We're first time cruisers with children, 3 and 5. We're also very seasoned travelers.
Embarkation was smooth. Our room had a balcony and we very highly recommend that. We stayed on the Spa Deck and we had the sleeping berth, which was great for the kids. The ship never seemed crowded, despite the about 3000 passengers on board.
We had rough seas on day 2 and there seemed to be a lot of ill folks, including my wife. That seemed to pass by the next day for everyone I saw, including my motion sickness-prone-wife. The kids never seemed to care as they were too tired from the great beaches we visited, the water slide, Camp Carnival, shows, etc. There were so many things to do and so much food to eat, we felt like we did and ate about half of what we could have.
The staff tripped over themselves to take care of us everywhere on the ship. The room steward seemed to be waiting for us to leave so he could clean up, make our beds, give us fresh linens, etc. The wait staff was very attentive. I don'tknow if there is any place on the ship where you can't get prompt cocktail service. I even told one cocktail server that I did in fact want another beverage, but I was moving down several floors and to another part of the ship. He almost beat me there with a frosty cold beverage! The food was about what we expected; very good, but not spectacular.
Shore excursions through the ship were expensive. We had a lot of fun just getting off the ship and finding our own adventure, and for a fraction of the price. Running on the outdoor track was cool because you see ocean the whole time while you're at sea.
The only complaint I have is when we left the ship on the last day. They gave a several hour window for when you might get off the ship and they told you to get out of you room very early. We ended up sitting around with our luggage for over 2 hours waiting to get off. Getting the time narrowed down a little more, along with being able to stay in our room a little later since we had a later disembarkation time, would have made it a lot better.
Bottom line is that we will absolutely cruise again and we would consider the Carnival Valor again.
We booked our cruise very last minute (2 weeks before sailing) and took advantage of some very advantageous rates and credit card miles to make it affordable. We booked 2 inside cabins -- Guarantee. We ended up being category 4E, as our two teenaged sons were traveling with us. Given that there were more than 3500 passengers on this holiday sailing, it went without saying that the embarkation was more than a bit of a madhouse, but to Carnival's credit, it really did go as smoothly as could be expected.
When we got to our cabin, it seemed warmer than expected. We have taken in excess of 15 cruises, so we really do have an idea of what is "acceptable" in terms of air conditioning in the cabins. My wife underwent cancer surgery this past summer and combining that with her medications, she is very sensitive to heat and this obviously made our situation less than desirable. When I mentioned our concern to our cabin steward, he called engineering and shortly thereafter, a fellow in an orange jumpsuit appeared with gauges, tools, etc. and informed us that our cabin temperature (atmaximum cooling) was 74-75 degrees. He took off the grille covering the vent and made some adjustments, advising us that he had opened the duct as wide as possible and that the cabin would definitely cool down. Going to sleep later that night, it was clear that it had not appreciably changed, and my wife had a very uncomfortable night.
The next morning, on the advice of our very accommodating cabin steward, I went to Guest Services and registered the same complaint, only to be told that the last temperature reading they took was 73 degrees and that was "within the range of acceptability" as determined by Carnival. When I complained further, he agreed to send the technician again. When the same guy appeared in our cabin, he made it quite clear that he was not happy to be there, and did nothing that we could account for. That night, same situation -- a very restless night for my wife and now, it seemed as if it had actually gotten warmer. Tuesday morning, I composed a scathing letter to Guest Services and brought it down in person, again being told that my latest temperature reading, 74 degrees, was "within the range of acceptability" (I guess the range got broader overnight!). It was clear to me that I was being stonewalled and that the staff cared little about this problem. I then asked to see the manager, who had been given my letter. After waiting a few minutes, I was accompanied into the manager's office and had the good fortune of meeting Jason, the manager, who was both understanding and proactive. He had read the letter and reviewed our file and fully understood our issues and said that one way or another, he would resolve them, either by getting our cabin to a more acceptable temperature or moving us, as there had been a few "no-shows" due to the bad weather in the Midwest and East Coast.
