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Valor Southern Caribbean review with pictures and Fun Times - better late than never

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This is an overdue review of our cruise on Carnival Valor’s May 5, 2013 sailing to the Southern Caribbean out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The reason I finally decided to do this review is because in 2010 I discovered Cruise Critic while doing a search of ideas of things to do at the islands we’d be visiting on our Carnival Glory Eastern Caribbean cruise. While searching for information, which was very helpful, I also noticed many reviews with pictures, started reading them and became addicted. It didn’t matter which ship or itinerary, I read and enjoyed them. In the fall of 2010 I especially started paying attention to the Victory Southern Caribbean reviews since that was an itinerary that we were considering for our next cruise. We didn’t know when at that time, just that it would be on Carnival, out of San Juan, and to the Southern Caribbean, and we were thinking it would be Carnival Victory. In 2012, before we booked, we found out that Carnival Victory was being moved and that Carnival Valor would be taking her place. We booked our cruise in mid-January, 2013, so there were several Valor reviews that started shortly after Valor’s first sailing out of San Juan to the Southern Caribbean itinerary that were VERY helpful to us in planning our cruise. I know from posting pictures and descriptions in the CC Ports of Call section that reviews can be time consuming. I took a lot of pictures and needed to sort through them all then get them loaded into Photobucket. I still don’t know what to expect with a whole review, but I’m going to give it a try. Part of the delay in this review was not only the time it will take, but also that I have read so many great reviews on this itinerary: GAPearl’s, MegnJoe’s, Cra-z-2cruise’s, Leo’s Rule’s, all Valor reviews; and Victory reviews by Dirkgun, deladane, Scraphappylady, and Jennat, just to mention a few. It’s definitely a little intimidating. I recommend checking these reviews out if you have an upcoming Valor cruise that will be sailing before I can finish mine. If you can’t find them, GAPearl’s & Leo’s Rule’s are both still frequently in the first few pages, but the others can be found through the “search” feature. Some of the older Victory reviews had no Sea Days and Dominica was included in the itinerary in addition to going to Antigua instead of St. Kitts.

 

To introduce ourselves, on this cruise it was my DH, who just turned 50, and me, 48. We have no kids. This was our fifth cruise, fourth on Carnival, since 1992. We do a lot of land based vacations with my family and other land vacations with good friends and have gone to the same beaches for years. My family decided to take a break again this year, as they did in May 2010, when we were able to go on our last cruise. Our friends who we’ve vacationed with will be cruising this November, so that left this year free for us. As soon as we found out we had a free year, we got the ball rolling to book this cruise. The reason we chose this particular cruise is because we love Carnival since we’re both laid back and casual and feel more at home with Carnival. The other reason was the itinerary.

 

There will be a lot of pictures and the Fun Times in my review. I’m sure the Fun Times are a little outdated but still may be helpful. I’ll apologize in advance but I do not have any “food porn”, which I know many enjoy. I was planning on getting pictures of the dinner menus, the dishes we had, and even pictures of dishes that we might have off the ship, but that’s where my DH put his foot down and asked me, nicely, to please not embarrass him by taking pictures of the food. I guess that was the least I can do since he agreed to this cruise after some pleading and a little arm twisting on my part and he did ask me nicely. I will try to be as detailed as I can and am also happy to answer any questions as best as I can.

 

I’ll do a quick summary (condensed review) on my thoughts of the ship and ports of call and questions are definitely welcome and I’ll do the best I can to answer them.

 

The ship, Carnival Valor: We loved her! She is a Conquest class ship, same layout as Carnival Conquest, Freedom and Glory. As with all the Conquest ships, the biggest complaint is that you can’t walk from one end of the ship to the other on decks 3 and 4. On our last cruise, we were on Carnival Glory, so we were familiar with the layout and it wasn’t really a problem. You really can’t get “lost”. We really liked the décor, which has a patriotic American theme. The ship was clean and there was always cleaning going on somewhere, just like the other Carnival cruises we’ve been on. The areas of Valor where we spent the most time were Lido Deck 9, Panorama Deck 10, and the Promenade Deck 5. The Fun Shops, casino and many of the bars/lounges are on Promenade Deck 5 and there are also bars/lounges on Atlantic Deck 4.

