Carnival Valor - Eastern Caribbean: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by Elizabeth27
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Valor - Eastern Caribbean
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
A little background about us before I get too far: this cruise was a sister-sister trip. We are both in our early-mid 30s. This is my second cruise (previously sailed on the Elation) and my sisters first. We usually take land-based vacations (Hawaii, Mexico, Caribbean, etc), but thought wed give cruising a try. We took the Eastern Caribbean itinerary to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.
We arrived in Miami on Saturday to extend our vacation and enjoy South Beach. Our flight landed around 3:15 with no problems, and we took a taxi ($32 pre-tip) to our hotel, the Marseilles, on Collins. Now, as far as South Beach is concerned, hotels are very expensive, but you do get what you pay for in this town. We paid a travel-agent rate for this hotel, and I am glad it was pretty reasonable, because More the hotel needs a lot of work. The lobby was nice enough, and service was pretty good, but the room itself had some serious problems. The bathroom had cracked tile, the sink drained very slowly, and the shower had zero water pressure. Also, one of the two beds creaked terribly (overuse by previous guests???). To be fair, the room was very clean, with no sign of any bugs, and it was quiet. We also ate breakfast in their front-patio cafe, and thought it was excellent. Try their French toast and pancake options, they were delicious! Service was a bit slow, but not too bad.
Upon checkout, we took a taxi to the port. Now that I have taken two trips to and from the port, I can tell you this driver took us for a little extra money than he should have. He seemed like the sweetest little old man, but took us through a lot of residential areas with a lot of stop lights. It took forever to get to the port, and it is not that far. It was very quiet on the roads, for a Sunday morning, so I cant think of any legitimate reason to have taken that route. Cost us about $8 more than it did on the return trip after the cruise.
When we got to the port, it was pretty early, about 10:45 a.m. A porter immediately rushed over to help us, and while he did repeat a few times I am the last person who sees your luggage and Ill make sure your luggage gets to your room&he didnt really go about it in a nasty way. Regardless, we were prepared for this spiel, and just handed over a tip and went on our way.
Once inside, there was a moment of confusion when we got through the security line (1 minute wait, tops!) and the next Carnival rep said to have your Bahamas form ready. We didnt have one, and she seemed reluctant to give us her ONLY copy. She seemed determined to blame it on us, when in fact, we were supposed to either have gotten them with our docs (we didnt!) or handed one upon entrance into the port (again, didnt happen). So, we finally got that squared away and got in the registration line. It appeared decently long, but it moved really quickly. No more than 10-15 minutes, if that. Our rep at the desk was super efficient, and off we went to the next line, which was to get our Sail and Sign cards. Again, the line appeared long-ish, but in fact, took only 5-10 minutes. We got our keys with no problem (mine got to be gold this time!!!) and we went up the escalator to stand in line for our photos. Like others have said, this tends to be the slowest moving line, but wasnt too bad. The biggest pain is juggling your carry-on luggage while trying to look breezy and vacation-ish. The last stop was to get our picture taken to associate with our Sail and Sign card. That was done right at the entrance to the lobby of the ship&then hooray, we were on!! All in all, it took about an hour. Smooth.
Once in the lobby, I was amazed by how beautiful the ship was. Gleaming, and not at all tacky. The American Lobby has a beautiful atrium, center bar, and a seating area near the elevators where a classical music duo would play often. Also, the lit-up presidents werent eerie to us, as others have said! I think the whole heroism theme worked pretty well, ship wide.
Although we werent to go to our room until 1:00-1:30, we did make a quick trip down to drop off our heavy carry-on luggage. Our cabin was already ready for us, and we were pleased with what we saw. Riviera deck, Room 1359. This was an ocean view room, with a connecting door to the cabin next door. (This proved to be our only issue with the cabin, because we could hear every last word from our next door neighbors. Either the connecting door was thin, or the walls themselves were. Or, it could just be the neighbors were noisy, because we NEVER heard anything from the folks on the other side). Also, this cabin is right across from the self-service laundry area, and that proved a bit noisy at times also¬ from the machines, but from a few people who would hang out in the doorway and talk loudly. But again, no big deal, just a warning about this cabin, if you want to sleep in, or go to bed early. Wasnt really an issue for us, as we were up early, and stayed up late. It was convenient to be near the iron/ironing board.
The room was clean, with plenty of closet space for two very girly-girls (in other words, lots of shoes and hair products!). The bathroom was small, but maneuverable. Everything was spotless, and Henry, our room steward, kept it that way, twice a day, for the entire voyage. He was quiet, but very kind.
