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AryMay

AryMay's January Photo Review of the Victory

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The Background

 

 

A little background on this cruise and the cruisers involved…

This cruise originally involved our friends, Jim and Kim, and Jim’s sister, Nancy, and her husband, Lowell. The two couples had gotten married a week apart and the cruise was to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversaries. By the time we joined the party they had already picked the dates and booked the cruise. Actually we have our 35th anniversary coming up this summer, but we don’t “need” a reason to cruise…just say the word and we are ready to go!

 

Although we have done five previous cruises, this would be the first time to do a southern Caribbean route and the first time ever to take a vacation in January. Our other cruises had all been in the summer. Jim and Kim had been on one 3-day cruise several years ago, but Lowell and Nancy were first time cruisers. I became the cruise planner for the group and since I am seriously addicted to Cruise Critic it was a job I absolutely loved doing.

 

The other four had booked their cruise through a travel agent…which included booking the air through Carnival. It would drive me nuts to turn over the planning decisions to a travel agent so our travel plans were independent of our friends. I am a firm believer in going a day early and especially since we were flying out of Minnesota in January.

 

Whenever possible I try and book direct flights. The Carnival Victory leaves out of San Juan and right away I realized that finding direct flights from Minneapolis to Puerto Rico at a decent price was not going to be easy. In fact, finding any flight at a good price turned out to be impossible. We ended up paying far more for the flights than what we did for the cruise. To get direct flights I also had to book two one way flights on different airlines…Delta going down and Suncountry coming home. After searching for weeks, I just went online, closed my eyes, and “click” we were booked.

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Friday, January 20 – Minneapolis Here we Come!

 

This has been one of the mildest winters on record here in Minnesota but wouldn’t you know it…the day we leave we get snow. The first leg of our trip was to make the three hour drive to Minneapolis on Friday night after work. We have two sons that live in the Twin Cities and the home of our number one son (age-wise at least!) was our destination for the night. My son owns his own home, but has three roommates who share the house and help take the sting out of his mortgage payments. He graciously lets us have his bedroom and he takes the couch for the night.

 

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The photo is a bit blurry but if you look close you will see the temp was reading 7º….brrrr.

 

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Living on the frigid, landlocked prairie you can understand why we were so excited to be heading to the Caribbean!!

 

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Edited by AryMay

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Looking forward to more of your review! I live up north too, so yes I do get that idea of how important it is to "get on your way"!:D Cant wait for more of your review.

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Saturday, January 21 – Leaving on a Jet Plane

 

I never rest easy the night before a trip. My son lives about 20 minutes from the airport, but I imagine every sort of problem that could make us late for our 7:45 am flight. I am up before the alarm, rush to get ready and then wait…a bit impatiently…at the door with my coat on wishing my husband and son would move a bit faster.

 

As we start to leave, I notice my shoes sitting by the door…the shoes that I planned to wear on the plane. I looked down at my feet and realize I am wearing one of the roommate’s shoes instead of my own!! After all of my nagging about the guys moving too slow I sheepishly sit down and change my shoes and we are on our way.

 

The drive to the airport was smooth…at 5:30 am on a Saturday there is very little traffic. After going through airport security and getting my “free mammogram” I grabbed some Caribou Coffee (yum!) and some muffins. By the time we had eaten, it was time to board. Of course I had to take one last gulp of my coffee that spilled down the front of my white shirt. :mad:

 

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The flight was about 5 ½ hours to get to San Juan…the longest I had ever flown at one time. To help survive the boredom, I had loaded up my Ipad with movies, tv shows, audio books, Kindle books, magazines, games, etc. I don’t enjoy flying and being cramped up on a plane for that many hours was not something I was looking forward to.

 

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But…thanks to these nifty, neato video monitors that Delta put in the seat backs, the time just flew by. Watch a movie, play some games and voila…the trip is over!

 

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The screens even had a map that showed the location of the plane and information on the speed, etc.

 

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Compared to the air temperature at 37,000 feet, Minnesota seemed absolutely balmy!

