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Valor Vacation Review Dec 1-8 (+2 days in Old San Juan) PHOTOS!


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A little background.

 

I like cruising quite a bit because I consider myself an island hopper. I enjoy sampling as much of the Caribbean as I can. That said, I had already sailed both of Carnival's Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries and a Royal Caribbean itinerary which was more like a Central Caribbean itinerary. I had been looking pretty hard at Carnival's Southern Caribbean itinerary when the Victory was sailing the route. When news came that Victory was swapping ports with Valor I was sold. I've seen the Valor sail out of Miami twice and I had a gut feeling the second time was going to sail on it.

 

Alright. Fast-forward to 7 months ago. I was just about ready to book a solo cruise for myself on the Valor. It came to me though that my mother had been talking about how badly she needed a vacation. I mentioned to her that I was planning this and she should consider. I honestly had no intention of cruising with anyone at first, but she's my mom. I don't consider myself a mama's boy, but she raised me and my brother as a single mom and we both admire and adore her for it. After a couple weeks she told me she wanted to go and we got the ball rolling from there. It was really a good thing she came. Mostly because she has hardly been outside the continental US, but also for reasons I'll get into later.

 

Fast-forward again to a couple weeks ago and I couldn't be more ready to take vacation. This was going to be great.

 

*I have some pretty sweet photos from this trip I'll post up. Not many from San Juan though, unfortunately.*

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PRE-CRUISE DAY 1

 

This day started really early for me at 5 am. It might have started earlier though as I was pretty stoked about the trip. I couldn't wait to get on the plane.

 

6:30 am rolled around. The taxi showed up, and took us to the airport. We waited while JetBlue did a tango with their airplanes on the apron and then boarded the plane that became ours. I went baller-mode and booked seat 1A. On JetBlue this is an "extra leg room" seat which cost some more money. Seeing as how the flight was almost 4 hours from D.C., I was more than happy to pay a little extra for it.

 

Here is the legroom for seat 1A. *NOTE* No seat in front for you to put a backpack under.

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The flight was pretty smooth. The seats were comfy and I watched a couple movies on my iPad when I didn't sleep.

 

About 2/3 through the flight, I looked out the window to see what looked like a cruise ship. It looked so small, but after checking my ship mate app, it turned out to be Royal's Allure of the Seas!

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As we were coming into San Juan, I noticed there were quite a lot of clouds which looked like they were heading towards the city. Fortunately we were able to see Old San Juan as we were approaching the air port. It looks so small from the plane (but is a lot of walking on the ground).

 

We landed in what was a sunny San Juan and caught a cab over to the Sheraton right by the pier we'd be leaving from in the coming days. Along the way we passed by Royal's Explorer of the Seas as she was backing out to leave. I had just seen this ship leave NYC earlier in the week over the webcam. Cool!

 

Once at the Sheraton we made our way up to the suite we booked. It offered a bedroom and a living-room space with a fold out. It had a very small balcony that looked out over the piers and I could wake-up with the Valor right outside. Mom would crash on the bed. I took the fold-out which wasn't too terrible. The only things I didn't like about the Sheraton was this odd odor in the room. It was hard to describe, not really mold or B.O. but something organic-stinky. Didn't pay it too much mind. The real issue were the noisy cabbies that parked outside. Loud music and shouting which I didn't mind at some hours, but did when it was 2, going on 3 a.m.

 

View from our balcony

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That afternoon it became a little overcast and eventually rained a couple times. This unfortunately set the tone for the rest of our time in Old San Juan. We made the best of it, visiting some cool places, but the rain really just didn't quit and when it did, it picked right back up again shortly after.

 

The first night we dined at Barrachina and watched live flamenco dancing. The food, service, atmosphere, and performance were awesome. Pedro was an excellent waiter. I highly recommend it if you have a chance.

 

Flamenco dancing (there were 4 performers. 3 girls, 1 dude).