After dropping our bags off, we went up to the Lido deck to have lunch. I had been craving a cheeseburger since last Octobers Elation trip! So, after getting a burger, and a Funship Special, we settled down in the covered area near the Argonaut (main) pool. Rosies was bright and colorful, but I liked it. And you cant beat the ocean views either. It did get crowded sometimes, but what can you expect, with so many people onboard?
After lunch, we toured the rest of the ship, as it wasnt very crowded yet. We got some great pics while the ship was still empty. The Promenade deck is lovely - with the overhead lights that change colors and the US flag themed flooring. I especially liked the Java Cafe (hi to Alicia from Poland) and Jeannes Bar, and the seating all along King Boulevard. Along this path you will also find the casino, and several other bars and lounges (Dream Bar, Sushi Bar, Paris Hot, Eagles Lounge, and the Lindy Hop).
Other notable parts of the ship were the Ivanhoe theater (where the main shows were held) and the shopping area - there isnt a lot of shopping, but there are cute Carnival-themed items as well as jewelry and makeup/perfume sales. A lot of folks were taking advantage of the buy by the inch gold specials. My sister got a pretty rope bracelet made for $18.
We were originally scheduled for the 8:30 seating in the Lincoln Dining room, which is not what we requested. So, we spoke to the maitre d' of the Washington Dining Room, Mr. V (what a fun guy!) who changed us to the 8:00 seating in his dining room. We are so glad we did - that dining room was much nicer than the Lincoln. Mr. V actually gave us a table for two (unusual for non-couples) along the back windows but we werent sure wed like it. But it turned out to be very nice, and we had plenty of opportunities to meet people at other meals and activities. Our servers were Jarmila and Dusan, both from Slovakia, and in a word, they were PERFECT. Amazing service, combined with wonderful personalities. We had some great chats with them between courses and after the meal. They were very efficient, and also honest about the menu items. We liked them so much, we were sad to leave the last night. Also, the cocktail waitress from Thailand (whose name I cannot spell) was also very sweet. She called me by name every night and was much better than the cocktail waitress on my Elation cruise (who I only saw twice in five days!). The atmosphere in the dining room was fun, with the nightly singing/dancing. Jarmila even got on a table to dance one night, as did another waiter who danced with a tray full of drink glasses on his head! I know a lot of folks think this is tacky, but it really was a lot of fun.
As for the food itself, I thought everything in the dining room was above-average, and at any rate, who am I to complain? It was way more ambitious cuisine than I would cook at home. The only thing I didnt like was a scallops and shrimp appetizer, but that was my fault, because I knew there was a chance I wouldnt. But other than that, everything was very tasty. I had seafood at least 4 of the nights, and it was prepared very well. My sister, being very much the meat eater, enjoyed her steaks and prime rib. The last night we had Tom Turkey and their fabulous dessert, the Grand Marnier soufflE. Dont miss it. We thought ALL of the desserts were fabulous.! Jarmila always steered us in the right direction!!
We didnt really have an issue with lounge chair saving around the main pool area, mainly because we chose to hang out in the quieter areas&the higher decks and along deck 3 (outside the doors where you first came on the ship, on both sides). We also enjoyed the aft pool, the Prometheus pool and bar area - much quieter and you had a great view of where the ship had just been out the back windows! Bar service was very pleasant, but I found you really didnt get any lounge service unless you were in the Argonaut pool area. Not a big deal&I just got my own drinks. I enjoyed all of the daily specials, but liked the Yellowbird the least.
We also participated in a few games/activities. The cruise director was Brett Alans, and his assistant was Jen. They were both decent, but Jen gets a bit loud on the loudspeaker announcements. But no real complaints. The Newlywed-Not So Newlywed game was hysterical, and we also went to the Towel Animal Demonstration class. Dont laugh, it was a lot of fun, and there were a lot of men, as well as women and children there. Made me appreciate my room steward even more, because my animals didnt really make the grade!! We also went to the Captains Cocktail party, but did miss the Past Guest Party.
As far as shows go, we enjoyed the comedians - try to catch Michael Macy on a midnight R rated show&he was hysterically funny. The performance shows werent fabulous, but they were fun, in a Las Vegas kind of way. The very best show was on Friday night, the 80s themed Far From Over. It was so much fun - do not miss it. The last night also had a Valor Legends show, with fellow passengers performing. They were chosen to participate by being judged on their performances at Karaoke in the Eagles Lounge - they were dressed up like Madonna, Elvis, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, etc. and performed their songs. I give them a lot of credit, they did a pretty good job overall. Took a lot of guts to get up on stage like that.
