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After hours and hours of research, reviews, and videos our cruise has come and gone; now its time for my take on this 5 day adventure. My wife and I have been on a NCL 7 day Caribbean cruise before but this was the first time we have taken our teenage boys. We live in Texas so a cruise liner that uses Galveston as a port was best for us, although it does leave you limited to either Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Based off of price, we chose Carnival and because one of my boys is still in HS, we limited it to a 5 day cruise. Since we had our boys we also decided to get a cabin with a balcony. Our 5 day cruise has us on board in the afternoon, we had a full day at sea the following day, followed by day in Cozumel and day in Yucatan, followed by another day at sea and we pull into port of Galveston the next morning. As for the balcony room, it was much more spacious for us four than I thought it would be. The queen bed is just two fulls put together. There is a sofa that turns into a sleeper and above the sofa, a bed comes out of the ceiling and the room is already set up before you arrive to your cabin. Each day the room steward makes an animal out of the bath towels which is a nice surprise. Entertainment for all ages. The bars are nice, but unless you plan on spending at least $60 a day on drinks, your better off paying as you go. Alcoholic drinks run around $8 - $12. Their cheers program allows you to have I think about 10 alcoholic drinks in a 24 hour period. Unfortunately, you have to buy the program for each day you’re at sea. And if you have more than one adult in the same cabin, if one buys into the cheers program, all 21+ in your cabin have to buy into the program, so you don’t share. However, if it helps, each adult can bring on a small bottle (750ml) of wine. Casinos are nice but if you’re not a smoker, that may or may not be an issue, depending on the crowd. The shows at the theater were nice. They ranged from rock shows, kid shows, magician shows, a few short plays, trivia, and game shows to name a few. In addition, they have a few nightclubs, comedy clubs, Karaoke, and an array of entertainment for small children, pre teens, teens, and adults alike. We did both shore excursions on our own, which for us was well worth it. In Cozumel we went to Mr. Sancho's. It’s an all inclusive beach resort for about $60pp. You can go to one or two like this through the ship, but we saved about $40pp going on our own. Mr. Sancho's owns about a 1/2 mile of beach front which is about a $17 taxi ride for all four of us from the port. They have small tables, large tables, and cabanas; first come, first served. They also have some pools with swim up bars. The all inclusive includes food and drink. The buffet is pretty good and you can order off of their menu as well at no charge. Mixed drinks are a little weak, but there is also beer as well - All inclusive. While there you can do other things that you pay extra for such as massages, wave runners, horseback riding, ATV's, parasailing, snorkeling, and a few other things. Afterwards we took a taxi back to port for about an hour or two of shopping before getting back on the ship. Honestly, in Progreso, there is just not that much to do there. Unless you do a shore excursion, there's really not much to do on your own. One of the more popular excursions is to visit some of the Mayan Temples. The largest and most popular of them is a 3 hour bus ride, with an hour or two visit and a 3 hour bus ride back that includes a sack lunch of a sandwich, an apple, and a water. At the ruins you cannot climb them because of too many tourists and there are vendors every step of the way selling every little known trinket that just hampers your experience. So for this day we again went on our own and after reading a number of reviews we went with a tourist company called Lawson's. The ship has an excursion that visits a Mayan Temple called Uxmal (oosh-mall) that is a two hour drive where you can actually climb the ruins and you visit a small town for lunch (lunch is not included with your excursion) for about $85pp. But with Lawson's we booked a tour for Uxmal for just the four of us. This tour included our own personal driver (Jose Zapata) and a tour guide (Pedro Argona) with a visit to a cenote afterwards, which is an underground spring that are peppered all throughout Mexico and central america that all the locals use to go swimming. While our tour did cost a bit more (I paid about $150 more than through the ship) it was so worth it. First, we didn't have to get on a bus with about a 100 others, where you had to stay with your group for the tour; it was just us in a comfortable air conditioned minivan. We didn't have to strain to hear what the tour guide was saying or wait our turn so we could ask a question, or hear the same question asked over and over. We simply relied on our VERY knowledgeable tour guide and our experience was very personal and informative. Our guide was very knowledgeable in Mayan culture and history to the extent that you could tell he took great pride as both a descendant and guide. He went on to explain about how Europe influenced these people and how they lived, as well as how they differ from other cultures in the area. Afterwards, Jose took us to a cenote for a swim after a nice hot day of touring the ruins. The cenote we went to was about 30' below ground but you could see well enough. The water was nice and cool and only about 5' - 6' deep at its deepest and the water was clear enough to see your toes. After about an hour of swimming we headed back to port for a last hour of shopping. While we did pay more than had we used the ships excursion package, clearly the experience would not have been as good. Lawson’s took very good care of us, always kept track of time to get us back on the ship, provided us with fresh fruit, snacks, ice cold water, and cold beer throughout the day, This private tour company is not to be missed. It was so much more personable, with guides that had a rich knowledge of history of the Mayan people and you could tell were glad to speak of it. Dining for both breakfast and lunch were fair, I'd say a C for breakfast and a B+ for lunch, but there are some better free options. Honestly, breakfast is nothing to write home about. There are a few non buffet items such as the omelet bar, over easy station, or the breakfast burrito bar that make it tolerable. Lunch is about the same but with a little more variety. Other free lunch options are Guy Fieri's Burger Joint, BBQ food on the 10th level (one floor above main dining), burrito place, pizza place; Dinner is something else all