My flight was scheduled to leave from Philadelphia at 9:30am. Everything ran pretty smoothly - including the flight to Miami. But with great despair, when we arrived at the Miami airport, there was a mix up with the luggage, and somehow US Airways put some people's luggage on the flight behind us, which wasn't scheduled to arrive at Miami until 3:30pm! Now remind you, the Valor was due to leave port at 4pm. During our wait, things were pretty hectic, people were flipping out. We had gotten word that if our luggage doesn't make it in time before we leave, we would just have to leave it behind and it would be air shipped to us on our second day at our first port of call - Grand Cayman Island! Nobody was happy with the news, but the Carnival employees were such nice and helpful people during the entire time and reassured us that it was most likely we WOULD get our luggage before they left. They hung around and waited with us until 3:40ish - which was pretty amazing, seeing that the boat was supposed to leave at 4pm. With great luck, the flight arrived somewhat late, but our luggage finally showed up at the very last minute. A lot of smiling faces during this time - we were relieved!!!
We had to pretty much haul ourselves the rest of the way - from the shuttle bus arriving at the port and embarking on the boat. Since we were SUPER late, we had no lines to wait in. Amazingly the boat didn't leave port till after 4 anyway, so we made it just in time - along with the few others that were in the same crisis we were. When we arrived in the Valor everyone on the ship was already scurrying around for the lifejacket drill that is mandatory for all first time guests that arrive. We didn't have to do it, the Carnival employees pretty much told us to just go up and find our room - I think they realized just how exhausted we really were.
Our first day on the boat was a very exhausting one. The ship was absolutely amazing and brilliantly designed. I couldn't believe how elegant it was inside - like an upscaled swanky hotel. The elevators were incredible - I loved the ones in the lobby that were made of glass - as you went up or descended you could see a wonderful view of everything. It was amazing!
I was cruising with family - my aunt and uncle and three cousins, so between all of us, we had booked ourselves two rooms. A regular stateroom with no windows or balcony and the other one had the window and balcony. I had to room with my little cousins, but never minded it at all. The room that was completely closed in had a total of four beds - two were pull down bunks that accommodated us perfectly. It was so strange to be laying in there in mid afternoon, and with the lights off it felt as if it was 2am in the morning. It was perfect for anyone who wanted to get a good long nap in.
We went to the Lido deck as the ship started to embark on it's journey to the Western Caribbean islands. We stood there in the hot breezy Miami wind and watched as we entered the ocean - what a sight! I have never been to Miami before, so that alone was fascinating to see ... South Beach was beautiful, even the water was amazing. It was so neat to see how settled everyone become on just that afternoon. People were swimming, dancing, surrounding the pools and sunbathing, eating.....
We didn't really do much the first day, seeing that we all were very exhausted. We pretty much toured through the ship and admired it's beauty. It was so immaculately clean - and no matter where you were there was carnival employees everywhere! So any help or questions you needed, you had them right at your finger tips! Our first dinner we had at Rosies - our formal dinner was in the Washington Dining Room at 5:45 - but since kids are a pain sometimes, we thought Rosies would be easiest - and I enjoyed it immensely! The buffets were awesome and the food reminded me of upscaled diner quality - so VERY good and SOOO much to eat, it was never ending. One of my most favorite parts of the trip was room service. Since I was spending the week with two teenagers and one pre-teen, they loved to EAT! But room service was frequent for us, especially at 1 am! When they would bring us our food, they would come right in the room and serve it on our table - it was so nice, and so lazy of us! But it was part of our vacation, and we wanted to live every second of it up!! Even the room service food was good - and I loved their brownies!! They were awesome.
Tuesday was our first port of call - Grand Cayman Island. We took a swim with the stingrays and snorkeling excursion. It was so much fun and the water was just breathtaking. The colors of green and blue just wiped me away, especially since my usual vacations are spent at the Jersey shore, where the beaches are quite dirty, the sand is dark and the water is gray. When we reached the sting ray sandbar there was tons swimming around the boats. I was fearless, I couldn't wait to get in with them. They swam all through your legs and you could even hold them and feed them squid. It was pretty insane. The snorkeling part was fun, but in my opinion way to short. By the time you got your gear on, and your flippers - you had to come in. It was pretty exhausting too. A lot of swimming since you're treading deep water - and trying to adjust your mask while in the water! FORGET IT. I was losing air so I just gave up and came in - but the coral reef under us was beautiful, and some pretty cool fish swimming around. All in all, it was a fun day - towards the end we got off our bus to stop at 7 mile beach. What an amazing beach - powdery white sand and the water was nearly white it was so clear. It's crazy because the water is so salty, it's nearly impossible to sink! I liked that part the best.
