell asleep either night!
The weather on day two was as bad as last year, raining till late afternoon, and eliminating the normal pool activities and making the food lines very long and slow. They moved some activities inside, and the Siren's Pool on Lido deck, with the retractable cover, was busy. A blackjack tournament made the casino the most crowded I'd ever seen on cruises. They did have nickel slots and me made our customary donation. Photo portraits were available both nights. Camp Carnival was in full swing, including a coketail party and formal dinner for them.
There were far fewer men in formal dress than on any other cruise we have been on, including this same cruise last year. Women were mostly formally attired. At the captain's welcome aboard party, in the Adriatic Lounge, there were plenty of free drinks and appetizers even after the Captain and other officers were introduced and left, an uncommon situation.
There were a nice variety of music/dancing venues both evenings, from 70's to jazz, classical, rock, etc. A Filipino band, The Bestsellers, was awesome. Because of the rainy day on Saturday we did attend a matinee comedy show with two comedians. TV is VERY limited. No CNN and intermittent movies. They did have Saturday college football in the sports bar by the casino.
The ship returned about 7am Sunday morning but we were able to stay aboard with luggage in our room until 9:20. We enjoyed breakfast in the Pacific dining room, the larger of the two dining rooms. I thanked the matre d' for his attention to our table problems. Leaving was easy, and we walked across the street to the parking garage, deposited our luggage and returned to the park adjacent to the terminal to watch the ship sail and then attended the Town Point Wine Festival to make a who weekend of it. We had a nice weekend holiday. But two years in a row of lousy Saturday weather stealing our sun time, darn.
This was my tenth cruise, our fifth as a family, and the second time we've sailed out of New York City. It's a delight to be able to drive from our home in Connecticut and be on the ship, in our stateroom, in less than one hour -- which we did this time, much to our surprise.
The boarding procedure was painless. It wasn't supposed to start until 1:30, but we were already on board by then. Tip: Have all your documents filled out and your passports in hand, and all will move quickly. Lose any single piece of paperwork and you're toast. You can carry on your bags if they're small enough for an airport-style X-ray; otherwise check them at curb-side and be sure to tip the stevedore. One lady we met lost a bag at check-in and it never was found in the next five days.
The ship is very, very big. Our cruise in mid-August was sold out and jammed with kids – more than 800 of the 3500 passengers -- so the Carnival Kids Club was jammed, but still accommodated them nicely. The Kids Club counselors arevery attentive. I tried to walk into the disco where my daughter was at some kids' event and I was politely challenged at the door. They even asked if I had booze in the Diet Coke I was carrying. That's the kind of care for my kid that I expect, respect and appreciate.
When you first step on board you must find your own cabin, but the map they hand you makes that easy. Baggage was delivered in about an hour. We had two cabins -- one outside with a balcony (Our first, but not our last. They're worth it!) and an inside cabin nearby. Both were well appointed and roomy by cruise ship standards.
Lifeboat drill was fine, if a bit cursory. We were supposed to sail at 4:30 p.m. but finally got going about 5:15 p.m. We had a 5:45 p.m. sitting in the Pacific Dining Room, so we missed most of the harbor as we sailed out.
The food was great, the menu diverse and the service impeccable. We enjoyed the fact that our family had its own table and we didn't have to share our meals with strangers. Our fellow passengers on a previous New York to Bermuda cruise had been a big disappointment -- low class, rude and pushy. This time they were fine. It's just that there were so many of them.
The crowding was worst on Promenade and Lido decks. The buffet style Mediterranean Restaurant was fine, and the optional Deli and Chinese food windows a nice touch, but the crowds made dining less than enjoyable, so at most meals we opted for the more formal sit-down fare.
At the self-serve restaurant they offer plates but no trays, perhaps to cut down on gluttony. In the main dining room the portions were small, but requests to our waiter for an extra appetizer or dessert were met with an enthusiastic "why not?" We avoided the midnight buffet, so I can't help you there. Our one experience with room service for pre-port coffee was fine.
Our cruise director was Mark Price, a bubbly Brit with a fun sense of humor who seemed genuine and was very effective. I usually can't stand cruise directors, but this guy was real and very funny. The shows on our five-day cruise were super -- especially nights two and four, when the dancers performed elaborately staged numbers. The comedian on the first night was OK, the magician on night three was adequate but nothing new. The ballroom seats 2,500 and usually provides two shows a night (one for each dinner seating), but get there early as the place fills up fast. The upper two decks are steep, stadium-style seating. We opted for the main floor. There's usually a game of bingo in advance of the show.
If you drink a lot of soda (or your kids do), get a "Fountain Fun Card" at any of the bars as soon as you board. They allow unlimited sodas for about $5 a day vs. a standard price of $1.75 per glass (with built-in tips). We found some of the bar staff treated the cards with scorn, but we never lacked a cold beverage, and tipped staff an additional buck or two if they were helpful, say, in the main ballroom.
The staff came from 53 countries, with a strong presence of Eastern Europeans and Asians. They were all friendly and helpful, and language was never a problem. They worked very hard, and it showed. Never once did I see a piece of trash or a smudge mark on a glass door. The ship was immaculate, despite carrying 4,500 people in all.
My wife visited the Spa and had what she said was a great massage -- followed by a sales pitch for overpriced lotions and such.
One does get the sense on Carnival that you are always being pitched something. The cruise director was always on the PA promoting some crappy jewelry or watches on sale in the gift shop, hawking shore excursions, selling us on bingo or flogging the video being shot of the cruise. We understand that such "revenue centers" help keep down the cost of the cruise, but please! Enough with the K-mart blue light specials. We came to relax, not shop.