together. Dinner is about a 2 hour experience. We chose late dining and had a table just to ourselves. Day one, it was encourage by our waiter to 'try it all'. Sadly for Carnival, my two teenage boys took full advantage of that. They tried things they would have NEVER tried on their own, such as the braised rabbit, calamari, frog legs, lobster rolls, escargot, to name a few. The dessert menu was always a nice surprise. Our wait service was outstanding and the dinner entertainment by the wait staff was always enjoyable. Tips Magnets – bring magnets. Your cabin walls are made of metal. So we brought regular magnets and magnets with hooks on them. Believe me, you will find a need for them. Cabin Door – decorate your door!!! Keep in mind of all the cabins on this ship. Other than the cabin number, they all look the same. For security reasons, they will not put your cabin number on your room key. Countless times either myself or I would see others pass right by their room. Can you imagine trying to remember which room is yours after leaving a bar around 2AM? Well guess what? Your cabin door is metal too. We just put a simple post it with a magnet, but others decorated their door from top to bottom. And that’s perfectly fine. Decorate room – Why not, it’s your room. While on our cruise it was my wife’s birthday and Valentines Day. So instead of paying $60 for the ship to decorate our room, we paid a trip to party city for room decorations. On the 13th, as we left for our first shore excursion, my boys stayed behind for just a few minutes to decorate our room with Birthday banners and other birthday decorations so that on our return my wife would come to a birthday decorated room. The following day when we came back form our second shore excursion, I stalled my wife while my boys went on ahead to decorate the room with valentine stuff. Again, magnets helped a lot. Lanyard – by all means if you have one bring a lanyard. To pay for ANYTHING or to get in your room, you have to pull out your Cruise Card. Can you imagine if you had to pull that thing out of your pocket or wallet each and every time? A lanyard around your neck makes it so much easier. Cash – need cash but don’t want to pay for the $6 - $12 ATM fee. Easy peasy. Just go to a casino table and ask for, say $200 of poker chips. Then take those chips to the cash out window and cash them all back in. Customer service desk – For all your free needs. Feeling a little sea sick, why buy Dramamine at the store when CS will give it to you free. Same with playing cards and post cards. Multi Strip AND extension cord – While you may not be bringing all your electronic gadgets, for us between cell phones, gopro, hand held devices, laptop, and mobile phone chargers it would have been rather frustrating with ONLY ONE ELECTRICAL OUTLET!!!! So a multi strip (I bought one that had two USB charging ports on it) came in very handy. And if you like to have your phone close by while charging/sleeping, an extension cord works well since the outlet is away from the beds. Download the ships App on your phone – BEFORE you board, download the app. You will find this to be extremely helpful. Most of your questions can be addressed through the ships app. But don’t wait until you get on board. Once you’ve left port, unless you pay for Wi-Fi, you may not get good enough service to download the app. Free Candy – who doesn’t like free candy? Don’t buy it at the duty free shop. Go to the pool area where they have the ice cream and go to the topping bar. Free M&M’s, gummy bears, and a few others. I just wouldn’t go overboard with it. Free wine – yes free wine. Dinner is free yes, but you can also go to a more intimate dining area in which you will pay for your meal. The dining experience is just that much more special, and while you will have to pay for this more exquisite meal, if you go on the first night, Carnival will give you a free bottle of wine or champagne with your meal. Bring your own sodas – Each carnival cruise passenger is allowed to bring ONE 12-pack of sodas. Each soda on board is about $2 + 15% gratuity. While we brought two 12-packs we only used one, which was a surprise to me. But with iced tea, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, and others of the like, it wasn’t’ hard to pass on the sodas. Book excursions locally – do your research, check reviews, and check out videos. You will find all kinds of tourist companies that will charge a lot less than going through the ships excursions. But do your research and always keep mindful of the time. You don’t want the ship to leave without you. Room choices – If you’re choosing your own room, take a look at the ships layout. For our cruise I chose level 7. Why? Because there is another set of rooms on level 6 and 8. Had we chosen level 6 we get all the dining room and casinos and theater below us. If we chose level 8 we have the pools, dining, more bars, above us. Choosing level 7 allowed us to have a buffer between all the loud and busy areas. Binoculars – they are great for viewing other ships and scenery from your balcony or on deck Vinyl shoe rack – this comes in handy for all kinds of stuff, particularly when space is at a premium Portable chargers – nothing like being away on a shore excursion and you’re at 5%. Zip lock baggies – Cause who can’t use those little bags for something useful. Picture time – you will be bombarded with photo ops. When you get on the ship, when you get off the ship, and several prop and scenery stations each night. Pics can get pricey, but you don’t have to buy any of them. Keep in mind that each night they put out different sceneries so it may be hard to choose. Black and White – on a personal note if your really like taking pics yourself, take them in black in white on your phone. Scenery can be so much more beautiful in black and white. Plan ahead – we were supposed to be in port and off our ship by no later than 10 AM. Because of dense fog, the port of Galveston was closed. We had to anchor about an hour outside of the port and wait. Fortunately, the ship was fully operational for us to use until we got word the port was open. We didn’t get off of the ship until 4 PM. So for those that have flights to catch, you’ve been warned. The only thing we didn’t really like about our cruise is that we think they should change the itinerary on board a bit. Example, while they had karaoke each night, it was only done about 30 minutes before our dinner. So unless we got there super early to put our name on the list we usually had to leave for dinner before we were called to entertain the masses. All in all, it was a great time had by all. We will go again when my youngest gets out of HS for a full 7 or 10 day cruise.

