Carnival Valor - Maiden 7 day Caribbean Voyage - December 19,
2004 from Port of Miami. Cruised to Nassau, St. Thomas and St.
Overall: The Ship gets high marks for pulling off a very good
first cruise in terms of good looking ship, good food, good
entertainment, competent staff and generally good service.
Embarkation and Debarkation: Unfortunately one of Carnival's
weak points on many of its ships is the confusion and slowness
associated with getting on and off the ship. This ship's first
embarkation was chaotic, confusing and indeed too long. We got to
the terminal early after staying at the local Holiday Inn Marina -
good overnight stay choice. Carnival's agents tried to force the
enormous gathering of people to go on the "pick up your documents
line" (as soon as you entered the building), which was serviced by
only two agents. This was clearly for people that had not received
any documents at all prior to leaving their homes . not for the
masses who already received documents from Carnival or travel
agents. After waiting on this line for over 45 minutes, another
agent overruled the first agent and moved
us all to a general line and things started to move whereby we
could go through security and get to the more than dozen agents
waiting inside to check us in.
After picking up our boarding cards, we were put in holding room
and asked to wait another 30 minutes. Then things got moving and we
were allowed to get on the ship. Total time to get on the ship,
about an hour and a quarter . and that's for those who arrived
early. I still am amazed that cruise lines like Celebrity can and
do get guests on board in as little it 20-30 minutes.
Getting off the ship was also very slow. Everyone was held up by
a few guests - who for some unknown reason - were being paged for
well over an hour and did not respond. Funny . this does not happen
on other cruise lines.
Ship's Decorations, Flow and Rooms:
At 110,000 tons she's a big ship and nicely decorated. While
there is the usual glitz and gaudiness of the newer Carnival Ships,
Valor is better coordinated in terms of colors, hues and styles of
decorations in individual venues. This ship had a lot of
"Americana" decorations in a number of public venues. The two main
dining rooms, yes two for evening dining, are the "Lincoln" for the
guests in the front of the ship and the "Washington" at the back of
the ship . also decorate in an American Historic theme.
Elevators are a drawback on this ship. While there are enough,
they are very small, and because of the lack of their size, cause
backups at busy and non-busy times.
We had a TBA balcony (assigned when we arrived) #8376 - Verandah
deck .. Deck 8. This standard balcony room is not as big as HA
Oosterdam or Celebrity Summit and some other ships on which we have
traveled. Room located towards the aft, port side. Rooms are
decorated in medium cherry wood-tones with coordinating fixtures.
No real bedspread. More of a plain white duvet covers. Standard
bath set-up . small shower, though not as small as other Carnival
Ships we have been on (Spirit and Legend). Ample storage. Small,
narrow deck. Accommodates 2 chairs and small table. The view from
these balconies from inside the cabin is not as good as other ships
because of the configuration of the door/window area and the way
the drapes are positioned.
Unfortunately, our room was right under the Lido (Rosie's
Restaurant), whose flooring is mostly Mexican ceramic tiles. We had
very poor first few nights sleep because you CAN hear the food and
dish carts being rolled along the restaurant's floor (from early am
to the wee hours). We finally got used to it and after day four did
not have to sleep with pillows over our heads to break the noise.
Would not choose a room in this location. In fact this is the first
time in seven cruises that we did not pick our room in advance.
taking instead the TBA option. Did so because Carnival wanted an
extra $100 pp to pick the balcony room of our choice. The bathrooms
had a selection of free toiletries . which is pretty much standard
on the newer Carnival Ships. I got a kick out of the ceramic
picture of Eleanor Roosevelt hung over the toilet. She was indeed a
great lady. I think she deserved better positioning than over the
toilet! Our stateroom attendant (Dean) and his helper did an
There is one crazy aspect of the design of this ship. You can
walk from bow to stern only on two floors, 5 and 9. On all of the
other floors the flow is blocked . and I mean blocked. On every
floor other than 5 and 9 . when we got off the elevators we found
ourselves blocked and lost. For example, if you were dining at the
Washington main dining room (back of the ship) in the evening (on
floor 3 or 4) and you wanted to walk to the Theatre (on floor 3 or
4) to see a show, you literally had to get on an elevator and go up
to floor 5 walk to the front of the ship, get on the elevator,
again, and go down to floor 3 (or 4) to get to the theatre. This is
an annoying design flaw of this ship. Then again, maybe it is a
necessary structural design given the ship's size and length. All
week long people were complaining about being lost, trying to
figure out how to find venues due to the lack of flow-through of
many of the floors.
A highlight of this ship was the food. It was very good.
Luncheon choices were abundant . in Rosie's Restaurant you had a
choice of a Mongolian "Hot Boot" station (You load all sorts of
uncooked veggies, meats, and seafood into a bowl and have it cooked
with your choice of sauce). Great touch . very popular . but
somewhat slow because your food is being cooked to order and there
are only two chefs. Rosie's also has standard buffet set-up, with
changing types of luncheon foods . indigenous to various countries
. as well as one sandwich bar (creates all types of grilled
sandwiches; a permanent Chinese food station and a Fish and Chip
station, one floor up with all sorts of fried seafood. There is
also a Pizza/calzone station ( 24 hours) as well as hamburgers, hot
dogs, french fries, etc. While Rosie's is designed for maximum
flow, the lines for food were pervasive . but what can you do when
you have 3000+ guests to serve?
There is a separate (square) dessert station in Rosie's which
worked very well, equipped with servers to give you as many choices
as you would like. The quality of the desserts was very good. They
definitely bake with butter! The dessert chef's forte is
cheesecake! All possible varieties of cheesecake were available
throughout the week, as well as different varieties of Napoleans,
among many other types of desserts.