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We walked around a little more afterwards, but being up at an early hour, it was time to pass-out. Called it a night around 10.

Edited by seannyice81
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PRE-CRUISE DAY 2

 

Woke up fairly early to rain.

 

We had some rather expensive breakfast at the Sheraton's restaurant. The food was marginal but it was convenient. I just wanted an easy morning.

 

Afterwards we headed to the free-trolley stop to catch a trolley over to El Morro. We waited, and waited, and waited. Finally one came up, but it was more like a street-car-bus than the open-air, bendy-bus that I had been on before. Turns out it was the wrong free trolley as it only circled through a portion of Old San Juan but not up to El Morro. We jumped-off at a stop that was nearest to Castillo de San Cristobal. I paced myself so not to outpace my mom who was doing her best with the hills. Once we made it to the Castillo, we looked around for a while, took a bunch of photos and then went to walk to El Morro.

 

"Oh look!, there goes a bendy-bus free trolley!" Turns out, they come around less often then they used to. Well, now we know we'll have to wait extra long for one.

 

We wound up walking to El Morro, and it was then the skies opened up. downpours and wind. I got soaked, mom got soaked. Umbrellas were useless against the wind. A group of Japanese tourists huddled inside one of the small fort lookout structures, laughing their butts off. We were laughing pretty good too. The poncho my mom had on was blowing up and over her face doing nothing to really keep the rain off her. It let up a little once we were inside El Morro and the sun came out for 5 mins. NOTE

Those of you who have difficulty with stairs should not descend to the lower outside levels of El Morro. My mom had a tough time coming back up.

 

More rain came again though and it didn't stop. We decided to get some late lunch/early dinner at Cafe Puerto Rico BAD IDEA. When we finished the rain really started pouring and then turned into an all out monsoon. We tried to check out some of the souvenir joints in Old San Juan but were eventually washed back to our hotel room (sandbags were being put out).

 

It rained so much that sewer lids became dislodged.

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We ran over to the CVS a little later but called it an early night as the rain kind of killed things. I thought about the casino in the hotel, but didn't want to blow any money before the cruise.

 

I turned into the hotel room and watched as Celebrity Summit, Jewel of the Seas, and Grandeur of the Seas sailed away.

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CRUISE DAY 1

I tossed and turned most of the night. Having hardly slept, I woke up with a pounding headache and nausea. GO FIGURE! It was the day I had to sail. As the morning continued it got worse and worse. I then found out Paul Walker died. I was honestly pretty sad about it. Being a car enthusiast myself and fan of the "family" from the Fast & Furious franchise, I was a fan. I also admired his work with Reach-out Worldwide. He was a pretty good guy from my buddy who worked with him as a stunt man. R.I.P. Paul Walker.

 

Getting back to my nausea, it just kept getting worse. I looked out and saw the Valor docked at the pier and told myself. "Damn it! You're going to make this cruise! If not for you, you're not going to prevent your mom from going!" She was starting to get worried and asked if I thought we could make the ship in time to book Behind the Fun. I felt pretty bad though. Guts bubbling, head bumpin', and some dizziness.

 

The Valor in port. Who could say "NO" to this?! DLSR pic ;)

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I made a big decision then. I then forced myself to "get sick." I had to get out whatever was doing this to me so that Mom and me could get on the boat!!! Boy, was it unpleasant. After "getting sick" several times and taking some alka seltzer I started feeling a lot better. Turned out I had food poisoning from the stupid fish salad I had at the stupid Cafe Puerto Rico. Hate that place now!

 

Felling much better now, we made our way down to the pier to get into the terminal. The terminal opened a little after 10:30 that morning. there was a little bit of a crowd waiting in disorganized "lines" to get in.

 

Once in we proceeded to the FTTF line which was a breeze. After checking in, we waited............ and waited! The coast gaurd was doing an inspection prior to this particular cruise and it pushed boarding back to past 12. Nobody at the terminal made any announcements about it though and the place started getting pretty packed. Seating isn't nearly as plentiful as the Miami terminals. I just really wanted to get on the boat and get situated after the very rough morning.