It was the same thing with the one "port talk". On the Caribbean cruises this session is like a giant infomercial for merchants ashore. On this cruise there were almost none, so he hawked the approved shore excursions (i.e., the ones that Carnival profits from). How about a little history of the cities we're visiting? Something about the culture? This is a continuing gripe of mine with all cruise lines: It's always about shopping!
The photographers were very good, and formal sittings were plentiful with different backdrops and photographers each night. We ended up buying three group shots (at $20 apiece), a new record for us. Work with the photographers and they'll give you whatever you want, or just say "no thanks" and they'll leave you alone.
There was one "formal night" and the dress code was observed by most, to my surprise. Tuxedos were few, but most folks at least wore a blazer and tie (or didn't go to dinner if they chose to stay in their shorts and t-shirts).
In-cabin TV was disappointing. There's a nifty digital log showing where you are, the ship's speed, wind direction, and the temperature in each of the four pools, but aside from a couple of HBO reruns, all the other movies were pay-per-view at $9 apiece. They did pick up the TV networks, and carried CNBC for the markets and even a Canadian channel when we left Halifax.
Our cruise had two ports of call: St John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
St. John was tiny and offered only a few tours. My wife and 11-year-old daughter went on the kayak and lobster-bake, as recommended on this site by others, and they had a gas. I opted for a walk around downtown and also enjoyed myself. The natives are not only friendly, they're great. The cruise ships mean a lot to their economy, so they go all out to make you feel welcome. And the booths on the pier selling arts and crafts were filled with unique items at good prices. Shop there and you'll find some nice souvenirs to take home.
In Halifax we booked a taxi in advance, also at the recommendation of others on this site. I'll do it again in other ports -- anything to avoid the tour bus and the cookie-cutter, overpriced tours offered by Carnival. Our driver was Bob MacLintock (www.tourbytaxi.com), who took the three of us by Mercedes down the coast to Peggy's Cove over some beautiful back roads. Peggy's Cove was a madhouse, but he showed us equally lovely coves where nobody was cluttering up the landscape. On the way back, he showed us the sights of Halifax -- homes, the Citadel, downtown, etc. -- and had us back to the dock in less than five hours for only $144 U.S. I recommend him highly. He has a number of different tours and with three or more people, they're a bargain compared to the buses.
On the dock in Halifax is an excellent museum of Canadian immigration and more crafts shops. Bob told us everything the shops sell is reviewed in advance, so you won't find any of the usual made-in-China crap. The U.S. dollar is very strong, so don't look like an ugly American and try to bargain down an already reasonable price.
We had another day at sea, this time with fog, and we were home again by 7 a.m. in New York. Debarkation started at 8:30 a.m. for those who could "self-assist" (i.e. schlep all their own bags). We started toward the elevators about 8:45 a.m. thinking we'd missed the rush, only to be stuck in roller-suitcase gridlock for about a half-hour. Still, it was faster than putting our bags out the night before and trying to claim them in that sea of humanity, as those passengers get off last.
This was our second cruise on Carnival (following a somewhat favorable New Year's Cruise out of Tampa on the Inspiration). We'd previously gone only on Holland America (Caribbean, Panama Canal, Alaska), Celebrity and NCL, but Carnival compared very favorably and we'd take them again -- especially anything they offer sailing out of New York City!
This was my 4th Carnival cruise and my second sailing on the Carnival Victory. Quite frankly, it's time to move on. Not that I don't use other cruise lines. Not that Carnival hasn't served its purpose. I have only sailed Carnival on 4-day cruises when I've wanted to stretch a holiday weekend. For longer cruises there are much better choices in the cruise industry. The pity is that while Carnival appeared to have a very good product, it seems to be in decline. At one time Carnival seemed to be a leader in the short cruise market (at least in New York). The cruises were offered on some of their newest ships as opposed to other lines, such as Royal Caribbean that do their short cruises on their oldest ships, such as Majesty of the Seas. This decline was all the more apparent when the last cruise I took was a fabulous 7-day vacation on board Celebrity's Millennium. Whereas Celebrity is re-branding itself and trying to add a lot more special touches to their cruises Carnival has either removed features or lowered the quality of the product.
One feature that was betterwas the embarkation. Check-in took no time at all. I arrived at the passenger ship terminal and there was no line. After showing my ticket ot the security officer, I proceeded to the x-ray and metal detectors and straight on to the check-in lines. I located a line with only family ahead of me, who were actually finishing up and had my Sign & Sail/room key card in a matter of minutes. One more stop to take my photo for the card (for security reasons.I skipped the bon voyage photo) and I was on the Victory. I went directly to my cabin 1205 on the Riviera Deck. Since I carried on my luggage I dropped them off at my room and headed to the Lido Deck for the Mediterranean Restaurant, the casual buffet on the restaurant. Up until then I thought things looked pretty good. The ship didn't look brand new but looked fine to me. Upon arriving on Deck 9 I already noticed that this was going to be a crowded cruise and that I would need to work at finding my own space. The pool area looked very crowded and congested. So did the Med. Restaurant. I sampled a little bit of Chinese food from the Yangtze River and found it to be very good. My main goal, though, was to get to the Mississippi Barbecue for a steak sandwich. There wasn't much of a line and I was told it would take about 10 minutes. No problem since I had the taste from the Yangtze. The sandwich was ready in less time and it was as good as the last time. The actual buffet at the Med. Restaurant had long lines and the food did not look appetizing. I would avoid it during the entire cruise. The Med Restaurant was therefore on my list of places to avoid. Too crowded and too noisy for me. Fortunately, there are other places to dine on board the ship, so at least I knew at the get-go to plan other arrangements. One thing I did notice while crossing the by the pool to get to the Med was that pool towels had to be signed for. I have seen this when people are going off the ship but never at the pool. Apparently Carnival is adopting a reform school attitude towards its passengers.
