My fiance and I have cruised many times before and were joined on this cruise with 12 of our family members. We started our vacation with a pre cruise stay at Homewood Suites Blue Lagoon Miami. We arrived on Christmas eve. There were 9 of us staying at this hotel over Christmas prior to our cruise aboard Valor. We picked this hotel for the amenities and best value. Every room had full kitchens, free hot and cold breakfast every morning, free parking for the week we were cruising, outdoor grills we were free to use to cook our Christmas dinner, 2 bedroom suites, and many other amenities that made our stay there terrific! We prepaid all of our rooms and got a great rate by doing so. The hotel was clean, had a good size swimming pool and large hot tub.
The morning of departure I had made reservations with a local Limo Service to pick us up at 11am. The driver was 15 minutes late but got us to the port by 11:45.
Embarkation was very easy. We were through the lines and on board within 45 minutes. First stop was excursion desk for our behind the Fun tickets.. 2nd stop was fish and chips for that wonderful Ahi Tuna and watermelon that I heard so much about and I must say it did not disappoint! Muster drill was hassle free with no life jackets required. It took a little bit longer than I would have liked as they ran through all the folderol about decks being slippery when wet, how to dispose of cigarettes etc .etc. etc... All the common sense stuff that we all know but many people ignore. We were on the forward Lido Deck above the bridge for Sail away and it was awesome.
Our cabin was # 2473. This cabin is an irregular cabin with two portholes and is huge! It is as big as a suite! I was stunned by how large the cabin was. It was awesome. The only drawback was pulling into ports early morning we did have some noise and vibration from the stern thruster. Otherwise the cabin was great! The Valor is a beautiful ship and even though some may say she is gaudy; I think she is vibrant and true to Carnival's propensity to make some very big statements with their interior design. (yet I find myself still questioning who's bright idea it was to mix pink and orange in the staterooms) eww.. One more thing about the Valor... She is the most confusing ship to navigate! I found myself constantly hitting the Lincoln Dining room road block! By the end of the cruise every time I entered the elevator my default was to hit deck 5 button.. since that was the only deck that you could actually navigate from one end to the other unless you were on decks 1 or 2 walking down the cabin rows.
Day 1 at sea we spent pretty much just roaming the ship. The lido deck was crazy insane with people so we spent most of our time exploring the ship and sitting at the adults pool aft. This was the first elegant night. Food was delicious and our servers Wanda from Thailand and Dono from Indonesia were awesome! (We gave them extra $$ on the last day) Day 2 Grand Cayman - we arrived in Grand Cayman bright and early. I ordered room service and a wake up call for 6 am. We had reserved a two tank dive with Neptune's divers for this day. Unfortunately the water was so rough we did not sleep all night and felt it wouldn't be very safe for us to dive that day. I emailed Neptune's from our stateroom ($3.99 connection fee and .75 per minute) and advised them of our plight. (I knew the terms stated non-refundable within 24hours but I was hoping for some sympathy) No luck. They charged us anyway. Oh well. We caught up on some sleep then later on took a tender ashore and did a little exploring and shopping.
Day 3 Roatan - Today we reserved the two tank dive thru Carnival to Anthony's key. We were instructed to meet in the Eagles Lounge where we were greeted by our guide and led down to the gangway on Deck 0. We hauled our gear to the bus (no AC,, UGH) it's hot! We arrived at Anthony's Key with 30 minutes. There were a lot of us on the boat. I know the tour was sold out because some in our group were unable to reserve the dive. Positive - Great Dive boat (48 footer) with a friendly captain. Beautiful location and spectacular reefs. Negative - Very unorganized. The dive master during the dive briefing gave us some really bizarre instructions and hand signals. There was no line put out when the divers returned to the boat and the swells were huge! It was almost impossible to get to the boat. The dive itself was very unorganized and chaotic. I got slammed in the head with the swim deck of the boat and pushed under because I had nothing to hang onto but the swim deck when 2 divers were hanging onto the ladder but not moving. I don't think we will ever book again with Carnival for a dive. The dive boat was more like a cattle boat.
Highlight of the day; Tonight we dined in Scarlett's Steakhouse. It was fantastic! Highly recommend!