Pretty close to perfect

Carnival Valor Cruise Review by Stryker2132

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
After hours and hours of research, reviews, and videos our cruise has come and gone; now its time for my take on this 5 day adventure. My wife and I have been on a NCL 7 day Caribbean cruise before but this was the first time we have taken our teenage boys. We live in Texas so a cruise liner that uses Galveston as a port was best for us, although it does leave you limited to either Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Based off of price, we chose Carnival and because one of my boys is still in HS, we limited it to a 5 day cruise. Since we had our boys we also decided to get a cabin with a balcony.

Our 5 day cruise has us on board in the afternoon, we had a full day at sea the following day, followed by day in Cozumel and day in Yucatan, followed by another day at sea and we pull into port of Galveston the next morning.

As for the balcony room, it was much more spacious for us four than I thought it would be. The queen bed is just two fulls put together. There is a sofa that turns into a sleeper and above the sofa, a bed comes out of the ceiling and the room is already set up before you arrive to your cabin. Each day the room steward makes an animal out of the bath towels which is a nice surprise.

Entertainment for all ages. The bars are nice, but unless you plan on spending at least $60 a day on drinks, your better off paying as you go. Alcoholic drinks run around $8 - $12. Their cheers program allows you to have I think about 10 alcoholic drinks in a 24 hour period. Unfortunately, you have to buy the program for each day you’re at sea. And if you have more than one adult in the same cabin, if one buys into the cheers program, all 21+ in your cabin have to buy into the program, so you don’t share. However, if it helps, each adult can bring on a small bottle (750ml) of wine. Casinos are nice but if you’re not a smoker, that may or may not be an issue, depending on the crowd. The shows at the theater were nice. They ranged from rock shows, kid shows, magician shows, a few short plays, trivia, and game shows to name a few. In addition, they have a few nightclubs, comedy clubs, Karaoke, and an array of entertainment for small children, pre teens, teens, and adults alike.

We did both shore excursions on our own, which for us was well worth it. In Cozumel we went to Mr. Sancho's. It’s an all inclusive beach resort for about $60pp. You can go to one or two like this through the ship, but we saved about $40pp going on our own. Mr. Sancho's owns about a 1/2 mile of beach front which is about a $17 taxi ride for all four of us from the port. They have small tables, large tables, and cabanas; first come, first served. They also have some pools with swim up bars. The all inclusive includes food and drink. The buffet is pretty good and you can order off of their menu as well at no charge. Mixed drinks are a little weak, but there is also beer as well - All inclusive. While there you can do other things that you pay extra for such as massages, wave runners, horseback riding, ATV's, parasailing, snorkeling, and a few other things. Afterwards we took a taxi back to port for about an hour or two of shopping before getting back on the ship.

