Carnival Valor Cruise Review by brzymom: Sweet 16 Cruise
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Sweet 16 Cruise
There were 10 girls turning Sweet 16 and 10 Moms of said girls. Some were first time cruisers, some had as many as 10 prior cruises. We planned this trip over a year ago as an alternative to the over the top parties for Sweet 16's these days.
Everything about this cruise start to finish was fun! Our part of the group (6) arrived in Miami on Saturday night and were picked up by family who we stayed with overnight. Embarkation was quick and easy--though there was a line when we arrived about 1:30 pm, Carnival kept it moving and within moments we were onboard.
We dropped our carry ons in our cabin, which was an oceanview with a good sized window. Pleasantly surprised to find three closets, several drawers, and plenty of shelf space in the bathroom!
Off to Rosie's on the Lido Deck for the buffet lunch. Bar Waiters circulated with the obligatory drinks in the souvenir glass. Our group of 20 congregated and those who had boarded early began to show the rest of More us the ropes. The ship is lovely and has many visually stunning features--several American flag themed tiled floors, the atrium that goes for five floors, the "hero & heroine" portraits and images throughout. The trendy themed bars and lounges had something for everyone from the Lindy Hop Piano Bar to the Bronx Bar (sports) to Winston's Cigar Bar with deep leather chairs and a dark, cozy atmosphere.
All bags arrived at our cabins prior to our dinner. We were greeted warmly in the dining room and quickly rearranged our tables 8/8/4 into two large tables 10 with no problem. Our waiter suggested entrees each night and appetizers and dinner arrived promptly, piping hot and portions just right. Our waiter often ordered an extra entree and offered us some to try. Our Maitre'd visited nightly, and not just when it was time for tips. Our table of ten 16 year old girls were treated just as well at their table. They were treated with respect, I had fully expected some eye rolling and deep sighs at the sight of all those giggling teenage girls, but they were treated just as well as we were. After dinner the girls went to the teen club-H2o and the Moms strolled the ship. They found 30 new best friends and the Mom's relaxed on deck.
Monday was our day at sea and I started it in the gym, though it was tough to get a machine at just 7am!! After that a quick shower and down to the Washington Dining Room for breakfast. I was placed with a young couple who looked decidely uncomfortable with the arrangement and soon departed. They were replaced by a mother and daughter on a family trip. Breakfast was excellent. The day was spent exploring the ship and relaxing on deck, sliding into the pool and just enjoying! There were so many choices for lunch it was hard to decide--oriental, deli, and fish & chips, pizza, burgers all had their own areas. Then there was the hot buffet with daily themes-italian, mexican, indian, etc. Always plenty of fresh fruit and a selection of cakes, etc.
The Captain's Cocktail party was a pleasant surprise--assorted trays of drinks came 'round, but waiters took orders for any drink you wanted. We had pre-arranged to take a group photo with the photographer after supper, which was done in the lobby bar--with the photog aimed down at us from the staircase. (Unfortunately, someone sat at the piano stool and ended up in our picture--but they were able to "photo-shop" her out and the picture was great!)
Since many of us had already been to Grand Cayman we chose to just taxi to the beach. We rented chairs and umbrellas and just chilled! Going in by tender is not my favorite, but it was painless. That evening we had a lovely meal and enjoyed the piano bar. We requested songs Duane the singer/pianist obliged. A good time was had by all.
Next morning we were docked in Roatan and set off on our excursion-- Canopy zip line and then Tabyana Beach. Those in our group who did not want to zip went along with us on the same bus. We were dropped at the zip and the rest went on to the beach. Zip lining was incredible! And exhausting! We joined our friends at a great beach. It was gorgeous! There was water, ice tea and lemonade, nice chaise lounges and plenty of shaded trees. The snorkeling was amazing.That night after another nice meal we sat on the deck and enjoyed a Bee-Gees concert on the jumbo screen while enjoying wine we had brought aboard (they allow one bottle per passenger--and you can re-stock in Grand Cayman and its no problem, but don't try buying any in Roatan or Belize). We watched the lunar eclipse from the deck!
Belize was another tender port. We had an excursion for cave tubing which was recommended on this site. Our guide met the ship and took us on a bus ride of nearly an hour all the while pointing out sites and telling us about his country. The walk through the rainforest was much less strenuous than we thought and the ride through the caves was relaxing as our guide kept us linked together and watched out for the all the bumps and rocks along the way for us! Never once did Michael give us the "tip talk" and there was no tip cup for him or the driver. My group was happy to acknowledge his work with a nice tip.
Note- Roatan and Belize are not your typical Caribbean ports. These are rustic, undeveloped areas which will not be so for long. The people were lovely at both places, but the poverty was evident. The natural beauty is the gem at both ports and should be enjoyed. There were no Margaritaville's or Burger Kings in either of these ports, but there were both in Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
Cozumel was a port we docked in last on Friday. We had arranged a dolphin swim with the same outfit Carnival used for $50 less per person! We spent over an hour in the water with these lovely creatures and everyone got a handshake, a kiss and a ride.
There were plenty of photos taken of us all on the ship and they had "dress up" sets nightly--old time western one night, pirates another. The girls loved this! They were asked to join in the waiters entertaining singing and dancing nightly and treated to birthday crowns and a cake another night!
Our last day aboard was spent by the pools, nice meals, farewells to new friends. Our girls had memories for a lifetime and just this once, the Mom's enjoyed the celebration as well!!
Disembarkation was another pleasant surprise--you can disembark with your own luggage if you choose--which greatly speeds the process! You can walk off when you choose! Full breakfast was available in both the dining room and Rosie's on the Lido Deck--not just danish and coffee and the waitstaff and chefs were as pleasant that last morning as they were every other day of the cruise!
I had never sailed Carnival before, but was so impressed by everything that I cannot wait to book my next cruise--with Carnival!! Less
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