|Carnival ship leaving Nassau, Bahamas (2005)|
Never thought it'd happen sooner than I anticipated. For so long, friends and even colleagues at work have been bugging me to cruise with them. My usual response was "I'll do it when I'm retired". Which of course is still very far in the horizon. My kind of trip always involve sleeping on terra firma and trying to do something. Embarking on a cruise is definitely new game for me.
Not that there isn't any appeal sailing the high seas. When I was a kid, my father used to take me on his yearly sabbatical to his home province in Bohol, sailing from Davao via Cebu - a trip that took 3 days. Seeing different islands aboard those ferry trips ingrained excitement in my young mind.
While I'm no stranger to roughing it up, taking a cruise is something I associate with "relaxation" - where you only unpack once and yet still see different destinations. Ten hours ashore is of course not enough to know a new place intimately but having done a bit of sightseeing myself whilst on long layovers between flights, I was quite keen on leveraging with my time.
Deciding on which cruise line to go with was mainly influenced by itinerary and price (plane spotting at Maho Bay was top on my list!). Checking reviews on Cruisecritic also helped. After looking at 3 cruise ships sailing on the March weekend we wanted, we finally booked ourselves a balcony stateroom on Carnival Valor on its Southern Caribbean journey - exactly 2 weeks before its sister ship Carnival Triumph caught engine fire. To even give my parents less stress, we booked an extra day before and after the cruise in Puerto Rico.
|Carnival Valor docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico|
With Carnival battered by bad news before embarkation day, we found ourselves with "what ifs" playing in our minds as we sailed from San Juan. This was our home for 7 nights and we certainly didn't wish any mishaps while sailing the high seas. Surprise...surprise...we found out two other Carnival ships got into some trouble (while watching CNN in our stateroom). We docked at St. Maarten alongside a crippled Carnival Dream and wondered if we will meet the same fate.
As a first-time cruiser, Carnival Valor thankfully didn't disappoint. The ship was immaculately clean, the crew was quite friendly (besides Pinoy crew), shipboard entertainment felt like off-Broadway, food was very decent and the ports visited gave us more than a good dose of sunshine. And oh yes, one need not be a senior citizen to cruise.