Great Time on the Carnival Valor!
This was my 3rd cruise but the first time we have cruised with our 4 children and the first time my husband and I have cruised in 15 years, so much has changed! We all enjoyed our cruising experience very much! In all, we were a group of 8: myself and my husband, our 4 kids (ages 14, 12, 8, and 4), and my parents (mom who is 69 and dad who turned 77 at sea!). This was also the first cruise for my parents.
We live in Canada. We travelled to Buffalo for an overnight stay, flew to Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6th, stayed overnight in Fort Lauderdale and then made our way to the Port of Miami the next day for our cruise. Finding a decent hotel in Fort Lauderdale (or anywhere near Miami) during Superbowl weekend was not the easiest thing to do and if I had been a better planner, I would have avoided this weekend altogether.
Embarkation: I thought this process was handled extremely efficiently. It was fairly quick and smooth, all things considered. Travelling with a large More
group always poses challenges, especially where children are involved, but on Carnival's part, the embarkation process was flawless. We were on board and enjoying our lunch at Rosie's Restaurant around 12 noon.
Cabin: We were on a budget (4 kids, remember?) so we all had interior cabins on deck 2 (main deck) towards the front of the ship. It made no difference to us. We thought the cabins were beautiful and spacious! There was more than enough room for all of our clothes (and we brought way too many clothes!). The rooms were spotlessly clean and our steward made sure they stayed that way for the entire cruise. The kids shared a cabin and enjoyed their cabin as well.
Food: We had the early seating in the Lincoln Dining Room. We loved the variety of food available there. We ate there 5 of the 7 nights.....only skipped the last 2 nights because we had a couple of sick family members. The food was great, the waiters were fantastic....they put on a show every night! I had pre-ordered a birthday cake for my dad and this was delivered to the table on the right day without any reminding from me. The waiters even sang Happy Birthday to him which he loved! We ordered what we wanted and in the quantity we wanted and nobody ever questioned us. One night, I ordered 3 different appetizers and one entree. It was all delicious! We ate breakfast and lunch (when not in port) in Rosie's Restaurant. The variety of food available there was outstanding. There was something for everyone. My kids couldn't get enough of the ice cream! We also took advantage of the pizzeria and the Fish & Chips. There is also a dedicated Burrito Bar and a Deli.
Entertainment: Lots for everyone to do. My 12 year old daughter and my 8 year old daughter took advantage of the many activities for kids on board and really enjoyed them. My 4 year old son wanted to stay with us and that was fine too...he enjoyed the pool, ping pong, and mini-golf. We went to a few of the night time shows and thoroughly enjoyed those. There were dancers, jugglers, comedians....all were great! My parents also enjoyed these very much! Most nights, movies played on the big screen by the pool which was nice.
Overall, we loved this ship! It was so beautiful and the crew work day and night to keep it spotless. We tried to explore every nook and cranny of it and probably still missed many spots! The lobby/atrium was beautiful. The artwork decorating the ship was breathtaking and added such a sophisticated touch to the ship. We were in awe of it all!
Debarkation: This was also a fairly smooth process. We enjoyed one last breakfast on board and waited for our zone number to be called for debarkation. It was called ahead of schedule. When we arrived on the lobby deck to disembark, everything seemed to come to a complete stop. Apparently, there was a backlog with customs, so we had to wait in line about half an hour, but after that, it all went fairly quickly. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
This was the only port that we had booked an excursion for. We booked an excursion to the Altun Ha Mayan ruins with Island Marketing. It cost $42.50 per person and included lunch. Our group consisted of about 20 people so we had to be split into 2 groups for the drive to Altun Ha. It`s a fairly long drive (45 minutes) which we didn`t really enjoy. Our driver was not all that informative and was difficult to understand when he did say something. When we got to Altun Ha, our group joined the other group. Their tour guide was Jenny and she was fantastic! So knowledgeable and passionate about her country and Mayan history. It was wonderful listening to her. Overall, we enjoyed this excursion. The kids climbed some of the temples (and hopefully absorbed some information about Mayan history). I think my 14 year old son really did enjoy learning about Mayan history...he bought a Mayan calendar! Even for those who are not able to climb those tall Mayan temples (like my parents), it`s still a good excursion. We went to the Mayan Wells restaurant for lunch which was stewed chicken, rice and beans, fried plantain, and papaya. It was all delicious! We chatted with the owner (an American ex-pat) and explored the beautiful grounds of this restaurant. Afterwards, we drove back to Belize City for a quick tour of some of the highlights. Belize is not a place that I would feel comfortable exploring on my own or even with my family. I would highly recommend an excursion in this port.
