Carnival Valor, 5 day, July 23-28, 2018
I surprised my husband with this cruise for his 50th birthday in December. I used a travel agent that came recommended by a friend who is an avid cruiser. The travel agent was wonderful! We got the military special of low deposit and $50 OBC. The wait was fun because of the anticipation and planning (clothing choices, ship/port activities, drink bucket list, etc.). The research I engaged in on various sites including CC was invaluable. I felt very prepared and most of our experiences exceeded our expectations. This will be a short review...my hats are off to all of those who have written detailed, photo filled reviews that I have enjoyed reading! I tried jotting my thoughts down during the cruise but I was waaay too busy and/or just too tired.
PreStay: Based on the advice of my fabulous travel agent we drove down a day early to Houston. We live 3 hours from Galveston but didn’t want to take any chances driving over the morning of. We stopped at Houston’s Galleria, walked around for a bit, and had lunch at Maggiano’s. The one highlight from this day was that I visited the store called, Pressed, which is owned by Rasheeda on RHOA, and her mom was sitting on the couch chit chatting with someone! We’ve watched the show for years and I wasn’t expecting to actually see someone from the show! I just smiled at her as she looked up at me, and we continued on our way. I’m not one to interrupt folks for autographs or anything...It was just cool seeing her. We left the Galleria and checked into our hotel, Comfort Suites in Pearland. The hotel is located about 30 minutes from the port of Galveston and is CHEAP compared to staying in Galveston where you would easily pay 2-3xs more a night. The room was clean and breakfast was hot and the typical Comfort Suites breakfast.
Parking: We parked for free at the Port of Galveston. Husband is a disabled vet. Must be driving the car with the DV plates and have your military ID.
Embarkation: I’m a bit of a fashionista, and would have had a cow if my luggage was lost or delayed. So we carried all of our luggage on. I had my 21” carryon luggage, 25” luggage and a cute backpack. Husband had a rolling duffle, military issued deployment backpack and a regular black backpack. We brought on 2 bottles of wine and diet dr. peppers & diet gingerales. We were asked multiple times if we would rather check our luggage in. I just said no thank you to each person that asked. We had no trouble carrying our luggage on...it was a piece of cake! Once on board & luggage was place in stateroom, we walked 6 miles because my husband had to see everything!!! And we only took the stairs!!!
Stateroom: We had a port side balcony, room 8292. It was bigger than I thought it would be. And my dad purchased a birthday package from the Fun Shops, so it was decorated, and my husband was given a 9” vanilla cake, carnival towel and picture frame! I ordered a highball glass set, and two bags of choc. chip cookies. A big thank you to our travel agent who gave us chocolate covered strawberries!!! Unfortunately we had a note saying the glass set I ordere was out of stock, so we received cruise cash instead. But the cookies were AWESOME and tasted great! The cake was okay, it was a little dry but husband had a few pieces so it was definitely edible. Our steward came by and introduced himself and had a notepad which he handed to me to select AM, PM or BOTH for servicing the room. I chose BOTH, which he seemed fine with, and he did a fabulous job the entire week! So much so that I did what I typically would not do: gave him an additional tip before we left even though we already prepaid the tips. But he was that awesome and he deserved it, so shout out to Ricardo! Btw, I had read that others feel the bathrooms are small, especially the showers. My husband and I thought they were bigger than the bathroom/shower we had while living in England so it’s all in perspective and it was just fine for us! Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the stateroom door is magnetic. I created a custom porthole with our names and covered the back in cheap magnets from Walmart and it stayed up the entire cruise!
Food: We ate in the steakhouse the first night and enjoyed the free bottle of wine. We chose the chardonnay and it tasted just fine. I ordered the snails, which have waay more flavor if you pop the snail and the little garlic bread bowl all at once in your mouth. The snail seperately had very little flavor. Husband ordered the Cowboy ribeye and I ordered the lobster. I gave him a lobster tail and he gave me some steak. Both tasted great and the steak was very tender! I was happy to see that the Valor still had the old menu because we were able to get the humongous cheesecake and the interesting chocolate sampler. The cheesecake had great flavor just wish it was served cold rather than at room temp. The chocolate sampler was delicious! Regarding the rest of the meals, we typically ate in the MDR for all of our meals except a couple of times and I enjoyed the Indian food, which I ordered 3 times! I especially liked the Masala Dosa and was happy that the menu actually said “Masala Dosa” instead of breakfast crepe. My favorite appetizer was the Ox Tongue. We did try Guys burgers once and the burger was pretty good and the fries were flavorful. I also tried the taco bowl from Blue Iguana for lunch and the arepas for breakfast. Both were tasty. We walked through the buffet a few times but nothing caught our eye except the Chocolate Extravaganza. I am a dessert person so I had fun trying everything. 25% of the desserts were good, the other 75 % were one bite & done. I dragged my husband to the Seuss breakfast as I am a librarian and was totally excited. It was decorated so cute! I loved it!
