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  #1  
Old December 14th, 2011, 04:18 PM
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LamenLaur LamenLaur is offline
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Default Valor 12/4/2011 - First Time Cruiser's Review!

This was the first cruise for my husband and I. We titled our journey 'Lauren & Brian take the Caribbean.' We joined Cruise Critic about six months before we were set to leave on the cruise. We found a lot of great tips and also found that a lot of posts from the forums were a bit over exaggerated I would have to say that this was by far one of the best vacations we’ve ever been on. I hope that my review will help others, especially first times, just like the previous ones helped us out. I warn you, my husband will interject with comments here and there haha. And yes, there will be pictures attached! I'm splitting up the posts by day, so enjoy!

Sunday 12/4/2011 – Embarkation Day
We caught the first flight on American Airlines at 6:00am out of Newark International and were in Miami by 9:20am. By 9:50am, we had arrived at POM, went through security, checked in the self-help kiosk, got our Sign & Sail cards and were given a Zone 1 card. I can’t being to tell you how easy it was….minus the taxi driver from Hell that we had. He drove like we were in the live version of Grand Theft Auto. There was free WiFi in the waiting area, which helped to pass the time. Once you go on the ship you couldn't use it. Since you're able to access Carnival.com's website without purchasing minutes, so we set up a forum there to keep in touch with family. Highly recommended! My only wish is that the POM had some place where you could get food and drink. Maybe something like a little café. By 10:30am the waiting areas were significantly more crowded.

We were on the ship by 12:30pm and got the ‘Bottomless Bubbles’ sticker as soon as we entered the lobby. It was $51 per adult and it was so worth it. I also bought a tumbler for $4.95 (which for some reason we were only charged $2.95). We may our way up to deck 9 and got a seat at the Lido Buffet (Rose’s). They had a good variety of food and it wasn’t too crowded at that point. I first went to the Mongolian Wok. They had nice variety of noodles and vegetables. You had a choice of three meats (you could do one, two or all three) and a choice of three sauces (for the week they had Black Bean, Thai BBQ and Szechwan). I chose to go with Soy Sauce whenever I was there. I also got a Grilled Cheese Sandwich at the deli, which was great. After lunch we walked around the ship and hung out in the back by the Prometheus Pool area. We went down to our rooms around 2:30pm to drop off our stuff. We had balcony room #7422. I could honestly never do an inside or ocean view room. The balcony was well worth the price. At 4:00pm, we met up with the Cruise Critic group at the Aft pool bar. It was great finally putting faces to the names! We went to the Sport Deck for sail away as we pulled out of Miami. It was so windy! At that time our phones were officially turned off for the week. I highly suggest taking your battery out of your phone.

Our luggage was delivered at 5:30pm. I’m glad that we didn’t have to wait too long for it. While unpacking, my husband found that a bottle of Pepto had leaked all over his shirts and shoes. So, laundry had to be done that day. One complaint I have is that they really should have a change machine in the laundry rooms. We had to go down to Guest Services (Deck 3 Forward) to exchange the dollars for quarters (we were Dec 7 Aft). We also had a slight issue with the faucet (it would spew water when turned up). We told our room steward, Jose, about it and it was fixed immediately. Jose was great the entire week! The movies of the day that were on repeat were Lincoln Lawyer, Arthur and Alvin & the Chipmunks. There were also channels that showed the map of where the ship was and camera footage of the front and mid-lido deck.

We had selected ‘Anytime Dining’ and we were assigned to the Lincoln Dining Room (Deck 3 Mid). This was the best option for us, because we didn’t want to have a set dining time to worry about. We liked the relaxed schedule of picking what’s best for you. Our head waiter was Wilbur and his assistants were Roy and Marija. They were fantastic. We asked for them every time that we dined there. My husband started out with Linguine w/ Peppers, Sausage and Mushrooms and I don’t remember if I had a starter (oops!). For dinner my husband had Beef Brisket with Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes. I had the Sweet & Sour Shrimp with Noodles and Vegetables. I also got a Baked Potato on the side. For dessert we each had the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. OMG that was so yummy. After dinner we caught the Game Show Mania and Bingo in the Ivanhoe Theater (Deck 3, 4, 5 Forward). By that time we were exhausted and went to sleep.
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Sailed!
*Carnival Valor* 12/4/2011 - 12/11/2011
Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Our Review: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1531659

*Carnival Liberty* 12/8/2012 - 12/15/2012
Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Our Review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1752816

Last edited by LamenLaur; December 14th, 2011 at 04:20 PM.
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  #2  
Old December 14th, 2011, 04:30 PM
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Great start....thanks for taking the time to post your review.

I can't wait to read the rest.

Get ready to be an addict
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  #3  
Old December 14th, 2011, 04:34 PM
colturn colturn is offline
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Thanks for the review, looking forward to the rest. We are sailing on the Valor soon
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Old December 14th, 2011, 04:43 PM
gogetter gogetter is offline
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What is ....Bottomless Bubbles...????
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Old December 14th, 2011, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gogetter View Post
What is ....Bottomless Bubbles...????
Bottomless Bubbles is a program that you purchase which gives you unlimited soda for the duration of the trip. They just put a sticker on your Sign & Sail card. You can use it at any bar, dinner, the theater and the clubs. They serve Coca-cola products. All you have to do is show them your card. A can of soda costs $1.95 normally.
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Sailed!
*Carnival Valor* 12/4/2011 - 12/11/2011
Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Our Review: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1531659

*Carnival Liberty* 12/8/2012 - 12/15/2012
Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Our Review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1752816
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Old December 14th, 2011, 04:54 PM
gogetter gogetter is offline
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Drats, i was hoping it would be bottomless champagne....lol....
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Old December 14th, 2011, 04:54 PM
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Thanks so much for the review so far. We'll be on the Valor in less than 3 weeks and I can't wait to read more!
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Carnival Inspiration * 5-Day * Tampa, Grand Cayman, Cozumel * 01/01/11 Photos
Carnival Valor * 7-Day * Miami, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan * 01/01/12 Photos
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Old December 14th, 2011, 04:58 PM
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Looking forward to reading more!
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Old December 14th, 2011, 05:01 PM
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Good review so far, thanks for taking the time to put it together! Love the GTA reference.
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Old December 14th, 2011, 05:40 PM
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Greetings, all.