I did make use of the gym/spa area as well. We went to the whirlpool one night, when we figured it would be empty because of people getting ready for early dinner. We found it to be very busy, actually, and only spent a few minutes there. Didnt try it again. I did get a massage/facial combo the last sea day with Anna, from Poland. She was very sweet, and did a great job. However, they are pressured to try to sell you products, and they are very expensive, so be warned. I already use the La Therapie facial products anyway, so I knew what I was getting into&.and of course bought a few. The whole shebang cost me over $400, but I was on vacation, and well, I deserved it, right??
The voyage itself was very smooth, a lot less rocky than my Elation trip. Not to say you couldnt feel movement, we could, but mostly in the cabin bathroom, and the Washington dining room. Nothing major, although a week post-cruise, and I still feel like I am on the ship at times!
The ports of call were nice, with Nassau being my least favorite. We opted not to go to Atlantis, since we definitely wanted beach time, and there are no real facilities for public use on Cabbage Beach. We had initially planned on using the day pass at Breezes for $65 per person, with the use of all facilities plus food/drink, but later found out they wouldnt accommodate us until 10:00 a.m. We were in port from 7:00-2:00, so that wouldnt really work. We had called the Wyndham hotel before arrival, and they told us that a man named Alan Valentine would be at the pier to sell day passes. (We ended up making 3 different calls to get correct info). We got off the ship, and asked around, but there was no one by that name there. So, we took a cab up to Cable Beach to the Wyndham. Went to the front desk, hoping they could sell us passes. Lady at the desk says We dont sell day passes. So, we proceed to tell her how we called three different times and gave her the name Alan Valentine. She talked to the supervisor (in our view, for about 3 seconds), came back, and said We dont sell day passes. So, we asked her if we could eat down at the beach. She said we could. To make a long story short, we went down to the beach, pulled up a couple of loungers, fell asleep for a few hours, got our things, and went back to town. Nobody questioned us, nobody approached us, and it was very quiet. The hotel lost out on our money, as we were more than willing to pay, but oh well, their loss. I have read many times that they turn a blind eye to cruisers, and that was indeed true. We just kept our Carnival towels hidden and we had no problems. The beach area there is ok, not fabulous. The water is beautiful there. Breezes really would be a nicer option, if your port time allows. After an hour or so of shopping downtown, we picked up the necessary souvenirs and headed back for the ship. This port is where we found the only line waiting to get back on ship (maybe 15 minutes).
Next port was St. Thomas. Here we had to encounter the infamous never-ending immigration line before we could get off the ship. Brett Alans told people who had excursions booked to get in line at 9:00 a.m., and not a minute before, because nobody would be there. Well, he didnt specify if that meant excursions booked with Carnival or on your own (which we had), so we did go down about 9:05. THE ENTIRE SHIP WAS IN LINE!!! Honestly, it wound completely around the Promenade deck, twice!! People were freaking out because they had excursions booked at 9:30 or 10:00 (like us). It was about 45 minutes before the line where we were (way, way back) even moved. Once we finally got moving, it moved fast, but it was about an hour, all told. We did make it to our tour, but barely. Lesson to be learned: Dont listen to what they tell you, if you have an excursion booked, get in line at 8:30. And if you dont have anything booked, please consider letting those who do go first. Many people who booked excursions on their own feared they would miss their tours and lose their money.
We booked an all-day tour with Sunny Liston tours. His wife, Angela, met us at the pier and escorted our group to the open air vehicle. We were taken into town for 2 hours of shopping. We saw a good bit of the main shopping area, but I would like to go back and check it out when I had more time. People werent pushy at all, and found them to be quite friendly. Sunny picked us up after shopping, and we went on a 2-hour island tour. We saw the beautiful Magens Bay, Mountaintop, which is the highest point on the island (get a banana daiquiri at their bar!), and the whole town of Charlotte Amalie and the cruise ships in port from way up high. There are some very scenic views on this island. It was a great tour, with Sunny singing, and rocking the vehicle. Definitely worth the $25 each. After the tour, he dropped us all off at Sapphire Beach where we rented chairs and enjoyed a cocktail. We were there for about 2 ½ hours. The water was beautiful, and the view of St. John and other neighboring islands was breathtaking. The sand wasnt the softest, but it was a very pretty beach. Once our beach time was over, Sunny arrived promptly and returned us all to the ship. We spent the rest of our time shopping at Havensight Mall, where I bought a lovely watch at a great price. Plenty of shopping to be had there, and some nice things too. We went up on the top deck to watch the ship leave port, and it was beautiful at night. That night we were too tired to dress for the main dining room, so just grabbed a bite in Rosies.