We all then went up for breakfast, and shortly after, Jason and his assistant approached us (he had apparently hunted us down!) to say that they had a cabin available right down the corridor from our current one and asked us to join them to inspect it. He opened the door to a balcony suite and it was cool enough to store meat!!!!!! So, not only were the temperature issues addressed, we had also received a significant upgrade (parenthetically, this was our 4th Carnival cruise). Suffice it to say that the rest of the cruise was far more comfortable and again, Jason was a true gem.
We also had a less than stellar experience in the dining room our first couple of nights. To be blunt, while the food was very good, the service was abysmal. While it was clear that the "full house" made logistics a bit more challenging than normal sailings, we seldom saw our waiter, who had a large number of tables, and almost never saw the assistant waiter. Wine was brought to the table and left there, unopened, and one night, my wife and I were brought our main courses at the same time that our sons were brought salads. On the second night, dinner took more than two hours! We approached Pablo, the matre'd, who could tell (just by the lateness of the hour), that my complaints were justified, and immediately reassigned us to another table for the balance of the cruise, and it was like day and night -- certainly among the best service we have ever had on a cruise (thanks to Melvin and Ricardo along with Paul, the assistant matre'd).
On our third night, we went to Scarlet's Steak House and had an absolutely wonderful dinner, superb in every way. The $30 per person surcharge is a true bargain -- the entrees alone would be more than $30 in any upscale restaurant, and the experience is a definite "must" for any wine and food afficionados.
Let me categorically state that we are not "complainers." We travel quite a lot and generally try to understand the parameters of what we should expect, whether it is a hotel or a cruise. I cannot ever remember having these kinds of problems on any of our previous cruises, and what began as a very negative experience changed with the help of two supervisory people who really cared about our happiness and Carnival should feel extraordinarily lucky to have people like Jason and Pablo as employees. As noted in the title of this review, they truly did make "lemonade from lemons!"
This is my review of our group cruise (20 of us) of Carnival Valor Eastern Caribbean March 9-16.
Embarkation The embarkation process went very smoothly for all of us. Carnival reps were very organized and helpful! All of us arrived at 11:00 and were on the ship by 11:35. I gave everyone a tour then and we hit the lido buffet for lunch. Unfortunatly the weather was a cool cloudy and breezy 65. Rooms were ready at 1:30.
Apparently the snow storm in Ohio, NY, Pennsylvania, and Michigan kept some people from getting to Miami in time (not many, but some). So, here is my support for leaving a day early! We did not have any problem because we all flew in from North Carolina on March 8.
Cabin Everyone in our group either had a balcony or oceanview cabin. These rooms are very spacious and nice. Valor still has the same TVs, but they did have new white shower curtains that do not try to attack you in the shower!!! Cabin was clean and well maintained. Speaking of maintainance, our bathroom light blew out between dinner and the show one night. Icalled the desk and told them about it. After we returned from the show it was fixed. Carnival gets bonus points for fixing a problem quickly!!
Dinner Our group was seated at three consecutive tables, which was good, but one table had one waiter and the other two had another waiter. We were hoping to move from table-to-table each night to spend time with other couples, but to respect the waiters we did not mix things up. The head waiter at my table did a good job, but his assistant waiter was a huge hinderance. The assistant waiter was rarely around and when she was around she seemed to be messing something up. This kept our head waiter from spending quality time discussing different options etc. The other tables' wait staff had great chemistry and everything worked out very well! All 20 of us were slightly disappointed with the quality of the food. The lobster was cooked very well and might have been one of the better meals. Several beef dishes did not have quality meat or good flavor. I know it is hard to cook for that many people, but this is not my first cruise and the food quality did not match my other cruise experiences (all on Carnival and RC).
Entertainment I personally thought the comedians (3 of them) were decent. It was a good mix of different types of comedy, and one of them was heckled pretty hard by a few spring breakers from Indiana Univ. He did a great job of putting them in their place, which was hillarious. The 80's show was pretty good and impressive at times, the other shows need to be reworked, especially the welcome aboard show.