I spent sail-away at the very front of the ship on Lido Deck #9. From there I had a spectacular vantage point for viewing the sights along the Hudson and New York harbor. Once we sailed under the Verranzano Narrows Bridge I returned to my cabin to unpack. I met my cabin steward who asked me to sign a list showing that he had introduced himself. Perhaps this shows that Carnival is concerned about the quality of service, but requiring a signature goes way too far. My cabin steward was the best staff member assigned to me during the cruise. The cabin was always kept neat and clean and well stocked with towels and toiletries. I mentioned I had late seating and he always took care of turn-down service after I left for dinner. I never came back to a cabin with wet towels on the floor. In contrast, one of my table mates mentioned that her cabin never got cleaned until 4 pm. My table assignment for dinner was in the Atlantic Dining Room, 2nd seating, which commenced at 8:30 pm. The 2 dining rooms' seatings are staggered by ½ hour, I suppose to prevent over-load in the galley. However, 2nd seating show times in the main show lounge were 10:30 pm sharp and I found it difficult, especially with the slow service we had, to manage to get to the lounge in time for the show, and also to find a decent seat. The Caribbean Lounge has plenty of seats with poor sight lines due to obstructions and partial views. To add to this, the orchestra level is not raked steep enough to see both above the heads of the audience in front of show and see the feet of the dancers. Upstairs is a lot better for the production shows, but then you run into the partial view and obstructed view problems.
As I mentioned, dinner service was slow. For the first 2 nights the head team waiter was the only one serving us. It was difficult to get a refilled water glass. Every evening meal service would come to a screeching halt in order for the waiters to put on a "show." I would have preferred the show to be done at the end of the meal so that I could have made it to the lounge sooner to get a decent seat for the shows. The place settings did not provide for separate forks for salad, appetizer and main course. Each time the waiter picked up my plate he would return the fork to the bread plate. This is extremely tacky. Anyone who attempts to think Carnival offers "fine dining" has another one coming! The quality of the food was good for most meals. But after 4 cruises with Carnival, the same old same old is getting tiresome.
For breakfast and lunch I used the dining room. Both meals were open-seating and only available at the Pacific Restaurant which is located at the very back (aft) of the ship. This required a bit of a hike. Also, the galley causes an obstruction and one must traverse the ship either a deck below or above in order to access this dining room. Lunch was very good on both days. Breakfast offered more of a challenge but only one dish actually came out totally unacceptable. I found both dining rooms to be a bit difficult to navigate due to the number of poles, waiter stations and tight fitting of tables and chairs. At one meal the waiter had to really squeeze between my chair and a pole to serve. Noise level was pretty high in the dining rooms too.
I did order room service breakfast on the first 2 mornings. It arrived on time on the first morning and I like the fact that they deliver bagels and lox in the morning. The 2nd morning I got tired of waiting and after 25 minutes I proceeded to the dining room. I did let them know that I was leaving. One afternoon I ordered brownies. The order # is for cookies and brownies. I asked for only brownies. I got only cookies. I called and told them I only wanted brownies. I get a phone call 5 minutes later, "Do you only want brownies?" I said, "Yes." I wondered what that was about. When the room service stewardess arrived with just brownies (hallelujah!) she told me that they were going to send "more cookies" and that's why she called me since she couldn't figure out why I wanted more. Apparently the person taking orders is also taking English lessons (or rather, needs to take English lessons).
Formal night, in word, was a joke. Many men did not bother to wear jackets at all, let alone a tuxedo or a dark suit. I even saw adult men in t-shirts! The women faired better but you wonder why the ship photographers bothered to set up. Speaking of this, I found they had way too many stations set up for photographs and this added to the congestion problem on board the ship. The atrium became an obstacle course by the late afternoon.
>From the first show when the cruise director (Gary Linton) introduced himself, I could tell that he was not going to be very good. Most, if not all, of his talks, whether it be chit-chat or informational, were delivered poorly (My favorite faux pas was when he acknowledged the band during the first night's show and remarked, "Aren't they gay errr.great?"). In addition, he did not seem to offer any talent, unlike the c.d.'s I encountered on previous cruises. In fact, the c.d.s' talents provided an evening's entertainment on my 2 previous Halifax cruises. On this cruise, the passenger talent show was used as fill-in for the evening. On the other cruises, the passenger talent show was done during the day since the show lounge was booked every evening with a proper show!
My days at sea were spent relaxing and avoid the crowds. I used the outside promenade on deck 3 to lounge and listen to music. Unfortunately the crew was busy working and one side was shut down and the other was noisy from work. It would have made more sense if the crew worked on one side at a time so that passengers could enjoy at least one side without any intrusions. One interesting aspect of the first day at sea was the amount of fog we encountered. The ship had to blow it's warning horn all day. This leant a bit of an Agatha Christie atmosphere which I thought was fun. Fortunately, no disaster occurred and we arrived safely in Halifax the next morning and on time. I had some activities planned for the afternoon but the sea air got into my system and I enjoyed some delicious napping
Halifax is a great place to visit. There is actually plenty to do. The locals are friendly and there are some very good restaurants. This visit I tried O'Carrolls, which is an Irish pub with a separate dining room. It was too late for lunch, but the pub food was terrific. I had fried Digby clams (a local delicacy) in a basket with onion loops (bigger than onion rings). The price was $9.95 Canadian or $7.30 U.S. which I thought was quite reasonable. I spent the day with friend who lives near Halifax and in addition to the lunch we look a ride into the countryside which is quite scenic. The big surprise was spotting 3 llamas on the side of the road while we drove through a small town. Apparently they're raised for their wool. The other wildlife encountered on the journey was a porcupine. Alas, the creature was no longer alive, but still, something I wouldn't normally see at all. I watched the port lecture on television out of curiosity. One important point was left out. That is the fact that there is an absolutely free shuttle bus which will pick up passengers in front of the passenger terminal and take them to several stops in downtown Halifax. Since Carnival doesn't profit from this I guess they don't feel the necessity in mentioning it.
