Background: My husband and I have been on 8 cruises including Celebrity, Princess and Carnival. THis was our 5th Carnival Cruise. We are once a year cruisers who look forward to our cruise with great anticipation. This cruise was to celebrate our 25th anniversary.
Embarkation: There was quite a traffic jam when we arrived to drop off our luggage. We arrived about 10:30am. After we got through THAT and the parking situation we finally got in line about 11:00am. The line moved quickly and we were on the ship by 11:30am. Best embarkation I have had except for Princess. Bravo Carnival for a great improvement.
Cabin: Regular 8A cabin (with balcony)but on the verandah deck making it an 8C. Nice location just a hop up one flight to the buffet and aft pool area. Balcony was too small to get much use out of but it was fun for sailaways and we got a great price on it. We had an outstanding room Steward William.
Dining Room: We were at table 141. Our waiter was very unfriendly to me and some other diners around us. He was competent as far as getting us our food but that was about it. The first night I asked him, "Don't you have an assistant?" To which he replied, "UHHHHHHHH." with a huge look of frustration on his face. We met his assistant Tatiana at the end of our meal when she brought us coffee. He was so unenthusiastic we only had dinner in the dining room three times during the week. Tatiana was friendly and we enjoyed the little bit we saw of her. I never found out our waiters name. I wish now I would have asked to be switched to another waiter as I realized by the end of the week that he wasn't such a bad waiter but that he just personally did not like me at all for some reason. He also loathed the woman at the next table sitting next to us. The last night we had dinner in the dining room she stated to me that he kept forgetting her coffee and dessert every night and she was ready to deck him.
Food: Standard carnival fare we have had on many occasions. It's all good if you know what you like and what to select. Did not like the menu a few nights mid week (yuk and double yuk) so we chose the buffet those nights. It was a large step down from the dining room fare but we managed to avoid malnutrition LOL.
Alternate Dining Room: We went to Scarlett's on Tuesday night to celebrate our anniversary. The service was unbelievable, the food very good and the duo they had playing light pop tunes was great. We would dine there again if we cruise Carnival again.
Ports: Not too good on this trip. THe ports were switched around a few weeks before the trip then hurricane Wilma came and altered plans even more. NO Cozumel but Costa Maya instead. Grand Cayman first, then Roatan then Belize and Costa Maya.
Grand Cayman: This was to be our "anniversary day." We were going to have a couples massage in the spa and then go to Scarlett's that night. Well my husb decided he didn't want to spend the money for the massage so I spent his and my portion! I had a facial and a massage (25 min each) for $109. Colleen was my "worker." The facial was nothing; I have done much better ones at home. But the massage was fantastic and well worth the money. Colleen also refrained from a hard sell on the products. THanks Colleen and SpaCarnival - great experience.
Roatan: We had the Tabyana Beach day booked through Carnival but it was cancelled due to crap crappity rain. So we stayed on the ship and looked at the beautiful scenery from our balcony. What a bore. If we had known we were skipping this port we would have done a snorkel tour in Grand Cayman.
Belize: The flea market area where the ship lets you off is very seedy and the sellers are pushy. Think Jamaica pushy. Every time my husband and I got separated I was propositioned by males. I finally gave up and went to have a beer and wait for our tour. We had booked the beach break day through coral breeze. We rode in a speedboat 22 miles to Caye Caulker. It was a small island, no cars, very little modern conveniences and very friendly people. We rented a golf cart and drove around to various shops and bars. We had lunch at the Sandbox (wonderful homemade nachos and conch fritters and lots of lighthouse beer). We felt like we had stepped back in time to the 1950's. THe homes were basic wood most with no glass windows just a sheer curtain blowing in the breeze. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and found a nice hotel where we would like to return for a week of doing "nothing at all" but be a beach bum. We returned to the mainland with about an hour to spare before the ship pulled away. Coral Breeze was very good and I would recommend them.
Costa Maya: Boy when they call this the Wal-Mart of mexico they are right. Nothing here but some photo ops with the natives and some very pricey jewelry stores and junk shops. I did negotiate a nice tanzanite bracelet for my 25th anniv. and husb got a silver bracelet he liked. We went on a beach break day including open bar in Majahaul. It was 3 dollars per person bus ride to Majahaul and then 25 per person for the beach bar. It was a raw deal. They only had sol or Caribe beer which doesn't cost more than $2 per bottle at any beach bar. You would have to drink quite a few beers to get your moneys worth. There was no music and it was kind of boring and it starting spitting rain. THey also had shots of tequila and some frozen drinks like pina colada, daiquiri, etc. I don't usually drink really strong drinks because I don't want to get drunk and lost in a foreign country so I waited to get back to the ship and then had an "all you can drink party on my balcony." Gotta let lose sometime :)
Entertainment: Best I have ever seen on any ship. Great shows in the main theater every night and fantastic one man band in the casino bar (Alex) and great top 40 band in the banana bar ( some people call it paris hot nightclub). Cruise director one of the best.
Disembarkation: Did the self assist. The best ever. Off the ship by 8am and on the road by 8:30am.
Overall: Very fun cruise, lots of party people on board. Halloween costumes were fun. Laughed a lot on this one.
Disappointments: Corkage fee charges enforced (first time in eight cruises), sullen waiter, not having lunch available in the dining room most days of the cruise (this is something i enjoy once or twice per cruise), being asked to buy something at every turn. This was the first time I have been irritated by carnival's high pitched sales pitch. Get our credit card, join our vacation club, buy our stupid video, buy our linens, our beds, our wine club, our......it sort of bothered me a lot this time.
Conclusion: This was a good cruise but it will probably be our last Carnival cruise. Not because they are so terrible or anything; they do many things very well; but our focus has changed. We are sailing on the Freedom of Seas 9/10/06 and after that we are planning to buy a boat and do some weekend cruising. If you are sailing on the Valor soon you will have a great time. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me.