Overall, our cruise was amazing! My boyfriend and I went with another couple, and with us all being in our early 20's we couldn't have picked a better cruise line for our age group. Carnival is definitely for the younger generation.
The food was pretty delicious and Scarlett's Steakhouse served some of the best steak (filet mignon!) that I've ever had. In fact, my boyfriend is still comparing every steak that he eats to the steak he had there... 3 months later. I would definitely recommend Scarlett's; it's totally worth the $30/person fee. As for our dining time, we chose "Your Time Dining" and it was a great choice. Basically, you could eat dinner in the Lincoln Dining Room anytime between 5:45 - 9:30 PM and we NEVER had to wait for a table. The food in the Lincoln Dining Room certainly satisfied me most nights (I think there was only one meal that I didn't like, some chicken concoction). Dessert was also great, yummy Warm Chocolate Melting Cake always satisfied! For More
breakfast, skip the buffet and go to the Washington Dining room (if you can find it, we got lost more than once) and try the Eggs Benedict -- YUM! One more recommendation: try the pizza at the pizza bar near the adult pool, PHENOMINAL. Probably some of the best pizza I've ever had. The only disappointment was that there was no "midnight buffets," at least that we were notified of. They did have a "Chocolate Buffet" at noon one day, but who wants to get hopped up on chocolate in the middle of the day after lying out in the sun for hours?!
As for the ship itself, it was large but a bit confusing. However, we eventually found our way around. The decor could be a little more up to date, but we had no real complaints about it. The pools and hot tubs were always FULL of children, with the exception of the adult pool, which was always filled with flirting adults. Good thing we aren't public pool people. While we were on the ship, we normally were out on the deck basking in the sun (we lucked out and had amazing weather the whole time) or going to a show. On deck, there were always drinks being offered to you (NOTE: They're expensive but good!), but make sure to wake up EARLY to deck a deck chair. Chairs get taken very quickly in the morning! As for the shows, they were always very entertaining -- check out the comedy shows if you don't get offended very easily! My friend and I spent some of our evenings checking out the on-board shops, which were quaint yet nice. The guys liked to spend their late evenings in the casino, but neither won much money.
Our room was our biggest complaint. Not because of it's size but because of it's location. We were on the Riviera deck right across from 6 elevators and right above one of the tendering stations. SO NOT FUN. We always heard the noise from the elevators and on the mornings when we docked at our ports of call, there was SOO much noise beneath us from the crew and the passengers docking. We actually ended up complaining to Client Services once we were off the ship, but all they could say was that we "should have complained while we were on the ship." We would have, however we did not want to spend our limited cruising time complaining.
Other than all the noise, the room itself was pretty nice and fairly spacious. We had an oceanview porthole, where dolphins and flying fish were often seen. The room was also always clean and well maintained. WARNING: If you are tall, the shower is going to be very uncomfortable for you- my boyfriend is 6'4" and the shower head only came up to his neck! Our friends had an interior room, which was small and felt a bit claustrophobic. Next time, we want to get a room with a balcony. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Valor Oceanview Riviera 1271
Porthole overlooking the ocean, EXTREMELY noisy!!!, across from elevators and right above a tendering station, nice size, comfortable bed. Due to the extreme amounts of noise on a daily basis, I would NOT recommend this room.
Port and Shore Excursions
I wasn't impressed by Belize. To begin with, it was raining that morning and the water was a dirty brown color; I know it wasn't Belize's fault, but it wasn't pretty. We had a 20 minute tender into port, which was super small, but at least it was air conditioned. We had booked a shore excursion for Belize -- Cave Tubing. Cave tubing was certainly not my choice and in fact I really disliked it. Right when we got off the tender, it was raining cats and dogs and we were then packed into a Charter bus, soaking wet. We then drove for an hour through Belize City (it was interesting to see how much of a Third World city it is) to the middle of nowhere. Once we got there, we got on the oldest school bus that I've ever seen and went on a roller coaster ride straight up and then straight down a mountain -- crazy AND scary! By then, the weather had cleared up and it was gorgeous out, but of course we could not enjoy the nice weather as we were in the middle of a JUNGLE! We then had to hike for a half hour through the jungle in our bikinis and swim suits, helmets, water shoes and life jackets carrying a HUGE yellow inner tube. Mosquitoes galore! Once we got there, we got into the water (which, I must admit, was beautiful) and tubed through the caves. This tubing was definitely not exciting like white water rafting... our guides had to pull us half of the time. I somehow got lost from out group and ended up in some other group for a while until I could paddle back. I also almost got lost in a little side cave. Once we were back to the beginning and handed in all of our gear, I noticed that I had gotten a huge rash all over my stomach and back from the life jacket, which did not go away for almost a week. Overall, not a very fun experience and actually quite boring.
Cozumel was fun! Luckily, we had another perfect-weather day. We hadn't booked a shore excursion in Cozumel, as I knew from previous experience that there are a lot of fun things to do there. We got off the ship and shopped in all of the cute shops in the port (price haggling is a must!) and then jumped in a taxi. We told the cab driver, "Take us someplace cool with a great beach and lot of fun!" Probably not the safest thing we've ever done, but it all worked out well. He brought us to Carlos 'n Charlie's, which was very fun. Drinks, beach, water trampoline, other people our age... we couldn't have asked for more! We hung out there for a while before heading back to the port. We shopped around again for a bit and then boarded our ship, headed for home.
Grand Cayman was awesome! We had a 5 minute tender to port, which was great. The weather was also beautiful. Now keep in mind that we didn't spend much time in port, as we had booked an AMAZING shore excursion. We chose the Dolphin Swim & Stingray City Sandbar. First, we went to Dolphin Cove where we walked through a small "jungle" (not a real jungle) and saw all kinds of parrots and tropical birds. We then went swimming with dolphins, ours was named Nemo. He was so sweet! I definitely recommend swimming with the dolphins and not just having a "dolphin encounter"-- swimming is totally worth it. Note that I've been swimming with dolphins in Mexico and my Grand Cayman experience was just as fun and actually cheaper price-wise. After swimming with dolphins, we went directly to a dock and boarded a boat with an upper and lower deck (we were on the upper deck, amazing views!). We took this boat ride out to the Sandbar, a 30-45 minute ride. Once we got there, it was surprising to see that there were dozens of other people already there swimming with the stingrays. NOTE: Bring water goggles!! We didn't bring any and there weren't any provided. Yes, the stingrays have their barbs(they are wild stingrays), but they are so domesticated that we didn't really worry about the barbs too much. It was exciting to kiss the stingrays and get a "back massage" by them. Feeding them was fun too! We then left after a short while. We made it back to our Carnival Ship with plenty of time to spare!
Roatan Island, Honduras was breathtakingly beautiful and we lucked out again with perfect weather. I plan on going back there someday as I absolutely fell in love with this Port of Call. There is no tendering to this island; we got off our ship and shopped around for a bit before getting on a small vessel to sail to our shore excursion-- a Private Island. Maya Key was small but fun! We went snorkeling... the water was rough that day and the tide was low, so needless to say this wasn't the best idea we've had. My boyfriend and my friend both got very cut up from the coral, but somehow I made it through without a scratch. If I had children, I would definitely NOT let them snorkel here. There also really wasn't much to see when snorkeling, but it was still fun. We ate lunch after (provided by the caretakers of the island), which was kind of gross, but we had no other choice but to gobble it all up. My boyfriend and I then took a walk around the island, where they have all kinds of animals that they've rescued from the Black Market. Ocelots, monkeys, sharks, etc... so neat! After that, we just hung out in the water (bath-water warm) and then left after getting some serious sunburn -- but it was worth it!