Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Valor
Sailing Date: April 30th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Valor Cruise Review
This was our first cruise and we loved it! I read
many of these reviews before we went and they were so helpful...so I thought I
would add some comments of my own so that others, too, would benefit.
Embarkation: This process was much easier and quicker than we anticipated, considering the number of passengers onboard. We drove to the port on our own (if you plan on doing this - note that it costs about $85.00 CASH up front to park your car in the parking garage for a week at the port). If we had known it would cost this much we would have parked our car at relatives in Miami and taken a cab or gotten a ride from there. Anyway, once there, we were on the ship in no time. Lines moved very quickly. When we received our Sail and Sign card it had the early (6:15pm) dining time printed on it, despite the fact that we had requested the later (8pm) seating. No problem! Once on the ship we were told to go see Lloyd, the maitre de, in the dining room and he would accommodate us. Lloyd was great...he not only changed our dining time to the later seating...but gave us a wonderful table for 2 near the window in the Washington dining room looking out the back of the ship.
Cabin: We had a balcony room, 8th deck, forward starboard side. I definitely recommend going with a balcony. It gives the feeling of a larger room, although the rooms are a decent size to begin with. The balcony has 2 chairs and a table on it. We brought a bungee cord, so we were able to prop our door open at night to feel the breeze and hear the ocean. We liked being on the 8th deck and had no problems with excessive noise or motion. The room was clean, bed and pillows comfortable, and cabin service was superb. Thank you Carlos! The bathroom was a decent size for a cruise ship. Dove shampoo and soap are provided in dispensers in the shower. Hair dryer and robes are provided. There were also complimentary toiletries provided, including razors, lotion, and toothpaste. NOTE: There is bottled water sitting on the table in your cabin...this is NOT complimentary and will be charged to your account if consumed. Overall, we were very pleased with our cabin and the service.
Food: As stated earlier, we had the 8pm seating in the Washington Dining room. We wanted the late seating because we didn't want to have to rush back to the ship after a day at port to get ready for dinner...we wanted to make the most of our time at each port. I definitely recommend the Washington Dining room over the Lincoln Dining Room. The Washington Dining Room is at the very back of the ship and has more windows. The Lincoln is in the middle of the ship with less windows so it feels a bit more stuffy. The food was excellent all week...especially dinners in the dining room! We felt no need to pay extra for the dinner at Scarlett's even thought we heard great things about it. We enjoyed Rosie's for breakfast and lunch (when aboard). The food always seemed fresh and the lines weren't bad at all. I would try Fish and Chips upstairs for lunch at some point also...we really liked it...mostly seafood dishes. Also, there is a small sushi bar near the casino. The sushi was good and best of all, its complimentary. We had some before dinner almost every night. We ordered room service a couple of times. I didn't think the quality was as good as what you get elsewhere on the ship...but the service was quick, it's complimentary, and available 24 hours a day.
there were over 3,000 people aboard this ship. We never felt crowded...there are so many places to go on this ship. I thought the ship's decor was very nice and tasteful. As with most cruise ships, a bit Las Vegasy, but not too over-the-top in my opinion. All areas were kept very clean. Some people complained that it's difficult to get around this ship...that you can't walk the entire length of the ship on many of the floors without going up and down the stairs. Really, it's not that big of a deal. You'll learn your way after the first day and have no problem. The crew was extremely friendly...and there were plenty of them. I think the ratio is about 1 crew for every 3 passengers.
Entertainment: Plenty of onboard activities...we really enjoyed some of the shows, especially the 80s musical night. Nice casino area. We discovered the Paris Hot Lounge the first night after dinner and enjoyed it so much that we went every night. The same band with 4 guys from the Phillipines played every night in Paris Hot...they were awesome! They played everything from CCR to Lynard Skynard to Elvis to Santana and much more...go see them...especially if you appreciate good music and dancing...you won't be disappointed! Winston's cigar lounge is pretty cool too, if you don't mind smoke.
Other general tips: Carnival will take every opportunity to take your photo...when you board the ship, when you get off, when you go to dinner, when you leave dinner, etc... You do not have to have your picture taken if you don't want to...just keep walking. If you do have your picture taken you are not obligated to buy. Just wait until the last day of the cruise to view all the photos that you've had taken throughout the week and pick one, some or none to purchase. Keep in mind that if you do choose to purchase you must first buy an 8X10 for $20 and then you may buy additional smaller sizes of the same picture if you wish. We chose to take our own pictures with our digital and forego Carnivals....they're just as good. Plan to spend money on this cruise. There are lots of extras...but that's to be expected. Don't think you're going to leave the ship after 7 days with a balance of $0 on your Sail and Sign card. Drinks (alcohol, sodas) are extra and pricey...they add up after 7 days! If you plan on drinking, consider packing some airplane bottles/sodas/bottled water in your suitcase...we did...they don't check...mix your own drinks. And take advantage of the drink specials on board every day...that will save you money too.
Ports of Call: We loved this Western Caribbean itinerary...beautiful ports of call. My number one tip - do NOT book shore excursions through Carnival! It's not necessary...you can do the same things booking it on your own before hand or when you get off the ship...it's CHEAPER! You pay less and get more personal attention because your with a group of 5-10 versus a group of 100 from the ship. Carnival will try to scare you into thinking it's not a good idea to book on your own...don't let that intimidate you. It's easy and it's safe.
