by Paul Somodevilla
July 7, 2002
Okay, FINALLY. Barring any unexpected power outages, I now present the long awaited (okay, not really, but allow me to dream...) review of Caribbean Green & Ms. Green's 7-7 western Caribbean cruise on the beautiful Carnival Victory! I DO tend to ramble, but on this board it's better too much than too little, so here goes... (drum roll, pomp & circumstance, blah blah blah)
..setting the proverbial stage, we're both from Dallas and in our mid-twenties. While the Victory was my 16th cruise overall (I was raised at sea, I think), it was Ms. Green's first, so it was exciting to see how two completely different perspectives meandered through 7 days in paradise and ended up in the same place.
GETTING THERE/EMBARKATION/OTHER "HAVE-TOs":
THE SHIP, GETTING THERE, STAFF, ETC. (this whole review is one
big "etc.", isn't it?):
CARIBBEAN LOUNGE (main showroom):
AEGEAN BAR (sports bar):
SOUTH CHINA SEA CLUB (casino):
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL (or the god of the sea, whichever)..... :
There WILL, however, be a photographer set up just forward of the casino in the atrium area (where the promenade basically forms a British-style roundabout circling Oceanic Hall), and though she NEVER had a line, she has a GREAT backdrop already built in: the green tiffany-glass lower ceiling of Oceanic Hall, which when lit up at night makes the most beautiful photo backdrop you could ask for, and is distinctively Victory.
The VICTORY SHOPS are in this area as well, on both sides of the circle around Oceanic Hall. The starboard side is the shop with jewelry, watches, leather items, perfumes, etc. (there was always some sort of special going on), and the port side shop (forward of the Aegean Bar) was the logo shop, with your more basic souvenirs, rum cakes, liquors, clothing, logo merchandise, candy, etc. You could also get your essentials (batteries, Bonine if you needed it, AC Adapters, things like that) in this shop. Both shops had friendly staff and reasonable prices with some good deals to be found, especially towards the end of the cruise.
CLUB ARCTIC, moving aft:
the ODYSSEY HALL area:
BUFFET, LIDO DECK, etc.:
About the Siren's Pool area, that's something else that was very unique and impressive. The décor of the Med carries out into the pool and surrounding areas, which is something I've never seen before and was very impressive. Even the deck area around the pool (which has a retractable roof) wasn't the usual teakwood style decking, but a red Spanish tile with small hand-painted tile diamonds at each point where four tiles met. This was very impressive, because the use of the tile alone gave the area a different feel, and the fact that each of the hundreds of small tile diamonds had a different little pattern painted on it just added to the very unique poolside atmosphere. Also, the deck chairs had big, thick cushions with a color and pattern unique to that particular area.. not to mention , the tables on the back side of the pool overlooked the stern and the wake of the ship, one of my favorite spots. An odd fact: The bar at Siren's Pool is open until 4am nightly, the consistently latest nightspot onboard. It's located port side, across from Pizzeria Arno.
In both the Siren's Pool area and Triton's (main) pool area, there were large glass & steel sculptures around various edges of the water, which were very impressive and added a lot to the overall atmosphere. Two bars flank the pool on either side and point inward to the outside buffet lines of the Med. There are plenty of tables and chairs for outdoor eating, and though there are plenty of deck chairs, the chair saving was in FULL effect on this cruise. There are signs, warnings in the Capers, all sorts of noticed about this problem, but people just don't care. My favorite irritant was seeing three chairs, one with one shoe in it, one with the other show in it, and one with a cap in it. Delicious. Regardless, unless you just HAVE to be immediately poolside, you'll be able to find loungers all up and down decks 9, 10, 11, and 12. The topless deck by the funnel is ALWAYS more than half empty (and sorry guys, no one was topless) as is the area by the little used King of the Sea (waterslide) pool, though that is usually a hotspot for children. Also up near this area is the Nautica Spa, gym, jogging track, and juice bar, which looked very nice though we never tried it. A giant kids' play area is outside the bar area, complete with slides, playhouses, etc.
The poolside areas (mainly Triton's Pool) featured the usual reggae band playing most afternoons, as well as traditional Carnival poolside daytime entertainment, such as Survivor, hairy chest contests, ice carving demos, some trivia games, etc. There's enough entertainment poolside to have a good time and give you something to look forward to, but it's never so intrusive that you can't lay out in peace.
ENTERTAINMENT (and whatnot. I LOVE some good whatnot):
Line of the week: "In addition, this afternoon's scheduled meeting of the Apathy Club has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Thanks, and have a great day!" - cruise director Steve Cassel, over the PA during his afternoon announcements.
This was my third time to sail with CD Steve Cassel, and I still think he does a bang up job. I've sailed with John Heald twice, and yes, John is the man (as Steve himself once mentioned on the Victory), but Steve is one of Carnival's top 3 or 4 CDs bar none. He's goofy (to put it lightly), knowledgeable, approachable, and the self-professed "master of the bad joke." His talks were helpful for the first time and veteran cruisers alike, his juggling act is borderline amazing (Steve outperformed many of the "serious" performers), and the "If I were not upon the sea" bit he did with the crew after the talent show was hilarious. In fact, it gave me a great photo of Steve in a leotard, tutu, and blonde wig. A.J. is still there as the lead social host, and though several people said he wasn't very good as CD the past few weeks (filling in between John & Steve), we thought he was hilarious and likeable. In my humble opinion, I think A.J. is ready to move up the ranks of Carnival CDs whenever he's given his own ship. With only one notable exception (Newlywed/Not so, which Steve did), A.J. emceed just about all the events-both poolside and in lounges-that involved audience participation, and did a great job. Jo, a British ex-dancer, generally ran trivia and bingo, both of which we participated in regularly. The production shows, Livin' In America (Monday night) and Vroom! (Friday night) have been covered here several times, but we loved both of them. The crowd got much more involved in Livin' In America, and that performance seemed to draw more raves, but a lot of that probably had to do with the timing of the performance. Both shows involve elaborate set and costume changes, and lots of impressive technical work. The singers, Wayne and Yolanda, were both very talented and charismatic. There were three "R" rated midnight comedians-on my past CCL cruises, this show was always held in the "alternate" show lounge (in this case it would have been the Adriatic), but on the Victory they were in the Caribbean. This was a good move, as the shows always had overflow standing room crowds in the past. Jim Brick held the first show, David Sayh the second, and Percy Crews II the third. Both Brick and Crews were hilarious, had me doubled over in laughter, and generated a ship-wide buzz after their shows. Sayh wasn't very funny, though he had the most impressive credentials. Sayh's performance was even mocked by the crowd at Crews' show the next night. I think it spoke volumes that both Brick and Crews did a main general audience show as well, whereas Sayh only had the one performance. Manuel Zuniga (isn't this man on every Carnival ship every week?) performed his juggling/comedy act, which was a big hit, and the passenger talent show, though only three acts long, featured two singers that could have performed as professionals and STILL earned their standing ovations. The only show we didn't really enjoy was Rand Woodbury's magic show-Ms. Green thought Woodbury was drunk, I just thought he was a pompous ass who took 90 minutes to do three tricks, but either way, his "what I do can save the world" bunk was wasted on us. Now in all fairness, the show was technically impressive, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it, but I think a lot of our discomfort had to do with the fact that this was the show we arrived to 5 minutes before curtain and had to sit up in the scorchingly hot third level for. Still, entertainment was great all week and we took in most of it. The knobby knees contest, newlywed game, Austin Powers dance class, comedians, jugglers, magicians, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, bingo, horse racing, several types of trivia, art auctions, singers, bands in every lounge, galley tours, ice carving demos, limbo, dance contests, karaoke, ask the crew, informative talks, in-cabin movies and radio, golf driving net, putting contests, ping pong, full gym & spa, you name it-if you are bored on the Victory, it's your own fault. And remember-sometimes, it's quite all right to just do NOTHING. We enjoyed long, leisurely meals, wandering the ship, taking naps, and sitting out on our balconies as much as anything else. Remember: you're on vacation!
