Carnival Valor Cruise Review by MamaParrotHead: Carnival Valor - Eastern Caribbean
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Carnival Valor - Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Arrived at the port around 10:00, there was no line to check in, although there was all ready a line to go through security. After security we just stood in these long lines that wound through the little retractable barricades. I didn't mind the waiting so much, but when we were finally allowed to move towards boarding the ship itself, upstairs was a huge room with chairs, resembling an airport terminal, completely empty. And by this point, we'd been standing in the same spot for about an hour and a half. Not cool. We were onboard by 11:45.
Stopped in the lobby, at the American Bar, for a much-needed refreshment after standing in that long line. Then headed to our rooms, which were ready. Took some pictures, dropped our bags and headed up on deck. Took more pictures of the ship, headed up to Rosie's for a bite to eat, then outside on deck to have a few drinks.
Headed back to the rooms just prior to muster drill. Did the drill, which took all of 15 More minutes and I don't know why people make such a stink about having to go to it. Headed back up on deck for sail-away.
Room: We had room 2412, which was "under the galley" and made up quite nervous prior to the trip. It was an AWESOME location (main deck, aft, port side) both for accessing the elevators (which were always available, no matter which deck you were on) and proximity to both Rosie's and the Prometheus Pool. And we didn't hear a THING, not one peep, and slept like logs. If we ever sail on her again, we will be booking this room again.
Ship: The ship was really pretty, although the back-lit faces in the Glory Atrium all over the place were kind of creepy. And the dining rooms were every bit as Pepto-Bismol pink as they appeared in the photos, ick. I also found the ship really easy to navigate, as long as you keep in mind decks 5 and 9 are the only ones that go all the way through from forward to aft.
The bars were all just OK, except the Bronx Bar. We LOVED our bartender, Angela, from Romania. We spent most of our "bar time" parked in there, visiting with her and enjoying the drinks she made us. The "Lindy Hop" Piano Bar was pretty lame, and small, in my opinion. And I can't quite figure out why they call the "Pairs Hot" club a "jazz club" because I think the only thing going on in there all week was Karaoke. The "One Small Step" dance club looked cool, but the music was pretty sucky, in my opinion. Most of the time, at night, we hung at the Bronx Bar for a while, went up on deck with some drinks, hit the ice cream machine and headed back to relax for a little bit before bed.
I did enjoy the sushi from "Togo Sushi."
The shops onboard were both nice, and none of us could get over how reasonable everything in there was. My advice would be, if you find something you like onboard, don't waste your time trying to find it in port...everything, including the liquor, was within LITERALLY a dollar or two on the prices.
The Spa was nice...near the end of the trip, my friend and I decided to ditch the DHs on the basketball court and hit the spa. We made an appointment Thursday night for Friday afternoon with no problem. My friend and I both had the full body massages and it was wonderful. Although the girls from the spa were out in force on the last 2 sea days...recruiting clients and Saturday they had a "2 for 1" deal in the spa, too.
We had the late seating in the Washington Dining Room...Jagdish (India) and Jose (Honduras) were our wait staff, and Maija (Croatia) was our bar waitress. Jagdish was a good waiter, in that he served everything quickly and while it was hot, and got everyone's orders correct, but not overly talkative. He smiled a lot, but didn't seem to have a whole lot to say. Jose, on the other hand, was a charming guy with a nice word for everyone and visited with us a lot. Our bar waitress we had issues with (she wouldn't come by until halfway through the meal to even ask if we needed anything, and then it wouldn't show up until after dessert), but we spoke with our maitre d' and he took care of it right way and the service improved greatly. The food was attractively prepared and always hot. We sampled here and there and had a few outstanding dishes (the jerk pork loin, chateaubriand, escargot, crab cakes, prawns, chicken quesadillas, tiramisu, chestnut cream pastry, sundried tomato bread, Caesar salad). I didn't care for the flourless chocolate cake everyone's been raving about....it tasted like warm brownie batter to me. And the lobster was excellent...huge and not rubbery at ALL. I was amazed at the speed of the service, though didn't feel rushed. The dining room entertainment was a bit cheesy, but fun all the same.
