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FINALLY! My really long Victory review 1/17-1/24/10 with MEGA pix!!

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Finally – I have a chance to post my Victory review from over a month ago. Hopefully this won’t be stale news for any of you, as I haven’t been on the boards as much as I like in the past few weeks, and haven’t seen if anyone else from our sailing posted a review.

 

This time, though, it’s really taken some effort to get all my notes and thoughts in order, to be able to write this review. Sorting through some 2000+ photos and only uploading “the best,” takes so long when real life keeps intruding. Real life this time around included what weather forecasters in our part of the country called Snowmageddon 1 & 2, back to back snow storms, totaling for us around 45 inches or so over a week-long period.

 

Don't you just hate coming back to this?

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There is a tan under that jacket!

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Then, too, I just finished planning and executing my son’s cub scout banquet for 200+ people. It went well, but Whew! The time involved!! Now I can finally kick back and take a little time to write.

 

(Before I continue, though, I must post this warning! I tend to be very wordy when given the chance. In past reviews, I have curbed my enthusiasm, but finally figured that if people didn’t want to read certain parts, they would just skip ahead. So this will be a looong review, with plenty of detail and photos. The photos really kick in the day we leave. You have been warned! )

 

But I digress. On with the review. Already, my mind is wandering back to those balmy climates, water that you can see your toes through, and rum punch . . . lots and lots of rum punch . . . . . .

 

PRE-CRUISE:

My DH, Jon, and I sailed on Victory January 17 – 24, although we did take an extra day on either side, to tour San Juan and avoid any airport mishaps. A little background about us: we are both in our early 40s, married 16 years, and have two kids – a daughter, 15, and a son, 10. These we left behind with not a guilty thought in mind. They got to cruise in July, and there’ll be more cruises for them in the future. This was some much needed parent-only time for us!

 

We left home and headed to the Philly airport on Saturday, Jan 16, at about 8 am. Our USAir flight to San Juan (direct!!) wasn’t until 11:45 am, but I am not one to take chances with flying. If they say we should be there two hours early, I get there three hours ahead.

 

We were lucky enough to have my parents and sister watching the kids while we were gone. And for a few extra Lean Cuisines thrown into the freezer, my sister volunteered to take us to the airport, saving us time and a lot of money we would otherwise have had to spend on parking. Traffic was light on all the highways we went on (76, 476, and 95), and we were there in an hour.

 

We had pre-printed our boarding passes at home, so a few minutes at the self-check in line, a minute to get our one suitcase weighed (topped out at 47 lbs even – close but luckily no extra charge!) and we were on our way. Again, we lucked out and there was practically no crowd at all. It was a good thing, too, because security took somewhat longer this time.

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The security line was fairly short and moved quickly, but the guard checking id’s must not yet have made his quota of people to stop by the time he got to us. We are about as far from looking like terrorists as you can get, but our luck stopped here. Both Jon and I were singled out to be wanded and patted down through security. Perhaps it was the fact that I still had my fleece pullover on at the time, but whatever the reason, it took them some time to find both male and female agents who could frisk us. Sigh. And we had been doing so well.

 

Once that was finally over (and regardless of how inconvenient it was, they were very professional and calm about it), and we were dressed again –you know, shoes back on, belts back on, cell phones, change and watches re-stored, etc. - we headed for our gate and breakfast. There just hadn’t been time earlier for more than a quick piece of fruit. Two 19” carry-ons and two backpacks rounded out the rest of our luggage, which was fortunate, since our gate was a decent hike.

 

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There wasn’t a lot to choose from in way of breakfast, but we just wanted something quick, that would tide us over until afternoon. We weren’t set to land until 4:30 pm, but figured we could split a plane snack box or something if we really got hungry. For about $20, we had a very decent, filling, mid-morning breakfast at a place called “Eat at Joes.” The cook was making the omelets as we waited, and the coffee tasted fresh, not like it had been there all night long.

 

Our plane came in at about 9:50 am, and we started boarding at 11 am. In the meantime, we sat and watched CNN report on the earthquake in Haiti, something we wouldn’t stop hearing about the whole trip.

 

The plane ride was pretty uneventful. We goofed off a little bit early on

 

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but then settled in, books and iTouches in hand. Later on, we got the hoagie lunch for $7 and it wasn’t bad. The flight was full, though, and our seats were closest to the window, so getting up to use the bathroom, while never a pleasant prospect on an airplane, was doubly hard with squeezing around the other passengers.

 

While it was cloudy with drizzle (albeit a balmy 74 degrees) in San Juan, it was also the perfect opportunity for some dramatic cloud pictures as we landed. And coming from our dull barren brown land with nude trees, to the lush greenery of San Juan, we didn’t mind a little rain in the least.

 

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We landed about 25 min. ahead of schedule, and since we were now in the Atlantic time zone, had to set our watches ahead one hour. On my other trip to San Juan, it was March and we were already in Daylight Savings Time, which SJ does not observe, so our watches synced that trip.