 

The cabin: We were in Cabin #8331, which is starboard (right side of ship) and was located mid-ship and had a balcony. We were just below the Argonaut Pool bar area, right under the tables by the windows between the doors by the outside grill. There was some noise but it was mainly limited to chairs being moved at the tables. That was no big deal and we didn’t hear it at night when we were trying to sleep. There are mega deck parties on Sunday when leaving San Juan and again on Wednesday when leaving Barbados. Both ports of call have embarking/Debarking. The deck party that was held after Barbados that Wednesday was pretty loud and went on till about 2:30AM. Not a problem for me because I’m a light sleeper and use ear plugs, so I didn’t hear a thing. DH told me about it. The cabin was very convenient, location wise, because we did spend a lot of time up on the lido deck and it was so convenient to just go up or down one set of stairs. We were also near the stairs/elevators, about 4 or 5 cabins down, so they were close but not so close that we got all the noise. What I really liked was we were on the side that was able to see St. Lucia and St. Kitts as we were sailing in. St. Thomas we were heading straight in, but we could see it from our cabin. In St. Maarten, Valor was backed in so we had the better views of the island.

 

Dining: We had late seating (8:15PM) in the Washington dining room, which is the one in the back of the ship. We prefer the late seating because we like to go up to the Lido Deck for a drink after a port day and just enjoy relaxing up there while sailing away from ports of call. The other is the Lincoln dining room. The service was very good and even though our wait staff was busy, they took time with each table and were always smiling, very friendly, and definitely fun. This was a 7 day cruise so there were two cruise elegant (formal) nights, which were Tuesday (the Sea Day) and Thursday (St. Lucia day). We decided to skip both and went to the buffet for dinner at Rosie’s Restaurant on Lido Deck 9 both of those nights. We actually thought the buffet was much improved this time since our last cruise in 2010. The reason we skipped the formal nights was due to the luggage restrictions of $25.00 per checked bag and an additional $100 if the checked bag is over 50 pounds, so we decided we’d eat elsewhere on cruise elegant (formal) nights and leave the garment bag behind.

 

v Dinner the first night: Since Valor doesn’t sail out of San Juan until 10:00PM, I wondered how the dinner was handled since I assumed there would be a muster drill shortly before sail away and with embarkation 2:30PM – 8:30PM. I’ve seen the question asked by others as well. The first night is open seating and dinner is from 5:30PM – 8:30PM, in both dining rooms.

 

Food: We thought all the meals were very good and we were never disappointed. You can’t go hungry on a cruise ship and there will be something to eat 24/7 and that includes room service. They still have the soft serve ice-cream (cones/small dishes) on Lido Deck 9 – always a favorite.

 

 

  • Dinner: I can’t remember what we had each night, but I had the Caesar Salad almost every night as an appetizer. I love their Caesar Salad and can’t get enough of it. The main courses I remember having were the Farfalle pasta with turkey breast and peas; Prime Rib; Braised style short ribs; Macaroni and cheese. On the first cruise elegant night when we ate at the buffet, they had the same food that was served in the dining room and that’s when I had the Spaghetti Carbonera, which is one of my favorites.

 

 

  • Deserts: I’m not big on the rich deserts but have read so much about the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, so I just had to try it. It was very good, but after a few bites the richness of it kicked in and that was enough. DH had it at least three times. He often got more than one desert. I had vanilla ice cream one night and I didn’t really like it. The soft serve up on the Lido Deck is much better. I got the diet lemon cake one night and that was pretty good, but still quite rich. The other nights I had one of the different Sherbets, which are always favorites of mine.

 

 

  • Breakfast buffet: I was pleasantly surprised and thought the eggs were fairly good. They were definitely much better than the eggs that were served in the buffet of our pre-cruise hotel. Now those eggs were watery and tasteless. The bacon and potatoes were also good. Carnival still has the “bacon police”, but if we wanted more bacon than what they gave us, all we needed to do was ask and they gave it to us, without an attitude. I didn’t get the bacon/eggs/potatoes every day and had cereal most days. I’m not one who likes to fill up on breakfast because when I do, I’m ready for a nap and we had places to go and things to do. We went to the omelet station for omelets on our Sea Day and those were very good. I like American cheese in omelets and the day before I saw other people taking pieces of American cheese and asked if they could have that in their omelet. Great idea, so that’s what I did. The pastries they have are very good. There is also a variety of fruit and cereal in the buffet. They also have yogurt, unfortunately its all “diet/low cal” yogurt, which leaves that nasty aftertaste, so I never had it.

 

 

  • Lunch: We ate at the grill every day, mainly out of convenience, and it was either burgers (cheeseburgers for me) or the chicken tenders. There were also hot dogs, fries, potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, tortilla type chips with a cheese sauce and salsa to go with the chips. The cheese sauce was really good on the fries. There are other places to eat during the day like the Fish & Chips (on Deck 10 above Rosie’s Restaurant), the Mongolian Wok, the Pizzeria, and a few others I may be missing.

