One week in the sun and fun!: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by Coffee-Mate

Carnival Valor 5
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One week in the sun and fun!

Sail Date: September 2008
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
Western Caribbean Cruise - Sept. 14, 2008

My wife (Nicole), my sister in law (Brenda) and I left home on Friday, Sept. 12 and drove to Syracuse, New York where we stayed overnight and left the following morning by airplane for Miami. After a great flight with Delta Airlines, we arrived at 1:50 at the Miami International Airport; from there, we took a taxi to the Marriott Biscayne Bay Hotel. This was a full 24 hours before we boarded the Carnival Valor for our long awaited cruise. Our hotel was located right at the Biscayne Bay Marina, where we could see the cruise ships docked at the port, a short distance away.

The next day, Sunday, we boarded the ship at 12:30. This was a longer process than we had anticipated, the three of us being past guests of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Once on board, we went ahead to cabin 6368 on the Upper Deck - our home for the next seven days. After having gotten what little things we had put away (our luggage had not More arrived to our room as of yet), we went up to the Lido Deck to take in the sights and sounds, we listened to a calypso band and had a drink as well. We were three of the happiest people on the ship.

About an hour or so later, we returned to our cabin where some of our luggage had arrived. We unpacked it and then went out on our balcony to watch the ship sail away from its home port. We slowly sailed past Miami Beach which was a complete blanket of people as far as the eye could see.

Once out in open waters, and getting close to dinner time, we got ourselves ready to go down to the Lincoln Dining Room for the early seating at table 104, where we were treated like royalty by Mario (Head Waiter) and Kam (Assistant Waiter). We were joined by two ladies from Fort Lauderdale (Fran and Anita), the five of us hit it off right from the get go.

After our meal, we went to the Ivanhoe Theater where we took in the Welcome Aboard talk given by our Cruise Director, Chris Jefferson; then we walked around the ship in order to get to know our surroundings. The first place we stopped at was the Shogun Club Casino on Deck five, after having played the slot machines for a short period of time, we returned to our cabin where we were greeted by a towel animal - a seal - and our beds were turned town, we stepped out on the balcony where we sat back and relaxed for a while before we called it a day.

Fun Day at Sea

The next day, we had ordered coffee and orange juice delivered to our room for 8:00. After it arrived, we stepped out on our balcony where we enjoyed the fresh morning sea air as well as our wake up refreshments. We then got ourselves together and went to the Washington Dining room for breakfast; it was now 9:00. After we ate, we went to the Ivanhoe Theater for the Ship and Port Orientation Talk given by Chris our Cruise Director; this was quite informative as it prepared us for what was ahead in the days to come.

After the talk, we went to the Photo gallery on deck four where we picked up our embarkation photos after which we went up one deck to the Carnival Shops to have a quick look around at the trinkets which were available there. We then returned to our room (cabin 6368) on the Upper Deck to put our purchases away; then went to the Dream Bar at the end of King Boulevard (Deck five) where we relaxed and had an afternoon drink. My sister in law had a Blue Margarita, my wife had a Strawberry Daiquiri and I had a Miami Vice. Following this, we went up to the Lido Deck for an afternoon stroll and a quick look at the sights and sounds. We then returned to our room and rested before going down for dinner. This is not to say that the activities went on during this time. They included: A Wine Tasting Seminar Carnival Adult Bean Bag Toss The Match Game Name that Tune Trivia

to name a few.

At 5:00, we went to the Captain's Welcome Reception on Deck five. This was hosted by Chris, our Cruise Director, who introduced us to Captain Agostino Fazio and the senior crew of the Carnival Valor. During this Reception, we were treated to cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. After the Reception, we headed down to Deck three and the Lincoln Dining room for yet an other fantastic meal. Mario and Kam greeted us and seated us at our table. Our table companions joined us a few moments later. We were then treated to a performance by the waiter / waitress staff of the Dining Room.