I am Lauren's husband, Brian, and, as Lauren mentioned, I'll be tagging on to her review with some thoughts of my own as I'm too lazy to write my own review. Lauren and I really think the same, for the most part, so I won't have too much to add, I'm sure. Isn't that always the case...

Cruise Critic was quite valuable to us as cruising really is a bit complicated when you look at it as a first-timer. As it turns out, it isn't really, there is just a lot to know. This really was one of our favorite vacations, and that being said, we loved our honeymoon at an all-inclusive in St. Thomas. That is probably a close second now.

The waiting area's free WiFi really was a nice thing to have. I was also surprised they didn't sell anything to eat or drink...seems like an easy way to make a buck and keep everyone happy. They probably could have used another bathroom or two, as well.

We got there quite early but were more than happy sitting there getting things organized, browsing the Internet, people watching, and just waiting. I was much happier getting there and waiting than if we would have come later and had to wait in that insane line. I must say, though, it kills me that everyone crowded by the start of the line thinking they were going to get on first. In fact, they knew they weren't since they had their assigned numbers. So, was their thinking, "Oh, I'll be first to enter when they call zone 876"? Why crowd this area and make it harder for everyone to pass by? And this wasn't just folks who has no one else to go.

This is similar to how I can't stand how, when a plane pulls up to its gate, everyone automatically stands up and walks in to the aisle. This just makes it more crowded for everyone else and more chaotic to get off the plane. Why not sit down for another five minutes and make everyone's life easier? But I digress...

The Bottomless Bubbles program was great as we both aren't big drinkers at all. In fact, the only time I actually drank was later in the trip when we went to an all-inclusive resort and it was "free." Just not worth the expense for me when soda does just fine.

Side note about the szechuan sauce at the Mongolian Wok: it is HOT (and I like hot). I still got it every time and, in fact, usually asked for extra, but I was impressed Carnival would have a ballsy sauce like that.

When we were at the buffet, I encountered my first negative person of the trip (and there weren't many at all). I'm not sure of "buffet protocol," but I had already eaten and just wanted to grab some pasta as a snack. When I arrive, I usually walk past the entire buffet to survey what I want before getting in line to actually get it on my plate. Anyway, I saw the pasta and decided to get it, went back to the start of the line with my plate, and inched my way down the line through everything I didn't want. About 3/4 of the way through the line, there was just one person in front of me (and no one in front of him at all) and my plate was still empty as I hadn't yet reached my pasta. I realized I could just jump in front of this fella as he is grabbing his next selection instead of standing here waiting with an empty plate like an idiot, grab my pasta, and be on my merry way.

So anyway, I did just that, and the champ in front of me stops plating his food to look at me and tell me that I can't just cut in line. Not sure if he thought I hadn't waited behind him the entire time and just jumped in out of nowhere or if he saw what I did and still didn't approve, so I just ignored him and quickly finished scooping to avoid a confrontation over something so trivial. He told me again that I couldn't just cut in line, and in a really nasty tone, so I looked at him and said, "Looks like I just did" and walked away. Not sure if I broke buffet protocol or upset the buffet **** or what. I can see his point if I had just cut in line without waiting, but I was behind him the entire time. Regardless, and this is obviously thinking way too much about something so stupid as a buffet line, if someone wants just one thing and it's further down the buffet line and someone else wants many things that are located at various parts, should both wait in line? It's a good question.

I didn't do it again so as not to upset anyone, but did see others doing exactly what I did to grab a quick scoop or something or a few cookies or whatnot (and no one said a word). Anyways, that was entirely too much writing about the buffet.

Lauren and I realized it was well past 1:30 PM (is that the official "rooms are available" time?) and hadn't heard any announcements, so we ventured to our hallway. Others were walking to their rooms, so we did just that. The doors were open and all was set out, as I read it would be. We were looking around when we heard a low voice in the hall say something in a rough tone that we later figured out was something like "you can't be in there...the room isn't ready yet." We both looked at each other and didn't know exactly what the deal was, so we ignored it. A few minutes later, the drive-by happened again and we realized what the message was and left. I was confused at this point as to when the rooms would be ready and also a bit peeved the person who said that twice couldn't have just knocked on the door, explained the room wasn't ready yet and asked us to come back in a bit instead of doing it the way he did. I'm not sure who it was...it wasn't our room steward who we met later (who was outstanding). Anyways, we waited a bit for an announcement, didn't hear anything, then asked someone who works for Carnival if the rooms were ready. They looked at their watch and said, "Of course!" as if they had been ready for some time. When we went back, our door was closed but nothing had been changed from when we were there before. So who knows.