Getting back on the boat was fairly easy. With Grand Cayman, there was a tender - the only problem I had with tendering was the trip back. Everyone is wet and sweaty and they crowd as many people possible on the boat to send back to the Valor. That part grossed me out pretty bad. Not only was I tired, hot and sweaty - I was stuck with other people, sitting nearly on top of one another, or standing. It wasn't terrible - but if you don't like large crowds, I don't recommend it! But it was the only way to get into the island, so I accepted. Besides, it was kind of neat to float away and see our ship in the background. It's huge!
I think the most fun I had was the night time activities that carnival had on the ship at night. I LOVED the musicals - the Vegas and 80's Show, Far From Over were fantastic! I was just swooned by one of the male dancers too, and on my last night - Saturday, I was able to meet and get a picture with him, that really made my trip. The comedians, the sword swallowers and the hypnotist were great too. I couldn't wait to get back on the ship sometimes because I looked forward to just chilling out and getting ready for the activities at night. The Deck party was A lot of fun too. The group, Total Eclipse performed A lot during the week - my only complaint was that I was a bit sick of the 70's music playing during the day out on the ship's deck. Especially with the amount of kids on board, we all wanted to hear some more recent stuff - I know we're out in the Caribbean seas, but do we have to listen to Caribbean based music all week? Otherwise, if you wanted to hear the good stuff, you had to go in the clubs at night - that's where the real music was.
Our second port of call was Isla Roatan. We had an excursion with Theris Dixon. We were taken on a drive through tour of the island and saw some pretty interesting ship wrecks along the way. I think by far that island was the hottest! It had to be over 100 degrees the day we visited. We were burning up from the inside, it was pretty nasty. We also visited the iguana farm they had - that was insane! Over a thousand iguanas just running lose that you were able to feed. It just really hard to concentrate because of the heat though - all we really dreamed about was swimming in the water! We were taken to the beach at our last part of the day and spent about 2 hours there. The beaches are beautiful!! Just a breathtaking sight that I wont ever forget. The only thing was the island just seemed a bit poor - but expected I suppose. I guess I just couldn't imagine living on an island with so little. And the heat included just made it worse. Most of the houses that we passed were open, no air conditioning whatsoever! I just couldn't imagine.
Wednesday night was the formal dinner that we decided to attend. We had a really nice time - the food was great too - not a complaint there. I have to say though, the bottom of the boat is pretty rocky at times if we're hitting some choppy waters. Nothing too bad, but you can surely feel it. That's why I'm glad our cabin was on the 8th floor towards the back of the ship. We were told the back and the top of the ship is probably the best place to be to avoid any type of interruption that you might feel with the ship. The Washington Dining room was pretty elegant - I loved the decor. The waiters were real nice too, very accommodating to your needs and always there if you needed anything. It almost seemed Titanic like after the formal nights. The whole ship would be dressed up - and it set well especially with how fancy the ship is inside. After our dinner we went back up to our cabins to just chill out and rest until it was time for one of the shows.
I think the entertainment on the cruise was excellent - everything I expected and maybe more. Nothing that anyone has to be disappointed in.
I think one of the worse things that got me on the trip was the sun. It was killer on my eyes - the heat wasn't to overbearing, and the salty water also made it pretty hard for me too. Most nights I was pretty zoned out. Not complaining though, because even in that state of mind I was having so much fun. It's just a lot of activities thrown into one day that can really exhaust someone! I think that's why our mid afternoon naps fit in just well. But once again, I'm not even close to complaining - I had so much fun no matter what!
