OUR WEEK ON THE VALOR Eastern Caribbean 2/12/06 through 2/19/06 Room #9287 on Lido deck Captain-Giovanni Cutugno Cruise Director-Steve Cassel
SUNDAY-2/13 Miami -- We got to the port around noon and the taxi took us right to the guys that took our luggage. We then walked to the terminal and got in line. The lines were not bad as they were moving fast. We were probably on the ship in 45 minutes or less. You first go through security/metal detector, then to a line where someone checks your ID.. your passport or birth certificate and photo ID with your cruise tickets. Then you get in line to get your sail and sign card which is also your room key. Then on to the ship. It really was painless. They did hand us a slip that said we could not go to our rooms until 1:30 p.m. but, we decided to at least take our carry on to the room. When we did we noticed they were done with our room so that was good and met our room steward....Leroy from Guyana. he was really nice.
Then we headed out to check out the ship. It is beautiful! Not as patriotic as I expected really though. At first it was hard to get around to everything but then we figured out to go to deck 5 for pretty much everything and it goes the length of the ship.
It was unusually cold in Miami and before we got onboard we stopped at Wal-Mart to get sweatshirts. I guess because of the cold front/winds the ship really rocked that night. Our party of four decided not to go to the dining room for supper because it was so rocky. I was beginning to feel sick so, I took a Bonine and went to bed at 8 p.m. Hubby went to the casino! :)
MONDAY-2/13 Nassau -- The next morning we were in Nassau. It was COLD! We got off the ship and went shopping on the main street right by the pier, to the straw market and to Senor Frogs. Then we got a taxi tour with "Innocent" a nice native tour guide. He took us around the island explaining the history and then to Atlantis where he took us on a tour of the grounds there including part of the aquarium. We were really pleased with the service he provided. He charged $25 per person and it was just the 4 of us in his mini van. A nice way to see the island. He said it was the coldest day he remembers in Nassau in his lifetime...he looked to be thirty something! :) Just our luck but, we still had really a nice day despite the weather. Some things we learned from him are.- it is expensive to get a car there because they are having such traffic problems that there is a large tax fee as well as high freight charges to bring a car over from the US, it is expensive to build a house as all supplies and materials have to come from somewhere else and are heavily taxed...in other parts of the Bahamas these building supplies are not taxed so that is to encourage them to build somewhere besides Nassau since it is over populated. It is against the law for any Bahama citizens to gamble even though there are casinos everywhere. They do not display the price of gas outside gas stations there so they will not scare tourists...it is expensive (I think he said it was $6 a gallon then). If you are caught in possession of a gun it is against the law and you will go straight to jail. He was very interesting and very courteous! Innocent dropped us back off at the pier.
We got onboard and lounged on our balcony before getting ready for the Captain's Cocktail party. There were so many people in the Eagles Lounge for it we decided to stay in the Paris Hot club next door and the waiters served free drinks and finger foods in there as well. Formal night was great! We had the 8 p.m .seating in the Washington Dining Room...table 572. Mario from Honduras was our waiter and Olga from the Ukraine was his assistant. They were great! We ended up just falling in love with both of them by the end of the week. After dinner we went to the show "NightClub Express". It was good, not great...I would rate it a 7 out of 10. We then stayed and watched a little of Al Ernest's late night comedy. I was really tired and didn't find him too funny so we went to bed.
TUESDAY-2/14 - Day at sea (Happy Valentines Day!) -- This was a day at sea but it was still windy and rough seas. It rained off and on so we were mainly indoors. It did end up slowly warming up through out the day as we got further south. I checked out Steve Cassel's travel talk (the new cruise director) and Andrew the super shopper's shopping talk -telling you where the best places to shop are. I especially enjoyed Andrews shopping talks. Be sure to sit close because he throws out prizes. Steve on the other hand is just plain goofy. Everyone I talked to did not like him. He had a weird sense of humor and we really didn't see him too much. Thank goodness his assistant, Ryan, did most of the fun things and he was great!. I then checked out the champagne art auction. I enjoyed the champagne for a few minutes but quickly realized I could not afford anything. Even the cheapest 8X10 print was going for no less than $400! The rest of the day we spent relaxing and in the casino with the slots from time to time. We did try out the spa hot tub. It was nice. It only has space for about 6 people but there is a very warm heated pool beside it that was really nice to sit in too.