After dinner, we returned to our room to freshen up and then went down to the Ivanhoe Theater to take in a Vegas style show "{Night Club Express". The Valor Dancers as well as Sheri Hayden and Andre Stith put on a great performance of various Night Club and TV theme songs. From there, we returned to the Shogun Club Casino for a short period of time. Since Lady Luck was not on our side, we returned to our room where we were greeted by an other towel animal - a dog this time. We sat out on our balcony for a while before turning in for the day.

George Town - Grand Cayman

We sailed into Grand Cayman early, well before 7:00. We were the first ship in followed close behind by the Carnival Legend. The Carnival Imagination was the third ship in.

Again this day, we had ordered coffee and orange juice delivered to our room. We sat out on our balcony and watched the sun rise as well as the early tenders come out to the ships. By 8:30, we went to the Washington Dining room for breakfast and by 10:00 we were off the ship and being tendered to shore.

Once on shore we wasted no time in getting into the groove of things, going from store to store to see what specials we could find. We didn't have any problems finding those; my wife and I purchased a pair of his and hers watches at an amazingly low price. We didn't stay ashore for long as the heat was getting to us (the temperature was in the high 90's). By 2:00 we were back on the ship.

We stopped off at our room on the Upper Deck to put our fabulous purchases away and then on our way up to the Promenade Deck stopping off at the Dream Bar where we got into a friendly conversation with the bartender (Marcela) and found out that she had been with Carnival for ten years and had worked on many of their ships, one of which was the Carnival Conquest when it sailed out of New Orleans. I asked her if, per chance, she was on that ship when we took our cruise in September of 2003; she said that she was and remembered seeing us on the ship. After saying our goodbyes to her, we then went up to the Lido Deck for a mid-afternoon snack and the sounds of island music. After having eaten, we returned to our room where we stretched out for an afternoon rest. The Carnival Valor left Grand Cayman at 4:00 for Isla Roatan, Honduras. After the Past Guest Party in the Ivanhoe Theater, we went to the Lincoln Dining Room for our early seating, our friends were there still and Mario as well as Kam treated us like royalty again. The Dining Room staff entertained us with a great performance yet again. After dinner, we went to the photo gallery to see what the pictures looked like from the previous day as we had gotten some taken by one of the photographers. We also wanted to see if the debarkation pictures from Grand Cayman were out. We purchased the ones which were available and brought them to our room after which we went up to the Shogun Club Casino. There, we played the slot machines for a while then had a drink at the Dream Bar. We also listened to a band playing on King Boulevard - they also took a moment to acknowledge a passenger (Ed) who was celebrating his 100th birthday - he had more get up and go in him than I have seen in many younger people.

Although the ship was in port and many if not all the passengers went ashore, activities onboard ship still went on. They included: Adult Mini Golf Tournament TV Theme Song Trivia The Valor Race Scavenger Hunt

Isla Roatan - Honduras

We had again ordered coffee and orange juice delivered to our room for 8:00 or so. Once we had received it, we drank it while sitting out on our balcony. We got ourselves ready as we wanted to attend the Belize and Cozumel Shopping Talk at 10:30 in the Ivanhoe Theater. Before we went down, we watched the ship sail up to Honduras. The talk was quite informative and didn't last all that long as we were back in our room in time to watch the ship pull up to and be moored to the dock. Our ship was the only one in port. This port was in the process of being rebuilt and did not look to appealing to the eye. This was confirmed when we got off ship; the shops there were not all that great and there were even young children selling trinkets to tourists. We only walked four blocks or so and saw about fifteen police officers keeping some type of order in streets that were only about twelve feet wide. I'll be honest, we were glad to get back onboard ship after about one half hour. Once back on ship, we did a leisurely stroll along the Lido and Panorama decks to have a look around at what Roatan had to offer.

