My girlfriend and I have both never been on a cruise and we decided that this would be the year to try. We decided to go to the Western Caribbean on the Valor in November. I have my first round of questions ready (hopefully I won't get too annoying with questions) and maybe there are people out there who can answer.
First, regarding the stateroom. We were looking at just doing the Inside Stateroom Guarantee (category IS), since we figure we won't be in the room much anyway. It appears that it would be for a 4A and higher, but I was concerned that they could potentially stick me in a 1A (upper/lower) bunks. Am I guaranteed to have a room with a bed that can be converted into a king?
Secondly, regarding shore excursions. The ports are Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan & Costa Maya. Being as we have never cruised before, and really haven't travelled too much, is it better to just book excurions through the cruise line? After searching the board, I know they cost more, but is it better to have the peace of mind with this being our first cruise. If we should just book with Carnival, is it best to just go ahead and buy now, or should we wait until we board the ship? If anyone has any suggestions on what we shoudl do in any of these ports, I would be very thankful.
I think those are all my questions for now. Additionally, if anyone has any tips/tricks for making the most of the cruise, please feel free to share.
congratulations on your decision to try the wonderful world of cruising. You are in for a terrific experience.
To be honest, I'm not all that familiar with Carnival; but a guarantee means you won't get a cabin of a lesser catagory than you bought, and there is the possibility of an upgrade. But I think some inside cabins' beds are not convertible to a queen; I don't think any convert to a king. Hopefully someone with more accurate information will jump in here.
There are many that disagree, but I would urge first-time cruisers to stick with ship sponsored excursions. Get familiar with a port, and then next time (and rest assured, there will be a next time) venture out on your own if you must. If you do decide on ship excursions BOOK NOW! The more popular excursions sell out quickly because so many are booking online now. You don't want to face the chaos at the shore excursion office onboard.
The only port I've been to is Grand Cayman, and quite honestly I can't remember what I did there--must not have made much of an impression. I think it was some kind of historical survey of the island(s).
Well, have fun planning. I've heard lots of good things about Valor. And I'm sure some of our Carnival experts will join in here.
Just to agree with Rick, if you book an IS gaurantee you will recieve just that as the guarantee with a possibility of an upgrade. Almost all Carnival interior cabins are twin/king convertible.
I would also echo Rick in saying first time cruisers should use the ship sponsored excursions to get a feel for the ports. I would exclude Grand Cayman if you really wanted to do it on your own as is pretty easy and safe. But it is a tender port so make sure you allow enough time and deal with a reputable tour company should you decide. They have some great independents there I hear for Stingray City. Or just take a taxi to 7 mile beach.
You certainly picked an awesome ship. Not exactly the itinerary I would suggest for first timers, but I would love it.
There are so many nice people on here with a wealth of info., experience and wisdom. Please hang around..with that I will say..
Welcome to cruise-chat TBtest. Congratulations of picking your first cruise. I did the Valor with the same itenerary this past November. Its a great ship but very port intensive. While in Belize defintely try the cave tubing. I escorted a small group of 25 and set up an excursion for them with an independant tour operator and everyone said that the cave tubing was the highlight of their cruise.
Costa Maya has some great reviews on our sister site Cruisereviews.com, check it out, you will find a host of information on it. You can research all your ports on there.
Hi tbtest. Welcome.
Belize and G. Cayman have extraordinary waters.
*Grand Cayman--Stingray City is very cool. I would highly recommend swimming with the rays. It's a memory that I will never forget. Very rich port. Beautiful, exclusive shops where the ships' dock....Prada, Versaci, Rolex. The island is well-maintained and clean. If you're just into the beach thing, 7 Mile Beach is the place to head to.
*Belize--I have been to Belize twice. Both times we snorkeled at Goff's Cay. It was beautiful. Reminds me of Gilligan's Island. If/when we go back we will try the cave tubing, only because we've heard it's a great experience.