WEDNESDAY- 2/15 St. .Thomas -- We arrived in St. Thomas on time. The guys were sitting out on the balcony and spotted a whale going by the ship as we came into port. You could see him blowing water out of the blowhole every few feet. The port area is beautiful with lots of houses on the hills with terra cotta colored roofs. It was really a beautiful sight. The weather was much warmer and we saw a rainbow as we were pulling into port. To get off the ship we had to go through US immigration but it was not a big deal. The immigration officers are NOT nice though so make sure you have the papers they need. I saw them be very rude to people at times If you have a passport you need... your sail and sign card & the passport If you do not have a passport you need... your sail & sign card, your birth certificate AND your drivers license or another form of ID with your picture. We were through the line really quickly and they give you a sticker label to show you have been through immigration. Keep up with the label as you will need it to get off the boat any time that day.
We took a taxi to downtown to start shopping right away and got a few souvenirs and t shirts. I bought a sterling silver ammolite heart pendant and necklace at a store called Ammolite By the Sea (it was $100). Ammolite is a rare stone that is rainbow colored...it is pretty. Then we headed back to the ship for our BOB excursion leaving at noon. We met the guy and walked down the pier to the BOB boat and took off for Buck Island for the day. It was great! There were rocks around the cove we were in towards the shore where there was beautiful coral and lots of interesting fish. We took turns going down in the BOB's and we were slated for last but, that ended being good as we were able to spend a lot of time snorkeling. We saw a ship wreck there that really was interesting to my husband. It was about a 30 foot long ship. Going down in the BOB I was a little nervous but, it was an amazing experience! There are divers down there to help you if you need help and to lead your group around down there. One diver found a Indian sea urchin. It looked like a spiky little white ball and let me hold it. It was really neat. We brought underwater cameras with us and the divers used them to take pictures of our group for us. It really was amazing....it was a very unusual experience-it was really something I cannot describe! :) It was certainly worth the money! There were about 30 people on the boat with us and they had about 8 BOBs to use. Each group got about 30 minutes underwater in the BOBs. The guys working on the boat were extremely nice. I ended up hurting myself on the coral...I was in a real shallow part and scraped my leg pretty badly. They were extremely nice in helping me. We really had a great day! We got back to the pier at about 4 p.m. and decided to go up the skyride to Paradise Point. We went up and took pictures. It was beautiful as the sun was setting. Then we had drinks and a snack at the restaurant up there and then headed back to the ship. The skyride was $18 per person and it was fun but, in hindsight I do not think it is worth that much money. Back on the ship we had a wonderful dinner and then headed to the Ivanhoe theater to see Marcus Anthony for the show that night but, didn't really care too much for him so we went back to the slots and I won $500!!! :) :) :)
THURSDAY-2/16 St. Maarten -- We arrived in port and took the water taxi to the shopping area for $3 one way (you could get $5 round trip) and we started shopping. Andrew (the supper shopper) had done a wonderful talk on diamonds & gems on Tuesday on what to look for and everyone that attended got a certificate for a free loose sapphire stone at Venetian Jewelers. Andrew was very helpful in telling you where to get the best deal for what you were looking for. We went in to the store to get our free sapphires and looked around some. We met Ash, a salesman there that Andrew had recommended by name and he showed us the caribbean topaz they had. He let us trade in our sapphires for some rings we wanted. I ended up getting a beautiful Caribbean topaz ring set in white gold with diamonds on the sides for $160. It is my favorite souvenir! :) In St. Thomas we had looked at similar rings and they were at least $100 more there. We saw the Guavaberry Emporium and went inside and sampled it. We all said it tasted like cough syrup! :) They had lots of good deals on souvenirs there....most stores had things 3 things for $10...t-shirts, caps, bags etc... and they were good quality.
