I sailed on the Valor last spring. it was around 6 months after debut. The ship was huge, very spiffy, and roomy. It has a lot of cool art inside the ship. The shiniest boat I had ever seen. The very downside was the dining! It was the worst food ( the way it was prepared). The staff must have been new and not trained well enough. The seating was sloppy and unorganized.
The embarkation procedure also chaotic! After a day of all of this, I would have taken a sedative if I had one! The skipper was nice enough to have our picture taken and assured me of no "liquid sunshine" in St. Thomas! A word to all, If you sail to St. Thomas after a stop in Nassau, you will be subjected to a long customs vertification check!You will have to line up all the way around the ship to the Eagles Lounge. Also Customs down in Miami dont like to see small dollar amounts declared on card! better spend more on cruise or lie by putting down a higher amount! Josh, the cruise director metioned that duringthe talk.Bon Voyage ! Maurice
My husband and I were on the April 3rd sailing of the Valor. We stayed at the Radisson for 2 nights pre cruise. Its an Ok place, close to the free metro mover which will take you to Bayside.
About 11:45 AM on Sunday we grabbed a cab to the port. The line for the funpass was long but moved quickly. Being from Canada I expected them to take my passport but they did not. They told us they stopped this practice several weeks ago. We were onboard by 12:45, dropped our carry-ons in the room and were on the lido deck by 1:00PM. The buffet food was pretty good but I seem to remember a better variety on my previous 2 carnival cruises. The burgers and hotdogs from the grill were good. I didn't have the pizza but my husband said it was pretty good, not great but good. We had dinner in the dining room every night and the food and service was great.
We had an inside cabin deck 7 aft. It was small but functional. Cabin steward kept things clean and could always be found ifyou needed him. The layout of the ship is a little confusing at first. Not being able to go the entire length of the ship on decks 3 and 4 took some getting used to. Once you figure out to use deck 5 things were easier.
Our ports were Grand Cayman-did stingray city and loved it.
Roatan-didn't do much here Costa Maya-did the tour to Chacchoben and enjoyed it Cozumel-just roamed around and did some shopping.
Getting off the ship was easier than before. As they did not take our passports we did not have to get up at 5:30 to get them back and go through immigration. Instead the procedure was as follows. First- American citizens carrying their luggage. Second- early flights and tours. And third - the rest of us in no particular order, they just made a general call to leave the ship when you were ready. When you get off is when you go thru immigration and customs, that's where the line up is, in the terminal. It moved quickly so its was no big deal.
Overall we had a good time but think we like the mid size ships better. It seemed more crowded on this ship than others and if you had to go back to your cabin for something it could be quite the hike.
I recently had the pleasure of being on the Valor for the exotic western caribbean itinerary.
Embarkation: Pretty easy we did a two night pre-cruise stay at the Hyatt Regency downtown Miami. We got down to the pier around 11:30 - 11:45. Our funpass was already completed, did not have to wait in line long, and we were on the ship approximately 12:30. However, we had friends that flew down that day, that encountered some pretty long lines outside, even with their funpass.
Decor: I liked the patriotic and courageous theme of this ship. Carnival has toned down it's look in recent years and it really worked well. It's still a bit gaudy in places, but that doesn't bother me.
Layout: To me it was very easy to get around. Go up to Deck 9 Lido and I had access to the sun and food. Deck 5 promenade contained most of the bars and lounges and I could use it to get to the Wahington dining room.
Public areas: Plenty of deck space in the sun, quite crowded at times (week before Easter). Quiet places to lounge out and enjoy the view justoutside the photo gallery areas. Bars were nice. Theatre had a good setup. Rosie's restaurant is huge, always had a view of the sea while eating breakfast or lunch.
Food: I ate breakfast at the buffet every morning. Selection was good, typical buffet food but to me the quality was fine. Lines weren't too bad. The omelets are especially good. Lunch at the buffet as well. Burgers and dogs for me, also very good. Pizza was still good, but I remember it being just a bit better. The fish and chips were awesome. I did the pre-dinner sushi almost every night, and I really enjoyed it. Dining room dinners were nice. I can honestly say I never had a bad meal there. Food was always served hot. Scarlett's supper club is not to be missed, outstanding food with service to match well worth the price.
