Let me start by saying that I am shocked at the amount of money students have to waste on liquor! My husband and 11 year old son asked me what I wanted for my 40th birthday and I chose a cruise. We are scuba divers and this was one of the only cruise lines that had 4 stops to places we wanted to dive. Most of the ships have 1-3 ports and more days at sea. The reviews on the Valor were good, the price was right so we went!
We left Miami on a Sunday with no problems boarding and getting checked in. The staff were friendly at times (you can tell the ones who make money in tips as they were always ready to serve) and did their best to keep everyone happy. We headed to deck 5 for lunch and were pleased with the selection at the buffet. After exploring the ship and finding our way around, we headed to the camp carnival orientation. To quote my son "this is awesome mom". Once he checked in, he didn't want to leave, even at the ports. The staff were great and certainly kept the kids busy with various activities. They even offered babysitting services until 3am for a small charge.
The highlight of the cruise is always the sit down dinner at 6pm each night. We were seated in the Washington room and had the most amazing waiter named Wika. I wanted to take him home!! We were seated with another couple who had a son the same age as ours and they became fast friends. To my surprise, the waiters (we had 2) remembered our names, drink preference and dessert preference. We didn't even have to ask for things.....they just appeared.
The night time shows were okay but didn't wow me as previous ones had. One night featured a tribute to the 80's and it was spectacular, however the dancers were barely dressed. I was not impressed with the lack of clothing around the bum and breasts! These were suppose to be family shows.
We chose to do 3 excursions and they were worth the money. Our first stop was in Grand Cayman where my husband went diving and we headed to Seven Mile Beach to relax. Beautiful scenery, people and place! Schools of tropical fish came right to the shore and swam through our legs. Our second was in Honduras and it was just too hot to enjoy. The one beach that was in walking distance (called Mahogany Beach) was overcrowded from the 4 ships that were in port that day. We were stepped on, shoved aside and kicked in the face as we tried to swim. I later found out that it was a man made beach and not the best the island had to offer. Oh well, it was free!
We then sailed to Belize for some snorkeling at Goff's Caye. This was interesting as we did not stop at a dock....we tendered in which was my first time doing so. A boat picked us up at the ship, took us 20 minutes AWAY from the mainland (we never saw Belize) and docked at the smallest island I've ever seen. It was 200 feet wide and was surrounded by coral reef. Let me clarify something for any snorkel enthusiasts out there.....this is NOT great snorkeling. There was very little to see but the staff were wonderul. One of the locals explained that there is an over run of certain fish which are destroying the reef. So Belize officials hold fishing competitions to get rid of the troublesome ones. Unfortunately, it disturbs the other fish and some have left. They are doing their best to build the reef back up to where it should be. We saw 2 Barracudas and a sea turtle. Not much else but a great day regardless.
Our last stop was Cozumel (or party central) and the weather was not cooperating. The water was so rough, the port authority banned any boats from leaving port. So much for diving! So we headed to Dolphinaris to be dolphin trainers for a day. It was amazing and worth the money!
What I liked best about the cruise? Our waiter who I already miss, the kids camp and staff and the spectacular view. What I could do without? Half the ship was filled with drunk students who spent most nights running and screaming down the halls. Some were having sex in the halls or on the Lido deck. It gets very tiring having to always call for security!
I later found out that it's not just a Carnival issue. Most cruise lines are having the same problem. One ship....the "Something of the Seas" was not allowed to tender in to Belize because of vandalism on the boat! The students were throwing deck chairs, towels, glasses overboard and into the pools. So Belize port authority turned them away. Can you imagine paying all that money for a vacation and facing that?
In short, cruising is awesome because you get to see so many places but do not have to drive or fly there. Sit back, try to relax and enjoy. You will have a few kinks and problems but they can be overcome. One last thing....there was a pool/hot tub at the back of the boat for adults only. It was an older crowd who just wanted to be quiet and enjoy. I explained to a few ladies around me that my son and I could not sit near the other pool because of the foul language and people who were passed out drunk (no exaggeration there!). They all agreed that my son was more than welcome in the adult area! How very sweet. He was happy to have a pool all to himself. Thanks ladies, you made our day :)