 

Our checked luggage took some time to arrive, and while it did we chatted with some other passengers also waiting. We lucked out, it seems. Their flight from Philly, also non-stop, had arrived two hours earlier than ours, but their luggage didn’t make it. Their hope was that it had been put on our flight, but we didn’t find out what happened to them by the time our luggage came out.

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As soon as we left the air conditioned terminal, the humidity hit like a blanket. We knew we were going to swelter for a bit, but our cold-adapted bodies still took awhile to get the message. :eek:

 

We knew where to head for a taxi (the orange kiosks outside of the baggage area) and only spent about 10 min. in line, but others who arrived after us had to stand in a line that snaked for quite a ways around the outside of the building. We didn’t even get a card with the fare written on it – as fast as the taxis arrived, they were filled. I remembered to ask the attendant what the rate was, and to go to the Doubletree Hilton, in Condado, was $15, plus $1 for each bag.

 

It took us about 10 minutes to get there, with no major traffic. The hotel itself was pricier, and just a bit business like in décor, but nice.

 

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The sliding frosted doors to the bathroom and shower were upscale touches, as well as the bowl sinks and Neutrogena toiletries. We also had a fridge, microwave, single cup coffee maker and safe. And the king bed was very comfortable. The lobby was small, but well laid out. It contained a few computers that I believe were free for hotel guests, a nice touch if you needed to confirm a flight out. And the staff at the desk were very low-key, pleasant and accommodating. One interesting note – everything was very eco-friendly. The light bulbs were all CFL’s and the in-room garbage cans were all sorted according to plastic, paper, etc.

 

Since we weren’t at all tired, we quickly changed to warm weather clothing, then headed out for supper. While convenient, the hotel restaurant did not look very appealing. Since there were no restaurants we wanted to try within easy walking distance, and we would be taking a taxi wherever we went anyway, we opted to head over to Ajili Mojili, on Ashford Ave., about eight minutes from the hotel. ($10 one way)

 

It never occurred to us, that being a Saturday night, we might need reservations, but the hostess was very gracious, and quickly found us a nice table for two. I had wanted to get more of the ethnic taste of San Juan, and this restaurant certainly obliged, but with what I felt was a much more “upscale” feel to it. The meal was worth every upscale penny we paid, though.

 

We started with Tortitas Cuchi Cuchi (“lovey-dovey tortitas”), which my DH claimed I made him order just so he would have to say the name aloud, but which turned out to be quite good. It was made from shredded plantain and yucca, covered with stewed fish.

 

Jon then went for the house specialty, Arroz con Pollo Borracho, which was marinated rice and chicken, bathed in rum. He said it was very good. I got the Filete al Caldero, an angus beef filet, cooked with mushrooms and rum salsa. I have never had such a deliciously cooked piece of beef in my entire life. I ordered it medium, and it could not have been cooked better. We rounded the meal out with a coconut type of custard (sadly, I don’t remember the name) and coffee, and waddled out, quite happy.

 

The hostess called us a cab to get back, and we were back at the hotel by 8:45pm. We decided to visit the 24-hour grocery store across the road now, rather than wait ‘til morning. I was happily surprised at the variety available. We ended up getting a six pack of Coke, and some light breakfast food, then settled in for the night, to finish watching the Arizona v. New Orleans game.

 

Tomorrow . . . sailaway!!

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Did your ship leave San Juan at 10 pm? If so, what time did they allow you to board?

 

 

David.....................:)

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David,

Yep, we sailed about 10pm-ish. DH and I arrived at the port around 11:45 am and people started to board around 12:30pm. I'll do more details on all that in my next few posts.

 

 

Vicki,

Can you pack me in your luggage? I don't eat much, really. :p

Seriously, you'll have a blast - just pace yourself. I'll try and finish my review before you leave.

 

-Cathy

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oooohhh thank you! I love detailed reviews, and I can see that yours will be! I can't wait to read more, please, post away!

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Ohhh yes yes yes, love detailed reviews, wish there were more of them.

Can not wait to read more. Thank you for taking the time to do this style of review.

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Day 1 – Sailaway today!

 

Finally, embarkation day! After so much planning and waiting, it seemed a little surreal to realize we would be back on a ship today. We left the hotel around 11:30 and caught a taxi over to the dock. ($18, including baggage). Our driver knew many of the back roads through the city, which was good, since there was more traffic than normal because of the San Sebastian festival. As the traffic grew heavier, we could tell we were getting close, when suddenly . . . there she was! Still a distant view, but we could see the whale tail. I’m sure the taxi driver was laughing at me, as I craned to get the best shot. Regardless of how times I end up cruising, though, I’m sure I will always be excited to catch that first glimpse of our ship.

 

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A quick snap, and a cell phone photo was winging it’s way back to Pa., to make the kids even more jealous. Wow, what evil parents we are! Despite the heavy traffic, we were let off very close to the entrance gate. I think Victory was docked at Pier 2, but I never did confirm what pier it was. We were one pier down from where the funky triangular overhang whatever it is, was located. If that helps.