Ports Nassau is okay. St Thomas is pretty good with good beaches. I went scuba diving for the first time and really liked it. If you are going there I can recommend a dive company (even if you do not have your certificate you can dive). St Maarten was beautiful and somewhat expensive. Orient Beach was a great experience along with the French town of Marigot, if you want to adventure up and down the streets and experience some french/island culture.
Other Stuff Lido deck was nice, especially with the video screen. They did a good job of showing different things and playing music. Buffet was pretty good. I liked the Asian food, etc. The spa was really nice. The first day I won a free facial and massage and that was very nice. It was my first facial which was actually nice. I do recommend the spa services (I am a guy by the way) but just be honest and upfront if your person is pushing products you are not going to buy.
Disembarkation This was a ZOO! We ran about 30 minutes late into Miami, then at 8:50 the Sail 'n Sign system when leaving the boat crashed for 30 minutes. It got a little crazy getting all 20 off the ship, into the two limos, and to FLL for a noon flight. I know we could of all gotten the lower tag numbers, but this is my first experience with delays at disembarkation. Just too many things went wrong, but a lesson learned. It all worked out and we made our flight.
Conclusion We had a great time as a group. Carnival did a good job, but the group and myself will probably do Celebrity or RC for our next cruise. Most everyone else had not been on a cruise before and they wanted a new experience. For my wife and I, we are willing to see if there is a huge difference between Carnival/RC and a Celebrity experience.
My wife Lise and I went on the 7 day Feb. 24, 2008 cruise out of Miami on the Carnival Valor.
This was our first cruise ever, but we went with friends of ours, Laura and Ray, a couple on their 5th cruise.
Our ports of call were Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, USVI; and St. Maarten, NA.
To start with, the ship is beautiful. We had very little waiting time to board the ship, and the crew were very helpful with any questions we had.
Our friends recommended we get a balcony room and we did. It was very good advice. We both loved sitting on the balcony in the morning for coffee and at night after a fun-filled day.
What was good? My hotel was moving with me. The service from the crew was second to none and even better than on land. I cannot think of anything I wanted that I could not get on the ship (very impressive).
Food: 24/7 service and the dining experience were incredible (I looked forward to dinner every night during this cruise).
Scenery: The ship and the Caribbean -- do I need to say more?
Entertainment: Therewas entertainment all over the ship every day and it was very good. The feeling that we could walk around or sit down, watch or not, relax and not be interrupted was wonderful.
I did say NOT INTERRUPTED. (No home phone, no cell, no pager, no computer, no door bell, no car, no clock. This is a feeling we very seldom get to experience. Back home there is no such thing as not being interrupted at any given time.
I would recommend that everyone take a cruise with Carnival. They take very good care of you.
In fact, we have just booked an 8 day Southern Caribbean cruise with Carnival.
We are back from our cruise aboard the Carnival Valor and let me tell you, we had a great time. This was a much better cruise than we had last year when we sailed on the Caribbean Princess.
The thing that impressed me the most was the quality of the food and entertainment. The food was 5 star restaurant quality and our servers, Leila and Edwin were exceptional in service and humor, they made our dining experience very enjoyable.
The entertainment was very good! From Duane's piano playing in the Piano bar to the singing groups in the Paris Hot and American lounges, they were excellent! The shows in the Ivenhoe Theater were first class Broadway type productions and 3 of the 4 comedians onboard were very good.
The buffet area and food stands were outstanding too! There was a Deli, Oriental, Hamburger, Fish and Chips and 24 hour pizza stand, besides the buffet which offered a variety of ethnic foods at any given time. The desserts were excellent and there was a chocolate bar for chocolate lovers and free ice cream (unlike Princess which charges for ice cream).
The layout and designof the ship was beautiful. The Valor honors men and women of courage and the decor was really first class. There was a water slide, putt putt golf, basketball court, 3 swimming pools and 5 hot tubs on the Lido deck, as well as a big screen movie theater which showed movies every evening on the Lido deck. Most movies were for children though. However, we did enjoy Rattatouie (sic) which we hadn't seen before.