Service: Good to excellent throughout. Waiters and bartenders did a nice job. My cabin steward was on top of his game.
Ports: In Belize we did Goff's Caye snorkeling, a very nice excursion to a little Island that looked like Gilligan's. Isla Roatan was a waste, it was billed as your "beach day", but I've seen better beaches in NJ. We didn't book an excursion here just went to West End Bay beach. Grand Cayman was very nice, still recovering though. Cozumel was great, always my favorite stop. I was a little disapointed in the water quality at Playa Mia beach, but this may have been the currents or something.
Cabin: Very tastefully done. Had the balcony cabin on deck 6 upper. Comfortable beds, plenty of storage spaces, nice bathroom.
Debarkation: Carnival has abandoned the old call your color system. It went to a sef-assist and early flights first, and then a general call. It did not work as well, this was the first time I ever encountered horrendous lines leaving the ship. However I had a late flight, so I didn't care.
Problems: Deck chair savers, they must be stopped. There are signs, but no enforcement whatsoever. Nearly impossible to get a chair on a sea day. Kids in the adult's hot tub also not enforced well enough.
Overall: Very nice cruise, a little crowded but again I went the week before Easter.
What a wonderful first time experience! There were 14 other couples from Iowa that were with us. We enjoyed the flight to Miami, boarding the ship took no time at all, and the departure was perfect! The ship held so many people, but we often wondered where everyone was, as it was never crowded. The room, service, and dining experience were also great. A BIG thank you to Josh, Eddie, Sabby, and Pavla for all their hard work at making our vacation so memorable. The photographers took great pictures to bring home with us, which were especially nice since this year will be our 30th anniversary and on formal nights, we took advantage of having our pictures taken in several different settings.
Would I like to do this again, YES, and would I choose Valor again, YES---I was just getting good at finding my way around when we had to go home. Excursions were wonderful, with lots of relaxation, and sights to see, along with the shopping! One problem, It is true, you don't really need to pack much clothing--I down-sized twice before we left home and still had way toomuch. I would like to know the best way to get great tickets for the least amount of money for a cruise-------any suggestions?
I cruised with my wife and 13 year old daughter. This is the 5th cruise for my wife and I and the 4th for my daughter. All have been on Carnival. As a family we have sailed the Triumph (2002), Victory (2003), Glory (2004) and Valor. My wife and I were able to ditch junior for a 4-day cruise on the Sensation in 2003.
OK, on to the review....
Day 1 (Sunday Embarkation) We arrived at the port around 11:15 am. Check-in was a breeze! We waited in line no longer than 10 minutes. I've heard horror stories about nightmarish check-ins but I've yet to experience one. Maybe it's because we always arrive early and miss the crowds.
We gathered our S&S cards and were on the ship by 12:15. First, a quick trip to our cabin to check out the digs for the next week. The upgrade fairy was kind as we booked an inside guarantee on the Riviera and were upgraded to an inside on the Verandah deck (cabin #8328). The cabin was in excellent shape having only been used a dozen or so times previously. The room didnot seem crowded even when all 3 of us were there. My daughter slept in a bunk that pulled down from the ceiling.
Day 2 (Monday, Valentine's Day-Nassau) We arrived in Nassau right on time. We were off the ship early (around 9:00 a.m.) since we only had until 1:30 to be back on the ship due to the 2:00 pm departure. This is one of my few complaints. Anything earlier than a 4:00 departure and the day seems very rushed.
We caught a cab to Cable Beach. It was about a 15-20 minute ride. The driver dropped us off at Wyndahm Hotel & Casino. We just walked right through the lobby and casino to the beach. I walked down to the Radisson which is right next door (the beach was a little bigger) and set up shop and was soon chased off by a Radisson employee asking my room number. I told him I didn't have one but planned on buying some drinks and lunch. It did not matter. No biggie! Back to the Wyndham we went. It was very nice. The pool was big and warm. My daughter especially appreciated this because the Atlantic Ocean was really cold. It must have been because she is not a kid that is bothered by cold water. We shopped at the pier on the way back.
