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My VERY long Carnival Victory Cruise Jan. 23, 2010 Review
Our cruise count-down started at 370 days.
Well, we are one of the ones that the new Victory itinerary affected. We booked for the seven nights and seven ports. After Carnival dropped Dominica - we had a GREAT debate, we decided not to change our cruise. We already had air, hotel and end of cruise transfers scheduled and paid. Dominica was the port that my DH wanted the most. So, we are very disappointed - but we're letting go of it and going to have a great cruise. Little about us...
DH is 55 yrs and I am 44 yrs old. We live in Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Which means...Home = COLD, COLD, COLD. To actually be warm in January is sooooo exciting for me !!! This will be our fourth cruise, two on very small ships and last year (January, 2010) on the Carnival Dream.
SO MUCH TO GET READY !! Lists and lists and more lists...work lists, home list, pre cruise list, cruise lists, dog list - I have lists for my lists (~sigh~).
We book all of our excursions through Carnival. ~please don't flog me~ I know they are more expensive, but we like the peace of mind that if anything goes wrong - we won't be "A Pier Runner" and end up on You Tube when we get home. I think of the extra cost as "Anti-Embarrassment Insurance" (For both us and our three 20 something children...lol). When reading about our excursions, a note to remember -
I am DEATHLY afraid of heights. So much so, that my stomach begins to turn into knots at the very thought of being off the ground. On the flip side - guess what my DH LOVES ...yep...he LOVES being up high....verrrrry high. ~heavy sigh~ Now, I LOVE the water, guess what my DH HATES....Yep...you guessed it....water. So, as you can imagine picking excursions are a challenge for us...lol Pre Cruise
Originally we booked a balcony room on the Lido deck. Lido deck is something we both wanted, being close to the food, pools, hot tubs and COFFEE in the morning. We want to be able to just walk down the hall and ~poof ~ there everything is...
I booked at ES and found a price drop. Sent in my request and within an hour got OBC. Looking online, I seen the Jr. Suite wasn't booked yet and it had a price drop too - I called about it and decided to upgrade to it. It's the only suite on the Lido Deck. If we (ok, I say "we" but it's "me") wanted a suite - it had to be a JR. Suite but that gives us VIP boarding. The only problem was once the other Jr. Suite is booked - so much for looking for price drops on our room. But, ok, one more thing off the pre cruise list or so I thought. The month before our cruise I noticed yet again another price drop but on an OS. I thought what the heck, I'll try it. Within 24 hours I had another OBC email...YAYYYYYYY!
I had sort of gave up on price drops on the cruise as it came closer and closer. But old habits are hard to break and you can still check up to two days before you sailing date. So I checked the cruise price yet again at 12 days before we left....WOW...another price drop. Sent in the form and within an hour it was listed on my account. After 365 days of obsessively checking ES rates, our category sold out. I thought it was interesting that the day I booked the cruise was the day it sold out. Over all, I REALLY like the ES program. I know a lot of people don't like it, but it worked out EXTREMELLY well for us.
I am very obsessive with the details - yes, I just DRIVE MY DH CRAZY with details. I just want all decisions made at home. We are one of those couples that would spend the whole time saying - "What do you wonna do...I don't know, what do you wonna do...I dunno ...". So as you can imagine - there were a lot of times we were STUCK on which excursion we were going to do. Soooooo, while we were stuck - I would move on to another aspect of the cruise list.
OBC...just LOVE the sound of that...lol. I decided to try the "Fun Dollars". I took what we spent on the last cruise added on the extras we were wanting to try this time. Such as - Massage for each of us and a spa pass. Then bought the Fun Dollars and watched the OBC go up. My parent's surprised us with more OBC for Christmas. My Mom knows how to get to my heart!! What a surprise when I unwrapped that present!! I guess the talking about the cruise obsessively for 300 and some odd days may have given her a clue...lol. I also have a Carnival Credit Card - I didn't know about this until after we booked and it was paid off. So I really didn't earn much in OBC - but I look at it as an extra 5 DOD !!
I like knowing that everything is taken care of - no surprises at the end of the cruise that would put a damper on the whole week. No bills after we come home. Plus, if we don't spend all of it - they refund it at the end of the cruise. - all taken care of...yayyyyy!
I have to admit, I have the dreaded "Nervous Nelly Packer Syndrome". My obsessive tendencies tends to blossom under the pressure of a vacation. Last year I gave into these tendencies and ~WOW ~ did I over pack. I didn't wear half of what I lugged on the last cruise. I did try to do better this year. I guess I will know at the end of the cruise if I have overcome it....lol...
Leaving home (1/22/2011)
I had the car taken care of about four months out - scheduled and paid for, we only had to show up. We really like using Charley Brown's Lot by the Pittsburgh Air Port. Price wise - not bad at all, much cheaper than the air port parking. You pull in front of their building, they unload your luggage while you check in and then the shuttle takes you to the air port. When you arrive back and you have your luggage in hand - you use the phone at the air port and a shuttle picks you up. When you arrive back at their lot - your car is warm, snow cleaned off (very important with January weather in Pittsburgh) and waiting for you to just drive away.