I have learned one thing from this cruise concerning shore excursions. Don't do those offered by the ship. Get off the boat and see what the locals have to offer! We did a Carnival excursion in Nassau which showed us around Nassau and gave us a tour of the pirates exhibit there and we were not impressed considering the price we paid. We could have just walked around and paid for the Pirate exhibit ourselves and saved a lot of money.
At St. Thomas we did a Carnival excursion to the Island of St. John for a "Historical tour" and while the sites we saw were beautiful, it was not worth the 100 dollars a person that it cost. When we got to St. Martin we got off the boat and took a cab to Marigot on the French side of the Island, visited the shops there, stopped and had drinks at a sidewalk bar and caught a cab back to Phillipsburg, all for 27 dollars and we had a wonderful time. The cab driver told us that if you do your own excursions it will usually cost you half or what the cruise lines charge you!
All in all this cruise was a lot better then Princess! There are some things that Princess does that we liked better, like the Learn at Sea program that gives classes for dancing, computers, photography and the like, but for the most part Carnival wins hands down!
Next we are looking at either a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival or a 9 day Southern Caribbean cruise on NCL. We will choose in the coming weeks, but I kind of like the idea of trying NCL and comparing them to the other cruise lines.
Thanks to everyone at Carnival for a wonderful trip.
To be honest, I wasn't excited to be on the president decorated ship in comparison to the other ships they offer, but I have to say that it was done up nice. It was pretty. We had a great time.
The entertainment was awful though. The two lead singers were trying to outdo each other or something. There really wasn't a night that we loved the show, and a few times we walked out early, we just couldn't tolerate it anymore. The other times we stayed was because of boredom I believe.
The food was alright on the buffet, but the problem was figuring out what side was open. This became frustrating. There was no rhyme or reason to it. At our assigned table though, our waiter was wonderful and his service was super! The food was good too.
The entertainment directors were a lot of fun too! They were doing a great job! Really got the crowd going and involved.
We had a great time, and enjoyed the trip and the ship. This cruiseline is not my top pick yet, but they're definitely in 2nd for me....but I haven't beenon very many though either. :)
Embarkation The embarkation process went quickly and very smoothly. We got into Miami a day earlier so we could get to the port in time (and we also got to spend a day in Miami). Carnival reps were very organized and helped out when needed. We were given VIP tags for our luggage for $5, not sure what this meant because our luggage got to the rooms at the same time as everyone else. We spent the afternoon roaming the ship and ate lunch on the Lido deck.
Cabin We had an oceanview cabin. These rooms are very spacious and we even had a bunk bed we could pull down from the celiling. Cabin was clean and maintained twice a day. Loved the towel animals!
Dinner Our group was seated by the window at the back of the ship. The maitre'd did a good job of switching our seating to the late seating. Our waiter, Vijay, was energetic and got along well with us. He even had some magic tricks for us! The dining entertainment was different every night and was done well. Food was great! We had options to order twostarters if we wanted to try something. The lobster was amazing! We are all missing the chocolate melting cake, which was the Carnival classic dessert available every night. Be sure to save some room for the midnight buffets (one on the second formal night, and another last day of the cruise). The first midnight buffet included artwork and desserts from the chefs on Carnival, very creative and delicious. The second midnight buffet is a Mexican buffet to celebrate last port, Cozumel. Make sure you don't miss out on the Fish and Chips station or the Pan Asian station, great food!!!
Entertainment The comedians (2 of them) were decent. The R-rated shows are hilarious. The juggler was awesome! The 80's show and Carnival Legends was pretty good and impressive at times. Don't bother going to the shopping seminar -- it's a waste. Try going to the raffle draws on the first sea day, You can win massages, and treatments at the spa.
Ports Grand Cayman was beautiful! Good shopping, friendly people. You can hire a tour company to take you around the island for $10 USD. We visited Hell, Rum Cake shops, City, and the beach. Honduras was great for sitting on the beach and snorkeling. Belize we did an excursion with ActionBoysBelize which included transportation, ziplining, cavetubing, lunch, and the city tour. It was AWESOME! A MUST DO! Cozumel we spent walking around shopping and sight-seeing.
