I cruised from June 30-July 5, 2018 with a party of 12 people aged 10-80. Let me start by saying that my expectations for this cruise were low, and it turned out to be better than I thought it would be. If this is the cruise you can afford ... Read More
I cruised from June 30-July 5, 2018 with a party of 12 people aged 10-80. Let me start by saying that my expectations for this cruise were low, and it turned out to be better than I thought it would be. If this is the cruise you can afford and it is convenient for you, by all means don’t hesitate to go. We had a large group, and everyone had a pretty good time. Now I will pick apart a few things in hopes that Carnival takes some of the feedback to heart. I hope what follows doesn’t seem too negative or discouraging, but here goes.
EMBARKATION was fairly smooth. I did not realize that the porters take your luggage at the curb, then they check it inside. I turned away the first couple of helpful gentlemen because I thought we could take it inside ourselves. I was confused about the luggage allotment. Carnival states in several places that you are allowed ONE suitcase per person plus a carry on. I confirmed this in two separate phone calls before the cruise. When we got there, people had many more bags than that and were not questioned or stopped at all. So I guess it’s true – their rules are just suggestions.
We arrived at the cruise terminal in Galveston a few minutes early, so they put us in the “early/late” line. From there until boarding the ship took about 20 minutes. The terminal is very sterile and warehouse-like, although staff were fairly friendly and helpful for the most part. Other cruises I’ve been on have had a party going on inside for those waiting to board with drinks, music, etc. This was not like that at all, but I guess that’s ok. There was a VERY angry guest who was shouting and throwing a fit over how many sodas he could bring on. The crew was very patient with him. Once on board, we were immediately in a crowd of people in the main lobby. There were no crew welcoming guests or directing traffic, so we just followed people onto elevators, most of which were reserved for the crew to use for luggage. Getting to our room took another 20 minutes or so.
OUR BALCONY CABIN (7347) was great - spacious with more storage than we needed. The bed was very comfortable and the fridge worked well if we kept the cabinet door propped open. We saw our steward only once – the first night. He kept things clean, but did not replace glasses that we took out of the room or give us the little pen/notepad that others had - small details. The only things that could have used a better cleaning were door frames and the inside of drawers which had a lot of dust and hair in them from previous guests. The hair dryer is fixed inside a drawer, and while not very strong it was fine for my hair. Toiletries provided include bar soap, body wash and shampoo (no conditioner or lotion). The water is HOT!!! We had trouble showering without getting scalded, which was really kind of dangerous as it would suddenly get even hotter while you were in there.
THE SHIP was fairly clean and well maintained, but it was really terrible to get around. There is a portion of deck 3 which you can’t go through, so you have to go up/down/around, then often the other rooms that you might walk through on neighboring decks were closed for one reason or another. We spent a ton of wasted time trying to get from one place to another, which was especially infuriating as I have a walking disability. Also, I was surprised that there is no observation lounge where one might relax and enjoy the view. While there are windows all along the ship, most of the seating is arranged facing inward, so you forgot you were even on a boat. The public bathrooms are difficult to find and designed in a maddening way to create bottlenecks. I wonder if the designers of this ship have ever actually gone on a cruise. I would probably not cruise on the Valor again because of the dysfunctional design and layout.
The pools and hot tubs were tiny, crowded and…murky. We did not go near them. The Serenity deck was pleasant. The most comfortable lounge chairs were up there!
FOOD in the main dining room was pretty good, but nothing special. Our servers were very helpful, but clearly needed more support. They were frantically busy, and then had to stop in the middle of everything and dance which you could tell just made the situation worse. We felt bad for them, and tried to express our gratitude. I unfortunately need gluten free food, and while there were options available, everyone I spoke to had a different idea of what I could safely eat. One day the creamed spinach was GF, and the next day I was told it wasn’t. I wish they would create a list which they could have given me to explain what I could eat in the MDR and in the buffet and other restaurants, but there seemed to be no such coordinated effort (as there is on some other ships).
Scarlett’s Steakhouse was exceptional – food and service were amazing, and they gave us three bottles of complimentary wine! The Burger Joint was very popular and the food was good. Again, I had mixed messages regarding gluten. The buffet seemed average. The ice cream stations were nice in theory, however the dispensers were filthy. I have a pic of a moldy, disgusting dispenser that we were hesitant to use. Meh - we ate some anyway and didn't get sick.
We were all very surprised that there was almost no food available after 9:00 pm – only pizza and moldy ice cream. We pre-ordered some bottled water which was a smart choice. We did not get any drink packages, and between my husband and I having wine with dinner and an occasional cocktail, we spent about $100 for the week. We did carry on some wine and sodas to have in our cabin.
My husband says the breakfast burritos are the best option for the morning, and don’t miss the mac and cheese in the MDR!!
ENTERTAINMENT was…ok. The fun crew didn’t seem to be having much fun, and we only went to the stage show on the first night because it was so painful to sit through. I think the cruise director gets paid by the syllable. The piano player in the Lindy Hop bar was very talented, but seemed pretty fed up with his job. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with a ball cap on, and clearly was out of patience for his drunk patrons. Sorry entertainers – I know you’re trying, and this is not an easy gig.
The casino was super smoky (as usual), and there was a lack of blackjack tables that were not “fun blackjack” which we weren’t interested in. Video Poker machines seemed to be very “tight” and did not pay out much of anything. I did like the fact that you could charge to your account directly from the machine. P.S. – when we got money at the tables, there was a 3% fee added, but this did not seem to be the case at a machine.
EXCURSIONS were booked through independent operators. This is a bit risky, and we did have a medical evacuation which changed our cruise route, but it all worked out. In Progresso we used Lawson’s tours and saw ruins, swam in a cenote, and ate at a local family’s house. That meal was delicious, but it was cooked in a shack in her back yard. In retrospect, it was probably a bit risky, but no one got sick and we loved the experience.
In Cozumel, we went to Nachi Cocom beach club and it was wonderful. They limit the number of customers, so we practically had the place to ourselves. They provided a full meal, which was good, and there were unlimited drinks all day. The drinks were pretty weak, but that was probably a good thing. The beach was clean, and the water wonderful. I took a nice nap in a hammock near the water, and never wanted to leave. Get the ceviche and the flan!
DEBARKATION was smooth. We had to be out of the room at 8:30 and hung out on the Lido deck until our group was called to leave at 10:00. Once in the terminal, we retrieved our luggage and one of the porters shepherded us through customs and we were out the door in short order.
IN SUMMARY – it was a pleasant enough cruise, although the party vibe on this trip is not exactly what I like anymore. I am in my mid-50s, and while I appreciate a good hairy chest contest as much as the next person, I guess my party animal days are past so I would opt for a more relaxing, elegant atmosphere. Read Less