We decided to get a taxi tour for $30 per person with someone waiting right there in the shopping area, Louie was his name. He took us all over the island... to a beautiful lookout point where we stopped to get pictures, to Marigot where we stopped to shop in Leena's (a shop that the guide recommended as well as Carnival had recommended) and then gave us a lot of history and info about the island. He then dropped us off at the Bikini Beach area of Orient Beach (where we had told him we wanted to spend the afternoon) and we decided for him to come back to pick us up about 4 hours later. Orient Beach was beautiful! It was breathtaking...the most beautiful place I have ever been! There were just a few topless women around us which didn't bother me and the beach was only about 1/2 full at most so we had a great day there. They had parasailing, jet skis, a trampoline on the water and windsurfing that you could pay to do. We never did but we enjoyed watching others do them. We decided to go check out the nude end of the beach by Club Orient. If you are walking along the beach right past the rocks going into the water is where the nudity starts. Boy was that a shocker! I bet there were over 200 people nude but, not one was under the age of 40 and needed to be nude! It was definitely something the guys are still talking about! :) We really enjoyed our time on the beach! The water and scenery is breathtaking. I can see why it is rated one of the top beaches in the world.
Our guide came back and finished the tour and took us back to the ship. We shopped at the little shops right there at the end of the pier. One stand had a man splitting coconuts and they let you drink the milk. They also sold coconut coladas and boy were they yummy!
The Dutch side of the island had better prices and selection on souvenir type items...the shopping area was even beautiful with palm lined streets an at every alleyway you could see straight to the crystal clear blue water of the ocean. The French side seemed to have better beaches. We saw several wild hogs on the French side.
The past guest party was in the Eagles Lounge at 7:15 p.m. We got an invitation to come earlier in the week from our cabin steward. It was nice...free drinks(Kiss on the Lips!) and finger foods!. The captain got up and made a short speech and then they drew out 1 persons name for some small prizes and we saw the film about the old ships and how Carnival started. We did the power ball BINGO that night on the ship and that was fun. Someone actually won with the power ball and got $2,100.00! BINGO cards were $20 for 3 or $10 for 1.
FRIDAY- 2/17 Day at Sea -- The weather was beautiful and we laid out on the Lido deck listening to the band and drinking our favorite drink we had discovered..."Kiss on the Lips" which is a peach/mango flavored frozen drink. It is YUMM! There was a cute little Jamaican man named Alcott (we called him BBC-because he recommended a drink called BBC to us and our guys really liked it!) that always knew what we wanted and even remembered our sail and sign numbers. He was a lot of fun! The guys keep saying the miss "BBC" because he was always there with a drink when you needed one! We did the "Its in the Bag" scavenger hunt" out on the Lido deck. That was fun. You bring a bag of anything and everything you can think of and you work in teams. You get a point if you have something they call out. We came in third place so we didn't get the solid plastic ship on a stick-darn it! We later played Trivial pursuit out on Lido and it was cute too....although there were some really hard questions. We listened to the Carnival Vacation Club talk and thought it sounded like a good deal but decided we couldn't swing it at this time. They gave us a coupon booklet for listening that had some good coupons in it. Our men went to play in the slot tournament. My husband came in last place and holds the record for the lowest amount of points ever in a Slot tournament! So they gave him a free T-shirt! :)
This was our second formal night so that was fun. After dinner we went to the "Far from over" show. IT WAS AWESOME! It is definitely a must see! We then headed to get in line for the grand gala buffet. It was not as impressive as we had seen on out last ship but, did have a nice ice sculpture of a dragon and ship.
SATURDAY- 2/18 our last day at sea! We sat out on the Lido deck a lot because it was a beautiful day. They had a special going on Airbrush tattoos... 3 for the price of 1 so my friend and I got one each. That was fun and we really liked the Canadian girl doing them. She told us a lot about working on the ship. She said she is contracted out and so are the picture and spa employees. She only gets a few hours off each day. She works 7 days a week so is unable to really go into the ports much. She said they have strict rules on what they can wear when off duty and that she had gotten in trouble the day before for coming up to Lido deck to get some pizza with flip flops on. She said the crew's rooms are all over the ship...not just on certain floors. She said there are some crew rooms on almost every deck and that they are only 2 to a room so she said it seems like college! She said she has a $2,000 quota to meet every week and that anything above that she gets commission on. I asked her what is the best thing to give someone that has provided excellent service like a calling card, money etc...she said money. She said in their crew lounge drinks are only like $1.50 and that is a real treat.