I think Cozumel was our favourite port. We docked at Puerta Maya which was nice again to not have to worry about taking a tender. Puerta Maya is a fairly new port and it`s beautiful!! There are many shops and restaurants to explore. The first things you encounter at the end of the pier are Fat Tuesday`s and Three Amigos Cantina. Great photo ops here if you have kids! We spent over an hour here just taking pictures before moving on to the other stores. After exploring the port for awhile, we decided to see what excursions were available that wouldn`t break the bank for a group of 8! We decided on an island tour. It was a little pricey....$25 per person, but the driver would take you to various points of interest and wait for you while you explored. This appealed to us. Off we went! First stop, we passed by Chankanaab Park (we didn`t go in) but the driver pointed out the many iguanas hanging out just outside the park...we could have stopped here if we wanted, but we didn`t. Next stop, Paradise Beach. Again, we just got out for a bit and took some pictures. It was a beautiful beach but if you wanted to use their water toys it was $12 per person. Loungers and umbrellas were extra. Seemed a little too pricey for us. He drove up the coast and took us to El Cedral which is a small Mayan ruin site. We hung out there for awhile. He then drove us to a beach on the northern tip of the island. There was a hotel there with a small beach and a great swimming pool. It was called Club Cozumel Caribe. The beach was small but the location was spectacular. The kids enjoyed the pool and the beach very much(no additional fees for the pool or for using the chairs). Our driver then took us back to Puerta Maya where we explored the port some more....again, it`s a great port, so beautiful and clean. We could have spent the whole day there if only it had a beach! Highly recommend.
I had wanted to do the stingray excursion, but nobody else in my family was keen on doing it, so we really had no plans when we arrived in Grand Cayman. Keeping in mind our budgetary constraints, we opted to get a cab. For $4 per person, he drove us to Royal Palms beach where we spent the day. It cost $10 to rent an umbrella, and $12 for two beach loungers. I`m sure there are probably nicer beaches with more amenities, but we truly loved our day on Seven Mile beach! The water is absolutely crystal clear and such a beautiful shade of turquoise. We enjoyed just swimming, playing in the sand, relaxing. It was great....and cheap!
Once again, we had nothing booked for Roatan. We knew Carnival had just opened its new port (Mahogany Bay) and we were curious about exploring that. Again, in the interests of watching our budget, we decided to spend the day at the beach on Mahogany Bay. The beach is absolutely gorgeous! The sea is so calm there....my 4 year old loved the water!! The ship actually docks there so you don`t have to worry about tendering which is nice. There is no charge for beach chairs which was another nice bonus. We had thought we would take the chair lift from the shopping area to the beach as we thought the cost was $5 per person and this would be a good photo op. When we got to the ticket window, we were informed it was now $8 per person, which seemed extremely high to me considering the beach is a short 3 minute walk away and easily accessible by foot. I`m guessing many other folks thought the same way since the chairs were empty for the most part. All in all, we loved Mahogany Bay mostly for its beach. We didn`t buy any food there so I can`t comment on that, but there were a couple of restaurants there. We stopped into some of the stores, but all seemed rather over priced for the usual tacky souvenirs. Overall, another great beach day....and no cost for excursions! Love it!