Aloha! We joined the cruise to the Western Caribbean and on the Carnival Valor because of an embroidery user group. There were about 60 of us in the group...from all different parts of the USA. We had classes on our days at sea and had dinner each night together. We personally didn't really choose the destinations or the ship because the group had already chosen that for us. It didn't really matter to us as we just wanted a good vacation and see different parts of the world. This was our 5th cruise, two to Alaska, Bahamas and the Mexican Riviera.
PRE-CRUISE: It took us over 18 hours to get to Miami from Hawaii. We arrived a couple a days ahead of time to visit Miami and to get acclimated to the time changes. I went on Priceline and got a hotel for under a hundred at the Airport Holiday Inn. Miami hotels were priced quite high and I was happy to get one under $100. We got to the Holiday Inn and was very disappointed in the Hotel. The bed was the worst I have had in a hotel in years....I think the last time sleeping in a broken bed was in Taiwan. The best thing about the hotel was the free shuttle to the pier. I never really felt real safe in the hotel as the door next to our bottom floor room didn't lock and it was open for anyone to come into the hotel.
The embarkation process was quick and pleasant. The Miami Pier's are new and very spacious. We arrived at the pier at 10:30 am. and I think we got on the ship at 12:00 noon. Of course the rooms were not ready till 1:30 p.m. Food on the 9th floor was hot and ready for us when we boarded. By 1:30 p.m. our room was ready and our bags arrived a few minutes later. Exploring the Valor was fun and it was quite a beautiful ship. It does take while to get used to the layout....especially heading to the Washington Dining room.
The day we left Miami was Superbowl Sunday. The large screen TV was great and everyone had a big party around the ship. Leaving Miami was a blast. Five large cruise ships leaving all at the same time was an incredible sight to see. Watching people pass us on the road was half of the fun as they headed to South Beach.
We purchased a soda card $44.00 w/ the tip for one person. My Sister and I purchased a card so we spent $88 on soda to start....We shouldn't have bought spent that kind of money but hey, we were on vacation. The carnival soda card is unlimited for the cruise. I don't think I ever drank so many Sprite Zero's in my life. We also brought in small bottles of water we put in our extra handcarry bag. It was a great idea to bring in some water on board before the trip.
STATEROOM: Our room was on the 9th floor room 9274. We added a third person on our stateroom a month out so they changed our room to one that could accommodate three people. We ended up right next to the elevators. This room we thought would be noisy but in reality it was a great room. We were on the same floor as the pool and buffet....We never had to walk very far because the main elevators were right next to us. There were some noise from the outside but nothing that bothered us. The size of the room was fine for three adults...the balcony always a treat. Only problem....room to the right smoked cigarettes and the room to the left smoked cigars. We are non-smokers so we couldn't enjoy the balconies while they were out also. We never really got to know our steward but he did a great job keeping us happy.
FOOD: The food at the Buffet was tasty and plentiful. We enjoyed eating and watching the scenery go by. The burgers were very good as well as the pizza at the pizza shop. We spent one night at the upscale restaurant. The atmosphere was great and the food delicious. The steaks were great and the lobster tail my wife had was gigantic! The $30.00 was worth the night.
We were scheduled for the early seating at the Washington Dining Room. The group we were with chose the early time, I would have preferred the later dining time. Anyway, food at our table came slow every night. We had lots of friends around us so time went by fast. However, slow every night started to get old. It seemed like our waiter and assistant were working fast but the food seemed to come out slow. The tables next to us were normally finished eating before we even put in our Dessert order.
One formal night a waitress passed our table and dropped an entire main dish on me. The plate broke and flew between my wife and I....glass was in all of our food. The waitress looked back and continued to walk to server her guest. Everyone was in shock...especially me that someone had just dumped a plate of food on me. No one came to our rescue for several minutes. I had glass on me and food up and down from my shoes to my suit pants. I really don't know why all of the waiter and waitresses paused to help us. Apparently this is a rare case but you got to take care of the customer. Well eventually help came and I got cleaned up and we all got new entrees. They paid for cleaning and a bottle of wine....only thing is our family doesn't drink wine...go figure. I normally get pretty mad at things like that but I wasn't going to let it reck my vacation....many in our group were quite upset at the lack of care for us when it happened.
ENTERTAINMENT: They brought on three different comedians on this trip... two to many. I thought they were pretty boring. The Valor musicians and dancers were top notch as usual. Bingo is a rip off...go to vegas if you want to play real bingo. Casino was okay...if you are lucky you can win like most casinos....just too smokey.
EXCURSIONS: We didn't plan on any shore excursions until we got on the cruise. At the Grand Caymans we went on the Hell tour, Turtle farm and Sting ray excursion. What a great side tour. We went to Hell and back (the town is Hell, GC) sent our post card home from Hell and got to see the Hell gas station , went to a large Turtle farm and got to hold turtles, then went on a 20 minute boat ride to a sand bar with tons of tame sting rays. I was able to hold the sting ray in my hands.....what a thrill!
In Isla Roatan we took a local cab around the island. I think we paid about $35 for two hours. It was a fun place, the pier is brand new as tourism is just starting to develop on the island. Shopping was great along the shops just outside of the pier.
In Belize we chose to visit Altun Ha Mayan Ruins and city tour. The bus ride was about an hour from town. The ruins were beautiful and majestic. It was worth the the time to see the ruins. The Cozumel port was so beautiful. New piers with a long walk way along the most beautiful blue water. We chose the ATV jungle adventure. Make sure you are ready to get bumpy and dirty. The cool part is that there were Mayan ruins along the ATV route so besides riding fun ATV's we also got to see some history. Several of our friends went on the mini jeep tours which they said was lots of fun.
Post Cruise: We disembarked after another breakfast buffet and went to Alamo to pick up a car. Alamo's buses were picking us up at the pier to get our cars at the airport. Nice touch from Alamo. We left a few days after the cruise. We stayed at the Embassy Suites at the airport ... about $125 a night on priceline. What a difference in hotel from the Holiday in across the street. As a fun side trip we took a three hour road trip down to Key West. I always wanted to drive the long bridges....a good six hour round trip. It was totally worth the time.
Conclusions: We had a great time with our embroidery friends. It was a great vacation and had a great time on the Valor. The last day at sea was the only day I felt over crowded. It seemed like everyone was either eating or on deck at the same time....with close to 3000 guest plus 1000 crew it was a lot of people walking around. Over all value was terrific and itinerary was incredible! Planning our next cruise.....