Day 3 (Tuesday, Fun Day at Sea) Caught some rays on the deck and ate like a king.
Day 4 (Wednesday St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) Since we stopped in Nassau before St. Thomas everyone on the ship had to clear customs. This entailed waiting in a 25 minute line and showing your passport to a U.S. Customs Official. They do this by deck through luck of the draw. However, if you need/want to get off early don't wait for your deck to be called. Just get in line as soon as they start calling decks. All in all - it was pretty painless.
We caught a cab to downtown Charlotte Amalie for a couple of hours of shopping. I would recommend skipping the Havensight Mall at the dock if you're shopping for jewelry. The competition downtown makes for better prices. Our favorite place is Imperial Jewelers.
With the shopping done our next destination was Trunk Bay on St. John. Since we were downtown already we caught the ferry ride there instead of at Red Hook. The ride took 45 minutes and was pretty smooth. A 20 minute cab ride later and we were at Trunk Bay. Fine white sand, warm water, and a gentle breeze made it as beautiful as I had heard and seen on TV. It was not very crowded as there were only 3 ships in port that day. Trunk Bay is part of the National Park Service so it costs $4 per person. Kids under 16 get in free. There is a snack shop, lockers and showers. A word of caution. All of these close at 4:30 p.m. (ship time). We stayed until 5:00 p.m. and found the rest rooms locked up tight. The shower stalls were open but the water had been shut off.
Day 5 (Thursday, St. Maarten N.A.) We caught the water taxi to downtown Phillipsburg. My daughter had her hair braided at a salon at a cost of $2 per braid. A little more shopping and it was off to the beach.
We were looking for something that was family appropriate and decided on Dawn Beach. The cab ride was about 20 minutes. The driver dropped us off at a place called Mr. Busby's Beach Bar & Restaurant. We rented two lounge chairs and an umbrella for $10. It was really warm so I decided to get a cold one. I noticed everyone was drinking a beer called Carib so I decided to order a bottle. The bartender says that will be 75 cents and my first thought was "What kind of swill am I about to drink?" I was pleasantly surprised...it was delicious. Tasted like Corona. So I decided to have 5 or 6 more. The lunch menu was pretty pricy at Mr. Busby's so we walked down the beach and had lunch at a place called Beau Beau's. The food was good and not too expensive. All three of us got out the door for around $35 including tip.
The beach was white sand and the water was warm with a lot of fish that would come right up to you in the shallow water. The peddlers were a bit annoying but moved on with a polite but firm "no thank you". There were a couple of topless women on the beach but no male nudity. Saw quite a few people from the Valor. Not much in the way of water activities though (i.e., water trampoline, banana boats, parasailing, etc..). All in all I would give it a big thumbs up!
Did I mention the 75 cent beers?
Day 6 (Friday) / Day 7 (Saturday) Fun Days at Sea See Day 3 above.
Food We were assigned table #170 for the 6:15 sitting in the Lincoln Dining Room. The food and service was very good as per usual in our experience with Carnival. The menu has changed since our last cruise. Not a complete over-haul but tweaked - some new main courses and deserts. They still had the standards such as Pumpkin Soup, lobster tail and filet mignon. If anyone has any specific questions, I will try to answer them. One thing we noticed was that the nightly "show" put on by the wait staff was later than in any of our previous cruises. This made it impossible to see the wait staff show and get to the Ivanhoe Theatre early enough to get good seats that evening's entertainment. This put us in the unfortunate position of having to choose between the two. We chose getting good seats in the Ivanhoe. This was a bit disappointing as we really enjoy the singing and dancing shows performed by the wait staff.
Rosie's Restaurant on the Lido deck had the usual fare: burgers, fries, pizza, chicken breast sandwiches etc.. My favorite is the roasted turkey sandwiches on a baguette at the deli. I think my total for the week was 9 sandwiches. They also had an Asian corner called the "The Oriental", also very good. I did not try the fish and chips restaurant (it would have interfered with my record setting turkey sandwich consumption) but my daughter said it was very good.