I printed off all my documents (cruise, hotel, etc) at 6 days before our trip. Minor panic when United website said to try back later - for 4 hours. ~Whewww~, four hours later and they were printed too. Everything is organized in a bill finder type plastic folder. I did that last year and it worked out so well - I did it again. Each day has its own folder - including pre cruise (Parking reservations, dog kennel reservation) and post cruise (flight reservation etc). Last year's folder ended up helping me plan this year's cruise. I put everything in the folder when I was done with it - daily paper, S&S bill, ect. This year when I started to plan, all I had to do was pull that folder. All the information was in one place and ready to go.
We booked our Air through Orbitz. We didn't get a great deal or anything, but with our work schedule we needed to fly out and back at certain hours (if the price does go down we will receive a refund for the amount it went down - good deal I think). I talked DH into flying in the day before and having an extra day of vacation. I just thought it would be such a shame to be in Old San Juan and not get the full feel of it. He agreed - but he didn't want to leave until the end of the day at work. (~sigh~) I jumped at it, but we both agreed we didn't want to be in San Juan after dark and try to find our way to the hotel.
Well, after having the air booked for four months - I get an email that the flight times changed - and MAJOR changes. ERRRRRRR, canceled flights (no fees since it was their change not mine) and started all over again. We were needing to get back at a decent hour - we work the next day. After three days of searching I found the perfect flight at the end of the cruise for us. Problem was - expensive. So to save on final cost, I needed to find a cheaper flight to San Juan. Which meant leaving Pittsburgh at the crack of dawn and two layovers. Which ended up not being too bad. We are leaving Pittsburgh (around 6:00 am) to Washington DC, to St. Thomas. We stay on the air plane while they board more people in St. Thomas and off we go to San Juan (arrival around 3:00pm).
And then it all went out the door a month before the cruise....airline bumped us from our flight. On the flight home....SIX HOUR LAYOVER IN WASHINTON DC....ERRRRRRRR....boy, was this getting frustrating!! Three calls in three days and we got put back on the flight. Thankfully !!
We chose our flight home by which air line participated in the Luggage Express Program. We absolutely LOVED it when we were on the Carnival Dream. We were totally unaware of Luggage Express that time but we were lucky enough to be on the right air line. We wanted to make sure we were able to do it again. Then.....another wrinkle in the best laid plans....at 15 days until we leave I hear a rumor on CC that Luggage Express was discontinued in San Juan. I got on Carnival's Forum and sure enough, Mary confirmed it. No more Luggage Express on the Victory. I would've been pretty nervous...ok I was nervous about our return flight. It makes me feel better knowing we have priority disembarking. So, I kept my fingers crossed that there will be no problems....more later about our return flight...~MAJOR MAJOR UNITED GRUMBLE ALERT at the end~
Can you believe, it was minus 9 degrees when we were driving to the airport. It made it soooo easy to hop on that plane and leave for paradise!! FINALLY WE ARE IN THE AIR!!
Here are a few pictures from the St. Thomas layover. It really wasn't a bad layover. The stewardesses let everyone walk around on the plane . They even let us go to the door and take pictures. We weren't allowed to step down the stairs though. I am a smoker and was DIEING for a cigarette - but that had to wait ~pooh~
Can't wait to read more. Your writing is very interesting.
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RCCL Majesty of the Seas 4/21/08
RCCL Majesty of the Seas 8/9/10
Ruby Princess 12/5/10
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loving the review! i can't wait to do this itenirary in March. You remind me of myself with the planning! It drives my fiance nuts but he always appriciates it when we are on vacation and everything is planned so it works out. Can't wait to read more.
Thanks for the review, can't wait for the next update. I will be on the Victory in 2 weeks from today (2/20) and sooo looking forward to getting away from the Northeast... sun in February is an exciting prospect
WE'RE IN SAN JUAN...WE'RE IN SAN JUAN....WE'RE IN SAN JUAN!!! (Bet you can't tell that I am EXCITTED.)
We landed and thankfully it was a smooth flight. Everything was so easy, on our plane there was only seven people getting off the plane in San Juan. Boy, did that make finding our luggage easy. We've never found our luggage so fast. Four piece of luggage came out of the shoot and two were our luggage! The airport really wasn't busy at all. I can only imagine what it was like the next day - FOUR CRUISE SHIPS in port. 4 ships X 3,000 est. people = 12,000 - OMG that would make that airport a ZOO.
My DH wanted me to email the hotel and see if they could send a taxi for us. He didn't want to start our vacation stressing on how to get to our hotel. I did, but they only recommended a service. So I got online and looked up taxi services. I booked (at 30 days out) with Puerto Rico Shuttle to pick us up at the airport. They have less expensive services but I opted for a private sedan to pick us up.