Drinks: We are light drinkers so knew in advance that Cheers wasn’t for us. It was a good thing because we spent only $100 combined on alcoholic drinks & 1 chai tea. We enjoyed 1/2 a bottle of wine from the wine we carried on, after each dinner. My favorite drink was the Miami Vice. My least favorite was the lemon drop martini I got from the red frog pub. The bartender did not know how to make it so I sent it back and a different bartender made it again..and it was better but still not quite right. I should have ordered it from Alchemy bar instead. We drank alot of flavored water. We would bring our Yetis to every meal and fill up with the ice water and I brought our favorite powdered drink packages. We would also drink a few of the diet sodas we brought on but we did end up taking the majority of them back home with us.
MDR Dress Code: I am pleased to say that 99% of folks were dressed appropriately! I did see a staff member walk up to a family wearing gym/jean shorts that were in line for elegant night. The staff member politely told them that they would need to change. The family looked embarrassed and walked away. But other than that, it was evident that people wanting to eat in the MDR wore appropriate clothes...Everyone looked so lovely!
Entertainment: We enjoyed the adult comedy show! The host and the announcer make multiple announcements that the show will have profanity and is not for everyone. I appreciated the warnings and I did not see any kids present. My husband laughed until he was crying! We also saw the magic show which I thought was pretty cool. We saw half of America Rocks and the performers were very talented. We left early because we wanted to sit on our balcony and enjoy our last night. We also enjoyed the movies in the lido: Black Panther, Jumanji, Tomb Raider! We had seen them all already, including Black Panther 4xs, but something about watching them while hearing the waves is just relaxing!
Veterans’ Meet & Greet/Tribute/Veterans’ Tea: My husband (retired Air Force) and I absolutely loved attending these three events. The meet and greet was in the atrium and Carnival setup tea/coffee and cookies/brownies, thanked all the veterans and their families, then encouraged us to mingle. We met some wonderful people and heard imteresting stories and experiences. The tribute took place in the ivanhoe theater and was also done very well by Carnival. They played each branches song and the veterans stood up and were applauded. They passed a mic and spoke a few words regarding their service then took a group picture. Lastly we went to the Veterans table tea which was outstanding! So many treats to try. I brought my own tea because I’m particular about tea and did not want to pay for the upscale tea they offer. My husband had the free tea which is plain lipton and/or green tea. If you have the opportunity to attend, please do. It is so wonderful that Carnival does so much to recognize Veterans and their families! These events were definitely highlights of our trip!
Cozumel: We went to Mr. Sanchos in Cozumel and we prereserved the Romance Package. It includes a cabana with a mattress and gauzy curtains, a private table, a 30 minute couples massage, a rose, and all you can drink & eat. The food & drinks were great. Just be careful if you order the whole fried fish. There are small bones! We definitely got our moneys worth and felt like gluttons with how much we drank & ate! My favorite drink was the Mr. Sancho which is a tamarindo margarita with chile around the rim! We also snorkeled (pay a deposit which is returned when gear is returned). Husband went nuts on the jet skis!
Progresso: I had read that many prefer to stay on the ship in Progresso. But I really wanted to see historical/interesting, less touristy Mexico. So after a bunch of research, reserved a tour with Sergio’s tour. This is a 5-in-1 tour. First we went to the Cenotes (large natural lakes in the middle of the forest) and we swam in the refreshing water with lots of locals! Next we went to the Mayan temples and climbed/walked around. This is when my umbrella came in handy! It was so hot out there! Next we went to the salt flats and stood in the salt flat on top of all the salt. We each received a large bag of pink salt to take home! Next we saw the flamingos. Lastly we went to the all inclusive Technohotel for a few hours! Lots of food (chips/salsa/quesadillas/fruit/tacos. And lots of drinks and shots of tequila. Husband got another massage. I hung out in the pool and got a henna tattoo. It was a fabulous day!!!
Final thoughts: Getting a balcony was definitely worth it to us. We spent 1-2 hours on the balcony every day. It was fun seeing the port runners and cheering them on! The one negative was that the first night a woman was smoking a joint then passed it to a man the next balcony over. The smell was terrible! I called guest services who, I kid you not, sent security to our room within 5 minutes! They went out on our balcony, smelled what I smelled and said they would take care of it. Needless to say, we did not experience any more smoking problems on the balcony!
Surprisingly, there were no chair hogs! We exercised pretty early, and did not see any towels out on chairs. Then we would shower, head out to breakfast and still no chair hogs. After breakfast we would lay out in the pods in the Serenity area and still no chair hogs! It was fabulous!!!
Your Time Dining: We never had to wait for any of our meals, not even on elegant night! And we were seated next to a window with a lovely view at each meal! I would definitely do YTD again!
FTTF: My husband turned to me and said thank you for buying FTTF! Totally worth it. We got on the ship and there was practically no one on it. Our room was ready and we were able to drop off our stuff immediately. We had to speak with guest services a couple of times, and there was no line for those with priority. And getting off the ship was a relaxing non stressful quick event. We were in our car by 8:30!
Cruise Cash/Casino: Thank you to Firemanbobswife and OrganizedChaos for being so positive/helpful but for also explaining about purchasing discounted gcs/cruise cash then cashing the remainder out in the casino! We didn’t spend a whole lot so we went into the casino and got cash for all that was remaining on our sign & sail account!!!
Everyone was so nice!!! We met some really cool people and enjoyed talking with them! I didn’t see anyone being rude to the staff or overly drunk. I saw others helping others. It was just a great first cruise and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing! My husband is already looking into another one for the entire family!