Carnival Valor Cruise Review by Bearphin: A great RELAXING trip
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A great RELAXING trip
I booked this cruise to celebrate my wife turning the big 4-0. Always worried about this area during hurricane season, I bought all the insurance I could get just in case. Fortunately, it was all unnecessary as we had almost ideal weather throughout.
A lovely boat, if a bit gaudy. The golden eagles are everywhere and didn't do anything to improve the look. The rest of the decor is a lot more subtle and enjoyable. Not quite sure how the Ivanhoe theater fits into this decor though.
Lets start with the negatives.
1) Where the heck am I??? The lack of a detailed floor by floor map in the room is a major mistake. The first couple of days is a matter of hunt and fetch to find the right place. There were places I wanted to find from reading reviews and they were impossible to locate unless I knew what floor they were on and then went to an elevator lobby as this was the only place they had a deck map. Getting to the Washington dining More room the first night took forever and required going up one elevator, walking to the back of the boat, returning to where we started, going the other way before finally finding the staircase that lead to it.
2) Breakfast - Ate at the Rosie breakfast buffet only once. That was on the first morning and we didn't go back. The scrambled 'eggs' only had the color for me to tell what they were. No egg flavor at all. Obviously powdered and not good at all. The 'sausage' concoction included hot dogs!!! GROSS The potatoes were so greasy that I had a reservoir or reddish brown grease rolling around my plate. I felt my arteries harden in the few bites I took. Needless to say, the rest of the trip we ordered room service!
3) Scarlett's - Frankly, I'm not sure I would pay the extra $35/person for this place again. While the appetizers where good, I was disappointed with the steak I got. Quite frankly, I do a better job at home on my grill. Plus, there really was nothing on the menu that didn't appear (or a close substitute) on the regular dining menu. And the desserts were not any better.
4) Rookie Cruise Mistake - This was only our second cruise, and the first one was our honeymoon 17 years ago. It was my fault I didn't do more research outside of the Carnival website before the trip. The shopping info session on our first day was a high pressure sales pitch to make money. The information received wasn't worth my time, let alone the $30 bucks I paid for the 'coupons'. It took me until the last port to realize the 'no bringing booze on board' is much more of a request than a mandate. Between going through the xray machine and the table where you check in your booze, there is no one stopping you from walking straight up the stairs and to your cabin, Could have saved myself a bundle if I had figured that out earlier.
5) Bicardi tour in San Juan - This was one of the 3 shore trips we took. This was the only one that didn't even come close to be worth the money. The visitors center was closed for remodel so we got what I can only assume was the quick tour. Lasted all of about 15 minutes at most, not including standing around waiting for everyone to be there. Heard more about their effort to be 'green' than how rum is distilled. Got to look through a window to see the fermenting tubs, but that was as close as we got. Having been through tours at Coors, Bud and Jack Daniels (among others), I was hugely disappointed.Received two taster drinks for it (Whoopee!!!) Their pricing in their store wasn't that great either. I know I could have caught a taxi over and saved a bunch and received the same thing.
1)I completely understand the wait staff and bartenders get a good portion of their money from tips, but being charged 15% for every drink is a bit steep in my book. It is no difference in effort if I order a draft beer or if I order a bucket, yet the tip is substantially different. This method does nothing to encourage better service from the people. Just add it to the cost of the drink which are already ridiculous.
2) Cigar Bar - I would think they would have people working in this area who actually had an idea of what was on the cigar menu. Our person had NO idea where any of the cigars were from. I told him I wanted a cuban, and he told me this one was. Looked it up when I got home, and it wasn't even close to Cuba. If you don't have them, then tell me that. Also, what they charged for the cigars was close to robbery. Second quick note on this bar - they do a whiskey tasting. Being a lover of good whiskey, me and my wife did this. Was disappointed when they had an American Kentucky bourbon, an American Rye and two Scotches. Um, don't the Irish have a pretty good representation also?? And the American bourbon was one of the worst I have tried.
3) Magic show - was on the 5th or 6th night of the trip. Not impressive at all. Could see exactly how he did his 'close in' tricks and his main stage ones were nothing I haven't seen a thousand times. Not sure if he hadn't work with the ship personnel who were assisting him, or if that was his 'style', but he was downright rude and arrogant to them.
3) San Juan - Took them over 45 minutes to clear us to leave the ship. The ship tried to let us know it was taking time, but to be standing in a stairwell for that length of time was a pain. All the other ports we were on our way off the boat at the time stated.
1) Washington Dinning Room - Our wait staff, including our bar person, where a fantastic team. By the third or fourth night, we were joking and laughing together all the time we were dining. They knew us by name told us what were the best items, suggested thing they thought we would like, and did everything to make our dinner wonderful. By the last night, I was hating to leave. Made sure to give them a tip above and beyond the standard.
2) Fish and Chips in the Rosie - hard to find but worth it. Upstairs and in the front end of the dining room. Food was great.
3) Adult only sun deck - Two floors above the pool area in the bow of the ship is the adult only section. Lots of lounge chairs, big futon chairs for two, some couches and hammocks. Great place to read and soak up the sun! Plus, the drink waiter was always around! Very relaxing on the at sea days. Wife also loved the pizzas.
4) Other Excursions - Our other two were beyond fantastic! Grand Turks - went to swim with the sting rays. What and experience!! That alone would have been worth the money, but one of the boat's crew dove down and brought up a live conch! On the way back to port, he pulled it out and cleaned it and offered tastes to those willing to try. I have had conch many times and love it. First time I got to try it literally right our of the water and raw. Fantastic!!! In St Thomas, took the catamaran cruise to St John for beach time and snorkeling. Great trip over with lots of info on the houses and surroundings. Great beach with lots of photo opps. On the cruise back, they open the bar and the party begins!!
5) San Martin - Our one port we didn't have an excursion. Relaxed on the beach with a bucket of beer. Not sure if we actually had to pay for the chairs or not, but the beer was cheap ($10 for a bucket of 5), we had an umbrella and it was relaxing!!!
6) Total Relaxation - I can thank this for not wanting to pay international rates for my phone, and not wanting to pay the OUTRAGEOUS rates for internet connection. I am in a business where I am attached to email and my phone 24x7. Not having to look at either for a week+ was AMAZING!!!
On and Off Board - We bought the shuttle from Fort L airport to the ship. Probably more expensive than getting a cab (but not by much, especially needing to have the money post cruise.) Were on the boat within 20 minutes of getting off the bus. Getting off was great - the Customer Service desk gave us the #2 off board due to an early flight. We were off the boat, got our bags (we set them out the night before) and through customs withing 20 minutes. Waited longer for the bus the fill and leave!!
Overall, a fantastic trip! Already looking and planning for our cruise next year!! Less
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