This is getting way longer than I anticipated, so a few bullets:

- I loved having the balcony, as Lauren mentioned, and used it a lot. I ended up running out there first thing every morning and spending some time winding down out there before I went to sleep every night (and obviously used it in between). Even if I didn't use it as much, I think it'd still be worth the money for us so we could run outside if need be and have a little more useful space. There's no way an inside room would ever have worked for us and I'm not sure a window would have been much better, but this is obviously our preference. It's money well spent for me (and us). One thing I loved doing was leaving the balcony door open (we used the door stopper the room steward uses when cleaning the room), turning the TV to one of Carnival's channels with music in the background, and turning it up for some music on the balcony.

- The laundry facilities were better than having none at all, but as I read here, the water definitely discolors the whites. There also isn't any stain remover in the laundry facility for purchase (we brought detergent but I didn't anticipate spilling the pepto on some of my clothes which then dried). We ended up finding some in the gift shop later that week for $6.99 or something ridiculous and it didn't do much to help the situation). Also, why not have coin dispensers or, better yet, enable the machines to take your Sail & Sign card as payment? We brought $10 in quarters for the laundry ($3 per machine and we were going to do one load of wash and one dry), but with the spill, we needed to do an extra load ($6 total) and I needed $2 more in quarters that I didn't have. So off to Guest Services I went since we were in port at the time I was doing the second load and the casino was closed. By the way, the laundry facilities were always open and always mostly empty when I was there.

- Anytime dining is fabulous and I wouldn't do it any other way. We had a great serving team our first night and proceeded to sit with them every night (except one night when the hostess placed us somewhere else even though they said we would be with our normal team).

- One comment on the drink service in the MDR is that it was slow. The drink waiter would come over at some point after we sat down and ask us what we wanted, we'd tell him (a Coke for me and a Diet Coke for Lauren) and it would take a good bit of time for him to return with our drinks. Refills were the same. It wasn't just him...when we sat in the other section, it was even worse. Not sure if these guys and girls are covering too many tables for them to handle or what? Once we got familiar with our drink guy in our section, we got friendly and he knew what we wanted and kept us filled up at all times. We were sure to give him a tip at the end of the week. I wonder how many people tip the drink guys in the MDR? It was well worth it for us.

- Being on this cruise reminded me of being in Walt Disney World where the employees AND guests are are always in a good mood and quite easy to talk to. It's nice to be in a place where everyone seems happy to be there and is enjoying themselves. I thought about this many, many times during the week.

That's it for now!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LamenLaur View Post
This was the first cruise for my husband and I. We titled our journey 'Lauren & Brian take the Caribbean.' We joined Cruise Critic about six months before we were set to leave on the cruise. We found a lot of great tips and also found that a lot of posts from the forums were a bit over exaggerated I would have to say that this was by far one of the best vacations we’ve ever been on. I hope that my review will help others, especially first times, just like the previous ones helped us out. I warn you, my husband will interject with comments here and there haha. And yes, there will be pictures attached! I'm splitting up the posts by day, so enjoy!

Sunday 12/4/2011 – Embarkation Day
We caught the first flight on American Airlines at 6:00am out of Newark International and were in Miami by 9:20am. By 9:50am, we had arrived at POM, went through security, checked in the self-help kiosk, got our Sign & Sail cards and were given a Zone 1 card. I can’t being to tell you how easy it was….minus the taxi driver from Hell that we had. He drove like we were in the live version of Grand Theft Auto. There was free WiFi in the waiting area, which helped to pass the time. Once you go on the ship you couldn't use it. Since you're able to access Carnival.com's website without purchasing minutes, so we set up a forum there to keep in touch with family. Highly recommended! My only wish is that the POM had some place where you could get food and drink. Maybe something like a little café. By 10:30am the waiting areas were significantly more crowded.

We were on the ship by 12:30pm and got the ‘Bottomless Bubbles’ sticker as soon as we entered the lobby. It was $51 per adult and it was so worth it. I also bought a tumbler for $4.95 (which for some reason we were only charged $2.95). We may our way up to deck 9 and got a seat at the Lido Buffet (Rose’s). They had a good variety of food and it wasn’t too crowded at that point. I first went to the Mongolian Wok. They had nice variety of noodles and vegetables. You had a choice of three meats (you could do one, two or all three) and a choice of three sauces (for the week they had Black Bean, Thai BBQ and Szechwan). I chose to go with Soy Sauce whenever I was there. I also got a Grilled Cheese Sandwich at the deli, which was great. After lunch we walked around the ship and hung out in the back by the Prometheus Pool area. We went down to our rooms around 2:30pm to drop off our stuff. We had balcony room #7422. I could honestly never do an inside or ocean view room. The balcony was well worth the price. At 4:00pm, we met up with the Cruise Critic group at the Aft pool bar. It was great finally putting faces to the names! We went to the Sport Deck for sail away as we pulled out of Miami. It was so windy! At that time our phones were officially turned off for the week. I highly suggest taking your battery out of your phone.

Our luggage was delivered at 5:30pm. I’m glad that we didn’t have to wait too long for it. While unpacking, my husband found that a bottle of Pepto had leaked all over his shirts and shoes. So, laundry had to be done that day. One complaint I have is that they really should have a change machine in the laundry rooms. We had to go down to Guest Services (Deck 3 Forward) to exchange the dollars for quarters (we were Dec 7 Aft). We also had a slight issue with the faucet (it would spew water when turned up). We told our room steward, Jose, about it and it was fixed immediately. Jose was great the entire week! The movies of the day that were on repeat were Lincoln Lawyer, Arthur and Alvin & the Chipmunks. There were also channels that showed the map of where the ship was and camera footage of the front and mid-lido deck.