 

Ship staff: After seeing some negative comments prior to our cruise about staff being hurried and unfriendly, but that was not our experience at all. All of them greeted us with a smile, even those we just passed in hallways or on decks. Our room steward, Camelo, and his assistant I-Putu, were wonderful. Our wait staff (Jorge was our main waiter, but I forget the names of his two assistants) were great and a lot of fun. We can’t say enough about our bartenders at the Argonaut Pool Bar on the lido deck. They were always fun to talk to and very entertaining. A few that I can remember by name were Stiliyan, Benji, and I-Nyoman.

 

Entertainment: We went to two of the comedy shows which we both enjoyed and we also tried two of the trivia games. Since we are originally from the Pittsburgh, PA area, we are huge Penguin fans. The Penguins were in the playoffs, so we spent time in the Bronx Sports Bar, right off the casino, checking on the scores of the games on nights they played. They didn’t show the hockey playoff games, but there was a scroll of game scores for the different sports (mainly hockey, baseball and basketball). There were baseball and basketball games on. With it being a busy itinerary, we generally weren’t up beyond 11:30 or midnight. We’re also not really into shows and never went to any so I have no opinion on them.

 

Passengers: I don’t know if we just lucked out on just this particular cruise or what, but it has to be one of most courteous, friendly, and fun groups of people I’ve ever sailed with. I am well aware that Carnival has the reputation of being for the “Wal-Mart” crowd, with rowdy, pushy, drunken, loud and obnoxious passengers. We really don’t pay attention as to what others are wearing, but didn’t notice anyone dressed out of the ordinary. We’ve cruised with Carnival in the past and the worst we have ever witnessed was the “me, me, me” pushing, shoving and line cutting which just happens to be everywhere, not just on Carnival ships. We see it on a daily basis. At least on a cruise ship, they aren’t behind the wheel of a car. This time we only witnessed that ourselves three times: one line cutter, one pushy woman in an elevator, and one person almost knocking a guy on crutches over on the Promenade Deck while shoving past him. That was it. I’m not saying it didn’t happen more frequently, we just didn’t see it. There were kids on board, all ages, and there were more school aged kids than we thought there would be, but many of them could be home schooled. We never noticed any of the kids running wild or being disrespectful, they were well behaved and with their families. I have no problems being around kids unless they are extremely loud and obnoxious. I was a kid once. Because we don’t have kids, I have no valid input on the Circle C or any of the other kids programs but one of the couples we ended up talking to had a 7 and a 4 year old and their kids loved it. They weren’t there all day, just for an hour or two in the afternoon because it was a family vacation.

 

Itinerary: In my opinion, this is the prettiest itinerary that we have been on and we enjoyed all of the ports of call. What is also nice is that the ship gets into port either at 7:00AM or 8:00AM and none are tender ports, meaning there is no “mass exodus” of everyone trying to get off the ship at the same time. That’s also a big plus during breakfast because everyone isn’t trying to get through the buffet line and trying to find tables at the same time. That makes a HUGE difference. Our last cruise had a tender port and later ports of call, so breakfast was crazy and there were very long lines (took a half hour once) just to get off the ship. None of that this time, just went down and got right off. It is a busy itinerary but well worth it. I am one that prefers more ports to sea days thought.

 

 

  • San Juan: one night pre-cruise at the Courtyard by Marriott - Isla Verde Beach, in which we spent the whole afternoon on the beach. The next day, after boarding Valor, we got off and walked up to Fort El Morro and spent a few hours there. We walked over to Castillo San Cristobal to get pictures of Carnival Valor at the dock, but we didn’t go through it.

 

 

  • St. Thomas: Spent most of the day at Sapphire Beach (eastern end) and then shopping at Havensight Mall. The Skyride to Paradise Point and Paradise Point were closed. Skyride due to road construction and the building at Paradise Point was undergoing major renovations.

 

 

  • Sea Day: Spent a few hours in loungers up on Panorama Deck 10, just above the Argonaut Pool and Seaside Theatre then walked through the whole ship to see everything there was and to get pictures.

 

 

  • Barbados: We got a cab to the Barbados Hilton (south end of Carlisle Bay) and spent most of the day there, finishing up with some shopping at the cruise center shops. Also saw our first “pier runners” there.

