Carnival Valor Western Caribbean Nov 29-Dec 5 2009
This was one of the best cruises! Great ship, great weather, lots of fun.
We arrived a day early in Miami and stayed at the Marriott downtown overnight. They gave us the top floor 14th. There was view from the balcony thru two buildings to see the port and ships. The front desk was exceeding helpful and super pleasant. The next morning we took the 11am hotel shuttle to the port for $5 pp. A big saving from cab ride in the past. At the terminal --they now have the completed online fun pass people go to self serve kiosk to scan passports. Then call us over to pick up stateroom keys. We sat about 20 minutes before they started call numbers to board. By 12 noon we were on the ship having lunch. They said that you could not go to the stateroom until 1:30 and they meant it. The doors were shut until 1:30.
We had one of the best room stewards in the past 15 cruises. Quwen was around when you needed him but not hang out. We asked for extra towels and there were always plenty of towels. We ask him to empty the mini bar so we could use the frig and that was not a problem either. He enjoyed the dog photos we brought with us. (we did leave them for him).
The ship was decorated for the holidays and was nice. I did not like that the glass elevators had dark glass. And thought the red ,white and blue theme was a little bizarre for the Valor - I would have expected it on the Liberty instead.
Our dinning room waiter was also one of the best. Mr. G,. never missed a beat. We did late seating at a big table and we always had 2 other couples there to chat with.
The shows were all pretty good.
Shore tours-- we did all independents booking on line. It was mixed bag.
Grand Cayman Capt Marvin's (we expected better)
Our first stop was Grand Cayman. Tenders were easy off. We booked ½ day stingray/ snorkeling with Capt Marvin. We have used 3 times before and thought we knew what we would be getting. Small boat, limited passengers, personal service. We were wrong. Maybe they have just gotten too big? We were told to met at 9:15 or be left behind and credit card charged. We arrived b4 9am then we sat around and waited and waited. We didn't leave the office until 9:45 as we waited for some latecomers. So it was rush to get to the boat in time to leave at 10.
The boat was a big old diesel, very loud so there was no way to talk while we were moving. One group was 17; one group of 8, so about 35 passengers instead of 10-12 in the past. Also there was an infant under 6 months and 6-7 kids under 5. At the snorkel stop they allowed the kids to sit on the 2 ladders so no one could get up or down. No parents were around and the crew didn't seem to care. At the coral garden snorkel stop DH and I were in a wonder-- when DH heard someone call for help. He was closer and he paddled over. DH is not the most competent of swimmers and was wearing a vest. Seems another snorkeler (wearing a vest) was in trouble and panicking and calling for help. DH helped hold him up and started to call for help too. Then I started over, when finally one of crew noticed us jumped in and got the struggling snorkeler in the boat. This was very scary. They never heard the 2 of them yelling....I never saw a head count going or coming. So we could have easily left someone behind!
As we finished, we were hoping for a fresh water rinse but the hose didn't work. If there was a fire aboard we would have been in big trouble!
We felt there were too many people for the amount of crew to watch and way too many kids too watch. And we felt they were only interested in taking photos which we could buy. This is one tour that I have recommended many times in the past but would not ever in the future. It just was not safe!
After returning back to the port we walked down to Margaritaville and enjoyed a margarita and a cheeseburger in paradise. Yes I know it just a chain but we are parrot heads! Getting back to the tenders was easy and quick.
Rotan - Victor Bodden (Very good)
The next day we docked at the NEW pier in Roatan. It is ever so nice! The only thing is it is very long walk in the hot sun. We booked Victor Bodden island tour. The e mail said to met them outside the gates of the new pier area which is long walk out the gate and up a BIG hill. Carnival needs to rethink making us walk up that hill in the heat and should let them pick up in the parking lot.
This was GREAT tour. Benjamin took very good care of us. He had an air conditioned car. We had taken some school supplies (schools were closed for the holidays) so we took to an intersection where the kids were milling about. (On second thought we should have just left them for Ben to delivery later.) It was mass chaos with hands everywhere. This was totally my fault and a learning experience. I'm still glad I brought the supplies and the bonus was that I had all that room to bring stuff back in the suitcase.
We toured around the island with stops at Iguana Farm, lots of fun feeding the beasts. Who knew the iguanas hiss? Great photo op too. We also stopped at Victor's house and seeing the parrots and going inside the cage with them-very cool. Then for the topper - in the cage with the monkeys. What clever little devils. It was so much fun. Then more sightseeing and stop for dinner at a resort and a Hugh lobster dinner with 2 tails for $20! Yummy! Time for a little power shopping, coffee beans and back to the port. It was a wonderful day; we enjoyed Ben and his stories a lot. I would do this again any time!
