This is my review of our group cruise (20 of us) of Carnival Valor Eastern Caribbean March 9-16.
Embarkation ... The embarkation process went very smoothly for all of us. Carnival reps were very organized and helpful! All of us arrived at 11:00 and were on the ship by 11:35. I gave everyone a tour then and we hit the lido buffet for lunch. Unfortunatly the weather was a cool cloudy and breezy 65. Rooms were ready at 1:30.
Apparently the snow storm in Ohio, NY, Pennsylvania, and Michigan kept some people from getting to Miami in time (not many but some). So, here is my support for leaving a day early! We did not have any problem because we all flew in from North Carolina on March 8.
Cabin ... Everyone in our group either had a balcony or oceanview cabin. These rooms are very spacious and nice. Valor still has the same TVs, but they did have new white shower curtains that do not try to attack you in the shower!!! Cabin was clean and well maintained. Speaking of maintainance, our bathroom light blew out between dinner and the show one night. I called the desk and told them about it. After we returned from the show it was fixed. Carnival gets bonus points for fixing a problem quickly!!
Dinner ... Our group was seated at three consecutive tables, which was good, but one table had one waiter and the other two had another waiter. We were hoping to move from table-to-table each night to spend time with other couples, but to respect the waiters we did not mix things up. The head waiter at my table did a good job, but his assistant waiter was a huge hinderance. The assistant waiter was rarely around and when she was around she seemed to be messing something up. This kept our head waiter from spending quality time discussing different options etc. The other tables wait staff had great chemistry and everything worked out very well! All 20 of us were slightly disappointed with the quality of the food. The lobster was cooked very well and might of been one of the better meals. Several beef dishes did not have quality meat or good flavor. I know it is hard to cook for that many people, but this is not my first cruise and the food quality did not match my other cruise experiences (all on Carnival and RC).
Entertainment ... I personally thought the comedians (3 of them) were decent. It was a good mix of different types of comedy, and one of them was heckled pretty hard by a few spring breakers from Indiana Univ. He did a great job of putting them in their place, which was hillarious. The 80's show was pretty good and impressive at times, the other shows need to be reworked especially the welcome aboard show.
Ports ... Nassau is okay. St Thomas is pretty good with good beaches. I went scuba diving for the first time and really liked it. If you are going there I can recommend a dive company (even if you do not have your certificate you can dive). St Maarten was beautiful and somewhat expensive. Orient Beach was a great experience along with the French town of Marigot if you want to adventure up and down the streets and experience some french/island culture.
Other stuff ... Lido deck was nice especially with the video screen. They did a good job of showing different things and playing music. Buffet was pretty good, liked the Asian food etc. Spa, was really nice. The first day I won a free facial and massage and that was very nice. It was my first facial which was actually nice. I do recommend the spa services (I am a guy by the way) but just be honest and upfront if your person is pushing products you are not going to buy.
Disembarkation ... This was a ZOO! We ran about 30 minutes late into Miami, then at 8:50 the sail 'n sign system when leaving the boat crashed for 30 minutes. It got a little crazy getting all 20 off the ship, into the two limos, and to FLL for a noon flight. I know we could of all gotten the lower tag numbers, but this is my first experience with delays at disembarkation. Just too many things went wrong, but a lesson learned. It all worked out and we got our flight.
Conclusion ... We had a great time as a group. Carnival did a good job, but the group and myself will probably do Celebrity or RC for our next cruise. Most everyone else had not been on a cruise before and they want a new experience. For my wife and I, we are willing to see if there is a huge difference between Carnival/RC and a Celebrity experience.
I might write more if I think about something else. If you have any questions for me about anything I will do my best to answer.