We had selected ‘Anytime Dining’ and we were assigned to the Lincoln Dining Room (Deck 3 Mid). This was the best option for us, because we didn’t want to have a set dining time to worry about. We liked the relaxed schedule of picking what’s best for you. Our head waiter was Wilbur and his assistants were Roy and Marija. They were fantastic. We asked for them every time that we dined there. My husband started out with Linguine w/ Peppers, Sausage and Mushrooms and I don’t remember if I had a starter (oops!). For dinner my husband had Beef Brisket with Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes. I had the Sweet & Sour Shrimp with Noodles and Vegetables. I also got a Baked Potato on the side. For dessert we each had the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. OMG that was so yummy. After dinner we caught the Game Show Mania and Bingo in the Ivanhoe Theater (Deck 3, 4, 5 Forward). By that time we were exhausted and went to sleep.
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- Brian

Past Cruises:
Carnival Valor: 12/4/11 to 12/11/11
Miami, FL > Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands > Cozumel, Mexico > Belize City, Belize > Roatan, Honduras > Miami,FL

Carnival Liberty: 12/8/12 to 12/15/12
Miami, FL > Nassau, the Bahamas > St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands > San Juan, Puerto Rico > Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos > Miami, FL
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Old December 14th, 2011, 08:41 PM
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Monday 12/5/2011 – Sea Day & First Elegant Night
We set the alarm for 9:00am (they don’t have clocks in the room, so make sure that you bring a small, battery operated one). We opened up the curtains and saw nothing but ocean. We were officially on vacation.

We had breakfast in the Washington Dining Room (Deck 3 Aft) for open seating. My husband had French Toast with Ham and Sausage (the toast has raisins in it, which the menu doesn’t tell you). I had Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Bacon and Turkey Bacon. The Turkey Bacon was overcooked and chewy. I found that the eggs on the Lido Buffet for breakfast were better than what they served in the dining room.

After breakfast we wandered through the casino and gift shops. There was a cruise seminar at 10:30am at the Ivanhoe Theater that we attended. They went over some brief information about excursions and the what was available on the ship for all ages. I got a free Carnival drawstring backpack that came in very handy for the rest of the trip. We went walked around and eventually plopped down on loungers on the side Panorama deck in the sun for a little while to just take it all in. On the way to lunch at Rosie's we caught some of the Hairy Chest contest. Hilarous.

After lunch was Twisted Scattergories at 1:00pm in Winston’s Cigar Bar (Deck 4 Mid-Aft). We came in second place and won our first medals. Next up was the Digital Scavenger Hunt at 2:00pm across from the Java Coffee station on Deck 5. This was a really fun way to get to know the ship. They gave you a list of items that you had to get pictures of. To make sure you wouldn't cheat, one of your teammates had to be in the picture with the object. It was a list of about fifteen items all over the ship and you had twenty minutes to get it done. Hint: If they ask you for a picture of lifeboat #13, there is none! We came across an employee who asked what we were looking for and he told us we wouldn't it for that reason. Good to know! We came in first and won our first Carnival ship on a stick!

We came across Robert playing guitar in the American Lobby (Deck 3 Forward). He made fun of me for requesting ‘Midnight Rider’ by the Allman Brothers and ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash. He didn’t know how I even knew ‘Midnight Rider’ lol. He played it whenever he saw me the rest of the week. When he was done playing, we stayed for the game of guessing the 80’s tunes. They played twenty-second clips of the songs and we had to guess the title of the song and the artist. This was the first game that we attended where a decent crowd showed up to play.

This was the first of the two elegant nights. We made our way to the Lincoln Dining Room around 6:30pm or so and found ourselves in a long line. We waited in line for about 20-25 minutes to put our cabin number in for a table for dinner. Once we were given the pager, we were seated in less than 10 minutes. We asked to be seated in Wilbur’s section, but the hostess must have been overwhelmed because we were put in another across the room. Service was considerably slower and the waiters didn’t pay much attention to the guests in the section. I overheard a number of complaints from nearby tables. The overall mood around us seemed to be off. The food was okay. We both ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms to start with and I also ordered the Shrimp Cocktail (which didn’t come until we asked where it was). For dinner we had the Lobster tail duet with Grilled Shrimp and Prime Rib. And of course for dessert we got the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. It also took forever and a day to get our soda once again.

After dinner we caught the comedy show at the Punchliner Club (Eagles Lounge Deck 5 aft). The comedian at that showing wasn't very good. So, we called it a night because we had to be up early for Grand Cayman. We planned on ordering room service for breakfast. All you have to do is mark what you want on the card and at the time you would like to receive it. You hand the card on your door the night before and you're good to go!
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__________________
Lauren

Sailed!
*Carnival Valor* 12/4/2011 - 12/11/2011
Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Our Review: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1531659

*Carnival Liberty* 12/8/2012 - 12/15/2012
Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Our Review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1752816
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  #12  
Old December 15th, 2011, 09:48 AM
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LamenLaur LamenLaur is offline
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Tuesday 12/6/2011 – Grand Cayman
Room service delivered breakfast around 6:15pm as we were scheduled to be in Grand Cayman from 7-4pm. We were out on the first tender at 7:00am, but we didn’t get into port until 7:40am because they were waiting for the tender to fill up. This was the point on the trip where my husband discovered he wasn’t feeling well…started out with a sore throat.
Originally we had planned to spend the day on 7 Mile Beach. After doing some research, we reserved a private cabana at the Royal Palms. A few weeks after we made our reservation, my husband brought up the idea of renting a car. Because the island is small and doesn't take too long to drive around, it reminded us of when we rented a car to drive around St. Thomas. We canned the reservation at Royal Palms and my husband proceeded with the car reservation.