 

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Edited by seannyice81
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CRUISE DAY 1, CON'T

 

Mom and me were really ready to get on the ship once they announced boarding after 12:30. To catch-up a little they allowed some FTTF guests to board with Platinum and Diamond guests (sorry guys!). Mom my was getting a little tired from standing so I took the opportunity. We heading inside and headed right to the Shore Excursions desk. I booked Behind the Fun for my mom and I and then we proceeded to our neighboring balcony cabins (7216-Mom, 7220-Me). We were a little bummed though when we realized that we couldn't open our balcony divider. Turns out if the balcony doors are next to each other, the divider will block one, which is not allowed. Bummer, but oh well.

 

We grabbed some quick lunch in Rosie's lido cafe. I ate a really small amount as I was sick only just a few hours earlier. I had to work my way back up. The sun started coming out and it was great to see it.

 

Feeling drained from the night and morning, I took a nap for a while to let my body catch up. Man, did I need it.

 

I woke up a little later to party cloudy skies. I grabbed my DSLR and walked around, shooting photos of the Valor mostly.

 

 

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Lastly, the view of the bridge wing from my balcony Cabin...

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This was my first cruise on a non-2.0 Conquest Class. I get more into the differences in my Sea Day post.

 

We ate in the dining room that evening. Both dining rooms were open seating (anytime dining) that night. Afterwards we went exploring the ship again. When I say that, what I really mean, is I showed Mom around as I had been on other Conquest Class ships before. She then went and unpacked, while I spent some time people watching.

 

Muster drill came at 9:30. It was one of the more difficult ones as Mom had difficulty standing for longer periods of time. If she stood in the back and rested against the railing she couldn't see. If she moved up, she had back pain from standing still unsupported for so long. It seemed like a long time, but it finally finished and we headed over to secret deck 7 for sail away. It was very nice. Not a lot of people (I kind of missed the deck party though). The front of the ship is not lit at night, so we saw everything once our eyes adjusted. There were now clear skies and once out of port we could see many stars.

 

Mom went to bed after that. I stayed up to get into the shop to buy a ship shaped Valor magnet for my tool box at work (to go with my Liberty, Glory, and Independence of the Seas magnets). I'm an auto technician. My $10,000 Matco tool box is filled with many expensive tools and parts. The thing I like most about it are the magnets I have from islands, ships, and beer caps (from these islands). No photo of this though.

Edited by seannyice81
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CRUISE DAY 2, ST. THOMAS

 

Day 2 started pretty early. Most days did really.

 

We had ordered room service early because we wanted to be off the ship early. We wanted to taxi over to Red Hook Bay, then take the water taxi over to St. John. I forget what time we arrived in port but it was indeed early.

 

Pulling into Havensight pier at St. Thomas.

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Being prepared and with all our stuff together, we headed down to deck zero once we saw that the mooring lines were all tightened. This was really cool timing wise because we were the first guests off the boat. I let my mom go first down the ramp so she could have bragging rights but it was pretty cool. Vendors and taxis were still getting setup. We grabbed a cab with a pretty cool cabbie and made our way over to Red Hook Bay. I already knew much of the Virgin Islands history, but our cabbie gladly went through history and pointed out some sights to my mom on the way. I was still a little sleepy so I just let Mom enjoy what he had to say. We stopped at the water taxi terminal and waited maybe 10 mins, then boarded Caribe Time to take us to St. John.

 

I've been to St. John (this time now) 3 times. I always head to Trunk Bay and Cruz Bay. Its an awesome island with a small town kind of feeling where it seems everyone knows each other. Once we arrived we grabbed a truck taxi to Trunk Bay. None of the shops in Cruz Bay were open yet for Mom to look around. I've shown Mom my photos of Trunk Bay and she was not disappointed when we arrived. Because we arrived so early there was no gate guard and with the exception of a couple people, there was hardly anyone else.