 

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Although it was near noon, and passengers were still disembarking, we were allowed to walk right through. We entered the building and dropped off our three pieces of luggage right inside on the left hand side as you entered. ($5 for tip). Once upstairs, we waited maybe 10 minutes in line, and then voila! had our fun passes in hand! I had brought along a hole punch to string our cards on lanyards, but it wasn’t working, so Jon went into the VIP lounge, to use theirs, and a few moments later we also had punched cards.

 

Even though it was getting on to noon, we still had to wait to board until around 12:30. We were given Zone 5, but they called through the numbers very quickly. There were enough chairs over by the VIP lounge for us to find a seat as we waited, but it was early yet. As it got later in the day, I’m sure people might have had more problems finding somewhere to sit.

 

As we entered the security area, we passed the liquor stores. While we didn’t take anything but wine onboard, and we didn’t see anyone getting red tags on their bags, I can’t say for sure if security was stopping anyone for liquor or not. Since there was some sort of trouble with the gangway not working correctly, we had to enter the ship on Deck 0, which meant heading back downstairs, and waiting in another line until the card reader machines were all set up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meandering through the building on our way to boarding

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Luggage getting taken onboard - didn't see ours, though!

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Although only ten or so people were allowed on at a time, the line moved quickly. By 1 pm, we were on the elevators and then . . . at last! Into the lobby. We were officially on our cruise!

 

Just in case we forgot which ship we were on!

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Awesome review, I can't wait for more. I was on her once back in 2004 but that was the western carib. route. Going back on her in May and can't wait!

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This is just what I need - I sail in twelve days - March 7th!!! 5th cruise for me, but never out of San Juan before and never such a port intensive cruise. I am looking forward the rest of your review. :D

 

Thanks!

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Awesome...can't wait to read the rest...we fly out of Philly to San Juan in 50 some days!!

 

:D

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Thanks for all the great comments! I'm trying to find as much time to squeeze in writing this as I can - just don't want to forget any of the juicy details! And now we really get into the photo part of it, too.

 

So, on with the review . . . .

 

As soon as we reached the lobby, I was in heaven! Not only did I feel like we were finally, officially on our cruise, but the colors that the ship was decorated with were stunning. Deep greens and teal blues, plus hints of shimmering shells everywhere. And, as mentioned by prior Victory cruisers, seahorses everywhere as well. I love decorating with Caribbean colors and schemes and boy, did I get a lot of ideas from the Victory. We were a perfect match!

 

The lobby

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The photo just doesn't do this justice!

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Elevators

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Looking over railing from the shop level

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Going up?

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Shell everywhere

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I knew I wanted to take a lot of pictures of the ship while it was so empty, but we couldn’t help but be a little tempted to see if our room was ready yet. It wasn’t, and the doors to the hallways were still shut, but we did see our luggage waiting out by the elevators.

 

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So we explored some more. Since we only had our backpacks at this point, it was so simple to move quickly around the ship.

 

Lobby bar

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Guest services

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And seahorses everywhere!

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Gotta get me some barstools like this!

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Only ran into them once the whole trip.

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Stairway area

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Library - I only saw half a dozen people in here during the entire cruise, but it was a very peaceful place!

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eagerly waiting for more..llol and btw, that is great your doing such a "lenthy" review as the other said, not many do even a halfway lengthy review. we had been booked on this cruise but we changed it, would love to do it hopefully next year. going on the valor in oct this year.

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Casino - we were only enticed into here a few times and stuck to the 2 cent slots.

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This guy was hanging around right outside of the casino area.

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Do you see the resemblance?

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Heading toward the Coral Sea Cafe, and specialty coffee shop.

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The shells on display here were gorgeous!

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Irish bar

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Adriatic Lounge

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Black and Red Sea Lounge

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Caribbean Lounge/stage area for the shows

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This was just a tiny little one, comparatively speaking!

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After awhile, our stomachs caught up with us, and we headed up to the Lido, on Deck 9. I headed for the deli and the first of several delicious Reuben sandwiches, while Jon took the scatter approach . . . a little of this, a little of that.

 

A little hard to see, but they even provided a map of the Lido, outside of the main eating area.

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We agreed to meet in the upstairs part of this dining area, a trend we continued the whole cruise. This seemed to be our little secret area, since very few passengers seemed to know they could venture upstairs to eat, and we usually found it empty or nearly so.

 

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As we looked out the window, we watched the Explorer of the Seas come into dock next to us, and later saw Adventure of the Seas across the waterway.

 

Explorer

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AOS

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Absolutely loving your review...we sailed in 2003 on the Victory for our honeymoon and your pictures brought back such great memories. we have also since then cruised on the Fascination, which can't even compare the the Victory and in May on the Destiny (half moon cay, grand turk and Nassau)with our 2 little girls. I'm just south of Harrisburg and while we were getting dumped with all that snow, my husband, i and girls watched clips on youtube of where our trip would take us, while watching it snow outside, dreaming of our upcoming trip! Thanks for the review and bringing back some great honeymoon memories!

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Great review so far. :) I sailed on the Victory twice, the most recent was the southern route this past July. It was my favorite itinerary. Looking forward to the rest of your review and more pics! You take really nice pictures. What camera do you use?

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