 

 

  • St. Lucia: We read so many positive reviews of Spencer Ambrose’s tours and decided to do the “Jalousie Beach Break” tour he offers. In St. Lucia, a must see for us was the Pitons and we especially wanted to go to Jalousie Beach after seeing pictures others have posted. We were very happy with our choice and I have to say this was one of the best excursions we’ve had while on a cruise, if not THE best. Also, St. Lucia is just beautiful and we’d love to go back.

 

 

  • St. Kitts: We decided to take a taxi to Cockleshell Beach and wanted to spend more time there, but it ended up being our rainy day. We did get a few hours in at the beach (very scenic with great views of Nevis) then spent the rest of the day browsing the cruise center shops.

 

 

  • St. Maarten: We booked a private excursion through SXM Tours to Pinel Island, which is in St. Martin, the French side. The excursion included transportation to and from the ship, snorkeling, use of beach chairs and umbrella for the day. I will discuss this later on, in more detail and pictures of Pinel Island, but I also highly recommend this tour.

 

Embarkation: We took a taxi at about 11:45AM from our hotel at Isla Verde Beach and were at the cruise terminal in 20 minutes, went through the line to the luggage porters and dropped off our bags then got in the line for check-in and Sale & Sign cards and only waited a few minutes. Security went very quickly, then another short line for boarding pictures and one more line to get on the ship. We were on Valor and up on Lido Deck 9 having our first Drink of the Day (DOD) by 12:45AM, exactly one hour after leaving the hotel. The embarkation time was listed at 2:30PM, but they were letting people on even before we arrived.

 

Debarkation: We did Self Assist Debarkation since our flight from San Juan was at 12:47PM and we wanted to get to the airport as soon as possible. When we booked the flight, it was originally scheduled to leave after 1:00PM but was changed to the earlier time a few weeks after we booked. I’ve read here on CC that a 1:00PM or later flight is recommended due to long lines at the airport. We were off the ship, in a taxi, and at the airport by 8:15AM and made it to our gate with time to spare.

 

Now for the main part of the review:

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May 4, 2013: Pre-cruise in San Juan

 

We booked our flight this past January right after booking our cruise. We flew on United Airlines since we were able to get a direct flight from Washington Dulles International Airport to San Juan, since Dulles is a United Airline’s hub. There were cheaper flights out of Baltimore, but that is at least an hour and a half away whereas Dulles is only about 20 minutes. We had everything we were taking (one check-in suitcase for each of us, carry-on bag for each of us and the one personal item that I had, which was my camera case), the night before. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:15AM and was supposed to arrive in San Juan at 11:58AM, so we got up at 3:30AM, left our house at 4:45AM and got to Dulles at 5:00AM (funny how traffic, or lack of it, moves at that time of the morning), parked, were through check-in, security, and at the gate by 6:30AM. We had time to grab a bite to eat then boarded on time at 7:39AM and the flight departed right on time.

 

Our plane at the gate at Dulles

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Our gate after our plane backed out

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The flight was smooth but as soon as we got out of our area, we hit clouds so I wasn’t able to tell where we were. When the clouds finally started clearing I could tell we were over the Atlantic.

 

Somewhere over the Atlantic

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Somewhere over the Atlantic flying beside another jet's trail

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I was hoping that it would be clear as the plane was coming into San Juan since I was hoping to see the forts and other recognizable sights, like the cruise ship piers and Old San Juan, from the air. I had a window seat on the left side of the plane. About a half hour before we were scheduled to land, I noticed an island way out ahead and the beautiful shades of the water around it – Puerto Rico! As we were coming into land, we flew right over Old San Juan. I was able to see Fort El Morro, Old San Juan, Castillo San Cristobal and the cruise ship piers but no cruise ships since none were scheduled to be in San Juan that day.

 

Fort El Morro from the plane

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Taken from the plane: Fort El Morro, Old San Juan, cruise ship piers & Castillo de San Cristobal can be seen.

