This was our third cruise - second with Carnival. We got off the Valor on June 29th. Our first cruise with Carnival, we were married aboard the Ecstasy in the library. Our last cruise was over ten years ago pre kids. It was me, my DH, my DS (9), and my DD (11). This was our children's first cruise ever and first vacation that didn't involve Disney (we live 1 ½ hrs away) or visiting relatives. My best friend and cousin came with her family as well. There were a total of 11 of us ranging in ages of 9 to 67.
We live north of Tampa. We originally picked the Valor because it went to Honduras and the Legend out of Tampa didn't. By the time the hurricane came through Costa Maya and the schedules mirrored each other, we had a great room and didn't want to rock the boat so to speak. So, we drove to Miami. Not the most thrilling drive, but we went down one day early and stayed at the JW Marriott, one mile from the pier. A friend got us a great discount. It was very hoity toity. My kids thought it was great that they had bathrobes to use in the rooms.
We arrived at the port around 11:30 a.m., paid a porter a little too much to help with our bags, and planned to self-park when we realized my husband left his laptop at the hotel, which was a mile away. Thank goodness we stayed at a hoity toity hotel. We called and they had it for him. My kids and I waited at the terminal for him to return. Our friends arrived in the meantime. We went ahead and boarded while they self parked. We moved pretty quickly through all of the lines without too much trouble at all.
Our rooms were ready when we got onboard. So, we headed to find our room and drop our bags. We had a balcony room. Rooms seemed smaller than I recall, but I'm not sure what accommodations we had before other than having a balcony. I had previously arranged for my two kids to have a plush funship freddy in the room waiting for them. They delivery freddy picture frames instead. We were disappointed about that. I've called Carnival and haven't heard back about resolving it. We headed to the Lido deck to get some food. Kids were totally in awe of the ship and the slide and the huge tv by the pool and just about everything. Our friends got their bags pretty quickly. Ours arrived much later in the day.
As far as eating goes, we were booked on the 6 p.m. dining time in the Washington Dining Room. Originally, we thought this was a good idea because our kids are used to eating earlier. We will rethink that next time. Between going into port and the crazy schedule you keep on board, it was hard for us to get to the dining room at our time. We ate there three nights. All three nights, the food was great. Our waiter, Juan, and team waiter, Anak, were great. The shows weren't as quite a spectacle as I recalled, but fun. Anak pulled my DS into the congo line one night. My DS, being shy, made one turn around the next table and came back. DD loved the strawberry soup and DH and I had prime rib twice. DS got the lobster and shrimp. His first lobster ever. Loved it! The balance of the time onboard we spent pretty much at Rosie's. My kids loved going and helping themselves to whatever. There was a big variety of food for everyone's likes. I adored the Mongolian BBQ and had that 3 times during the week. DH and DS had pizza a time or two. The kids loved the endless supply of ice cream. My weakness was the warm chocolate melting cake. Delish! The staff at Rosie's was pretty much Johnny on the spot with clearing tables, etc. A couple of times we were starving and had the dining times/locations mixed up, but that was our own fault.
Camp Carnival - We registered my kids the first night. They, of course, were apprehensive, about going at all. Every time, we nudged them to participate, they did and enjoyed themselves. I was reluctant to let them wander the ship to do the scavenger hunt, but they did just fine. By the end of the cruise, we granted them more liberties and they liked meeting us at the room. They stuffed teddy bears one night and participated in activities until midnight. They went to ping pong tournaments, video game playing time, etc. One night, they went after dinner and then stayed until we picked them up at 2 a.m. They were in the arcade playing video games. Couldn't believe they were up. On port nights, it was more difficult for them to participate since they were getting up early the next day. At CC, they would dine with friends and then go to the show we were going to anyway. So, they just stayed with us. Chris Jefferson, our cruise director, was wonderful. What a witty funny guy! Most of us went to every show. I missed the ventriloquist. All of the shows were very enjoyable. To the review shows, hypnotist (Asad), comedians, juggler (was phenomenal), they were all great. One of the comedians, admittedly had MS, but was difficult a lot of the times to understand and some of his jokes were apparently over my head as I didn't get it. The Legends show was a hoot. Chris J. came out as Dolly Parton. Made you laugh until you cried.
We had a wonderful time in each port. I had done my research on CC and booked everything outside of the cruise line. I was Activity Director for the whole group which was a lot of pressure.
In GC, we went with Nativeway Watersports. Sharon greeted us and was our tour guide. We did the Stingray City and land tour. We went to the Tortuga Rum Factory. I have a giant pineapple rum cake waiting at home for me (Yum!). We went to the turtle farm at Boatswain Beach. My kids loved this. The tour guide there was a piece of work. Don't get a snack in their snack area if you are on a tour. They are soooooo slow. We saw the Governor's house and went to HELL. My kids think it's cool they can say HELL if they refer to the place we went. Got my went to HELL and back sticker for my car and we mailed some postcards. Headed out for our Stingray swim, which was superb. Definitely creepy when you get in and somewhat during feeding time. My daughter got scared and had to sit in the boat for a little bit, but then she got back in. The water was breathtaking and the stingrays couldn't have been any friendlier. They would just come and swim by. If you were in their way, they'd just bump into you. We all had our pictures done with them, kissing them, etc. The pictures should be in this week. I would have definitely loved to spend more time in the water with the rays.
