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Cruising 101: Day One Carnival Valor

I have received a complimentary cruise in exchange for sharing my honest views of my experience aboard the Carnival Valor

Today was our first “official” day aboard the Carnival Valor for our Southern Caribbean cruise.  We docked in St. Thomas this morning just before we all woke up, and I am so happy that there more changes to cruising, even from when I last cruised not that long ago.

Cruising 101: Day 1 St. Thomas

St. Thomas is no longer a tender port.  In fact, none of the ports on our itinerary are tender ports.  It used to be that the ship would “dock” at sea and then boats from the ship would ferry passengers back and forth from the ship to land.  You can imagine the fun of trying to manage that trip with almost three thousand people wanting to get to land now.  Instead, the ports have been dredged so that the cruise ships can dock right on the pier and passengers can simply walk off.

In St. Thomas, you can just walk off the ship

Our plan for the day was to head to St. John’s, a nearby island.  St. Thomas is very commercial and shopping focused, while the wee ones and I would prefer to spend our time on beaches, exploring and snorkeling.  We had decided against booking a tour and instead planned to take the ferry to St. John’s.  It’s $6 per person for adults and $1 for children each way, fairly reasonable we thought.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t accounted for the taxi to the ferry dock.  I had remembered incorrectly from my last visit that it was within walking distance.  Unfortunately, it’s $10 per person to get to the dock.  All told, the cost to get to and from St. John’s for six people would have been $172.  We weren’t willing to pay that much, and I really regretted not signing up for one of the shore excursions that Carnival offered to get to St. John’s.

The good news is that after wandering St. Thomas and exploring the shops for a little bit, we decided to drop all our beach gear back aboard the ship and head to the butterfly garden that is two minutes from the pier.  The weather gods weren’t smiling on us and decided to play a tropics trick on us.  By the time we made it back down to the 0 deck to disembark, it was pouring rain.

Pouring rain in St. Thomas

Needless to say, we were more than a little grateful that we hadn’t decided to go to St. John’s.  Instead, we waited out the rain aboard the ship, but each time it looked like it was stopping and going to be sunny, another shower would come through.  The good news is that there is plenty to do aboard ship, even when it’s raining.

The wee ones had a blast at Camp Carnival.  They played there for awhile in the morning before lunch.  They made sure I remembered that the build a volcano activity began at 3pm so they were waiting at the door for that.  They stayed for bingo, where they each won a medal for playing, then hung out and played games before I picked them up.

In between the Camp Carnival activities, we managed to have a wonderful lunch at Rosie’s Restaurant where both the wee ones discovered new vegetables they loved at the Mongolian Wok.  I also promised them that they could go swimming even if it was still raining, provided that there was no thunder or lightning.  Lucky them, they got to swim in pouring down rain – and they had a blast.  It was a great opportunity to make new friends, and they’ve arranged to meet Sandra at the pool after breakfast tomorrow.

Pouring rain doesn't stop the swimming fun on Carnival


On a more practical note, with all the rain and the exposed decking, I was surprised to see how hard staff worked to keep the decks clear of water and safe to walk on.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised given the level of attention we see everywhere else on Carnival Cruise Lines, but the wooden decks easily could have been a slippery mess.  Instead, crew members were constantly squeegeeing off the decks and moving the standing water away to keep it safe – and trust me, there was a lot of water.

The crew were constantly squeegeeing water off the decks

My husband also headed over to one of the trivia tournaments, and not a surprise to anyone who knows him, he won the tournament and came away with a fun trophy shaped like the Valor.  He’s also spent time reading at the pool and can’t wait until the wee ones head to bed and he can go spend some more time in the casino playing poker.

On the parent side, we were happy to find that there are plenty of deck areas that are sheltered from rain.  While the wee ones were in Camp Carnival in the morning, we hung out on the top deck’s comfortable couches that are under a balcony.  We also discovered the adults only pool that just happens to be under glass and completely impervious to weather.  While the wee ones were disappointed to find they can’t swim there, the open air (rain?) swim worked just fine for them.

We needed to shower and change for dinner, but the wee ones weren’t ready.  They wanted to continue hanging at Camp Carnival or at the very least swimming.  We insisted, however, as we discovered last night now quickly they tire from all the activity after dinner.  And tonight’s dinner was amazing.  Again, Servana knew exactly what Little Miss wanted to eat for her dairy free dinner, and Elton stopped by our table to perform magic tricks with disappearing and reappearing foam balls.  I think we were the best audience he’s had in years.  Needless to say, Little Miss is still convinced that she has a foam ball hidden somewhere behind her ear.

Tomorrow is our one day at sea, and we’re looking forward to it.  My husband has made note of all the trivia contests through the day, I’m headed to the abs class at 7:30 am (I hope!), brunch has been ordered for Little Miss, the wee ones have plotted out exactly which Camp Carnival activities they cannot miss, and we have a few friendly matches of mini-golf that we plan to play in between our swimming and other activities.

And the wee ones filled out the room service cards for an early breakfast tomorrow.  They think it’s the coolest thing ever that they can order room service and choose exactly what to get and when to get it.  Sometime between 7 and 8am, there will be a knock on our door, and each child will have a “first breakfast” before we head to our arranged brunch later in the day.

First breakfast order out on our door handle

It’s a pretty full day, isn’t it?  We can’t wait until tomorrow!

Miss out on the previous segments of Cruising 101?
Why cruise?
Before you go
What to pack for your cruise
Cruising with allergies

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