Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Valor
Sailing Date: September 17th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Valor Cruise Review
This was my ninth cruise and my husband’s eighth. We were on a 3 day Carnival cruise several years ago for a long weekend and it was just okay, although the food was outstanding. The rest of our cruises have been on other lines and very enjoyable. We chose the Carnival Valor this time because we had not been to 3 of the 4 ports on the itinerary.
Transportation To/From the Port:
Flew into Miami airport, picked up luggage, and as we started out to get a taxi to the port, we saw the Carnival representative who told us the Carnival shuttle bus was there and for $28 each round trip, we could easily get right to check in. We took it, boarded the bus, and sat for 45 minutes waiting on more people because the bus was not full. The bus dropped us off about a block from the terminal where porters took our luggage and then held us up for $2 per bag to get them on the ship. We paid them and proceeded to the terminal to check in.
On the return, getting off the ship was slow and crowded, but after almost an hour in lines, we exited the terminal with luggage to board the bus. It was full and we were assured the next one would be there in a few minutes. We waited in the hot sun for over an hour and had decided to find a taxi when the next bus showed up. We were hot and thirsty as the drink machines at the terminal were out of order.
Recommendation: Take a taxi from and to the airport. The fare for two will be about the same as the shuttle and a lot less hassle.
The The ship is fairly large and laid out poorly. We often found elevators that were not working for passengers and often the ship’s crew were using the passenger elevators, slowing them down even more. All of the dining and food areas are at the back of the ship. The ship is gaudy with plastic eagles at the elevators and bright signs and generally decorated cheaply and in poor taste with the exception of a few select areas. The windows in the dining areas, lido deck, along the rails, and the cabin portals are filthy on the outside, marring the view. I am sure they are difficult to keep totally clean, but a good spraying down with clean water would do wonders. It rained one afternoon and the drainage was poor, flooding the covered area on the starboard side of the lido deck. The ship did have a nice exercise and spa area and a Camp Carnival to help entertain young passengers as well as a disco for teens. Other than the normal bingo, art auctions, a few pool games and the nightly shows, there was little else for entertaining adults.
We had an ocean view cabin and were very pleased with it. Plenty of closet and shelf space with several cabinets and we were able to stow all of our belongings and keep the cabin in good order. For a cruise cabin, it was very nice. We had a queen bed and it was extremely comfortable with good pillows and quality linens. We had no problem sleeping at all. The cabin was well insulated and overall quiet.
Overall the dining was disgusting. Broccoli, green beans, spinach or cauliflower seemed to be put in to every dish and even those who like these particular vegetables were complaining by the end of the week. Their prime rib was tasteless, the rib eye was a bottom round steak, the baked potatoes were pre-baked and not at all fresh, fluffy or hot, and most dishes were room temperature by the time they were served. The buffet areas were even worse. The grill served hamburgers with large pieces of grizzle in them and the pizza was cheap tomato sauce with garlic on a piece of tough dough. We did not have a decent, hot meal on this ship the whole week. They served the same deserts, sometimes calling them one thing and sometimes another, but they were all the same. We do not eat seafood, but our table mates do and said the seafood dishes were not tasty, hot or good either. One couple from our table ate at Scarlett’s one evening and said it was even more disgusting than the dining room and certainly not worth the money. At least we had delightful table mates in the dining room and made five new friends along the way.
We do not drink alcoholic beverages much, but the couple of mixed drinks we had were watered down and poor quality. There was plenty of coffee and juice available on the lido deck.
Except for the last day when our cabin was not made up until after 8:00 pm although we had been out of it most of the day, the cabin was kept well stocked and clean. There was a bar server in your face pushing watered down drinks everywhere you went on the ship, Our waiter in the dining room got our orders wrong as often as he got them right. One night we did decide we would like a bottle of wine with dinner. He finally asked us after dinner but before desert to clarify what kind of wine we ordered. We cancelled the order. The assistant waiter was very attentive and kept our water glasses full and no problems with him. Twice we had reason to go to the purser’s desk with questions and both times were treated as if we were bothering them, once very rude when we asked for debarkation papers and a comment card that our room steward failed to supply and we had not seen him all day.
