A first-time cruiser review: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by Interceptor2551
Overall Member Rating
A first-time cruiser review
Destination: Western Caribbean
Once on the ship, our first stop was guest services to separate our sail and sign accounts to each use our own credit card (travelled with my best friend.) The kiosk only accepted my credit card when I checked in, and when my friend scanned his passport, it didn't give him the option, so just be aware. The rooms weren't ready, so we went up to the lido deck at Rosie's and grabbed a burger. The scene was so over-whelming, so much to see and take in that I didn't realize that just past the burgers and hot dogs was an entrance to the rest of Rosie's. Oh well, I already had my burger and found a table that I was happy just to be on the ship!
The sail away party on deck was great. More It was a perfect Miami day! I was concerned about the photographers I have read so much about on here that come around and take your pic, and when I seen one approaching, I kind of cringed, I just didn't want the annoyance of having my pic taken all the time. I thought what the hell, we posed for the camera and of course I just had to buy it when I saw it! I made some last minute phone calls and texts before leaving the port. I'm with AT&T, so I called ahead and had my voicemail deactivated to avoid extra charges. I received a lot of texts during the cruise (all free) and sent only a handful at .50¢ each.
After walking around and checking out more areas of the ship, we made our way to our inside cabin on the main deck. It was exactly as I had imagined it would be, just big enough for the two of us and it worked out fine all week. I had brought soda with me on board but the mini fridge was locked. I left a note for the steward to unlock and empty it, and he did. I was surprised there was no writing pad on our desk! We unpacked everything and settled in. There was plenty of closet and drawer space for everything. I was worried I brought too many clothes with the advice given on the board, but I went ahead and brought all I packed anyway. So many people say to take half of what you packed out and that will be enough. For me, I'd say that would be more like 25% out, but oh well. There was one thing I wish I had brought that I didn't, and that was jeans. Though it was warm outside the entire cruise (86º almost at all times!) there were a few places inside that was always cold, like the Eagles lounge.
It was now time for the muster drill. We were at our designated spot at 4:30 as was stated, but most people did not begin to pour in till 4:40. It was finally over at 5 and we could get back to our vacation.
We ate at the Lincoln dining room our first night. We had time to get refreshed and changed in to something a little nicer since our bags finally arrived. We were on the anytime dining, so that means we sat in the upstairs of Lincoln, always at a table for two. The tables are so close together that you are practically dining with the couple on either side of you which can be really fun, or really awkward. Our wait team was great, but our head waiter's attitude towards us took a turn for the worst our last night. He seemed to think we should be ready to order everything when he decides to stop by our table. He made it seem like such an inconvenience when my friend had a hard time deciding what he wanted. We ate in the MDR 4 out of 7 nights, and the food was always good, sometimes great, but overall, it was less than I expected from all the reviews I have read. The prime rib was the fattiest piece of meat I had ever seen, both of ours actually. The flavor was ok, the baked potato had obviously been sitting in a warmer for a couple hours or more, and the waiter never brought sour cream even though I specifically requested it. The bread that they give you when you are seated is the exact same every night, it would have been really great if it was warm bread, but it was just room temperature, so nothing special. I had the warm chocolate melting cake almost every night at dinner, it was the only thing I really looked forward to. I'm a huge cheesecake fan, and am currently hooked on Eli's. After trying their cheesecake on the ship, I couldn't wait to get off to get some real cheesecake.
I did not purchase a soda card, so I gave the iced tea a try. Wow! That is the nastiest brown colored sludge I have ever tasted. It truly did not resemble tea in any form. I would have paid a premium for real Luzianne or Lipton iced tea. On I went to the lemonade. MUCH better than the tea. It had real pieces of lemon in it. I saw one of the guys pouring the lemonade concentrate into the machine from a container, but at least I knew it was real lemons, unlike the "tea" they had. I drank a lot of water, and found it very good tasting, so they get a pass on that from me. I ran out of soda on the trip, and decided not to buy a card. At $2.24 PER CAN, it can be very expensive, but I only bought a few, much less than what a card would have cost me. I really would have bought a card IF it were true fountain Coke (I only drink Coke Zero) because the fountain drinks taste better, but I was surprised they use cans. I did notice that they have Lipton tea bags beside the beverage dispenser, but it was intended for hot tea. The thought did cross my mind to make my own iced tea from them, but I never put the effort into it.