 

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our winter has been very unseasonable as well.. really bad year.. i wonder how it will effect maple season in another month. can't wait for the rest of your review

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I had read about all of the great Priceline deals people were getting on San Juan hotels but after a few weeks of bidding I was getting NOTHING. My preference would have been the Sheraton Hotel in Old San Juan but they have a two-night minimum. I am a bargain hunter at heart but also didn’t want to end up in a crummy hotel just to get a good price. For some reason there just weren’t any good deals to be gotten on the weekend of January 21st in San Juan!! At $150 I finally “won” the Intercontinental Resort Hotel.

 

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The hotel was located in the Isla Verde section of San Juan…fairly close to the airport. When we checked in we were told that a “resort fee” would be added onto our bill. From my research, this didn’t surprise me, but I think it is a bit shady to charge this extra fee…for what? The resort fee was around $25 which was in addition to the other hotel taxes that had already been added onto the Priceline fee. So…for $200 a night what kind of room do you get? A very small one.

 

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The bed was very comfortable, but it pretty much filled the whole room. There was a small balcony that was just large enough to stand on…but no way big enough to fit a chair. We had a city view. The hotel was filled so there was no chance of upgrading to an ocean view…but at $60 extra I wouldn’t have done it anyway.

 

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With the two hour time difference between San Juan and Minnesota we had just enough time to sit on the beach for about 45 minutes before the sun went down. Ahhhhh…it is January and we are ON A BEACH!!

 

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There were a lot of chain restaurants within walking distance of the Intercontinental…but I could eat at a Burger King or Red Lobster back home…I wanted something a little more “local”. I knew there was a restaurant called the Metropol not too far away so we turned left as we went out of the hotel and started walking. We walked along the fairly busy street for 10 minutes or so and eventually found the restaurant.

 

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It wasn’t too busy when we first arrived, but it started filling up quickly. Our waiter was very friendly and recommended the smoked chicken which Bob ordered ($16.99). I asked about the mofongo. I saw it listed on the menu but the waiter said I didn’t want that because it was just plantains and nothing else. He said they would make it for me with shrimp and garlic sauce and that is what I should order…so I did ($18.99). If I understood correctly, the mofongo is made from plantains that are first fried…and then mashed. It was an interesting taste and pretty good…but now that I’ve tried it I probably wouldn’t order it again.

 

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On the other hand…Bob said his smoked chicken was the best he had ever eaten. It came with rice, sweet potatoes, plantains and a bowl of black beans.

 

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The restaurant is located right next door to a cock fighting arena…we could hear the crowing as we walked by. We just assumed that Bob’s dinner was the loser.

 

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Walking back to the hotel was so enjoyable…the warm night, the bustle of the city…and we were on VACATION!

 

Back at the hotel we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the hot tub. The grounds of the hotel are beautifully landscaped and it was almost magical hearing the chirping crickets in the foliage. Oops…we figured out the “night sounds” were actually a recording coming through hidden speakers in the flowers! Whatever…it was still a beautiful evening.

 

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Sunday, January 22 – CRUISE DAY!

 

You know how during the week you can hardly wait for the weekend so you can sleep late…and then on Saturday morning you wake up at 5:30 am because your biological clock said it was time to get up?? That was what I was expecting…but the room was dark…and the bed was so comfortable…I slept till after 8:00. And…I finally woke Bob at 9:30 by pulling back the drapes and opening the balcony door to let the warm air and sunshine come into the room.

 

After a little coffee in the room, we spent the morning taking some photos around the hotel…

 

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…and then taking a walk along the beach before heading to the port around noon.

 

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Forgive me if this photo is of you or someone you know…I couldn’t help myself. I guess it is a good thing that she feels so comfortable with her body?

 

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Leaving in 25 days so really looking forward to your reviews. Being from WI so glad to get out of this cold

 

Lucky you! This was our first time to cruise in the winter...and it was wonderful!

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Keep the review coming!! Love your pictures. Will be on the Victory in a little over 100 days!! Soon I will be doing the "double digit dance"!! Thanks for taking the time to write your review and post your pix.:)

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Looking forward to the rest of your review. We aren't going until March of 2013 so we have a little wait yet!

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Loving reliving our trip. Thanks! We were on Victory the week before you.

 

Have to say was the best itinerary we have ever had and loved the ship. Food was good, not great and Calabaza Sail in Barbados was amazing.