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Our flight landed about 10 minutes earlier than scheduled and we were off the plane, got our luggage from baggage claim and were out front where the taxis were by 12:30PM to get a ride to our hotel. We booked a room at the Courtyard by Marriott – Isla Verde Beach at the beginning of February. The reason we chose the Courtyard was because I wanted to be in a hotel on the beach. I’ve been in San Juan twice before but never got to the beach there. The first time was our honeymoon cruise in 1992 on Festivale and once we got on the ship we didn’t get back off. That time the cruise ships were docked across the bay in an industrial area because they had a fleet of replica Christopher Columbus ships docked in Old San Juan for a 500 year celebration. The second time was in 2010 on Carnival Glory and we did the zip-line excursion through Carnival and had a little time before that to walk around Old San Juan. This time I wanted a beach. After reading reviews and seeing pictures of the Caribe Hilton in the Condado area, I wanted to book there but the price was a lot more than what we wanted to pay for one night. We also looked into pricing of other hotels on the beach in that area and they were also more than what we wanted to pay. We only needed a clean room in a hotel on the beach and decided on the Courtyard. Our taxi driver had us at the hotel in five minutes and we checked in and were in our room on the 8th floor by 12:45PM. Check-in is listed as 3:00PM, but the room was ready. The room was your basic room, but there was a beach view balcony and being on the 8th floor, I thought we had an awesome view.

 

View from our balcony at the Courtyard by Marriott - Isla Verde Beach.

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We got a few pictures from the balcony, changed, and were down on the beach by 1:15PM. There was no charge for the loungers since we were staying at the hotel, but we did have to get one of the hotel’s plastic bracelets and the attendants asked where we wanted our loungers/umbrella and set them up. We also had access to the pool area, but we can go to a pool anytime, we were here for the beach.

 

Pictures of Isla Verde Beach, San Juan:

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Courtyard by Marriott - Isla Verde Beach

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Since I love the water, I was down and in the water a short time later. The beach there had a nice slope from the area where the loungers were to the water, so having your belongings getting wet was not a worry. There were also nice waves and the water was warm. I’m a strong swimmer but I noticed that the undertow was a little strong. It didn’t seem to deter people from going in the water and there were several areas where there were sand bars. I was in water up to my shoulders and looking out I could see people standing in water up to their knees, so I had to go and check the sand bar out. Coming back in is where I could feel the undertow and was having a little trouble getting back in. Easiest fix to that is some good old body surfing, so I caught some nice waves and got right in.

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After a while DH mentioned he thought it was time for a drink. I told him it was about time – I’ve been waiting for a nice, fruity drink on the beach. He went up to the bar and they sent someone out to our loungers with a menu. The gal who brought the menus told us about the flags on the back of the loungers. Flags? There were flags that you put up if you want food or drink service and they’ll come out and take your order. OK, I’m loving this!!! We got our drinks, had a toast to officially being on vacation and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

 

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There is also plenty of shade and nice landscaping right up by the hotel

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This was the best we had for a sunset

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After we finished the fruity drinks, we decided to get a nice, cold beer. At about 5:00PM, we decided to head back up to the room to get ready for dinner. We stopped at the little bar right outside the door and each got another beer to take up with us while we were getting ready. There was a beach grill that we were planning on eating at, but when we were ready for dinner and went down, we discovered that they are only open for lunch. There were several other restaurants open for dinner and we decided on the buffet. Although they look fancy, all restaurants are listed as casual. After dinner we went outside to get a beer at the bar and walked around and looked at the pool area and it looked very nice. They also have a casino but we didn’t go in because we were tired from getting up so early that morning and didn’t want a late night. We finished the beers and got another one to take up and enjoy on our balcony before turning in. I think we were in bed by 10:00PM.

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Day 1 - Sunday, May 5, 2013 – Cruise Day!!!

 

Since our hotel was on the beach, I had hopes of seeing Carnival Valor as she was coming into San Juan. I set my alarm for 5:30AM and got up, went to the balcony but didn’t see any ships, so I went in and made coffee in the little coffee maker in the hotel room. When the coffee was ready, I took it out and sat on the balcony, with my camera and waited, and waited, and waited.

 

At 5:45AM on our balcony hoping to see Valor coming in

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By 6:00AM, still no Valor but she wasn’t scheduled to be in till 7:00AM, so I waited some more. 7:00AM came and still no Valor, so I went back in and DH was just starting to move around. Where was that ship??? I was hoping that I just missed her somehow and that there wasn’t a problem because we’d have no way of finding out.

 

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In the meantime, the beach was calling, so went down for a walk and walked the beach toward the left till the end. There are other nice resorts and condos down in that area but I don’t know which they were since I stayed on the beach. I came back to the room and got another shower (even between 7 and 7:30AM, it was hot) and got ready for breakfast.

