August 2015 - Carnival Valor to Caribbean - Western
I cruised with my sister for her 40th birthday. I usually do all inclusives and do not cruise so there were some great things to highlight but some disappointments.
First off, the entertainment was wonderful, there was always something to do. We loved the comedy club, theater, movie nights on the deck and bands. There was never a lack of entertainment and many times we found we had to choose. Dinner and food was great, all we did was eat! Our dining room experience in the Washington Dining room was awesome, shout out to HANA who was a fabulous server. We even took pictures with her to make sure we always remembered our experience. We loved that they had dinner shows also in the dining room, nice touch. Again we always could find something to eat no matter what time it was. Lobster and shrimp were to die for! Most anything you wanted you could find... The disappointments came to drinks. Being used to all inclusive where drinks are included (and I am not only talking about alcoholic drinks because I rarely drink, I am discussing soda or iced brewed tea) I was disappointed that everything was a charge outside of lemonade or water which I found was ridiculous for what I paid for the cruise (about same price for all inclusive except all drinks, alcoholic and nonalcoholic were included in all included). So we found ourselves limited to lemonade and water for most of the week, which again was ridiculous for the price of the cruise itself. All nonalcoholic Drinks should be included and then if they wanted to charge for alcohol, then I feel that is their choice. My other biggest complaint is our room was on Deck 1, and there was nothing near there to drink and the mini bar (even bottled water) costs so we found ourselves having to go to Deck 9 before turning into the room at night and gathering as much water as we could carry before returning to the room every night. (This again was crazy, my suggestions would be the mini bar nonalcoholic drinks should be included or they put a water and ice station on every floor just like a hotel to make it convenient for guests on the ship). This became a hassle and made me always feel like the all inclusive is a better option than cruising as I can open the mini bar, choose whatever I want on a resort and its included! When you are on vacation and spend money on a nice one, and you are off work, you want conveniences and I just did not find that on the cruise ship.
As far as excursions, Honduras was our favorite stop, beautiful and I will definitely be going back there to stay in an all inclusive in the future (Horseback riding excursion is unbelieveable, TIP: bring bug spray and get your own guide, ours took so many memorable photos). Belize was nice as well (River Rafting was fun and our guide was nice) and Cozmuel (turtle cove snorkeling and cave swimming/snorkeling was nice- guide Jose was GREAT). Very Disappointed with Costa Maya and honestly I am not even sure why the ship stops there (Everyone we spoke to complained about this stop-lack of things to do and the things people did do were disappointing such as beach excursion etc). Not a place I would visit again! This should be removed from the stop on Carnival unless it is built up.
Our room was very nice and always cleaned several times per day with turndown service, a nice touch! We loved coming back to the room at night to find towel animals left for us! Again another nice touch. We stayed on Deck 1 with oceanview which was also nice.
My suggestions- wear a watch- time is very confusing as ship time is different than island times (I was constantly asking what time it was). Bad ideas on Carnival- The first day Carnival decided to let everyone off the ship at the same time in Cozmuel and due to waiting over an hour and a half to get off the ship- we almost missed our boat to our excursion (had to run and that was not relaxing at all)- That did get better with each stop though. They learned how to let us off. In Belize it required us to take a boat from the middle of the ocean as the island is protected by a barrier reef so the ships cannot dock near it.
All in all a nice trip for my sister's birthday and we did get to see a lot of places, but probably cruising is not for me in the future unless they change some of the items which are costly as outside of paying for flights and the cruise itself. Not including money spent enjoying things such as shopping, it costs another $1,000 for drinks (and maybe 6 alcoholic drinks the entire 8 days) etc on ship which costs me probably double what I typically end up paying for an all inclusive resort which appears to be more relaxing and truly a "no worry" trip as all is truly included.