Well, this was our second cruise with Carnival. Our groups consisted myself (37), DH (41), DD (17), DD (15). We also traveled with our friends and their 2 boys, ages 12 & 16, as well as another couple. Our stateroom on Main deck connected with our friends who traveled with the boys. Our stateroom steward was OK-neither excellent but certainly not a slacker.
PSA from me: We encountered pax from Southern NJ that I will affectionately call "The Butinski's. I call them this as they constantly pushed and shoved to get to the front of the line wherever they went. Guess what! You don't need to be the first person in line! Really, you'll get where you need to be, just be patient. & they weren't the only rude pax. Another "gentleman" screamed at the poor cleaning guy because the Washington dining room wasn't open for breakfast when he arrived. As if the cleaning guy had any control over this. Another? Screamed at the cleaning crew on Saturday night because Carnival closed the bars at 11:00 pm. Again, what is up with screaming at folks who have no say or ability to make a change? If you have an issue, take it to the people who can affect said change: the Pursers. Thank you.
Embarkation went well as we were practically the last to arrive at port! We were convinced to allow Carnival to book our air: Word to the wise, Do not do that. Our flight was the last out of Philly to arrive in time for the cruise and any little hiccup would have found us racing to the next port. Luckily, we made it, but I was a wreck! The real issue was that the gentleman who was to direct us to the correct bus for transfer was intoxicated! He made the process difficult, & then held the bus driver up from departing the airport. We all held our breath that we'd make it on time. You can bet Carnival will get letter about this! My only complaint was that the immigration form for the Bahamas was not included in our cruise documents, forcing us the rush to fill out the form in the terminal. Of course, our friends, The Butinski's were the first on the bus & made it on board the Valor before us...
Muster drill: We have learned to wait about 10 minutes after the call for muster drill so that we get to stand out front and the hallways and stair wells aren't as packed with people. The muster drill took place as we started to sail away, so we were disappointed that we missed part of our departure. C'est la vie. At least we know what to do in the event of an emergency. Safety First! As I stood listening to the safety talk, imagined with a giggle that the Butinski's must have fought their way to be the first to arrive....
Entertainment: The entertainment crew was fabulous; great shows and comedians.
Dining: We were assigned the 8:30 seating in the midship Lincoln Dining room which would have been no big deal except that the service was SLOW. We often waited 45 minutes between appetizer/salads and the main course. We often didn't finish dinner until after 10pm. Warm chocolate melting cake was served every night, Yum. DH loved the escargot served on Friday night. The lido buffet was OK-the usual breakfast foods, etc. The Deli, Fish & Chips, Grill and Asian stations were excellent. The Pizza was just OK, but then again, I am not a big pizza fan, either. We did not eat in the Supper Club, Scarlett's.
Staff: I must say that the staff are all very polite, and will greet you as they go about their duties. Truly a nice change from land based resort staff.
Cruise director: Chris Jefferson was our cruise director. Nice accent!
Monday: Nassau. We had no real plans for Nassau, so we debarked after those with booked excursions. No problems there. We went into the port terminal and found "Dan the Man", who took us on a 2 hour island tour. It was nice; he showed us the usual sights, and then took us to the upper class, middle class, and lower class neighborhoods. We stopped for about 40 minutes at Atlantis, lost $20 in a slot and went back to the ship in time for lunch. After departure, we had our first formal night. Everyone looked so nice! Our cruise took a turn for the worse as we encountered rocky seas, and we lost a few of our group to sea sickness. Those who remained had a good time on deck before and after dinner, and we made new friends who were from North Carolina.
Tuesday: Day at sea. The sea sickness that hit others finally got me! I could barely tolerate sitting in the Ivanhoe for the shopping talk. The rocking subsided, & we were better toward the latter part of the day. My family enjoyed the pools, enjoyed our new found NC friends, played bingo and played in the casino.
PSA from me: If you switch rooms with your grandson and are in possession of his cabin key, please get your assigned cabin key back before you debark on an excursion-Carnival knows your grandson is not you, and your arguing with ship's security is futile & only holds the debarkation process up for the rest of us who are in possession of common sense and our assigned cabin keys. Thank you.
Wednesday: St. Thomas. We booked the Magen's Bay & Paradise Point tour. Because Carnival tells us to stay on ship's time, everyone was late for our tour. (St Thomas is 1 hour ahead.) After sitting on a hot, open bus, a driver was finally located and off we went. The tour was good, the beach was great. The views from Paradise Point are gorgeous! I took many pictures! DH and the other two men in our group went diving and had a great time as well. Overall, we enjoyed St Thomas.
Thursday: St Martin. We encountered the Butinski's again and as predicted, they pushed and shoved to be one of the first to debark….We booked an island tour. Gorgeous! We did stop on the French side & did some shopping. On a funny note, we witnessed not one but 2 fender benders on the island. I swear that this caused an island wide traffic jam! I was amazed that while the people of St Martin were generally laid back outside a car, inside they were in a rush and not afraid to honk the horn or pass on blind curves if the bus was going too slow! Having come from a cooler climate, I swore that I was melting in St Martin. We were back on ship in time for lunch, then more shopping in Phillipsburg. We opted to not go to the Lincoln dining room and ate at the buffet this night as we wanted to be finished eating before 10pm.
Friday & Saturday: Days at sea. Did the usual; pool hopping, bingo, casino and eating like a champ. Friday was our second formal night. Saturday night we cheered on our newest friend from North Carolina, Ronnie, as he participated in the Legend's show as Garth Brooks. The best pax hands down was the gentleman who sang Frank Sinatra. Awesome job!
Club O2: We were disappointed in the lack of organization and activities for our teens on the Valor. The teen director on the Glory, Oksana, was a much better director. It was only on Thursday that the teen director managed to engage our teens in some fun activities.
Debarkation: We had an 11:55am flight out of FLL (Thanks, Carnival ?) so we self debarked. All in all it took us about 45 minutes to get out the bus loading area. True to form the Butinski's pushed to be on the first bus to FLL …. Good thing they did that because they had arrived with plenty of time to… sit at the airport.
PSA from me: We all need to leave the good time that is a cruise vacation and we are all sad to go. But when a family steps aside to wait for their child who was cut off from her family by rude, pushy individuals, do not roll your eyes, stamp your foot and snarl, "For God's sake, what is the hold up!" What a Jerk. Ms Jerk didn't get off the ship any faster than we did! I did wonder if Ms Jerk was related to the Butinski's ….
We noticed some cost cutting on Carnival's part: no individual jellies or syrups, etc on the Lido buffet, the chocolate buffet was smaller, no refills of the goodie basket in our bathroom, watered down sour cream and half and half in the diningroom, smaller portions of food, etc. Having said this, these minor observations did not affect our opinion of the cruise: overall we had a good time, & met new friends. We'll be cruising again!