Their descriptions said," Puerto Rico Shuttle is licensed by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and is authorized by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority to greet and meet arriving visitors inside the airport baggage facilities, and meet guest outside the U.S. Customs area at the Cruise Ship Terminals."
Sounds like us - no stress vacation!!
We hit a little minor bump in the plans. The poor driver couldn't find us.
Since there was only seven of us getting off of the plane. It actually made it harder to find each other. My DH and I debated "where" we were to meet the driver. We finally decided to go outside and wait around the taxi area - thinking maybe - by chance that's where he was waiting. My DH seen the car - it's rather hard to miss a Black Lincoln with black tinted windows. DH went to the car to see if maybe...by chance...the driver was in the car. While my DH was checking that out - I was standing by the bags. When I looked up and just by chance seen my name on a piece of paper a man was walking around holding. He was on a cell phone saying...I don't know, I can't find them. Turns out to be our driver ~ Thank Goodness~ and he had called our business number asking if everything went as planned. He was so apologetic...hey, it happens and we didn't find him either. We were in the car and off to the hotel....Yayyyyy...we made it !!!
It always amazes me that we live in such a small world, the driver ended up having family living about an hour or so away from our house. He was just there this past summer.
The driver explains to us how we will have to get out of the car when we get to the hotel. Turns out that the road are VERY, VERY narrow one way street. He said that when he stopped in front of the hotel, we needed to hurry. He warned us that people were going to be blowing their horns and calling his mother all kinds of things. He chuckled and said...don't worry, it won't bother me.
Boy was he right about how narrow the roads were there. I was only able to get a VERY fast picture of the driver. I wanted a better picture - but HOLY CRAP was he right about the honking of the horns. His Mom was safe from the name calling though - ok, at least that I heard.
Keep it coming...I too am a fan of luggage express! Sorry to hear the Victory doesn't participate...boo...hiss. Oh well...I am just glad I found out before hand! So thanks for the heads up. Your review is great!
By the way...BLACK AND YELLOW, BLACK AND YELLOW, BLACK AND YELLOW...GO STEELERS!
Good Luck to your home team today in the Superbowl!
17. Carnival Dream (8/2014 - Western Caribbean)
16. Carnival Valor (8/2013 - Southern Caribbean)
15. Carnival Dream (8/2012 - Western Caribbean)
14. Carnival Victory (8/2011 - Southern Caribbean)
13. Carnival Liberty (8/2010 - Eastern Caribbean)
12. Carnival Glory (8/2009 - Eastern Caribbean)
11. Carnival Legend (8/2008 - Western Caribbean)
10. Carnival Triumph (8/2007 - Eastern Caribbean)
9. Carnival Conquest (8/2006 - Western Caribbean)
8. Carnival Destiny (8/2005 - Southern Caribbean)
7. Carnival Glory (8/2004 - Western Caribbean)
6. Carnival Destiny (8/2003 - Southern Caribbean)
5. Carnival Sensation (8/2002 - Western Caribbean)
4. Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas (8/2001 - Mediterranean)
3. Carnival Holiday (8/2000 - Baja Mexico)
2. Carnival Imagination (10/98 - Western Caribbean)
1. Carnival Celebration (12/93 - Eastern Caribbean)
We decided on Hotel Casablanca in Old San Juan. We were wanting the Sheraton for the convenience of being across from the pier. I started looking to book around June or July and the Sheraton was already booked solid. So, we did a lot of research online. Looking at maps of Old San Juan and tried to pick one close to the pier - but nice. We seen Hotel Casablanca and we both agreed it looked like a unique hotel and decided on it. After we booked, a friend said they stayed there and loved it. I am so excited. Cement soaking tubs on the roof - ohhhh, I want to do that after all the traveling to get there.
~One thing to keep in mind ~ we wanted a view and the description said you could see the fort from the patio, so we booked the fourth floor.
We checked in - that went very smooth. Ok, went smooth until we were all ready to go to our room with our luggage.
OMG - THERE ARE NO ELEVATORS!! DH looked at me and I looked him in TOTAL PANIC.
Thankfully there was a man that carried my luggage up (I would still be there pulling it up stair by stair) But my poor DH wasn't so lucky. When we FINALLY got to our floor we were there. The room was really two room plus a bathroom. It was remodeled at some point and they really took a lot of time and care to the remodeling. It was beautifully decorated with a Mediterranean flare. You walked into the bedroom area. The four poster bed had a netting around it - just a very romantic look. Then you went into a small hallway where the bathroom was - then into the sitting area. This area had the HUGE thick double door out to the patio area. It wasn't big enough for chairs but it did give a nice view of the street (but not the fort that was in the description of the room - oh well, still was nice).