This cruise was the first leg of our back to back on the Valor. We decided to fly into Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami, one due to a past experience and two, the airfare was $200 cheaper per person. Flying from Canada in the month December can be a bit risky, so as always, we flew in the day before without any problems. We stayed at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport that I booked through Priceline for $70 and they have a free shuttle from the terminal to the hotel that is free of charge. The next morning we had LeBlanc Limo (would highly recommend this company) pick us in a 10 passenger LimoVan. I was posting on our Roll Call that we were getting a Limo and an couple asked if they could join in and we said sure, that worked out to $18 per person (there were 6 of us) which is a great deal. We were picked up in a MercedesBenz van that had ample room for luggage and passengers. The high windows in this vehicle made for a pleasurable drive to the port as we could see a lot on the drive. Our driver was great and gave a little tour as we drove down I95.
At the port embarkation went very smoothly as we had VIP privileges so going to a special room to check in was great. We had our Sail and Sail cards within moments of entering the room. After a very short delay, we were escorted up to the gangway and onto the ship. After a quick tour around the ship, it was up to Rosies for lunch and to wait until 1:30 to go to our rooms. At exactly 1:30, we headed down to our room, which on this leg was an inside cabin. The room was exactly how we remembered it; we have always had inside cabins on Carnival as we just go there to sleep. One of our bags was already in the cabin so we unpacked it and got ready for the muster drill. The muster drill was the same as usual though a little longer this time due to a large contingent of German passengers on the ship, they did all the procedures in English and German. After the muster drill, it was up to the Lido deck for the sail away party which was fun as always. After the party, we head down to get ready for dinner.
Lincoln Dinning Room
We had early seating in the Lincoln Dinning Room and our table was located on the upper level along the inside railing, table 223. This was a table for four and was configured in booth seating which was ideal. Our wait staff came by to introduce themselves, Stephen- Head waiter and his assistant Putu where absolutely fantastic throughout the entire cruise and made our dining experience enjoyable each and every night. They remembered our names, what we liked in terms of coffee and tea after our meals and that we like to put a lot of butter on our bread so each night there were two butter dishes at our table. Last year we cruised on another cruise line and found the food to be just ok and with limited selection. On Carnival, we always found a great selection and the food to be prepared and presented in a five star manner. I always find it amazing how they can prepare so much food and it always shows up at the table hot and tasty.
The dinning room maitre'd came by to introduce himself on one evening which is always a nice touch. The assistant maitre'd, Sarita, came by each night to check if everything was o.k and we became very good friends with her. Once she found out that we were on a back to back, she made sure we sat at the same table on the next leg of our trip.
Rosies Dinning Area
We had breakfast here each morning and it was the usual breakfast food that was always good. The fruit was always clean and fresh, though they did run out of bananas on the second to last day. If you like omelettes, which I do not, they have an omelette station and according to my Dad, they are very good. Each day, there is a taste of the nation which my wife enjoyed. My parents love sea food and they ate at the fish restaurant located on the second level Rosies a number of times and said it was very good. I personally loved the deli sandwich station. The sandwiches made here are big and tasty. You can fill your plate with potato chips, coleslaw or pickles to compliment your sandwich. Also, the pizzeria has very good pizza and Caesar salad but the calzone is to die for and is worth the 8-10 minute wait (what else do you have to do, you are on vacation). The grill serves up a great hamburger, hot dogs and the onion rings are very tasty. I guess it all boils down to, the food is very good, no matter where you decide to eat.
Being the fun ship, there is always something going on to keep you entertained. If Percy Crews is on your ship, you must take in his adults only show and bring tissues as you will laugh so hard you will cry. I am not big into the Las Vegas shows but I did take in one while on this leg of our back to back and found it to be first class. The entertainment that I like the most is are the games and shows that involve cruise passengers because you just never know what will happen. The not-so-newly wed game is always fun and interesting as well as the sex,love and romance game.