Day 4 Belize - We reserved a fly and dive with Eco tours. Carnival instructed all those with independent tours to meet in Paris Hot by 8am for tender tickets. By 8:30 we were marched down to the tender and were on our way to shore. Eco Tours met us on the pier and issued our vouchers for the Round trip plane on Maya Island Air and for the two tank dive. The Eco tours driver took us directly to the airport where we boarded our plane for the short 12 minute flight to San Pedro. The flight was terrific! Very smooth and beautiful scenery! Unfortunately I had contracted a bug aboard ship and couldn't dive so I just enjoyed the flight and planned to spend the day at Ramon's village while my fiancE was diving. (Eco Tours only charged us for my flight) The dive shop Eco Tours used is Aqua Dives. It was a short walk from the airport to the dive shop. There were 8 people on board the boat with one dive master. My fiancE thoroughly enjoyed dropping down into the middle of a group of 6+ foot nurse sharks but that was where the fun ended. My fiancE is a very experienced diver; many years diving for public safety and recreational diving, but his experience with Aqua Dives was terrible. The boat was a small runabout with an incredibly short 3 rung ladder that was nearly impossible to re-board after the dive unless you are an incredibly strong contortionist. The dive master led the group into a tunnel in 85-90 feet of water when the dive profile was only supposed to be 60 feet as stated in the dive briefing. The water got so silted out that a number of divers, including my fiancE, got lost. He searched for a hole in the ceiling to exit and find the group again. My fiancE cancelled his second dive. It just wasn't worth the risk of diving with Aqua Dives again. We spent the rest of the day walking around San Pedro and caught our 1pm flight back to Belize City where the Eco Tours driver met us to take us back to the port. Back on board with an hour to spare! This was also New Years Eve but as I stated I had contracted some bug and was pretty ill so we did not partake in any NYE activities. Bummer .. although the next morning there were a lot of leftover bodies and trash laying around on the top decks as evidence of what a crazy night it was!
Day 5 Cozumel - Today we did not have anything scheduled. We strolled around Puerta Maya and did the majority of our shopping here. I found some good deals on some small souvenirs and trinkets.
Day 6 Sea Day - Today was our behind the fun tour. We met in the Library for our 9:15 tour. There was a quick meeting where they provided some Danish, coffee and juices. Emma the training coordinator was our guide. We were issued our lanyards and tags and away we went. We visited backstage at the Ivanhoe Theatre, Engineering, crew quarters, galley, the bridge.. And others but those are the major ones. We learned and saw so much on this tour. It was well worth the money. We got to spend about 15 minutes with the captain on the bridge asking him questions. Fascinating stuff! The tour ends at Scarlett's with a backpack gift bag and a survey.
Day 7 Miami - Debarkation day. We used the traditional method of getting off. Left our bags outside our door the night before and waited for our zone to be called. We were off the ship by 10am. No problems there but everything went downhill after that. We got to the baggage claim and it was utter chaos. People were out of control and the place was packed! After finding our bags we joined the huge lines for US Customs and Immigration. It took over an hour to get through there and then finally some fresh air again. We had reserved a car ahead of time with Alamo since we were staying in Miami another day and my fiancE's parents (whose car we left at Homewood suites) were heading to Marco Island for the winter. I chose Alamo because they had a shuttle that picks you up at the port to take you to the rental office. We waited outside the terminal for 2 hours watching one Alamo shuttle after another go by without stopping (apparently they were full from the other terminals). We had considered a cab but finally a shuttle stopped and it was a crazy shoving, shouting and pushing fest as everyone tried to get on the only bus that had stopped in hours. We finally arrived at the Alamo office just after 1pm. There were hundreds of people there! I couldn't believe how crazy it was. We were able to check in after trying multiple kiosks (unbeknownst to us there is a special kiosk for seaport reservations) and then were sent in search of our car by the machine. Once we were outside it was apparent there were not enough cars for all the people waiting and tempers were very short and only one attendant helping them. Fortunately we had reserved a luxury car and there was still one left. So we grabbed it and were out of there as fast as possible. I definitely will not be using a rental car shuttle again from the port. Lesson learned.
Overall it wasn't a great vacation due to my being ill but I still enjoyed the ship immensely. I cannot rate the food at the lido since I only ate there one morning due to feeling so Ill. Same with the shows; I missed them all but the rest of our traveling companions enjoyed the entertainment very much.