Every day on the Lido deck for lunch they had something called the "Taste of Nations". A selection from a different nation's cuisine was featured each day. Examples include; French, American, Caribbean, Indian, Japanese, and Chocolate (yes, I know Chocolate is not a country). It was an incredible spread of all things chocolate. Not to be missed.
Supper Club - Didn't try it.
Entertainment It was simply the best of any of our 5 cruises.
Vegas Style Shows There were two shows. The first was "Nightclub Express" featuring songs from famous night clubs in their heyday such as the Cotton Club (jazz), Studio 54 (disco) and so on.
The 2nd show should not be missed. It is called "Far From Over" and is a tribute to the music of the 1980's. You will hear hits form the various artists that dominated the charts in the 80's. It also includes a performance by a couple of break dancers that will bring you to your feet. Take my word for it and do not miss this show. By far the best Vegas-style show we have ever seen on a cruise.
Comedians There were three on the cruise: Al Romero, Allyn Ball and Jim Brick. I did not see Al Romero so I cannot comment on his act. Allyn Ball and Jim Brick were very funny! We saw the family shows and my face hurt from laughing so hard. I did not see the "adult only" shows but I'm sure they would have been great. The "adult only" shows do not start until after midnight which made it tough for me to attend.
Other Entertainers There was a comedian/juggler named Dana Tison. He was very good also. The bit he does with a "volunteer" from the crowd is hilarious (as long as you are not the "volunteer".
A singer named Yolanda Barber (from Pittsburgh, PA) also performed and was quite good. A word of warning here. She likes to choose people from the audience to perform with her. So if you don't want to be part of the show, I would advise not sitting near the stage. The woman will not take "no" for an answer if she picks you.
There was hypnotist named Glenn Miller who also performed. He put 15-20 people on stage and tried to hypnotize them. My daughter was one of the volunteers but she was not hypnotized. I think kids are harder to hypnotize. There were probably 4 or 5 people that were truly hypnotized out of the lot. His show was probably the weakest of the cruise, IMHO.
They also had an Elvis impersonator named Eddie Miles. He was pretty good. He had the King's on stage mannerisms down pat and his voice was really good. I only caught the 2nd half of his show and regretted not seeing the whole show. He only performed 1 show.
There also was a band called "Music Society that performed in the Eagles Lounge. They are 4 guys from the Philippines that play all kinds of music. One night they played all country music, another night it was 70's music and another it was all Beatles music. Every night it was something different. Don't miss these guys!
Cruise Director Josh Riffe (pronounced like wife) was the CD. He was funny and quick witted. I really liked him. He was not in love with hearing himself over the speaker system like some of the other CDs we have sailed with. He kept the announcements to a minimum. He was out and about at the Captain's Party and very friendly.
Camp Carnival/Kids' Activities My daughter did not attend many Camp Carnival activities after the 1st day or two. Once she made friends with another girl her age they hung out together. The Valor has a teen hangout called "The Caboose". It is a combination arcade/dance club. She really enjoyed it as no adults were allowed.
Service Very good. From the room steward to the wait staff to the bartenders everyone was very friendly.
Gym Awesome! The equipment is in great shape and plentiful. I counted at least 12 treadmills. The treadmills had a TV that you could plug your headphones into and watch any of the ship's channels. It made my 5 mile runs go by fast. (How else do you think I could justify 9 turkey sandwiches in 1 week?)
That about covers it. Sorry to be so brief..LOL. If anyone has any questions - fire away and I will try to answer them.
Pat Running Dad
Embarkation: Since we had been on 3 previous Carnival cruises, we knew this is a long process, however, Carnival has gotten better. With the exception of one rude employee, embarkation went very smoothly. We were on the ship and in our balony cabin by 12:45.
The Ship: Valor is very beautiful. Very patriotic and historic. We loved all the red/white/blue, stars, stripes, and historic faces. The Ivanhoe theater was well thought out with plenty of seats for everyone. We never saw it completely filled. The formal dining rooms were tastfully done, roomy, and were set up to assist the serving staff to better serve the passenger. All the other lounges, bars, common areas were also decorated so nicely, roomy, and fun to be in. When Ann Campbell stated that Carnival has finally gotten it right, she was so right!! Rosies (buffet dining) was spread out, roomy, short lines, and always a seat to be found. The pools, hot tubs, and spa were all well thought out and very enjoyable.