Ports of Call
We have been here three time before so we wanted to try something different. After a fair amount of research we decide to do the discover scuba at Eden Rock Diving Centre. We take the first tender in the morning and are on the pier by 8:00 am. Once on the pier we walk to the main street and hang a right for the 5 minute walk to the dive center. We are greeted by friendly staff and go over the medical requirements. We are scheduled to do the 11:30 course but we sit in on the 9:00 shore class which will allow us more water time when we dive. Our instructor Dana is fantastic and we looked forward to the dive part of the course. At exactly 11:30 we enter the water for an amazing under water tour of Eden Rock because we did the shore class earlier, we are able to spend almost 45 minutes exploring the coral. If you like snorkeling then I would highly recommend doing this tour, it was the highlight of our cruise. Be sure to purchase an under water camera as there are a lot of fish and beautiful coral to take pictures of.
This was our least favorite port of call due in part to the long tender trip to the pier. It go very windy and they had to stop the tendering to the pier as a couple of people got hurt during the trips and getting in and out of the tender. We got out on the first tender in the morning before the winds got to high but it was still a very bumpy ride to the pier. Here we did Cave Tubing with Major Tom. This tour was interesting even though the water levels were low. The caves were very interesting and as was the walk to the caves itself. With the water levels being low, the tubes did not float down the river on their own but we had to paddle or get pulled along by our guide. I had thought that we would have seen more wildlife being that the tour was through a park. I would do this tour again, but only if the water levels are 1-2 feet higher.
This will be a port that I look forward to visiting again. The pier is in the final stages of being finished and will be very nice once once completed. The people here are very friendly and a pleasure to talk with. We do the Bird, Monkeys and Pirate tour here. Our guide is very informative and funny. I would recommend this tour for both old and young. My dad who is 72 loved the birds and monkeys and the kids that were on the tour had a blast. We did not know it but the tour ends at a beautiful beach and looked like a great place to swim and snorkel. Bring your cameras here as the photo opportunities are plentiful.
We have been here three times before and always find it very interesting. It is great that the cruise pier has been finally rebuilt after all the hurricane damage. Here we decide to do the Mini Jeep tour and it was well worth the money. We are met on the pier by our guides who are very knowledgeable, friendly and fun. We take a short bus ride to the garage where we guide a safety chat and info on how to operate the mini jeeps. These vehicles are very quick and fun to drive. We make a number of stops, one at a Myan ruin, a light house (worth walking up all the stairs to take pictures), a crocodile area where we saw one and to a great beach. At the beach we do snorkeling and saw some big lobsters, 3 sea turtle and a large string ray (we forgot our underwater camera on the ship so no pictures). After a bit of relaxing be get back into the jeeps to head the lighthouse where we are treated to chips and salsa which taste incredible. We spend about 30 minutes here before getting back into the jeeps to head back to the garage.
We found the decor and the layout very similar to other Conquest class ship. The main public areas have rich vibrant colors combined with a lot of glass and mirrors. On other reviews some people stated that they thought the hero theme was a little our the top but I found it to be more muted than I thought it would be. Also, other reviews stated they thought it to be to American and I did not find that to be the case. I am an early riser so I would walk around the ship early in the morning and see many staff members cleaning every inch of the ship. Their hard work certainly showed as the ship was extremely clean from top to bottom. Having been on other Conquest class ship we found it easy to navigate around the ship but others found it a little difficult at times. The main problem is that you cannot go from one end of the ship to the other on deck three and four but once you figure this out, it is easy to find your way around. Even though the ship was at full capacity, I was always able to find a quiet place to read and relax. During the day there is hardly anyone in the many lounges on the ship so these spaces are a great place to get away from the crowds.
I would highly recommend Carnival and this ship to anyone that are thinking about a cruise. I will be writing a review about our Eastern leg on this ship in the next few days. Until then, happy sailing!!!