I just returned from a 7 day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Victory.
The ship left out of Port of Miami, traveled 2 days to Old San Juan Puerto Rico, arriving at 5 PM, leaving at 12 PM. We arrived in St. Thomas for 7 AM the next morning, left at 6 PM. On to St. Maarten for 7 AM the following day, leaving at 3:30 PM.
All in all we had a fantastic time and would gladly ‘do it again’ in a few years.
• The Lido Deck buffet restaurant was ALWAYS 20 – 30 degrees colder than the rest of the ship. By the time you finished your meal, your coffee would be cold. We could never find a booster seat or straws for my 2 year old and spent AT LEAST 10 minutes searching for them or for someone to help us find them. By the time we found them our eggs/bacon would be cold. So it got to the point where one person would go on the hunt, thusly getting out of the long line and by the time they got to the table, everyone else would be done.
• The ‘bar’ area in the buffet restaurant was always closed and there were never enough staff to get soft drinks from the other bars and we had to walk to the other side of the deck to get them.
• Camp Carnival wasn’t available for dinner time until day 3 so we didn’t get to eat dinner in the dining room until day 4 (day 3 we ate on shore in Puerto Rico). Day 2 was Captains Dinner, which we obviously missed. The Lido deck restaurant was mostly vacant, understandably, but there was only 1, yes 1, person working the buffet and he wouldn’t get us sodas – instead directing us to the other side of the deck to the bar by the pool. He wouldn’t clear our tables either. The food in the buffet was really kinda nasty that night – none our 5 person party finished their food. As a matter of fact the 4 adults sat there complaining about the trip thus far – we were really NOT having a good time by this point. We were very upset that just because we weren’t at the captains dinner we were dismissed – we paid the SAME price as everyone else and only required the service customary to the buffet during the day. It was a sorry sorry excuse for service that night.
• Our Dining room waiter ‘rushed us’ every night. We’d have a member of our table still eating their main entrée when he would bring the dessert menu over. He was forced to order dessert even though he wasn’t done eating. We did not linger at our table. Our seating was at 6:15 and we were almost always out of the dining room by 7:30 – giving us 10 minutes to finish our food would have been a common courtesy.
• Hubby and I are big jazz fans and I was disappointed to see that although they had jazz every night they were only held in the cigar lounge. Sitting in there for too long made my pregnant stomach want to hurl. Very disappointing as the groups were really good.
• There were very few things of interest during the ‘fun days at sea’ where the weather wasn’t sunny/hot. Our first ‘fun day at sea’ was cold and overcast – if there wasn’t a casino I think we would have slept the ENTIRE day. It was spring break week and the ship seemed to be full of dumb ‘hairy chest contests’ and art auctions. As a matter of fact, if you asked me, prior to getting to St. Thomas if I would go on another cruise the answer would have been a RESOUNDING ‘NO! NEVER!!!’ I found one item I wanted to do on day 6 – Scrapbook Crafts. It was held in the dining room where they were cleaning and the chairs were stacked awkwardly preventing us from getting to the tables. The woman running it showed up with scraps of paper (literally, scraps) and glue pens like my 2 year old uses. She then told us we had to spend $30 on their scrapbooks and hastily develop pictures we’ve taken on the trip thus far at $.23 per print (I get it for $.9 at home). She should have, instead, given us a discount on the scrapbooking supplies offered on board and spent some time showing us a new scrapbooking technique instead of showing us how to use supplies that are not photo safe. Had I not been pregnant and watching a 2 year old (thusly in bed by 9:30/10 PM every night) I think I could have enjoyed the shows more but it was sad nothing of interest is available on ship for days at sea until after dinner.
• Ports of call were too short. We got to Puerto Rico at 5 PM and had to be back at the ship for 11 PM. We grabbed a tour of Old San Juan which was very fun. It ended in the shopping district which was dirty and smelled like garbage. We managed to have a meal at a local restaurant and had to walk back to the ship (not a long walk). I got nice pictures but would have gladly missed this to spend time in another port. St. Thomas was wonderful. I would have enjoyed it more if my mother-in-laws boyfriend stayed home (he was a lead weight this whole trip, he lingered in the shopping areas forcing us to miss the skyride to paradise point and the only reason I lugged ALL my camera equipment with me). We had a great island tour and enjoyed the shopping immensely! The next day we docked in St. Maarten along with a RCI ship at 7 AM. The seas were rough. RCI let all their patrons off the ship with instructions to be back for 4 PM. Carnival would not let us off until 10 AM and had us back at 3 PM. This was not enough time to see ANYTHING. Carnival had discrepancies in what they considered ‘safe’ – as there were sea swells. One minute the captain would let us off, next minute corporate said no, next minute you can get off but come back in 2 hours. It was horrible. I was very disappointed in the way Carnival handled this – my parents have a time share in St. Maarten and I was very excited to see all they loved of this island… but no such luck. We had enough time to go into Philipsburg where my daughter got to play in the surf and we got a bite to eat – then it was back toward the ship and some of the small shops outside the dock. The line to get onto the Carnival ship gangway was as long as the ship – funny that RCI didn’t have any lines and we were leaving at the same time.
