Left Sat. Oct 1 for Miami then took the Oct 2 cruise on Carnival Valor going to Grand Cayman, Roatan Honduras, Belize, then Cozumel Mexico.
Day 1-Travel to Miami
Woke up at 3:45 am to head to Lambert St. Louis four our 7:21 flight. Pretty damn chilly outside. I was wearing shorts and I think the temp was around 40 or so. After parking the car at the $8.95/day lot, took the shuttle to the airport. We walk in and I ask the wife for the passports to check our luggage. She doesent have them. We left them in the compartment between the seats. So I run outside, hop the next shuttle to the lot, get the passports and hustle back to the airport. Get through security around 6:40a.
Flight to Atlanta was full. Did sit next to this dude who was going to Atlanta for a bachelor party. He started a bit soon. Hungover and smelling of cheap booze and cigars. Flight itself was pretty turbulence free. As we were descending for landing the cross winds must have been strong as we got jostled around quite a bit. Came down hard and felt the entire plane shimmying down the runway. After a 50 minute layover, we boarded the same plane and took off to Miami. Again, winds must have been strong as there was quite a bit of turbulence. Once we got to altitude, it settled down. Another full flight with a screaming baby the entire way. Touchdown in Miami wasnt as bad as Atlanta, but it wasnt a mellow one either. First time flying with Delta and the cockpit jockeys werent gentle at all.
We go to collect our luggage and found that a male silverback gorrilla must have been working baggage that day. Actually, this was the 3rd time in/out of Miami and each time our bags got thrashed. After collecting our bags we headed out and took a taxi to South Beach. We were booked at the [URL="http://www.majesticsouthbeach.com/"]Majestic South Beach[/URL]. I booked through Hotwire.com and never had a problem in the past. I found this place for $118/nt and the amenities listed it as 3-star Ocean front property. After getting the name of the place (how Hotwire works) I looked at reviews. Most were fairly neutral. A few glowing. A few more negative. Most negative feedback centered around them overbooking the hotel then carting the customer off to a different place. Giving the excuse that the toilets were broke, or the electricity was off or something else. Well, the exact same happened to us. To put it mildly, I was hot. So we went down to the other hotel which was 7 blocks down and 2 blocks off the beach. [URL="http://www.cliftonsouthbeach.com/"]Hotel Clifton[/URL]. Not a bad place, but definitely different than anything else we have experienced. Boutique is how they describe it I guess. Standing in the lobby I can still feel my pulse and breathing heavy. Host looks at me and say 'Breathe boss. Your'e on vacation'. I figured he was right and I wasnt going to let this ruin the wifes and my anniversary vacation. I would take care of it when we get home. So we settle in the room and walk to the beach.
This was our first time in South Beach and it was definately a different culture than the Midwest. The people, the sidewalk restaurants, and the decor. I would love to go back when we have more time, but this was a definate culture shock. They actually had a gay latino festival going on on the beach. Wife and I walked through it and she looked at a few trinkets. We ate dinner at a little Tex-Mex place that supposedly was rated #1 in several categories in Miami including late night drunk food. It wasnt bad, but nothing I would term extraordinary.
We left the hotel around 11:30a to go to the port and board the ship. Mother in law called as we were pulling into the terminal and told us the hotel had called and said we left some things there. I call the hotel and the host (same from the day before and actually very nice) told me it was a battery and charger. This was for the rental underwater camera. So we drive all the way back, I run into the hotel, get the charger and battery, and drive all the way back to the port. A $20 taxi trip ended up costing $58.
Get to the port and it is 12:22p. As we are walking on the ship I ask the wife the time. 12:48p. 26 minutes total time. Wow. This was alot better than previous. Carnival has this thing nailed. We go up to the top deck and I grab a Strawberry Daquiri. I didnt notice this before, but Miami taxes are now included while the ship is in port. 60 cents or so making this drink $8.98. last time I pay for a drink while in port. We do the obligatory life boat drill which now does NOT require you to stand around in a life jacket. We head back to our room to find the luggage has arrive. So we unpack our clothes and licqour. 1 liter bottle of smirnoff vanilla vodka we smuggled on board as well as 2 cases off coke. We make a few drinks and go on deck to sail away. Wife and I ask for and get a private table for dinner. Back of the boat right next to the big wrap around windows. Beautiful views. Later in the night we head to the casino. We end up both losing $20 on $3 blackjack.
Day 3-Sea Day
We didnt do much. Went to a [URL="http://www.cruisecritic.com/"]cruise critic dot com[/URL] M&G. Then did a cabin crawl poker hand thing. Wife had a A high flush first 5 cards. To bad the winner had quad 7s the first 4. This was the first formal night and we also celebrated our anniversary. Went to the 'Broadway' style show they had, 'Nightclub Express' or something like that. Same show as the previous 3 cruises. Big obnoxious talking couch. Then went to 2 comdedy shows. Dont remember the 2 guys names, but they werent bad. After dropping $30 at the $3 BJ table again then finishing the last of our vodka, it was off to bed.