DINING ROOM/ROOM SERVICE:
We asked for late seating, and after hoping passionately that we'd get the 8:00 and not the 8:30, I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that we'd received the 8:00 seating in the Pacific Dining Room. We were seated on the second level, port side. I can see what some people say about it seeming like "the action" is on the lower level, but it never really bothered us. The area we sat in was a series of booths for four lined up against the glass half-wall looking down onto the lower level. Next to us on the other side was a strip of five or six tables for two, with more booths for four on the other side. Although we were eager to meet our tablemates, not only did they not show the first night, they NEVER showed. Not one meal. Our waiter, Atilla from Hungary (imagine that), said that he'd checked in the computer, and there was a couple scheduled to be there, yet they never showed-very odd. The large picture window overlooking the back of the ship is a nice feature unique to the Pacific Room, but you CAN see the horizon move up and down if you look at it from a distance, so this probably plays a part in why you can feel what little motion there is in the Pacific more than in other areas. Food was excellent, and you can tell the improvements Carnival has made in this department over the years. Ms. Green labeled her Long Island Duckling as one of the best meals she'd ever had, and I did the same with my almond encrusted Pacific salmon with creamed spinach and potatoes. Incredible. The West Indian pumpkin soup is every bit as good as advertised, as was the decadence of chocolate, a must for ANY Carnival cruiser. We both agreed that soups were a strong point, as every one we tried was delicious. If I could suggest one thing to Carnival, it might be to have soups available up on the Lido deck as well, as we couldn't get enough of them. Desserts were great, as was every seafood dish I tried, and I had plenty. Ms. Green loved the food as well, and there wasn't anything we could really complain about. The bread is brought around at the beginning of your meal, and there is always a wide variety to choose from, from rye to plain rolls to baguettes to sun dried tomato rolls and so on, and all with that President butter just waiting seductively, taunting you from its cold silver tin... but I digress.. We often times ordered two starters or two soups or two entrees, whatever, and they were always more than happy to accommodate us with a smile. Bar service was prompt and friendly from the nearby Ionian Room (don't freak out when you see charges on your bill to the Ionian Room, that's where the dining room drinks come from), and couples around us enjoyed various wines all week. There are daily wine selections from the chefs and maitre'd listed in the Capers daily if you're so inclined. But don't feel intimidated if that's not your thing-just as many folks were enjoying an ice cold Coca-Cola with dinner as well! Formal nights saw all kinds-from Sunday attire to full blown tuxedos and formal gowns. I wore my tuxedo the first night, and though I was nervous at first that I'd stand out, I saw more men in tuxedos on the Victory than I had on any ship prior. Again, fear not, a whole rainbow of fashion is represented and anything is welcome.
One evening, Atilla and other waiters from the section came bounding out with smiles and cakes in hand, and we learned that every single couple at the tables for two next to us was on their honeymoon! As thr are presenting all the cakes, Atilla comes up to us and says "I understand you're celebrating a honeymoon this week?" We sat there smiling dumbly until we said, in a tentative unison, "Uh, no, we're not, I don't know.." He then shook his head and determined that our phantom tablemates who never showed were on THEIR honeymoon! Draw from that the conclusions that you wish, but either way we got a Happy Honeymoon cake and were part of the big group singing to 8 or 9 honeymooning couples! We got a huge laugh and a lot of pictures out of that one!
