Review of Carnival Valor Exotic Western Caribbean, March 18, 2007:
I've always found the reviews on this website to be extremely helpful and fun to read, so I wanted to post mine as well in case someone else is able to find the information helpful!
Little background: I'm 24 years old and went on the Carnival Valor with my 25 year old boyfriend. We've both been on Carnival cruises before - this was actually our third together and our second on the Valor. Nothing could top the first time we went on this ship together, but this trip definitely came close. We both had a great time.
We're from Connecticut and flew down to Fort Lauderdale airport the day after the huge snowstorm in the northeast. We stayed overnight in Miami at a Fairfield Inn, and then caught the hotel shuttle to the pier in the morning. We arrived around 12:30
Embarkation was a breeze - within an hour, we were on the ship. Our room, a balcony cabin in the front left on the 7th floor, wasn't ready yet, so we had some lunch, walked around the ship.
The Valor itself is a great ship. It's very big and doesn't really feel that crowded (except on sea days when you're trying to find a lounge chair. The cruise director, Chris Jefferson, did a great job. He was very funny and both my boyfriend and I liked him quite a bit.
The cabin was very nice - a little noisy from our neighbors, but that can't really be helped. The balcony was great and we could see the bridge from our room. The captain even waved to us a few times. I think that having the balcony makes a huge difference - it's very nice to have a little personal space outside without having to fight people on the Lido deck for chairs. We were able to watch the sunset a few times, and that was nice. Our room steward was Justino, who was wonderful. He always had a smile and remembered our names and that was really nice.
The food was great on this trip. We ate in Rosie's (the buffet) for breakfast and lunch (if we weren't at a port), and then in the Lincoln Dining Room, late seating, for dinner. Our table-mates were great (Steven, I know you're reading this!) I wound up having fish most nights and it really was always well-prepared and well-presented. My boyfriend and I did one evening at Scarlett's supper club, which is absolutely worth the $30/person surcharge.
The shows were so-so. We had seen some of the same acts on the Valor last year so we didn't go to a few. The comedians were pretty good and I liked that there were a lot of midnight comedy shows (I think 3 during the week) that were offered.
We usually like to do karaoke, but found that it was pretty dismal on the ship. There wasn't really a lot of energy from the DJ or the crowd. (Unfortunately, too, because we had such a fun time doing karaoke with Misty on the Valor back in '05.) We went to the piano bar one night and had a good time, but like other people said, it was very smoky.
All in all, we had a blast on this trip!
Great ports and it was really nice to be able to go to 4 different places in one week (our last cruises only made 3 stops.) I had considered trying to book a few tours through 3rd parties and not Carnival to save some money, but I really like the assurance that if something happens and the tour is delayed, the ship will wait for you. We never had to worry and it made life easy to book through them.
GRAND CAYMAN - Hands down, the stingray tour is the best option for this port, but we had been to Grand Cayman last year on the Liberty and did it, so we wanted to try something else. We picked the Shore Snorkel tour, which was pretty fun and relatively inexpensive. Right off the pier is a big shipwreck, so we were able to explore that for a while. After the tour, we had lunch at Paradise (great atmosphere, so-so food), and then took a cab to 7 mile beach.
HONDURAS - Great, great port - just like everyone else has said, it's pretty un-touristy. We scheduled the zipline canopy tour which was the highlight of the trip for me. It looks and sounds a lot scarier than it actually was but the adrenaline rush from zipping from tree to tree so high up was just amazing. After the zipline, we were transported to Tabyana beach - absolutely gorgeous, but with all the amenities (food, bars, chairs, shops.) The bus ride back to the port was on the terrifying side - lots of steep cliffs and struggling engines on old busses. The only complaint I had was that they scheduled too many people to go on this excursion - we wound up waiting for over an hour once we reached the ziplines to actually begin. But this was definitely my favorite excursion.
BELIZE - My boyfriend loves snorkeling and we heard it's great in Belize, so we scheduled Goff's Caye snorkel tour. This was actually pretty neat. Instead of getting on a tender to the pier, the boat to Goff's Caye picked us up right from the Valor and took us to this amazing tropical island off the coast. From there, we had the option to snorkel from the shore or take a boat out and snorkel from the boat to the island. We opted for the latter, and it was definitely the right decision. The reefs were amazing, we saw some great fish, and wound up back on the beach anyway.
After we got back to Valor, we had enough time to eat lunch at Rosie's, then take a tender to the actual port of Belize. There was a boardwalk with several shops. We ventured off the beaten path just a little and found a fun pirate museum (doing free rum tastings) and did a little shopping before coming back to the ship.
COSTA MAYA - We had also visited Costa Maya last year on the Liberty. Our first time there, we went to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins (great trip, absolutely worth it) but this time we wanted to try something different. In the morning, we shopped at the port (there are great stores and I had a blast bargaining EVERYTHING we bought. We came home with some fun souvenirs.
Later in the day, we did the bike and kayak tour. I really enjoyed it because it was something a little different, very athletic, and you got to go a little off the beaten path. The tour was a 3 mile bike ride to the town of Mahaulal where there's a great beach. Then we kayaked in the ocean for about 45 minutes, then biked back to the port.
Then it was another sea day, and then back to Miami.
We actually did an excursion in Miami, too, because we had a late flight out of Fort Lauderdale Airport. The only excursion with an option to transfer to the FLL airport was to South Beach. It was worthwhile because they stored your bags and brought you right to the airport (and was cheaper than a cab ride would have been), but the tour guide was just so-so. Still fun to walk around and it gave us time to have lunch and feel like we had an extra day of our vacation.
Thanks for reading this!