Downtown Belize is very poor. There is new construction going on and they are trying very hard to earn the American dollar. Sort of a bizarre atmosphere in town. Wandering dogs, a lot of men with snakes draped over their shoulders, who will offer you a photo op with their pet snake. Many locals without limbs, on crutches. I suppose this says a lot about their medical situation in Belize. The locals are very friendly.
Don't shop right at the pier. Walk a bit into their downtown area to experience the real Belize. Here you can do your souvenir shopping. You will find better prices, better selection, and they will barter on goods.
There is also the Belize Zoo if you're into that.
If you're lucky enough, and school is in session, you might be able to see the hundreds of school-age children heading home from school in their uniforms. Strange to see a country, so poor, be so disciplined in their school attire and taking their schooling seriously. It's a great sight.
Plan for Costa Maya to be a beach day. Grab the bus or a taxi into "town" (if that is what they call it) and spend the day at the Cat's Meow for safe food and drinks. Easily done on your own.
Belize - would definately do the cave tubing. If you are uncomfortable doing an independent tour ~ since you are new at this, then take the ship tour.
Grand Cayman ~nice place but very expensive. Again easily done on your own.
I have never been to the last port.
Just remember to take about $50 in one dollar bills to tip the porters ($1 per bag) and to tip room service (which is free 24 hours a day but we do tip $1) and to have some small bills in case you want to "barter to buy something" in Costa Maya or Belize.
Personally, I would not travel past the fence in Belize without an official tour. The locals can be very aggressive and they are having a problem with gangs coming over the border and causing problems. Now you probably would not have a problem, but why have to deal with the stress...you are on vacation!
Costa Maya and Grand Cayman are fine. I don't know about Roatan.
Welcome TBtest...or PPD for short...you folks in healthcare just got that joke.
Inside guarantee will get you a standard inside room. For your first cruise, don't expect them to bump you up much. They tend to be more accomodating the more you cruise with them! But in all honesty, an inside room is standard whether it's on Empress or Upper or Promenade.
LHP is right on target. Costa Maya is fairly much a waste! Belize is fun. If you like beer, take the Belikin Beer Tour. They tour you around town, tour the brewery, and then all the beer you can drink! Never been to Grand Cayman.
Gotta warn ya though...you just got bit by the cruise bug!
Hi tbtest. It sounds like you are young so one bit of advise is to remember on a Carnival ship it is made to spread people out so you can't do everything and see everything so don't try and kill yourself to do so. If you go on the Carnival web page you can click on the excursions and it will list all of them on the ports you are going to, a brief description and how much they will cost. I would recommend booking them ahead and you will not have to stand in line on the ship only to find out what you wanted is sold out. Not that much more $$ to do so for the peace of mind. You will find the cabins have 2 twin beds can be put together to make one large bed. Sometimes they will anticipate you will want that and do it for you. Don't drink the water or ice in any port you go to. Take your own bottle water from the ship. And most of all be prepared for a trip of your life, take your camera for lots of pictures, and have fun.
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Don't ever stand in line to book an excursion!! You can drop off your requests in the box in the lobby, or you can book them from your TV in your room! If you want to book them early you can, but MOST excursions don't sell out!
But she's right about everything else...especially the camera and the fun!
Wow, everyone jumped in and gave such great advice already. Not much for me to add except that PA Steve is correct. Book the excursions through the TV system in your cabin. Don't waste good cruising time standing in a line.
I almost echo the advice on booking your first cruise excursions through the ship. It does give piece of mind to those who are new. BUT, if you wanted to save some money, the place to try booking your own would be Grand Cayman. They are very easy to do there and all the tour operators pick up right there where the tenders drop you off (with all the ship booked excursions) Captin Marvins seems to be the favorite here, so look them up on the internet and reserve a spot. You can save some money and gain some experience in booking your own at almost no risk. (Most of their customers are booked through the ship anyway so you will be back in time for the departure. Just make sure you leave a couple of hours of "buffer" time on the return and make sure your watch is set to SHIP time. Not local time or you can be an hour off..