Honestly, in Progreso, there is just not that much to do there. Unless you do a shore excursion, there's really not much to do on your own. One of the more popular excursions is to visit some of the Mayan Temples. The largest and most popular of them is a 3 hour bus ride, with an hour or two visit and a 3 hour bus ride back that includes a sack lunch of a sandwich, an apple, and a water. At the ruins you cannot climb them because of too many tourists and there are vendors every step of the way selling every little known trinket that just hampers your experience. So for this day we again went on our own and after reading a number of reviews we went with a tourist company called Lawson's. The ship has an excursion that visits a Mayan Temple called Uxmal (oosh-mall) that is a two hour drive where you can actually climb the ruins and you visit a small town for lunch (lunch is not included with your excursion) for about $85pp. But with Lawson's we booked a tour for Uxmal for just the four of us. This tour included our own personal driver (Jose Zapata) and a tour guide (Pedro Argona) with a visit to a cenote afterwards, which is an underground spring that are peppered all throughout Mexico and central america that all the locals use to go swimming. While our tour did cost a bit more (I paid about $150 more than through the ship) it was so worth it. First, we didn't have to get on a bus with about a 100 others, where you had to stay with your group for the tour; it was just us in a comfortable air conditioned minivan. We didn't have to strain to hear what the tour guide was saying or wait our turn so we could ask a question, or hear the same question asked over and over. We simply relied on our VERY knowledgeable tour guide and our experience was very personal and informative. Our guide was very knowledgeable in Mayan culture and history to the extent that you could tell he took great pride as both a descendant and guide. He went on to explain about how Europe influenced these people and how they lived, as well as how they differ from other cultures in the area. Afterwards, Jose took us to a cenote for a swim after a nice hot day of touring the ruins. The cenote we went to was about 30' below ground but you could see well enough. The water was nice and cool and only about 5' - 6' deep at its deepest and the water was clear enough to see your toes. After about an hour of swimming we headed back to port for a last hour of shopping. While we did pay more than had we used the ships excursion package, clearly the experience would not have been as good. Lawson’s took very good care of us, always kept track of time to get us back on the ship, provided us with fresh fruit, snacks, ice cold water, and cold beer throughout the day, This private tour company is not to be missed. It was so much more personable, with guides that had a rich knowledge of history of the Mayan people and you could tell were glad to speak of it.

Dining for both breakfast and lunch were fair, I'd say a C for breakfast and a B+ for lunch, but there are some better free options. Honestly, breakfast is nothing to write home about. There are a few non buffet items such as the omelet bar, over easy station, or the breakfast burrito bar that make it tolerable. Lunch is about the same but with a little more variety. Other free lunch options are Guy Fieri's Burger Joint, BBQ food on the 10th level (one floor above main dining), burrito place, pizza place; Dinner is something else all together. Dinner is about a 2 hour experience. We chose late dining and had a table just to ourselves. Day one, it was encourage by our waiter to 'try it all'. Sadly for Carnival, my two teenage boys took full advantage of that. They tried things they would have NEVER tried on their own, such as the braised rabbit, calamari, frog legs, lobster rolls, escargot, to name a few. The dessert menu was always a nice surprise. Our wait service was outstanding and the dinner entertainment by the wait staff was always enjoyable.

Tips

Magnets – bring magnets. Your cabin walls are made of metal. So we brought regular magnets and magnets with hooks on them. Believe me, you will find a need for them.

Cabin Door – decorate your door!!! Keep in mind of all the cabins on this ship. Other than the cabin number, they all look the same. For security reasons, they will not put your cabin number on your room key. Countless times either myself or I would see others pass right by their room. Can you imagine trying to remember which room is yours after leaving a bar around 2AM? Well guess what? Your cabin door is metal too. We just put a simple post it with a magnet, but others decorated their door from top to bottom. And that’s perfectly fine.

Decorate room – Why not, it’s your room. While on our cruise it was my wife’s birthday and Valentines Day. So instead of paying $60 for the ship to decorate our room, we paid a trip to party city for room decorations. On the 13th, as we left for our first shore excursion, my boys stayed behind for just a few minutes to decorate our room with Birthday banners and other birthday decorations so that on our return my wife would come to a birthday decorated room. The following day when we came back form our second shore excursion, I stalled my wife while my boys went on ahead to decorate the room with valentine stuff. Again, magnets helped a lot.

Lanyard – by all means if you have one bring a lanyard. To pay for ANYTHING or to get in your room, you have to pull out your Cruise Card. Can you imagine if you had to pull that thing out of your pocket or wallet each and every time? A lanyard around your neck makes it so much easier.

