Our annual cruise this year had us sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico on board the Carnival Valor. We flew from Baltimore non-stop to San Juan on Southwest Airlines on September 28th. We tend to fly the day before our cruises so that we do not have to worry about missing the ship and we arrive on the ship with a good night's sleep. I highly recommend this to everyone. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in the Isla Verde section of San Juan. Based on two different people independently recommending the Metropol restaurants, we went there for dinner. We were not disappointed.
The next morning we took a taxi from the hotel to the port. Carnival now offers a "Faster to the Fun" package which allows you to board early, and gives you the same benefits as if you were a Platinum guest in the Very Import Fun Person (past guest) program. The cost for this is only $49.95 and only one person in the cabin must purchase it. You have to reserve it early, as they do limit the number of people that can purchase this pass. We decided since this was our last Carnival cruise before we reach Platinum status that we would go ahead and purchase it. We were dropped off at the pier and met by a porter that took our bags to the priority check-in area and then when inside. We skipped the long lines of non-priority customers and were checked-in right away. From there it was on to the ship. From drop off to boarding was well under 30 minutes. We took our carry on items to the cabin and headed to the Lido deck for lunch. By the time we got back to the cabin, our luggage had already been delivered.
After unpacking, we set out to explore the ship and plan the day's activities. The Valor does not set sail until 10PM, so we actually had dinner in the main dining room before the lifeboat drill. Because passengers can still be boarding until shortly before the lifeboat drill, there is no show the first night. We did go to a couple of the trivia contests and watched some football in the sports bar. In the very first trivia contest we were the winners, thus earning us the coveted "24 karat gold plastic ship on a stick."
Not long after the ship sailed, we were able to visit the casino to get our Sail and Sign cards punched so that they could be attached to chain which helps you to not lose the card or accidentally leave it in one of the slot machines. After making a small donation we headed to bed as we needed to get up early the next morning for the port of St. Thomas, which is covered in part two.