Rosie's was also good...and spotless, as was the rest of the entire ship. I know I'd read people complaining about dirty dishes and trays laying around, which just was not the case. I'd also read someone complaining that Rosie's had the same thing, and ham constantly at the carving station. Again, not true. I didn't see ham once. The breakfast buffet was pretty standard, but hot and good. The danish was amazing. The coffee was tasty but strong. The juices were good, except the apple (it was kind of concentrated for my liking). The calamari/zucchini/onion fries were great, as reported. The ice cream was as tasty as previously reported, and the chili dogs from the grille were to DIE for. The pizza was OK, but Caesar Salad was a scrumptious as previously reported as well.
The drinks of the day didn't impress me. The only drink I enjoyed was the "Funship" and the "Kiss on the Lips," which was fine, as it saved me $ and gave me more $ to shop with, LOL.
Room service was usually prompt: the shrimp salad sandwich is good, though order 2, they're tiny. And the chocolate chip cookies were EXCELLENT. I also enjoyed the veggie sticks and blue cheese as an afternoon snack a few times.
The pop card also worked out well for me, I definitely got my money's worth.
In Nassau we opted for the Yellowbird excursion. It was nice, the beach they took us to (Blackbeard's Cay) was beautiful, though we were only there for an hour and a half. The rum punch on board was nasty and I did my best to tune out the "entertainment" on board, LOL, but it was a nice day. The town itself of Nassau was kind dingy and dirty to me. The Straw Market was just OK it was literally over 100 degrees in there (we saw the temp on one of the fridge magnets that were being hawked) and some woman was on a bullhorn, preaching about Jesus at the top of her lungs and shouting gospel tunes. It got old REAL quick. Next time, if I were even to go to Nassau again, I'd do Atlantis (not necessarily get a room there, as you wouldn't believe how short of a time you're actually in Nassau).
St. Thomas was beautiful. And going through customs wasn't a huge deal. We got in line about 8:30 and were through about 9:15. It goes real quick once they open the area where you're checked (the Eagle's Lounge), then they have this path laid out where you wind through the Caboose to receive your sticker (to get off the boat) and down to the gangway. We had booked Godfrey's tour, and he was there all ready, but we opted to walk down to the bathrooms and the long-distance call center ($0.20 a minute a $1.40 call home) at the end of the pier before hopping in with him for a ride to town. Got downtown Charlotte Amalie wandered through the open market, stopped in a few stores (found a few loose stones for a mother's ring I'd been wanting) and met up with Godfrey for our tour. He was EXCELLENT. He was very knowledgeable about the history of the island, stopped at some great places for photo ops. Mountain Top was beautiful. We ended up going to Sapphire Beach. It was gorgeous. We dropped a couple off that were with us that wanted to go to Coki Beach, and I'm glad we didn't go there. It was a grungy area lots of trash, shanties, even a cemetery near by. Sapphire is actually a resort, the beach was clean, there were clean changing facilities, freshwater showers, bar and food available (though prices are steep, $8 for a cheeseburger and a bag of chips and it was "the only game in town"). We rented a little float/raft for $5 and just paddled through the water. Then Godfrey picked us up, we were dropped at the Havensight Mall on his way back to the ship. The shops there were just OK. There was a little bar we hung out at for an hour or so, then headed back to the ship. Got cleaned up, ready for dinner. Went up on deck for some pictures of St. Thomas at night, as we were pulling out of port. It's really a "must see" and made for some gorgeous pictures.
St. Maarten was my favorite stop along the way. Unfortunately, we took the "See and Sea" tour through Carnival, and well, it kind of stunk as far as tours go. We were on big charter buses though the AC was nice, we couldn't really take decent pictures out of the tinted windows very well as we sped through the countryside. And he only stopped once for photo ops. There was construction on the ONE road that lead from Phillipsburg to Marigot, and though the logic escapes me, instead of doing one section at a time, they have the road torn up for MILES, so that time was shaved off our "shopping time" in Marigot which ended up being less than an hour. Marigot was nice, we poked through the open market, I got myself a pair of garnet earrings for a reasonable price. Had one of the big coconuts that they hack open with a machete and just give you a straw it was $5, it was gross, but it made a fun picture, LOL. Then from Marigot we headed to Grand Case, which was a cute, sleepy little seaside village. Boarded the Seaworld Explorer/semi-submursible vessel. This was the best part of the tour. I'd advise anyone looking for something to do to take a cab up to Grand Case and take it privately. The boat ride out was amazing, then one of the crew guys pulled on a scuba suit and went overboard to feed the fish, as we all headed downstairs into the glass-bottomed portion of the boat. It was air-conditioned, for those who may be curious. And a really neat experience. After we got off the boat, we rode back to Phillipsburg and got off the bus. Then we wandered around downtown Phillipsburg. There were lots of shops to explore and we ate lunch at what is now my most favorite restaurant of all time, "The Green House." It's right on the water downtown. The food was excellent, as were the Bloody Mary's, and the service is great. We had the conch fritters, calamari, grouper sandwich and crab cakes. ALL were excellent. And the waiter, Raymond, sent us to the shop next door and the shop keeper gave us a DEAL on some cigars, souvenirs, cartons of cigarettes. We also hit the Guavaberry Emporium (beware of the straight stuff, but the coladas are tasty) and got a nice hand-painted bottle, personalized free, as a gift. The ONLY rain we had all week was as we were leaving Phillipsburg to head back to the boat via water taxi. I think it rained for maybe 20 minutes.