I had created a driving itinerary based on the suggestions on Cruise Critic and other sites. My full itinerary will be a separate post after this. My husband rented a Jeep through Cayman Auto Rentals. I highly suggest that you book your car in advance, especially if you want a Jeep. We got a cheaper price than what they would have charged you to rent a car if you did not have a reservation. It cost $100 for the rental, insurance and temporary license. All you had to do was return the car with the amount of gas you left with. They also rent out scooters, but you won't get to see as much of the island if you did this as it's slower than taking a car. Quick tip for those who are interested in renting scooters: they will not let you rent one unless you ride one normally. In Grand Cayman you drive on the opposite side of the road. There is a chance that you will be given a car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car instead of the left. The Jeep we were given had the wheel on the left, so we were good to go. You will see a good amount of wildlife around the island....especially the wild chickens and roosters lol. They're everywhere.

Some of the main points we saw were:
- Oceanside Pirate Cemetery
- Blow Holes (geysers)
- Rum Point
- Tortuga Rum Bakery
- Hell
- Morgan’s Harbour
- 7 Mile Beach

We ate lunch at the Cracked Conch, which is a bit past the Cayman Turtle Farm. It was expensive ($73.00 USD including gratuity), but worth it. For appetizers we had Conch Chowder (tomato based) and Cracked Conch (fried Conch pieces). For the meal we had burgers. There is also a bar down below the Conch if you want to stop for a drink. The East side of the island (Rum Point, etc) is very quiet where as the West side (7 mile beach) is very crowded and busy. It rained on and off for about 2 hours. We returned the car and made our way back to the port around 1:30pm. We took the tender at 2:00pm and we were back in our room by 2:30pm. It’s amazing that some people still feel the need to cut lines. Seriously…we’re all going to the same place and it doesn’t matter if you’re first on the boat or last. Since we had some time to kill before sail away, we went into the aft pool and whirlpool (wasn’t hot).

Before the dining room opened for dinner we played the slots in the casino, listened to Robert play guitar again and sat at a table by the Prometheus pool. This is where I overheard one of the funniest complaints of the week. This couple was so angry because Carnival would not remove the sofa from their room. Where do you expect them to put it? If you didn’t want a room with a sofa, maybe you shouldn’t have booked one lol.

We had dinner around 5:50pm and we were the youngest by like twenty years. Thankfully we were put in Wilbur's section again. There was a table of 70 year olds that did a round of shots. It was so funny. We started out with the Penne w/ Seafood and Sushi appetizers. For dinner my husband had Jerk Pork and I had a Flat Iron Steak with a side of sautéed mushrooms. And of course we both had the melting cake for dessert!

Afterwards we made our way to catch the Movie Mash-Up Trivia (you have to guess the mashed up title of two movies that they give you hints to) and the Marriage Show at the Ivanhoe Theater. The Marriage Show was hilarious and disgusting at the same time. We decided to give the comedy show one more try and saw the other performer. He was significantly better than the other entertainer.
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Sailed!
*Carnival Valor* 12/4/2011 - 12/11/2011
Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Our Review: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1531659

*Carnival Liberty* 12/8/2012 - 12/15/2012
Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Our Review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1752816
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  #13  
Old December 15th, 2011, 09:54 AM
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Lauren’s Grand Cayman Tour Itinerary
(we also printed out a few maps of the island to have on hand)

Cayman Auto Rental
When you get off at the port, walk a few blocks to your left to get to Cayman Auto Rentals. It is on N. Church Street by Arthurs Way.

Oceanside Pirate Cemetery

Make a right out of Cayman Auto Rental onto N. Church Street and continue to drive for approximately .4 miles. Continue on Harbor Drive for approximately .2 miles. Harbor Drive turns into S. Church Street. After 2.8 miles, take the third exit of the traffic circle onto Shamrock Road. Look to follow signs towards Bodden Town. After 1 mile, turn right to stay on Shamrock Road. Continue for 5.8 miles. Shamrock Road will turn into Bodden Town Road. Once on Bodden Town Road, look for the Turtle Next Inn on your right. The cemetery will be approximately .2 - .3 miles from the Inn on your right. It is not clearly marked. There will be a small church across the street from the cemetery and signs for pirate caves. There is also a small worn-out white wall in front of the graves. If you are going too fast you will miss it.

Blow Holes (Geysers)

Continue on Bodden Town Road. After 5.1 miles, continue right onto Sea View Road. You will eventually see a large, beige church on your left. Drive a little bit more and park on the left where you see a brown and white sign saying ‘Blow Holes.’ Across the street are cement steps leading down to the beach. There will be a blow hole straight in front of you. The higher the waves, the higher the geyser will go.

Rum Point

Continue on Sea View Road. This is a long stretch of a drive. The road will turn into Austin Connolly Drive, Queens Highway and Old Robyn Road. You will make a right onto N. Side Road. Just follow the signs to Rum Point. N. Side Road will turn into Rum Point Drive. Continue straight to reach Rum Point. Note – it takes approximately 57 minutes to drive from Cayman Auto Rental to Rum Point.

West End

Turn around and make your way back down Rum Point Drive. After approximately 6 miles, make a slight right onto Frank Sound Drive towards Bodden Town and George Town. You will pass by the Botanical Gardens entrance (if that interests you). At the end, make a right onto Bodden Town Road. Aft the traffic circle, make the first right to continue on Shamrock Road. Continue to follow signs to 7 Mile Beach/West Bay. You will end up on West Bay Road. Turn left onto NW Point Road. You will pass the Dolphin Encounter and Turtle Farm. The Tortuga Rum Bakery is next to the Cracked Conch. Note – it takes approximately 56 minutes to drive from Rum Point to the Cracked Conch.

