Carnival Valor Cruise Review by J Hawk: Great vacation with kids
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Great vacation with kids
We sailed on April 13, 2008 cruise- ports of call were Grand Cayman, Roatan Island (Honduras), Belize City (Belize), and Cozumel.
I was traveling with my husband, and two children. One of my daughters is a special needs child that we were worried about on the Cruise and it turned out to be one of our best vacations with her ever. Other than the waits for elevators (people if you are lucky to be born healthy and can walk, please use the stairs and leave the elevators for people in walkers) . The ship was unfortunately difficult at times to get around in a walker. You have to take 2 elevators to get to the kids club and its hard to get from one end of the ship to the other.
Embarkation was very easy. The staff was friendly, the line moved quickly, and the terminal wasn't hot and stuffy. We arrived at 11:30 am and were on board by noon where we explored the ship and had a great lunch at the made to order Thai grill. Embarkation seemed to go smoothly for everyone else More as well, and the ship left on time.
Our room was beautiful, big, lots of closets, and fit 4 people very easily. Unfortunately our room was at the front of the ship and was very load when we had rough sea nights or were going very fast. Everytime the ship hit a wave the whole cabin shook and there was a huge bang, I would never stay at the front of the ship again. Our room steward was fantastic and introduced himself to us right away, also letting us know at approximately what times he'd be in the room during the week.
Our dinners were in the Lincoln Dining Room, first seating. We had a very friendly waiter, but not the best of service. I don't know if we were just too far from the kitchen but all our food was luke warm. The waiters were very nice to the kids and they loved them, but I have met better waiters on different cruises. The food choices were great and my 12 year old had a great time thinking she was a grown-up and ordering from the adults menu. The kids menu for my 10 year old was great, but she did discover the warm chocolate melting cake and ordered that every night. My husband and I liked the Food but felt it did not meet the standards of Royal Caribbean cruises. As for Rosie's Diner, it was good for buffet food. Make sure to check out all the specialty food bars. The Deli is amazing, the Pizza is so good that at midnight when you walk by the Pizza place you end up with a piece even when your not hungry, it smells that good. The sushi is good and the Thai made to order is worth the lineup.
The first day at sea was enjoyable but the ship didn't offer as many activities as I'd hoped for. Pool games and a couple seminars were pretty much it. Our first port of call was Grand Cayman. This was a tendered port. Unfortunately because of the weather we couldn't get into the regular tender area, so we had to go to the other side of the island. That at a pain since the Taxi ride to 7 mile beach was more expensive and longer. We took a taxi to 7-mile beach and they dropped us at the Marriott. The beach was beautiful and we had a great day playing in the water and sand with the kids.
Roatan Island, Honduras was our second port and turned out to be the most disappointing. This island is underdeveloped like all the reviews said. Our problem was that the weather was raining and foggy and there really isn't a lot to see when you don't have beautiful beaches to go to. I also didn't enjoy how pushy they locals were to braid my daughters hair. One lady was even very crude infront of my 12 year old.
We had pre-booked our excursions through Victor Bodden tours and that was a highlight. They were very accommodating to our special needs daughter and gave our family of 4 our own van and driver for the whole day for $100. We could go anywhere for the whole day. We saw Victor's Monkeys , toured the island and went to the beach in the rain. I highly recommend you look up Victor Bodden tours and save yourself a ton of money.
Our next stop was Belize City. This port was a tendered port, and the ship is FAR away from the dock. (At least a few miles.), but the tenders move very fast and the ride is an experience.
Again we booked our excursion on-line before we went on the cruise and saved a ton of money. We booked a cave tubing tour with MAJOR TOM'S CAVE TUBING. If you want to go cave-tubing in Belize (and its an amazing tour) then you have to go with Major Tom. The Cruise ships want double the price and their tours have about a 20:1 ratio and you can never find your guide. We had a guide just for our family of 4 and George was amazing.
The most amazing part about Major Tom's cave-tubing was that they were so accommodating for our special needs daughter who uses a walker. We wanted to take her cave-tubing with our whole family and Major Tom made this happen. He assigned us George who ended up carrying our daughter 35 minutes into the rainforest so that she could cave tube with us. He took care of her the whole time and we are so grateful to him for giving our family that moment of normal. I can't say enough about Major Tom and George. Cozumel was our final stop so we had decided not to pre-book anything in case the kids were tired from all the other excursions. We ended up taking a taxi to a beach club called Paradise Beach. It was a great place, lots of water sports, and my daughters got their hair braided their. If you want to get your hair braided then wait until Cozumel since they do a way better job than Honduras, it may cost more but they are smaller braids.
We then did a little bit of shopping the the shopping complex at the dock and it was clean and seemed reasonable.
The second and final day at sea was much better than the first. There were seminars, activities, games etc. Plenty of bingo, the Hairiest Chest Competition, towel folding demonstrations (we loved the animals), a galley tour, etc.
The kids loved all the shows, and we especially liked the comedians.
The kids club for my special needs daughter (9-11 year old) was great and she loved it when she was allowed to go. Unfortunately the activities sometimes were all over the boat and the basketball court and mini golf are not accessible for walkers. So she could only go to limited activities. She did enjoy leaving dinner with us early and going to the kids club for their parties when they were not going to shows.
The kids club for 12 year olds was very disappointing. My daughter showed up to a number of activities and nobody was around. When the kids did show up there were only around 5 kids. She wanted to meet new kids, but ended up staying with us during the cruise, which ended up better for us.
Debarkation was explained to us in great detail in an informative talk in the Ivanhoe Theater that also played on the big screen on the ship's deck. (This screen was GREAT! Our only complaint was that they didn't show MORE movies!)
We were in no rush to get off the boat since we were spending the day in Miami at a hotel on Miami beach. We ended up with one of the last luggage numbers and didn't get off until about noon. We took a taxi to our hotel and flew out of Ft. Lauderdale the next day.
All in all, it was a good trip that the children loved. They are hooked on cruising and loved everything about it. The staff met my expectations, the food was less than expected and I would have preferred more in the way of activities. We did not have great weather with a lot of cloudy days but that is OK. Less
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