Monday, January 16, 2017

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Valor- The Carnival Valor 2016

Christmas Sail-ebration 2016
Carnival Valor

In December 2016 Chris and I took our 2 kids, Natalie (7) and Luke (4) on a Caribbean Cruise aboard the Carnival Valor sailing out of Galveston, TX. This beautiful floating resort took us to the following destinations: 

Costa Maya, Mexico
Cozumel, Mexico 

The Carnival Valor... Our home away from home for the next days! 

Chris and I have been on 8 other cruises prior to this one; 5 with Carnival, 2 with Royal Caribbean and 1 with Princess. This cruise was all about spending time with our kids and enjoying time away from our hectic and busy teaching lives. This blog will include daily entries of our 6 days, a broad "Foodies" blog highlighting all of the food options available on the Carnival Valor as well as an extensive photo review of the ship. Thank you SO MUCH to all my followers... without you the blog would not be as popular as it is today! Be sure to stay tuned as the posts come through over the next few days and weeks. 

Pre-Cruise Post- In Cruise Limbo

Galveston/ Embarkation- A Day of Firsts

SeaDay #1- Splish Splash

Costa Maya- Viva la Mexico

Belize- UnBELIZEable

Cozumel- Chalk it up to Chankanaab

SeaDay #2- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Disembarkation- Oh Galveston, where are thou?
Once again, we owe all of these blessings to our Lord and Savior! He has truly blessed Chris and I, as well as our family! We currently have 4 more cruises booked and a few more after that on the horizon for the next 2+ years, with and without kids, and we are very excited to set sail once again.

 Carnival Dream- Bahamas 11th Anniversary Cruise  March 2017 
Carnival Breeze-Summer with the kids- Summer 2017
Carnival ValorMY 35th Bday Celebration/ Girls Cruise-September 2017

NCL Pearl- 12th Anniversary and a new cruise lineMarch 2018

 Thank you so much for following along and until we meet again... 

Keep Calm and CRUISE ON!  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Valor- Food

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Valor

A Holiday Feast at it's BEST
December 17-23, 2016

We are true foodies and love trying new things while on a cruise ship as well as enjoy our favorites. The Carnival Valor offered the FunShip 2.0 upgrades including Guy's Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina but it also had Mongolian Wok and Ol' Fashioned BBQ. This made for an amazing Lido dining experience throughout the cruise. In addition, the Valor had the American Table and American Feast menus in the Main Dining Room. We enjoyed every meal and the Carnival Valor is one of our favorite Carnival ships for dining! 

I am going to highlight all of the Lido deck offerings individually as well as each night's menu from the MDR. Chris and I cruise frequently and enjoy "rating" each menu item from 1-5 with 2.5 being what you would expect from a restaurant on land. We consider a 4.0 to be about standard for most cruise food! I realize that food is VERY subjective but we enjoy reviewing these menu items to help us remember what we do like for future voyages. 

1- awful and would be fast-food level quality (McDonald's or Taco Bell)
2- decent on land offering 
2.5- par for land meals (Chili's and Red Lobster) 
3- Upscale land restaurant quality 
4.0- standard for cruise industry food 
5.0- One of the best foods (of the corresponding category) we have ever had

Guy's Burger Joint- Lido Deck 9 mid-ship
(This became mine and the kids favorite Lido dining option... They LOVED the fries)
Guy's is always a huge hit with Carnival passengers so the lines are always long but they do move quickly. They are open from noon to 6PM! Tip- Get anything with the donkey sauce... you will not regret it!
Overall- 4.5
The Ringer- 5.0

Guy's Burger Joint

The basic menu.

Absolute perfection! 

SMC- Super Melty Cheese 
(I swear my mouth is watering just recapping this) 

Blue Iguana Cantina- Lido Deck 9 mid-ship
I personally enjoyed the breakfast more than the lunch options. Tip- This dining venue is only open from 7-9AM and then 12-2:30PM but is an excellent choice for breakfast or lunch! They offered build-your-own burrito bar and tacos for both meals! Plus they offer an incredible salsa bar.
Overall- 4.0

Blue Iguana Cantina on the Lido Deck (Deck 9) 

The Salsa Bar

The breakfast burritos were FANTASTIC! 

You could get chicken, pork or shrimp in your lunch burritos and they were amazing! 