• Camp Carnival took many breaks during the day, at odd times. 2 hours at lunch, 2 hours before dinner and would frequently start at different times every day. This made trying to plan your day very difficult. I heard many parents complain about this in the long lines to pick up/drop off your kids – they all said Disney handles this much better.
• Our balcony room! I will never cruise without a balcony again! The rooms were much bigger and it was so nice to have a private space. We’d put my daughter down for a nap in her crib and could then sip drinks or just talk on the balcony. They were surprisingly sound proof and opening the leaflet between our adjourning rooms was so nice!
• The food in the dining room. Even though we only experienced 4 nights in the dining room, we were not disappointed. We had two waiters – one was great, one wasn’t. Luckily we didn’t get the ‘not so great one’ often and really enjoyed our time there – I’m in love with the molten chocolate cake!
• The staff in the dining room. They were so wonderful. Filling our drinks before they were empty and offering seconds on whatever we seemed to like. The little dances and songs were very entertaining and the highlight of dinner. I was very sad to see their farewell dance/song the last night.
• The housekeeping staff. Carnival is doing something right with these folks because they are some of the NICEST and most COURTEOUS people I have EVER met. We scarcely passed someone in the hall that would say hello to us. They always had our room sparkling clean (which is a feat with a messy 2 year old) and were very respectful of my daughters sleeping/napping time. They would leave extra chocolates for her (we told our steward how much she loved them) and even left chocolate chip cookies with cute smiley faces on them for her. Turn down service was wonderful – even making a separate towel animal for her crib and folding her blanket for her. It was always so cute to see them tuck her bear in and even put her pacifier in its mouth! They really went out of their way with our room (even so much as FOLDING the dirty clothes my messy husband left on the floor!!) Not only that but the ship is AMAZINGLY clean, just amazingly clean – I want them at my house!
• Photography staff. They were great. The photos are horribly over priced but it was so nice to have nice formal portraits of my husband and I.
• Camp Carnival. I can’t say enough about this service. My daughter is 2 years old and no other cruise line with take a 2 year old that is not potty trained. They were the only reason we could go ashore and enjoy our time in the formal dining room. My daughter loved going to camp. She was actually quite a bear to be with during the day – she wanted to go back and ‘play toys’, and we were happy to oblige.
• Pursers Desk Staff. Very informative, fast, courteous and accommodating.
• Shore Excursion Staff. Very helpful – they let me return my skyride tickets, giving me an extra $100 to spend on jewelry!
• Jewelry shop. There were some good deals in St. Thomas but the best deals we found were on the ship – my husband got a beautiful watch and I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘inch of gold’ special during the last day at sea.
• The live music! I’m a musician in my past days and my husband is a music fanatic and we thoroughly enjoyed all the live music on board. The jazz trios (especially with vocals) were great and the classical trios were wonderful to sit at the bar and listen to. I really enjoyed writing in my trip journal while listening to them.
• The pools! My parents cruise often but have never been on a carnival line. My dad gripes about not being able to enjoy the pools onboard because they are salt water. The pools, at least on Lido Deck, were chlorinated! Ya!
• The walking/jogging track. On the days when it was sunny, this was my favorite place on the ship!
• The ship management. We had two medical emergencies on the ship during our voyage – thankfully on day 6 and 7. They were immediate in communication to everyone when the coast guard needed to get a helicopter onto the ship – it was fast and efficient. Communication in multiple languages even!
Overall, yes, we had a great trip but there are many things that could have been done/handled better. We will gladly cruise again after the second baby arrives later this summer but we will wait until they are old enough to enjoy the amenities on a Disney Cruise. If hubby and I ever get the chance to cruise alone (which is doubtful any time soon) we may try Carnival again as they seem to be very fun for adults – but we will be more careful about which route/ship we choose. More time in the ports of call would have been nice and a cruise director with better plans for on ship fun during the day is essential.
I appreciate all the wonderful helpful advice I received on this board and hope to return the favor. Without your advice I wouldn't have known what to expect on my first cruise and that is an invaluable service.