Let me give you some examples:
Grand Cayman: We rented a jeep from Cico Avis for the day. I just went to their website before we left for the cruise and reserved a jeep for the day that we would be in port. I got the idea from reading other reviews like this one and it was great advice. Avis picked us up near the dock and took us to get our jeep. We drove all the way to the other side of the island to Rum Point (everybody goes to 7 Mile Beach...very touristy). Rum Point was beautiful! Not crowded at all, hammocks and chairs to use at no charge under palms, white sand, clear blue water, snorkeling, watersports available for rent nearby, good food at a local shack to purchase, restrooms...they even have a pier there with a boat that will take you to Stingray City to snorkel, if that was a tour that you were considering through Carnival...but cheaper and less people. I would definitly recommend renting the jeep and exploring on your own and driving to Rum Point...well worth it...about a 45 min. drive from where you pick up the car. We stopped at one area near Rum Point and walked out onto the beach into the water...there wasn't a soul around, so peaceful...and there were huge, beautiful, red-orange starfish in the water everywhere...I will never forget it! Keep in mind that Grand Cayman has not recovered from the hurricane damage it sustained last season. This is definitely evident as you drive around the island...its very disheartening. Anyway, got back to Cico Avis after exploring all day and they took us back to the dock. Long line to wait for tender to get back on ship.
Roatan: Again, we booked on our own...not through Carnival. I read several reviews that suggested Bodden tours...owned and operated by local Victor Bodden. This was our favorite port. It is very poor, but the people were so friendly and it's a beautiful island. Through Bodden tours we were given our own personal driver for the day. He was great! He told us all about his home, and basically customized the tour to fit our interests. He drove us all around the island, stopping at different points along the way. We expressed interest in doing a canopy tour so he took us to one (different from the one that the Carnival tour takes you to). It was awesome! Definitely well worth it...an incredible experience. Our driver waited for us while we went on the canopy tour. Our tour had about 15 zip lines and 5 bridges and cost $45/person. The canopy tour through Carnival had about 6 zip lines and cost $90/person. Then he took us to a local lunch spot, where we ate grilled lobster tail and veggies under a thatch hut right on the beach. It was awesome! Then, the best part, he took us out on his own boat to tour the rest of the island...he took us to the beaches on the west side near half moon cay...beautiful!...where we jumped off the boat and snorkeled and then swam right up to the beach. We were right next to a huge group of people from our ship who had paid $40/person just to be taken to a "private" beach. Believe me, do this stuff yourself! You'll save money and have a more enjoyable experience. Note: if you like vanilla, it's very cheap in Honduras...less that $1 for a huge bottle...and you can get it at most roadside markets.
Belize: We booked cave tubing through Action Belize. They met us right at the pier. This was an awesome experience...do this! It's about an hour drive to the rainforest. Then you hike about 20 min. through the rainforest carrying your tube until you get to a beautiful clear, slow moving river. You sit in your tube and enjoy floating through huge caves (wearing a flashlight on your life jacket) with Mayan carvings. We thought this was great. Once again, because we booked seperate from Carnival, we had 6 people in our group with a local tour guide...much more personal and informative...than being in a group of 100 people from the ship. And we paid $50, Carnival charged $90....same river, same caves.
We ate a delicious lunch with our group after the
tubing at a local dive at the base camp...which was included with the price of
our tour. Note: bring a water camera and change of clothes on this
tour...everything you bring will get wet.
Costa Maya: We got off the ship and booked a tour to see the Mayan ruins. We were in a nice, air-conditioned white van with 3 other ladies...versus a huge bus full of people who booked the same tour through Carnival. They paid $90, we paid $45...same ruins. 1 hour drive to ruins but they are definitely worth seeing...fascinating. We ate lunch at the ruin site after our tour. There was a little hut where some nice local Mexican ladies were making homemade empinadas and sopapillas...best Mexican food I've ever had. And cheap...three plates of food for $6. We got back into town and still had enough time to go to the small fishing village nearby to hang out at the beach and drink margaritas.
Tendering: Grand Cayman and Belize are tender ports. The ship does not pull up to a dock. It anchors off-shore and smaller boats (tenders) come to take you to shore. Carnival will try to tell you that those who book shore excursions through them get first priority on the tenders...meaning they get off first. Ignore this. We did not book any of our excursions through Carnival and we were always on the first tender off the ship. They cannot hold you captive to the ship. Just meet where those who have Carnival shore excursion tickets meet and go with that crowd...they don't check. If you don't go with the shore excursion group you may end up waiting over an hour to get off...don't wait...just go!
Debarkation: Easy...quick. Take your own luggage and you'll be off in no time.
Overall: We really enjoyed this cruise! We had a great time...I really can't think of any big negatives. Of course, no vacation is perfect...and like any other vacation, if you go into it looking for negative things I'm sure you'll find them. Just keep an open mind, positive attitude, remain adaptable, and go with the flow and you'll have a blast...you make your vacation what you want it to be.
We will definitely cruise with Carnival again!