Thursday was Belize - and if I remember right, I'll never forget docking that morning. Since I was rooming with 3 other kids, we all were way to tired to get up early and go down to Rosie's to eat breakfast, so we always marked off what we wanted in the morning and put it out on our door for room service to deliver. But the morning of Belize was a bumpy one! I remember waking up feeling the whole room rumbling. That was neat though - didn't make me sick, just woke me out of bed. But usually when you felt the rumbles, you knew it was time to get up because the ship was at it's port. It was our usual wake up call. Didn't really ever have the chance to sleep in - except for Saturday morning, since it was our day at sea. But now when I look back on it, I never minded it - it just gave the day more time, which meant more fun :)
Belize was nice. We didn't have much planned but a day at the beach - so we were taken to a nice little place called Banister Island. A bit of a boat ride there, but it was nice. The beach was beautiful once again. a lot of huts to sit under in the shade and eat lunch - sand was nice and white, and they gave you free floats to take out in the water and just drift way into pure bliss. I think though, the water in Belize was my least favorite. Not like it was at all bad - but it had TONS of shells at the shoreline and the water wasn't as clear as Roatan and the Cayman Islands. I just suggest you bring water shoes - and you'll do just fine. After a few hours on the beach, we took the boat back to the port of Belize, did a little shopping and got back on the tender to head to the Valor.
The night activities for me was pretty much the same. But I loved them. The coolest thing was going up on the decks at night and listening to the ocean. I have to say, the decks weren't as crowded as I would have imagined during the night - the most packed I saw it was during our deck party on Wednesday night - that was crazy, but the music was good and everyone was having a good time - people were out dancing all hours of the night. Hanging out in the Eagles Lounge was a thing I started to enjoy - the Karaoke try outs were pretty amusing - some people have NO shame! The clubs were ok - i was kind of disappointed with One Small Step - the club that was open for 18 yrs old and up every night. It seemed as if nobody was dancing much at night - they played a lot of techno when I would pass by, and I hate techno. I noticed passing through the Caboose, which was the game room and younger teenager room, they played MUCH better music, and the kids were really enjoying themselves, dancing and having fun. I would have preferred to stay in there and hang out - but I don't think it would look right :) But, the clubs were designed pretty cool - and they were well air conditioned, and drinks were ALWAYS flowing! I had a nice time just hanging out in there, although dancing is what I really preferred to be doing.
Our last port of call, on Friday was Costa Maya Mexico. Their port was pretty nice - a HUGE public swimming pool filled with salt water, which bars and restaurants parked right in the water. It was nice getting a drink, or some nachos and just hanging out in the pool at the same time. Since it cost about 45 bucks a person to take an excursion to the closest beach, we all decided on just hanging at the port. The swimming was perfect and there was plenty of shops to do our shopping. It was entertaining to barter with some of the fellow Mexicans. If you wanted a price lowered, they were most likely eager to do it for you. We had the best view most of the day too. The Carnival Miracle ported the same day we did, so from the pool you could see both ships docked next to each other. I got some pretty amazing photos of that. It was sad to see how fast our week had gone by. We retreated back to the Valor around 3:30 and rested for a bit - that was our usual routine!
Saturday was a full day at sea, and a very relaxing one at that. We slept until about 11am that morning, hung around and decked it out in the sun for the rest of the day. We had perfect weather, so every day went great. I think one of the most memorable parts of our trip was the eating. Oh, there was so much food that just never stopped flowing! I really loved Rosie's, and I used to try pretty much a little bit of everything - there was never any pressure to order off a menu, and no matter who you are, you're most likely to find something you like up at the buffets. They had something for everyone. I loved just sitting by the window, watching the ocean go by, eating dinner, having a good time with the family and drinking coffee. What I wouldn't give to have those days back one more time! It nearly feels like a dream, because by Wednesday, we were having such a good time, the week started to just roll by. Time really does fly when you're having fun.
