Friday, June 29, 2012

Our first cruise: Carnival Victory

March 27 San Juan PR
March 28 St. Thomas
March 29 Day at Sea
March 30 Barbados
March 31 St. Lucia
April 01 St. Kitts
April 02 St. Maarten
April 03 San Juan PR

This was not only our first cruise but our first time out of the country as well. We flew into San Juan the day of the cruise with no problems. Since we landed around noon and had some time to wait before the embarking process started, we went from the airport to Senor Frogs right across from the pier. 

After eating, we walked across the street to the cruise terminal around 2 and checked in within 30 minutes. The process is extremely simple. You fill out all of your documents online and print out your boarding pass. Once you show your identification you are allowed into the terminal. Here is where you can give your bags to porters and they will deliver them to your room later on in the afternoon. It is customary to tip the porters $1/bag. We had only brought carry-ons so we skipped this.

There are no words to describe your first experience seeing a cruise ship up close. It is way bigger than you imagine, basically like a floating hotel. The rooms aren't open to passengers until 3:30 so we hung out in the Atrium lounge and had drinks. Another option is to go up to the Lido Deck to eat lunch. After we checked out our stateroom, we headed back out to the CVS to grab toiletries and headed back on board. San Juan has been said to be a lenient port so you can try to bring on extra wine/soda/mixers once you check in and get back off to stop at CVS.  You can also go out to explore Old San Juan until 8:30. After that you get ready for the Muster Drill (life boat drill) and then the Sail Away Party on the Lido Deck!

 The view of the Victory on the way back from CVS. The orange building on the side of the ship is the cruise terminal.

Me before debarking the cruise in San Juan.

 This is a copy of the zone rates for taxis in San Juan. You can get a copy of this from the taxi stands at the airport. The port is located in Zone 4. It costs $19 each way, plus $1 per bag.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Is cruising is right for you?

I truly believe that cruising is the absolute best value, whether you travel in a large group or on a romantic getaway.  I have price checked multiple vacations over the years (ranging from all inclusive resorts to renting a beach house for a week) and I was quite surprised once I found cruising.

Cruise rates depend on multiple factors: Areas visited, time of the year, length of the cruise etc. You can book early and find yourself saving tons of money, while keeping the option of cancelling open if your travel plans change.

What does the cruise fare include? *Please be aware everything included is based on my experience with Carnival Cruise Lines, we have not sailed any other lines.
Your accommodations  (interior, ocean view, balcony, suites)
Food (buffet, main dining room, room service, sushi)
Beverages (water, tea, juice, coffee)
Activities (Vegas style shows, games, contests, comedians)
Supervised Kids Activities
& more!!

What is extra?
Tips - All cruise lines have an allotted amount per person per day that is charged to your on board account for different groups of employees that contribute to your vacation. The amount per person, per day depends on which cruise line you sail. CCL is at the bottom of that spectrum at $11.50 pp, pd.

Shore Excursions- Once on board you can do as little or as much as you would like. While some people would rather just lay on a beach relaxing all day, other prefer to take great adventures and really explore the places they are visiting. This is where excursions come in. Cruise lines find reputable companies that have a vast amount of activities to choose from to make your vacation memorable. Whether you want scuba or visit Mayan ruins, you are sure to find something you will enjoy. You have a choice to either book through the cruise line or book with private companies. While booking with private companies can save you money,  when you book an excursion through CCL it includes transportation to and from your excursion takes place. Carnival also has a guarantee that if your excursion is running late the cruise line will wait for you to get back to the ship before leaving. I find this very comforting, you never know what could go wrong!

Alcohol & Soft drinks-  Carnival allows you to bring 12 20 oz bottles or cans of water, soft drinks, mixers with you per person as well as one bottle of wine per person 21+. We have done this in the past but were left over with a lot of extra which we donated to our room steward.  There is a soda card you can buy (again cost is per person, per day) that will allow you unlimited soft drinks through out the cruise. There is currently no similar program for alcohol unless you are in a large group. I find alcohol prices to be quite the same as home, others find them to be expensive. I guess it all depends on where you live. As mentioned earlier you can bring an allotted amount of mixers with you, this is useful with Carnivals Bon Voyage dept. They have a lot of items for purchase that will be available in your stateroom upon arrival. They sell flowers, apparel, stuffed animals etc. They also sell alcohol and wine packages. This can be very pricey compared to local liquor stores, however it does save money vs. buying drinks the entire time of your trip. If you are not a big drinker than this probably is not a good option for you, however it is great to have the convenience of mixing your owns drinks in your room and being able to carry them around on board with you.

There is also an on board casino that is only open while at sea. They have a variety of options including poker tournaments, slot machines, quarter push games and regular tables. 

Some additional activities are not included in your fare: they have bingo, laser tag, a behind the scenes tour of the ship, etc. There is also chefs table where you get to have dinner with the chef and eat multiple courses that he goes over privately with your group of around 10.

There are a couple of stores on board where you can buy souvenirs,  flowers, alcohol & cigarettes, a photo gallery, jewelry, etc.

There are tons of additional activities that you can do on board which I will try to cover as much as possible in upcoming posts. Please comment if you have any questions or special requests for posts.

I hope this has answered some of your questions regarding cruising and if it is right for you.