Ol' Fashioned BBQ- Deck 10 aft (above the aft buffet) 
This was a new addition to the Carnival Valor and it was a really hit for my family! The meat was tender and perfectly cooked and the sides were a hit with my kids. Tip- If you like BBQ and you do not like a line of people, this is the place to be as it was hidden and not many knew about it! 
Overall- 5.0

The menu was basic but perfect. 

The pork butt could easily go up against any BBQ meat I have ever had... it was divine! 

Rosie's Restaurant (Buffet)- Lido Deck 9 Aft 
This buffet seemed to be better than most Carnival buffets we have had recently. The kids always found things they liked and the offerings and variety was much better than usual. Tip- We did notice the aft buffet area had shorter lines usually. 
Overall- 3.5

This was taken from the BBQ but gives you an idea of the dessert area of the buffet. 

Breakfast offerings from the main buffet- they were not rationing the bacon this time around! 

Typical daily Breakfast offerings. 

The daily lunch offerings changed based off themes (ie- Caribbean pictured)! 

SWIRLS Ice Cream Stations

The Carnival Valor offered 3 separate areas for ice cream and was open 24 hours! It was a common stop for us during the cruise! 

Mongolian Wok- Rosie's Restaurant Lido Deck 9 mid-ship
This was an Asian Mongolian BBQ style option that allowed you to choose your meats, vegetables and carbs to create an Asian bowl to your liking. Chris LOVED this but at first I had a hard time creating the perfect bowl. By the end of the cruise I was loving it. Tip- This gets REALLY BUSY, REALLY FAST. It opens at noon every day and that is the time to be there! Also, this was the main omelet station in the mornings. It too filled up quickly! 
Overall- 5.0

Pizza Pirate- Lido Deck 9 aft 
We did not eat at this venue (Carnival pizza is just AWFUL in our experience) but it is open 24 hours. Tip- Be advised there is ALWAYS a line! 

The Carnival Valor Deli- Lido Deck 9 Mid-ship port 
This was a typical deli and offered a variety of hot and cold sandwiches. It was open 11AM-11PM so it was a great choice for a late night snack. Luke loved the hot dogs and the grilled ham and cheese was like college all over again!
The Ham and Grilled Cheese ALWAYS reminded me of college! Yummy! 

A hot-dog without grill marks... yay! 

Dr. Seuss Character Breakfast- Lincoln Dining Room Deck 3 mid-ship
We thoroughly enjoyed this breakfast this go around and thought the food was better than usual and the service was faster! Tip- This is a reservation only breakfast that is additional fee of $5/ per person. It offers specialized themed breakfast food and it a great choice for families with kids!
Overall- 4.5

The Dr. Seuss themed menu 

Green Eggs and Ham (plus a macaroon) 

Belgium Waffle... We ALL liked this! 

Traditional Omelet! 

Truffle Tree Pancakes

Special Grinch cookies
(Could have been for our Christmas themed sailing as we have not had these the other 2 times we have done this breakfast) 

Cat in the Hat parfait... This is always my favorite part of the meal! 

Sam I Am Parfait! 

Tea Time- Washington Dining Room Deck 4 aft 
We did not enjoy this as much as usual but it was still a good time. Tip- This is only offered on the last sea day  from 3-4PM now on Carnival ships. Some of the best desserts of the cruise have been offered in the past.
Overall- 2.0

The desserts were lacking this time!

Lincoln Dining Room- Deck 3 mid-ship
We had Your Time Dining and this allowed us to eat in the dining room anytime from 5:45PM to 9PM. You did not have to have a reservation and you could eat with other couples or passengers. We usually had to wait for 5-10 minutes but it was never too bad. The service was MUCH better on this ship but we still had 1.5+ dining times. The Carnival Valor offered the American Table and American Feast menu and we really enjoyed them! 

Night #1 American Table
Appetizer Menu #1

Main Entree Menu #1

Port of Call- Galveston 

The nightly bread basket
Kellie- 3.5
Chris- 2.0

Kellie- 4.0

Chris- 4.5

 Jalapeno Poppers
Kellie- 4.5

Chris- 4.5

Fried Shrimp
This was not as good as the old "Sweet and Sour Shrimp" but was still enjoyable.
Chris- 4.0

Swordfish Steak
Chris- 3.5

Pasta of the Day/ Spaghetti- 3.5

Kids Hot-dog 
Luke would not eat it since it had black grill marks... AHHHH, the joys of a 4 year old! 