While the ship was at dock, the activities onboard went on; some of which were: Ping Pong Competition Movie Trivia Bean Bag Competition All about Nothing Trivia

At 6:00, we made our way to the Lincoln Dining Room for our daily feast at table 104. One of the items on the menu was Lobster Tail and King Shrimp which both my sister in law and I had two servings of - Mario brought us seconds as he said that, in his opinion, they weren't big enough. That evening, my wife had Chicken Cordon Bleu. These meals were preceded by soup and salad and followed by desert, as they were every night. After we left the Dining room, we went to the Photo Gallery as we had pictures taken the evening before and we wanted to see if they were worth while. We then returned to our room where we took it easy for a while and ended up calling it an early night after having sat out on our balcony for a while. We were anxious to see what Belize had to offer as we arrived there the following morning.

Belize City, Belize

We were supposed to arrive in Belize for 8:00 AM; however, we were making good time and arrived about an hour earlier. Again this Thursday morning, for those of you who aren't keeping track of the days (I know we weren't - heck we were on vacation), we had ordered coffee and orange juice delivered to our room for 7:00. We had this brought to us earlier than usual as we had a 10:45 excursion which we wanted to be ready for. We had to be down to deck zero for 10:30 as we had a 15 minute tender into Belize City. The ship could not dock as there were a large number of coral reefs which the cruise lines nor the port authority for that matter, want disturbed. After getting off the tender, we proceeded to board a tour bus which would take us on a 2 ½ hour tour of Belize City. During this time, we saw things which we found not only quite surprising, but also hard to believe. Allow me to share some of them with you...

? Did you know that Belize had gained its independence as a British Crown Colony, October 21, 1981 Belize's delicacy is known as Bamboo Chicken - this will floor you - it's lizard. ? Their grave sites are above ground. That right. People are stored in vaults on the ground. Some of these even hold two people (for example, husband and wife). ? They have one major thoroughfare which leads to the United States - via Mexico. ? Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages. It is the only country in Central America where English is an official language, although Spanish and Kriol are also widely spoken. One example is "Pickney" or "pickiney" meaning 'child', taken from an earlier form piccaninny. ? The national tree of Belize is the mahogany tree. British settlers exploited the Belizean forest for mahogany, beginning around the middle of the 17th century. It was originally exported to the United Kingdom in the form of squared logs, but shipments now consist mainly of sawn lumber. The mahogany tree forms part of Belize's Coat of Arms. ? The Keel Billed Toucan is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill, brightly colored green, blue, red and orange feathers. Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees. ? (Here is an extra little tid bit of information) The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off of the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 45 miles from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep. It was formed as a limestone cave system during the last ice age when sea levels were much lower. This is a popular spot amongst recreational scuba divers, who are lured by the opportunity to dive in crystal clear water and meet several species of fish. ? Belize has many rich homes, some of these homes go for as much as $165,000.00 USD. These are only a few interesting facts about the port city of Belize.

We bought a few small souvenirs before leaving Belize City, however, after the tour, we gladly returned to the ship as we were in need of air conditioning, it was quite warm. The average temperature was 100 to 105 degrees F. We had a touch of rain (5 minutes worth) when we got back to the ship and disembarked from the tender. With the heat we were having, even the rain was warm. A cold drink sure sounded like a great idea. We were back on the Carnival Valor between 2:00 and 3:00 that afternoon. After having brought our souvenirs to our room, we went to Rosie's Restaurant on the Lido Deck for an afternoon snack (a light salad and a lemonade - nothing more as we knew a great meal awaited us in the Lincoln Dining Room. After having eaten, we returned to our room so we could rest before the evening began. We may well have been anchored in Belize, however, activities on the ship went on; they included: Ping Pong Tournament. Bean Bag Toss. Movie Trivia. (Here is an interesting one) Food Trivia.

At 5:00, the Carnival Valor set sail behind the Carnival Legend and ahead of the Royal Caribbean ship. As we had done when we came into Belize, we had to sail around many coral reefs, because of this and if you were keeping an eye on the other two ships, at times, it looked as though we were sailing in circles, but appearances can be deceiving. It was getting close to 6:00 so we decided to go down to the Lincoln Dining Room to see what Mario, Kam and the menu held in store for us. We were not disappointed as we ate to our hearts content. Brenda and I had Filet Mignon and Nicole had Chicken Alfredo. We then went up to the Photo Gallery to see what they had to offer as we had gotten our pictures taken in the Dining room the previous evening. Having brought our purchases to our room, we returned to Deck 5 and the Shogun Club Casino. After having played the slot machines for a while, we returned to our rooms and yet an other towel animal, a rabbit this time. After having caught a bit of salty sea air, we turned in for the night in order to prepare ourselves for tomorrow and Cozumel.