 

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We ate in the buffet again but the food was just ok. The scrambled eggs were kind of watery and didn’t have much taste and the bacon wasn’t the best I’ve had. I was really starting to worry because it’s been mentioned so many times here on CC how bad the ships buffet breakfast is. This is what I was expecting on the ship, but I’d find out the next morning for sure. I have to say that the only complaints, and they’re really not complaints, about the hotel were the food. It’s a resort and it’s expensive and I was hoping for a little better for what we paid for. My only gripe though, everything else was great and I’d recommend the Courtyard. We went back up to our room after breakfast to make sure we had everything packed and ready to go. After that was finished, we went out on our balcony and noticed that the water was the prettiest blue color. We went and got our cameras but had to let them adjust to the humidity because the lenses were fogging up. This is something we’d be doing a lot on our cruise so we might as well get used to it. We got a lot of pictures from our balcony once the cameras got used to the humidity then decided to go down to the beach for more pictures.

Pictures from the balcony

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Right outside the elevators are large windows with great views of the beach on one side and the airport on the other, so we got pictures from there before getting an elevator downstairs and down to the beach, one last time.

 

From the windows by the hotel elevators

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This is the only picture I have of the hotel's pool. I took some the night before but they didn't come out too well.

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We were right across the highway from the airport.

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We got the pictures we wanted then went back up to our room to get our luggage and check out. Since I forgot to take pictures of our hotel room earlier, I took a few right before checking out.

 

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We got down to the lobby to check out by 11:30AM but had about a 15 minute wait since everyone else in the hotel seemed to be checking out at the same time. We finally finished and were out the door getting a cab (they were lined up waiting for guests leaving the hotel) at 11:45AM. The ride from the hotel to the cruise pier was about 20 minutes. Our cab driver took another way to avoid his “normal and shorter” route because of the Cinco de Mayo celebration that was going on, causing traffic congestion. My DH was the first to notice the ship and let me know he saw her as soon as he saw the “whale tail” (funnel). OK, Valor is there, but how did she sneak in without me seeing her? It didn’t matter, she was there and people were in line so they were boarding. I wasn’t able to get pictures from where I was in the back of the cab, although I love getting the “first sight of the ship” pictures. The whole boarding process went smooth and fast. It only took about five minutes to get to the luggage porters, about ten minutes to get our Sail & Sign cards and ship maps, went right through security who had everything moving, a few minutes for boarding pictures, then the line to finally get on board Carnival Valor.

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As soon as we got on we headed up to Lido Deck 9 for something cold to drink, like a Funship Special drink of the day. This is the earliest DH and I have ever been on board a ship and we were on so early that we didn’t notice any Carnival bartenders making their rounds with trays of Funship Specials yet, but the Lido Deck bars at the Argonaut Pool (main pool, mid-ship) were open, so we got our Funship Specials and were sitting at a table, enjoying our Funship Specials by 12:40PM.

 

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We got bored sitting there and decided to go up to Panorama Deck 10 to see more. There were several other people also checking things out, but not nearly as many as we’re used to since we’d be sailing away at 10:00PM instead of the usual 4:00PM sail away time. When we were at the railing looking out over San Juan, I noticed another couple taking turns getting pictures of each other so I asked if they’d like me to get one on their camera with both of them in it. They were happy to and offered the same to us.

 

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The Panorama Deck 10 was still very wet in areas, leaving some puddles. I don’t know if it rained where Valor was docked or not, but it wasn’t raining anywhere we were that morning (hotel or cab ride to Valor). I’m guessing it was the cleaning crew and they may have been hosing the outer decks down. There is always some kind of cleaning going on. Every ship I’ve been on, they are constantly cleaning. I’ve love to hire them to come do our house because it would be done and done right. It does appear that they really do keep the ships very clean. Anyway, I noticed this puddle but in the puddle I noticed one of the coolest reflections ever – Carnival Valor’s “whale tail”! I looked down and there it was, so I’m standing there taking pictures of the deck. I’m not thinking, just taking pictures and DH comes up and asks me “what ARE you doing? Why are you taking pictures of the deck?”. I told him he needed to come stand right were I was and look. Once he did, he just said “cool!”.

 

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Zoomed in view from Valor's Panorama Deck 10

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Since it was getting close to the 1:30 “cabin’s are ready” time, we went down to see if we could get in. We had cabin 8331 on Verandah Deck 8. The cabin was located mid-ship, starboard, and had a balcony. We were also located right under the tables right by the Argonaut Pool bar (Lido Deck 9), which would turn out to be very convenient for us. When we got there the cabin was ready so we went in and immediately noticed on the bed the first “Fun Times” and the “Welcome Aboard” letters with a drink coupon that we never did use. We are now “Gold VIPF Club Members” and with the letter were our VIPF Pins! This was the first Carnival pin I received. On our second Carnival cruise on Carnival Miracle, my DH got his, but I didn’t get one. The reason was because I was booked under my maiden name on our first Carnival cruise since it was our honeymoon, the day after our wedding and the reservations were made before the wedding. When we went on Carnival Glory three years ago, Carnival stopped passing out ship pins for repeat guests and only Platinum members got pins. After our Carnival Glory cruise I wrote to Carnival, giving them all the details (maiden name, married name, sailing dates, ship, ports-of-call), and they changed my name over so I’d have credit for three cruises instead of two. We dropped off our carry on luggage, got pictures of the cabin and bathroom (had to get those too), and a few from our balcony.