Hell

Make a left out of the Cracked Conch onto NW Point Road. After .2 miles, make a right onto Watercourse Road. After .4 miles, make a left onto Hell Road. Hell will be about .3 miles on your right. Go into the second parking lot.

Morgan’s Harbor

When leaving Hell, make a right to continue on Hell Road. After .2 miles, continue on Reverend Blackman Road. After .4 miles, turn left onto Batabano Road/W. Church Street. You will run right into Morgan’s Harbour in about 1.3 miles.

From Morgan’s Harbor to Cayman Auto Rental

Head back the way you came on W. Church Street. After .9 miles, make a left onto Willie Farrington Drive and continue for .6 miles. Make a left onto W. Bay Road and continue for 4.8 miles. There are gas stations on this road, so be sure to fill up the tank before you return the car. Cayman Auto Rental will be on your right. Note – it takes about 15 minutes to drive from Morgan’s Harbor to Cayman Auto Rental.
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Sailed!
*Carnival Valor* 12/4/2011 - 12/11/2011
Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Our Review: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1531659

*Carnival Liberty* 12/8/2012 - 12/15/2012
Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Our Review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1752816
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  #14  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:09 AM
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Thanks for review. We will be on the Valor next month.
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  #15  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:17 AM
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Aaaaaaaand, I’m back.

- We never had lunch in the MDR, but breakfast there was quite enjoyable when we did have it. Would love to make it a point to do so another time or two next time around and stop in for lunch, too.

- I was actually winded after the digital scavenger hunt. We worked hard for that ship on a stick. One of my favorite moments was needing to photograph a mode of transportation. My thought was, well, we’re on a boat, so we can get a photo of the side of it or of a lifeboat. We saw someone ride by on their scooter and I motioned to Lauren. She stood in the hall with the scooter far in the background and I took the photo. Score it!

- We stopped by Robert playing the guitar mostly every time he was playing that week. My favorite sport to watch him was in the American Lobby (3 Forward). The bar was right there, you had the tall glass elevators as a background, and it was generally a really nice area to sit in, especially before or after dinner if you’re in the Lincoln dining room.

- It was definitely disappointing not being in Wilbur’s section, especially after waiting for quite some time to get a table (our only real wait the whole week). I realized that Wilbur is in the same section every night, so I knew that if we weren’t being led towards that area when being seated, we were being led to the wrong section. We never were again (and we didn’t mention anything about the mixup).

- The comedian that first night was pretty awful, we both thought so, but everyone else thought he was hilarious. How many times can you mention smacking your wife on the ass or some other not-that-creative joke and expect to get laughs? Except that most people laughed. I’m 27, I have an immature sense of humor, and I still thought he was pretty unfunny.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LamenLaur View Post
Monday 12/5/2011 – Sea Day & First Elegant Night
We set the alarm for 9:00am (they don’t have clocks in the room, so make sure that you bring a small, battery operated one). We opened up the curtains and saw nothing but ocean. We were officially on vacation.

We had breakfast in the Washington Dining Room (Deck 3 Aft) for open seating. My husband had French Toast with Ham and Sausage (the toast has raisins in it, which the menu doesn’t tell you). I had Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Bacon and Turkey Bacon. The Turkey Bacon was overcooked and chewy. I found that the eggs on the Lido Buffet for breakfast were better than what they served in the dining room.

After breakfast we wandered through the casino and gift shops. There was a cruise seminar at 10:30am at the Ivanhoe Theater that we attended. They went over some brief information about excursions and the what was available on the ship for all ages. I got a free Carnival drawstring backpack that came in very handy for the rest of the trip. We went walked around and eventually plopped down on loungers on the side Panorama deck in the sun for a little while to just take it all in. On the way to lunch at Rosie's we caught some of the Hairy Chest contest. Hilarous.

After lunch was Twisted Scattergories at 1:00pm in Winston’s Cigar Bar (Deck 4 Mid-Aft). We came in second place and won our first medals. Next up was the Digital Scavenger Hunt at 2:00pm across from the Java Coffee station on Deck 5. This was a really fun way to get to know the ship. They gave you a list of items that you had to get pictures of. To make sure you wouldn't cheat, one of your teammates had to be in the picture with the object. It was a list of about fifteen items all over the ship and you had twenty minutes to get it done. Hint: If they ask you for a picture of lifeboat #13, there is none! We came across an employee who asked what we were looking for and he told us we wouldn't it for that reason. Good to know! We came in first and won our first Carnival ship on a stick!

We came across Robert playing guitar in the American Lobby (Deck 3 Forward). He made fun of me for requesting ‘Midnight Rider’ by the Allman Brothers and ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash. He didn’t know how I even knew ‘Midnight Rider’ lol. He played it whenever he saw me the rest of the week. When he was done playing, we stayed for the game of guessing the 80’s tunes. They played twenty-second clips of the songs and we had to guess the title of the song and the artist. This was the first game that we attended where a decent crowd showed up to play.

This was the first of the two elegant nights. We made our way to the Lincoln Dining Room around 6:30pm or so and found ourselves in a long line. We waited in line for about 20-25 minutes to put our cabin number in for a table for dinner. Once we were given the pager, we were seated in less than 10 minutes. We asked to be seated in Wilbur’s section, but the hostess must have been overwhelmed because we were put in another across the room. Service was considerably slower and the waiters didn’t pay much attention to the guests in the section. I overheard a number of complaints from nearby tables. The overall mood around us seemed to be off. The food was okay. We both ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms to start with and I also ordered the Shrimp Cocktail (which didn’t come until we asked where it was). For dinner we had the Lobster tail duet with Grilled Shrimp and Prime Rib. And of course for dessert we got the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. It also took forever and a day to get our soda once again.

