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Victory Review 3/22/09 With Pics

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Alright, here I go with my first cruise review. Since this cruise was on the Victory doing the Southern Caribbean with six port stops it will probably run a bit long. Have no fear, I have pics to keep you going! I will start off by saying out of four cruises this was by far my favorite. I really have no complaints about anything, but understand when I am on vacation it would take A LOT to get me the slightest bit worked up. I just relax, go with it, and really don't think twice about any small annoyances.


To start off it was my partner Wade and I on this cruise (and no I don't mean my "business" partner....). It was my fourth cruise and his third. I had been on the Fantasy during it's first year of service but hadn't cruised again until last year. Our first cruise together was last October on the Valor and two months after that my parents took us and my two sisters and their family on a Christmas cruise on the Fascination. We were fortunate enough for this to be our third cruise in six months.


I will make a short note to tell you that while on the Valor I had purchased a Future Cruise Certificate for $100 with this cruise in mind. About a week after that cruise I called up and booked this one. It was as simple as putting our booking number on the certificate and mailing it in. In a week or so my cruise fare reflected the $100 taken off for the certificate and also showed I had $100 OBC. This is really a no brainer type of deal if you are on a ship that offers this and you know you are going to cruise again in the next couple of years. It was easy to use and it went through without a hitch.


Alright, we live in Atlanta, Ga in an area of the city called Buckhead. So getting to the ATL airport is no big deal for us. We woke up early and headed out for our 9:30 flight on Delta. It takes us about 15 min to drive to the airport and once there we just parked and checked our bags in. I hate this new "50lb limit" on checked bags. I understand it, I just worry like a fiend the night before looking over all the stuff in the luggege and repeatedly picking up the bags trying to mentally guess the weight. So we get to the counter and sure enough one of our bags weighs in at 51lbs. I look at the baggage handler, he looks at me, I smile and tilt my head with a look of "its only one pound, I am smiling here, why don't you just ignore it?". He just looks back at me again with absolutly no change in the facial expression and then asks if I want to "pay the charge or try to maneuver my bag to take off the pound". Of course I grab the bag and make my way over to the side to try and make it less weight. I open the bag only to discover all sorts of useless items crammed in there from my partner. Seizing a HUGE bottle of peroxide and giving Wade a look of "Are you serious?" I toss it into the trash, make some other adjustments and head back. All is well and we head off to the gate.


The flight was pretty uneventful. I loved being on the plane with the TV screen in front of you on the back of the other persons seat. It provided a lot of entertainment. Wade got sucked into the Trivia game. He played it for most of the flight along with about 30 other people. I guess he enjoyed it but he kept muttering things like "10B I am coming to get you!". I did notice him sitting upright in the seat scanning the airplane for the other people playing. I have never known him to be competitive but he was on a mission the whole flight. he even got up to go to the bathroom once, but I knew he was just checking out one of his nemeses. When he came back he looked at me a muttered something along the lines of "I can't believe it! She can't be more then 15! and who wears pig tails these days anyway! Girl is going down!".


So we arrive in San Juan and walk off the plane. Let me say right now walking off the ramp and into the airport you would have thought we hit some disaster relief area. There were people everywhere. On the seats, along the wall, all over the floors, etc. Most were sunburned and didn't seem to share the look of excitement I know I had on my face. Pushing the thought of "This will be us" out of my head we made our way to the baggage claim. This took a bit of an effort since everything was in Spanish and I hadn't studied the language since High School. I just kept telling Wade "This way, we are either going to the claim area or the employee lounge. We will know when we get there!". There were people everywhere and finally we got to the right spot and found our bags.


Walking out the door we encountered a little more chaos as we had no idea where to get a cab. Now here is what the airport does right. You get into a line for a cab. When you make it up to the stand they ask your destination, how many bags and people, write it on a receipt and put you in another small line to get the actual cab. From there another person grabs the next can, gives them you receipt and shoves you in the back seat. It all moves very quickly and the next thing I knew we were in the cab headed twords our hotel.