Things to Do on the Not a lot. As mentioned earlier, they had Bingo and a few pool games and in the evenings the shows that were not bad, but not award winning. There was a piano player, Mario, in the cigar bar most evenings and he was relaxing to listen to. Of course there were the art auctions at every turn. They had pay per view movies on the cabin televisions in case you missed them on TBS last year. There was the spa and exercise room available. There were very few places on the ship outside but out of the sun and even fewer places that were not too noisy to have a conversation. The lido deck had a small band play sometimes that was too loud to enjoy and when they were not playing, they had canned music turned up too loud to enjoy. There was no way you could sit out and enjoy and have a conversation with your partner. Even in the dining rooms the music was too loud and with the expected noise of dishes rattling, it was difficult to have a conversation over dinner without shouting. There were two very small and overcrowded pools and 4 or 5 whirlpools that were closed at least half the time and crowded when they were open. We seldom saw any of the activity crew around the ship – only when they were on official duty introducing an act or calling Bingo. Kelly, the assistant, was the friendliest. Darcy, the cruise director, was not seen by any of us unless she was on the stage giving a talk. On other cruises we have seen the activity and entertainment people all over the ship mingling with passengers, entertaining and conversing even when they were not on stage.
Ports of Call:
Grand Cayman – our second trip to Grand Cayman. We had done the stingray city and snorkeling our last trip (very enjoyable), so opted for an island tour of the west end in the morning and snuba in the afternoon. We had an interesting guide who seemed very knowledgeable about the island and enjoying going to Hell, the Tortuga outlet, the turtle farm and seeing the sights. The snuba was also fun and we did a little shopping in Georgetown, but found most items to be pretty expensive.
Roatan – a beautiful island. We went to Gumbalinda park which is very beautiful and well kept. We enjoyed the half hour or so bus ride to the park. We scheduled a snorkel trip on the Jolly Roger from the park for the afternoon. When we all got on the catamaran, they threw a rope to a small motorboat and dragged us out about 200 yards from shore and told us the engine on the catamaran had blown so we would have to snorkel there. They then dropped anchor right on the coral and destroyed at least 20 years of coral growth in that area. The snorkeling was not bad, but it was not what we paid for either. We have asked Carnival for at least a partial refund on this excursion, but they keep pushing us from one person to the next.
Belize – we arrived on the 25th anniversary of their independence and the entire city was in carnival mode. Our morning city tour was cancelled due to the traffic and impending parade, but we caught the tender to shore and hired a private taxi for less than the ship wanted for a tour and saw the city anyway. Our driver was very informative and knew the way to get around the crowds and we enjoyed the tour for a couple of hours. We found a spot to watch the parade and enjoyed watching the children getting ready, but the political speeches took too long and we had to get back to the ship to meet our planned snorkel tour. We went back to the ship, changed to swim suits, met in the appropriate location, received our arm bands, sat awhile and were informed that the snorkel boat had engine problems and the tour was cancelled. By this time we had missed the parade and felt that by the time we went back to the cabin, changed clothes, caught the tender and went back to the city, we would not have more than an hour to spend before having to return to the ship. We decided on a nap as there certainly was nothing entertaining to do on the ship.
Costa Maya – we were quite surprised at the cleanliness of the port shops at Costa Maya. We took an area highlights and beach excursion and drove about 30 minutes to a fairly nice beach area. Our guide was funny and informative, telling us about the area, vegetation and culture. The gorgeous turquoise water was fairly rough, but it was beautiful. After an hour or so there, we went back to Fisherman’s Village where there are several blocks of shops. While the shop clerks all wanted to barter and deal as they do in Mexico, they were polite and not pushy and never put their hands on us to pull us into their stalls as we have experienced in other parts of Mexico. We enjoyed our day in Costa Maya and can not find words to describe how beautiful the water was in this area.
We enjoyed our vacation overall and enjoyed the ports. We will not say this was a terrible cruise, but it certainly was not up to the standards we have come to expect on other cruise lines. I doubt we will book a Carnival Cruise again in the future. Some of the other cruise lines may cost another hundred dollars per person than Carnival, but they are well worth it in value.