Other Stuff Lido deck is real nice, with the video screen and live band. Buffets were pretty good, focusing on different cuisines everyday (eg, Indian, southwestern, French, etc). I loved the Asian food!!! The Fish and Chips were delicious as well. The spa was really nice. The first day I won a free BCA and ionetherme and lost 5.5 inches around my waist! I do recommend the spa services.
Disembarkation It was CRAZY!!!!!! We were assigned tag numbers (ours was 28) and were supposed to be off the ship by 10:30. At around 9, they were still calling numbers 3,4,and 5. There were line ups for line ups, and people started to get anxious and started budging. Carnival reps said this was mostly due to customs not letting people off the boat! We got off the boat finally! At 1:30, We ran about 2 hours late into Miami, and then missed our flight! Thankfully we booked with Carnival and they put us up in a hotel while they figured out our flight arrangements. We got back home 2 days later than planned. Note of wisdom, Get in line at 6am even if you have a low tag number.
Conclusion This was an AWESOME cruise experience, aside from the disembarkation. The Valor is elegant and great for any first-time cruiser!
We selected this cruise, our 11th on Carnival, for the snorkeling opportunities and a chance to visit Belize.
This was my second cruise on a Conquest class ship, so I was generally familiar with the ship layout. Because of the two dining rooms on deck 3 with the kitchen between, it is not possible to go fore and aft on decks 3 or 4. The theme of the ship, Valor, is carried out throughout with the Washington and Lincoln dining rooms, Rosie the Riveter Buffet, the Winston's Cigar Bar, hallways lined with images of astronauts, and many others, the Ivanhoe Theatre, etc. The ship is in excellent condition. The air conditioning system in Winston's is inadequate, causing it to smell of stale smoke even the next morning, and you have to go through the Cigar Bar to get to the internet café, unless you enter from the main deck.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale and took the shared Go Shuttle, which has a station outside the baggage claim area, to the pier in Miami. There was no wait, and the charge was $18 per person, versus the Carnival transfer of $30 perperson. However, they do not book shared vans for a return to Fort Lauderdale, so we booked the return Carnival transfers at the purser's desk. Boarding in Miami was a 20 minute process, since we are now at the Platinum/Concierge level with Carnival. Arriving just before 1pm, we were directed to the VIP lounge, seated a few minutes, then processed quickly and directed to board the ship immediately. Our cabin was available. We checked our dining assignment and found that we were not at a table for two, which we prefer, and found that an assistant Maitre 'd was working the line in the Lincoln Dining Room. After a better than 40 minute wait we were quickly accommodated with a table for 2 at the 8pm seating, as we had requested.
The dining venues on this ship include the two dining rooms, Washington aft on deck 3 and the larger of the two seating 1000, and the Lincoln, amidships on deck 3 seating 700. Rosie's buffet includes the buffet lines, including omelet stations, a deli, a wok station, and Fish and Chips on the upper level of Rosie's, aft, where they serve batter fried fish and chips, fried oysters, bouillabaisse soup, tuna tartar and some seafood salads Fish and Chips is only on the Conquest class ships. The supper club, Scarlett's has a mural of Tara with Clark Gable dancing, from Gone with the Wind. It has a keyboard player and a songstress entertaining and a dance floor, which is open to all whether you are dining in the supper club or just looking for a location for some slow dancing. There is a bar adjacent. The dining area is divided into a port and a starboard dining area. Reservations are required, but it was not full most nights, and all food is prepared there, to order, including lobster tail, 24 oz porterhouse steak, and more. There is a $30 per person service charge. While we ate there one night, and service and food was very good, it was not up the high level and more spacious setting in the supper club on the spirit class ships, especially our favorite on the Carnival Legend.
