Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Baby, Let's Cruise!

Bow of the Carnival ValorThis is my continuing travel log of a recent trip aboard the Carinval Valor, the flagship of the Carinval Cruise Line.

13 February 2005, 5:10 pm

We're aboard the Carnival Valor sailing out of Miami. We got off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale in plenty of time, and had to wait in line for our luggage. Then we got on the bus and the driver (Anthony) was some guy who did not speak English very clearly. He seemed to have the urban Patois down pretty well (y'know whaddimsayin?) and he seemed to ramble on about nothing. There was a Miami Heat game at the American Airlines center, so traffic sucked. Anthony's ramblings were getting a little tiresome, but he did get us to the ship. Since the gratuity is included in the $32 you pay for the transfer, I didn't give him a tip. Sorry, Tony.

Once we were in the terminal we had to wait in long lines for everything-- for security, to get checked in, to get our room key (that was the fastest) and to get on the ship. If you go on one of these trips, make sure that you go online and do the rapid check-in (Carnival calls it a Funpass) stuff before you get there. Even then, you have to wait in long lines, but it did move quickly.

Once we got through the terminal we got to the ship and they took the cheesy embarkation photo. I didn't bother looking for it because they always look the same -- plus I had BAD hat hair that day and was not feeling very photogenic. But we finally did get to our room. We chose an interior cabin for one reason: it was cheaper! But our tickets said our cabin was TBA. When the guys loading our luggage on the dock wrote 2-203 on it, I knew we were low in the ship. I had no idea what an adventure being in the bow would turn out to be.

We did get underway and are headed to Nassau, the Bahamas on Monday. We stopped in the spa and booked a couple's massage for Monday when we are in port. The price was normally more than $100 each while at sea, but only $79 when in port, so we decided to wait.

We ate lunch in what was called "Rosie's Restaurant" on the upper deck. The theme of this ship is "Heroes and Heroines" and Rosie's is a tribute to Rosie the Riveter from WWII. The place is spacious, and has at least four serving lines, but the decor is done in various shades of lime green and yellow. If that is not your speed, you might think about taking another ship. We Can Do It posterAlso there are several painted mosaics of women from WWII who worked on ships and planes and other war material. There is a huge tile mosaic of the famous "We Can Do It!" poster from WWII with Rosie flexing her bicep. But the food was excellent that was what I was there for after all -- to eat. Also the coffee was great. The last cruise we went on (aboard a Princess liner, the one thing we remember most is that the coffee sucked! It was weak, and we had to find another place on the ship to get it). But on the Valor it was consistently good. Strong, and plenty of it, both regular and decaf. And there were plenty of drink stations, so the fact that more than 3,000 people can fit on this ship made little difference to getting your drinks. You did have to wait in line for food, but it was also plentiful.

Interior cabin aboard the ValorOur cabin seemed larger than the other ones on the Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and the Princess on which we have sailed before. Carnival boasts of having more room in their cabins than other lines and it seemed to ring true. The color scheme was a kind of mottled, faux finish style, with salmon-colored molding. The cabinets are a maple finish and have an art-deco kind of feeling. They do not have knobs; there are small rope-like hooks where hardware would be, I guess to reduce the possibility of injury or tearing a garment. But they are functional, and that's all that is really needed.

There is a safe in the room, but while our "Sail and Sign" card was supposed to open and close it, it did not and we had to use a major credit card to lock the safe. There was no charge for it, but we had to have the credit card out of the safe in order to open it. That was a bit of a hassle, but we worked around it.

The gym on the Valor is excellent! All the equipment is new (as is the ship; she only launched in December of 2004) and the facilities are more than I expected. There are tile floors in the men's locker room, with at least 20 lockers (you get a key when you give them your Sail & Sign Card). There are both a dry sauna and a steam room in both the men's and women's locker rooms. There are 3 showers and a handicapped shower in the men's locker room along with ample toilet facilities. There is even a lounge area where people who are having spa services can wait for their appointments. And there are ample towels -- large, absorbent cotton ones that even I could wrap around myself.

The gym has plenty of treadmills, elliptical trainers, and both stationary and recumbent bikes. There are also LifeFitness weight machines, as well as a free weight area and several classes offered (for a $10 fee). Classes include spinning, Swiss Ball training, Pilates and Yoga. But the high-intensity classes are not free; the $10 cost is one of many shipboard expenses you can accumulate on the Valor if you are not careful. More on that later.

There is also a hot-water pool and a jacuzzi in the gym, but the jets were not that strong, and the waterfall in the pool makes it cooler than some people might prefer. Nassau tomorrow.

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