The second formal night is distinctly less formal, as black tie gives way to a more fun, creative kind of formal. The waiters don't do the big baked-alaska-or-cherries-jubilee on their heads parade anymore, but there is still the singing & dancing-just a touch toned down. Baked Alaska is the only dessert automatically brought to your table (cherries jubilee isn't), and even then if you feel like having something else, they'll gladly bring you that as well, as a full dessert menu is still available.
Room service was wonderful, and the menu is far more diverse than it was in the past-despite this newfound diversity, we stuck to our old favorites. Ms. Green couldn't go a day without her toasted bagel & cream cheese, and almost a week later I'm still tasting my roast beef & brie sandwiches along with some of the best potato salad I've ever tasted. Service was always quick, with a smile, and as long as you remember to tip just two bucks each time, you'll be well taken care of and Enjoy a midnight snack, pre-nap bite, or meal out on your balcony as the moon & stars roll by.
As for service in the cabin area, though I can't speak for everyone on board, I can say that our service was for the most part excellent and with a smile. Our steward was Marvin from Jamaica, and he was very friendly and efficient yet never too aggressive or neglectful at the same time. The only complaints I had were little ones, such as not having a do not disturb sign at the beginning of the cruise or not being given an envelope to tip the maitre'd, but we took care of all of that very quickly. Not to mention we had an "illegal" bottle of rum in our room and not only did Marvin not care, by the end of the cruise he'd ice it down for us in one of the two buckets of ice we had. The towel animals were once again a nightly player (and one of Ms. Green's favorite things) and the beds were pushed together and fitted under king size bedding just like that within the first couple hours on board. The Carnival terry cloth robes we were given were very light and very comfortable, and the complimentary basket of toiletries came in very handy as well. I found television onboard to be much better than on previous ships as well. Funvision was very effective and useful, with only a couple of differences from my last CCL cruise on the Imagination 6 years ago-You could no longer order room service from your television, but you can order first run movies, and a wide variety at that, for a nominal fee. Also, it's a great way to avoid lines, crowds, or tours filling up, as you can order tours off the in cabin television as soon as the Victory sets sail. It's easy, hassle-free, and gets all your "busy work" taken care of from the comfort of your boxer shorts. Of course, if you'd like more information before you book (info sheets on each tour will be waiting for you in your cabin to begin with), Steve gave very informative talks on each tour and each port of call in the Caribbean Lounge, and tours rarely sold out.
We slept very comfortably - I always sleep better on cruise ships than anywhere else-and were never disturbed by noises, etc. in the nighttime hours. Insulation between cabins was excellent, as I never once got the paper-thin sensation I've gotten on most other ships. The only negatives were napping could sometime be difficult in the afternoon, as we had a group right across the hall from us that was part of a large group on board celebrating a 15th birthday, and they spent a good amount on time IN THE HALLWAY playing music and talking very loudly. A dirty look here and there helped our cause, and it was no big deal. Announcements aren't as annoying as has been reported-there's a long one about 10am every day and another around 5:30pm, and other than that there are just a few here and there. Plus, they're never piped into your cabins unless they're mandatory (which is only lifeboat drill & debarkation stuff), so the noise is minimal. We only heard deck chairs being moved around above us once (we were directly below the Lido deck), and it was very brief and a non-factor. There was plenty of closet and storage space for the both of us, and although our coral-colored sofa was used mostly as a catch all for bags, papers, etc., I feel like we utilized our given space fairly well.
The Victory was remarkably smooth-almost TOO smooth. There were times when we were sailing and I'd have sworn we were on land if I didn't know better. Not only was there almost no motion, there wasn't even a hint of vibration for the most part. Only once or twice was there even SLIGHT swaying, and even then it was brief and hardly noticeable. Ms. Green, on her first cruise and understandably worried about seasickness going in, mentioned more than once that it just felt like we were in a huge hotel. Great job by the captain, crew, and of course the Victory herself.