The Food: Overall the food was very good. There were a few dishes that lacked flavor. Our only complaint was the lack of old favoriteswith desserts. Carnival please bring back Baked Alaska and Cherries Jublie!!! We did notice that the meat servings were very large while the vegetable servings very very small. We tried Scarletts one night and enjoyed the experience. However, when your food is placed in front of you and you can't recognize most of it, you get a little concerned. Scarletts is worth the money and should be tried at least once.
The Service: We can't say enough positive things about the service we received. It was without a doubt the best. Our cabin stewart, Alfonso, took care of our every need and we never had to ask for a single thing. We even tipped him extra! All of the servers were very good as well.
The Shows: The shows were as always wonderful. Carnival really knows how to do the Vegas type shows. The comedians were really funny and we watched a very talented juggler one night. There were 2 singers that were very talented, but their shows lacked variety. We really enjoyed the "High Sociey" band in the Eagles lounge. Their Beatles tribute should not be missed.
Shore Tours: We toured the Atlantis Digs and did not feel it was worth the $29.00 price. A taxi from the port to the hotel was $4.00pp one way. In St. Thomas were took a taxi to Blackbeards Castle. ($4.00pp one way) We paid a $12.00pp entrance fee and had the run of the place for the day. There are 3 pools, a restaurant/bar, beautiful grounds, historic houses, and then you can take the 99 steps into town. The view from the top of the castle is a must see. We had a pool all to ourselves with a small cabanna for over an hour. Very relaxing. We also enjoyed Paradise Point. Our day in St. Martin was not as enjoyable. Peddlers at Orient Beach would not leave us alone and many of the people in Marigot were rude.
The excitement: One night at 3:12 am a voice over the PA system stated, "Bravo Team to Portside". We soon noticed that a search light was scanning the top of the water and the ship had stopped. Our cabin was close to the bridge and you could see a lot of activity. A life boat was lowered and after about 30 minutes a 52 year old man was pulled from the water. Carnival crew did a great job in saving the man. It was very foggy that night and visibilty was very poor. When we arrived in St. Martin the next morning, the man was taken to the hospital by an ambulance.
Summary: We had a wonderful cruise. And congratulate Carnival on a fabulous ship, wonderful crew, and a vacation we will never forget.
Precruise: We flew into FLL 3-19 and stayed at the Radisson for $100 on Priceline in FLL for one night. Rented a car from Budget at FLL airport and returned to Sheraton Biscyane in Miami and then paid $8 for the taxi to the pier. The car return was very slow, but for $42 total intermediate size car, no drop off charge it worked for us. Embarkation: From the time we arrived at 12:45pm we were on the boat 1:40pm.
Overall: We were pleasantly pleased with the boat. It was mostly non smoking except for a few designated areas. The décor was gaudy but it was to be expected. Service, food, etc were better than I expected. It was not rowdy at all, especially for how many passengers were on board. Easter week was full. Never felt it was too crowded. One issue that always arises on every cruise is the saving of chairs and we found to get a prime location you had to get up pretty early. They never seemed to run out of chairs, but the location was no ideal to say the least.
Room: We were onthe main deck in the front of the boat 2218. There was a huge amount of noise when the boat docked and vibration. We paid for an inside guarantee and I wish I would have paid a bit more to be in a more quiet area. The room was well organized and we had space underneath the bed to store the suitcases. Our cabin steward removed a spare chair for us since we had the crib in the room and wanted more space. It was a proper rolling crib with metal bars, not a pack and play. Our 2 year old could have climbed out if she chose since the sides were low.