The day at sea on the way back was more time out on the promenade. However, I did manage to participate in activities this day and managed to win the trivia contest. They awarded me a trophy. I thought they should have awarded me a life! The final night's dinner was a lot of fun. One of the women at my table celebrated a birthday and she got really into the waiters dancing on top of the tables (my ears are still ringing from her whistling). The maitre d', who never made an appearance at our table, hovered about the room for his tip. For all I know he's still there hovering for my table's tips.
I did try my luck at the casino and it was all bad! Losing got boring after a while, so I didn't spend a lot of time there, just a lot of my money (well to me because I'm such a sore loser).
We arrived in New York a little past 7 am. I did not need assistance with my luggage, so I was allowed to disembark before the passengers who had to claim their luggage in the terminal. I had a very nice breakfast (Glad the last meal on the cruise was a success. A lot of people feel that the last meal is rushed and poorly served). I returned to my cabin and watched tv instead of going to a lounge to wait for the clearance to disembark. Last year on Carnival Triumph we were allowed to stay in our cabins until it was time to leave, but this year they wanted everyone to pile into the lounges, which is so inconvenient! I kept an eye on my porthole and noticed people walking with their luggage in the terminal, so I just picked up my bags and wheeled myself off. My elevator, on the way out went up one floor too many, and I could see the confusion in the halls, so I was glad I didn't bother heading for a lounge (I'm such a rebel!).
My previous cruise with Carnival was on Holiday, one of its oldest vessels. I was not pleased with that cruise in comparison to my previous cruises on Carnival Victory and Carnival Triumph. It lacked the variety of dining, entertainment and activities. Sadly, however, the Carnival Victory, while still offering more of a variety is not as superior as it had been only a few years before. So it's time for a break from Carnival. Probably for a very long time.
We just returned from the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Victory. 32 of our closest friends and family members were traveling to celebrate my stepfather's 70th birtday. It was my 30th birthday as well.
To make this easier to read, I will break my thoughts into categories.
Food - mediocre at best. The presentation was beautiful, but the taste was lacking. Lines for the buffet were a mile long. The pizza was good though. Our wait staff at dinner we wonderful though, very helpful. One member of our party was a big eater and often ordered 2 entrees or desserts. Our waitstaff was always gracious and patient.
Stateroom - Our cabin steward did not introduce himself or make his presence known other than a casual hello in the hallway. On a previous cruise with carnival, our cabin steward was friendly and attentive to our needs. The room itself was adequate. I will never sail again unless I get a balcony cabin. It makes all the difference.
Entertainment - If you like Vegas shows, you will like this cruise. There were a lot of interesting performances. Most of the time though, we played cards win theIonian room and it is directly below the disco...poor planning on Carnival's part. It was often so loud we couldn't hear ourselves think. Nonetheless, it is the most comfortable room to sit in and provided us with a place to play cards and drink until the early hours of the morning.
All in all, it was a good trip. If you want something affordable,good for children, or a party cruise...Carnival is the way to go. This was my 3rd Carnival cruise, and I don't think I will go on another. I think I will look into other cruise lines and pay the extra money for the "extras" that Carnival forget.
What a wonderful cruise!! Despite everything I'd read regarding how generic Carnival was and so on, this was an awesome experience. Flew into Miami and stayed at Holiday Inn Marina Park (fun location, lots to see and do). Sunday at 1200 arrived at pier for boarding, this went quickly (about 20 minutes in line). All our luggage arrived (this was a new experience for us, usually the airlines loses it all)and our cabin was ready at 2:00 or so. We had an excellent cabin for a family of 4 and our room steward-Adam was excellent.
The dining experience was perfect, Villim our waiter was a doll and we never wanted for anything. Sure the buffets were pretty average but hey when you're feeding the masses, I wouldn't expect more. The shows were wonderful and the cruise director was great. I'd heard that the island excursions offered on the ship were overpriced-NOT! We had a great trip from St. Thomas to St. John's Trunk Bay for snorkeling-great price and fun time for all. We had only one mishap, technical difficulties (we later learned the propulsion system, i.e. engines, were sluggish) had us stay overnightin San Juan and missed St. Maarten.
The staff were great about keeping us informed and we were routed to the Bahamas after St. Thomas in lieu of our missed port. Wide variety of guests on the ship, although fewer teens than we'd expected (to my 14yr old dismay)and lots to do and see. Can't wait to go again.
Sunday, Day 1- Embarkation in Miami
I live about 2 ½ miles from the port so getting there was no problem. The last time I cruised was on a Friday and there was lots of traffic, we left early as a result just to find absolutely no line at the pier. They had greatly relaxed the security measures so we just needed to show our tickets to the guard, no ID needed and we were in, this was at aprox. 10:00am.
The traffic started when we were getting ready to turn into Carnival's piers 8 and 9. We were early so the previous passengers from the Victory and Paradise were just getting off and the huge shuttle buses were paralyzing traffic. We sat there for about 20 mins. before we made it the 900 feet or so to the parking lot. We paid the $70 parking fee and found a perfect spot close to the entrance of the lot.
We wheeled our luggage to the terminal and found out that because the luggage from the previous passengers was still inside we had to wait a bit until they set up thecranes for us to turn in our luggage. We just hanged out in the shade watching the previous cruisers lugging off their booze and feeling the pain for those that can't tan but still tried and ended up walking out in pain while looking like a lobster.
We had an Oceanview Guarantee so we had the gray TBA tags, a Carnival Rep found our cabin number on the list and just wrote it in the tag. We didn't need to change color tags. The porter simply picked up the luggage and loaded it up but I tipped him anyway to make sure that I wouldn't see my luggage floating in the bay during sail-away.
