Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Victory
Sailing Date: April 29th, 2007
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Victory Cruise Review
My six friends and I landed in Miami for
our College Grad Trip cruise around 1:30 in the afternoon and were immediately
met by a Carnival Cruise Line representative. She asked to see our vouchers for
the bus transfer and then led a fairly large group of cruisers through Miami
Airport to the baggage claim area. We waited a few minutes and retrieved our
luggage. Once again, we were led by one of the numerous Carnival reps outside to
a waiting coach bus. After lining our bags beside the bus, we gave our voucher
to the rep and boarded it. We had to wait while the driver loaded the luggage,
which took some time as he was doing the job completely on his own. I felt
really sorry for the man when he was done, it was obvious that he was tired and
hot from loading and I’m sure that this wasn’t his only bus of the day. Despite
the work, he was jovial and joking and made the short 30 minute bus ride to the
port very entertaining. He provided some tidbits of info about Miami and pointed
out things of interest as we drove along. He even slowed down on the highway to
allow us to take pictures of the docked ships as photography is prohibited once
in port. Suffice to say, the bus drivers in Miami do a really good job, so tip
Once at the port, you are instructed to wait until the driver has unloaded the bags for security reasons. Again, we sat waiting. Once the bags were all out, we were asked to identify our bags which a porter took from us and loaded up to be transported to the ship. Despite what the website says, you can’t embark with your luggage yourself. Make sure you have your Carnival cruise ship tag on your bag, which identifies where your cabin is. It’s customary to tip the porters and they aren’t shy about asking, so tip them a dollar or two per suitcase.
After identifying our suitcases, we made our way into the terminal building where a security guard checked our passport and cruise tickets. We then passed through the metal detector and our carry on bags were x-rayed. Once we passed security, we lined up to be check in. There is a long counter with many Carnival reps to check you in so the line moves fairly well. When we checked in, we did so in two groups, one group of four and the other of three. For some reason, the group of four was able to proceed much faster while my group of three seemed to be one of the last groups to board. All I can say, is make sure that the agent sets up your payment method for the ship right then or else you’ll be stuck in line at the purser’s desk later on. That’s what the group of four had to do. After check in, we walked upstairs to pick up our sign and sail cards, which acted as our room key, on board identification and “credit card” for all our ship purchases. When you get to the gangway for the ship, there is photographer waiting to take your first souvenir photo. I guess, my friends and I were considered late, so we had no picture, but no matter, there are ample opportunities to have your picture taken.
Upon entering the gangway, our cards were scanned and a security photo was taken of us so that every time we boarded the ship they could verify whom we were. I found it surprising that there was no one there to lead you to us to our room. Once you enter that ship and are scanned in, you’re on your own. We took a moment to marvel at the atrium of the ship and headed straight for the first set of elevators we could see. We were on the Riviera deck, which is Deck 1. Let me be the first to say that you don’t need to be in a cabin with a balcony to have a good trip. Make sure you at least have a window and you’re set. Inside cabins, those with no windows are much smaller and if you’re claustrophobic, will make you feel like you’re in a coffin. My friends and I had adjoining ocean view rooms, four in cabin 1286 and three in cabin 1282. This cabin was located down the hall from the elevators and the ice-dispensing machine. It was also right above the gangway used when going off ship to the various ports of call. I really appreciated this easy access. The cabin consisted of two twin beds, a convertible sofa bed and a bunk bed that was pulled down from the ceiling of the cabin. Your cabin steward will handle that for you. There is ample closet, drawer and counter space for all to put away their belongings. There is a television, which runs the news, movies, ship information and films shot by Carnival of all the happenings on the ship as well as a radio. An ice bucket, large bottle of water and cans of pop are in the room, but there is a cost to drinking them. $3.50 for the bottle and $1.75 for the pop. The bathroom is standard with a sink and shower. In the bathroom, you will find a hair dryer, towels and a little basket with complimentary toiletries. Our basket had disposable shavers and an energy drink mix. The shower has dispensers filled with body wash and dove shampoo. It is possible that the toiletries may vary from cabin to cabin however.
