I booked a 7 night carnival cruise aboard the valor for an April 14th departure. The ports of call were all places both of us wanted to visit: St Thomas, Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts, and St Martin.
Air: We both work for Delta Air Lines so we flew to SJU the morning of our cruise. We also had read that a cab would take you to the port for $20 plus $1 for each piece of luggage. The cab was comfortable and only about a 20 minute ride. When we arrived at the port, we found a CVS to buy a case of water, grabbed a bite to eat, then checked in. We were able to carry on all our luggage, and the check in process and security clearance took less than 30 minutes. We were onboard at approximately 3pm
I had reserved a balcony stateroom on deck 6, port side using an airline interline rate. The room decor was dated, err, down right ugly, but clean and quite spacious. We had more than enough room to unpack and store all our luggage without putting anything under the bed. The bathroom was large enough for all our products. I brought my own hair dryer and I recommend that other ladies do the same; the one in the room looked pittiful.
We ate at the buffet that night as we missed dinner because we were watching the final round of the Masters. The buffet the first night was disappointing and we never ate their again.
Our room remained quiet the entire journey. We would occasionally hear other guests and the room service carts in the hall, but no more than a hotel. We could only hear our neighbors' balcony doors close, but never heard them in their rooms.
In St Thomas we booked a snorkeling excursion that brought us to St John's. The 30 minute taxi ride to the other side of the island was the only disappointment. Once onboard our catamaran, we had a wonderful time. Ice water was made available, and we were underway for our 30 minute journey. Once we arrived, we were given gear. If you have your own mask and snorkel, bring it. The masks were scratched and were starting to dry rot. The water was crystal clear though. If you have an underwater camera, bring it. There are brightly colored fish and the occasional sea turtle to be seen. It's also a 5 minute to a beautiful sand beach. You get approximately 90 minutes at the snorkel drop. Once underway back to St Thomas, fruit and cheese and rum punch and champagne were made available. We returned to the same marina and made the 30 minute journey back to the port. A beautiful island; one that I hope to visit again.
We ate dinner in the main dining room that evening, as we did for the rest of our time aboard the ship. We were not disappointed in the service, selection, or quality of the food. Our wait staff was attentive and professional. The appetizers and main courses were delivered efficiently, and dinner never took more than 75 minutes. Our only complaint about the main dining room was the attire worn by most of the other guests. Some came with sneakers, flip flops, jeans etc. It clearly states in the "Fun Times" that those items are not permitted in the dining room, but they were to be found, even on the 2 elegant nights.
Our room steward was fantastic, with towel animals each night, turn down service, and a magical ability to make our room up while we were at breakfast.
Our daily breakfasts were taken in the main dining room as well, but more casually. Seating was not preassigned, nor were the times. Once again, the food was delicious and only once was there an error in my order. The service however was lacking compared to dinner. I had to ask for water refills almost every morning as well as more coffee when both my glass and cup were empty. One morning, our dinner wait staff served us in the morning, and the service was phenomenal.
Our day at sea was spent leisurely by the pool in the adult only section. The wait staff was attentive, but as a non alcoholic drinker, I could sense an attitude when I asked for water even when my boyfriend ordered a drink and tipped accordingly. We also played mini golf and rode the water slide a few times that evening. A relaxing day, but slower than my pace.
Following the recommendation of our waiter who is from Barbados, we took a cab to "The Boatyard", a beach just on the other side of Bridgetown. The cost was $5 and took about 15 minutes. The beach has a $12 cover charge per person, but it included a free drink, chair, an umbrella, and transportation back to the ship. There was a water trampoline anchored approximately 200 yards offshore which was fun and well as a pier with a 13ft diving platform. My boyfriend had the local beer, Banks, and was only $3/bottle. The beach was beautiful, the water crystal clear; a perfect beach day.
We arrived in St Lucia just in time for a rainstorm. We got a late start, but ended up trying to find Choc beach. Unfortunately, it's near the mouth of a river and with the earlier rain, was quite dirty. We went to Hendley Bay instead. It was $50 round trip for the 2 of us, and 2 chairs and umbrella cost $20. The beach was OK, the water nice, but paling in comparison to Barbados. If you are looking for beautiful beaches, St Lucia is not the best choice. Next time I will be heading on a snorkeling adventure or tour of the pitons.
St Kitts looked like Ireland on the arrival. Quite hilly and green with open fields. We booked a 6 hour Fan-ta-sea catamaran adventure. We took a a 45 minute ride to the snorkeling sight. The water was clearer than St Thomas wih plentiful fish. You could not access the beach, which was nothing but rock anyway. After an hour, we were fed a buffet lunch, and took a ride to Cockleshell Beach, about 30 minutes away. We stayed there for 90 minutes and paid $10 for 2 chairs. True to it's name, the beach was quite shelly, but still beautiful. The 90 minute cruise back to the ship was beautiful until the torrential downpour an 35knot winds came, making it a rough ride, causing some to become sea sick, and the rest frozen.
St Martin was next. We took a cab for $20 to Baho beach, along Princess Julianna Airport to watch the low approaches to the airport. Sunset Bar and Grill is located at the beach, and for $20, you get 2 chairs, umbrella, and wi-fi. We watched the planes and had a wonderful time. It cost us $16 back to the ship as we shared the cab with another couple. The ride also took close to 40 minutes, so give yourself enough time if you plan on doing this.
We decided to do the self-assist checkout in the morning. We left our stateroom at 6:50am (deck 6, 2/3 back) and were off the ship and thru custom's in less than 10 minutes. We took a cab to the airport and were able to catch an 8:35am flight.