After dinner we caught the comedy show at the Punchliner Club (Eagles Lounge Deck 5 aft). The comedian at that showing wasn't very good. So, we called it a night because we had to be up early for Grand Cayman. We planned on ordering room service for breakfast. All you have to do is mark what you want on the card and at the time you would like to receive it. You hand the card on your door the night before and you're good to go!
__________________
- Brian

Past Cruises:
Carnival Valor: 12/4/11 to 12/11/11
Miami, FL > Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands > Cozumel, Mexico > Belize City, Belize > Roatan, Honduras > Miami,FL

Carnival Liberty: 12/8/12 to 12/15/12
Miami, FL > Nassau, the Bahamas > St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands > San Juan, Puerto Rico > Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos > Miami, FL

Last edited by BriLam; December 15th, 2011 at 10:20 AM.
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  #16  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:23 AM
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Great start Lauren and Brian. I'm enjoying reading your adventures. I'm sure you've made "notes for the next time" and a big #1 will be: Pack ALL, A-L-L, ALL liquids in ziplock bags!! And add a packet of Purex all-in-one laundry sheets and a roll of quarters to your packing list. Brian, give the idiot in the buffet line a "Jersey cheer" next time.
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  #17  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:46 AM
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- Breakfast is my worst meal of the day, primarily because I’m not a breakfast eater and also because I can never eat very early in the day. And I’m a big eater any other time, too. So I didn’t enjoy rolling out of bed and shoving some food down to get something in my stomach, but it had to be done and, at least, room service was convenient. As many others have said, it would be nice to have a bit more selection on the room service menu.

- This was my first experience with tendering, and I hated it. (Side note: it’s not often I can pinpoint exactly when I started feeling sick when getting a cold, but my throat started hurting sitting on that tender waiting for it to fill up before we went to shore. Odd.) Anyway, we didn’t have a wait to get on the tender, but we did have quite a wait before the tender filled and we could go to shore. They shoved everyone they could on and then we finally left after maybe 20 or 25 minutes. And when we wanted to return to the cruise ship, we waited in line as both tenders were either at the cruise ship or in transit. There were two lines and we didn’t know what line to wait in (there were two) as they weren’t labeled. Then, both tenders came at the same time, but they moved everyone to our line to fill up ours first, but then started letting others on to the second tender. Hey guys, who not have the tenders in opposite places at all times? This isn’t that difficult. We have a ferry system in New York City and this is how it works…and it works well. I was extremely happy we weren’t planning to go ashore in Belize as we wouldn’t need to deal with this again. I’m not easily irked with things like this, but tendering sucked. Hard.

- We really enjoyed driving around Grand Cayman. Lauren’s parents have a place in Cape Cod, so we vacation there at least one per year. The east side of the island reminded me very much of the Cape. The west was much more touristy, but it was a nice change from the quiet east end. It isn’t hard figuring out the driving situation at all (we drove on the “wrong” side of the road for the first time in St. Thomas, as Lauren mentioned), but it always helps to have a smart person with you to keep an eye on things as you’re driving and make sure you don’t accidentally take yourself and the passenger out in a heap of flames. Lauren also made excellent directions, and while it isn’t too difficult to get around the island, it always helped that she knew exactly where we were. Also of note: all speed limit signs are in MPH. We were driving a left-hand drive car, as Lauren mentioned, but out speedometer was in KM/HR. I’m not sure if all were, but it took me a bit to figure that out.

- The Cracked Conch was a bit expensive, but the setting of the restaurant itself made up for that and made it completely worth it. If I did it again, I’d eat at the bar downstairs and save a few bucks.

- Lauren and I joked about how we are 60 year olds in 27 year old bodies when it came to dinner time and some other things, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. I loved eating early.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LamenLaur View Post
Tuesday 12/6/2011 – Grand Cayman
Room service delivered breakfast around 6:15pm as we were scheduled to be in Grand Cayman from 7-4pm. We were out on the first tender at 7:00am, but we didn’t get into port until 7:40am because they were waiting for the tender to fill up. This was the point on the trip where my husband discovered he wasn’t feeling well…started out with a sore throat.
Originally we had planned to spend the day on 7 Mile Beach. After doing some research, we reserved a private cabana at the Royal Palms. A few weeks after we made our reservation, my husband brought up the idea of renting a car. Because the island is small and doesn't take too long to drive around, it reminded us of when we rented a car to drive around St. Thomas. We canned the reservation at Royal Palms and my husband proceeded with the car reservation.

I had created a driving itinerary based on the suggestions on Cruise Critic and other sites. My full itinerary will be a separate post after this. My husband rented a Jeep through Cayman Auto Rentals. I highly suggest that you book your car in advance, especially if you want a Jeep. We got a cheaper price than what they would have charged you to rent a car if you did not have a reservation. It cost $100 for the rental, insurance and temporary license. All you had to do was return the car with the amount of gas you left with. They also rent out scooters, but you won't get to see as much of the island if you did this as it's slower than taking a car. Quick tip for those who are interested in renting scooters: they will not let you rent one unless you ride one normally. In Grand Cayman you drive on the opposite side of the road. There is a chance that you will be given a car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car instead of the left. The Jeep we were given had the wheel on the left, so we were good to go. You will see a good amount of wildlife around the island....especially the wild chickens and roosters lol. They're everywhere.