We took a moment to get settled but were soon asked to assemble for the mandatory safety drill. They make announcements over the P.A. system so listen carefully. You can also refer to the information posted on your door. The safety drill is easy to follow and only takes about half an hour to complete. As soon as it is over, you’re free to go about your way. The ship begins to sail and there are activities already underway.
Day 2: Sea Day
We started the day at a leisurely pace. Some went to work out in the gym while others lazed around in the cabin. We had breakfast in the Mediterranean restaurant, which is basically casual buffet style dining. Lunch and dinner is also served here but you need to check the info sheet placed in your cabin nightly for scheduled times. As well, lines can get long so if you can try to get there right at the beginning for just before the end. Food is also served on the Lido deck outside and in the dining rooms for a more structured meal. Breakfast is standard – cereal, Danishes, fruit, eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, oatmeal. We found the eggs runny. There are drink stations located in the restaurant and along the lido deck, which provide ice, water, juice, coffee, tea and sometimes hot chocolate. Remember where they are as you’ll find them handy when you need that cool glass of water. The Mediterranean restaurant has ample seating in a two level configuration. We ate there for breakfast and lunch everyday. There is also a deli, Chinese food place, grill and 24 hour pizza spot. Loved the pizza, deli meat was slightly tough and never made it in time to eat Chinese food. We could never figure out when it was opened.
This night was formal night. Your sail and sign card indicates which dinner seating you have and where. We had the late 8:30 seating in the Atlantic Dining Room. Our table was 207, which was located in the upstairs area of the dining room. We had a table of eight to ourselves but it is possible to be seated with other people. If you aren’t into conversing with strangers, ask your travel agent if he can arrange a smaller table. Our waiter was Sammy and the assistant waitress was named Seri. Both were very nice, not very talkative but did their jobs well. They caught onto our eating habits quickly and made sure that we were taken care of.
Now, although it’s formal night, you do not need to bring out the sequins and prom dresses. A nice elegant dress or pantsuit for women, a suit and tie for men is appropriate. Think wedding attire. On the other nights, dinner in the dining room is casual, but don’t go in looking like you’re coming from the beach. Think dinner at your local restaurant. Again, if you’re not interested in a structured eating setting, make your way to deck 9 and eat on the Lido deck or Mediterranean restaurant.
Dinner begins with a starter, a salad then the main course. There is much to choose from. I tended to stick to the specialty dishes created by their master chef George Blanc. Skip the lobster tail, as it was dry and bland. Try the salmon or any other seafood dish such as shrimp; try the prime rib and especially the chocolate melting cake with ice cream.
Day 3 – Puerto Rico
We arrived in Puerto Rico around 5PM. The afternoon had been rainy, but thankfully cleared by the time we got off the ship. Getting off the ship was chaotic. The gangway to get off was directly below us but as we made our way to the stairs, everyone from the levels above had made their way down. We were crammed in the stairwells and elevators like cattle and getting off took much longer than it should have. They kept making announcements for those on tour to please make their way. Were they blind to the hundreds of people trying to get off the ship? It was hot and took too long and the system of allowing an entire ship to descend on one gangway needs to be improved. Eventually they opened up another gangway, but they should have done that sooner.
