Carnival Valor Cruise Review by superJJ: 4th of July Cruise
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4th of July Cruise
We chose this cruise because of the six ports in 7 days aspect. Family of four (kids are 13 and 9)
Day one: Embarkation Day
Since the Valor docks in the morning with the previous cruise and leaves that night with a new one, I went down and talked to some people that just got off the boat. I asked about each island and what the process was to get on the plane to get a feel. Although our boarding pass time said "2:30-8:30pm" for the 10pm cruise after talking to people, I decided to board at 11am to grab some lunch then head out to Old San Juan (OSJ) for the day. We gave our bags to a porter (who actually walked to the OSJ Sheraton for them, where we stayed the nght before) and went to board. We were talking to our boarding agent and had our sail & sign cards within 10 minutes. We waited until they let the ship board at 12pm and our cabins were ready (1322 & 1326). Grabbed some lunch on pool deck (burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, fries, etc....) and headed More into OSJ for a bit. The highlight of this port was El Morro Fort for sure....WOW what a sight. We walked it and encountered numerous cats along the fort area (in talking to a random tour guide she said that these cats are fed/sterilized by the government and the city has no rodent problems as a result!) We we bought a bag of cat food and the kids enjoyed the extra cat attention as we walked the city. After the lame muster drill (in English and Spanish) we went up to deck 10 to watch the push away from OSJ. Great sight as fort is lit up at night!
Day Two: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
We chose to do the Sunny Liston Tour of the island starting at 11am (we are from CA and figured the extra sleepf or the kids would be good as they were not adjusted to EST yet!). We got off the boat and Sunny drove us to downtown area (Main Street) for one hour of shopping. The 4 for $10 tshirts were readily available in this port (we didn't buy, figuring there would be any more opportunities, which there were!). After an hour, Sunny drove in his 20 person open air bus to a view point from which you could see the entire town (as when as both Bluebeard and Blackbeard's castles). We then drove to Mountain Top, a gift shop and viewing area of the Eastern side of the island....what a great view of Magens Bay. All the while Sunny was giving us the scoop on the history of the island. He then drove us to "The Drake Seat", the spot where Sir Francis Drake watched over possible invasions in Magen's Bay. From there we hit Sapphire Beach. This place had snorkel rentals ($5/hour) cheap rum punch ($4) and was a mellow 2 hours beach stop. Sunny drve us back to port (singing his tunes as we went). Great day and would highly recommend the tour (Pricing was $49 adult, $35 children I think). Line took about 15 minutes to get back on at 4pm (they told us to be back on by 4:30).
Day Three: At Sea
Water sliding (line was 6-7 minutes at longest on this day....1-2 minutes all other das we rode), pina coladas, formal dining (amazed at the spectrum of this term as some had tuxedos, others shorts/tshirts....) Music on deck 9 was loud, but you can move plenty of places if it gets to you. Alot of Latin dance music as this cruise was probably 50-50 Puerto Rico to America ratio (there were Canadians, Austrailians, French, etc...on board)
Day Four: Barbados
Cab was $5 each to The Boatyard. This place was cool. $12 to enter included a chair, umbrella, free drink (alcoholic or non) and ride back to the ship at your leisure. Had a great Caribbean bar and a dock from which the kids (and parents) could jump or rope swing into the teal blue water. There was a water trampoline and climbing rock in about 15 feet of water as well that the kids had fun with. Bucket of local beer (Stag or Banks) was 6 for $15
Day Five: St Lucia (July 4th)
Read about this tour before we booked it. Walk off the ship and through the main building and you will find "Maximum Chill Vacation Tours" on your left. Cassius told us about the tour and we booked for $220 ($65 adult, $45 children). Left on boat at 10am for 45 minute trip to Soufriere. Boarded taxis and drove up the hill to the Mud Baths. Spent 30 minutes in the warm (probably 104 degrees) mud baths (whihc is supposed to make your skin look younger!) then went to the Latille Waterfall for a quick dip. Cool little place you cans wim, get the rest of the mud that you missed in the showers at the bath and tour the flower garden. Beers were 2 for $5 on site. After a taxi back to the Soufriere port, we headed to a little beach for snorkel/swim/lunch (not included in tour) for 90 minute stop. Our guide (Vic) pointed out the Jade Mountain resort (where The Bachelor was filmed...one of the season's I guess) on the way. My son and I enjoyed the reef while my wife and daughter avoided the kayaking vendors and hit the restaurant. We got back on the boat and cruised through Marigot Bay, where the rich and famous have houses! Beautiful place...our guide (Vic) pointed out Oprah Winfrey's house on the hillsides and we were off back to port (enjoying beers, sodas, rum punch along the way...the didn't skimp on the drinks during this trip--all included in price). We cruised the port and got off the boat at 4pm. Waited in another 15 minute line to get back on. Watched the ship leave from Deck 5. We played Sports Trivia (with host Harry) in the Sports Bar at 5:30 for the first time (and each of the next 3 nights!). 4th of July party was on at night at the pool area (Deck 9). Would highly recommend this day tour...great value for the money!