 

Trunk Bay

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Crowds started showing up around 10. Carnival and Princess cruise excursions showed up around then as well. I wouldn't say the place was crowded, but it was getting a little busy. I wanted to snorkel the the underwater trail again, but it was starting to rain a little. Mom was looking to head back to Cruz Bay to check out some of the shops and get lunch.

 

Once back in Cruz Bay, Mom looked around some of the shops while I set about finding a cool t-shirt. We stumbled upon a shop being run by this pretty cool lady from Texas. She was great to talk to about living on the island but man, was she chatty. I really wanted to get some lunch! We wrapped up the convo and headed over to The Beach Bar for lunch after realizing most of the other places were only open for dinner. I should have just gone there in the first place. I had their awesome Beach Bar Nachos and 1 of both their signature drinks. Mom had their fish & chips which she said were delicious. I then bought one of their t-shirts for a buddy who I was there with for a bachelor party trip.

 

After lunch we headed back to St. Thomas. We went back to the ship where mom headed to her cabin for a while. I went back off the ship and walked around for a while looking for some of the familiar places. Gone, was the Hubbly Bubbly where I got sick from inhaling too much shisha on the bachelor party trip. Some of the other bars were still there though. Walking back to the ship I witnessed two locals having a fairly minor car accident (look booth ways before pulling into traffic!).

 

I thought about taking the cable cars up to the vantage point, but it was starting to get close to time for everyone to get back. I made my way back onto the ship and made myself at home on my balcony with a Pina Colada. It was nice. Docked at the pier was Fountainhead. The yacht owned by the founder of Oracle. Staff were running all over it. Probably the largest and most extravagant yacht I've seen. Mom then came out onto her balcony. It was perfect timing too as she saw a sea turtle surfacing in the harbor next to the piers. She was thrilled.

 

The ship blew its horn to get the tardy guests back. We had a couple pier runners (probably from Senor Frogs). Afterwards we sailed away, bound for Barbados with one day at sea.

 

Sailing away from St. Thomas (after the party)

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That night we ate in Scarlett's Steakhouse. There were a group of obnoxious drunks seated 2 tables away from us. One of the other tables complained and the steakhouse supervisor came over to ask them if they could tone it down. Thankfully, they did for a while. Mom enjoyed her meal and I over-ate. Whoops. No ridiculous cheesecake though. Afterwards, Mom grabbed an ice cream then headed to her cabin for the night. I walked around to people watch some more. I wanted to meet up with some others my age, but didn't make it to the opening of the dance club. I crashed shortly before 10.

 

Sorry for the lack of photos from the Virgin Islands. I will make it up to you though, tomorrow. Barbados and St. Lucia are picture heavy.

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.

.

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Con't tomorrow.

Edited by seannyice81
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I can't wait to see if you also did the Gros Piton climb in St. Lucia. I remember you posting about it on the St. Lucia board. :D

 

Stay tuned. St. Lucia will be posted later this evening when I get off work :)

 

Sweet, I subscribed.

 

I'll be there with the family in 3 days!

 

:)

 

You and anyone else waiting for this cruise will really enjoy it. Its a little busy itinerary wise, but you'll get a lot out of it!

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I'm on the Valor in 31 days. I can't wait to see your pictures of the islands and what you did.

 

I hope some day my sons will cruise with me, especially when I don't have to pay their way :)

 

I hope they do as well. I'm very happy to have cruised with my Mom.

 

Great Photos and Review...and very interesting on the Flamenco Dancers...thanks. :):):):)

 

Welcome. There are a few other places besides Barrachina that have flamenco dinner shows, but I'm fairly certain Barrachina has the best.

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CRUISE DAY 3 - AT SEA -sorry, no photos for this day.