The normal pizza/calzone/Caesar salad station is located on the Lido Deck aft by the aft pool, and there are two "fast food" stations in the pool area, serving omelets in the morning and burgers, etc in the afternoon.
Food overall was excellent, with a nice variety of seafood in the dining room, including mahi mahi, red snapper, Pacific salmon, large lobster tails, and shrimp. They also offer a Spa menu with low calorie choices of appetizer, salad and entrée versions of items on the regular menu. The meat choices were dominated by beef tenderloin offerings, including roast tenderloin, chateaubriand, and filet mignon. Unfortunately they were all from the same cut of only a choice grade of beef. While they had crème Brule the first night, cherries jubilee the second, and baked Alaska later in the week, most nights the desserts were uninspiring. The Melting Chocolate Cake is available every night. The wine list has decent choices in the $25-$35 range, and of course some much more. They offered a private tour of the galley with the assistant head chef for a small group of Platinum members, and a general tour in the afternoon for anyone interested.
As it was the time of December holidays, they lit the Hanukkah candles each night in the atrium and had latkes one night. There was also a gingerbread village there, and some Christmas trees and decorations in various places, but not as elaborate as we have seen on other cruises. Our anniversary is in December and we cruise every year at this time.
There were only two production shows during the week, and one we had seen before a year ago. That was the first time that has happened in 34 cruises! The other nights they offered comedians and a hypnotist, and a juggler. There was the usual welcome aboard show, mostly to introduce staff, and there was a holiday show the last day in the afternoon, which included children from Camp Carnival, the cruise director reading a story, the lead singers leading songs, Santa, and a gift and photo opportunity for each child. They also had one evening show with karaoke performances by individuals who had competed during tryouts.
We did enjoy the disco one night and there was a band playing each night in the Zebra Lounge, "Rising Up", that we had heard before on the Sensation. They were excellent, playing rock, jazz, and some danceable music every night.
The Captain's Welcome reception was on the second night, a sea day, the first formal night. There were far more formally dressed people than I had observed on past Carnival cruises. In fact, there were few not dressed at least informally (dark suit and tie/cocktail dress), and many tuxedoes and gowns. The reception was in the Eagle Lounge, and unlike some I have attended, there were plenty of servers with complimentary food and beverages. The past passenger reception was the third night, after leaving port, and again the food and beverage service was excellent.
Our ports were Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel. Grand Cayman and Belize were tendering ports. They use large tenders in Grand Cayman for the short ride and there really is little wait. However in Belize, we availed ourselves of the priority tender boarding available to Platinum guests.
In Grand Cayman we walked from the tender landing to Eden Roc, my favorite place to snorkel there. There is no charge, they have lockers for rent, and a rest room, a dive ship, and a fresh water shower and place to rinse your gear. I snorkeled for about an hour and besides fish, I was able to observe a very large turtle and later a smaller one. We also visited the Tortuga Rum Cake shops, and then settled in at Senior Frog's for a fun afternoon. There were 5 ships in port.
In Roatan I had researched a resort on the other side of the island, at Paya Bay, near the marine reserve on the eastern end of the island. Most tourist excursions go to the West End. A driver met us and after nearly a half hour trying to clear the traffic jam near the pier, we had about an hour drive to the resort which allowed us to see much of the island. The resort at Paya Bay provided us with a day room. We enjoyed the beaches, almost all to ourselves, but the water was rough enough to have churned up too much sand for good snorkeling. We did find some starfish on the other side of the resort, in a more secluded area. After showering and changing in the day room we were served a lunch of empanada's, salad, two large lobster tails and baked potato. The ride back to the ship was about 50 minutes and when we got to the gate, the guard said they had already blown the whistle. The folks on the ship cheered from balconies and the pool deck as we arrived! Carnival is investing in port facilities here, and the land has been prepared for construction by the pier. There are no facilities right now other than the pier.
In Belize the tender ride in high speed boats is 15 minutes. We had made arrangements with ShoreTrips for a 4.5 hour snorkeling excursion to the reef and a visit to Cay Caulker. The boat left at 10 am and it was a 40 minute ride to the reef. We were led by guides over coral gardens at the edge of the reef. There were plenty of fish, conch and hermit crabs, and a moray eel that actually came out of hiding to pursue one of the divers flashing something. I was moving and did not take time to photograph him at that moment! We then moved a short way by boat to a shallow area where snorkelers could wade and we were swarmed by sting rays, some to be held and fed. A 4 foot barracuda and his smaller brother came by when the guides threw them a snack. The nurse sharks that used to visit this "shark alley" were not there, and the guides said the seldom show up anymore. We then pulled in to Caye Caulker and purchased lunch at a local place. We had a bit over an hour stay. It would remind one of Key West 50 years ago. The fish tacos were $5 a plate, the rum punch $3 and the Belikin beer was cold and $3. A great afternoon. After the 40 minute ride back to Belize City, the lines for tenders to the ship were very long, so we skipped any shopping or bar hopping. There were 5 ships there, causing much congestion on the pier.
An unusually late in the year tropical disturbance appeared between Cuba and Cozumel and it was windy with periodic showers in Cozumel. We decided to skip the beach, although I had wanted to see how Chankanaab National Park had recovered, and then shopping. It can get expensive when it rains! My wife got a new ring for her anniversary present, and then I recovered at Carlos and Charlie's. Conga lines and amazing things on the dance floor! Don't laugh, your daughter was here yesterday, one sign says. We were berthed at the international pier. There were two ships there and two at Playa Longusta pier downtown. The taxi ride is $6 from the pier to town or back. The pier destroyed in 2005 is still under construction, with just pilings in place.
We had a great time on a very nice ship with excellent service and great ports. I still run into people that say "I'd never go on Carnival -- it's just a big party ship." The people that say that usually haven't been aboard Carnival in 10 or 15 years. The frat boys have grown up and the average customer on Carnival is now 47 years old, and we saw none of that. We had a great time and look forward to our next cruise on her sister ship Carnival Liberty in 75 days!
Ship is clean and HUGE. Be patient when getting around, it will get easier. Don't be surprised to find a place you never seen even on the last day!
Getting on board is a breeze and a buffet will be awaiting you. Let the eating begin! Rosies has 24 hour food choices at all times! Room service can take 30 to 40 minutes so order BEFORE you get hungry!
My kids 18, 15 & 13 weren't thrilled with the Carnival program but the other kids looked like they were having a great time. We packed wine (you can now pack one bottle per guest, we packed 2!). A minimum priced bottle for dinner is 28.00! We brought our own glass down to dinner! Fruit punch, lemonaide, water, tea and coffee are free at Rosies. We packed Vodka & Rum in water bottles and saved a bundle!
Shows were great. Casino is huge! No big winners though. Order your "lunch" first thing in the morning when arriving at the Islands. One hamburger is $10.00! I don't mean to sound so cheap but we were traveling with 4 children! We would grab fruit from Rosiesthat morning and order sandwiches (bring zipper bags) and have lunch on the Islands for free!
We never planned ahead for a single excursion. In Nassau just past the straw Market are buses. The Number 10 will take you for $1.00 to any beach you want to go. We got off at Crystal Palace and walked through the casino, and enjoyed the whole afternoon on the beach. (They rent jet skis there too). In St. Thomas we love Coco Beach but it was sooo crowded. I would check into going to Saphire beach next time. It looked GLORIOUS! Again just take any taxi off the ship (they are linned up everywhere).
In St. Maarteen Orient Beach has any imaginable water activity you could want! A little topless, but not enough to notice (and we had kids).
Here's a few tips that will help: Bring singles, $5.00 and $10.00 for tipping. There is a laundry room on every floor. Cost is $2.00 per load (quarters only), but one iron, so pack a travel iron. There was always a long wait to use the one iron! By Tuesday they have a sale on sending out a "bag" of laundry for $15.00, so wait for that! Otherwise you pay by the piece! It's great for your formal shirts, dresses and pants.