Made it inside the terminal, line is just starting to build up; it is now between 11 and 11:30 am. Go through the security checkpoint where my big bracelets, jewelry and biker belt overwhelm the metal detector after going in they hand out the popular FAQ flyer and a letter letting us know that although they would let us board early, we couldn't go to our cabin until 1:30pm because they were still being cleaned.
We finally make it to the check-in counter and discover that the nice lady handing out the flyers forgot to give us our SARS questionnaire. This form is very simple and we filled it out in seconds. We were checked-in in no time and proceeded upstairs to pick-up our Sail & Sign cards. We got our cards in no time but it was still early (about 11:45am) and boarding hadn't started (the only people allowed to board at this time were members Wedding Party).
We sit around, make ourselves comfortable, I pulled out my Carnival book to locate our cabin and strategize on the best routes to get to all of the interesting places. Pretty soon the place starts to fill up and the chairs run out. Apparently I had an "I know it all" look on my face because many people kept asking me questions like "What is going on right now?", "Why aren't we boarding?" "When will we board?" "What happens next?" They seemed to like my answers so much that the same people kept coming back to me the whole week to ask me questions; amazingly enough I always had an answer. I should bill Carnival for this service since I saved a lot of people a trip to the Purser's Office.
At around 12:10pm people started to get impatient and rude. As soon as boarding started everybody forgot the concept of courtesy and manners and the "First come First served" concept went down the drain. It felt like a stampede of anxious cruisers trying to cut everybody off just so they could be one of the first ones to board.
We were still among the first 20 or so passengers to make it up the long walk through the terminal to the gangway. This time they took our pictures before we got to the gangway, according to the embarkation picture it was then 12:23pm. We got our pictures taken for our Sail & Sign card and we were onboard.
First impression is: "Atrium is pretty but not as nice as the Fantasy class ships". Second impression is: "I don't think the green is gaudy, I kind of like it" (with one exception I will mention later).
First thing we do is head to the Atlantic Dining Room and find our Maitre 'D. We requested late seating but got assigned early and there is no way that my boyfriend and I would make it to dinner at that time. We were the first person there, Vito, the Maitre 'D actually looked surprised that there were passengers boarding already (apparently he hadn't looked at the time in a while). With just a few clicks in the computer our assignment was changed to 8:30pm in a booth for 2 on the second floor of the Atlantic Dining Room right next to the bandstand. It was a relatively quiet and romantic location but I'll expand on that later.
After that we headed to the Lido Deck to get some lunch. The buffet was nothing out of the ordinary but was good food. After eating we walked around to get familiarized with the ship and then headed to our cabin.
The Cabin: We were in a category 6B Oceanview on the Main Deck. At first glance it was a traditional Carnival Cruise cabin, same colors and type of decoration. It looked just like our cabin in the Fascination with 2 exceptions. This cabin was longer but narrower. The passage way from the door past the bathroom and closet felt very cramped. The added length to the cabin accommodated a sofa, something we didn't have in the Fascination.
For the first time the 2 beds were already pushed together so we didn't need to call our steward to do it for us. A couple of hours later we met Octavio, our cabin steward. He was nice but spoke supper fast with an accent so we didn't understand half of what he said. We didn't get a towel animal on the first night but we got a different one every night after that, we carefully moved them off the bed to different locations in the room so by the end of the cruise our cabin looked like a zoo and we had tons of towels.
Our luggage arrived little by little relatively early and I was all unpacked before the drill. The lifeboat drill was quick and painless. I enjoyed the fact that our muster station is right by the lifeboats instead of one of the lounges like in the Fantasy class ships.
I missed the Cruise Critic meeting after the boat drill for some unknown reason. I remembered it was taking place but I guess I just got busy eating pizza and doing stuff that it was sail away before I knew it.
We spent the afternoon hanging out and relaxing until dinner where we met our waiter Lucas from Colombia and Assistant Waiter Gabriel from the Philippines. They were nice and professional but we made very little small talk, there was not much conversation with them during the cruise. Gabriel was very shy at first but really loosened up and started smiling a lot more after the first night. Lucas was very nice and always made sure we were taken care of. He would make suggestions and was always telling us "if you don't like it let me know and I'll get you something else". We were never without water thanks to them.
On this evening we met who would become our regular barmaid for the week. Luciana Pinheiro from Brazil goes from table to table during dinner offering drinks. She is so nice and sweet that we were never able to refuse a drink from her; she was very good at making suggestions when undecided.
We made it a point to go to the Alternative dining every night before the actual dinner so we were always pretty full during the actual dinner (this worked great for when we couldn't find any appealing dishes in the menu) We went to the Welcome Aboard show and met our cruise director Mike Price, the guy is hilarious and energetic. This was followed by a comedy show by Greg Ray, he was funny but not hilarious.
Monday, Day 2- At Sea
This was a very relaxing day, we got up late at around 11am and went to have breakfast on the Lido deck and then hang around the pool and hot tub. There was some deck chair saving but nothing major; there were plenty of chairs available. We got ready for formal night and posed for pictures before dinner. I don't remember why but we somehow missed the Captain's Party.
We went to the Purser's office to get a hole punched on our Sail & Sign cards since we brought lanyards and I sometimes didn't have a pocket to carry it. The Purser seemed to have a hard time understanding why she couldn't punch the hole on the side where the card goes in the lock to open the cabin door. She ended up having to print out new cards for us, this proved to be a nightmare on the gangway because they never worked right after that. They had to take our picture again on the gangway and even then the computer would keep buzzing and we had to present ID all of the time, very annoying.