Each night at 11:30 there was some type of mini-food buffet
service in Rosie's Restaurant. It was there if you wanted it.
Evening dining in the main dining rooms was quite good, service
excellent. Seconds were readily offered and each night our waiter
voluntarily gave guidance as to what he considered to be good
choices on the menu. Our table # 349 (second seating) on the third
floor, nearer the entrance was a table for 4. Our waiter, Claudio
(from Chile) was excellent . well-seasoned . ever prompt, again
giving guidance about best selections on the menu.
Our head maitre' d was from Dublin Ireland. Each night he
treated us to his rendition of a Sinatra song. There were many
times that he sang in which sounded very similar to old blue eyes!
Great voice and nice personal touch hearing Sinatra songs after
each meal. He also had all the waiters and servers do a different
type of dance routine each night making for an interesting and
The alternative dining room is a good one, pretty much standard
fair if you have been on any of the other newer Carnival Ships. We
shared the huge porterhouse and 10 oz lobster tail. To us, it is
always worth the $25 pp to have this meal. We enjoy it, and always
take advantage of it on each ship. The only problem the night we
went is that this dining room was way too cold in temperature. Most
women were wearing their husbands' jackets. Also our wait staff was
not well trained, were novices . so the service was definitely
lacking, which is not normally the case in extra-charge alternative
There are five small pools on this ship as well as a flume ride.
One of the pools and flume ride were out of commission until the
end of the cruise (they were leaking). The latter was great fun,
many twists and turns and quite fast. Really neat. All pools are
small. The one pool that I swam in (main Lido area), surprisingly
had ceramic tile flooring, instead of gunite (cement) and was very
slippery. Seating on the lido (pool deck) is in tiers rather than
at one level. This deck also has, large plastic (semi-rocking
chairs) as well as lounges. Different touch.
Small, but fairly well equipped with good quality strength
training and weight bearing equipment. They certainly offered a lot
of classes, both paid and gratis.
There were two major shows provided by the Carnival Singers and
Dancers and they were great!!!!! In fact they were so good, they
overshadowed the other entertainment and made you want at least one
more show with these very talented people. Other entertainment
included comedians and Christopher Allan Graves .. A Sinatra and
Sammy Davis - type singer, who we have seen on other Carnival
Our cruise director, Josh, from Philly was a pip! Very visible,
and really a stand-up comic in disguise. It seems to me that
Carnival mandates that their Cruise Directors be off the
"extraversion scale" (a good thing), be very visible and help
ensure that all have a good time. This is not the case with other
cruise lines, where some directors' are non-existent. I think
Carnival gets this one right. We've yet to be disappointed in any
of their cruise directors and enjoy the entertainment that they
manage and provide.
As is always the case, Bingo games are plentiful. What made it
more attractive on the Valor is that every evening, before each
show in the theatre, a one game Bingo was offered that paid
$.500-700. My type of bingo!
Ports of Call:
In Nassau we shopped - as we didn't have as much time as we did
in the next two ports. It struck me that Nassau may be benefiting
from the hurricane Ivan devastation that hit Grand Cayman. Unlike a
few years ago when we last visited Nassau, I saw much more upscale
shopping, more stores and a general hustle and bustle, as well as
new construction, etc.
In St. Thomas we went to the ever-popular beach at Magen's Bay.
Was terribly crowded, the water was cloudy and while a nice spot,
we could hardly understand why it is rated one the top ten beaches
in the world? It is about a half hour cab ride if you go direct
from the ship at a cost of $6 pp each way. Coming back, we made the
mistake of leaving the beach at 4 pm and of course the bus had to
make a stop to drop off others in the center of town and we ended
up getting caught in the rush hour nightmare. It took us 1 hour and
20 minutes to get back to the ship from that beach.
In St. Maarten, we took the ferry, directly outside the port to
Front Street, which also dropped us right at Great Bay (just steps
in back of Front Street). We walked a few hundred yards, rented
covered beach chairs for $8 each and spent the day on the beach. We
bought the ferry wrist band (@$5 pp) and it allowed us to go back
and forth to the ship (went back for lunch). This whole process was
so simple and also gave us access to all the shopping on Front
Street - Philipsburg. We really enjoyed this and would do it again
if we have this port on another Caribbean cruise. The water was a
gorgeous turquoise blue, very clean. Warning - do not sit in the
first row of the beach chairs closest to the water as the vendors
do walk by every few minutes hawking their products. Also take the
time to walk several hundred yards from the ferry terminal to get
away from the crowds. Our tablemates opted to go to Orient Beach,
which they lamented was way over crowded, and obviously the place
that the crowds flock to. Great Bay was not as crowded and very
This cruise certainly attracted a very nice group of guests.
While there were children aboard, there were surprisingly very few
smaller children .but many more teenagers who had many venues set
up for them (their own night club, game room, etc.). Many guests
opted to dress up on the formal nights; there were many men in
In the past five years we have cruised with Costa, Norwegian,
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America and Carnival (3 times).
Unfortunately Carnival continues to get a somewhat older, undue rap
for being the rowdy, party ship. That couldn't be further from the
truth! From traveling on those other lines, often we heard fellow
cruisers say they would never take a Carnival Cruise. We often
speak in Carnival's defense because we have had such a positive
experience on all three cruises ( Legend, Spirit, Valor). Because
it was brand, spanking new, a maiden voyage . quite frankly we
expected the worst and got a very good cruise --- one of the best
we have taken so far! While we like cruising on a variety of ships,
with different cruise lines we continue to defend Carnival as an
all around, pretty good cruise line that consistently delivers. In
our minds they have really have only one thing to improve ---
embarkation/debarkation. Go Carnival!