My group split up to take two different tours. The first group took the night kayaking trip, while I went night horseback riding with two others. We boarded a coach bus and drove for nearly an hour to the outskirts of town. The bus driver said nothing to us and we were in the dark for most of the trip. We eventually made it to a ranch near a rainforest and were greeted by an English-speaking ranch hand. We had a short opportunity for a bathroom break and picture taking and then he gave us a short lesson on how to ride the horses. We were then broken up by experience and assigned a horse. The horses are well trained and basically require nothing except that the rider holds on. I sat there and let it do all the work. The ride is at night, with nothing but a glow stick around your neck. The ride lasts about one hour and a half and generally includes a stop by a pond to rest. On our ride night, there were flash flood warnings so we did not stop and instead were given a longer ride around the area. There are guides throughout the group and they are there if you need them. If the night is clear, you can see the moon above, but otherwise, it’s pitch black. Look out for tree branches and mosquitoes. You’ll hear tree frogs and other strange noises. Wear long pants and closed toe shoes. A long sleeved shirt will do fine as it is quite humid as you ride. It was enjoyable and at the end you can buy a picture of yourself on your horse. After our time at the ranch was over the coach drove us back to the ship. You should have enough time to do some picture taking around the port. There are some duty free shops in the terminal and free samples of Bacardi drinks are handed out.
Day 4: St. Maarten
On this day, some of my friends and I went on a ship shore excursion. We took the island tour that allowed us to see both the Dutch and French sides of the island. Unlike the horseback riding tour, we booked this one the day before on our own. The television in the cabin allows guests to book their own tours. Since our tour was not schedule to leave until 2 in the afternoon, we spent a few hours in the morning looking around the little shops near the ship. Shops are standard with typical souvenirs such as shot classes, t-shirts, calendars etc. There are a few bars around if you would like a drink. Within this area, you can also catch the water taxis that will take you to the beach as well as normal taxis or you can walk. It was sunny and warm, with a slight breeze. You might want to consider bringing a hat along with you. We headed back to the ship to meet up with our tour and were led back to where our coach bus was waiting. Our bus driver Danny was a local man. He was funny and friendly with a lot of funny anecdotes about growing up on the island. He was also very informative. We drove around and he pointed out everything of interest out to us. We stopped at one lookout point for a few minutes then proceeded to the French side of the island where we stopped to shop in a marketplace for about 45 minutes. Again, you will find typical souvenirs such as key chains, t-shirts and bags. Many accept US dollars and it is possible to bargain, but you probably will not need to. This tour lasts about 2.5 hours and left us ample time to return to the shops near the ship for last minute shopping.
Day 5: St. Thomas
Shopaholics get ready, but only if you are a jewelry fanatic. But before you set foot off the ship, make sure you visit U.S. immigration, which boards the ship. Announcements will be made to proceed down, but you can go anytime within the scheduled times. Try to go early to avoid wasting time in line-ups. It is not necessary to book a tour for this port. With the abundance of taxis on every corner and street, it is possible to navigate around the island on your own and for much cheaper than with the ship. My friends and I ventured out around 9 o’clock. Right by the ship, taxis were already waiting. Catherine was our driver and she offered to take us on a tour around the island for $25 dollars if we wanted. Luckily for us, we had some hagglers on the bus and they were able to talk her down to $15. In general, the taxi drivers will offer you tours around the island and will drive you to a beach if you would like. Prices can be negotiated; otherwise a trip straight to downtown and back to the ship would only cost $4 each way. Make sure you tip your bus driver. Catherine was the best. She took us to various lookout points as we made our way up the mountain that is St. Thomas. The taxi is open and has no seat belts so sometimes you had to hold on tightly, but this made the ride fun. We were taken to a place called Mountain Top, which is a tourist spot with shops and a fantastic look out over the island. Take this opportunity to grab a snack and visit the restroom if needed. There was no time limit for anything, so the tour around was very leisurely and when my friends and I were done somewhere that was when it was time to go. Again, she pointed out points of interest and took the time to take pictures for us. Her sense of humor was infectious. After a couple of hours she dropped us downtown in the main shopping area and we were on our own. When we made it back downtown, it was lunchtime so we went to a local place called Green House Bar, Restaurant & Nightclub. It was colorful, clean, open-aired and served tasty food at reasonable prices. The jerk chicken wrap is recommended as is the grilled chicken melt but there are enough choices to satisfy all appetites.
