Before my husband and I left for our Carnival Valor cruise on July 19th, I perused these boards to get some input on our then upcoming trip. I am therefore taking the liberty of returning the favor and writing some notes about the ship and the ports we visited during our one week tour of the Western Carribean.
This was my second cruise and my husband's first for pleasure (he is a Vietnam era Navy vet). We had a fantastic time and it was very hard to come back to work and real life. We are both ready for our next cruise this weekend, (Alas, we need to wait for a bit!)
We flew down from Newark Airport to Miami early last week. We chose to let Carnival make the flight arrangements and also set up the transfers. Even though we were encouraged to do that so that Carnival was responsible for getting us on the ship, I do not think I would do that in the future. Carnival had us on a 6am flight getting into Miami at 9am. There was another flight with my preferred airline leaving at 10am. I suspect we still could have walked over to the Carnival counter and picked up transfers or taken a cab to the port.
In any event, embarkment was easy, quick and well organized. Make sure you have your tip ready for the porters taking things from the bus to the ship, They are not shy about asking for them. My husband kept a bunch of silver dollars with him for tips. They made good conversation pieces and were appreciated.
We were one of the first group of passengers on the ship and were directed to Rosies for some lunch. The food was good and plentiful. We met a lovely young lady who works as an assistant waitress. She was a professor in her Bosnian homeland. Like many of the Valor crew, she was a pleasure to speak with and a reminder that there are many talented people doing what they can to make it in life.
We were permitted to visit our stateroom at 1:30pm, We were both glad that we chose a balcony room and found that we were in a good location. We did not experience a great deal of noise and were convenient to most parts of the ship. Our bags were delivered to the room in less than two hours and we did an easy unpack before we headed to the pool. I have a confession. I basically lived in bathing suits and sundresses. At dinner, I brought elegant clothes for two evenings and wore casual dresses for the other nights. Although I brought shorts and tops for each day, I did not wear them. In other words, I overpacked for this trip. (Shhh...don't tell my husband I admitted it!)
There are a couple of pools on the Lido deck, but we quickly found our way to the Adult one. There were over 1200 people of the 3300 passengers onboard. Wow!! Not only are our own children grown, but we took this trip to spend some time alone. I enjoyed admiring many of the youngsters from afar, but was grateful that they were not my responsibility. We also favored the Adult Pool after one of the Valor's comedians made a somewhat crude, but potentially accurate joke about the bathroom habits of children in pools. We also had no idea that the pool would be filled with salf water and enjoyed its warmth.
We had the later dinner in the Washington Room. Carnival did a great job of matching us up with another couple from a neighboring state. We were about the same age and the conversation never stopped at our table. We sat in one of the side booths and were pleased with the dining room service.
Rather than continue as a daily journal of our trip, I have decided to categorize the balance of this review:
We did not have the opportunity to attend all of the shows, but did enjoy the comedian. I believe his name was Percy Crews. We saw the G-rated version of his show and had many good laughs. We were disappointed that we were too tired to stay up for his adult encore. We also enjoyed the 80s revue and the ship's version of the Newlywed Game.
My husband was ready to use his virtual clicker on Rudy the shopping expert. Rudy does give out a great deal of information about shopping in the island ports, but definitely sounds like an infomercial. We were slightly annoyed, yet amused at his advice in Grand Cayman. He told the audience to make sure they took the first tender out to the island to get to the stores early. The first tender gets you out there earlier than the stores open!
We loved our time in the casino and were surprised that we did well. After all, we expected the odds to be bad on a cruise ship and were surprised when I had a $700 win on a slot machine where I played $.90 a spin. I also played cards for the first time and was happy that the dealers were kind and patient. I especially liked Jelena when she was the dealer at the 3 card poker tables. I did find there were card games I did not care for at all. I also found that Bingo on the ship is not worth the expense. You pay $20 for three cards and they only play one game at that price.
My birthday was the last sea day of the cruise and my husband treated me to a facial and massage. I found Justine to be professional and quite strong. My only disappointment was that my massage room was located directly under Camp Carnival. Remember those 1200 kids I mentioned earlier? As I tried to enjoy the peacefulness of my massage, I think all of them were running above my head!! Nevertheless, the treatment itself was marvelous!
While I had my spa treatments, my husband took advantage of a tour of the ship. There are only 16 spaces available for this tour and my husband enjoyed it immensely. He learned a great deal of the ship's operations and saw everything from the brig, the kitchen to the morgue and more.
We did not book our excursions through Carnival, but rather researched them ahead of time and set them up accordingly. In Grand Cayman, we basically walked in out of shops and had lunch. We did just about the same in Cozimel, but I wanted to add one tidbit. As early as 8am, many of the shop owners offered us shots of tequila. Needless to say, it made my husband a bit more inclined to enjoy his shopping excurisions!
In Roatan, I set up a private tour with Victor Bodden. Our guide's name was Julio and we enjoyed seeing beautiful sites and places. I was glad that we got to stop at a small Catholic church (we also saw one in Cozimel). Roatan is a beautiful poor place with gorgeous beaches. I snorkled for the first time and loved it. My only concern is that my husband and I did not do this as part of a structured tour. We swam out to the middle of the reef without anyone looking out for us. Even the strongest of swimmers knows better. Neverthless it was an amazing experience.
Cavetubing in Belize was a definite highlight of the trip. We went with Major Tom's group and found them to be both professional and educational. One caution. Even if they tell you that you don't need bug spray, please wear it. I must be awfully sweet, because I was eaten alive. We walked through the jungle and then tubed down through the caves. It is amazing how the rocks have formed and made clear figures. Our guide was Edgar and of Mayan descent. He was able to tell us a great deal about the history and culture of the Mayans. I recommend that you order the lunch and bring a change of clothes for this trip.
Meals in Rosies offered a great many selections and there was something for everyone. The Deli offered good corn beef and pastrami sandwiches. Surprisingly, the pizza was as good as we have here in the NJ/NY area. I do not know why anyone would opt for soda when iced tea and lemonade are offered at no extra cost. I also found it interesting and smart that the ship did its best to control waste. For example, you could not serve yourself bacon. One of the kitchen crew put it on your plate.
Dinner in the main dining room had a nice share of selections. Frankly, it was not bad, but it was not anything exceptional. The really best fare on the ship is at Scarletts. It is well worth the extra money to eat up there. I had lamb chops and loved everything from the bread to dessert!
I must admit that I came home with a bunch of beautiful portraits of my husband and I. My children were amazed when they heard the price of $22 each. However, I found them to be a bargain as they captured us both looking relaxed and happy. My favorite photographers were a Polish lady named Kateruz (I think) and some guy named Shah who made weird noises to get you to laugh!
We were quite pleased with our balcony room and enjoyed sitting there at many different parts of the day and night. We were also impressed by the efficiency of our steward, Jose. He seemed to magically make our bed and tidy up when we left the room for even just a minute. I hated the hairdryer and was glad that we brought our own outlet power strip, At my husband's request, Jose also decorated my room for my birthday. I was confused when I walked in I thought it was 4th of July or Mardi Grais in there!
Frankly, this was the most frustrating part of the trip. I suspect it is in part due to the fact that people do not follow directions and there was no one around telling them they had to do so. The most common disebarkment seemed to be the self assist. Although we were called down by decks, some just went when they were ready to leave. I think they could have organized this better by gathering flight and departure information and disembarking accordingly.
All in all, this was a great trip. We both enjoyed it tremendously and loved meeting the many people that our journey brought to us. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions.