Carnival Valor attempts to be everything to everybody and seems to have succeeded in that endeavor. I saw 20-something "party animals" and seniors who enjoy classical piano co-existing. It's a big ship in which everyone can vacation in their own way. This was my 7'th cruise overall, third on Carnival, and first on a post Panamax ship over 100,000 gross tons. The Valor carries around 3000 passengers and over 1000 crew , which means a solo traveler such as myself can get lost in a crowd from time to time, so perhaps a single's group cruise should be a consideration for someone who is prone to the lonely in a crowd feeling. I found the décor to be both tasteful and dazzling at the same time.
The massive size does have its advantages in that motion sickness didn't seem to effect anyone that I spoke with. The Valor was without a doubt the smoothest ride of my 7 cruises. The only serious issue I had was choppy passenger flow. I dined in the aft Washington Dining room which is on decks 3 and 4, but cannot be accessed from deck 3at all due to the galley obstacle. Deck 4 isn't much easier to navigate.. The upper forward dining room is actually used as a egress way . Embarkation and debarkation was orderly, efficient, and with a minimum of queuing. Tendering at certain ports required a timely queue.
The food was standard cruise fare in that it delivers what we expect. We expect lobster, escargot, baked Alaska, and fillet minion on a cruise and they present it on schedule. To a non-connoisseur such as myself, the food was wonderful . The seafood and warm chocolate melted cake were my favorites. Rosie's Restaurant on the Lido deck offered an abundant supply of food at every hour I visited. There are 6 hot-tubs and 2 wading pools that I was able to discover. While they were generally crowed, I was always able to find a niche and some meaningful conversation with potential friends. The best hot tub is hidden in the spa . The super slide is a must . Wow..what fun it is !
The production shows had plenty of sizzle and energy. One was cabaret/music venue theme, paying tribute to everything from the Cotton Club, Grand Ole Opry, to Copacabana. The second show was an 80's recollection . Except for the female dancers showing a bit too much derriere, I'm a big fan of Carnival's shows. Also there were about 3 comedians, a ventriloquist, a hypnotist, and the passenger show. No time for boredom!
They don't call them the "fun ships" for nothing.
Ship I did not get to use all the ship's amenities. I enjoyed the eateries, piano bar, serpentine slide, pool, hot tub, and shows in the Ivanhoe Theater. The Washington Dining Room was not accessible according to deck plans. The dining room is located on decks 3 and 4. It was not accessible on 3 because of the Lincoln Dining Room and 4 because of the photo gallery's closure. It was best accessible by walking aft on deck 5 and going down one deck.
Onboard Activities I did not get to do all the activities I thought I would. I found many to overlap others. I had to choose the ones that were the most important to me. If you are a non-drinker like me or cannot drink alcohol, you can drink non-alcoholic drinks in the bars. I enjoyed singing at the piano bar while drinking a diet coke. I enjoyed a non-alcoholic juice at the Captain's Cocktail Party.
Shore Excursions The shore excursions were the highlight of my cruise. I love to travel, see, and learn new things. I visited Grand Cayman, Roatan Island, Belize, and Costa Maya. Roatan Island was myfavorite port because it isn't commercialized or developed like the others. I found it picturesque. The cruise director said that it is like going back 50 years in time. At Grand Cayman, I took the Stingray City and Island tour. I enjoyed holding a sea turtle at the turtle farm and holding, petting, feeding and kissing stingrays at Stingray City. The gift shop in Hell was packed with people with a slow-moving cashier line. At Roatan Island, I took the Garifuna Experience and Mangrove Tunnel tour. I got to dance with the Garifuna Indians and sample cassava bread baked on a mud stove. The mangrove tunnels and Jonesville's stilted fishing village were picturesque and full of photo opportunities. At Belize, I took the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins tour, and in Costa Maya, I took the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins tour. I enjoyed the Mayan ruins. When I booked my excursions with Carnival online, Xunantunich was not offered. After arriving aboard the ship I found out that it was being offered. I was able to change my Belize excursion onboard.
Before going on my cruise, I read many negative comments about Belize. I would not have liked Belize either had I not gotten past Belize City. Reader, I would like to give you the following advice I had when I was in the Navy: "Get past the ship, pier, waterfront, and the first bar." Take shore excursions. There is a world out there you might wish you discovered. You can't judge Belize by Belize City or any other country by its port. You might not get to go back to the ports you visited. The world expands beyond the places I suggested getting past.
Staff The staff exceeded my expectations. My cabin steward addressed me by my first name every time he saw me. My servers in the Washington Dining Room remembered the beverages and breads I liked. After arriving in Roatan Island, I could not open the safe in my cabin. I called guest services and told them that I had a tour at Roatan, and shortly after I called guest services, someone came and opened and reactivated the safe. I was able to retrieve my camera and enjoy my tour. I never had further problems with the safe. I never had any negative interactions with any staff members.
My husband and I took our first cruise for our 30th wedding anniversary. We cruised on Carnival Valor and sailed out to Miami to the Easter Caribbean. We thorougly enjoyed our experience.
Our check in started @ 1 PM and went smoothly even though a little long and we were in our cabin by about 2:15. We had a cabin at the aft on the ship with a large balcony on the 6th (upper level)floor. It was bigger than I thought it would be with 2 hanging closets and one with shelves. The bathroom was sized for one person at a time, unless another person was in the shower. The shower size was very useable. You can store luggage under the bed too.
We had our first dinner in the Washington dining room with a table for 2. We asked the Ma'tre De if we could change to a bigger table and the next night we were with4 other couples. The food was always very good with plenty of choices and alternate choices. I usually ordered 2 or 3 appetizers which they brought out one at a time. The desserts werealways different and good. Formal night was fun seeing everyone dressed up. Our wait staff were very pleasant, talkative and accomadating. The shows at dinner table were fun to watch and 2 of them had audience particitation. We had the buffet @ Rosies for breakfast and lunch and had more than enough variety again and the food was always good there. The toast and pancakes were soft, but not unexpected for a buffet. The pizza, deli and Asian counters were a nice alternative too.
We saw 3 shows. The comedy show was quite good and clean (the early show we didn't see the late one). The last night show was too loud for our taste and we didn't care for the 80's music, but the dancers had a lot of energy.
Since it was Spring break, there was a lot of college kids, and they kind of took over the pool areas and the whirlpools, so that was disappointing. We sunbathed on our balcony in the afternoon.
The bar staff was always pleasant and friendly. We enjoyed the Rum drink of the day.
Our room steward was also friendly and would stop and ask how our day was or how our meal was. We enjoyed his animal towels he placed on our bed ever night. His helpers did a good job with the room. All the workers in the halls were always friendly and would say hello.
We had no bad experiences during our 7 day cruise and will certainely cruise on Carnival again.
Peggy & Joe Kamenick
First time cruise for hubby and myself. This was a planned family reunion and celebration of a 50th wedding anniversary for my husband's Mother and Father. I really enjoyed myself; I read all the reviews concerning the gaudy display of decor that carnival is famous for but i thought the boat was in great taste. It may be a little over the top but most of the common areas were beautiful. I have to add this is a very big ship; huge smile!!! Be prepared to walk for miles, I am sorry I didn't have a meter to track the mileage I did during my walking from events, to my room, or to meals.
Though there were alot of people, the only time it felt overwhelming was on the lido deck where most of the activities were held during the day. The space was very small and the swimming pools even smaller so I was not able to enjoy the pools or hot tubs because they were overwhelmingly crowded. As for the buffets the dining areas were ran like a machine. The staff constantly cleaned up behind diners so there werealways clean areas to sit. The buffet areas were vere appealing because they were not slopped over. The trays were constantly replaced so you did not have to scrap the remains; the staff would replace the trays with fresh refilled ones. The selections were great and I can not think of anytime during the day when the food was not acceptable. You could eat at special locations on the lido deck at a special hamburger/pizza/deli areas, even a fish and chips area that served salads. The dining rooms were supberb. If you were disappointed in the meal you received you were able to exchange for another meal. You always felt you were eating at a first class restaurant every night. Beautiful settings and you didnt feel on top of your neighbor. It was very pleasurable and the staff very professional. The staterooms are excellent for the price. The beds very comfortable and if you were lucky to have a balcony room very comfortable and enabled you to get away from the crowds and sit comfortably on your balcony and enjoy the scenery and sea. The entertainment was excellent; would enjoy if they had some top names on the bill like some other liners do but carnival did make sure the acts were topnotch. I heard one complaint from singles and that was they wished there were activities for singles to mingle and meet. They had one night and that was it as I was told. My only complaint was that the confusion of the halls and how sometimes some areas that one can use for shortcuts were cut off from public use. Valor does have a small brochure with the ship design but was not given to us until we complained about where some of the activities were located, and the confusion of finding the venues. Then was the brochure given to us. This should had been placed in our rooms when we arrived. And let me add another small complaint which can escalate to major if one misses a flight. The dembarkation process needs to be redone. we were unable to leave the ship until 9 am though the ship had been docked since 7 am. They had promised that those who had early flights would be able to leave early but that didnt happen. The distance we had to go to get to customs didn't help any. Please be prepared for a nightmare and please wear comfortable clothing and shoes because you are in for a trial. Request a wheelchair if you or someone in family are in not in tiptop shape. Do not be ashamed to request assistance, the distances from boat to exit to port side is a great distance and with small children or an elderly or disabled family member this can be a trying moment. You have the airport yet to deal with so by the time you arrive home you may wished you stayed there smile. Enjoy the cruise because Valor is a great ship and the shore excursions wonderful; wished they could be longer but wonderful. Will go on another cruise and will consider Valor once again and Carnival.
Embarkation: Not as bad as I anticipated although we got there when the majority of other passengers got there around 1:00-it took about 1 hour to process and be on the ship. The lines constantly move so it doesn't seem so long.
The Valor: Many people have posted that it is tacky and gaudy but I found it tasteful and appealing-just different tastes I guess. The ship is spotless and was our entire cruise. Crew very friendly and always spoke to us and always smiling. We had an inside cabin with bunk beds for 4 people (2 adults, 2 children) and it was somewhat of a tight squeeze but we chose an inside so we could spend our money on other things. We were located on the Upper Deck right over the Eagles Lounge (karaoke) but we never heard anything.
Food and Service: excellent all over the ship. We ate breakfast and lunch at Rosie's-my DH loved the fish n chips. I ate at the deli and the grill-everything was very good and much better than our last cruise on the Inspiration. Service was excellent-our waiters were the best and always smilingand laughing with us. Very attentive to my 2 children.
Pools: didn't get in any pools but they are small and somewhat crowded. The water slide was awesome according to my kids and they spent most of their time there. Some college age girls tried to run off the children from the kiddy pool so they could have their own private sun bathing area and a complaint to the Carnival staff quickly resolved that issue!
Ports: If there is something interesting to do in Nassau, I still haven't found it. We hired a taxi to take us around the island and they did an excellent job but we saw some things we could have done without, I'll leave it at that. St. Thomas-wonderful, beautiful and we ferried to ST. John and it was magnificent-it is paradise and was uncrowded the day we were there. St. Maarten: very pretty island -we rented a car and drove the whole island on the main road, stopping at Dawn Beach, Orient Bay, Simpson Bay, and Maho to watch the airplanes-awesome!Driving in St. Maarten was very easy and we encountered no problems other than very narrow roads full of holes so you may want a Jeep.
Entertainment: the shows were OK-the comedian/ventiloquist was the best. Casino too smoky for me. Spent most of my time relaxing but there was always something going on all over the ship.
Debarkation: a nightmare-the only complaint my DH or I had the entire cruise-took us 1 hour standing in a cramped lobby to get off the ship-after most of the ship had left already. Overall a great cruise and I would cruise the Valor again.
We sailed on the Carnival Valor, sailing on June 3rd, 2007. Our ports of call were Nassau, St. Maartin, and St Thomas.
Embarkation – Our group of six didn’t arrive early to the port of Miami as we had hoped we would, instead arriving at around 1pm. We were greeted by a sizeable number of lengthy lines, but all of the lines continued to flow quickly, and we had made it through the embarkation process within about an hour and fifteen minutes of arriving to port. There were also hefty lines by the time we’d made it to Rosie’s Diner, at about 2pm, due mostly to our not being there earlier, I’m sure. Grabbing a meal right after embarkation was the only time in which we had to wait in line for food. Throughout the cruise, the longest line I encountered for food, beverages, or snacks was only 3 or 4 people deep.
Ship – I was prepared for the ship’s flashy décor based on the other reviews I had read on this site. With 90% of the decorations American-based, I found the pictures of knights on horseback somewhat odd. The staffdid a great job of keeping tables cleaned off and ready for diners, and the few cosmetic or technical problems that came up during the cruise were repaired quickly.
I was also pleasantly surprised that during the days at sea, the ship is not at all as crowded given the number of people on board. Most everyone finds their way to the sun and pool on the top deck, and you can come and go on all other levels as you please.
Entertainment - The entertainment was great, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. We went to the show on opening night and the second to the last night on the boat, and watched a comedian’s performance during one of the nights in-between. One comment that was consistent throughout our group was that the costumes worn by the dancers were pretty risqué at times, definitely intended for a PG-13 crowd. Overall, very enjoyable, and the 80’s show at the end of the cruise was absolutely worth the hype.
Make the piano bar one of your regular stops. Mark at the Piano Bar was (and is) a fantastic performer... ARRR!! If you’d like to get your song played, try to get in earlier before the list grows too long. Also, keep in mind that the crowd gets considerably inebriated as the night winds on, and if you’re not one of them, it just gets annoying by 1-2 am.
A few tips to share from our week-long experience: Get a soda card for yourself, or at least one person if traveling as a couple. At six or seven bucks per alcoholic drink, the costs add up. Pace yourself. Get a card, save some green. If your shore excursion leaves before 10:00am on St. Thomas, you get the same expedited treatment through customs as the VIP’s. Get the late-dinner seating. You won’t be as rushed to get back to the ship in the evenings, and finding a snack on the ship to tide you over until dinner won’t be a problem. Get a stateroom with a view. The outward facing rooms didn’t just have a porthole, it was a full window. We’ll be opting for this option next time around. When arriving in Miami, get a taxi, not a rental car. Driving in Miami was a mess, and parking was about $35 bucks overnight at our hotel. Taking a taxi to and from would have saved us at least a hundred dollars.
Will we be sailing Carnival again? I can say at least twice - I've got enough Marriott Rewards points for two more 7-day cruises... After that, I'd like to try Royal Carribean or another line.
After 4 months of planning and replanning, my husband and I were finally off on on our cruise to celebrate our 31st anniversary. Our last cruise had been 11 years prior to this, on the Carnival Inspiration going to the Eastern Caribbean.
We flew out at a 11:30 a.m. from the West Coast and didn't arrive in Miami until 7 a.m. the next morning. Having some time to kill before we could go aboard the ship, we rented a car and explored South Beach in Miami. We were not impressed.
We were finally able to get to the ship around 2 p.m., and pretty tired at that point. We felt like we were being herded like cattle through the long lines. Once onboard we dropped our bags off and headed up to the Lido for a snack and some initial exploration of the ship. We had been handed a paper for a scavenger hunt, but were too tired to bother. The next day we saw that the winner received some great prizes from all the ports of call for participating. Dinner was outstanding in the dining room, although they had incorrectlyplaced us at the early seating instead of the late seating as we had requested. The Maitre D changed our seating time for the following evenings.
Monday we were at sea all day. My husband had some intestinal distress from the sushi he had eaten in Seattle, and since Pepto Bismal was not available in the gift shop he was sent to the infirmary where they requested that he stay in his room for 24 hours and be put on a liquid diet. I went to an art auction to pass the time and enjoyed Peter Max, Thomas Kinkade, Rembrandt and several glasses of Champaign. My husband was able to join us for dinner, but needed to be cleared before he could leave the ship the next morning.
Tuesday, after being herded off the boat like cattle again, we stopped at Grand Cayman to enjoy the Turtle Farm, Stingray City, and the town called Hell (of course I had to send a postcard from there). Stingray City was scary at first because of the Steve Irwin incident, but they were indeed friendly and willing to lay in our arms. I even gave one a kiss. The water was warm despite the rain. No meals or snacks were provided from 8 a.m. until we got back at 2:30 p.m., so I was glad I had brought some bananas with me. The ship's crew did sell us a small water bottle before we left for $3.00! We got back in time to shower and dress for a formal dinner with free drinks from the captain and delicious lobster tails. The evening entertainment was fantastic with a 10:30 floorshow followed by a midnight adult comedy.
Wednesday we decided to take it easy and just hang out at the beach in Roatan. There was a huge traffic jam getting across the island to the beach because tourism from the cruise ships is their only industry. The water was warm and clear and full of beautiful fish. I was glad we brought our snorkel equipment along. I managed to buy a few necklaces from some vendors on the beach. They also had some live Caribbean music going and massage tables and hair braiding. Overall I thought it was a great place. When we got back to the ship lunch was still available on the Lido to tide us over until dinner, which was great as usual.
Thursday the cruise director had recommended cave tubing in Belize. We were in the 8:00 a.m. group and met in the Ivanhoe Theater as directed. We got up early and had breakfast and waited until 9:00 a.m. before we were told we could depart. By then the 8:30 group had joined us and we were all one big line. Our line got delayed because the scanners weren't working and by the time we got out to the site the cave was full with 600 people! Another Carnival ship was there as well. Our ride out there was miserable with rowdy unsupervised preteens screaming in the back of the bus and throwing rocks at each other in the river – someone said their parents had gone shopping – which really made me mad since we had paid $200 for this experience! I feel like Carnival did us an injustice in overbooking this event and allowing these unsupervised kids to ruin it for us.
Friday was the best day yet. We went to the Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and the ruins were impressive. When we got back we had time for a quick lunch on the ship, a little shopping at the port, and more snorkeling in the beautiful water! Dinner and the entertainment that evening was fantastic, with Stevie Wonder making a surprise appearance!
Saturday was another day at sea. I went to the art auction and didn't win anything, I went to the spa and listened to the trainers talk about how toxic everything is, followed by a drawing for which I didn't win anything, I went to a debarkation talk followed by a bingo game and a raffle drawing that I didn't win, and my husband stayed in the cabin and rested. We looked up our bill on the TV screen and got depressed – especially about the 10-minute call to home that cost us $84.
Sunday morning we arrived in Miami and debarkation went very smoothly. Our flight didn't leave until Monday, so we rented a car again and toured the Everglades and drove down to Key Largo, which was nice.
Overall, on a scale of 1-10, I'd rate this cruise an 8. If I had to do it again I'd probably go in January or February when the kids are in school. I saw some people with walkie-talkies, which is a good idea to keep track of your group on such a large ship. The dinners are definitely worth getting dressed for and the late night entertainment is definitely worth waiting up for. Nix on the souvenir cocktail glasses for $6.95 in hot pink plastic!
We had a group of 27 on the Valor this past week celebrating our honeymoon. My wife, Holly and I, wanted to make our family and friends take a vacation together. This is an amazing ship and we all had a great vacation. We arrived in Miami Saturday and stayed at the Holiday Inn Miami Airport. We booked the rooms through Hotelopia, paid $75 per room (1/2 of the standard rate). We had read previous bad reviews about this hotel but we found it very suitable for our needs, Hotel staff was friendly, rooms were spacious, parking seemed very safe and we were only 10 minutes from the port of Miami. Had dinner Saturday night at Bayside, plenty of choices and lots of shops and entertainment in the area.
EMBARKATION: We called the port ahead of time to see what time we could board the ship and were told they would begin boarding at 2:00pm due to disinfecting the ship. Needless to say we arrived at 10:30 in the morning and were eating lunch on the lido deck by noon. We figure that's their standard response to keep the masses fromshowing up so early. They really do a good job of getting you through line and onto the ship. Very painless and easy process, just make sure you fill out your fun pass online before showing up! We saw a very long line of folks who hadn't filled theirs out causing them quite a delay.
OUR ROOM: We were allowed to our rooms at 1:30. We had an L-shaped balcony on deck 6(room 6473) which is at the very back starboard side. This room had an extended balcony which we greatly enjoyed. Room is very spacious for a cruise ship, we had 4 pieces of luggage(one for wife's shoes). Our clothes easily fit in the drawers and closets, and there are plenty of hangers already there. The bathroom had plenty of shelf space for all my wife's stuff and she even let me have a small area. We heard very little noise from neighbors or from the floors above and below. This was the first balcony room for both of us and our future cruises will definitely be balcony's as well. All of our group was on deck 6, a couple of the rooms were directly over the Ivanhoe Theater and they did hear the entertainment at nights.
THE SHIP: For a ship with 3000 people on board, the Valor seems very spacious. We were always able to find tables and lounge chairs by any of the pools and never felt like we were in a big crowd. When you get on board go by the purser's desk on deck 3 and pick up a few pocket size ship layouts which show the location of everything on board. These make the ship much easier to navigate. We found the ship to be well laid out and quickly learned our way around.
FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT: The food on board the Valor was much, much better than we expected. We had the 6:15 dinner in the Lincoln room. Our waiter Savio was wonderful and all the women in our group enjoyed seeing him sing and dance during the dinner shows. We had a large group and everybody raved over the food. The Chocolate Melting cake is definitely the highlight of dinner. We mainly ate breakfast and lunch at Rosie's. Food was all exceptional. Try a cheeseburger and hotdog, they're a must. Pizza was a mixed review in our group, several of us enjoyed it while others could have done with out. Others enjoyed the Sushi and Deli, but I'm not sure if anybody tried the fish and chips. If you enjoy fine dining Scarlett's is a must. Holly and I wanted a night to ourselves and had a fantastic evening with dinner and the music at Scarlett's. Definitely a steal for $30 per person. Drinks were a little pricey upstairs but I guess it's what you get in upscale dining. We thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment. We thought the singers, shows and comedians in Ivanhoe were fantastic. If you enjoy comedy make sure to attend the adult comedy shows at midnight, we were rolling in the floor laughing. The Hypnotist was also entertaining although you could tell some of the people up on stage weren't really under and just there for their 15 minutes of fame. The Far From Over show was probably the best show of the week. We would rather have seen the performers do another show on the last night instead of the Legends show(which is what they take auditions for during the week and have cruisers do the show). Be sure to visit Doug in the Lidy Hop Piano bar. Tell him Dawn(my sister) says hello when you go. We had several nights of great entertainment in the piano bar. We never attended the Karaoke in the Eagles Lounge. The Cigar bar, Bronx sports bar, and the disco never seemed to have much of a crowd. We had several big winners in the casino in our group and there was never a dull moment during sea days and evenings.
EXCURSIONS: We booked all of our excursions through private people. We saved a ton of money and made memories that we'll always remember. We were worried about tendering at Grand Cayman and Belize since we weren't a part of a Carnival tour. The best way to get off early is to show up in Ivanhoe about 15 minutes before they start tendering and let them know that you need to get off early. The best thing to remember is to be Polite and let them know that you need off and we found them all very accommodating and were on the first tender each morning.
GRAND CAYMAN: This was probably our least favorite port. Grand Cayman is very expensive and commercialized, almost like visiting a coastal city in Florida. We did the Snorkel & Stingray tour and the Hell & Turtle farm tour with Captain Marvin. Captain Marvin himself actually guided our snorkel, stingray portion, what a great thrill, he's an amazing person. This tour was very fun although there were large crowds at the Stingray sight but it was amazing to be up close with these creatures. We did have one of our parents(who is on Oxygen) fall overboard while at the sight but Captain Marvin quickly pulled him in and told him that people on Oxygen didn't need to be getting in the ocean. We all had a good laugh. We did a little shopping before getting back on the boat but Grand Cayman was much too expensive, wait to do your shopping on the other islands.
ROATAN: This was a great port. We did the island tour with Victor Bodden. He is a great guide and this is a beautiful island. We started off doing a zip-line tour. What a blast, even though we did have a lady in our group fracture her ankle doing this(she already had a hurt knee before the vacation and we tried to talk her out of doing the zip-line, she tried putting all her weight on her other leg and just landed bad). Don't let this scare you, these guys were all very professional and this was a great adventure. Victor took great care of our hurt member, having somebody come pick her up and take here back to the ship's doctor. Victor actually emailed us when we got home to check on her which meant alot to us. Back to the tour, next we rode by some shipwrecks, toured Fantasy Island(no, the show wasn't filmed here). There are wild monkeys roaming at Fantasy Island and they'd come right up to you, climb up and sit on your shoulder and take food from you. Victor actually stopped on the way and bought a bag of leeches(a fruit) that the monkeys like. Some in our group thought the monkeys were the highlight of all the ports. We also spent some time at Half moon bay. We did have a flat tire in our van but Victor never panicked and had us up and going within 15 minutes. We were back at the port in plenty of time to do a little shopping and got a few great deals. Victor Bodden is definitely well worth it if you can book him, he cares about giving his customers a great tour. We also had a few people do some Scuba diving here and they also had a great trip.
BELIZE: This might have been my favorite port. We did the Cave tubing with Yhony at CaveTubing.com and this was a wild adventure. They are very organized, within 10 minutes of getting off the boat we were in a bus and on our way. The Carnival excursion only does 1 cave and is very unorganized. Cavetubing.com goes through 2 caves and it is a blast. We passed many Carnival tubers stuck on rocks with no guides, we had a guide for every 8 people which really made this a great trip. This is an awesome tour, they even stopped at Amigo's for lunch which was a great taste of some local foods. Carnivals video people were at the caves and got us all on tape yelling CaveTubing.com. We had a blast. We also did most of our shopping here in Belize and got some great deals. If you like Pina Coladas, Belize makes their own rum and have great drinks. There are restaurants along the pier that are inexpensive and have a great local feel.
COSTA MAYA: I take it back, this is my favorite port. We did the Chocchoben Ruins tour with David and Ivan. This is a must do tour!!!! These ruins have only been open to the public for 4 or 5 years. Ivan, our tour guide was born and grew up playing around these ruins. These ruins are very personal to him and it shows throughout this tour. He and our other guide Silvana made this a memory I'll remember forever. We got to climb some of the pyramids and saw many that haven't even been uncovered yet(they were still under dirt and growth and trees) They say it takes approx 8 years to uncover 1 pyramid and they've only uncovered about 3%. They think it will take approx 250 years to completely uncover the sight. It's hard to believe these ruins are over 2300 years old. I'll repeat again that this is a once in a lifetime tour. The Mayans skills at Math and the way they built these pyramids is unbelievable, Ivan will also give you some amazing history about this area. We also got to tour a local town to see how the locals live, they still have no electricity, and their kitchens are outside and it's a culture shock to see how others live in different places in the world. Several people in our group stayed at the port and just relaxed, and others booked the ATV excursion through Carnival. Everyone loved this port. Once we got back to the pier we still had time to shop some and hang out around the pier. This is also a great place to get good deals shopping. We had a few do Scuba Diving and snorkeling here and they all said it was fantastic.
DISEMBARKING: This was the only aggravating part of our vacation. If you have enough luggage that you can carry yourself, self-disembarking is definitely the way to go. Some of our group did it and were off very quick. We waited to exit with the masses. Carnival really tries to get you off the ship quickly which I understand so they can get the ship ready for the following cruise. We got up and had breakfast at Rosies and our color was called by 9:30 to get off the ship. We got off quickly then had to wait in a long line to clear customs, the wait seemed longer than it was. We were in our car pulling out of the garage by 11:00 so it really wasn't too much of a hassle.
SUMMARY: Is our vacation really over? Do we really have to leave this marvelous ship and wonderful ports? Our group had the vacation of a lifetime.If you're traveling on the Valor, I'm jealous and get ready for a great vacation. Please feel free to ask myself or my wife Holly any questions. I think of life as a long journey and this was definitely a great adventure along the way. With my new wife with me I look forward to our next adventure on a cruiseship and destination yet to be determined! Best wishes to you all for a great vacation!
Before we booked our cruise, I reviewed numerous critics and found most of them useless. Either the critic was describing the "all-time-greatest-best-perfectest(sic)-travel experience", and I just couldn't believe a word. Or I read the other extreme as in "we-will-never-again-use-this-cruise-line-because-of-bla-bla-bla-and-the-weather-was-bad". This does not really help anyone trying to make up his mind, which cruise line, which ship and which cruise to book. I hope to do better by writing truly about everything that we experienced during this cruise. If I do not voice an opinion on something, I either did not use this feature or forgot about it.
I'm German living with my Puerto Rican wife in Germany, so I had to include the flights into the consideration, which cruise we should take. We wanted direct, non-stop flights to/from the cruise port to a western Caribbean cruise. The main concern was the price, as money was tight. Our choice finally was the Carnival Valor sailing out of Miami to Grand Cayman, Roatan / Honduras, Belize and Costa Maya / Mexico.
Embarkation We were warned that there would be long lines to get on the ship. There were, but they moved surprisingly fast. In less thanan hour we went through security and the whole registration process and had our first drink at the bar.
TIP: Complete your passport details online (or let the travel agent do so) before going to the port and print the Fun Pass, which confirms that the data required is complete. This saves you one of the lines. Large bags must be left with the baggage handlers on the pier (a tip of USD 1.00 per bag is recommended). They arrived two hours later at the cabin, but this could take longer.
TIP: Identify each of your bags with at least two baggage tags provided by the cruise line giving your name, sailing date and cabin number. Have some clothing in your carry-on, maybe including bathing suits, to get through the first hours on the ship.
Decor For my taste the ship is decorated a little too colourful. Some of the paintings are really bad and golden plastic eagles are looking at you all the time. This is not American style, this is weird. I also wondered, why the theatre was decorated like a medieval castle with armoured knights standing around. But the cabin and most of the public places are really nice, still colourful, but with some more taste.
Cabin On our last cruise we had a balcony that we never used, so this time we booked the cheapest outside cabin (with two portholes). Besides the fact that you can check the weather before getting out of your cabin, these state rooms are much larger than the inside ones (220 sq.ft instead of 185 sq.ft.). This does not seem like much difference, but believe me, it is. Be aware that the "normal' balcony cabins also have 185 sq.ft. only (plus 35 sq.ft. balcony).
Our room also was much bigger than the ones we had on other ships. There was enough space and enough hangers for all clothes (and we always take a lot of clothes). 4 bags did nicely fit under the king size bed. Ladies will enjoy the large make-up mirror with good lighting. A hair dryer and 2 bath robes are also provided. The safe is free of charge and functions with any card with magnetic strip. The bath room had space for my comb, tooth brush and deo stick. Plus around 100 bottles, things and tubes that my wife travels with. Razors, soap, body lotion and other stuff are provided in a basket. If you need more, your cabin attendant will be happy to deliver. The shower is not what you are used to, but I had no problem showering my 250 pounds. I was surprised to have good Dove shampoo available (not the oil stripping type that you get even in good hotels) and shower gel.
TIP: Bring another card with magnetic strip so that you do not have to use a credit card for opening and closing the safe.
DiningBreakfast is either served in the Washington Dining Room with limited choice (good are salmon and bagel) and under-average service or in Rosie's self-service Restaurant, which we used most of the time. A wide variety of breakfast fare is offered, even made-to-order omelettes. Quality is mostly good. Should you care for real coffee, you can get that at the Espresso Bar in Rosie's or the Java Café: Double Espresso or tall Cappuccino at USD 2.00 each.
For lunch we always used Rosie's including Deli, Fish & Chips, Grille and Oriental. I doubt that anyone would stay hungry there with so many choices of different foods. Quality is mostly good. Even the hot dogs are something special. Dinner we always had on our reserved table in the Washington Dining Room Upper Level. Service at dinner is much better than at breakfast. The quality of the food is always between good and excellent (maybe except for the sirloin steak that was not really medium, but the filet mignon was perfect). Most of the seafood is excellent and getting a second serving of lobster is no problem (where else do you get such a service for free). Dinner really is a high light of this cruise.
As a teaser before dinner you can get some sushi at Togo Sushi.
One more thing: Eating good pizza at 0430am is a hit. Try it. TIP: Try to get the second sitting for dinner (2030hrs in Lincoln or preferably 2000hrs in Washington Dining Room). The first sitting may be okay for parents with kids, but is much too early for my taste. You have lots of choices to bridge the hunger gap until 8pm. If you are planned for the Lincoln Room Upper Level, try to change to any other location, as this level is used by lots of people as a walk-through from the theatre to the back part of the ship.
Drinks Many critics complain that the drinks on cruises are too expensive. Considering the fact that you have nowhere else to go, cruise lines really could ask for much higher prices than they actually do. Some examples: Daily cocktail special USD 3.50, specialty cocktails like Margarita USD 4.25, frozen cocktails like Pina Colada or Miami Vice USD 4.95, most scotches, bourbons, vodkas, rums and other stuff USD 4.50, 16oz beers USD 4.50, 750ml Foster's Lager USD 5.95 (all drinks plus 15% tip). At dinner you can get a decent bottle of wine (not the Californian stuff from 2 litre bottles, but a wide choice of good US, French, German, Australian and other wines) from USD 19.00 to USD 30.00 (also plus 15% tip). Compared to what I am used to in the USA and other countries I believe the prices for the drinks are fair, compared to South Beach or the Grove they are cheap.
Many cruise critics have also voiced complaints that the drinks are watered down. I don't drink liquor or cocktails, but have seen many drinks being prepared for others, also for guests that were not sitting at the bar and watching. Most of the time the bar keepers added a little extra. You will most probably exact measures at the lobby bar and the most extra at the casino bar. Also my white wine glass was a little fuller there. When you plan to drink more than 3 cans of soft drinks or club soda per day, it would make sense to buy a "Fountain Card' at USD 5.50 for adults (plus 15%).
In Rosie's you have water, ice tea and other drinks free of charge most of the day. TIP: If you want to buy a Fountain Card and a souvenir cup and can get by with the free drinks at Rosie's for some hours, wait until 1 hour after the ship has left Miami. Before that 7% Miami state tax is added to all bills.
Entertainment The shows at the theatre are good, better than on most ships. The Carnival cast: Good dancers, good choreographer, good male singers (no, I'm not gay or chauvinistic, but the lady singer must have some other qualities than singing and should use her mouth for talking only). Do not expect a 100 Million Dollar Las Vegas show, as you also will not have to pay a 140 Dollar entrance fee. Other shows at the theatre: Two very good Motown singers, especially Marcus Anthony, who most probably was called that before Marc Anthony hit the stage as Menudo kid. The two comedians were okay, but making too many jokes about being hit by their mothers when they were kids. Lindy Hop – Piano Bar: Ron is a great entertainer, especially after midnight when his songs get so seedy that the doors must be closed. Very unfortunate for Carnival that he will leave for Las Vegas in December. Be aware – not smoke free as other critics said – very smoky. Paris Hot: Good decoration dedicated to Josephine Baker. Average band with limited repertoire playing 50s to 90s for dancing. Eagles Lounge: Can't say much about that as been there only once. Average big band??? One Small Step – Disco: Very good décor, lots of monitors, good overall experience. Good DJ with sometimes erratic changes between Latin, Reggaeton, Motown, House, Techno and other music. (Yes, even we old guys enjoy such music, as long as we don't have the feeling to qualify as grand parents of the other dancers). Dancing during heavy seas adds a lot of fun and leg muscles. Bronx Bar – Sports bar: several large screen TVs to watch the games. Winston's – Cigar Lounge: Good jazz, but heavy with smoke.
Casino: Well, it's a casino. Sorry, can't tell if the slots are tight – never used them. The odds at other casino stuff can only be the same as in Vegas.
I nearly forgot, but there is also nice classical music in the lobby bar.
The Fitness Center is excellent with a good variety of machines to work out.
Shopping: The usual cruise stuff, mostly overpriced. Beware the cheap watches are cheap – what did you expect?
Visiting ports – shore excursions: We were a bit unlucky with the weather. As we no longer snorkel or swim with walruses (or whatever marine fauna is around), the only excursion we planned was to the Mayan ruins near Belize. It was raining so hard that we skipped even that, hoping to have better conditions to visit the ruins near Costa Maya. But there we couldn't even anchor due to strong winds and currents. So the only things we saw during our shore excursions was the same souvenirs at similar souvenir shops at the different ports. Last year in Grenada I bought a T-Shirt saying "Different Island, Same Shit'. This is true also in the Western Caribbean.
Debarkation Besides the fact that you have to search for your bags in a huge warehouse and stand in a slow moving line for immigration, all went okay. TIP: Travel with only one bag per person and take this off the ship yourself. For debarkation there is no size limit as for embarkation. You will be allowed to leave much earlier when lines are not that long already. If you do need to let the baggage handlers take your bags off the ship, take a porter from the warehouse. Somehow they always find a way to save you lots of time by jumping the queues.
Overall it was a very good week of vacation. We can highly recommend to cruise with the Carnival Valor.
One last note: For this 7-day cruise we paid USD 1198 for the two of us, less than USD 86 per person per day. That much vacation value you only get on cruises.
Priscilla and Holger
Carnival Valor - Deck 6 - Cabin 6458 - August 27th, to September 3rd. Eastern Caribbean Itinerary: Leaving out of Miami, Nassau, St Thomas, St Martin, and back to Miami.
Our kitty cat sitter arrived, our bags were packed and we were ready for our dream vacation! After arriving at the Milwaukee International airport we checked in, swept through security quickly, and were flying to Ft. Lauderdale, without all the hassle and drama of flying out of O'Hare. We booked a roundtrip ticket on Midwest (under $200.00) the cushy blue carpet carried us to out 1st class leather seating (all seats on the plane are 1st class). We watched movies and ate delicious fresh foods before our arrival in Florida. We took a Yellow Taxi to our hotel - The Royal Palm in South beach, Miami. We had to wait until 4:30pm for our room to be ready, so we looked about the city/beach and restaurants and we finally checked in. The hotel was ok, the service was slow, and there was a $15.00 resort fee all guests pay for dry towels at the pool regardless if you swim or not.I got the giggles when they ran out of towels and just ran up to our room and grabbed our own. The hotel manager explained that dry towels are only offered up until 5pm. (I then remembered that we could not check in until 4:30pm). The architecture was Art Deco and the colors were pastel, and our room was overall satisfactory (a dirty old room with a nice view of the ocean & city…not a terrible trade off). We shopped and ate dinner at a Cuban restaurant, and crashed out for the night.
Quick Tips: If your taking a Yellow Cab from Ft Lauderdale to Miami it will be about $100.00 including 10% to 15% tip, Shuttle bus about $25.00 including $5.00 tip. If you are bringing children on your dream cruise vacation, Carnival is TOPS. Children of all ages are seen running and playing all over the ship (even in the adults only hot tub!). Camp Carnival is also available to drop off the little darling angles for the day. Your children will meet other kids their age and have a great time running and playing all over the entire ship. For those of you that are thinking of a cruise as a way to get some quality time…or a slice of time away from the sweet, darling angles….think again……….think really hard about making other plans. When it comes to Carnival, they know how to make sure your children have an excellent time and your children will just know that on a Carnival Fun Ship…Cruising is for KIDS!
What I found out / what happened to me on my first cruise years ago…. A short time in the Caribbean sun with out the protection of a t-shirt or sunblock can cause blistering, sunburn, and a week of great pain.
Embarkation - In the morning we took a yellow cab to the ship and the baggage porters were arguing over baggage turf and tips, when the argument ended we handed a porter our luggage, tipped him and walked into the terminal building. We were very pleased overall with Carnivals check in process and were on board within 45 minutes!
We ate lunch at Rosie's and our room was ready by 1:30pm so we ventured to our cabin with the excitement of opening a present at Christmas. Our room was a Balcony at the back of the ship, the bathroom was clean with crisp white towels, it was very nice with a few complimentary product samples. The bed was two twins that could be pushed together to make a King and finally the balcony, all filthy and stained (one table and two chairs), the glass on the balcony wall facing out was coated with layers of dirt, that will need some serious elbow grease if anyone ever cleans it, and finally no privacy as your neighbors above and to both sides can see you (so I needed to remember …no running out there in my underwear).
The look and feel of the ship: The ship had a hero theme, gaudy, amateurish, juvenile, tacky, & clumsy with gold pennies, and eagles all over. Carnival's Fun Vision video announced that the eagles are covered in gold leaf and then people started ripping them off the walls in the elevators. A picture of Rosie the Riveter was nice and the closest thing I could find resembling a hero.
Breakfast at Rosies Restaurant Lido, the food was basic, with yogurt, hash browns, scrambled eggs, toast and bagels, bacon, cream cheese, butter, French toast, and the three fruits that would haunt me for the rest of the cruise (bananas honeydew, cantaloupe) there was always plenty of these. I would search out and rarely find prunes, oranges, & grapefruits. There was an omelet station where the nice gentleman behind the pans makes each omelet in a little pan starting with a ¼ cup ladle of grease that soaked into my two scrambled eggs very nicely… I thought of another option, threw mine away and stuck to the fresh fruits, croissants, and yogurt.
Typical lunch at the Lido - I was standing in line and wondering why the line was not moving….was the food so good that people could not choose what they wanted? I finally came upon the problem. There was fresh cut water melon, coleslaw, potato salad, and a very large steel bin of burnt fried chicken. People were picking through, digging and digging for that one piece that may not be burnt. Out of curiosity I grabbed a piece and some coleslaw and potato salad, found a table and ate. The chicken had the burnt breading on the outside and a bit of dark burnt gristle underneath, overall the vegetarian lunch was not bad as I love coleslaw and potato salad. The beverage stations were mostly missing cups or had juice cups for coffee (ouch that can burn your hands) and the coffee cups were by the juice machines. All of the cups were cheap plastic cups you would find at a day care or nursery school cafeteria. The beverage stations were mostly out of service and empty however after finding my 3rd beverage station I grabbed a refreshing plastic cup of water with crushed ice.
Dinner at the Lincoln Dinning Room - The food was "average" at best. The steak on the first night was the thickness of a mouse pad, I had no idea why they would ask how I wanted it done…they all were prepared the same. I sat with my steak and realized that when you keep pinching pennies for bigger profits eventually you can really screw up a cruise. Another night I had chilled mango soup, pasta with mushroom soup mixed in, two tablespoon size pieces of chicken, and for desert oh yeah….we scampered out early to the Java Java for hot chocolate ($5.15 each including the mandatory tip). Every dinner at the Lincoln Dinning Room had live entertainment as Carnival is after all a fun ship! Waiters and Waitresses in single file walking about the place singing a Caribbean them song "feeling HOT! HOT! HOT!" as your food not yet served sits on the waiter table getting cold, cold, cold! However the waitresses and waiters are dressed in snappy smart uniforms, are very polite and give you their recommendations (with an accent so thick you cant understand them) from the menu.
Additional Dinning options - There is a sushi bar that is never crowded, good sushi (a delicious and healthy alternative) and open for 2 hours every evening. On the lido there is a hamburger, French fry and hotdog stand (long lines) , fish & chips stand hidden on another deck away from the Lido, and finally there is also a pizzeria often without any pizza so you wait.
Shore Excursions- St Thomas - Captain Nautica's Ultimate Snorkel Expedition- This was in fact Ultimate. We took a short ride to a nature-protected island on a Navy Seals type boat. Once the safety lecture was over I jumped in and saw a Barracuda the size of well… as big as I am. I snorkeled up to about 7 squid, each lined up in perfect uniform manner, big black eyes. I took their picture and as I swam away they followed me, kind of creeping me out but then maybe they were curious also. Beautiful stingrays, and schools of colorful fish swimming in circles. I also saw sea turtles grazing on the sea grass, coming up for air every now and then. The coral was fantastic, and the water was warm and clear. All in all the $79.00 per person was well worth it. I cruise about 3 times per year and love to snorkel, this was in fact the best experience I have ever had. The guides name was Steve and he and his assistant did a fantastic job, they also took us to a sunken ship.
St Martin Power Snorkel Adventure -$75.00- St Martin (The French Side) - We took a very long and bumpy ride to the French side of the island, and then we sat on a banana boat that was pulled by fishing boat to a separate island. The banana boat was pulled by a damaged rope that looked like it could snap and hit you in the face at any moment. This boat had to make multiple trips to get everyone and then we all received our power snorkel engines that pull you through the water. It's a great idea to look down at the fish but also look ahead so you do not crash into anyone by accident. The water was murky, the coral was of poor quality and there were few fish to be seen. The French guide ran ahead quickly without the clumsy & slow moving power snorkel machine while telling everyone to keep up with her. Long story short, two of the tourist's machines broke down in the water and the poor souls had to haul the machines back about a quarter mile to the beach. When they explained what happened to the French guide she suddenly forgot all her English Speaking Skills and stood terrified that they might ask for a refund. While at the beach I tried to eat at a French beachside place (something like "Kitaki") to stay in the shade, a hamburger and fries costs about 20 euro but 1 hour was not enough time to be served. After waiting about 30 minutes we did not get our order taken, "got a clue", and had to leave. We all baked in the sun for an hour feeling hot, feeling hot, feeling hot, hot, hot!, And went back to the ship.
Entertainment - The entertainment lounge experience was what it was. I sat down and there seats were so crammed together that my legs and feet tingled. Since the comedy show was so boring I left. On another night it was the Adult comedy show (same entertainer)…not funny just a few swear words and the best part was walking out and going to bed. (uummm not so fast as we will learn more about that later) The Casino was excellent, fantastic variety of craps, slots, blackjack, poker, & a bar that had my favorite beer..Amstel Lite! They could improve on the beer by serving it in a bottle so you could avoid the tinny tast from the can however in Carnivals defense the less amount of glass onboard the better…there were too many people dancing barefoot, getting drunk, dropping their glass's and accidentally stepping in the broken glass. (Feeling HOT, HOT, HOT, on the Carnival Fun Ship!) An unexpected event that was entertaining was getting from one place to another like a mouse through a maze. Only Decks 4 & 8 go from front to back and Deck 4 is often blocked with huge steel doors when you get to the dinning area. You need to come up with a strategy on getting to your destination like going to the Lido, cutting across and taking an elevator down to get to the casino. Take an elevator bank too far or too short and you fail…try try again on your fun ship! Trying to navigate from one part of the ship to another is also a great source of exercise.
Cruise Director: The cruise director had her responsibilities to do, announcing the days events, sales, hosting shows, special offerings, & tours ETC. Putting all of that aside, she was like your neighbor….down to earth and an ego that was not so huge it might sink the ship. I actually liked her and her assistant from Brazil was adorable with his "kissy kissy bye bye" at the end of his announcements. The cruise director and her asst compliment each other very nicely.
Carnival Vacation Club (CVC)- this is a seminar I watched on TV and in the beginning of the cruise I attended a one on one meeting with a Carnival Vacation Club representative. I crunched the numbers and found it to be a very expensive hassle of cash to points conversions, restrictions, contracts, finance charges, and I could only go to properties owned and ran by Carnival Corporation, a poor value at best. By not joining I can continue to be free to make my own vacation decisions and choices, spend less money, and save hundreds and thousands in finance charges. For me CVC was and forever will be a mess on the floor that I can step over.
Evening /Early Morning on the Fun Ship: EVERY Evening between 12pm and 3am. My cabin was on deck 6 (#6458) and the Eagles Lounge below my cabin on deck 5 was hosting private parties. "BOOM, BOOM, BOOM" of the base, base, base, yelling, and screaming, foul language from the DJ. The DJ or host of the private party was yelling obscenities to the audience to get them excited and in the (Fun Ship) kind of mood. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM as the plastic and aluminum fixtures in my cabin went rattle, rattle, rattle. All of this was a very real experience that prevented us from sleeping, the pillow over the head trick did not work. At about 3:15am the party would end and at about 4am I could stop being outraged and get some sleep. The next morning at 9 or 10am the cruise director was on her ships intercom with her "GOOOOOOD MOOORRRNNNIINNNGG!!!!! Announcing to everyone the day's bargains, sales and the opportunity to win a free 3, 5, or 7 day cruise on a fabulous Carnival Fun Ship. To address the noise in my cabin issue I wrote letters, had face to face meetings with the crew managing the pursers office (front desk), practically dragged the security officer up to my cabin to hear the noise and all of my efforts at best entertained them or this simply annoyed them. Unfortunately I had failed miserably to get them to address the problem or care. (There is so much more I could say but then again…..enough said)
Teatime: Carnival actually got this one right, nailed it on the head, and scored a home run! Excellent live classical music with a fantastic pianist, & two very talented violinists. Finger sandwiches, a variety of hot teas, real deserts that would make a professional baker blush, a variety of seating arrangements to choose from, and a room cut off from the outside with leather seating, ornate furniture, and beautiful carpet. (Not much wiggle room here for improvement!)
Debarkation - After calling our color tags leaving the ship took about 30 minutes and went very smoothly.
In Conclusion & Overall Impression: Saturday afternoon…the last day of the cruise I lay on my Carnival Comfort Bed reflecting on the past weeks events knowing each one had a unique meaning and value to me, the cruise director came on the intercom encouraging everyone to fill out their comment cards and in return they might win a Fabulous Carnival FUN SHIP 3, 5, or 7 day vacation, I was then suddenly overcome with a feeling of anger, disgust and fear so I did the only thing that could make me feel better. I packed!