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Alright, some of you are probably thinking "Hey this guy promised pics and all I see is a wall of text!" They are coming. A couple months back I had reserved a room at the Holiday Inn Express. I did it to save a bit of money, but my heart wasn't in it. I am a sucker for a big pool and I kept salivating over the pics of the Intercontinental San Juan Resort. A few weeks before our cruise I checked there web site for the hundredth time and was delighted to see the price of the room had gone way down. It was now about $30 more then the Holiday Inn Express room. I quickly made the reservation and while I was at it thought "Wow, a junior suite for only $20 more!". Honestly, once I start something like this I have no control over my actions.


Pulling into the hotel I was impressed with the area out front. Lots of beautiful flowers and plants and it all looked very nice. Checking in was easy, and the gentleman behind the counter made me feel more important then I will ever actually be in real life. They allowed us to check in early and off we went to our room on the 14th floor. Now there are only a few of these junior suites in this hotel. They are directly behind the wall of elevators, however we heard no noise at all from anywhere. The suite was made up of two rooms and each was a nice size. The living room had a nice couch and chair, TV and cabinet and a desk with a coffee maker (the only thing I furiously look for when entering a hotel room). The bedroom was made up of a king sized bed with another TV and cabinet and an alarm clock that hooked up to your MP3 player. Both rooms had there own little curved balcony and faced out towards the street and had a nice view of the mountain range. The bathroom was also nice and had a large stand up shower, but no tub. This is me on the bedroom balcony:




Like I said, all I care about is the pool I kept looking at online. It was a beautiful and hot day so we headed on down. The pool area is very nice. They hand out free towels and give you a wristband. The pool itself is lagoon like, curved, with a nice waterfall. The best feature is a swim up bar which had a nice flat screen TV on the wall, stools in the water and a full menu for food and not just drinks.




Finally there was a very large hot tub area that could probably seat more people then you would care to be in a warm body of water with. Not only did it have jets on the side, but huge jets pushing up from the bottom in the center of the whirlpool. Very Nice.




Walking beyond the pool area there is a gate with a security guard to head out to the beach. We did walk along the beach there and it was nice, but we were off to see many other beautiful beaches so after awhile we headed back to the pool to relax and swim. The beach is Isle Verde and seemed quite popular with the locals.




After some pool time we were starving and decided to eat at the beach restaurant at the hotel. The food was alright and the service was sparse, but I really could have cared less at this point. We were in Puerto Rico and had an exciting cruise the next day. After awhile we walked along the beach some more as the sun began to set.




From there we just walked around the hotel where they had a few very nice restaurants and walked through the casino in the lobby (kind of small). Finally we called it a night and headed up to our room to relax and get some sleep before the big day.

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Day 1- The Ship and Old San Juan


Waking up early we decided to head out and find some cheap breakfast. Walking out of the hotel and across the street we find a Burger King. Not necessarily my idea of checking out the local cuisine, but hey we were kind of in a hurry. We make it back to our room and get our bags ready to check out and head off to the ship. It always amazes me how we can manage to pull out just about everything in our luggege for a one night stay. At least there were no weight issues to think about. Checking out and getting a cab was easy and soon enough we were taking the 15 minute ride from the hotel to the dock. Carnival docks at the pier right in Old San Juan and it was a simple matter of pulling up, giving our bags (and $5) to the porter and walking down the pier to the building. We had made it to the pier at around 11:30 and walking into the building there was no one there. It was a bit odd to head up the elevators into a big open room with one other couple in the whole place. Before you get in line for check in they take your picture. Smiling for the photo we knew we wouldn't buy we headed straight to the counter. This is where I always start to get a little nervous. I can think of a million totally asinine complications that can happen to prevent me from getting on the ship. Am I the only one who thinks like this?