Saturday night was another formal dinner we attended. That night was when the Valor decided to stop and drop off the Cubans we had rescued earlier in the week. It distracted so many during the dinner - everyone was getting up to see what was going on out the window. It didn't set us off course though for our way back to Miami. A part of me wishes it would have now :) A longer trip is always better to me. After dinner we went to watch the Carnival Stars show - where everyone who was chosen for Karaoke throughout the week, got up on the stage with the Carnival dancers and performed. It was really entertaining. Throughout the week, we did see some good shows - comedy, sword swallowing, and a hypnotist. All of them were excellent - and the Ivanhoe theater was magnificent! I couldn't believe it was so huge - and the seating was so comfortable. It was lounge like couches with tables for your drinks. I think the first night I was drifting away to sleep it was so relaxing! After the show, the performers and dancers hung out in the lobby - and I was thrilled. I loved those guys, so I decided to go up to my favorite dancer and request a photo with him - and he obliged happily.
The rest of the night was spent just wallowing around. I toured the ship some more, hung out at Rosie's and had some pizza and ice cream. That's one thing I really miss - the 24/7 pizza and ice cream! Both were excellent, and I miss having them right at my fingertips whenever I wanted!!
Sunday morning stunk, as expected. We had to wake early for our continental breakfast at Rosie's and get our things together for leave the ship. Breakfast was excellent. I spent so much time ordering morning room service, I'm sorry I didn't get down there more often to get at the buffet in the morning - your choices were endless! We decided to put our luggage out the night before - which was a good idea until we arrived that the port in Miami to pick it up! Imagine thousands of people scurrying for their luggage in an enormous open parking garage that was 90 degrees. Standing in line for customs was probably the worse. The line seemed to never end, and so many people were breathing down your neck. I have to say, out of the entire trip - I hate that part the most. Not only was it totally unorganized, it was hot and we were leaving ... it was basically the reality that our fun was now over. Pretty depressing.
Seeing that it was my first cruise, I just want to go on saying for the record that the Carnival Valor was an INCREDIBLE ship. I think I fell in love with every crevice of that boat. To the afternoons at sea, to boarding off to getting a tender in the morning. The food was there no matter what time of the day you were hungry - and everything on the menu was far beyond my expectations. I think the only thing I didn't enjoy was the Friday night buffet - it was all seafood. Just some strange things I wasn't interested in eating - but that was just my taste - I know it was really packed that night, so someone enjoyed it! The Mexican buffet for the deck party was really good - I just didn't want to eat to much of it, and wind up sick the next day! Mexican, pizza, fries, cakes, ice creams....it all doesn't settle well! The desserts were really good too - I never had an overload of chocolate so much in my life! I really wish I could find something to complain about on this ship, but there is nothing. One thing they need to fix though are the floors in Rosie's. They are SO dangerous! They clean them while people are eating and they are extremely slippery. I can't tell you how many people I saw slipping. On Sat. night on our way back up to the Ivanhoe Theater, my aunt took a full header on the desk, spilling her drink and falling hard. We can look at it now and laugh, but at the moment it wasn't cool! I think if ANYTHING, the floors need to be worked on .... just to dangerous during dinner times, and people are walking all over the place.
What I miss most is the room service. I miss being able to leave our rooms at night and coming back to animal towels, cookies, chocolates and freshly pulled down sheets. I miss the carnival channels - and the many nights we sent my cousin out there to run around the jogging track so we could see her on the Valor camera on the top deck. I miss Rosie's - and they're AWESOME buffets. I even miss the slight rumbling of the bed at night before going to sleep. I miss looking out of the balcony and seeing nothing but miles of ocean with no land in sight! I miss the activities at night - the shows, the clubs, the food, dancing, etc. I even miss the elevators - especially since we spent so much time going up and down in them :) I think I will definitely have to cruise with Carnival again - I never had so much fun on a vacation in my life and I want to do it again. Hopefully next time, cruise the eastern islands.
The staff was always friendly, and our cruise director Brett Alans was a quack! But I will admit, my first morning back at home, I was disappointed not to be woken up to his voice and what our itinerary was for the day. He sounded like a used car salesmen, but we always got a kick out of him for some reason - I guess because he was so unique and he talked so FAST. He did a nice job though - even through all the complaints I have read about him. I know when we ported in Miami, he was leaving for 2 months to take a vacation. So, for anyone cruising on the Valor for the next 2 months, you won't be lucky enough to have the presence of Brett Alans aboard!
I will miss you Valor and I promise I will cruise again. You gave me one of the best vacations I ever had - it will be hard to top that one!!