Carnival Valor – Day One – Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27, 2011

Carnival Valor-Western Caribbean.  Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan (Honduras) and Cozumel.

Spring Break time, means cruising for me, and hubby is on this trip.   Headed out on Saturday, March 26 and  stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites Cruise Port South.  It was OK—pretty expensive for a Comfort Inn as its Spring Break in FL.  Got our complimentary breakfast, loaded the car and headed out to buy water and last minute things such as sunscreen around 10am.    Fortunately there was a Kmart by the hotel, so no problems getting what we needed.

Got on our way south on I-95 around 10:30am.  Everything Ok for a few minutes and then we ended up in some horrible traffic.  Decided to get adventurous and exit the highway and head east to US1, and go to downtown Miami.  Interesting area—and certainly not Indiana!  I had to buy a Sunpass transponder for tolls, and fortunately we passed a Publix.  I pulled in and got the device and we headed further to Miami.  Now we had to get gas in the car—and finding a gas station in downtown Miami was an issue.  Turned on the Droid and with the map feature and Google we finally found one.  Then we located the rental agency, unloaded again, and pondered how to get to the ship.

Hertz in downtown Miami runs a shuttle to the cruise port, but its packed with people.  Since the ships were only about two miles to the port I wanted a taxi.  DH thought we should do the shuttle (probably didn’t want to pay for a taxi) but along came a taxi and we hopped in.  Ten minutes later we were at the pier dropping off our luggage—it was about 12:15pm.

Lots and lots of people at the port and the security line for port entrance was like Orlando International Airport.  Lots of people getting liquids inspected, and since we had a case of water I figured we would also be pulled over for a bag inspection.  After about 15 minutes we made it through security; DH stayed with the security guy as all of our water was inspected for contraband alcohol.  (Carnival has a pretty strict alcohol policy and lots of stuff was being pulled out of people’s bags.)  DD and I went into the terminal and got a boarding group:  #33.  Eh, going to be a while until we got on that ship!

Finally we boarded around 1:15pm, and headed to the Lido deck for lunch.   The kids had gone ahead of DH and me and found the table and oddly enough we found them pretty quickly.  The buffet on Carnival is pretty good:  there is a deli, Mongolian BBQ, burrito bar, pizza/burgers, and carved meat/hot food area.  There is also a separate dessert station.

No complimentary soda on the ship, so its iced tea, water, or lemonade.  We got food, and DS and I ended up with Mongolian BBQ.  DS got adventurous and selected the Thai BBQ sauce—and it was incredibly spicy.  I had the black bean sauce, and my meal was excellent.  We got DD a chicken burrito, and again, it was pretty good (and I think it was a whole wheat tortilla too).  Desserts were pretty good, and what I liked was that someone was slicing the cakes and cheesecake.  So rather than take an entire piece I could tell them that I wanted a little bit—and no feeding fish with the leftovers.  Besides the Mongolian BBQ, the best thing was the Dulce la Leche cheesecake, and a chocolate mint cake.  Really, really good!

Finally we went to our stateroom, which is #1103 on the Spa Deck.  I booked this area because it is 100% non-smoking and in a pretty quiet area.  A plus to being 10 feet from the spa is that it smells incredibly good in the hallways!  Unfortunately getting to the stateroom requires some thought because there is no passthrough on Deck 11; have to go down to Lido and across and then up.

We wandered around for a bit and did the safety drill at 3:45pm or so.  This was the first safety drill where no one paid attention to anything.  There was so much chatter that I couldn’t hear the briefing.  None of the crew told anyone to be quiet, so I guess they didn’t care.  After the safety drill I went to the internet café to sign up for my first hundred dollars of internet.  On embarkation day if you sign up they give an extra 20 minutes.  Woo Hoo!!  Any extra time is good.  Visited the Java Café and got a chocolate mocha to share with DD, which was pretty tasty.  So good lunch and good coffee so far.  Also signed up for a seat at the Chef’s Table in the Galley on our Belize night .  At $75 per person we spend 2.5 hours in the galley during the busiest time of night.  I’m really looking forward to this event.

Dinner was at 6pm and it is was “come as you are” night.  Carnival seems to have thrown in the towel regarding the dress code—its not as formal as it used to be.  There are no more Formal Nights—they call it “elegant night.”  On Elegant Night, no shorts, t-shirts, beach flip-flops, swimsuits, cutoffs,  jeans, sleeveless shirts for men, sportswear or baseball hats.  So basically as long as you don’t look like a slob you’re good to go—or you can dress up too.  The rest of the dress code is “Cruise Casual”.  For gentlemen it includes sports slacks, khakis, jeans, dress shorts (long), collared shirts.  For ladies its cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses.   There are two “elegant nights” on this cruise, both sea days.

Dinner was pretty good.  I had fruit, shrimp cocktail, and flatiron steak with peppercorn sauce for my entrée as did DD.  DH and DS had sweet & sour shrimp, which was tempura fried and the sauce served separately.  Everyone really liked their meal.  My previous experience on Carnival was positive regarding meals, and so far, so good.

After dinner I headed towards the shops.  Everyone else walked around.  Shopping on the ship is pretty good, and I picked up some Lancome makeup and Clinique soap at a good price.  Met up with DH and the kids—and he was talking to someone.  Since my family is not as social as me I was pretty surprised!  Turns out DH met up with one of his Air Force coworkers from before he retired.  They chatted a bit and we all walked around some more, ending up in a lounge area by the casino.

The casino on the Valor is good sized—but not as big as the Liberty of the Seas or the Crown Princess.  The bar area in the Casino was non-smoking.  Only smoking areas on this ship are the Casino, Lindy Hop Piano Bar, One Small Step Dance Club, Bronx Sports Bar and the starboard side of the open deck only.  Cigars are limited to the Cigar Bar.  I have not encountered any smoking today.

We went to the theatre for trivia, and were pretty bored.  Lasted about 30 minutes in there until we left.  Came up to the stateroom and turned on the TV, which has a pretty good selection of network TV.  Cruise lines pay the networks for the privilege to carry the channels, and I’m pretty impressed with Carnival’s options.

Too tired for the show tonight at 10:15pm, so it was time for bed.  Next day is “Fun Day At Sea”.

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