 

This morning began a little earlier than my body wanted it to, and Mom said she was in the same boat (har har). We had to be up a little early to have breakfast and for her to be ready in time for our Behind the Fun tour. I was regretting my gluttony a little from the steakhouse the night before. I was just fine once I took an Imodium though and we headed off for the tour.

 

The tour started at 8:45am in the library. I snacked on a couple of the cookies and juice they had setup for the group. Our guide came around at exactly 8:45 (Please forgive me, I'm TERRIBLE with remembering names). I can't remember her name but she was very understandable and efficient. She handed us each lanyards with large passes on them after completing our short roll call. We then headed off to begin the tour. She told us there is a lot of walking with the tour and she was right. I was good for it, but it was a stretch for Mom. Be warned, if you can't be on your feet for longer periods, you may have a tough time with this tour.

 

The tour began as we headed to the lower decks of the ship. First stop was the bow of the ship. This was normally a crew only area. I was thrilled to be there because its generally my favorite part of the ship. Some crew were indeed out there having a break (some, a smoke break, don't be surprised). We learned how heavy the spare anchor is. I forget just how heavy it was but my guess was WAY off. I was surprised that sucker didn't weigh down the bow more! Continuing on from there, we visited the stage and did some Q&A with the entertainment staff. They were very informative and more than happy to answer questions. It was neat to see all the different things that could be done with the stage and all the different costumes for the dancers/singers. We also learned of the multiple duties everyone had in that particular department. They are busy. From there, we went below to the crew and "business" decks of the ship. We walked along the "I-95" of the ship. We found (but didn't look inside) the brig and morgue.

 

Continuing on, we worked our way to the engine control room. I laughed a good bit because one of the crew had placed a Ferrari sticker in good humor next to the ship's speedometer (which reads knots). The engineer gave us an excellent breakdown of what controlled what as best as he could through his heavy Croatian accent. Pretty cool guy with a neat job. In the control room there, were video monitors displaying the actual ships generators (which are pretty big).

 

We continued through the gangway area on deck 0, into the galley, laundry, rooms, and crew areas. One of the chefs showed some of us how to make flowers from veggies. The crew cafeteria really reminds me of an American diner. We walked through the galley and ascended the then stopped escalators to the upper level of the mid ship dining room (Lincoln). We took a break for a little bit.

 

The bridge was the best part of the tour. looking at the controls was awesome and meeting the officers was a privilege. They have an AWESOME view out of the bridge. Particularly from the wings. NOTE Don't do anything embarrassing on you balcony, because chances are they would see you. The captain wasn't present at the time but did greet us shortly after. I think he might have been taking a nap, or been busy in his office. We took a group shot (while I'm the only dummy not looking at the camera, dang). Then exited the bridge.

 

The tour wrapped up in Scarlett's Steakhouse. We were offered some drinks. We completed a survey and we got some swag from Carnival. Our swag included a travel bag, cap, arm band, lanyard, and recipe for warm chocolate melting cake. One of the crew also carved us each this cool swan out of a bar of soap. It was a great time that was well worth the 90-something dollar price and lasted just shy of 4 hours. When I returned to my cabin, they also left each of us chocolate covered strawberries and cookies.

 

The rest of the day went rather fast. I got a couple of drinks and we enjoyed the rest of the day at sea.

 

Drawing on my previous 2.0 ship cruises I have to admit I like the updated lido bar setup on those ships. The hot tubs in the middle of the deck seemed a little odd to me too, but I never used them. I missed Guy's Burgers and Blue Iguana Cantina, but there were still good lunch options. The burrito bar's food was almost as good as Blue Iguanas, but not quite.

 

That evening we skipped-out on elegant night and had dinner in Rosie's lido café. It was pretty decent and not too crowded when we went. We then went to see Night Club Express in the Ivanhoe theater. It was dated but was still entertaining. I stayed up a little later, visited the club, and then walked around for a while before crashing.

 

This evening... BARBADOS and ST. LUCIA! Stay tuned!

Edited by seannyice81
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