Some of the main points we saw were:
- Oceanside Pirate Cemetery
- Blow Holes (geysers)
- Rum Point
- Tortuga Rum Bakery
- Hell
- Morgan’s Harbour
- 7 Mile Beach

We ate lunch at the Cracked Conch, which is a bit past the Cayman Turtle Farm. It was expensive ($73.00 USD including gratuity), but worth it. For appetizers we had Conch Chowder (tomato based) and Cracked Conch (fried Conch pieces). For the meal we had burgers. There is also a bar down below the Conch if you want to stop for a drink. The East side of the island (Rum Point, etc) is very quiet where as the West side (7 mile beach) is very crowded and busy. It rained on and off for about 2 hours. We returned the car and made our way back to the port around 1:30pm. We took the tender at 2:00pm and we were back in our room by 2:30pm. It’s amazing that some people still feel the need to cut lines. Seriously…we’re all going to the same place and it doesn’t matter if you’re first on the boat or last. Since we had some time to kill before sail away, we went into the aft pool and whirlpool (wasn’t hot).

Before the dining room opened for dinner we played the slots in the casino, listened to Robert play guitar again and sat at a table by the Prometheus pool. This is where I overheard one of the funniest complaints of the week. This couple was so angry because Carnival would not remove the sofa from their room. Where do you expect them to put it? If you didn’t want a room with a sofa, maybe you shouldn’t have booked one lol.

We had dinner around 5:50pm and we were the youngest by like twenty years. Thankfully we were put in Wilbur's section again. There was a table of 70 year olds that did a round of shots. It was so funny. We started out with the Penne w/ Seafood and Sushi appetizers. For dinner my husband had Jerk Pork and I had a Flat Iron Steak with a side of sautéed mushrooms. And of course we both had the melting cake for dessert!

Afterwards we made our way to catch the Movie Mash-Up Trivia (you have to guess the mashed up title of two movies that they give you hints to) and the Marriage Show at the Ivanhoe Theater. The Marriage Show was hilarious and disgusting at the same time. We decided to give the comedy show one more try and saw the other performer. He was significantly better than the other entertainer.
__________________
- Brian

Past Cruises:
Carnival Valor: 12/4/11 to 12/11/11
Miami, FL > Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands > Cozumel, Mexico > Belize City, Belize > Roatan, Honduras > Miami,FL

Carnival Liberty: 12/8/12 to 12/15/12
Miami, FL > Nassau, the Bahamas > St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands > San Juan, Puerto Rico > Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos > Miami, FL
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  #18  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:46 AM
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Thanks so much for the review! We're on the Valor on the 24th.
I do have one question. What is the forum that you set up so that you could be in contact with everyone back home?
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  #19  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:50 AM
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BriLam BriLam is offline
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Funny you should say that...we pack most in plastic bags. I just never thought that a sealed bottle of pepto would leak (it never had before), but I know better now! It could have been much, much worse.

And we did bring Purex all-in-one sheets, 2 sheets actually! I knew we'd do 1 load, so i brought 1 sheet but brought another just in case, along with the roll of quarters to do a load. But doing 2 loads required $2 more in quarters than we had. Doh! The laundry tips were thanks to this board, too.

And as for the Jersey cheer, I would have loved to! I rarely let those things get to me, especially on vacation, but this guy was a winner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crewsweeper View Post
Great start Lauren and Brian. I'm enjoying reading your adventures. I'm sure you've made "notes for the next time" and a big #1 will be: Pack ALL, A-L-L, ALL liquids in ziplock bags!! And add a packet of Purex all-in-one laundry sheets and a roll of quarters to your packing list. Brian, give the idiot in the buffet line a "Jersey cheer" next time.
__________________
- Brian

Past Cruises:
Carnival Valor: 12/4/11 to 12/11/11
Miami, FL > Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands > Cozumel, Mexico > Belize City, Belize > Roatan, Honduras > Miami,FL

Carnival Liberty: 12/8/12 to 12/15/12
Miami, FL > Nassau, the Bahamas > St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands > San Juan, Puerto Rico > Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos > Miami, FL

Last edited by BriLam; December 15th, 2011 at 10:51 AM.
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  #20  
Old December 15th, 2011, 10:57 AM
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LamenLaur LamenLaur is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandoo View Post
Thanks so much for the review! We're on the Valor on the 24th.
I do have one question. What is the forum that you set up so that you could be in contact with everyone back home?
Below is what I e-mailed to our family members who wanted to keep in touch with us

How to use the online forum
  1. Go to www.carnival.com
  2. On the top right of the page, click on ‘Community & Buzz’
  3. In the middle-right of the page, click on ‘Login to FUNVILLE’ and a window will pop up
  4. You will need to create a user name and password
  5. In the middle-right of the page, click on ‘Forums’
  6. Scroll down until you see the section titled ‘User Groups’
  7. Under that section, click on the link for ‘Currently Onboard’
  8. Look for the column titled ‘Thread’ and follow that down until you see your family's post. (We named ours 'Lauren and Brian take the Caribbean' so it was easy to spot. You can also have the family bookmark this page on the internet so it brings up the page immediately without having to go through the above steps).
  9. On the right side of the screen, click the button called ‘Post Reply’. This will bring you to a screen to write what you want. Once finished, click ‘Post Message’ and it will take you back to the posted message.
__________________
Lauren

Sailed!
*Carnival Valor* 12/4/2011 - 12/11/2011
Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Our Review: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1531659

*Carnival Liberty* 12/8/2012 - 12/15/2012
Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk
Our Review:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1752816
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