Once lunch was over, we began to check out the shopping. The stores we mainly visited were Captains’ Corner, a souvenir shop and Del Sol, which specializes in items that change color in the sun such as t-shirts, key chains and even nail polish. Prices are reasonable. Otherwise, right on the corner where the taxis are is a marketplace similar to the one in St. Thomas. Think flea market. Besides those places, the other stores seem to cater entirely to jewelry – gold, silver, tanzanite, ammolite, diamonds. From every corner people try to get you to visit their store. A simple no thank you will suffice. The same goes for the taxi drivers on the lookout for passengers. Downtown is a bustling place.
After spending a couple of hours looking around we jumped on a taxi back to the ship. Make sure you mention that you want to go to the Carnival Victory ship, as there might be another ship in port on the other side of the bay. The ride lasts only a few minutes and if you want, you can be dropped off at the Havensight mall, which is right by the ship. This area is made up to two long buildings composed of souvenir shops, liquor stores and jewelry stores. We were told that this mall was more expensive than downtown, but I beg to differ. We found baseball caps for about $5 at Havensight but downtown found them priced between $10 - $12. While in town, I had been offered a silver ring with blue gemstone for nearly $40 but at Havensight, was offered a similar ring for less than that without having to bargain outright. St. Thomas was a beautiful place, but I think the shopping is overrated.
Day 6 & 7: Sea Days
I generally am not a fan of sea days, but must admit that after taking this cruise, loved spending this free time on the ship. We filled our time by playing mini-golf, playing bingo, hanging out on deck, eating, sleeping and watching movies in cabin. Generally after dinner we would try to go see the show but only made it out a couple of times. The Legends Show is a must see. Once midnight hit, we would hang out in the various lounges and bars onboard. The Adriatic lounge often had a 60s & 70s dance party and right beside that lounge was the karaoke lounge. Down the hall was the piano lounge and down from that was the Arctic club where we would party until the wee hours of the morning. Drinks can be pricey on the ship. We learned by the end of the trip that the way to go was to stick to beer or shots such as Lemon Drops. The bartenders try to sell you drinks. They will make suggestions about what you should drink but ask for prices. We didn’t and ended up buying $9 tequila shots a couple of times when we could have bought the cheaper better stuff for half the price. After the Arctic Club closes down, everyone would head up the pizza stand on the lido deck for a late night snack. Many a person can be met here, so if you’re social, follow the crowd upstairs for some food.
Last Day: Disembarkation
There are two options for disembarkation. You can choose to get up early and carry off your own suitcases off the ship and avoid the lineups or you can choose to leave your suitcases out the night before and have the ship take care of removing your luggage. In the first case, you must get off the ship within the designated window of time, usually between 7 & 8 AM. In the second case, you must leave your luggage outside your cabin by 11PM the night before disembarkation. You have to remember to keep some clothes out to wear in the morning, as you will not see your bags until you go to claim them in the US customs terminal. We opted to have the ship take care of our luggage and went to have breakfast on last time in the Mediterranean restaurant. Because we had chosen not the self-disembark, we had to wait in the restaurant until our level was called. You are not allowed back to your cabin after 8:30AM so that they may begin preparing for the next group of guests. We spent nearly two hours waiting to be called and then we had to contend with the lineups to get off the ship and then again to claim our luggage and go through customs. Once we finally made it outside, we were a little confused as to where to proceed next but were eventually directed to our coach bus, which would take us to the airport. Because of this process we arrived at the airport nearly 4 hours ahead of schedule with nothing to do but wait some more. Had we known the rush the get off the ship and to the airport we probably would have opted to self-disembark, which would have allowed us to tour Miami for a short while and then get to the airport just in time.
As someone who has cruised before, I found this trip to be the best cruise I have ever taken. The atmosphere on the ship was laidback, the crew was hard-working and the crowd onboard was friendly and fun loving. The amenities are acceptable and decent. The entertainment is good and food is abundant and gourmet. Carnival Victory showed us a great time. I cannot wait for my next Carnival cruise.