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Sheila Boland

Age: 47

Occupation:Project Engineer

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Valor

Sailing Date: May 27th, 2007

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Valor Cruise Review
Western Caribbean

Sheila Boland

My family and I recently took a seven day exotic Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Valor.  The ports of call were Grand Cayman; Islam Rotan, Honduras; Belize; and Costa Maya, Mexico.  After much research, we decided on the Carnival Valor for two reasons:  1) we have a teenager, and  liked the sound of their teen program, complete with teen excursions; and 2) We wanted to go to Belize because a friend raved about it.  When we tried to pre-book the teen excursions, the Carnival representative told us that they don't know what excursions will be for the teen club because they change weekly.  For that reason, we didn't book everything we (as a family) wanted to do, leaving room for times our son wanted to go with the teens instead of us.  We did, however, book a family beginner scuba activity at Grand Cayman because we wanted to do that as a family.  When we got on board the ship, the teen schedule still wasn't ready, so we couldn't book early on any of the other excursions.  Meanwhile, our son didn't feel well, so he missed out on the first night of activities and getting the schedule.  We tried to find the teen leader to get a schedule but could never catch her.  We stood in line at the excursion desk for 45 minutes only to learn that they didn't have the teen excursion list.  They tried to call the teen leader but couldn't reach her (by the way, we weren't allowed access to her phone extension).  They told us to go to come back when we got the teen schedule.  We went to the purser's desk and was able to get a schedule and learned that we had to sign a permission form that the teen leader had before he could go on any teen excursions.  We also learned that we could actually book an excursion at the purser's desk, but by then the ONLY excursion for teens, which was cave tubing in Belize, was full.  So were the other excursions we had planned to take as a family.  Every time we tried to catch the teen leader, she was never where the schedule said the teens would be.  We finally caught the teens in transit from one part of the ship to another and was able to catch up with her long enough to ask for the permission form.  She said that if they could get at least three teens to sign up for the cave tubing, they could go even though the excursion was closed for everyone else.  Once we learned that three were going to sign up, we went back to the excursion desk but it was closed.  We went to the purser's desk, and they said that they would get the info to the excursion desk (he got a discounted excursion since it was through the teen club.  We felt like the first two days were just trying to get the teen excursions and schedule straightened out.  We were, however, happy with the purser's desk because we got the discounted tickets that next morning, and they called to make sure that we got them.  Even our son said that the teen leader was irresponsible because as they were waiting on the tender after the excursion, she told him to meet her there after he got out of the bathroom.  When he got out, she had already left without him.  She would also leave during teen activities such as teen dances, etc.  My advice for the teen club is to go ahead and book all the excursions you want and then have them give you the discounted rate if any of the excursions fall under the teen excursions.  We also found out that some of the teens had gotten into their parents liquor cabinets in their staterooms and got smashed (our liquor cabinet was locked) and were falling down drunk at the dance.  So please don't think that since your child is at a teen activity that they are being heavily supervised.  We tried to call our son several times via cell phone (we have Verizon), but we couldn't always get through.  Please note that international roaming charges apply for cell phone usage.  We'll probably do walkie talkies next time. 

An excursion problem I had was at the beginner scuba class in Grand Cayman.  The first part was fine because you go into a pool, get strapped into your gear, and get very good beginner instruction in the pool.  I have back problems, and the issue came about when we had to climb out of the pool with the 56lbs of gear on our backs and walk about 60 ft. across gravel and loose rocks until we got to a ladder which we had to climb down into the sea.  I was hurting so bad after the cruise that I had to see a chiropractor. 

My husband and I were able to book a snorkel excursion in Belize which turned out to be wonderful!  We went out on a boat to a little island called Goff's Cay that was no more than 1.5 acres in size.  It was very private as you can imagine.  The second largest barrier reef (second to Australia) is in Belize and is the absolute best place in the Caribbean to snorkel or dive.  Since the reef comes up to almost the top of the water, you get just as much out of it as diving.  As a matter of fact, there are many places where you must be careful not to kick coral formations while treading water.  The most amazing experience I had was when the guide pointed to a nearby (to me) school of around 40 blue tang fish.  The blue of this fish is so intense, it looks neon!  The amazing part was that the fish let me swim with them for about fifty feet!  Just before we got back on the boat to go back to Goff's Cay, one of the guides caught a huge lobster and let folks take pictures of each other while getting to hold it. 

Make sure to take insect repellent if you take the Costa Maya Jungle Beach Break excursion.  It is back in the jungle, and there are plenty of mosquitoes.  We had forgotten ours on the ship, and luckily one of the workers had a can (they don't have a supply to sell there).  Same goes if you take the Miami Airboat Alligator Safari tour.  It's not bad on the airboat, but there's a small alligator show afterwards back in the swamp area. 

Our first two cruises (also seven days) were on Royal Caribbean (RC).  RC really spoiled us because they really are the better cruise line (food, service, and excursions); but overall we had a good time  and would take Carnival again.


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