On Cruise Control: My First Cruise In-Review

Multiple commercial cruise safety terrors and the Titanic movie have been enough to keep me from giving cruise life even a wink of consideration over the years. But here I am, having recently disembarked from a Carnival cruise in the middle of January. It’s funny how life will get you out of your comfort zone quick, fast, and in a hurry.

So, how was cruise life you may ask? Well, it was much better than I’d initially expected. I admit, my expectations weren’t quite so high. My voyage to Mexico was on the Carnival ship Valor, celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. A group of us ladies traveled for 5 days in total with two stops in Cozumel and Yucatan (Progreso). The entire trip was filled with lots of food, laughter, and ship entertainment.

I’m not kidding when I say the food seemed endless. The food was part of the all-inclusive fare, and there were few limits to what you could order at a single time. Now, I was told before the trip to eat throughout the day to avoid motion sickness. Being a stickler against unnecessary medicines, I chose this option as opposed to taking the recommended dromamine. And I must say, I probably have had enough cheese burgers from Guy’s Burger Joint to last a lifetime. Luckily, I did not experience much discomfort from the ship’s movements. Honestly, I had to check a few times if we were indeed sailing.

Of all the formal dining options, I thoroughly enjoyed brunch, when it was available. Dinner time, however, was the most entertaining as the wait staff was absolutely incredible and super hospitable. Each night, we were treated to singing and dancing performances by our wait staff along with intimate table-side magic shows by the extremely talented magician/ mentalist, Surya Kumar (IG @kingofdiamonds26). All in all, I’ve never seen an entire team of multi-talented folks like those aboard Valor. Hailing from 16 countries, literally, every crew member had 3-5 talents, it seemed.

Since we spent most of our cruise time out at sea, we could easily be found (outside of eating, of course) shopping or either at one of the many performances(e.g. magic shows, karaoke, LIVE musical performances, comedy shows), recreational areas, adult clubs, or resting. The last day was hands-down the best day for all of the shows.

On our first stop in Cozumel, we booked a really fun excursion, Tabasco’s Cooking class  with our instructor Luis. By the way, I’d highly recommend checking out he and his team. On the second stop, we did not purchase an excursion in order take in the town ourselves. I really wished we could have remained longer because we only had time to walk to a single tourist market and boardwalk before returning to the ship.

Cozumel, Mexico

The cooking class was conveniently located a mere 15 minutes away from the port. In approximately four hours, we prepared an appetizer (ceviche), entrée (stuffed poblano pepper), dessert, and cocktail (spiced margarita). Needless to say, I feel like an absolute pro now, ready to take on the Food Network. Afterwards, we were able to dine on the nearby terrace, overlooking an incredible infinity pool and dolphin demonstration below.

Yucatan (Progreso), Mexico

We stumbled upon a bit of the local culture as we visited the local municipal market. Inside, you can find bustling shop keepers and multiple food stalls with inexpensive lunch options, fresh produce, seafood and more. 

Now, there were a few downsides to the experience. The weather was kind of yucky(rainy and cold) off and on, so I probably won’t do another cruise to the Caribbean around this time. The ship was obviously dated and in need of a major redesign with interior decor from 80s-90s. It’s could really benefit from new paint and art installations to really liven up the space. Also, the designated indoor smoking areas were almost unavoidable as they were too close to major traffic areas. However, my biggest concern, which I’ll get into in an upcoming blog post, was not at all obvious to most.

At each stop in Mexico, passengers only a had a couple of hours to explore and entire town, which left little time to interact with the locals. As a people person, I was really disappointed to be bombarded by yet another commercialized tourist setup. In addition, the ship had a lot of latency within their WiFi plans and there were no digital packages available for guests to purchase all the photos shot throughout the trip. Each photo was $20 minimum to purchase a print with an additional $10 fee for a digital copy.

All in all, I don’t think I’m a cruise person. Flying still seems to be my jam. However, I am not completely opposed to another cruise. There was so much to do on our ship. I’m thinking of booking a slightly longer, more luxurious voyage next time. But most importantly, our group seemed to have enjoyed their time together as we celebrated my friend’s birthday. So by all accounts, the experience was worth it.

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