Just down the hall from us was one of the laundrettes (there are several throughout the ship, check out leatherbound cabin services directory in your stateroom), and the only times it was really packed were in the afternoon hours before a formal night, mostly with women ironing, pressing, etc. In port it was almost always empty, and during sea days there was moderate activity. You can buy detergent from a machine, and there are several washers and dryers as well as an ironing board and good Panasonic iron.
Oh, and before I forget, the internet café-it's off the Ionian Room, starboard side opposite the Card Room, and there are a number of terminals that actually have a very good connection. We only used it a couple of times to check on things from back home, so we just went with the 75 cents a minute standard, but for those of you who plan on spending more time online (and there were several on this cruise), there are a number of affordable plans with which you can purchase minutes. The Ionian Room itself is a gorgeous room located just across from the entrance to the Pacific Dining Room and below Club Arctic. Yes, it IS odd that such a nice, subdued room is located below a loud party area like Club Arctic, but it's not as ridiculous at some reviews make it seem, since never are the two rooms open and going at the same time. By the time Club Arctic is up and pounding, the Ionian Room has long since wound down. The Ionian room is the one place on the Victory where cigar smoking is allowed and encouraged (grab those Cubans while you can!), and a classical and jazz trio will play in the evenings here nightly. The full bar along the back of the room is gorgeous, and ties into the room well. One night, every musician on the Victory got together in the Ionian for a 3 hour "jam session," and what we heard of it was a real treat.
Okay, now on to the ports o' call!! I'll preface this by saying that I've never been one who's looked forward to every port with marked anticipation. I enjoy the ports, I've had some good times seeing the ports, and a week I spent in Grand Cayman is one of the best vacations I've been fortunate enough to have-but that being said, I've always seen ports as being a byproduct of being able to get on the ship for a week! My cruise on the Victory, as great as the ship is, did a lot to change that attitude.
We docked at what is actually the old pier, down a ways from San Miguel and slightly bigger (deeper) than the newer pier. We were docked next to HAL's Maasdam, and we could see the Holiday docked down at the new pier further down the island. We met on the pier at 10am for the Fiesta Party Boat tour, and had no problems whatsoever getting off the ship, we simply popped our S&S card into the machine and strolled off. The S&S card is all we ever needed getting on and off the ship. The Fiesta was right around the corner, and we quickly boarded and headed up to the third deck of the tri-deck boat. The 1st and 3rd deck had bars, and the second deck had a souvenir stand. We headed along the island's coast to Playa Sol (after picking up some passengers from the Holiday who had been tendered from their ship to the Victory), with a Mexican band playing some cruise standards (UB40, Macarena, etc.) and some local favorites. On the first level of the boat (with the band, stage, etc), the Fiesta crew was talking over the speaker system, getting the crowd involvment going, etc, and allowing the children onboard to go after a pinata. The whole way to Playa Sol, free rum punch and Pepsi was offered to the passengers, and despite the ominous clouds here and there, we all stayed in an upbeat mood, laughing and enjoying watching fellow passengers take failed Macarena lessons. Finally, we arrived at Playa Sol, where we were ushered off the boat and given a quick talk on all that was available for us there. The coolers of rum punch were brought off the boat and onto the beach at the end of the pier, and the punch continued to flow for our two hours at the beach. Playa Sol is a cool place, with tons of loungers, food & drink options, watersports, and a whole pavillion area where a fountain marks the entrance to a long strip of shops, and a freshwater swimming pool with swim up bar sits in front of a large covered buffet area. We walked down through the shops and Ms. Green found a lovely turquoise ring we bought from a shop with a Mexican man who was very helpful and accomodating and not the least bit pushy, as we had a hard time finding the ring she wanted in the perfect size-ladies, remember, if you've been in the sea for a while first as we had, your fingers are probably a bit swollen from the salt water. We learned this the hard