My two daughters and I drove to Miami and stayed at the Hampton Inn in Coconut Grove. We had reserved the stay and cruise package which was great. We were able to leave our car at the hotel while we cruised and it only cost about $20 more than the base rate for a room for the night. They provided transfers to the port for two, so I just had to pay for one. You had to get your own transportation back to the hotel. We used a taxi and the cost was about $25.00 for all of us. It saved us some money by not parking at the port. The hotel was nice and included breakfast. It was located in a nice area and was only about 15 minutes from the port.
We arrived at the port around 11:30 and it was crowded, but the lines were moving smoothly. My only complaint about the embarkment process is that no one could give you a straight answer. No one told us that we needed a boarding number to be able to get on the ship. Once we got through security and went upstairs, we checked in and I asked about the number and was told oh if you do not have one you have to wait for general boarding. After talking to many people, I found out that when you come up the stairs there is usually someone right there handing out the numbers. So we ended up waiting longer than necessary to get on the ship.
Once on the ship, we headed to Rosies on Lido deck for lunch. The food was good and we were able to find a table rather easily. We walked around to familiarize ourselves with the layout and then headed to our stateroom.
Our stateroom was nice. It was only setup for two people which was unusual. Usually, when we had arrived in our stateroom it was setup for the number of people in the room. I called housekeeping and they said that the would be down later to set up the additional bed. We have always used the couch as our additional bed and when the came they pulled out the upper. We really did not like the way it hung from they ceiling so we requested that they not use that but set up the couch instead. They were very accommodating. Our luggage arrived very quickly and we were able to unpack and still have time to wander the ship before dinner.
I love having a balcony room. I do not usually sleep through the night and I can get up and go out on the balcony and listen to water or look at the stars.
At around 3:30 in the morning, the stars are extremely bright. On one particular night, there were dark clouds to the right and to the left but in the middle were the brightest stars you have ever seen. Its almost like you can reach up and touch them. It is an amazing site.
We have always chosen the late dining and been very happy with that choice. We find it allows for more time to enjoy your day before getting ready for dinner. We always eat in the main dining room and look forward to meeting our table mates. It is enjoyable sharing excursion information and learning about other things there might be to do that you are unaware of. We were in the Washington Upper and our waiters were the best. Gustave was our headwaiter and he was full of information. He chatted with us and told us about life on the ship. The food was great and he always came around to make sure we enjoyed everything.
The shows were also very good. We went to most of the shows and they were always entertaining. The dancers were awesome. They also offer alot of comedians now. The only complaint, is arrive early or you will not get a seat.
We also went to tea time that they offer on sea days. If you get the chance, go. The little sandwiches and pastries are awesome. It was enjoyable time to just relax a little bit.
We ordered room service a few times and never waited very long for service at all.
I was a little disappointed that there was no Captains Cocktail party, but you do still get to meet the captain and crew. The farewell party which replaced the cocktail party was fun. It was sad though because you new your cruise was coming to an end.
This was the first week that the Valor was doing this itinerary so there interactive tv was not very helpful. It wasn't updated to new port of calls that we were going to.
The ship was very clean and the carnival staff was always busy keeping it that way. The staff was always friendly and very accommodating. It is always nice being pampered and spoiled for a week and that is what Carnival does for you.
Our first port of call was Half Moon Cay. This island was beautiful. This is a tender port so unless you have an early excursion it takes a while to get off the ship. We did the Carnival horseback riding excursion at 10am so we were on one of the first tenders off the ship. This was an amazing excursion. There were probably 15 of us. They took us by truck to the end of the island where the horses were. We rode on the beach and they took us to the highest point of the island which is only 60 feet. We then went back to the coral where they took the regular saddles off the horses and prepared to them to go in the water. It was such a neat experience to go riding in the water. My daughters and I really enjoyed this. The guides were awesome. They eagerly took your cameras to get pictures of you on the horses. They were there every second to make sure everything was going ok. They then took us back to the main part of the island for beach time. We rented a shell to have a little shade. The water was absolutely gorgeous. Crystal blue waters. The only complaint here was the tender ride back to the boat. The last tender was suppose to be at 4:15. After spending many hours relaxing, we headed back to the tender spot around 2:30. We thought we would beat the crowds. Well we did not. We waited in line for 2 hours to get a tender. There was no shade and it was really hot. This put a damper on a really great day. I think this being the first time this ship has gone to this port may have contributed to the problem. We were suppose to sail away at 5pm but didn't leave until almost 5:45. It took that long to get everyone back on the ship.