Dessert Menu #1 

Nutella Tiramisu
Kellie- 4.0

Chris- 3.0

Kids Brownie- 3.0

Birthday Cake- 2.0
I did not like this cake but the kids LOVED it!

Night #2 American Feast
American Feast Menu #1
Since this was a 6 day cruise with 2 formal nights, this voyage offered the lobster tails. Carnival did away with the lobster on cruises less than 5 nights. 

Fried Oysters
Kellie- 4.5

Mushroom Soup
Kellie- 4.5 EXCELLENT

Lobster Tail
Kellie- 5.0
You can never go wrong with lobster!
Chris- 4.0

Striped Sea Bass- 3.0

Prime Rib- 5.0

Spaghetti Carbonara
Kellie- 2.5 This was not good at all and not what I expected! 
Chris- 2.0

Vanilla Creme Brulee'
Kellie- 4.5 Carnival never lets me down with this dish! 
Chris- 4.0

Night #3 American Table (Costa Maya)
I was sick in the infirmary so we missed this! Sorry! 

Night #4 American Table (Belize)

American Table #3 Appetizers 

American Table #3 Mains

 Port of Call-Belize 

Cannelloni- 4.0
This was not your typical Cannelloni but it was delicious nonetheless! 

Cream of Broccoli Soup
Kellie- 2.5 Gonna be honest, I need the CHEESE in this soup! 
Chris- 4.0

Belize Fry Jacks 
Chris- 3.0
Kellie- 4.0

Salmon Cakes
Kellie- 1.5 I LOVE salmon but eeewww! It was clumpy and near flavorless!

Linguini with Sausage and Peppers
Kellie- 4.0 I like this every time!
Tip- Carnival allows all their pasta dishes to be ordered as large main entrees or appetizers.

Seabass- 3.0

Tenderloin- 4.5

Sticky Toffee Brioche Pudding
Kellie- 5.0
WOW... This was AMAZING! Wish I would have been feeling better... I would have ordered  TWO! 

Smores Parfait
Chris- 4.0

Chocolate Martini
Chris- 4.0
This is his traditional MDR order and it did not disappoint! 

Night #5- American Feast

American Feast Menu #2

New England Clam Chowder
Kellie- 4.0
Chris- 3.5

Crab Cake
Kellie- 4.5
Chris- 5.0

Kids Spaghetti- Natalie enjoyed this A LOT! 

Grilled Jumbo Shrimp
Kellie- 4.5 These were cooked perfectly and the sauce and side accompanied them well! 
Chris- 4.5

Pork Chop- 4.0

Grand Mariner Souffle
Kellie- 2.5
Chris- 2.0
WOW... this was the biggest disappointment in the MDR. It was soggy and near flavorless! 

Kids Banana Split- 3.5
Tip- Remember, you DON'T have to be a kid to order desserts from the kid menu! 

Night #6- American Table

American Table #4 appetizers

American Table #4 Main entree menu

French Onion Soup- 3.0
This was not near as good as I had hoped for! Panera Bread's is just as good! 

Steamed Mussels- 4.0

Chilled Mango Soup- 4.5
Carnival never disappoints with chilled soups! 

Tiger Shrimp Creole
Kellie- 4.5
Chris- 5.0
Easily the best main dish of the cruise! 

Prime Rib- 5.0

Ricotta Ravioli- 4.0

Bacon Mac N Cheese- 1.0
Was just awful... lots of powder taste! 

Creamed Spinach- 3.0

American Table #4 dessert menu 

White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding- 4.5
This is a new find and I am in LOVE!

Carrot Cake- 5.0

We chose our favorites from these menus: 

Favorite Appetizer- Fried Oysters and Crab Cake
Favorite Entree- Tiger Shrimp Creole 
Favorite Dessert- Sticky Toffee Pudding and White Chocolate Bread Pudding 
Biggest Surprise- White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Biggest Disappointment- Grand Mariner Souffle

Favorite Appetizer- Crab Cake
Favorite Entree- Prime Rib & Tiger Shrimp Creole
Favorite Dessert- Carrot Cake 
Biggest Surprise- Ol' Fashioned BBQ
Biggest Disappointment- Grand Mariner Souffle 

We love cruising and EATING on cruises. We use this blog as means for us to know what to order and it is fun to look through and get our mouth watering while we are dieting! 

Thanks for following along! 

Until we meet again... Keep calm and CRUISE ON! 

God is good... All the time!