St. Maarten was our final port. We got off the ship fairly early and tried to find the way to Arthurs Car Rentals, which is slightly outside the cruise port entrance. Took us a while, but finally found it. When we got there, nobody was at the office. Not sure what to do, we waited a few minutes. Eventually, a friend of his drove by and called Arthur. He made sure we got picked up and taken to our rental jeep. Once you get out of Phillipsburg, driving is pretty easy. Drivers are little aggressive, but not too bad. We first stopped in Marigot to shop. We also ate crepes and smoothies at a little open-air cafe. It was fairly quiet, and not much was open yet, but we took a walk around the marina area and also the outdoor market. After that, we continued around the island to make our way to Orient Beach. It was a fairly cloudy day, but let me tell you, this beach is beautiful. We had no trouble finding parking, and rented chairs, umbrella, and a table at the Kontiki beach club. Nice padded loungers, and friendly staff. Drinks were average price, but food itself was very expensive. The sand is some of the softest I have ever felt, and the water was gorgeous. The end we were at had a nice gentle slope in to the water, and hardly any wave action. Perfect for relaxing. Quite a few salespeople stopped by our loungers, but they were polite, and once you said No Thanks, they were on their way. I can see how it could get annoying, but once you stop and think that they are just trying to earn a living, its a bit easier to deal with it. Anyhow, beach was an A+, and I would love to spend a week on St. Maarten. We drove the rest of the way around the island, returned our rental, and headed back to the ship. There are some shops in the port, but not very many. We wish we would have had time to shop in downtown itself, but time ran out. Something to save for next time. From our cabin window, we got an excellent view as we sailed out of port - we sailed right past the whole Southern-Western coast of the island on the way out, and even saw neighboring Anguilla. Beautiful.
We returned to Miami after two lovely days at sea. Disembarkation was also better than my previous experience. We were out of our room by 8:00, went up to Rosies for breakfast, then out to the Prometheus pool area to wait our color tag to be called. Wasnt a long wait, we were called and off the ship by 9:30. We immediately found our luggage, found a porter (well worth a tip to have help with your luggage) and bypassed the LONG customs line to the special line reserved for people using porters. Took 5 minutes flat, tipped our very friendly (and not at all tip-hungry) porter, and were on our way to our post-cruise hotel (note: we had tears in our eyes and were singing the blues the entire time!!). We stayed at the Royal Palms Hotel, also on Collins. We were greeted by very friendly porters there, who helped us with our luggage while we waited to see if a room was available early. There was, and we were grateful, because we were pretty tired! There seems to be two sides to the hotel, the more modern high rise, and the older-looking low rise. Unfortunately, we got the low-rise suite, but we were so happy to have beds to rest on, we didnt care. The room was very clean, with a very nice bathroom. It was the main seating area and bedroom that could use some work. Plus it smelled very musty. A lady came around within a few minutes of our check in to spray the entire room. So, it must be something pretty common. We had lunch at Jerrys Famous Deli right across the street (biggest menu in the world - both in choices and the actual size of the printed menu!) and then had ourselves a nap. Feeling refreshed, we got gussied-up for our dinner at Wish, in The Hotel. If you ever get a chance to splurge in South Beach, this is the place. The service was excellent, and we had a lovely outdoor patio table, with white lights and white umbrellas. We immediately ordered one of their specialty martinis, complete with light up ice cubes (gimmicky, I know, but its fun!). For dinner I had the mango salad to start, and the crispy snapper as my main dish. My sister had the pork tenderloin. We both thought the meal was wonderful, if pricey. We also shared the PB and J dessert. If you go to Wish, dont miss it, the peanut butter ice cream was to die for! All in all, we loved Wish, and if you have an extra $200 for 2 people - well, go for it! (That was for two entrees, one starter, three cocktails, dessert, and tip!) We went up to their rooftop lounge, Spire, to take in the lovely view of South Beach. It was pretty quiet (Sunday, and Mothers Day), but we stayed a while to lounge in their lovely white sofas with curtained areas, and enjoy one final cocktail before our vacation was over.
Next morning we reluctantly boarded our VERY early return flight home&which was uneventful except for the sounds of uncontrollable sobbing the entire trip. (Oh wait, that was ME, crying that my cruise was over!!)
Was the cruise perfect? No - but the annoyances were so very minimal that none of it tarnished what turned out to be one of the best vacations that either of us ever had. We had a fantastic time, and highly recommend the Valor to everyone!
Sorry this review is ridiculously long, but I have come to appreciate the little details provided by my fellow posters in their reviews, and hope that I have helped someone in some small way. Any questions, Ill be glad to help if I can! Less
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