Tendered to shore then walked to [URL="http://www.edenrockdive.com/"]Eden Rock dive center[/URL]. Paid $65/pp and did the Devil's Grotto 1 tank shore dive. Dive master was a younger kid named Colt who (if you believed him) was a world traveller. Pretty neat dive, especially for our first ocean dive. After doing a bit of shopping, we headed back to the boat for a shower and dinner. Wife got the short ribs. Tasted like pot roast. We go watch a couple of shows where the guests participate. Again, same shows with the same questions for the past 10 years. Time to update your material Carnival.
Did a [URL="http://www.boddentours.com/bestofroatan.htm/"]Victor Bodden[/URL] tour. Pretty neat as he took us around the island and showed us some sites. Also stopped at the locals selling items. Wife bought a few neclakces, pendants, shells, and a beautiful Mahogany fruit bowel. Gorgeous wood. We then went to the Monkey house at the tour owners house. Pretty neat. Wife wanted to take home a monkey, I told her we have 2 at home. She either didnt get it or didnt find it amusing. *shrug*. We then went to West End Bay where I fell in love with the village. No mega resorts. No ultra posh restaurants. Just a quaint, charming village. Would love to go back. Driver dropped us off at the port and we bought two 1 liter bottles of absolute vanilla vodka for $8 each. We were going to pour it into our water bottles we had left, but they wouldnt let us back out of the duty free building to go to the restroom. So I put both bottles into our bag and went back on board. After X-raying they made us go to the licqour check station. I pulled out 1 bottle, checked it with the little Fillipino and went to the room with the other. For dinner we went to the steak house on board the ship. An extra $30/pp but the steak was great and portions huge. 18oz ribeye for me and surf-n-turf for wife.
We decided on doing cave tubing there with [URL="http://bze-trips.com/"]VIV tours[/URL]. After a hour drive into the jungle we loaded up our tubes and went hiking. The guide was great. Told us of local history on the way up, then told us of mayan legend and lore. Pointed out different trees, fruits, and wildlife. Even pointed out a tarantula. The hike up was 45 minutes or so. The tubing was pretty laid back. Just a lesiruely float down the river. Went back to the port and did some shopping. Tendered back to the boat. Lady in the cabin across the hall gave us her 3/4 full bottle of grey goose. Offered to pay her, but she didnt want it. Went to the evening big production show and it was pretty good. 80's music tribute show.
This was the wife and I 4th time in Cozumel. As a port, it ranked at the bottom of our list. Not anymore. Went diving with [URL="http://www.papahogs.com/site/index2.php/"]Papa Hog's[/URL] and did a 2 tank dive to Palancar Shallows and Columbia Gardens. 65' and 35' respectively. We went back to the boat and wife did some shopping in the port while I showered. Went to dinner. The food seemed to be getting more drab as the week wore out. Probably because I dont eat seafood and choose steak most every night. Same steak, flat iron. Other than Prime Rib 2 nights, that is the only red meat choice. We then went to the comedy shows then to bed.
Day 8-Sea day
Not much. Finished off the Absolute and almost the entire bottle of Goose. Ate another flat iron.
We have had some terrible debarkations in the past. This went pretty smooth actually. Had to be out of the cabin by 8:30 so we went up to breakfast at 8 or so. Sat around waiting for our debarkation # to be called. Finally at 10a I get tired of waiting, especially since we have a 12:12 flight. I go ask a worker and he says they just cleared our zone but havent annoucned it yet. So we go down, collect our gear and head to the airport. Fly to Memphis where we have 30 minutes to go from Terminal B to Terminal A before our flight leaves. We get on a little Embriar plane and head to St Louis. The flight itself you felt a bit more turbulence than a bigger plane, but the landing was smoother. We head home and hug the kids.
All in all, a good cruise. I would recommend to anyone who wants to save money to do your research on this site and look at independent tour operators. You will save a bundle and have a better time. For instance, in Belize our guide stopped and showed us a tarantula, local fauna and other interesting things in the jungle. We were passed by a group employed by Carnival. They seemed almost to be rushed through to the river. Plus they paid nearly double we did.
We have been sailing Carnival more than 10 yrs now, and the food in the dining rooms has gone steadily downhill. No longer do they have Wellington or other cuts of beef. Just flat iron. To get the nicer pieces, you need to go to Scarlett's. But the tradeoff is that we paid nearly the same for this cruise as we did for our first. The shows are the same 'ole for the most part and they need some new material.