We were scheduled to arrive in Cozumel at 8:00 A.M., but again, we were making good time and arrived closer to 7:00. We had ordered coffee and orange juice delivered to our room for 7:30, as we had done all of the previous days of this great cruise. We then went to the Washington Dining Room for breakfast before heading ashore. The last time we had cruised into San Miguel de Cozumel was in 2003 when my wife and I had cruised out of New Orleans aboard the Carnival Conquest. Boy, had this place changed. Then, we had docked at the International Pier, this time, we were docked at the Punta Langosta Pier. This was much nicer and right in the down town area of San Miguel. We disembarked between 8:30 and 9:00 that morning, and we could already tell that this was going to be a very hot day. Although the area looked appealing, we decided not to stay ashore for long as we didn't feel like walking back to the ship all hot and sweaty. We did some shopping while we were ashore and picked up some great deals as we were able to barter with the store clerks, Not to say, speaking of stores, that just about every one we went into offered us something to drink (bottled water, Tequila, soft drinks and more). On our way back to the ship, we stopped off at a small restaurant where we could rest for a while as well as take in the sights and cool off with some refreshments. When, we left to go back to the ship, it was well after 12:00 noon and we could really feel the heat, again today, it was well over 100 degrees F. Upon returning to the pier, we were shuttled back to the ship by bicycle - this shore was better than walking the distance from shore to ship. The island was struck directly by two Category 4 hurricanes during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. First to arrive was Hurricane Emily in July. Despite being a powerful storm, it was the slower moving Hurricane Wilma that caused the most destruction when it hit the island in October. The usually lush rainforest was sheared off. The tops of trees disappeared and no leaves were left on the highest five feet of almost every tree. A significant amount of vegetation was ruined when salt water washed over the island. The sewers of San Miguel were also heavily damaged. Reconstruction was swift and concerted. Even before Wilma cleared the area, the supplies needed to restore the island were already being gathered on mainland Mexico. Within weeks, the island was receiving cruise ships again, and within months, almost all infrastructure was restored to pre-Wilma conditions or better. Two of Cozumel's three cruise ship piers have reopened: International Pier in May 2006, and Punta Langosta Pier in September 2006. The Puerta Maya Pier, which took more damage, is not yet open, and may not open before 2008. More significant - and virtually impossible to repair - was the damage to the underwater marine life. As of May, 2007 dive on the island reported that much of the marine life has yet to come back to previous levels. This includes both the coral reefs, which suffered particularly at the shallower dive sites, and the fish that inhabit the reefs.

After having gotten back onboard, we went up to the Lido Deck for a quick mid-day lunch. As it was to hot to stay out in the sunshine, we returned to room 6368 (our home), where we sat out on the balcony in the shade. We were totally amazed as to how turquoise blue the water was. We watched the local boats go by filled with tourists - most of which came from the Carnival Valor, I'm sure. At 4:00 PM or so, we went down to the Lobby Deck, we stepped out onto the Exterior Deck where we were able to see a major line up of people coming back onto the ship from their excursions. While there, we got into a conversation with a couple from Idaho. People were still returning to the ship as it was getting ready to sail away, two of them, for that matter, did not seem to be in any hurry even as three out of the four gangways had been pulled back. They were told by the people on the pier to get a move on as the cruise line was being charged a significant amount for every minute the ship stayed in port past the time it was scheduled to set sail. The Pilot was, of course, being paid not by the hour, but by the minute is a situation such as this. We finally pulled away from the pier at 5:05, five minutes past the time we were supposed to leave Cozumel. We went back inside and headed back up to our room to get ready for our early seating in the Lincoln Dining Room. As it got closer to 6:00, we went down to see what the menu had to offer as well as what Mario and Kam held in store for us this wonderful evening. Upon looking as the menu, we had a hard time to decide what we were going to have as everything looked quite appealing to us. Again this evening, we ate to our hearts content and left the dining room not over stuffed. We returned to our room where we changed into something more casual and fitting for the evening. We then proceeded to stroll around the ship and gaze at the stars and the moonlit sky. Returning inside, we went to the Promenade Deck and the Carnival Shops to do a bit of window shopping as well as browsing in and about the shops. From there, we headed up to the Shogun Casino to see if Lady Luck was with us. That was not the case, we even got free tickets, which we got with the points we had accumulated on our Sail and Sign cards, as there was going to be several draws later on that evening for various items. Lady Luck didn't recognize us there either, as we didn't win anything - oh well!!! We returned to cabin 6368 where we were greeted by yet an other towel animal (a daily occurrence), this time, it was a frog. We sat out on the balcony and tried to figure out where we were simply by looking at the lights on shore. We could however see that there were a few thunder showers going on as we could clearly see lightning in the distance. We called it quits for the day shortly afterwards.