There were many many shops inside the gates to spend your vacation dollars w/o even going on the island! You can even take a chair lift from the pier to the beach for $5pp per day and never leave Carnival property!
Belize Major Tom (A BIG Mistake!)
If you are thinking about or have booked with Major Tom, this was our personal experience. Maybe they have gotten too big to handle big groups. There was NO Personal attention! This tour was a disaster from start to finish! We booked months ahead and were really looking forward to a wonderful day. We have booked many independents before, with great results.
We were concerned about carrying our tubes and Major Tom e mails said oh no problems we are here to help. What a joke on us!
When we arrived on shore there was chaos about money and who booked what tour. After about an hour of standing around, we were walked out of the dock area into the parking lot-- were again there was chaos over who booked what tours. Finally we were told to take a seat on the bus-- there we sat for almost another hour. Waiting for people who never showed?? or maybe more guides?? really not sure why.
Now we have wasted ALMOST 2 hours of shore time. And we haven't even left the dock area. The ride was comfortable in the school bus with nice seats. They had a guide entertain us with stories. After an hour or so we arrived at the park.
We were told multiple times don't lose the head lamp or you will be charged $10. After more chaos we were walked to the area to pickup our tubes, old fashion inner tubes, and head lamps. Another group with cavetubing.com came in after us left before us and had way better equipment. Again we stood around and stood around for about ½ hour. We were told we should stay together and when we arrived at the entrance to the caves we would be link in groups of 8. There would be a guide for each group. No worries plenty of guides for everyone. After a nice hot walk we arrived at the entrance. There was no conversation or much of guide talking thru this part. We had heard how much fun it would be. It was just a boring hike. We saw other group & guides having lots of laughs. Not us-- just keep walking.
We stood waiting in the water for our turn to be linked. We watch as some of the guides took groups of 4 and 5 people linked instead of the 8. We are not pushy but when it got down to the last couple of groups we realized, there were not enough guides. We started yelling "hey what about us". We watch as the groups & guides kind of laughed at us and left us behind. Now I must say at this point I was in tears at being left behind. DH was just plain MAD. The very last group, led by Arlene took pity on us and let us be added to their group, even thru it made it more than 8 linked. Now the guides have to push and pull thru the caves so she had a lot more work to do. And also the rules state that only 8 or less can be link due to the deaths in the caves when there was a too large a group.
After we settle down, the caves were very cool and I'm glad we got to go. We noticed other groups had much better equipment from bright head lamps (ours were so dim, we didn't bother using them) to lightweight new tubes, and more comfortable life vests.
Now we also bought there lunch—it was OK. So you would think after wasting 2 hours before we ever got on the road. they would be ready to pack us up and get back on the road. Nope. The cavetubing.com folks were long gone. So after wasting another ¾ hour standing around before we were loaded back on the bus. For no good reason everyone was ready to go except the guides. But wait---- did we go right back to the docks? Nope-- we stopped at a local store so the guides could hop out get a beer! We sat on the bus while they went in. So when we finally arrived back at the docks we were rushed to get back to the ship. We wasted at least 3 hours there was No time to shop! We made it back to the ship with 15 minutes to spare!
All in All a bad tour operator! From wasting our shore time-- to almost being left behind at the caves—to stopping for the guides to get a beer.
I would do the cave tubing again in a heart beat but never with Major Tom.
We have been to Cozumel many times. Easy off and we took a cab downtown and enjoyed shopping. We bought some vanilla to take home. We were window shopping and got caught by one of the jewelry stores on a side street. Now I know what they sell isn't the real thing- Emeralds, but I did believe it was real gem stone or man made emeralds. Well I really liked the piece. And we decided on a price which we (Luckily) put on my credit card. Long story-short it was glass and the credit card company agreed with us. So it was a real learning experience but not an expensive one. Next time we will know the exchange rate before we shop!
We spent the afternoon being lazy in the plaza just off the docks. They have real built a nice area for people watching. We took photos of Santa and his sled. And just chilled.
We did the easy off where they take your luggage the night before and we didn't have to handle them until we got home. Worked great and would do in heart beat again. Best $20 pp you can spend on a ship.
This was a great vacation even if some of the shore tours didn't work as well as we would have liked. Our room steward was superior and so was our dinning room team.