IF I WERE TO GO BACK to any of these ports, since I now have seen "the tour," I'd probably just hire a taxi and do the shop/soak in the local color and hit the beach thing.
THE SHOWS & ACTIVITIES: Both Vegas Style shows were great, I found neither of them in poor taste and can think of only 2 scenes in both shows that may have even been questionable, and even then it wasnt offensive and not in poor taste. We did see one of the late night/R-rated shows by Jim Brick. He was OK, but in all honesty I was so tired that night I was fighting to stay awake through his show. Frankly, I was hard pressed to find 1 or 2 activities all week that I would have even considered going to, though I chose to lay out on deck in the sun with most of my free time.
DEBARKATION: simply put, was a TOTAL NIGHTMARE. We had a 1:15 flight, and at the Debarkation Talk, the CD told us that we didnt need to do self-assist debarkation unless we had a flight before noon AND they had "everyone off the ship by 10:20 last week." So, in order to be courteous to those who DID have early flights, we decided to wait. We got in line around 10:00, on the ship (near the elevators by the pursers desk). The line wound around the corner, through the Glory Atrium/American Bar and out the doors on deck 3. They were only letting so many people through at a time. Fine. We stand and wait. We finally make it through the ship doors, into the terminal. And wait some more. In the terminal, with glass windows like a green house, and NO AIR CONDITIONING. Were talking a LONG line about 15 people wide and we couldnt see the end of the line. It wound through the terminal, and down the escalators. But again, theyd hold people up every so often. By the time we hit the escalators, its 12:15. And we see now that we have to go down the escalators, wind around about 3 different rooms to even be in LINE to get to the Customs Agents. At this point, I ask a few Carnival employees about the possibility of letting those with earlier flights into a separate line, to which they essentially said, tough, you could have gotten off earlier. So I get on the phone to Delta and change our flight to 2:55, still being able to make our connections. Sometime around 12:15, were told that there apparently were only 3-4 Customs Agents to handle ALL of us, and that an illegal had been discovered and had to be dealt with. Anyway, we made it to the luggage claim area and outside, into a cab (SCARY, crazy driver, by the way) and to the airport by 12:45. So, in a nutshell, almost 3 hours in line to debark. With no AC. And even better, those select few (in their own minds, anyway) who apparently dont believe in standing in line and will just blatantly cut through the line because theyre obviously too good to do so? Anyway, I plan on writing a letter to Carnival, both praising the things Ive mentioned here, but also wondering why it was they went from calling people by deck to the crazed free for all that was what I witnessed during debarkation.
All in all, it was a wonderful ship and the vacation was everything I expected, and MORE. Beautiful, beyond excellent service, clean, tasty food, great weather. Carnival was just our speed, with many nice people and facilities and activities that catered to our way of life. I dont know that Id even want to try another line. My advice to others would be to pack at least 2-3 swimsuits, half of the bumming around during the day clothes you think you need, but dont skim on the evening attire..I enjoyed having a few alternate dinner outfits to choose from. The insulated cups worked GREAT for keeping drinks cool while sunbathing, lanyards were a great idea, as were the Ziplocs for packing and the extension cord. I do wish Id have brought clothespins for drying damp suits and clothing, but nothing seemed to get dry in the bathroom so it ended up on the window sill. (which is nice for sitting in and taking in the scenery as well). Had absolutely NO problem finding deck chairs we hung out mostly on deck 10 aft right above the Prometheus pool. Plenty of chairs, good location to sunbathe, and about 50 yards (down the steps) to the pool, close to a bar, the Grille/pizza and Rosies. There were also VERY few kids onboard...I think I saw maybe 2 dozen TOTAL. Less
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