My DW and I just got home from driving home from Miami after our Honeymoon cruise on the Valor from June 10-17th. I guess I will do my best to keep this review organized. Background: My DW and I decided for our honeymoon to go to Disney world from Philadelphia by train. The train was ok but I don't think that I would choose that rout again. We are first time cruisers and we were in disney till the 9th when we went to fort Lauderdale.
Embark: We woke up in our Ft. Lauderdale hotel (Sheriten Yankee Clipper GREAT PRICE ON PRICELINE 1/4 of what it usually goes for!) at about 10:00 AM. We drove our rental into the Hertz at the airport and called a cab. We got into the port at like 2 and got in several lines to get on the ship. We waited a while but the line moved quickly and it seemed very organized. We finally got on the ship and went to our cabin.
Cabin: We stayed in a balcony on the 10th floor room 1055. The room was alot bigger then we had imagined. I figured honestly that it would look like the room on the train we had just gotten off a week earlier. We really liked the location because the view was amazing off the balcony. We asked the cabin steward Julio to unlock the Mini-bar and we proceeded to place all of the bottles and cans into the top drawer of the desk. We loaded the fridge with water and Gatorade.
Ports of Call: Just a little background before getting into our excursions. We decided that we would book/ do our own thing at all the islands and book our own excursions (Except Belize). Grand Cayman: We got off the ship and we were struck by the feeling that this Island wasn't really anything that special. It seemed as if the island was like your average american city. We explored all of the shops around the port area. We decided that we would go to 7 mile beach so we bought some bathing suits (we forgot ours on the boat and didn't want to tender back to get them, Lol, DW was in boys trunks and a teeshirt) The cab ride was only 4 bucks, which is alot better then the 35 that the cruise ship was going to charge us for the same ride. We were shocked about how clean the water was at this beach. We swam for an hour or so and then went back to the ship, on the way we bought our own bottle of Big Black Dick Rum. Star Rating: ***/***** Roatan: This was by far our absolute favorite. We booked a tour with Victor Boden. We were amazed at the beauty of this island. We came from the Caymans so the natural beauty of this island was even more amplified. When we met our guide he walked us to his cab and gave us a tour that we will never forget about the island. The weather was pretty cloudy and it was spitting so our guide told us that the Iguana farm would be a waste of money because if it isn't sunny you won't see Iguanas. The first stop we took was a roadside stop. It was of one of the shipwrecks around the island, we got out and took our pictures. There were a few kids there selling some goods cheap. We bought a conch shell that was really pretty for a dollar and we bout a small bag of Roatan money for a dollar as well. We moved on to some more cool sites and took a bunch of pictures. We asked the guide to take us to somewhere we could hold monkeys. He took us to the land that Victor owned. We played with 3 of victors monkeys and had a great time. We also thought it was fun to see an ant eater that Victor had as a pet as well as see his pet deer. After the monkeys we went to lunch at the Coral Cay Resort. We though it was neat here. The restaurant was right on the water and when you looked over the railing you got to see the reef. DW got fried shrimp and I got the Island fried chicken. The food was amazing. We were so impressed with our guide that we bought him lunch as well. After lunch we stopped at a beach for a photo op. We didn't bring suits so asked to go to the orphanage. We are both social worker majors and were really impressed at how clean and nice this orphanage was. It was really cool that each child (18 total minus one) came up and introduced themselves to us. The only child we didn't meet was their newest. He came to them at 9 months old in a shoebox with the scabies and bugs literally jumping off of him. He was not 18 months old and a very happy boy. He was taking a nap so we didn't meet him. We left the island and paid our $40 PP for the tour and a nice tip for a great job he did. Star Rating: ******/***** Belize: My DW got sick before the excursion we booked with carnival. We booked the Baboon sanctuary and city tour. I ended up going by myself because I wanted to see the island. To be honest I was very disappointed by the island. It was very poor which isn't really that big of a problem, but it had a different feel then Roatan. There was alot more desperation here. The people seemed to be out to just get your money and the venders were very very pushy. The tour was interesting and I got to see a family of 9 wild howler monkeys up close and personal. I got back to the port and got right on a tender back to the ship. Star Rating: **/***** Costa Maya: We had alot of fun at this port of call. We decided not to book any excursions and just go at it on our own. We got off the boat and walked the long long hike off the pier. The one thing that really hit us was how fake the port area was. It was all constructed by the cruise ship industry and seemed very fake. The shops seemed very expensive given that this was Mexico. We walked around the back of the Port area and found the line to get to the village by bus. It was forever long and we asked if there was another way out. The guy said no and we had to wait in the line in the 95* weather. We decided to ask someone else and they told us to leave the port area and walk two blocks to the Taxi Stand. We took a cab to the fishing village where the Cats Meow is located. We walked around there and got some AMAZING deals on some keepsakes including a huge hand carved Mayan Sun Dial and an amazing hand stitched Mayan Sundial blanket for like 35 bucks. The Cats Meow was such a cool place. we got lunch and hung out on the beach and talked to some fellow cruise critic people and other cruisers. We spent a few hours relaxing and swimming at the Cats Meow. The owner came and introduced herself to us and was very nice. My DW bought a Cats Meow tank top and we left to go back to the port. We got back to the boat and took a nap. The only thing we didn't really like about this port was that he people selling stuff were very pushy and didn't take no for an answer. Other then that is was amazing. I even rented a jet Ski for 30 Min for 40 bucks. Star Rating ****/*****
The Boat: The design was beautiful and very appealing to the eye. We were impressed that there was always something to do. I had alot more fun on the boat then DW because she was nauseous anytime she went below deck 5. This really put a damper on her trip but she had fun with what she could do. She spent alot of time in the room so thank god it was nice and the bed was so comfy. Some of my favorite events were the stand up comedians and the gambling. We didn't play that much maybe 150 between the 2 of us and prob. broke close to even. I played alot of video poker and it was fun. The Piano bar was also the most fun I have ever had at a bar. The design is amazing, and the piano player is very talented as well as funny.
