Valor – Western Caribbean – March 19th
This is only our second cruise so we don’t have that much to compare it to. Therefore, we won’t make comparisons…only give honest opinions.
Embarkation – We arrived in Miami at about 11:00 after driving 11 hours with 4 kids in a van. My husband dropped us (along with all our luggage) at the terminal and took the rental to the airport. We were met by a very nice man who helped us get the luggage where it belonged and answered questions about getting back from the airport. ( I was prepared for a nightmare because I had read so many posts about luggage handlers that threaten in Miami, but it was a breeze!) We tipped him 1.50 per bag and settled in the Lobby of the terminal to wait for my husband. Clean, friendly staff, comfortable chairs…great people-watching ? Husband returned around noon and we started the embarkation process. All in all, we took less than 45 minutes. I’m not sure you could possibly complain about that. In fact, the Carnival staff seemed to be working very hard to keep things moving smoothly. We decided to wait until 1:30 to head to the cabins...in case they were still cleaning. Instead, we headed to Rosie’s on the Lido deck for lunch. Hamburgers and hotdogs were delicious!
Cabins – We had cabins 1320 and 1324 on the Riveria deck. We deliberately choose to be low for quietness and we were not disappointed. Very little noise (only the occasional whine when the “stabilizers” were used – according to room steward) Very little motion. Great sleep! Seriously, these are some large cabins for regular ocean view rooms. We had 3 to a room and the couch is a darn comfy bed! (took a nap with daughter one afternoon!) Bathrooms are very functional with lots of shelves for toiletries. Shower is small and the curtain did pose a problem when young children were showering. (They couldn’t seem to keep it inside the rim!) Lots of closet space for clothes and suitcases easily fit under bed. Beds are FANTASTIC! Love the linens, duvet, etc. Also, nice, thick bathrobes in cabins!
Dinning Room - We requested the 8:15 seating but got the 5:45. I had been told that would probably happen with several large groups on board and all the children we were traveling with. I did as instructed and went to the Maitre Di on the first day. I was told to just dine at 5:45 that night and he would have it changed by the next day. LOL…yeah right. That never happened. In fact, every time I asked after that, he acted like he had never seen me before. At any rate, it really didn’t matter. We had a wonderful experience in the Washington Dinning room. Our servers were Tibi (from Romania) and Eric (from Honduras) Both were exceptional! We had a table to ourselves since there were 6 of us. These men worked non-stop to make the food and service fun and exciting for my kids (ages 17 down to 4). My youngest is learning Spanish, and Eric spent plenty of time talking to her and helping her with her Spanish. I literally got teary-eyed when we had to say goodbye that last night. I know, I know..I’m silly! The food was very good. We especially liked all the beef dishes and of course, the lobster! Also, there is a desert called “A Melting Chocolate Cake” or something like that that is to die for!!!! We had planned to escape one night and dine at Scarlett’s, but we just felt like there was no need to spend more $ with the excellent food and service in the dinning room.
Shows – My kids just loved this! They couldn’t believe there was a different show every night. I didn’t go to that many cause I was usually full and sleepy. However, I did see one comic that was pretty good. I saw our cruise director/magician’s show that was much better than I expected. I also saw the Legends Show on the last night. All during the week the crew auditioned guests to play different entertainers and sing some of their work. The end result was a VERY entertaining and funny show! Without a doubt, the best entertainment, however, was a juggler/comedian named Dana Tison. He was funny!!! And amazing when you consider how much the Ivanhoe theater rocks and rolls at the front of the ship! My daughter went to a towel-folding workshop on that stage and it rocked so much she had to quit! Anyway, if you happen to get the chance to see Dana Tison – GO!
Public Areas - The Valor is a beautiful ship. It is sparkling clean and I happen to be one of those folks that loves the theme décor. (I think a previous poster called it “trite”) The Ivanhoe Theater is very nice with its Knights of the Round Table Décor. Most of the seats have a good view. The only lounge/nightclub I went into was the One Small Step Disco. It was wild but fun. The atrium is very nice with big, comfy leather couches and gorgeous glass all around. My only complaint was that it was often crowded with photographers, etc. Rosie’s buffet was not too bad. I had heard how horrible the lime green décor was in the buffet area, but I actually liked it. I got the feeling I was in an old-time diner. The food in the buffet was pretty good. I preferred the specialty stands (deli, hamburger stand, pizza buffet, and fish and chips) but the buffet was fine for breakfast.
