“Structural Dissatisfaction: Returning to circumstances that once pleased you, having experienced a more thrilling or opulent way of life, and finding that you can no longer tolerate them.”
The quote above is from A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, the novel I coincidentally began reading on my vacation, which perfectly describes how I now feel that I am no longer on vacation.
From November 20th – 27th, I was aboard the Carnival Valor cruising for 7 days and nights with my bestie and travel buddy Erin. I was completely disconnected from the real world and it was absolutely blissful. Nothing but island time for a whole week. Rather than go through my trip day by day, I’ve decided just to list the highlights interspersed with some of my favorite photos.
Being that this was my first cruise I don’t have a point of comparison, but in my opinion the Valor was fantastic. With 13 different decks the ship itself is impressive and immaculately kept. We booked an interior state room as it was the least expensive, and I was more than happy with the accommodations. My bed was very comfortable and there was a lot of storage space for luggage and personal items. Never did I feel cramped. Our room was at the very front of the ship, so in rough waters we could hear the waves crashing against it as we sliced through the water.
Sailing away from Miami, Florida.
The Valor docked at Cozumel, Mexico.
THE CREW & STAFF
I cannot say enough positive things about the crew, staff, and service. Our House Steward was simply awesome. He was so friendly and always had a kind word. The housekeeping staff was also very observant and paid attention to when you left your room so as not to disturb you.
Amos, from Bali, was the Team Headwaiter for our dining table, and our Bar Waiter was Siwapakorn (who we nicknamed Sip Sip), from Thailand. Amos was very charming and included all the ladies at our table in the dancing routines performed by the servers.
Dinner on the first night. (Photo credit to Erin.)
FOOD & DRINK
I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to want for anything on a cruise. There is constantly yummy food and even yummier alcoholic drinks at your disposal. One small complaint is that the healthy food options were not very tasty, so most people (including myself) opted for the non-healthy options. This makes it hard to not gain the 1.5-2 lb. per day that many people average. Drinks were more expensive than I thought they would be, but after a few days we figured out where the best specials and bartenders were to get the most bang for your buck.
Sunday drink of the day. It was tropical, fruity, and full of rum just like all vacation beverages should be.
Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.
THE SHORE EXCURSIONS
Erin and I booked shore excursions in the ports of Cozumel, Mexico and Georgetown, Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Both excursions were well worth the money we spent.
In Cozumel, we took a ferry to Playa del Carmen where we then caught a bus to the city of Tulum. Driving to Tulum involves going through rural, rather poor, areas of Mexico. It was interesting to see a part of real Mexico, rather than just another tourist trap. In Tulum, we hiked through the Mexican jungle to the Mayan Ruins of Coba. Our tour guide, Marco Polo (seriously) had a degree in history and was extremely knowledgeable in explaining the history of the area.
The Mayan Pyramid of Coba.
I did not walk to the top because stairs make me dizzy.
The second shore excursion in Grand Cayman took us to Dolphin Cove where we swam, danced with, and kissed dolphins. It was absolutely amazing to be in such close proximity to these creatures. After, we took a boat to Stingray City, which is a sandbar in the middle of the ocean where hundreds of stingrays live. Some of the rays are very old and large, up to five feet across in wingspan. They are very accustomed to humans and they glide around you and through your feet fearlessly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of these excursions because I couldn’t take my camera in the water.
Dolphin Cove - the weather was horrible.
Parrots at Dolphin Cove.
NIGHTLIFE & ENTERTAINMENT
Our dining time was 8:15 pm, and often it was close to 10 pm when dinner finished up, so I was glad that Carnival provided a number of late shows and other entertainment options. We saw musical routines, magic shows, three comedians and some classically bad karaoke. Even if we didn’t go to a show there was always the casino or a number of bars and dance clubs to hang out in. I felt like Carnival really catered to the younger crowd in that respect, which I appreciated.
Indigenous man dancing in Belize City, Belize.
Probably my favorite part of the actual ship was the serenity deck, an adults only sun deck with circular lounge chairs, hot tubs, sauna, steam room and bar. It was incredibly peaceful to just lay in the sun with the sea breeze blowing against my face and sipping a pina colada.
A dying moth in Tulum.
Sunken ship in Mahagony Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras.
The success of every good party depends on the people who attend. We met so many interesting people who were all down to drink and dance the night away. The experience would not have been the same if the cruise guests hadn’t been fun! At one point, it was said that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that you will ever see or hear from the other guests ever again, so just put yourself out there and live it up. While I agree with living life to the fullest, I have also located several other guests via Facebook because we (unknowingly) had mutual friends. So, the lesson here is to have fun but don’t be an ass. And, if you are going to be an ass, make sure you do it on the last night of the cruise.
Eating red beans and rice and drinking Belizean beer!
Erin and I excited to swim with dolphins! (Photo credit to Erin.)
Overall, I had SO MUCH FUN. The words I have written here cannot even begin to encapsulate what I experienced. We’re already starting to plan another trip. Going on this cruise and swimming with a dolphin also fulfilled numbers 18 and 30 on my Thirty Before 30 list! I can’t wait to complete all 28 other items!
– A Very Sad, Post-Vacation, American Twenty-Something