Questions and Info About Our Cruise

1. Do I need a passport?
2. What clothing should I pack?
3. The retreat part
4. What's included in the price of my cruise?
5. Once I've booked my cruise, what should I do?
6. Miscellaneous advice
7. In Galveston
8. What we still need from you, by June 1
9. So who is Sue Bohlin anyway?

Do I need a passport?

No, you can use a copy of your birth certificate along with a picture ID. However, "Carnival highly recommends that all guests travel with a passport valid for at least six months beyond completion of travel." This is so you can travel by air to a port if you miss the ship.

What clothing should I pack?

During the day, casual wear: t-shirts and shorts/pants. Near the pool, bathing suit with a cover-up. For most dinners in the main dining room, Carnival specifies "resort casual." That means a step up from casual: jeans or khakis with tops, skirts, dresses. (You won't see many skirts or dresses most nights.)

One night, usually Friday, is Elegant Night, where we are encouraged (though not required) to dress up. There will be lots of professional photographers with various backdrops to take pictures with no sitting fee and no requirement to buy, and it's a great way for people to get a nice portrait done. Dresses are not required but that's what most ladies wear; I often wear a nice pantsuit outfit, though. Lots of ladies also wear plain black dress slacks with a very nice top. (Warning: expect lots of sparkle and glitter.)

Re: swim suits. It'll be July, so every day will be hot (Texas) to warm (closer to Mexico). There are several pools and hot tubs on the ship, so it's nice to be able to cool down with a dip in the pool. (That's all you can do in the pools. They're not big enough to really swim in.)

Then there's our day in Cozumel, where many people choose a beach excursion or trip (like grabbing a taxi at the pier and going straight to a beach) to swim and/or snorkel. So a swim suit would be good for that. Those who choose to go shopping in the downtown area, or to do a non-water activity excursion from Carnival, won't need a swim suit.

We'll be in Cozumel from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Everyone will choose her own activity or excursion. (www.carnival.com/shore-excursions/cozumel) Last year, almost half the ladies took taxis to a beautiful all-inclusive resort where the pool is right next to the gorgeous blue ocean: book.thisiscozumel.com/en/packagedetails/jungle-garden-beach-resort-pass.

I created a Facebook group for those who have booked their cabin, which will be a great way to find out what kind of excursions others are planning so you can join in. If you don't choose a Carnival excursion, which will include transportation, you'll take a cab wherever you want to go. The cab fares are highly regulated and you'll see a sign with the prices, which are quite reasonable. A great source of information from experienced visitors is the Cozumel board at Cruise Critic: boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=210

The Retreat Part

Our times together will consist of worship, teaching, and small group discussion time. One group meeting per day (except Cozumel day, which is completely free, day and evening) and one small group meeting per day.

What's Included in the Price of My Cruise?

Your cabin with its own bathroom. Body gel and shampoo in shower, bars of soap at the sink. (But I've started bringing my own Bath & Body Works foaming hand soap because I like it a lot better.) Towels are replaced each day by your cabin steward/housekeeping team, who receive $4.05 per day of your daily gratuities. If you request ice from your cabin steward, a bucket of it will be replaced daily. Cabins have mini-fridges. They also have hair dryers at the desk but they're pretty much worthless; I suggest you bring your own (to share with your cabin mate).

Food

  • Buffet on the Lido (pool) Deck
  • Main Dining Room for dinner (and brunch on Sea Days)
  • Guy Fieri (from Food Network) - Guy's Burgers on Lido Deck
  • Blue Iguana Cantina on Lido Deck: good burritos and tacos, good toppings
  • Sushi Bar
  • 24-hour pizza and soft-serve ice cream

Room Service Menu: most items are free (until 10:00 p.m.), but they've recently introduced some extra items that you charge to your Sail and Sign card: www.carnival.com/~/media/Images/explore/dining/menus/room-service-menu.pdf

Beverages
Non-bottled water, lemonade, unsweetened iced tea, hot chocolate and non-specialty coffee and tea

Fitness Center
(see pictures here: www.cruisecritic.com/photos/ships/carnival-valor-338/fitness-center-271906/)

Entertainment
Production shows in the large theater. Live music in different venues (mainly lounges and near bars, such as next to the casino) throughout the day and evening. Probably the most fun will be karaoke, even if you don't sing. Clapping and cheering for others, and even getting up and dancing behind our cruising singers, just might be the absolute highlight of the cruise!