Well, it runs smoothly and I soon have my S&S card in my hand. Hey, it is one of the new cards with the new design. We then make our way over to a small waiting area for them to start boarding. From here I will answer a few questions people always seem to have about the San Juan terminal. Yes, there is a duty free liquor store right there in between the waiting chairs and the security. The guy running the store even came out and passed out fliers to everyone. He was actually like a carnival barker shouting out deals and telling people to "step right up!". If you do buy Liquor there just slide it into your carry on. They don't care and I saw no one get stopped for this.


After awhile of sitting there waiting my mind starts to think of any possible thing that can go wrong to keep me off the ship. This is when two ladies march over to me, stand above me and ask "Are you David?". Scared that I had done something in a previous life that I didn't remember I debate turning to the poor guy sitting behind me and telling them "No, but this guy is". Turns out all was well and it was two people from my Roll Call (which was quite big) who recognized me from a picture. We talked to them a bit and were excited to meet two people already who seemed very nice and fun. Then it was time to head through security and board the ship.


Once on we headed up to the Lido and grabbed some quick lunch. Now the Victory is pretty much like the Conquest class, but the buffet area is one of the differences. There is no extra buffet line. Also you can go to an upstairs area, but there is no Fish and Chips restaurant. i still didn't find this to be a problem at any time. After eating I wanted to check out the ship, put our bags in the cabin, and head out to explore Old San Juan a bit. I love walking through the ship at this point because there are hardly any people on the Promenade and it is a great photo op time.


The Promenade deck




The coffee bar. I loved the coral in the glass display.




Wade overlooking the Atrium




The Red and Black Seas jazz bar



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The Wine Bar




The Aft Lounge




The Piano Bar




The Lido Deck (not the first day)




Our Cabin 6440 Aft balcony




Heading to our cabin I was excited to check out the aft balcony. The cabin looked about the same as our Valor balcony cabin, but the bathroom seemed a bit nicer with a ton of storage space. The cabin itself was typical with a sofa and extra chair. I headed out to check out the balcony. Now I have read a lot of debates on aft balconies. When I first walked out there I was a bit taken aback at the fact that I could see all of my neighbor's balconies when I stepped to the rail. It is a wider balcony and does feel a lot more spacious. After getting past the initial privacy aspect I fell in love with the balcony during the course of the cruise. The views are simply stunning and the sail aways are incredible. After that first day I no longer cared if my neighbors could see me at the railing. They weren't looking at me when they also had this gorgeous view in front of them. We decided halfway through the cruise that we would always try for an aft balcony cabin on any future cruises.

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Loving it! Four weeks from today, we'll be in Dominica!


Surprised to hear you were able to board so early. I'd planned on checking out of the hotel (Courtyard Miramar) and heading into OSJ, dropping bags at Barrachina, getting breakfast at La Bombanera, sightseeing, THEN heading to the ship. I've read some folks couldn't board until 4 pm. I just don't want to get stuck with my carryon bags and don't want to waste a single minute of precious time when I can be exploring OSJ (which I absolutely LOVE).


Can't wait to read what you did in the ports. I just cannot wait for this cruise!

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So after checking out our room and stashing our bags we headed off the ship to explore a bit of OSJ. This process was easy. We simply went back down to Deck 3 and out through the side doors that we came in on. From there you just go down the gangway and instead of going right and through the doors were you came in at past security, go left through another door. From there go down an escalator and back out the front door. Simple. We made our way down the pier and decided to slowly make our way up to San Cristobal Fort which is just up the hill. Let me say that I loved OSJ. They kept the architecture and integrity of the old city in place. The streets are narrow and cobblestone, the buildings are colorful, and the overall feeling of the town is simply charming.


A street in OSJ




A fountain in one of the squares




After walking up the hill and down a few side streets we made it to San Cristobal Fort. I don't remember the exact price to get in, but it was pretty cheap. The fort itself is very interesting. There are many places to walk up and see and quite a few "halls" that lead down to the lower areas. We walked up to the highest point and were were treated to some incredible views of the city, the coastline and our ship.