We went to the Newlywed and Not so Newlywed Game in the Ivanhoe. It was cute! They asked for volunteers of one newlywed couple, one couple that had been married 15 years and one couple that had been married 40-50 years. It was really funny! Steve Cassel lead it and made some crude comments at times that I thought were inappropriate with children present but the game itself was funny! We did end up giving our waiter and his assistant some extra money on the last night as we had received such good service...they were great! We had already prepaid our tips and made sure to tell them that this was extra just for them. He said they do get a list of who has prepaid their tips and sometimes people just end up not paying their tips at all and that that really hurts them. He told us they only get paid $75 a MONTH from carnival plus whatever their tips are. We went back to our room to get our luggage out in the hall by our allotted 11 p.m. time and hit the casino one last time.
SUNDAY- 2/19 -- We arrived in Miami as scheduled and they called for self assist passengers at around 7:30 a.m. (anyone that walks off with their luggage). They said this would last about an hour. We ate breakfast and got our carryon ready and headed down to the Ivanhoe to wait for our deck to be called. About 5 minutes after we got there (8:45 a.m.) they called for the first deck (I think it was the Spa deck they called) then about 5 minutes later Ryan, the assistant cruise director, came in and told us we could all go on as well even though it wasn't our deck. So we were off the ship and in a taxi by 9:30 a.m. and on our way to FLL airport. We got a van taxi sitting right out there and his meter read $70 when we reached the airport but we tipped him too so it ended up about $20 per person which is what Carnival charges for a big bus they take to FLL.
MISCELLANEOUS TIPS & INFO FROM OUR CRUISE- -Do Not buy any pictures till the end of the week. You are less likely to buy as many. They are $20 each and that adds up quickly. At the end of the week line them all up and pick out your favorites to buy. -Don't buy any t-shirts from the gift shop early in the week. The last day they had a big sale on things in the Betsy Ross room. Everything was $9.95...from sweatshirts, T-shirts and even jackets that had been $58! -Do the taxi tours. These are native people that can tell you a lot about the islands they call home. If you do a tour through the ship it is more expensive and with about 40 other people on a big bus. This was much better.
-We have Verizon cell phones and were able to call home from St. Thomas. In St. Maarten it showed we had a signal but would never go through. We also used the internet cafe a lot. It took us about 10 minutes every time we emailed...so, those minutes add up quickly! -Our room was on the Lido deck and we found that location to be GREAT! We would love to book a room on Lido again. It was close to everything but very private as well. -We really enjoyed our balcony. My husband loved to sit out there and read and he saw flying fish, a whale and dolphins.
FOOD -- Washington Dining Room- the service and food we received in the Washington Dining Room was superb! Rosies Buffet on Lido- was ok....it met my expectations but, the dining room exceeded my expectations and was such a treat. The Hamburgers and Pizza on Lido deck were GREAT! Fish and chips- were good....not as big a fan as some on here. Maybe since I had heard such good things about it I expected too much. It was good fish but not much different than your normal fast food seafood place to me. Java Cafe-I really liked the coffee shop. They had great mochalattes and their strawberry cheesecake and chocolate cake were delicious. Room Service-we enjoyed getting breakfast on port days. It was great to have a quick breakfast so you can get on off the ship. It was always good and on time.
IN CONCLUSION--- As you can tell we really had a wonderful time. St. Maarten was my absolute favorite and I would LOVE to go back there sometime. The ship was beautiful and we enjoyed the staff very much (well except the goofy Cruise Director). We couldn't have asked for a better cruise. It more than exceeded my expectations and we are already starting to plan our next cruise.