We arrived in Miami, FL one day prior to sailing. Just incase the weather here in New England wanted to rear its ugly head. We stayed at the Holiday Inn at the Port of Miami. This is a very nice and clean hotel. We did eat in the hotels restaurant and the food was good and the prices were fine.
Waking up in the morning we opened our drapes to the beautiful sight of the Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory and I believe it was the Freedom of the Seas. What a site to behold. Our kids were ecstatic. Up, showered, re-packed, ate and at the curb for our pre arranged ride to the port.
We arrived at the port at 11am. Four of our traveling companions had VIP check-in due to having suites. The rest of us were regular check in. We proceeded to get in line which went very quickly. This is a new terminal for Carnival and it seems to be running very smoothly. The check in was quick and we were on our way in no time to board the ship.
Hall doors are locked until 1:30 so the room steward's can finish cleaning from the previous passengers. Once the doors were unlocked we proceeded to our cabins. My immediate family had two cabins, an inside cabin (#8406) and a balcony cabin (#8426) on the Verandah deck. My three daughters (ages 13, 16, & 19) and I occupied the balcony. The boyfriend of my 19 yo daughter and my husband occupied the inside cabin.
Food We had the 8pm seating in the Washington dining room at table #433. Our waitress was Rashna from Nepal and her assistant Sergae. These two people made us look forward to going to dinner every night. We did have dinner one night at Scarlett's Supper Club. There is a $30 per person charge to eat here. If anyone has ever eaten at an elite restaurant you will agree that the food and service are well worth the $ here. Everyone should have this experience.
The Lido deck fare at Rosie's was of course good too. Make sure you have the fish and chips, spring rolls at the Asian counter, Reuben at the Deli, loaded hamburger at the Grille, and of course don't walk past the soft serve without getting a cone.
Monday and Friday are formal nights.
Friday at midnight is the gala buffet.
Saturday at noon there is a chocolate buffet in Rosie's.
Entertainment We did go to the two shows on board. These are performed on the formal nights. I preferred the show on Friday night. Don't get me wrong they are talented dancers and singers but I thought the Friday show was much better.
This was our third cruise and we did not take advantage of every show.
Ports of Call
Nassau - We pre booked the Dolphin Encounter with Carnival. This excursion is very popular and I suggest that you purchase your tickets as soon as they are available on Carnival's web site. This excursion was so much fun and educational as well.
St. Thomas - This was our second visit to this Island so we opted to go to town and shop. After returning to the ship my husband took his daughters and the boyfriend to Koki Beach. I thought the transportation was very expensive but hey you only go once. It was $9 pp one way. The kids had a blast as they got to snorkel. They said they saw all kinds of brightly colored fish. Of course I had wished I had gone! ?
St. Maarten - We all agreed prior to cruising that this would be a beach port. All of us except for our Aunt disembarked and took the water taxi to the beach area. Cost of the water taxi is $5 for a bracelet that allows you to ride it as much as you want. The beach was loaded with all kinds of deals. There was jet skiing, water trampoline, and of course the venders. There were 9 of us and we rented seven chairs and two umbrellas for $30. You definitely need an umbrella so you can get out of the sun. It is very hot. The water was very nice and we collected all kinds of shells.
The ship was in very good condition considering all the traffic it does get. There was to be another sailing after us and then off to dry dock for a good cleaning and some upgrades. I loved the theme of hero's and heroines. The staff was very polite and they just work so hard to make everyone's vacation a good one.
We picked this itinerary for not only the ports but the three and a half sea days. The previous cruise we took was on the Destiny and we felt we just did not get enough of the ship.
We can not say enough of the staff of this ship. They took very good care of us. I would highly recommend this cruise line to anyone.