Wade and I at the top




From there we walked over to the lookout point and enjoyed the small breeze coming through. It was very hot that day and I ended up with a bit of sunburn on my neck. I had become a true "redneck" from Georgia....


Me at the lookout point




The view from the "window" of the lookout point.





After this we excited the fort and walked around OSJ a bit more. Again, I loved this town. We walked through many narrow streets with an abundance of shops, cafes, etc. After awhile we came across a square where there was a band playing and many stands set up. The day was beautiful and we just strolled around feeling completely at ease. We finally made our way back down a bit and right below the old city wall they had built. Along a beautiful tree lined street they had set up an huge photography exhibit. The pictures were blown up to about 10x5 feet and went along the walkway out towards the ocean. They were all beautiful shots that dealt with many environmental concerns around the world. After spending an hour or so looking at these we walked back to the ship.


Getting back on was as easy as going straight up the escalator and back through security. We wanted to get back to unpack and go to dinner. The first night is open seating so there was no rush. Our bags were in the room so we put everything away and hung out there for awhile. Finally it was time to walk down to the dining room for dinner. maybe it was because of open seating, but our service was almost nonexistent.Again, it didn't bother me, everything came out on time and correctly, but we had no idea who our waiter was supposed to be. We had a different person for everything that happened during the dinner. Again, not a big deal to us, but it was a bit odd.


Later on that evening we had our meeting for our Roll Call. We decided to do this after the muster drill (which was painless and the same as always). Our group met at the Aft Pool on the Lido deck. Walking up there we were one of the first to arrive. There were a few other people by the pool, one of which was a guy in a thong. Not a Speedo, but a thong. This guy would become infamous during our cruise and by the end of the trip everyone on board knew who "thong guy" was. The meeting went well and a lot of people showed up. It was great to put names with faces and to also meet some of the people we had excursions planned with.


We then headed up a deck to watch us sail away from Puerto Rico. The ship is in a bay area so we had to sail out and around the fort. It was beautiful to see all the lights. It did feel a bit odd to have a sail away at 10:00 at night though. After we chatted a bit we headed back to our cabin to get some rest. We knew the next six days were going to be non0stop so we wanted to try and start off with enough sleep.

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I'm really enjoying your review... I love all the details (and of course pictures) and can't wait to read more!!!

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Okay , let me first say that you are NOT the only one who thinks of the 100 things that can go wrong!! LOL It can and has happened to us, so I know to be prepared for anything!! I thought I was the only one!!

Now let me say that I am having a blast reading your review!! You have a great sense of humor and I love it!! So more please!! It's naptime for my son, so this is the only hour or so I get for mommy's quiet time! Thanks!!

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I can't wait to read more! We are sailing on the Victory in November, and reading your review is helping build up the excitement! :D


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enjoying the review so far ....Oh Puerto Rico brings back such good memories ...keep it coming !

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Fantastic job and great pictures. I'm able to relate with you on bags weighing too much, the hotel upgrade (it is hard to control!) and reasons why I can't board! I'm sure they'll be more that I'll be relating to:D:D


BTW, which airline did you fly that has the interactive games?


Keep up the great review:)

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You need to invest in a small portable digital luggage scale - it has been a lifesaver for me - esp on the return trips - it seems 'souvenirs' do weigh something! :)


Victory seems almost prettier that I remember it - but wondering if you got 'bitten' by any of those seahorses? :):)

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Really enjoying your review and the way you write. Our neighbours were on this cruise in Mar. and can't stop raving about it-they didn't want to get off at the end.:)

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Keep er commin, We will be on the Victory in three weeks. Love to see more pics

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Please come back and write more soon!

We'll be on the Victory in 2 1/2 weeks!

We've never been to PR, never mind the ports.

The only port we have been to is St Thomas.

To say we're excited is an understatement! :D

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Hey tiggerman...where'd you go?! I've already been to the Southern caribbean twice but I was totally enjoying your review...brings back many great memories...I love your writing style and pictures...

Now...leave reality alone...and get back on Cruise Critic and continue on with your amazing review :p

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