My husband and I took a cruise with our four children on the Carnival Valor on the May 1st sailing which visited Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel. We had heard mixed reviews from friends about Carnival and weren't sure what to expect after having sailed with Royal Caribbean. We were pleasantly surprised by the personal atmosphere and impeccable service. We have been to many all-inclusive resorts, and the children all agreed that this was our best vacation ever.
We flew in to Miami on 4/30 and stayed at the Best Western Plus Miami Airport. It was ok...nothing to brag about. We had rented a car, so my husband dropped us off at the port and got a shuttle back from the airport. We arrived at about 10:30 am and were able to board at around Noon. Embarkation was smooth and the people friendly.
We enjoyed Grand Cayman. We took the Stingray City tour with Captain Marvin's (great experience). We went snorkeling off of the Mahogany Bay beach in Roatan (beautiful More
reef), but didn't disembark at Belize b/c there was a fire on land that created a haze over most of the island and we wanted a day on the ship anyway. In Cozumel we went to a small beach area and snorkeled, swam in the pool, etc.
We ate dinner in the dining room every night (Washington lower). Dennis and Diwa (our waiters) were exceptional and provided personal attentive service with a smile. The food was excellent. We tried so many things: chilled strawberry, mango, peach, and cherry soups, escargot, etc. We loved the lobster, Panko shrimp, Norwegian salmon, seafood Newburg, Chateaubriand, Thai chicken, etc. The children ordered from the adult menu every night and loved it.
We also ate at Rosie's for lunch as well as the fish and chips restaurant. The sushi at the sushi bar on deck 5 was excellent. We loved the tuna tartar.
I would say that the food was better than what we had on Royal Caribbean, though Carnival isn't as elaborate with the buffet presentation. What made our experience overall is the exceptional service and warm personalities that we had on the ship from the housekeeping to the dining rooms.
The only thing I would say needs improvement is Camp Carnival. Not all of the counselors were exuberant or patient. Some were great, but the experience was a bit tainted by grouchy counselors.
The pool area is beautiful and there are many areas to find a quiet spot in Serenity or the upper decks. The ship is impeccably maintained. I never saw a crumb on the floor! The employees are constantly cleaning everything (railings, stairs, elevators, doors, etc.)
The theater is beautiful and we liked the comfortable bench type seating on the main floor. The 80's show was remarkable and very well done. We enjoyed the shows very much.
Overall, I would say our experience was exceptionally good. I would recommend Carnival Valor to anyone. It was a great value, though we never felt that we were on a budget cruise due to the excellent service and warm friendly atmosphere. Less
The water is amazing in Cozumel. We have been all over the Caribbean and the Turks and Caicos, and thought the water was as pretty in Cozumel as anywhere. We were supposed to go to Chankanaab, but at the advice of a local decided to go to Play Uvas instead. We had a great day there. It cost us $20 in cab fare for six and $32 to get in to the beach area (chairs, snorkel gear, umbrellas, etc. included). The entry fee ended up being free b/c they gave us $32 in tickets to spend at the bar! It was a quiet day on a beautiful beach. The snorkeling wasn't as good as Roatan, but the kids did see a moray eel and lots of fish. The people were very friendly and it was private.
We booked an excursion with Captain Marvin's to Stingray City and Coral Gardens. The Stingray City tour was our favorite of the trip. We have done stingray tours before, but this one is special. The rays are so friendly and affectionate. We fed them, held them, kissed them, and they rubbed against us like kittens. Captain Marvin's was great. They had three crew members who were friendly and knowledgeable. We didn't think the Coral Garden's stop was very good...the coral is not the best we have seen, but we enjoyed the trip nonetheless. It cost us around $180 for all of us (2 adults, 4 children).
We loved the beach at Mahogany Bay because it was so close to the ship, so well appointed, and the reef was amazing for snorkeling. We have snorkeled and been diving in several places, and we thought this reef was exceptional. We brought our own gear and spent the day in the water, so it cost us nothing at all!! We had planned an excursion with a dive shop on Roatan, but we decided to check out the beach and ended up staying. Aside from some foul-mouthed people in the beach cabana next to where we were seated, we had a perfect day.