 

Those of you going - you are in for a treat. :)

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Loving reliving our trip. Thanks! We were on Victory the week before you.

 

Have to say was the best itinerary we have ever had and loved the ship. Food was good, not great and Calabaza Sail in Barbados was amazing.

 

Those of you going - you are in for a treat. :)

 

We are going this Sunday :D

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Thanks to everyone for the kind and encouraging posts! It makes it easier to keep writing when I know there are folks out there reading!

 

But...knowing so many of you are getting ready to leave soon is a little depressing...:(

 

Just kidding...I know you will all have a great time and I will be looking forward to reading your reviews when you return!

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There were taxis waiting as we checked out of the Intercontinental…a $24 fare later and we were at the port. I think it was about 11:30 when we got to the terminal and checked in. There was a pretty sizeable line and it probably took about an hour from the time we arrived until we started boarding. Even once we started boarding it was slow going. I do remember that we were in Zone 6 and the boarding hadn’t started yet when we sat down. Once the boarding started it was a bit disorganized and while some people were waiting until their zones were called others were just getting into line right away.

 

There was a liquor store (or maybe two) as you entered into the terminal on the ground floor and then a couple more upstairs that you passed by while in the line going to security. We aren’t drinkers so it wasn’t anything that I paid close attention to. I did notice that pop was also for sale.

 

The whole process of boarding the ship just seemed to take a lot longer than usual. One thing that was unique was that we had our picture taken for the Sail & Sign card once we were on the ship…on previous cruises this was always done before we boarded.

 

We were told cabins would not be open until 2:30 pm so we made our way up to the Mediterranean Restaurant on the Lido deck to grab some lunch. Bob loves Chinese food so he wandered around until he found the window for the Yangtze Wok. I’m not a huge Chinese food lover, but the guy working there was preparing the food fresh and it looked so good that I just ordered the same as Bob. The restaurant was not overly crowded…one of the staff took our carry-on bags for us while we were ordering and saved us a table.

 

After eating we did go and check to see if by chance we could get into our cabin, but the hallway doors were closed. We walked around the ship taking a few photos and then plopped down on a couch by the casino to wait.

 

A "neighbor" parked nearby...

 

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The promenade deck. This was a busy place in the evenings.

 

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The casino.

 

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The wine bar.

 

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We just want to go to our cabin...

 

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Our plan was to drop off our carry-ons and see if we could get into Jim & Kim’s cabin. Kim’s birthday was the following day and we wanted to do a little decorating. We were anxious to get this done so we could get back off the ship and spend some time checking out Old San Juan. I got impatient just sitting there waiting so around 2:00 I insisted we go check one more time to see if we could get into the cabins.

 

Halleluiah! The hallway was open and we could proceed with our plans. Our cabin was number 1371 on Deck 1. Our friends were in adjoining cabins 1401 and 1403…just a little further aft. This was our first time having a true ocean view cabin. We had actually sailed on the Victory in 2005 when she was doing the western route. On that cruise we had booked an ocean view cabin but were upgraded (for FREE) to a balcony. (Don’t you miss those days!?)

 

For some reason I didn’t take any photos of the room…but if you are interested you can find lots of photos of the ocean view cabins online. FYI, the ocean view cabins are the largest (except for the suites.) The space that would normally be allotted to a balcony is included as part of the square footage inside the cabin in this category. The room had a full size couch…when we were in the balcony cabin it was more of a love seat size.

 

In our six cruises we have “sampled” pretty much every type of cabin…inside, port hole, French door cabins, ocean view and balcony. Bob actually prefers the inside cabins…he loves sleeping in the extreme darkness. Me?...I would take a balcony any day…except my frugal side usually wins out and I go for “cheap” instead.

 

The room steward was still working and we asked if it was OK to drop off our stuff. The door to Jim & Kim’s cabin was propped open and he said it would be fine if we wanted to decorate. I had picked up a couple of birthday banners and a bag of balloons and we went to town decorating. I also took time to put up some “décor” on the outside of the doors… just some stuff that was recycled from our last cruise! (See link to Legend cruise review in signature!)

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we're right behind you:D

 

thanks for the description re the inside cabins' layout. We've only sailed inside & balcony so I couldn't figure out how they were bigger than a balcony cabin duh lol.

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