Dining: As I stated earlier my DW got sick when we went below deck 5 because of movement so she didn't go the the dining room. We ate the majority of our meals on lido. The food was good and plentiful! I did go to the dining room on 2 nights because I really wanted the menu. My DW was a sport and wasn't mad about me going without them. I was guided to our table. It was a 2 top and I was like my wife can't come and its pretty depressing eating alone. He moved me to a table with a family from Chicago that was very nice and included me in their dinner as well as conversation. The thing that did upset me about the DR was that after I told them my wife's situation they refused to let me bring a plate up to her and the 2 times I went I had to literally sneak desert up to the room. I waited till "Showtime" and then made a run for it.
Tips: Tipping wasn't that much of an issue. We did fix the tips at the pursers desk however. Since I had only eaten at the DR 2 times I took all but 11 dollars (5.50 a day) off our Sign and Sale card because there is no sense tipping for a service we didn't even receive so that saved us 66 bucks (Although it just covered my red stripe addiction SO GOOD)
Getting off the boat: The last morning was sad. We got our tags the day before and after self assist and priority debark we were the first called. We woke up at 7:30 got some breakfast and waited to be called. The disembark was organized as well and were in our cab to the airport to pick up our car for a drive back to Philly by 9:30.
The STRANGE occurrences!!: Our cruise had 2 very unexpected situations that arose, actually hopefully someone can shed some light on the second. We were leaving Grand Cayman at a good clip (about 15 Knots) when all of a sudden I felt that we had stopped. I went out to the balcony to see what was up and we watched a tender boat come flying up to the ship and we unloaded 4 seemingly drunk people back on the ship and continued on our way. I had read that the boat doesn't wait for people and was very intrigued that we had stopped, it actually happened at all the ports that we picked up stragglers well after we should have left them. I believe that they did a good job with this and only pray that they would have done the same for us. After Costa Maya while I was at dinner I noticed ALOT of Movement. Needless to say my wife also noticed back at the room. She looked at the thing on the TV and saw that we were doing 25 knots. Which was 5 knots faster then we were ever going before. We were about to go to bed at 10:30 when Kelly G our cruise director came on the speaker and told us that there was a medical emergency and we would be diverting just close enough to the Cozumel coast for a rescue boat to come and take this person away for medical attention. Our balcony was on the side that the boat came up on so of course we went out on the balcony and watched. Its a wonder the whole ship didn't tip with the number of people out on one side of the ship watching. Our neighbors were all trading what they had heard. The consensus was that it was a little boy. The tender process was brutal, it took them 55 min to hook up with our ship because of the sea being pretty rough. Sure enough a little boy about 5 was loaded onto this rescue boat and his family was also loaded on with all of their luggage. If anyone has any more info about this I would appreciate it because we are intrigued and concerned.
All and all we had a great time and we figured out that the nausea may or may not have been sea sickness (Girl Stuff I am told UTI) so that makes me thing that we may be cruising again. I hope so it was a ball. I hope this review helps people, we had an amazing time for the most part and we learned that the people running a ship are people too. This being said everything won't be perfect, the lido steak may be tough, or the beer delivered to your room may not be opened (Non Twist top) but they are just little mistakes that don't really affect your vacation or the fun you have. It just goes to show that the crew is also fallible and human and not every detail can be perfect. We had a ball inspite of these small inconveniences.