**DISCLAIMER- THIS IS A VERY DETAILED REVIEW, AS IT WAS A REVIEW LIKE THIS ONE THAT HELPED ME WHEN I WAS PLANNING MY CRUISE***
This was my first cruise- I was on the carnival valor from May 4th-may 11th
Overall I really enjoyed myself. I went with a group of 7 girls for a UNIVERSITY graduation trip ( for some reason many passengers/staff on the cruise thought we were kids... but anyways, It was really fun!! I would definitely do it again!! I will break everything down into sections so it's easier to follow:
It was spacious with lots of seating on the deck and in the buffet area (lido deck #9), the heroes theme was really evident, and the ship was very clean. The staff was really friendly and the activity coordinators were really fun and creative. (More people should do the activities!!) The shows were good in my opinion, there was karaoke, a club, a casino, a gym, a spa, hot tubs, pools, a water slide, etc. There was definitely something for everyone!
I had an interior room on deck 2 and the room had 4 people in it. There was enough closet space however the room was a little small. It was bunk bed style and could definitely accommodate 4 people, especially since we didn't spend a lot of time in the room. The room stewards were sooo nice. Although the sail and sign card includes gratuities for the room stewards they really deserve to be paid more so tip GENEROUSLY.
The breakfast was the same everyday. (the usual toast, eggs, bacon, ham, pancakes, fruits, cereal, omelets, pastries etc.) I only had lunch twice: the burritos were okay, the salad bar and the buffet were good. There is pizza, burgers and ice cream/frozen yogurt 24hrs a day. (Definitely worth it) The dinner that I ate in the Lincoln dining room wasn't bad, there were many options and always something different to try like snails, shark, or frog legs lol . The only disappointment was dessert. 4/7 desserts were not too good.
The ports: (There is usually a little shopping centre at each port as you come off/get back on the ship)
San Juan- We arrived in San Juan a day early (May 3rd). This was nice because it gave us a chance to explore. We stayed in a hotel on condado ave (right by the beach, many shops selling souvenirs and restaurants). Old San Juan -where the boat is actually docked- is nice as well. Many bars, restaurants ( I recommend Senor Frogs (also located in St Thomas) Also, there is a CVS Pharmacy which comes in super handy for things like water, souvenirs, and wine/snacks.
St Thomas- My favourite port :D The people were really friendly, the shopping is pretty decent and the prices were reasonable. I traveled to St. Johns by ferry (approx 14$US roundtrip) The island is beautiful,we went to Trunk Bay Beach, the water was clear, they have showers and washrooms -entrance fee was $4USper person
If you go to St Thomas you MUST go over to St Johns :)
Day at Sea- Spent most of the day tanning on the serenity deck, played mini golf, did some games. This was also the elegant night- my cruise had 2 elegant nights- you can take pictures with different backgrounds, pictures with the captain etc.
Barbados- Went to Harrison's Cave- Absolutely amazing, and a great learning experience. Also had local flying fish and went to the Boatyard (beach, bar/restaurant and souvenir shop all in one- it's close to the ship and the entrance fee of 15$US includes beach chair, umbrella, complimentary drink (rum punch) and a ride back to the ship- there are lots of activities on the beach- snorkeling ($20US), jet skis ($20 US), and there is a water trampoline
St Lucia- the weather began to deteriorate a little (rain) However, we did a tour with Frank tours for $45 US per person. we went up to the Pitons -the roads are very windy so I suggest bringing gravol and it takes approx 2hours to get to the pitons however we made many stops along the way at local vendors selling souvenirs, and jewellery made from volcanic rocks, as well as vendors selling coconut water. The culture in St Lucia is quite unique. I liked this. The entrance fee to tour the volcano ONLY is $ 9 US per person and the fee to tour the volcano and do the mud bath (great benefits for the skin ) is $11 US per person- we weren't able to go to the beach as it was raining, however we did some shopping before going back to the ship- St Lucia is a little expensive- I suggest bringing a little extra money to this island if you want to do excursions or buy souvenirs )
St Kitts- My family is originally from St Kitts/ Nevis although I was born in Canada. It was an overwhelming experience to go back there after 15 years but well worth it. We took a ferry over to Nevis for approx ($22-25 US) round trip per person. The views of Nevis peak and the islands were beautiful. I toured the island with family and had lunch at a restaurant called Mango right by the Four Seasons Resort- The food was EXCELLENT. We did some shopping in St. Kitts before returning to the ship.
St Maarten- we did an island taxi tour (French and Dutch side) with Captain Midnight for 20$US per person - definitely worth it- Captain Midnight was friendly and informative, giving us the history of the island, and stopping at various points for us to take pictures, we went to Maho beach (watched planes land) and Orient Beach (partially nude but there are many activities/restaurant and the water is beautiful). We also got to go the a flea market on the french side and purchase souvenirs- (prices were pretty good :)
It was a great experience, I was able to go to 6 islands for approx 500$ US- That's a steal! (not including flight)
Most people were friendly and the staff did their best to make us feel welcomed
My only concerns:
As this is a southern Caribbean cruise: I wish the food on the cruise had more local dishes to showcase the many tastes of the islands. ( for example:cornmeal porridge or fried dumplings/johnny cakes, salt fish or mackerel at breakfast. jerk chicken, rice and peas, flying fish for lunch, fruits such as mango and papaya- just more Caribbean foods)
Also- there were areas where people were smoking which were just unacceptable (any area with food you should not be smoking in!!)
Although there is an laundry room with an iron in it - it would be more convenient if each room had its own iron
The ship rocks more during the evening and can be felt more on the lower decks- bring motion sickness medicine- try and get a higher deck if it is in your budget
Other than that- I hope this is helpful to you and enjoy your cruise!!!