way, as Ms. Green's ring is now a bit loose! As I said, we spent a good bit of time playing in the Caribbean, sipping rum punch and wandering around the grounds taking pictures and meeting some very friendly passengers from the Holiday. Finally, it was time to head back on to the Fiesta, and that's when the party cranked up. On the way back to the Victory, not only was there free rum punch, but free Dos Equis was brought into the mix! Conga lines formed, dancing picked up, everyone filled up the bottom deck, and a limbo contest was won by the most flexible woman I've ever seen. Needless to say, the whole ride back (a ride that went a lot slower than the way there) Ms. Green and I put away our fair share of Dos Equis and were feeling very good as we debarked the boat-a great time on the Fiesta! They DID take a photo of us wearing matching rainbow colored sombreros, which we purchased for 10 bucks and which I'm very fond of. As we debarked, we decided to check out the pier shops-To get to the island by foot, you have to walk through these shops, as the entire pier is basically an enclosed mall. There are some great deals on alcohol, tobacco, and souvenirs here, and if there's anything I can suggest about the ports, it's that you should do as much of your shopping as possible in Cozumel, as the best deals by far are found here. We bought a large bottle of rum and 6 Cuban cigars for 15 bucks total and headed out of the mall to the little area of jewelry shops and bars on the island. There was a Senor Frog's and Fat Tuesday's to out immediate left, and after we stopped into Fat Tuesday's for another drink ( I had a Montejo, a Mexican beer that was new to me but one that I really enjoyed), we headed to one of the recommended CCL jewelry stores, where Ms. Green got the pair of five dollar Tanzanite earrings for being a Victory passenger. The other Tanzanite stuff was.uhhh. just a bit out of our price range. As we headed back to the ship, we stopped at a bar (sense a theme here?) on the other side of the pier called the Crazy Pelican. This bar was very cool, as it had a mini-pier of its own where Ms. Green laid out (laying out at a bar!!) and I sat by her side taking pictures (including one that's my all-time favorite) and drinking Negra Modelos while she sipped Coronas. This isn't even mentioning the bartender who gave us impromptu shots of Cuervo when we walked in-but that's another story. Finally, we'd had enough and headed back to the Victory. We ran the rum through the x-ray machine, made NO effort to sneak it on, yet they let it right on through, and suddenly we had a bottle of run in our cabin for the duration of the week!! Then, after stopping at the Med for a little 4pm snack, we took what was supposed to be a little nap, and ended up sleeping until close to 10. That's what a day on the party boat and at the "Crazy Pelican" will do to you, I suppose.. What a day.
I'd spent a week in Cayman before, and Ms. Green knew from my wistful ramblings how I felt about this island, so there was a lot to live up to here! We pulled in bright and early. well, actually dark and early.. And since we had to meet in the Adriatic for our tour at 7:15, I was already awake and able to watch us sail in and anchor along with the Voyager of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Inspiration. We met at the crowded Adriatic and waited about 15 minutes before being led down to the tender area, and though it wasn't the most organized thing you've ever seen, we were still motoring over to Cayman within a half hour. The confusion came once we got to the island, as there were a number of tours there and no real way to tell where yours was meeting. After heading the wrong direction for a piece, we were directed back to our bus to Stingray City and boarded just in time. From here on out, our worries washed away. We had the famous "Singing Bus Driver" of the Cayman Islands, who sang at the top of his lungs the whole way there-no, it's not as annoying as it sounds, it's actually quite hilarious and entertaining. He was the nicest guy in the world, and after driving us through Georgetown and to the pier to meet the Sundancer he wished us well and sent us on the way. The crew on the Sundancer was very informative and were all Americans, which you'll only find in Cayman. The water is clearer here than anywhere else I've ever seen, and the trip of about 30 mins to Stingray City was great because of it. Once we got there, Ms. Green, who previously feared any and all things related to the ocean, saw the Rays and took off-she had the time of her life, and wore the hickey she got on her hand like a badge of honor. We bought the cup of squid to feed