The vacation was great....let's give a quick rundown...we sailed on the Carnival Valor out of Miami, FL on July 29, 2007, doing a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise.
We are a married couple from the Joplin, Missouri area. Eric is 34, and Dannielle is 25. This is our second cruise.
It started off rough...our original flight ( Springfield to Memphis, Memphis to Miami) was delayed 2 hours, so they put us on another flight with another airline....(Springfield to Dallas, Dallas to Miami).
Our flight from Dallas to Miami had mechanical issues, so they had to put us on another plane, which we almost missed due to lack of communication.
We barely made it to the ship...in fact, due to flight delays, the ship delayed leaving for those of us that booked our flight through Carnival. We were not even to our stateroom when the set sail and started the lifeboat drill.
The port embarkation process was speedy though.
So, we proceeded to drink....lol
We highly suggest booking a flight the day before and spending a little extra money for a hotel room to ensure a nice and calm boarding process.
Our stateroom was OK...last minute decision put us on the second floor ocean view...no balcony, and too close to the engines....we could really feel it when they started breaking to go into port.
Since we had no door to the outside, it was a little stuffy at times, and the AC was not the greatest...but it was better than most hotels we have stayed in.
I suggest spending a little more (and booking more than a month before) and getting a balcony stateroom or better.
The food was OK....but not great...buffet was crappy....I had one good meal in the fancy dinner area...and other than that, the best food came from the hamburger and hotdog grill. The Conquest was much better.
What was nice was that they were able to change our seating time with ease. Due to our booking the cruise so late, we were unable to get the late seating time we requested. So, we asked to have it changed, and not only did we get late seating, we were pleased to find we had a wonderful table for two on the balcony overlooking the lower dining room.
The Spa was wonderful. Eric had 2 Ooh-la-la massages and a deck massage (right there by the pool), Dannielle had one Ooh-la-la massage and an Ionithermie treatment. Eric highly suggests the Ooh-la-la massage, and Dannielle saw results in her treatment. It is affordable and highly relaxing.
The first morning (Monday) we were in Nassau, Bahamas. It was a short day...too short, and our excursion was cancelled due to not enough people. I guess no one wanted to go on a party barge at 8am...lol.
We decided to do our own thing. As soon as we got off (at toofreaking:early AM), we realized the shops were not open yet...so we decided to walk around...we met a guy who said his name was Elvis who drove a horse and buggy (the horses name was Nat King Cole), he offered us a tour of the island for $15 each...and we said sure. Great idea. It was a nice leisurely tour around that part of the island. He gave us history and tons of information about everything we say. It took about 30 to 45 minutes. Afterwards, we went back to the ship and ate....should have done that first...but had hoped for some good local flavor.
When we were done, the shops had opened, so we shopped and went back to the ship.
The next day was at sea, and we were lazy.
On Wednesday, we went to St. Thomas. Everyone on the ship must go through customs, but it goes pretty fast. Since we had a tour from outside the cruise line, we let them know, and they put us in the line with early tour folks.
We had found out about a guy named Sunny Liston through the Cruise Critic message boards, and had booked his tour ahead of time at $25 per person. He picked us up at the dock and took us to the shopping district. After a couple hours of shopping, he picked us up and took us on a tour of the island. Driving through town, he took us up the mountain to Paradise point, and to Mountain Top. The view was amazing. This island is one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. From there he gave us a choice of which beach, even taking us by Coki when we asked. Coki was way too crowded, so went to the beach he originally suggested, Sapphire Beach. It was wonderful! No crowd at all and a delight. Afterwards, he came to pick us up and take us to port where we shopped some more. We highly suggest Sunny if interested in the island, it is hard to fit so much in so little time, and you can't beat the price!
We loved St. Thomas so much we are looking into moving there.
On Thursday, we went into St. Maarten. What a beautiful island.
In the morning we went through the Carnival excursions and booked onto the Golden Eagle Catamaran Tour. Due to high winds, we were taken to an alternative beach which was nearly deserted. They never did unfurl the sails due to the wind, but it was a fun ride, and on the way back there was plenty of rum and sandwiches. The snorkeling at the beach was not all that great as there was no coral and few fish, but the beach and water was wonderful.
After we returned, we took the water taxi ($5 per day, per person, for unlimited use) to the shopping district. The map they gave us was a bit off scale, but we figured it out and had a great time.
While in St. Maarten, we found the Yoda Guy shop. He was a key person in the creation of Yoda from the Star Wars movies. If you love Sci-Fi, you must go here. Both he and his wife are wonderful, and he is a truly talented artist.
Friday and Saturday were days at sea. We took advantage of the pools, hot tubs, and other entertainment on ship and relaxed and recovered from the last few days. We loved how the pool at the rear of the ship was open late, and took advantage of it. We also took advantage of a dance lesson one of the dancers gave. We enjoyed our on ship time as much as we enjoyed our time in port.
Another wonderful thing about this cruise was every port was right at the dock...no tendering. So getting on and off the ship throughout the day was a breeze.
Debarkation was pretty organized as well, and went smoothly. We chose to self assist, which we highly suggest if you are not overburdened with luggage. Since we had a late flight, we waited towards the end of last call for those doing self assist, and went through the line. Miami port is extremely organized, and I was pretty impressed with their efficiency, but was still shocked to notice security was mild.
Our flight home was pretty uneventful, but we do want to suggest a restaurant in the Memphis Airport called The Blue Note. They had wonderful food and service.
All in all, we loved this cruise; we loved the ports, and had a blast. This ship, however, really needs to work on the quality of their food, both in the dining room, and the buffet.