As a first-timer, I was really disappointed to find out that the room service menu is limited, very limited. For whatever reason, I was under the assumption that whatever was served on the ship was available as room service too, but NO! I was also extremely disappointed at Rosie's. Your dinner options are small if you choose to skip the MDR. The burrito bar, along with Mongolian grill and the fish & chips were only open 12-2:30. I never seen much on the buffet for dinner, if anything at all. The deli was open till 11, and the pizza place was 24 hours, but only if you could get the lone guy in there behind the wall to come out and help you. So many times I passed the pizza place I noticed there were a few people standing and no one helping them, that was my experience the two times I stopped there. Btw, the pizza was mediocre, DiGiorno pizza was much, much better than that. So all-in-all, I was highly disappointed with the food offerings and times.
Our first stop was Grand Cayman. I must say that I did not book any tours with Carnival. I decided before hand what my plan was at every port and for Grand Cayman, that meant 7 mile beach. I'm so glad I picked it because it was the most beautiful beach I have been to anywhere, the sand so white and soft, and the water was clear and refreshing. Spent all day there and Reuben our driver came back and took us back to port. We walked around town a bit and took in the sights. Grand Cayman is a relatively safe place to roam, and I'd consider going back for a land vacation to see more.
Next stop, Roatan. The newly built Mahogany bay port was fresh and clean, but a complete tourist trap. Walked right past everything and to the road, up the hill and down to the other side where I waited for a very cramped van full of people going to Pirates of the Caribbean zip line. They have the longest and highest zip lines in all of the Americas, and I highly recommend them. It was amazingly fun, even for me, and I'm petrified of heights, but it's incredibly safe and you'll have yourself a good time. The countryside of Roatan is very similar to Southern California with the hilly terrain and ocean in the background. I hear you can buy land there for $500 an acre. Driving through the small city will definitely remind you that you are not at home. I now appreciate sidewalks, marked road, tree-lined neighborhoods, etc. The bootlegging of dvds and music is very rampant and accepted. In all the countries I had visited on this trip, the only police officer I saw was in Grand Cayman.
Next is Belize. I have heard very bad things about what goes on outside the gate, and then some people report a very positive experience. I took no chances, as I had one look at the seedy elements on the other side of that gate and decided to stay put. Even me and my friend, two guys, I just felt the risk was not worth it to explore, and that's a shame. Unless you're on a tour, I'd recommend to my friends and family to stay away. We walked all around the tourist area. Towards the end of the pier is a small mall with a pond and a tiny little bar that sells Belikin beer. The lady who owns the place waved me in, and I obliged. Good think I did, she was a very nice lady who has owned it for 2 years and had many interesting stories to tell me. I tried some Belikin and was impressed. I'll put it up there with Heineken and some German beers in taste, very good!
And finally, Cozumel, Mexico, my absolute favorite port of the trip. We booked a day at Nachi Cocum, and have no regrets. It was all inclusive, not too crowded and was more than I expected. My friend and I had a nice relaxing massage on the beach. Afterwards, we rented jet skis and had a blast. The food was great, better than most of the stuff on the ship, and the drinks were included, I'm in heaven! I could have definitely spend a lot more time in this port. Unlike Belize, I felt very safe in Cozumel and would love to take a land vacation here. Everyone was very hospitable and nice. I'd love to see mainland Mexico, but the horrendous drug violence has definitely put those plans on the back burner indefinitely.
So, do I have cruise fever now that I'm not a virgin anymore? Not really. I did have a great time, but a little over midway through the cruise I was reconsidering my sanity for booking a 7 day cruise my first time out. Some things were a little repetitive, like the constant Karaoke sessions everywhere, the same skeezy people at the disco, etc. The only adult venue I truly enjoyed everything it had to offer was the Lindy Hop, the piano bar. Randy the piano player/singer was fantastic. His humor was witty and interacted with the crowd effortlessly. I always looked forward to stopping in there for a drink to hear him. I also heard all the warnings about chair hogs for the lido deck. I will never understand why anyone would want to sit there, the loudest, most crowded place on the ship to get a little sun. I preferred any of the upper decks above that to sun bathe. Lounge chairs were readily available everywhere else, so for that I was relieved. Watching the movies on the outdoor screen at night was memorable, I really liked that. I saw "It's Complicated" and enjoyed the movie along with the stars and warm breeze.
I will cruise again most likely, but there are so many other places I want to see and experience before then. I have a European multi-country vacation I'm currently planning, but after that, who knows. Less