2 pools, several hot tubs, and a water slide.

The Serenity Deck (on Deck 14) is adults-only and wonderfully quiet and peaceful.

Quiet places to read: Outside Deck 3, inside Deck 5

help.carnival.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3861/~/what-does-the-price-of-my-cruise-include

What's Not Included?

  • Spa treatments (such as massages), salon services, some fitness classes
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (such as sodas), which you order from a bar, or one of the roving waiters near the pools taking drink orders
  • Dining in specialty restaurants such as the steakhouse
  • Coffee bar (espresso, cappuccinos, cakes and pastries)
  • Shore excursions
  • Photographs taken by cruise staff
  • Medical services in the infirmary
  • Use of your smartphone
  • Art auction art pieces (though the champagne they serve is free)
  • Internet access and chat option on the Hub smartphone app
  • Gift shop purchases

Internet packages:

  • Social ($4 USD per day) - Access the most popular websites and applications. Includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Does not include access to other websites or apps.
  • Value ($12 USD per day) - Surf all your favorite sites, including e-mail, news, sports, weather, banking and finance. Note: Does not support Skype calling or music streaming (such as Spotify).
  • Premium ($17.70 USD per day) - From e-mail to Skype, our Premium plan promises the fastest possible connection, at speeds up to 3 times faster than our Value Plan. Supports Skype video calling, where coverage allows.
help.carnival.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1152/kw/internet%20package%20price

Once I've booked my cruise, what should I do?

  1. Copy the booking number from the email you received when you booked, and go to Carnival.com
  2. Click Log in >> Create Account (if you don't already have one)
  3. Click Add a booking
  4. You will give: Your last name, your booking number, your date of birth, the ship name (Valor), and the sail date (July 19, 2018).
  5. Click "Save this booking."
  6. You can make payments by clicking on the "Pay Now" button in Cruise Manager.
  7. Make your choices for Online Check-In.

This will include your check-in time. Carnival has a limited number of slots for each half-hour period on embarkation day, and people are not allowed in the terminal until their assigned check-in time.

If you spend Wednesday night in Galveston, you can choose an earlier check-in time which means earlier access to lunch on board, which you have already paid for. If you are driving in, you might want to pick an early afternoon time. Be sure to give yourself adequate parking time before showing up for check-in.

Your bedding preference should already be set for "two twin beds," but fix it if you need to.

You will need to give Carnival a credit or debit card number for onboard purchases. You can set up a cash system if you want, but the last time I cruised with someone who chose cash in her online check-in process, they wanted a credit card number anyway at embarkation. You can pay off your account in cash at Guest Services on the ship so you walk off the ship at the end of the cruise owing nothing.

Click on "Print Documents" to print your cruise ticket (you need to bring this with you) and print your luggage tags. It's a good idea to laminate them with a couple strips of clear box tape. Paper tags are very easy to rip off, and that would mean they wouldn't be delivered to your cabin. Some people put two tags on each bag, one on each handle, just to make sure. They need to be stapled onto your luggage handles.

In Galveston:

Many people find it far less stressful to drive down to Galveston the afternoon or evening before and stay in a hotel. Hotwire.com is a good way to find great deals where you find out the name of the hotel after you pay for it.

A number of hotels offer free cruise parking: www.galvestoncruisetips.com/28-galveston-hotels-with-free-or-discounted-cruise-parking/

Relying on a hotel shuttle to get you to the pier means you will wait. We've discovered that it's better to have the hotel call you a cab. And at the pier, cabs are plentiful for returning to your hotel at the end of the cruise.

If you drive straight to the ship the morning of the cruise, or choose to drive from your hotel to the pier, there are several choices for parking. The driver should pull up next to the terminal in the unloading zones to have the Hawaiian-shirted porters offload your luggage onto their carts. Tip them $1 for every bag they handle. They will take your bags to the ship, and your bags will appear outside your cabin door in a few hours. Everyone except the driver should exit, and the driver can go park. Either walk back to the terminal (if you park at a close-in lot) or take the shuttle back.