Cash – need cash but don’t want to pay for the $6 - $12 ATM fee. Easy peasy. Just go to a casino table and ask for, say $200 of poker chips. Then take those chips to the cash out window and cash them all back in.

Customer service desk – For all your free needs. Feeling a little sea sick, why buy Dramamine at the store when CS will give it to you free. Same with playing cards and post cards.

Multi Strip AND extension cord – While you may not be bringing all your electronic gadgets, for us between cell phones, gopro, hand held devices, laptop, and mobile phone chargers it would have been rather frustrating with ONLY ONE ELECTRICAL OUTLET!!!! So a multi strip (I bought one that had two USB charging ports on it) came in very handy. And if you like to have your phone close by while charging/sleeping, an extension cord works well since the outlet is away from the beds.

Download the ships App on your phone – BEFORE you board, download the app. You will find this to be extremely helpful. Most of your questions can be addressed through the ships app. But don’t wait until you get on board. Once you’ve left port, unless you pay for Wi-Fi, you may not get good enough service to download the app.

Free Candy – who doesn’t like free candy? Don’t buy it at the duty free shop. Go to the pool area where they have the ice cream and go to the topping bar. Free M&M’s, gummy bears, and a few others. I just wouldn’t go overboard with it.

Free wine – yes free wine. Dinner is free yes, but you can also go to a more intimate dining area in which you will pay for your meal. The dining experience is just that much more special, and while you will have to pay for this more exquisite meal, if you go on the first night, Carnival will give you a free bottle of wine or champagne with your meal.

Bring your own sodas – Each carnival cruise passenger is allowed to bring ONE 12-pack of sodas. Each soda on board is about $2 + 15% gratuity. While we brought two 12-packs we only used one, which was a surprise to me. But with iced tea, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, and others of the like, it wasn’t’ hard to pass on the sodas.

Book excursions locally – do your research, check reviews, and check out videos. You will find all kinds of tourist companies that will charge a lot less than going through the ships excursions. But do your research and always keep mindful of the time. You don’t want the ship to leave without you.

Room choices – If you’re choosing your own room, take a look at the ships layout. For our cruise I chose level 7. Why? Because there is another set of rooms on level 6 and 8. Had we chosen level 6 we get all the dining room and casinos and theater below us. If we chose level 8 we have the pools, dining, more bars, above us. Choosing level 7 allowed us to have a buffer between all the loud and busy areas.

Binoculars – they are great for viewing other ships and scenery from your balcony or on deck

Vinyl shoe rack – this comes in handy for all kinds of stuff, particularly when space is at a premium

Portable chargers – nothing like being away on a shore excursion and you’re at 5%.

Zip lock baggies – Cause who can’t use those little bags for something useful.

Picture time – you will be bombarded with photo ops. When you get on the ship, when you get off the ship, and several prop and scenery stations each night. Pics can get pricey, but you don’t have to buy any of them. Keep in mind that each night they put out different sceneries so it may be hard to choose.

Black and White – on a personal note if your really like taking pics yourself, take them in black in white on your phone. Scenery can be so much more beautiful in black and white.

Plan ahead – we were supposed to be in port and off our ship by no later than 10 AM. Because of dense fog, the port of Galveston was closed. We had to anchor about an hour outside of the port and wait. Fortunately, the ship was fully operational for us to use until we got word the port was open. We didn’t get off of the ship until 4 PM. So for those that have flights to catch, you’ve been warned.

The only thing we didn’t really like about our cruise is that we think they should change the itinerary on board a bit. Example, while they had karaoke each night, it was only done about 30 minutes before our dinner. So unless we got there super early to put our name on the list we usually had to leave for dinner before we were called to entertain the masses.

All in all, it was a great time had by all. We will go again when my youngest gets out of HS for a full 7 or 10 day cruise.
Stryker2132’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin 8C 7372
We had a balcony cabin for 4. Two adults and two teens. Wife and I were on a queen size bed and oldest teen was on a sofa sleeper and my youngest was on the bed that comes down from the ceiling. Although there were four of us, it was spacious enough to accommodate all of us. The rooms were kept very clean, the towel animals each day were a nice treat, and the bathrooms were also well kept.
Verandah Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Private Resort Day Pass
    Drinks are included as with buffet and anything on the menu. Plenty of things to do at this resort; parasailing, scuba, snorkeling, jet skis, horseback riding, ATV's, and a small water park
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  • Uxmal
    an excellent private tour of both Uxmal and a cenote with our own personal driver and tour guide.
    View All 33 Uxmal Reviews