the rays (only a dollar) and it was well worth it-they also have a large digital underwater camera, and you can get your picture taken holding a large ray that they'll put on a floppy disk onboard the boat and sell to you for 10 dollars. We bought the picture, and we also got photos of a ray swimming underwater and a photo of the Sundancer itself. The stingrays wher an awesome experience, and though I'd done it twice before, I had never recalled it being so enjoyable. Ms. Green called it the coolest thing she'd ever done, and I think that alone made her week. On the way back, I had to get some change at the bar to tip the folks on the way out, and upon breaking my 10 I bought Ms. Green a small stuffed stingray and us both a couple of Stingray beers, a local Cayman brew that I fell in love with a few years back. We debarked the boat and waited for a few minutes before the singing bus driver returned to shuttle us back. On the way back to town, you have the option of getting off at Seven Mile Beach, where you can stay until the bus returned in a couple of hours. We wanted to do some shopping and walk around town, so we stayed on. We wandered around the shops a bit and strolled down to the Stingray beer logo shop, where we bought some shot glasses, t-shirts, and a six pack of the beer. On the way back, we stopped at the famous Tortuga Rum store and bought some of the famous rum cake. mmmmm. After that, and walking around Cayman exploring a bit more, we headed back to the tenders about an hour before sailing. We never had the slightest problem or wait getting on or off the tenders. A great tour and great day in Cayman.
Point blank the biggest surprise of my cruise. I first visited Ocho Rios more than 13 years ago on a cruise onboard the Holiday, and I'll never forget that experience. The CD warned passengers to walk with your hands in your pockets, avoid taxis, and not to make lengthy eye contact with certain locals. Outside of the safety of the organized tour, a visit to town was highly disturbing, with a large group of angry young men shouting obscenities from behind a chain link fence holding baseball bats, etc., and merchants that were pushy to the point of being frightening. Needless to say, having not been to Jamaica for 6 years, I wsn't expecting much; I just wanted Ms. Green to get a chance to do the falls, and hurry back to the Victory. When I woke up and walked out onto our balcony to find us docked in the beautiful, developed locale, I was stunned. It's not even the same place anymore, at least the part that we see isn't. We met up with the Cool Runnings catamaran at the pier at 10 o'clock-- again, no problems whatsoever getting on and off the ship. The catamaran was impressive-- it was sparkling clean and appeared to be brand new. We stood up near the front of the boat, and watching the cat slice through the waves was an impressive sight indeed. We made it to the falls, where we disembarked and met with our climbing team, who were some very charismatic jamacians who made the whole climb a lot more fun without being the least bit pushy about buying their wares. We did the climb (no falling!), got some great pictures, and headed back to the Cool Runnings, where there was free rum punch, free rum & coke, and one dollar Red Stripes. The ride back to the Victory was a blast, as it was very rough and wavy (they warned us the way back would be this way) but believe it or not, no one was queasy and it added to the whole scene tenfold-- It was a BLAST. They were playing authentic reggae music and teaching us Jamaican dances while everyone drank and enjoyed the sun. I got some great pictures of the dancers with the Victory in the background, and we were sad to get off the catamaran. A great tour, the most fun i've ever had in Ocho Rios. Afterwards, we decided to get daring and headed back to th ship to change, and then into Island Village, a shopping area just off the pier. Yes, we were offered marijuana a few times, but they all took no for an answer and before long we were in a gorgeous, clean shopping area full of souvenir shops, music stores, and at the end of it all, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Margaritaville was a blast. The waterslide winding through the bar, people dancing on the bar, shakers of salt missing from the tables (!!), JB videos on all the TVs, and the BEST nachos we'd ever had (Volcano nachos)-- and we're from Texas. Nothing like some shopping, nachos, JB, and Red Stripes to top off our Ocho Rios experience. We made it back to the ship 5 minutes before 3, and regretted not using those 5 minutes on shore. Yet another incredible time, from a port that's really changed its stripes.