The most embarrassing time on this cruise came after dinner when we were walking out of the dining room our waiter stopped us and sent us back to our table. I had mentioned to my TA that this was an anniversary cruise for my boyfriend and Iand she apparently made a note of it. Our dining team gathered around us and started to sing "Happy Anniversary" to the tune of "Happy Birthday" to us and brought out a cake. It's official now, as far as everybody on board is concerned, we are married.
After dinner we went to see the show "Livin' in America" it was nice but I'm not that fond of Vegas style shows simply because I don't understand the need for the dancers to wear thongs to perform their choreography. After that we stayed for the R rated comedy show with Greg Ray, he said some funny things about relationships and although this show was better than the first one, still didn't meet my standards for good comedy.
Tuesday, Day 3- Puerto Rico
This was supposed to be a sea day with a late afternoon arrival in San Juan. When we woke up in the morning we discovered that the ship wasn't going as fast as it was the night before. We later learned that they were having some mechanical problems with the propulsion system so we couldn't go as fast as needed, therefore our arrival at San Juan would be delayed to 9:30pm, technicians were on stand by in San Juan with the parts necessary to make the repairs to allow time for this the ship would stay in Puerto Rico until 6:00pm on Wednesday but we would miss St. Marteen.
My boyfriend and I were thrilled since I was born in Puerto Rico and hadn't visited for several years and he had never been there. I had been to St. Marteen before so I didn't really care; my boyfriend had never been there but didn't seem the least bit affected. Other passengers were not so happy, I was in line at the Purser's office to address a discrepancy with my account and I was surrounded by angry passengers complaining to no end. Most of their anger was out of ignorance because they were not paying attention to what was being said. Some where thinking that we would not make it back to Miami on time and kept yelling instead of listening to the Purser who was very patiently trying to clarify their understanding. I felt sorry for the poor girl who had no fault over the situation and was taking all the heat. I felt like helping her by explaining things to the people but some of them either were not smart enough or simply refused to listen.
After getting back to my cabin I realized that I needed to contact the car rental agency to change my reservation and avoid a penalty. We were not too far from land since I was getting a small signal on my cell phone but it wasn't enough to get the call through. I ended up paying $13.98 for an in-cabin call and our car reservation was adjusted.
We pulled up to the harbor close to 9pm, it was a beautiful view with the city lights, shortly before 9:30pm we were out the terminal, we took the first taxi we found to Charlie Rent-a-car's Isla Verde office, rented a 2003 Daewoo Lanos for $29.95 plus insurance, the car was really nice and had less than 1,000 miles on it. We drove to my parent's house and dropped by unannounced at aprox. 10:30pm they were extremely surprised but happy, headed back to the ship after 1am. There is no parking in the terminal in San Juan so we drove around trying to find an open garage, we parked in the Covadonga Parking Garage across the street from the terminal, and their rates are very cheap. Secure parking totaled up to $6.50 for 8 hours, I really liked the automated cashier, it completely eliminates the line to get out.
Wednesday, Day 4- Puerto Rico
We woke up at around 8 am, had breakfast in Lido as usual and we walking towards the car by 10am. I drove my boyfriend around town pointing places from my childhood growing up there. We went to San Patricio Mall and browsed around Castle Books, and then we headed to Plaza Las Americas and walked around the mall and shopped at Borders Bookshop. Did some more driving around and headed to the Condado area to drop off the car. There is some major construction taking place on Dos Hermanos Bridge which divides Old San Juan from the new city, traffic was horrible in that part. Dropped off the car, the shuttle was out at the time so they gave us $10 to cover the cab fare to get back to the ship. We walked aprox. 2 blocks to the Whyndham Condado Plaza and took a taxi that dropped us off at El Morro Fort.
We didn't go inside El Morro but we took some pictures and started the walk through the Old City. I ate some delicious fruit ice cream from a street vendor and my boyfriend had a "piragua" (shaved ice). We walked around through the cathedral, El Convento hotel, and many tourist shops. We tried to go to "El Parque de las Palomas" (Pigeon Park) to feed to Pigeons and enjoy the view but it was closed. Found a place that sold Miami Vices and bought one to rehydrate myself. We walked through the "Paseo la Princesa" and the San Juan gate before walking back to the ship for our 6pm departure.
We sailed out of the harbor just as the sun was getting ready to set, the view was beautiful, we took some nice pictures of the fort while leaving the bay. As usual had dinner in the alternative dining before heading to the Dining Room. We were so tired from that day that we just relaxed the rest of the night and went to sleep early.
Thursday, Day 5- St. Thomas
We woke up in the late morning as usual, had breakfast in St. Thomas. I had been there so many times before that I didn't care much what we did. We took a personalized tour with a guy named Daniel aka Chihuaha; he was very good and showed us views and places that the organized tours didn't offer. We took some really breathtaking pictures of the view from the mountains, including Magen's Bay. He did such a good job that we tipped him extra after he dropped us off in the shopping area.
We shopped around, I bough some Passoa liqueur that I was never able to enjoy (more on the liquor saga later). I got my hair braided (just a headband, not the whole head) for $40 (this is the cheapest I've ever been quoted since I have a lot of hair). After that we headed back to the port and walked around Havensight Mall, same stores that we saw in the downtown area with the same or higher prices, haggling is not as easy here. Just bought 2 mini bottles of alcohol, 1 Kahlua, 1 Tequila which I had no problem bringing onboard.
Tonight was the guest talent show, I didn't see it so I can't say anything about it other that it was constantly playing on the TV after that.
Friday, Day 6- Day at Sea
Finally another chance to just relax hanging out on the decks and reading on the lounge chairs on deck 3. Tonight was the second formal night but I wasn't in a formal mood. It is amazing how my boyfriend used to hate having to be all proper in the dining room and loved the lido actually insisted on going to the dining room so I tried to dress up a little just to go.