Pools – There are 3 pools and 1 small kiddie pool on board. There are also 5 or 6 hot tubs. The hot tubs by the aft pool are adult only and I was pleased to see the staff enforcing that rules. The pools are not really large, but they have a nice shallow area around them where you can sit and enjoy without getting all the way in. The slide was a blast! We all tried it and it was a hit. Most of the time you could get on without a big wait. One hint – my younger children loved sitting by the shoot at the bottom because they got sprayed every time a hefty person (like myself) came down. There were the usual chair hogs, but we had no trouble finding chairs. We usually started away from the pool and just kept our eyes open for chairs that came open closer. I didn’t really see it as a problem. One word of caution – the deck around the aft pool gets VERY slippery! Walk carefully!
Camp Carnival – My 4 year old only went twice but she seemed to love it. The first day, when we went to pick her up, she asked us why we were taking her away. They made cookies on the first day. Sometime that evening they cooked them and when we returned to our cabin after dinner, she had a warm cookie waiting for her! One hint – if you are considering Camp Carnival, go to the orientation meeting the first night. They will answer most of your questions and put your mind at rest!
Ports – Before I get into the individual ports, I want to mention the tendering issue. Again, I had heard nightmares about Carnival not letting those that book private tours off the ship in a timely manner. I will say that was not an issue with us. We had booked only private tours and we found it very easy to get off. Here is how we did it: Instead of going to the Ivanhoe lounge to wait for a tender ticket, we went to the forward elevators on the Riviera deck. There was a wonderful lady there who was making sure that folks were staying in line and doing what they were supposed to do. I would show her my paperwork for our private tour and explain that it left early. She always put us in the line that was going on the first tender. She also checked every time to be sure the tender was actually going to the dock and not somewhere else first. We never waited at all!
Grand Cayman – This was our most disappointing port. We had a private tour with Moby Dick tours to swim with the rays and snorkel. There were so many of us that got off early, we left about 45 minutes ahead of time. Because we were so early starting, the crew rushed the whole tour. Several times I heard one of them on the phone with the owner setting up a second tour for the afternoon. We stayed a very short time with the rays and an even shorter time at the snorkeling site. It was way too rushed! Having said that, however, the stingrays were awesome! I know my kids will never forget this experience.
Roatan, Honduras – This was our favorite! What a beautiful place. We got up a little late and were late meeting our tour with Juan Carlos. He had already left but arranged another tour guide by the name of Therese. She was fantastic!!!! She took us on a tour all the way around the island. We saw the iguana farm (very interesting, but creepy!), Frenchman’s Harbor, and then we went to the Zip line. However, whoever runs the zip line was having problems that day and we decided we didn’t want to spend the rest of our day waiting for them to get it together. We headed over to the West –end beach. Therese arranged for us to have a place to change into suits and we were enjoying a nice swim when she showed up with her husband in a boat. She felt so badly that we hadn’t been able to do the zip line that she arranged for him to take us out in his boat and over to another beach for a wonderful lunch of garlic shrimp! It was just an amazing day on a gorgeous island. We are definitely going back!
Belize – We had booked a cave tubing tour with cave-tubing.com. It was a lot less expensive than the cruise ship tours and a lot more fun! After a crazy bus ride to the rainforest, we hiked for about 45 minutes. This is not an easy hike due to the rocks and our youngest fell several times. The caves are interesting and very dark. The water feels amazing! If you go with this company, you will hook into a train that stays together for the whole time. You also have a guide who makes sure you never stop moving. We got some amazing pictures that I can’t wait to get developed! Afterwards, we went to lunch at a place called Cheers. Stewed chicken, rice and beans, slaw and lime juice. Yum!!! Highly recommend this excursion!
Costa Maya – This was our second visit to Costa Maya. We didn’t have any plans. We did some shopping and swimming in the terminal. Afterwards, we took a cab into Majahual (think that is the spelling) where we had lunch, snorkeled, and just relaxed. After a while the weather started getting stormy, so we headed back. It was a very nice, fun day! If you haven’t been to Costa Maya, don’t be afraid. It has some beautiful beaches!
Disembarkation – We chose to do the self-assist thing. We ate an early breakfast and picked up our luggage at around 7am. By 7:30 we were on our way back to the airport to pick up our rental van. If you can carry your luggage, this is the way to go!!!
Summary – For the most part, this was a dream vacation for our family. There was something for every age. Were there some lines and things I didn’t like? Yes. But all in all, it was more than we expected. I highly recommend this ship and the ports.