Lots of R & R with Fond Memories: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by WendyCn

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Lots of R & R with Fond Memories

Sail Date: October 2013
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: San Juan
San Juan Pre-cruise  We flew in the day before our cruise and stayed at the Coral Princess. This boutique hotel was very quaint, the staff welcoming & although on the small side our room (#17) was clean with a comfortable bed and commodities. We ate dinner at the Café del Angel, a short walk from the hotel. We enjoyed our dinners which we felt were reasonably priced and the restaurant staff was attentive and the service was awesome. Although we enjoyed our stay at the Coral Princess, I would recommend staying in a hotel along the beach as it was extremely hot and humid on the interior portion of San Juan.

Embarkation  This was not exactly a smooth operation. There were taxis and buses all over the place. However, since we had priority boarding we were able to get through security and into the VIP lounge in a timely manner. Our main issue was that while we waited about an hour in the lounge and then proceeded to stand in line to board, there were other More cruisers boarding through a side door (allowed to by the terminal staff). Not sure why those 20+ people were allowed to butt in front of us to board but since they were in fine physical shape & were not holding Platinum or Diamond cards, those of us that had been waiting assumed that they were FTTF. I have no problem with those paying for the FTTF as long as those who are Platinum & Diamond, who are the real VIP’s, are allowed the PRIORITY boarding as we have also paid for this benefit & paid thousands of dollars to do so. Also, be sure to take your passport everywhere you go and when you leave the ship. A couple (from our CC roll call) missed the cruise b/c he forgot his passport at home and his military ID was not acceptable (REALLY!?). How sad is that! CVS is convenient and we had no problem bringing water and it was handy to get snacks or last minute toiletries or wine. Right after boarding, we went up to the Lido deck to grab a bite to eat as we were told that our cabin would be ready by 1:30, and we were quite pleased to see that it was indeed ready for us.

St. Thomas  We had been to St. Thomas before so we stayed in the port area to do a little shopping. It is fun, though, to hang out in the adult area on the Lido deck.

Sea Day  We had room service for an early breakfast where we could enjoy our coffee and tea out on the balcony (this is one of our favorite things to do while cruising). We then went to the brunch being offered in the MDR. It was very good and we enjoyed it. We also used our free drink coupon where we both had The Cruiser, which was yummmmmyyyy. Although there were many activities going on since onboard activities like the Hairy Chest Contest and Love and Marriage Game had to all be on this day, for us it was a lazy day to just kick back and take it easy, including our social group (previous CC roll call) slot pull. Then a short nap before it was time to get all dolled up for elegant night.

Barbados  We had been to Barbados before where we swam with the turtles and snorkeled using El Tigre (highly recommend this experience as we had a super great experience). This time, we had a private island tour scheduled with Tyrone Griffith. Due to a scheduling conflict on his part, this did not happen. While the tour with another driver was offered, it just wasn’t the up to par.

St. Lucia  Our tour with Cosol was one of the best, if not THE best, of all of the tour guides ever. We highly recommend them. This is about a 6 to 7 hour tour traveling all over the island, over hill and dale to the drive-in volcano and mud bath to the jet boat ride to Jalousie Beach (now Sugar Bay), this was an awesome experience with THE best snorkeling my husband ever experienced. The island is beautiful with a diversity of greenery, fresh air breezes (except at the volcano), and beautiful turquoise waters.

St. Kitts  We booked a private tour with Thenford Grey, who is well informed about the history, and his love of his island shows through on his commentary during the tour. The view from Timothy Hill showing the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Bay on the other is one that will be ingrained in my brain forever. It was absolutely gorgeous!! The island itself is lush with greenery in the rain forest, which gets 90 inches of rain per year and yet 10 miles away there are cactus growing on the lower drier areas which only get an average of 30 inches per year.

St. Maarten  Since we had been previously seen the island via a private island tour, DH had planned on going to Maho Beach. However, he changed his mind and we only did some shopping around the port area.

Debarkation went smoothly. As Platinum members, we met in the Lincoln Dining Room at 8:00 am and were escorted off the ship at 8:15 am. Very nice! We were greeted by a porter named Santiago who was very talkative and helpful, who immediately located our luggage, and quickly found us a taxi to take us to the airport.

Dining  Our dining room staff at table 344 were slow and taking monetary bribes from a table of 8 sitting next to us. Although our table mates were prompt and we were there first, this table was served first. This continued for 3 additional nights, we hadn’t finished our dinners and the wait staff were singing and having fun! Needless to say, to us this was incomprehensible and we did report it. For the final 3 evenings, the wait staff did improve somewhat. We had great table mates and we enjoyed talking about our day and sharing our memories of past cruises along with talking about home and family.

Just a few notes  We didn’t go to any of the entertainment. Our plans for this cruise were to explore the islands we hadn’t been to before and to kick back and relax and to regroup so when we got back to work we would be somewhat refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of the year. Then we would reflect back on our memories throughout the year as we wait for the days to pass until our next cruise.

To the lady who said she had 8 correct at the trivia, hmmmm, we did wonder since you had taken quite a bit of time adding up to 8. So, no ship on a stick for us, but we were sooooo close….

We ate in the MDR whenever we could. We just feel that the quality of the food continues to spiral downhill. Yes, the portions are smaller and we understand, so we ask for a double order or two starters/entrees. However, the slices of meat are thin and the once loved apple pie was a different brand with no flavor at all, as a few examples. On the Lido deck, not only are they dishing out the bacon and now ham, the fresh fruit i.e. bananas, apples, pears, and oranges are also being monitored.

We choose this cruise for the most part so we could visit St. Lucia and St. Kitts and we were not disappointed. However, there are areas where Carnival is lacking from past cruises. We do realize that not every cabin steward introduces themselves or calls you by name, but we like that and are disappointed when the little things that have made cruising so much fun in the past is not up to par. And that coupled by a sadly lacking wait staff who did not call us by name, did not introduce themselves to us, did not remember we like coffee and tea every evening, did not make menu recommendations, etc., well, it just wasn’t quite the same. Maybe we have been spoiled from previous cruises and staff; however, we expect it and especially so as Platinum members.

We found we missed the sea days. We knew this was a port-intensive cruise; however, we didn’t realize how MUCH we enjoyed those sea days.

To the F-bombs, you are all a fantastic group. The slot pull was a fun time and I will never look at Jello the same way again. We had a lot of fun & hope we can sail together again sometime soon!!!

We did have many positive moments with memories to carry us through the cold, wintry weather here in the Northeast. And, hey, we weren’t working, there were no dishes to wash or laundry to do. Life was good!!! Less

Published 11/13/13

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