Fun Day at Sea

This, our final Fun Day at Sea, as well as the final day of our cruise, started off with coffee and orange juice delivered to our room for 8:00. As we had done on the days previous, we had our morning Java on the balcony. After having showered and gotten dressed, we went to the Washington Dining room for breakfast. This time we were seated at a table of 10 with other people who felt the same way we did; that this fun filled cruise was coming to an end. However, this wasn't goodbye for us but only an aurevoir. At 11:00 that morning, we went to the Ivanhoe Theater for an all important Debarkation Talk given by Chris, our Cruise Director. After the talk, we returned to the Washington Dining Room for lunch, our first lunch in one of the Dining Rooms. Both Nicole and I had California Rolls, which, to our surprise was Sushi; something either one of us was crazy about, however, it wasn't bad, although I wouldn't make it a regular part of my dinner menu. Brenda played it smart and had a soup and salad - why didn't I think of that? We then returned to our room and started to pack things up as we wanted to make sure we weren't forgetting anything. Boy, am I glad we had brought an extra carry on suitcase with us as it sure came in handy. We rested the remainder of the afternoon, at approximately 5:30 we started to get ready for our final meal in the Lincoln Dining Room. Before going to the Dining Room, we stepped out on the Exterior Deck and could see, behind us, the Carnival Legend who was also going back to its Home Port and who was also carrying a shipload of passengers who didn't want this cruise to come to an end. When we entered the Lincoln Dining Room, Mario and Kam greeted us and we were joined by our table partners - the two nice ladies from Fort Lauderdale. We exchanged comments and opinions and they, as we, did not want to go back. Taking a look outside, we could see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever. We then returned to the Exterior Deck where we saw a fantastic moon rise - it was of a reddish orange and looked more like a decoration than what it really was. After Dinner, we returned to our room and stepped out on our balcony for what would be one of the last times. We could see of in the near distance and ahead of us an RCCL ship fully lit - what a sight. At 10:30, we returned to the Ivanhoe Theater for the Carnival Legends show - there was a Karaoke competition / search going on all week for who would perform as specific artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Britney Spears, Madonna, Garth Brooks, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. We even had performances by Dolly Parton (Chris) and Sunny & Cher (Carnival staff). This show was really something great in more ways than one.

Debarkation Day - Return to Miami

We were scheduled to arrive in Miami for 8:00 AM, however, we got there well before that because when we stepped out on our balcony at 6:30, we were already at dock. We were able to see the sunrise over the city, and experience it changing from night to morning. What a beautiful sight. We were off the ship by 9:30. Our next adventure was to return to the Hotel where we would be staying for the day - and the night. The one great thing about going to the hotel is that we were still able to see our cruise ship as well as four others ay the dock. After a restful day we left the following morning on a flight to Syracuse where Brenda's car awaited us and we would return home from there. So ends yet an other great Carnival cruise. Less

Published 10/12/08

Cabin review: 8B Balcony

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