We have discovered that late April, early May is the best time to cruise! Each year we choose a Carnival cruise, and this was our second trip on the Valor. We have yet to be disappointed.
Arriving in Miami a day early works best for us. After meeting up with friends at the airport we took a cab to the hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn at Bayside again. This is a very convenient place to stay and helps us get into that "Cruisin state of mind". When you check in ask for a port view room! Dinner was at the Cuban American Cafe at Bayside. It was not bad, but we have had better Cuban food at Bongos. The price was right though. My DH and I took a tour of the bay and Star Island. This was a fun way to spend some time, and got us out on the water which is what we love!
After a nice breakfast at the hotel the four of us took a cab to the port around 11:00 a.m. This turned out to be a good idea. We were onboard the ship by 11:30! This is the earliest that I have been able to board on any of the 8 cruises I have sailed on.
We loved our cabin! The long balcony and square shape to the cabin was even more spacious than a regular balcony cabin.
We have been to Grand Cayman before so we decided to try a different tour company to be different. Nativeway tours proved to be a good choice. After sailing to Stingray Sandbar and enjoying the stingrays we did some snorkeling at the reef which was beautiful! we then went to Rum Point Beach for lunch and local beer at the beach. This was a clean lovely spot and the food was hot, fresh and delicious!
The main reason we sailed this itinerary was to go to Roatan. This port has become one of our favorites! We booked a fantastic driver in advance through Captain Vans Rentals, his name is Brett. This polite young man was a delight. His minivan was fairly new with leather seats, and cold a/c. He went to college in the states and was quite articulate. After picking us up at the port we went to the Stone Castle Cameo Factory. This is a very interesting place to visit. I did make a couple of nice purchases, don't hesitate to bargain with them, and then it was off to the West bay beach resort called Banannarama. We found this to be a place we would love to return to for a vacation. It was very clean secure and had a large bar area with live music and lots of clean tables and shade to eat lunch. They had lounge chairs on the beach. Brett stayed with our stuff at our chairs the entire time we were in the water.
If you want to snorkel here go to the left down the beach and swim out to the coral shelf, then follow the shelf back up the beach. We saw an abundance of healthy coral and a large amount of sea life, just beautiful!
We ended our day with some shopping at the port area. There was a lot of well made hand carved Mahogany items to choose from!
Our next stop was at Belize. The last time we were here we used Coral Breeze and it was wonderful so we wanted to go with them again. It was a nice surprise to see Evan at the pier, the same tour guide we had before. He even bought my DH a Bilikin beer, which he loves! Our other tour guide was Henni. We had her as a guide along with Evan last time and she is a very knowledgeable and informative guide. We swam with stingrays, snorkeled the barrier reef, and had delicious lunch at Caye Caulker.
Our last port of call was Cozumel, since we have been here multiple times we choose again to try something new. We booked a snorkel tour with Eagle Ray. This proved to be another good choice. The surf was quite strong so we were unable to go out to Planacar reef, but we did dive at three other spots along the coastline. Our guide Said was very helpful and worked hard to ensure we had a good trip. They made sure the boat followed us along the way and we never had to swim very far to get back on board and go to the next spot. This tour was ended with a lunch. There was time to do some shopping before and after the tour, which is important for a stop at Cozumel!
All in all we were very happy with our cruise, we met lots of fun and diverse people. DH and I participated in some onboard games and did some dancing. The wine and martini bar is our favorite spot to have a drink and enjoy new friends. Be sure not to miss the Bean Bag Toss (or Corn Hole as we know it), this is very fun to do and quite entertaining! We very much recommend using the express baggage service now offered, made debarkation not so painful, less worries too!