Our first cruise with Carnival Cruise Line was a 7 day, Southern Caribbean cruise that started at San Juan Puerto Rico on July 7, 2014. This was our 30th anniversary gift to ourselves and it ended up being a truly once in a lifetime experience. We were booked on the conquest class cruise ship the Carnival Valor (call sign H3VR) which gracefully sailed us to the tropical islands of St Thomas, Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts and St Maarten. We also had one sea day which provided a wonderful opportunity to explore the ship.
|The Carnival Valor|
We arrived in San Juan the night before our embarkation but, both our flights were delayed and we almost missed our connection. We had one hour between connecting flights and it was just too close. Definitely fly in the day before and have a contingency plan in case your flight is delayed or canceled. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard East Laverde and arrived at our hotel with time for a late dinner on the beach. The next morning we checked onto the ship at 11:00 am. After dropping off our things in our cabin, we left the ship to have lunch in Old San Juan. Our ship wasn’t leaving port till 10:00 pm so we had all afternoon to explore Old San Juan and I highly recommend you take advantage of this time to see this historic Area.
This was our first time on the Carnival Valor and we weren't disappointed. The ship takes its name from Historic American heroes and the decorating in the ship reflects this. When we booked the cruise we opted to not reserve a specific cabin to save money. When we we're assigned our cabin we were surprised to find we had been upgraded to a Spa Balcony room on deck 11. This is as high as the cabins go and we had a fantastic view of every port we stopped at.
The dinning staff accommodated my wife's gluten free diet requirements and she was very happy with the selection of gluten free entrees. Each evening during dinner the maître d would bring her a separate menu so she could pre order her meals for the next day. This worked out very well. One thing that would have been helpful for our active life style would have been a few gluten free options in the diner style restaurant, Rosie’s, which is on the pool deck.
Every morning we would sit on our balcony and watch the ship slide into port as we sipped our morning coffee. After the ship docked we would go down to the Washington dining room for a full bacon and eggs breakfast with pancakes. Then, we would walk off the ship and head into town or meet whatever excursion group we were scheduled with that day. This was our first cruise where we set up excursions without the assistance of the cruise line. This worked out very well and saved us money. We either did an internet search or got suggestions off of the cruise boards on Cruise Critic. One thing I need to mention here is that we did the cruise during the off season and our ship was the only cruise ship in every port we stopped at. There were no crowds anywhere and every outing was with a handful of other passengers. The one exception was St. Kitts. At Saint Kitts we had set up an all day tour with hiking, Snorkeling and lunch. Our guide, Javin met us on the dock and we were his only two clients that day. This was a fantastic very personalized tour. He drove us all over the island. He took us to blow holes in the lava rocks, an abandoned cotton gin, pulled off to cut sugar cane, hiked up a rainforest river, set up a pick nick lunch, snorkeling and free diving on an old wreck, drinks on the beach, and at the end of the day he waved over a fishing boat from which he bought a beautiful assortment of fish for his family dinner that night. This tour was not available through Carnival so that worked out great.
There was no shortage of things to do on the ship. We spent most of the sea day on the lido deck. There were contest, music and dance parties. It was just a very fun atmosphere. In the evenings we would go to a show or to a comedy club. Just lots of fun.
Here a few facts about the Valor. She carries 2,980 passengers and a crew of 1,180. Her maximum cruise speed is 22.5 knots. Six Wartsila diesel engines power two propellers, three bow thrusters, three stern thrusters and one pair of stabilizers.