We were a multi-generational group-4 OS cabins on 7th Empress decks on the Valor. The only cruise experience anyone had was I went one a 3 day Carnival Ecstasy out of Miami in 1992. Here are some details:
• We had 6 PM seating in Washington dining room. The food was better than I expected. There was a lot of variety and the portion sizes were good too, not huge plates of wasted food. The servers were excellent. I am embarrassed for them when they are forced to dance and entertain.
• None of us bought the alcohol package or the Endless Bubbles either. All adults brought their bottle of wine and we bought a la carte. I can see that the alcohol package would be a reasonable deal if you are either 1) going to drink all day and 2) loved trying different drinks. I ordered glasses of chardonnay and gin martinis once in a while, usually nice pours and well made drinks (except the gross sangria on the Serenity Deck). Room service sent up a cork screw. We brought pre-opened bottles of wine to dinner so there was no corkage fee.
• Day 2 was Fun Day at sea, brunch was really good and I loved being able to sit and see the sea while eating. The sea was rough! I had no idea how much I would feel the boat moving. This was my least favorite day of the cruise because we were pretty disoriented about the floors and how to get around. My MIL is in a wheelchair so it was hard for our group to find places where we could sit and hang out and visit that was wheelchair accessible AND had a bathroom on that floor. We eventually found places but we had to hunt them out. Not because there wasn’t space, it was just confusing. I need to not be looking at a phone when on vacation so I didn’t want to be glued to a map on a phone. Eventually we just asked staff on the ship to help us find places.
• Day 3 – Cozumel. Some of us did the snorkeling catamaran excursion and they loved it. My 9 year old daughter and I hopped in a cab ($15 each way) and went to Paradise Beach club ($18 pp for water park and $2 pp for chair rental). Good beach, great pool, quiet, not really a party scene. Had some drinks and lunch.
• Day 4 – Progreso. Watching the ship maneuver around the dock was fascinating. It was super hot. We took the free shuttles (after you have a really long hot walk to that stand) into town and went to Eladios Restaurant on the beach. We had a great time there – the food is excellent (shrimp, ceviche, etc.) and a very good swimming beach. Tons of vendors walking around which flusters some people but we felt safe. We spent about 4 hours off the boat. It was great to have a good beach option without an excursion.
• Day 5 – At Sea. The water was extremely rough and the ship moving a lot. They emptied the pool on the Lido deck. The weather was sort of blah so some of us were in the casino. I went to the stupid Build a Bear Workshop with my daughter. That evening was the ROCK in the USA show in the theater and we went to one of the preview shows. This was pretty lame but funny after a few drinks. In general, there could be some more diversity in the performers and the programming.
• Tons of families on the ship, which we expected, tons of kids. People from all walks of life. I think I am the last person n the US without a tattoo. Lots of people from Houston area so everyone was very friendly.
• Things I loved – (besides being with my family, not working, being offline mostly, not planning meals etc) – brunch, Serenity deck, tons of places to sit and read a book, lots of options to be busy or not, sitting on the balcony and watching the run rise with coffee, every single staff person is so professional and friendly.
• Things I didn’t love – soundtrack in Lido deck between 730-9 AM – why play multiple Aerosmith songs at 8 AM in the morning, corkage fee in Scarletts steakhouse (even if pre-opened), length of required muster – if you are on time you end up spending close to 45 mins standing there, hard for wheelchair access sometimes, and making the servers dance during dinner service is embarrassing.
We will for sure go again on a cruise out of Galveston, now we know what to do and how to do it, it will be even better.
Bigger than I thought - excellent bathroom