Bring a clock for the room (there is none). Buy only one soda card and share it with family. Take all the pictures you want, especially on formal night. You only purchase the ones you want. We have some of the best photos ever! We only found one electrical outlet in the room, so an outlet extender would be helpful!
Get a balcony whenever possible and don't sweat the small stuff. Staff works hard 24/7 and are happy to serve you!
My wife and I married on July 21st (my wife is 35 and I'm 44) in our back yard with a Carribean theme. We had booked our cruise through Carnival last December which inspirted our wedding theme. I went on-line and asked for a vacation planner and they called back within minutes. It was pretty smooth, and we had plenty of time. If your a first time cruiser like us it pays to book in advace to allow yourself plenty of research time. I would also plan on getting to your port the day before in case of flight delays. Carnival told us that we wouldn't find a better price on-line, a claim I never checked however. After the mess with flights we had on the way home by using one of the on-line discount sites I would try to deal with Carnival and the airline directly.
We left Vermont on Sat. morning and arrived on time 1:30pm in Miami. I had booked a hotel (Riverside) which was maybe 5 blocks from the port. We took a cab from the airport for $22 plus tip. The hotel was around $90and was pretty decent, the breakfast should be skipped however. The port area was very nice with many, many shops and resteraunts. We chose a Latin American place on the water and the food was great. After a day of travel it was nice to be able to have a low key afternoon and to turn in early.
The hotel had a shuttle bus bring us to port for $4 a person. We arrived 30 minutes early to check in through Carnival. It was pretty easy, maybe 40 minutes till we were on the ship. Remember to pack anything you'll need for the afternoon because your bags won't be in your room till at least 3 and maybe later. We then explored the ship right off to get an idea of the layout. It's a beautiful ship, we really loved the paintings in all the stairwells. It's truly an awesome ship. The only problem navagating the ship is through the center floors in the middle of the ship. It'll pay to research how to get to the front and back of the ship without having to cut through a smoky cigar bar or dining room.
We ended up with a balcony which is just incredible. It's not a must have but it is very sweet to come into port and be able to see all around. We were at the stern of the boat and because of that we had a large balcony. The balconys on the side of the boat are much smaller. If you can get the corner rear of the ship you get a wrap-around deck suitable for throwing parties! One caution is that the back of the boat rocks quite a bit. My wife had trouble with motion sickness but the ginger and sea bands helped. We were told get a cabin towards the center of the ship on a middle floor. We were on deck 8 which was great, the resteraunt Rosie's and one of the pool areas was right above us on 9. The food was great. I would try the seafood line at Rosie's. We also were 5 floors above the Washington dining room. We sat in a booth with another couple. They were upset the first night when we set down thinking they had a private table. They had had a real bad day and I thought this was going to be long week dining with them. They were fine the next night and we ended up parting with them a little during the week. The husband wasn't a big fan of a dinner seating and by day 3 they stopped showing for dinner. What I would do next time is ask to be seated at a large round table. Unless of course you want privacy, then ask if you can get more private seating. There is some. We met so many great people that we would highly suggest a big table. The food was incredible! The waitstaff called you by name and really pampered you. They also had a little entertainment at the end of each dinner. It's not to be missed, every night something different like the waitstaff singing and dancing.
We visted Nashau, St. Thomas and St. Martin. The latter two were better. They were everything you could ask for. The prices were dirt cheap in St. Martin for clothes and jewelry. I would try to buy your gifts there.
The entertainment was very good. We liked the comedian's late show which could be quite X-rated -- so beware.
Drinking on the ship is expensive if you like to drink. Some people brought booze onboard in water bottles. You are allowed a few water bottles in your luggage. We made a deal to always use the stairs as a defense against putting on the pounds. They also have a very nice fittness club and spa, not that we used it. I didn't try the waterslide until the last day. It was awesome. Giving yourself a pull on the bar as you start ensures a scary ride.
One last item -- if you want a cruise without a lot of kids, go when school is in session. There were very few children onboard. It really was a Fun Ship and now we are having cruise withdrawal. We can't wait to figure out when we can go again!