 

 

 

Our cabin

 

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Balcony chairs & table

 

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I love your review so far. Your photos are wonderful! We arrive in San Juan in 70 days (sail in 72 days) and your summary and photos are getting me excited for our adventure to start!

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San Juan from our balcony

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Looks like some rain is on it's way...

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This was just a small sample of toothpaste, Breathe-right nasal strips, and I forget what else it was because it was just small "sample" type stuff.

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Can't forget the bathroom pictures.

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Our plan was to go to Fort El Morro since we had never been there, so we grabbed our cameras and wallets and got back off the ship. As soon as we got outside the covered area where others were still waiting to board, it started to rain. We got across the street and that’s when it poured and we got soaked. We wanted to get to the fort on that walkway along the water next to the large walls of the fort, but kind of got messed up on directions scrambling around to find shelter. As it was raining, we browsed some of the souvenir shops for something to do. The rain only lasted about 15 minutes and when it stopped, we just headed along the streets up hill and figured we’d find the fort and we did. What a long, hot walk but once we reached the top near the fort, the breeze really felt good.

 

On our walk through Old San Juan to Fort El Morro (I thought this looked really neat)

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I love your review so far. Your photos are wonderful! We arrive in San Juan in 70 days (sail in 72 days) and your summary and photos are getting me excited for our adventure to start!

 

Thank you. I'm sure those 70 days will go by pretty fast. After we booked and while waiting, I thought it would take forever, but that time flew and before we knew it, we were on vacation. I hope you have a wonderful cruise and enjoy it as much as we did. This was one of our best.

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Loving your review so far!! I really love you pictures of the beaches!!! :D I cant wait till its our turn!!

 

Thank you. I'm sure I will have this done before your turn to cruise. :) We LOVE the beach and were at a beach on every island we went to, so I'll have plenty more beach pictures coming up. Happy sailing to you!

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We walked the rest of the way into the fort and got in a short line to pay for admission, which was $3.00, per adult, for admission to the one fort. We could have paid a little more there for admission to both forts but we would only have time for one. After we paid our $6.00 total, we spent the next couple of ours in a real fort. We had forts as kids, but this was the real deal AND it had beautiful ocean views. We walked around, made our way over to the light house, walked around some more then decided to start heading back.

 

The next couple of posts will be of pictures from Fort El Morro

 

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DH in "time out"

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Does not look comfortable but he and a few others were enjoying it. I was worried about this little guy at first, but he was changing positions and he'd just done something funny that we missed that others were laughing at. Made me think about and miss our two "boys" (cats) at home

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The only thing we could see on Valor from up here was the top of "Whale Tail" funnel (it's above the yellowish/tan colored building in the center, on the left side). We were obviously at the wrong spot for the pictures of the whole ship.

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We were on this cruise the week after you. We also stayed at the Courtyard Isle Verde. Your pictures are so similar to mine, I feel like I am back there. Loving this review so far!!

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We were on this cruise the week after you. We also stayed at the Courtyard Isle Verde. Your pictures are so similar to mine, I feel like I am back there. Loving this review so far!!

 

I remember reading your review and LOVED it and I relived our vacation through your review. I sure wish I could go back. Oh, I hope you don't mind, but in the first part of my review your review was one of the ones I recommended for anyone leaving on a Valor cruise before I can finish this one. I'd love to go again.

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Great start!! Thank you for sharing. :)

 

Thank you. I didn't think I'd have time to do a review, but after reading other reviews that I'm sure have taken people a lot of time to do, I decided to make time and share mine for others.

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We were looking for the spot where you can get a picture of the ship from the fort. We could see Carnival Valor, well, we could see her “whale tail” but that was it. It turns out that view is over at the other fort, Castillo de San Cristobal. We walked over to Castillo de San Cristobal and found the spot, got our pictures then started the downhill walk to get back onboard Valor.