Day Five: St. Kitts
We didn't do this port of call justice. I woke up early and let my wife and kids sleep in (daughter was in Camp Carnival until 1am!). You are bombarded by locals with little monkeys and taxi drivers in port but I walked through them and into town (no cab needed as you are right there). I checked out the local "football" stadium and got the local flare. Kids wanted to water slide and my daughter wanted to spend more time in Camp Carnival (she had a blast there all week and it was all free, except for after 10pm). We eventually got the kids off the boat to buy a picture of them with the mini monkeys and check out the downtown area. Had we been more motivated, we would have gone down to Cockleshell Beach area.
Day Six: St. Maarten
Walked off the ship and booked a taxi tour with one of the local drivers (Elma). For $120 she drove us to Maho Beach for a one hour stop (where airplanes land right above you and take off blasting you into the water if you choose), then the French capital Marigot for lunch for one hour and to Great Bay in Philipsburg for an hour at the beach. We loved the beach in Philipsburg (which you can walk to from the ship or take a $3 cab or $7 ferry).....white sand beach, cheap drinks. You can rent jet ski's and cruise or just relax on the beach (which we did while the kids played in the water). We walked back to the ship at 4pm and got ready for 6pm dinner
Day Seven: Disembarkation day
We requested to get off the ship in one of the last groups as we were in no hurry (we were staying a few extra days in Puerto Rico after the ship docked). We got group #30 and it took a while to get to that #. We had to be out of the cabins by 8:30am so we took our "carry on bags" (stuff we didn't leave outside of our door the night before) to the Pool deck area for breakfast. You get a phone signal at this port (if you didn't pay the outrageous international pricing while on board) so I caught up on some emails/voice mails while we waited to get off the ship. Our # was called and we got off the ship quickly, waited about 15 more minutes before they let us into the port building to grab our bags and then 5 minutes in customs line.
My concerns coming into this trip:
1) would cabins on deck #1 be noisy? (Aside from our partying Puerto Rican brethren, NO...never heard an anchor drop and the subtle hum of the engines was soothing)
2) being away from internet (I chose to buy 45 minutes for $29 plus $3.50 one time setup charge so I could check email....worked out great)
3) would Deck #1 be inconvenient? (It was for getting to the pool deck area as at least one of the elevators was not working the whole time, sometimes two of them). Our dining was n the Lincoln Dining Room on Deck 4 (our waiters Muda and Gabor were awesome) so that was a very easy stair climb. If I had it to do over again, I would have looked into a cabin on floors 7/8/9).
4) when to get on the ship? (the start boarding at noon, so my suggestion is get to the port at 11:30, check your bags, walk to the upstairs checkin area and it will be minimal waiting. Go on board, have free lunch then hit the town and come back for free dinner on ship)
5) what if I lose my Sail & Sign card? (This happened to 3 of the 4 of us on our trip! You go to Guest Services and they have lost/found there. If it isn't in lost & found, they make you a new one at no charge!)
On board entertainment:
1) Felipe the cruise director......he has energy! Although his catch phrase (woo hoo) gets old on the first day, he does a great job.
2) We hit the family friendly comedy shows in the Eagle's Lounge and the kids enjoyed both of them.
3) The tribute to the 80's (Not Done Yet) in Ivanhoe Theatre was great for mom & dad but our kids didn't know the music. Break dancers were awesome!
4) The Magic Show was very cool....we sat in the front row as our 9 year old wanted to be a part of the show but sadly didn't get picked. He chooses 6-7 year olds and scared women in the back of the crowd so beware!
5) The juggler was very entertaining as well! The kids liked the show and so did mom and dad! Less
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