A list of cruise parking options: www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=galveston+cruise+parking&*

Miscellaneous advice:

Bring $1 bills for tipping. At the pier, porters in Hawaiian shirts will take your luggage and it will be brought to your cabin. Give them $1 per bag. (Same thing at debarkation when we get back on Monday. DO use the porters to go through customs after debarkation—you'll bypass long lines of people schlepping their own bags.) Keep $1 bills in your cabin for tipping room service ($2 per order). You can have coffee—or coffee plus a continental breakfast—delivered to your room for free every morning! You fill out an order form at night that hangs in your cabin and put it on your outside doorknob when you go to bed. We keep our $1 bills in the top drawer nearest the door to make it easy for room service tips.

Your other tips (automatic 15% added to any bar purchase, such as Cokes) will be charged to your Sign and Sail card. Your account will be charged $12.95 per day for service gratuities (mainly your housekeeping team and dining room team), which you can pay in advance.

Sun screen on the ship, or in Cozumel, will be quite a bit more expensive than your local (or the Galveston) Walmart. Pack toiletries and OTC medicines. (I never travel without generic Benadryl; half a tablet helps me sleep in unfamiliar beds.)

If you have a smart phone, before you board download the free Carnival Hub app. It will allow you to chat with other retreat ladies while on the ship for a one-time charge of $5.

I always pack:
1) A power strip. There are no outlets in the bathroom, and only one at the desk.
2) A digital clock so I know what time it is, especially in the middle of the night.

It helps to bring a travel mug for larger servings of liquids at the buffet and for juice and/or tea throughout the day. They offer a delicious fruit juice blend at breakfast only. Some folks take it back to their cabin refrigerators for a punch drink later in the day.

While we're in Cozumel, be sure to pick up several bottles of Mexican vanilla for baking. Or for gifts for the folks back home. It's the best! It's not a bad idea to pick them up in one of the shops right there at the pier, on your way back onto the ship, so you're not carrying them around with you during the day. (Personal recommendation for a good store at the Carnival pier: Los Cinco Soles)

Carnival allows you to bring a maximum of 12 cans of soda on board, but no bottles of any kind. (Too many people were smuggling liquor in their bags.) You can order a 12-pack of bottled water to be delivered to your cabin for $4.50; just do a search for "bottled water" on Carnival.com. I usually order one because I make my own coffee first thing every morning, and I know I'm drinking the best coffee on the whole ship!

Each person is allowed to bring 1 750 ml bottle of wine in your carry-on (not checked bags). Your cabin steward can bring you wine glasses if you ask him. Don't forget to bring a corkscrew unless you bring a screw-top bottle. If you bring your bottle to dinner with you, they charge a $15 corkage fee to open it, so bring the bottle already open or just bring a glass of wine with you.

Have breakfast in the dining room at least once. You get lovely food and great service that is very different from the Lido deck buffet. They have wonderful eggs benedict, and great steak (filet mignon) and eggs!

If you're into people-watching, grab some seats across from the casino, where there is a stage for live music. One of the best places on the ship to just sit and watch. But make sure to choose a cabin that's not above this stage!

There is an incredible source of information on boards.cruisecritic.com . . . You may want to spend some time in advance of your cruise reading the Carnival board, as well as Mexico board to get ideas of what you can do in Cozumel. Particularly trustworthy vendors and attractions you can engage without paying the cruise line's upcharge.

What we still need from you, by June 1:

1. $50 and your t-shirt size. You can mail me a check (1809 Northcrest Drive, Plano TX 75075), send via PayPal (sue@probe.org), or the Cash ($SueBohlin) or Venmo (@Sue-Bohlin) apps.

2. Your travel plans to Galveston. If you would like to carpool (and share gas expenses), let me know and our retreat team will help make those arrangements.

So who is Sue Bohlin anyway?

Sue is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She loves serving as a Bible teacher at her church, Watermark Community Church in Plano (TX). She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.