I completely missed the happy hour; we went to dinner and then headed to the Caribbean Lounge for the show. Although the actual show starts at 10:30pm, they play a video related to it from 10pm with a biker guy talking and several music videos. Being a biker myself I really liked the show, most of the songs were really good although they could have done better by removing a couple that were not too impressive. This show was much better than the first one.
We stayed for the comedy show with Marvin Bell at midnight. It took me about 20 minutes to start laughing. My boyfriend was having a blast from the beginning but it was harder for me to laugh since I already knew the jokes. I own a joke e-mail list and I was convinced that the guy got 97% of his jokes off the internet. That is why I prefer true stand-up comedians, it makes for more original humor. I finally started to enjoy some when he started talking more about himself instead of just making random jokes but I decided not to bother going to his next show the next day.
Saturday, Day 7- Nassau, Bahamas
Got up at around 11am, did the usual race to get ready and make it to Lido before they closed the breakfast line. Then we got ready for Nassau, it was pretty to watch us sail in and dock. We were next to the Majesty of the Seas, the Fascination and another small and rusty ship from one of those "luxurious" lines that I can't remember now. I really didn't want to be in that one. But my boyfriend and I were trying to figure out a way to get on the Fascination since we like that ship better.
We had been to Nassau not too long ago and we're not beach bums so we skipped the tours and just walked along Bay Street window-shopping. Stopped by the Pirates' Pub and bought a Bahama Mama and after seeing most of the shops headed back to the port. The shops on the port are not interesting but I got to satisfy my craving for popcorn and bought some roasted pecans that I love. Then we headed back to the ship.
After we set sail I attacked the gift shops and did all of my purchases, there weren't as many deals and those available were not as good as in previous cruises. Most of the deals were repeats from earlier in the week. Due to the lack of variety and high prices I didn't buy much. Then I headed to the Photo Gallery to buy our last sets of pictures and went to the cabin to start packing.
I had purchased 3 booklets of drink coupons from Carnival before our cruise and we still had quite a few left. My boyfriend doesn't drink much but he loves to get me tipsy so I had quite a few coupons to use before the end of the night. Needless to say I was quite tipsy.
I didn't really feel like going to dinner that night and I stuffed myself too much during the alternative dining at Lido so we decided to skip it. We showed up while they were handing out the desserts so we could say goodbye to our waiter and assistant waiter and took a picture with them then we started to look for our Maitre 'D to give him his tip and take a picture with him. We stayed for their last performance. The dining room staff sang "Leaving on a Fun Ship" to the tune of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" I don't know if all of the drinks that I had so far made me very sentimental but the lyrics were so emotional I had to try to keep myself from crying.
After the performance was over we headed to our cabin to finish up packing, we decided not to go to the last show since the juggler had been on the Fascination on our last cruise and although he was for the most part good, he did make several mistakes and the show was not that entertaining, the comedian that night was the same guy from the previous show and I didn't feel like listening to recycled jokes.
After our luggage was out, we decided to do a last walk around the ship, get our last slices of pizza, eat our last soft serve ice cream and drink my last Miami Vices. We spent a good deal of time on the Lido deck before heading back to our cabin to watch TV and try to sleep, not looking forward to the next day.
Sunday- Day 8, Debarkation
We left an order for Room Service breakfast on our door the previous night requesting delivery between 7:20 and 7:30am. We get up, shower, get dressed and leave the room at 8:30am with no word from room service so we decide to go to Lido instead. At 9:20am my boyfriend goes to our cabin to get the last of our stuff out and he gets a call from Room Service asking if they can deliver the order in the next 15 mins.!? I'm hypoglycemic (sp?), I would have passed out by the time room service arrived hadn't I gone to the Lido deck.
We just found a table on the Lido deck and sat down to wait for debarkation, I didn't like the fact that they closed the breakfast line at least 45 mins before debarkation started and everything else including the ice cream machines were unavailable. Debarkation was greatly delayed due to the fact that people would constantly be at the Lobby area even though they were constantly announcing over the PA that the process would be delayed as long as people were there. After a minimum of 5 identical announcements, debarkation started, it was slow going for the most part.
Our color was called at aprox. 10:40am and we proceeded to the terminal just to discover that the luggage for the 3 colors that had been called simultaneously was not ready yet. After waiting on the terminal for a couple of minutes, the luggage is finally ready and a stampede ensues barely knocking over the employee that was guiding the passengers. We didn't have much trouble locating our luggage, we handed out our customs declarations and were out to the parking lot in no time just to find out that the car had decided that it liked sitting there and refused to move. We decided to take a taxi home and just worry about the car the next day.
Embarkation- A Carnival handled the process smoothly; it was the impatient and rude passengers that made this process annoying.
Dining- A- When not traveling, I'm a vegetarian, I don't eat burgers, steaks or hot dogs but I'm not fond of most vegetables dishes and salads. I like pastas, rice and other non-meat dishes. Something I don't like is that Carnival only has 1 vegetarian option each dinner and it is usually a fancy dish that I dislike. As a result, I find myself "sinning" (my personal term for eating a dead animal) during my cruises by eating some of their meat dishes. I wish they had more options for the picky veggies just like they do for the picky carnivores.
Many people look forward to cruising with Carnival because the President's Butter that they offer is to die for. Although this is not a reason why I cruise, I definitely look forward to it so I was sad to discover that they completely ran out of it after the embarkation lunch. We had plain butter after that.
Alternative Dining- B+ The food was very good but the lack of trays made juggling several plates and a drink a big mission, this was especially a hassle when trying to find a table on the 2nd story in the Mediterranean Restaurant.
The pizza was ok, but the garlic bread would take absolutely forever and they would serve very little. Carnival shouldn't offer garlic bread if they dread it so much that it becomes such a hassle.