 

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We hit a few souvenir shops on the way back so I could look for a Christmas ornament. A friend of mine asked me before we left if I could get her an ornament from each port we went to. She had been to all the places previously but didn’t start collecting the ornaments until recently. I thought that was a great idea because we didn’t want to load up with large items in the first place and ornaments are small, don’t weigh much and don’t take up a lot of room. I never saw an ornament or anything that could pass for one. It was hot, we were thirsty and it was time to get back on Valor and time for another Funship Special. Before getting back on board, I got a few pictures of Valor docked in San Juan.

 

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I had to get a picture of the large, inflatable frog on top of Senor Frogs

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When we first got into our cabin on Valor, the Fun Times was on the bed. I forgot to post it earlier, so here it is:

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Edited by pghsteelerfan

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I remember reading your review and LOVED it and I relived our vacation through your review. I sure wish I could go back. Oh, I hope you don't mind, but in the first part of my review your review was one of the ones I recommended for anyone leaving on a Valor cruise before I can finish this one. I'd love to go again.

 

Don't mind at all!

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When we got back on Valor, we went to the cabin and dropped our stuff off then headed to the Lido Deck for a Funship Special then went down to the cabin and got ready for dinner. We had the late seating (8:15PM) for dinner in the Washington Dining room, but on the first night all dining is open seating from 5:30PM – 8:30PM. We were ready for dinner and went down at about 7:00PM and were at a table with several others. Next to me was a couple from England, next to DH was a gal from the Bahamas, and two other gals who were on their very first cruise. We had a great time and really enjoyed talking with the others. Between dinner and desert they come around with a tray of cordial liquors that are served in a Carnival shot glass that you get to keep. Just like any other drink, it isn’t free and charged to the S&S card. Tonight was the B52 (Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and either Amaretto or Grand Marinier), which I got. I’ve had B52’s before, they are really good and I definitely recommend them. There are four different colors of Carnival cordial “shot” glasses: clear, green, blue, and yellow. That night they were served in the clear one. We finished dinner at 8:30PM and planned to get off the ship and get a night picture of Carnival Valor all lit up but it was raining with not much time left so we went to the cabin and hung out on our balcony. When we got to our cabin, our towel animal a seal (or one of the “naughty” animals) was on our turned down bed with the next day’s Fun Times and chocolates. While on the balcony, we overheard our next door neighbors saying they could see stingrays so we went to look and were able to see them. I tried getting pictures but they didn’t come out. I was able to get a few pictures of Old San Juan all lit up at night.

 

 

 

When we returned from dinner, the next day's Fun Times and our "naughty" towel animal

 

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Pictures of San Juan at night from our balcony

 

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As 9:30 approached, they started the announcements for the muster drill, so we made our way down to our muster station. The muster drill started timely at 9:30 and was over by 10:00 and right after that we went up to the Mega Sail Away Deck party, which started at 10:15PM. We took the stairs up to the Lido deck and got a “Funship Special” then went to the Panorama Deck 10 for a better view. We could feel the excitement as the music was cranked and our cruise director (Jacques) was getting everyone into the party mode. Soon the pilot boats approached and finally we could tell that Valor was backing away from the dock. Lido Deck 9 around the Argonaut pool (mid-ship) and in the Seaside theater area and Panorama Deck 10, right above, were packed and everyone was having a great time. Yes, the music IS loud, but that was part of the fun. I will admit I don’t think it would be fun if I was living or staying in Old San Juan and trying to sleep, but being on the ship during sail away, we were definitely into it. Carnival Valor was instantly transformed into a floating party and we enjoyed every minute of it. We stayed up on Panorama deck 10 for the better views of Old San Juan and Fort El Morro as we sailed away but were also able to see all of the fun and dancing just below us on the Lido deck. We stayed up there until Valor was past Fort El Morro and out in the ocean then went down for one more Funship Special, which we took to our cabin to have on our balcony. We finally called it a night when those were finished since it was almost 1:00AM. The deck party, which was basically right above us (remember, our cabin was right below the tables along the windows at the Argonaut Pool bar), was quickly winding down. We were afraid that the noise from the party would keep us up, but once we got into bed we had no problems sleeping.

 

 

 

Pictures of the Mega Sail Away Party and of San Juan as Valor was leaving:

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The cruise pier that Valor just left

 

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Great detailed review so far , we did this same itinerary last year on the victory , and we are doing it again this time on the valor in 2 weeks

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Im loving your review! We will be back on the Valor in just 23 days! (The first time was in 2011). Im so excited for these ports and your pictures are amazing and making me even more excited! =)

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