We arrived on embarkation day around 11am, perfect timing! There was a steady line, but we were on the ship eating lunch before noon. For all of you wondering about Carnival's 1 bottle per person wine policy, we carried a case of wine on board. We were waiting for someone to ask us about it, but no one did. The only comments we received were from other passengers telling us we weren't allowed to bring it on. We brought it on and were charged the $10 corkage fee only in Scarlett's.
The ship is beautiful, this was my first cruise and I was amazed at the detail everywhere on the ship. We had a balcony room on the upper deck, it was wonderful. We had coffee delivered every morning, it arrived on time and tasted fine. I had read that the coffee on the ship was terrible, but I thought it was fine. It wasn't Starbuck's, but it tasted good. We had breakfast on the Lido deck twice, it was the basic fare - eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, fruits, pancakes, etc. It had everything you would expect at a buffet. The rest of the mornings we ate in the Washington dining. We preferred the sit down breakfast. They had bagels and lox, eggs benedict, omelets, french toast, pancakes, cereal (both hot and cold), fruits and juices. The service was very good and it was nice to be served.
We were on excursions most days so we didn't eat much lunch on board. One thing that Carnival should change is when they shut the buffet down after lunch. Between 4pm and 6pm, people are getting back from their excursions and are starving. There is a deli, pizza place and grill that is open during that time. All had long lines and an aggravated staff. We ate at all of these and the food was good at all. We ordered room service one day and it came very quickly. However, another day we tried to order room service and were told it would be at least an hour. We chose to wait on line at the deli.
Dinner was good all nights. We ate in the dining all nights except the last when we ate at Scarlett's. Our waiters were disappointing. We were expecting good service and friendly waiters. Our head waiter, though we liked him, was disembarking when we did. He was taking a 2 month vacation after working on the Valor for 6 months. He needed this vacation as he was burnt out. He rarely smiled and often got annoyed when we ordered more than one dish. If someone ordered after trying someone's dish, he fussed about the kitchen being such a long walk. As the week progressed, he lightened up and we ended up enjoying his humor. The assistant waiter was really burnt out, he didn't even pretend to enjoy his job. He rarely smiled and snapped out us often! By mid week, we just chose not to talk to him which seemed to work well for him. We were a group of 10 people so the lack of friendliness just amused us, it didn't ruin any part of our trip.
The rest of the staff, particularly the room steward was excellent! The bartenders and services were great. The first drink we ordered, the server asked our names and remembered them for the duration of the cruise. We were so impressed! The drinks of the day were yummy and we consumed many of them. The prices were $3.95 if not in a Carnival cup and $6.95-$7..95 if in the Carnival cup. I had read on this board that once you buy the cup, the prices goes down, it didn't for us. Even when we traded the cup in, we were still charged the full price. I also brought a bottle of cocunut rum on board which we mixed with pineapple juice. We found out when we got on board that pineapple juice was extra and not just a few dollars extra. The server said that it would cost $12.00 to fill up my container. Luckily, a couple of my fellow travelors had purchased a soda card so he was able to get pineapple juice too.
Our first port was Grand Cayman. We rented a Zodiac boat online. It was $500 for the boat for a half day. This was a great excursion and I highly recommend it. There were 10 of us so it was only $50pp. We had a boat captain who got in the water with us and helped us feed and pet the stingrays. Since it was our own charter, we were able to stay as long as we wanted. We went snorkeling, went to Starfish Beach where we saw many LARGE starfish, and through the mangroves. This stop was the highlight of my trip.
Our next stop was Roatan. We met up with a long lost friend who works at a resort on one of the barrier islands. This is a very poor island, but had beautiful beaches. Some of our friends did the beach break and loved it! I wish I had more time to explore this hidden treasure.
Belize was great, we did the cave tubing with cave-tubing.com. Excellent, excellent, excellent! Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable on plants, animails, everything. This was a wonderful day, but again, wish we had more time.
The last stop was Costa Maya. We took a taxi to Mahajual and layed out, ate fajitas and drank lots of Mexican beer. There was good shopping nearby and beautiful water.
This was a great vacation. It wasn't perfect, but vacations are what you make of it. If something didn't go our way, we were flexible and just moved on. Please let me know if you have any specific questions!
Just a quick side note, wash your hands often. 2 of our cruisers (in different staterooms) came down with virus on the ship and were quarinteened (spelling) to their rooms for 24 hours. After speaking with other travelors, we found out that this illness was going around the ship. We washed our hands often, didn't use the handrails and were stopped eating at the buffet. This seemed to help as no one else got sick.
Have a great time on the valor!