They would close breakfast lines even though the place was full of people in line and would leave just one line for aprox. 50 hungry guests, many of which were holding up the line waiting for an omelet since many would not let people go around them. With so many people, the staff was a little slow in replenishing certain items.
Room Service- D- The worst of all of my Carnival cruises. The first time I ordered, they got my order all wrong although it was entered somewhat correctly in the receipt. The second attempt was on the last morning, as mentioned earlier, the meal was requested for 7:20 to 7:30am but they didn't bother to call until after 9 am. Didn't bother to wait for it.
Entertainment- B- Not as good as previous cruises but still enjoyable. I usually tend to love the comedians but this time they were not that funny. The show "Livin' in America" was nothing out of the extraordinary but I did enjoy "Vroom".
This is the most boring cruise as far as activities go. (I was never really bored because I like relaxing but..) The capers didn't seem to have as many activities as it used to, we actually found ourselves with plenty of time during the day and went some nights trying to figure out why there was nothing interesting going on as a result this is the most TV I have ever watched on a cruise.
Service- A It depends on what department and who it is but it was acceptable overall. Many crew members were efficient and nice but only a handful actually exceeded and it was still up to par compared to the service received on previous cruises.
The Cabin: A Very good size, longer than Fantasy class ships but also narrower. Really liked the sofa but the space in between the closets and the bathroom is really narrow and cramped in making it uncomfortable to carry things in/out or open the door for someone.
The ship: B+ The ship was clean and well maintained in general with the exception of the carpet in the hallway on our deck, it was just disgusting! There were stains everywhere, some looked like spilled drinks, others like vomit, and god knows what else. I wasn't going to let this ruin my experience so I made sure I didn't walk barefoot in that area and I would avoid looking down while walking. Although they were constantly cleaning around, it seemed that they never bothered to replace the couple hundred burned out light bulbs throughout the ship, not that this is a big issue for me but it would diminish the area's appeal.
The layout is not as well planned as in Fantasy class ships. The public areas are smaller or at least felt more cramped (except for the Caribbean Lounge) and many of the lounges were too crowded for our tastes. I was surprised that with such a big ship there were only 2 main decks (5 and 9 with 4 and 3 being partially useful) it seemed like almost every deck was a passenger one. Neptune's way in deck 5 is too narrow for being the main area to get anywhere on the ship, I had to hold my breath every time I walked by because the place was full of smokers.
A word about the public restrooms, either they were not cleaned often enough or the passengers were just pigs because they were always nasty. Some of the bathrooms were so small and cramped that if somebody was drying their hands in the air dryer, nobody could walk through. They are not designed for overweight people. I watched this very heavyset woman squeezing herself through the space between the counter and the stalls, she could barely fit and it was very uncomfortable, I felt very bad for her.
Shopping: C- The gift shops were not as interesting and lacked the variety offered in the Fantasy class ships. The specials were nothing to die for.
The more cruises I travel on, the more commercial they become. The constant sales pitches were just background noise for me but I was actually amazed at how much they pushed "Super shopper Donna's" shopping maps. She was on the TV at all hours in the morning preaching on how you should only buy on these stores or you would suffer for eternity if you bought from anybody else. That was a little too much for me. I appreciate the advice, but it is my problem if I want to take the risk and buy from somebody that is not "Carnival certified", she was really pushy on this aspect.
Movies: C- Worse selection ever. I used to enjoy "First-run movies" but this time they had movies I had already rented from Blockbuster almost a month ago. The selection and quality was poor and they repeated the movies every couple of days making channel surfing a frustrating experience.
I didn't purchase any pay per view movies since I didn't find something I hadn't already seen or that I preferred to pay $3.99 in Blockbuster instead of $8.99 onboard. My boyfriend and I considered the adult movies but with a $13.99 price tag we got picky enough not to choose any of the cheesy titles.
Photography: B+ Very good in general although I have never seen more photo ops in any other cruise ever. Every night they had different backgrounds set-up on every available corner on deck 5. I got sick of smiling for pictures during dinner. I tried to avoid most photos to keep myself from buying but I still bought the boarding and port of call pictures along with a couple of dinner portraits, formal and casual pictures. Although their prices are not my favorite, I'm willing to buy them if they look good but I hate the fact that almost everything is an 8x10, I don't want to have to buy the original to get a smaller print so I end up buying the big ones so I have spent a fortune on frames and I'm running out of wall space in my house.
In the Fascination they have boxes with slots to discard the pictures, on the Victory they had regular trashcans, on more than one occasion I found people just scanning through the trashcans laughing at other people. This is not fair for those that don't think they came out good and don't want anybody else to see them.
Debarkation: D- The biggest zoo ever! Debarkation has never been a sweet cake but it has always been bearable. On this occasion I found it to be very disorganized and chaotic. They called luggage colors even though the luggage was not ready at the terminal almost causing a mob, when it was finally ready I was surprised that the resulting stampede didn't cause any injuries.
In general I really enjoyed the trip but I think that I will stick with the Fantasy class ships unless I get a really good deal on a Destiny class.
This was absolutly the best vacation of a life time. from the moment we arrived it was nothing but fun. i thought i would be going on a well deserved relaxing vacation. but it was the complete oppissite. we partyed from geginning to end. we just let our self enjoy the non reality. it certently was a dream come true. the kids enjoyed it so much. i had a seperate adjoining room for the kids at a resonable price. and it was well worth it. getting the kids their ouw room was a big plus to this vacation. the weather was great. the ship was beautiful and the food wasn't bad either.
24 hour room service was one of the best conviences on this trip. we learned right away not to buy and excursions on the ship. you can do everything on your own for half the price. this certainely is a great family vacation. something to do for everyone. and you meet great people