In Roatan, we went through Victor Bodden for a private car. Cesar met us at the booth and hooked us up with Victor's brother, William. William was quiet, but very nice. We had to walk a little bit to our car. Of course, we were practically tackled by children selling bracelets for $1 or $2. My friend went ahead and bought one. We went to the jungle canopy tour. We all agree that this was our favorite activity of the week hands down. We had to split into two groups. Our guides were Brad and Calvin. They were great. My friend's 67 year old mom even went. Brad was great with her. The walk down to get started was a little slow going for her, but she did everything the rest of us did. By the 16th zip, my kids and DH were hanging upside down. It was fabulous! We left there and stopped briefly at the couple of shipwrecks so I could get pictures. Then, we went to Victor's house to see the monkeys. Oh, my goodness. The monkeys were great. The kids loved holding them and playing with them. They wanted to stay longer, but we wanted to squeeze a little lunch and snorkeling in before we left. I purchased two beautiful mahogany coaster sets in Victor's little gift area. I met both him and his lovely wife, Janef (sp?), before heading to Half Moon Bay to get some lunch and snorkel. This was nice. It was a very relaxing environment. We had a great meal although a little high for lunch. We managed to get about 45 minutes to snorkel the area. It was great and the water was perfect. We headed back to the pier and broke down and bought some bracelets from some young girls. If I had more time, I could have easily bought a lot more wood carved souvenirs. Everything was just beautiful.
In Belize, we tendered in. Met one of the workers named John on the tender. He showed us a map of Belize and told us a plethora of information about the wildlife, culture, etc. It made the ride over more enjoyable. Showed us a picture of his beautiful baby daughter. We tipped him a little for all of the information. We booked the ATV/cavetubing package through cavetubing(dot)com. We met them across the street in a little restaurant area. Then, we got on board a big air conditioned bus for the 1 hour drive in. We had Timmy driving and Joel and Richard on the PA. These guys are a hoot, especially Richard. We are a little rowdy, but they relished it. We all got to try cashew wine - even my kids. My friend's husband, who was a little rowdier than most, was brought up front where he chugged the rest of the bottle. The bus dropped the 11 of us at the ATV stop to go on our portion while the rest went on. My kids rode with my DH and I. This was so much fun. The trail was muddy and wet. I'm still combing the muck out of my hair. My friend's husband thought it was funny to completely hose us during the trip. You should have seen the stares from people when we were walking in to go cave tubing. The walk through the rain forest was incredible. Would have loved to walk leisurely through it. We were passing other tours up left and right. Joel and Timmy were funny getting us through the other crowds. We linked up when we hit the water. Just then, Richard and the other people met us. My friend and DH wished they could have gone on this independently. However, there are so many people, it would have been a nightmare trying to keep track of your party. Joel dragged us along where needed and let us know when to put butts up. The caves and rainforest were a wonderful site. It did rain on us, but not a huge downpour. We found it ironic that we were getting rained on in the rainforest. My DD froze here skinny butt off in the water, but she's like that. Not much meat. Walk out wasn't as long and we hopped on the bus for the ride back to the pier. Richard, Joel, and Timmy hugged every one of us goodbye. We had about 1 ½ hours for a little shopping. Most went back on board. My friend and I and our two DD went to get a beer, froo froo drink, and snacks as well as a little bit of shopping.
In Coz, we had planned a little more leisurely day since we'd been running every day. We took a cab to Chakanaab Park for the day. It was $16 pp to get in, but I had the $2 off coupon from their website. This park is beautiful. There were thatched roof cabanas, restaurant areas, swim area, beautiful water with snorkeling and scuba diving, and a garden area. We spent the day snorkeling and diving. They bring your food or drink right to you. My kids had their first drinks out of a pineapple. My kids and I walked back through the garden area. We saw a lot of iguanas. Got a picture of two of them duking it out. The dolphin encounter is also at this park. If you aren't participating you can't get real close, but close enough to see them. Took the cab back to the pier area, which was hopping with entertainment by now to show for about an hour. Found some inexpensive t shirts and my DD got a Coz tote bag for a souvenir.
Back on the boat ... the dEcor, I felt, was not too over the top. I honestly expected over the top. So, what the Valor offered, I thought was not tasteless at all. Even my DH agrees and he can be critical. When you hear they have gold eagles everywhere, you think the worst, but it was just fine. Bought a few things in the gift shop and my DH and I spent some time and money in the casino. Up on Blackjack, down on blackjack, up on craps, down on craps. You know the drill. DH would have liked to have more time, but with port nights, shows, and kids, it was difficult some nights and he prefers I go with him. I avoided the gold by the foot since I saw comments about that on CC. We enjoyed karaoke and the piano bar as well as the singing in the American Lobby. My kids loved the caboose arcade and my DD and friend had the old timey pictures taken on board. My DS conked his head three times in a row within five minutes on the upper bunk as did the rest of us. Our steward, Melvin, was the bomb. Never found him in our room. He knew all of our names and was just cute as a button.
I tried to convince my husband to do the onboard sign up for another cruise and he gruffly told me that he can wait another 15 years for a cruise. He has absolutely no specific complaints at all. He just likes his house. He mentioned that 4 or 5 days is probably adequate for him. I was bummed. However, I get home last night and he was shopping Hawaiian cruises. Me thinks that he liked it more than he relayed.
Disembarking wasn't a problem. We got #8 and were out of the terminal by 9:30 a.m. My kids and I waited with our giant pile of bags while DH went to get car. There were people pulling up to load their bags, but for some reason the security guard get ushering my husband way up in front of the taxis. Our car has a little problem with restarting after heated. So, he couldn't leave the car there and turn it off and I couldn't lug all those bags with the kids. He looped back around and pretty much ignored the guard to get to us. The guard walked up to give him grief. I explained the issue and pointed out that there are others loading their bags. I calmed him and my DH down and we left without further incident. Whew! That was close.
We will definitely cruise again! I'd love to be on Carnival again with the fabulous time they showed us. I would, however, have to be on a boat that has a good amount of ports to book those extra adventures I might not to get to try otherwise. This is definitely NOT the Walmart of cruising.