Camp Carnival: This is the primary reason we sailed Carnival at all. Our daughter is 2 years old and we wanted to have dinners alone, etc. The first night we signed her up and picked up the pager. She went almost every day and loved it! Even though it was Easter week the counselors had everything in control and provided quality care and fun activities. Never seemed to be too many kids. They were quite strict about the rules/protocol. The adult who checks the child in has to be the one who signs out. Also, you can't sign the child in unless you have the pager. The 2nd day my hubby stayed at dinner while I tried checking her in, but they refused since I wasn't carrying the pager. I told them that my hubby had it and I was just going back down there for dinner, but they refused. Also, they do change diapers. You were supposed to bring a labeled diaper bag with wipes, diapers and a change of clothes just in case. The after hours care was just watching a movie and laying down. The kids were not allowed to play in the main room but instead watched movies. Cost was $6 per hour after 10pm. They never paged us at any time and changed her diapers without us asking, I had expected to be paged and have to do it myself so that was a pleasant surprise. My only gripe was that most people must not have provided the wipes so mine seemed to be disappearing at an alarming rate and I was worried I would run out : ) In Belize she spent 6-7 hours in the kids club and no problems, they took her to lunch, etc. Note that Camp Carnival is closed certain times of the day, consider this when you make your dining arrangements. We requested late seating and our dinner was at 8:30pm, but since we were on West Coast time no problem. If we weren't I would have definitely chosen the early sitting. Here are the links to the weekly schedule for Camp Carnival (sorry I scanned each page separately):
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Pools: My daughter put her legs in the jacuzzis and splashed around in the Children's pool outside of Camp Carnival. She wears swim diapers and I didn't want her "swimming" much in the pool, but others were and I don't think anyone would have said anything. (salt water only)
Food: Last at sea day had a chocolate buffet at Rosie's which we enjoyed. Loved Rosie's and ate there every lunch. The Asian food and deli were my favorites. I am a little picky about roast beef don't like a lot of fat or overprocessed and was pleasantly surprised. The selections in the main dining room were just right for us. They were smaller portions, but you could try everything and had many courses. Quality of the food was much better than my last Carnival trip and exceeded my expectations. They brought my daughter's food quickly and were willing to do anything. They were extremely friendly and thoughtful towards her.
Roatan: We docked here and although the boat arrives at 7am, it is 6am local time. We didn't get off until 8am and negotiated a taxi for $60 for the whole day. He didn't speak much English, but with my rusty Spanish we had no issues. We went to the new Canopy tour, Palmetto Bay. My hubby went on the 20 ziplines for $45 and was thrilled. I waited at the bottom with my daughter and we went for a little walk to see everyone flying above us. No clue of their official opening time, but we arrived there around 8:30 am and there were other groups already going (7:30 local time). That took about 1 hour 45(1 hour 10 was in the trees, other was forms, suiting up, explanation, etc) and then we went to the Iguana Farm for $5 a person, no charge for my daughter and fed them. Also, saw the monkeys and fish. Not worth going out of your way for, but definitely worth it if you are close by, very novel. Then, we drove to the other side for the beach. Went to a free beach West Bay, no problems with sand fleas. There were fresh water showers and services of all sorts if you liked. Didn't snorkel, but those who did raved about it.
As a side note, there are 2 canopy tours, one associated with Tabyana Beach and that is only open to people who book through the cruise line or when you get to Tabyana Beach. If you travel with Carnival you should do Palmetto instead since it is open to anyone at this time. They are under negotiations with Carnival and that may affect things. We tried beforehand to get info/reservations about the canopy before we left with little luck so wanted to share our experience with you all.
Belize: Booked the boat's tour of Altun Ha and River Wallace. Normally we don't do the cruise ships thing but we were leaving our daughter on board that day and wanted to make sure we were back in time. There seemed to not be much to do at the port unless you booked something. Asked for room service the night before and they delivered a tasty roast beef and brie on baguette which I ate on the way. Altun Ha ruins were nice and the tour guide ok. Loved that there weren't extra "shopping" stops, it was all pretty much a tour except for a quick lunch break. The River Wallace boat ride was fun, we saw monkeys, manatees, etc. Sit in the front if you don't want to get wet. The people in the back got splashed. Also, make sure you have your sunscreen on as there is no cover. There were nice flush toilets at Altun Ha, and some flush ones at the restaurant before you board the boat, but no water to buy anywhere. Make sure you carry some if you want it.
Cozumel: Boat docks at Puerta Maya. Went to Paradise Beach for the day. $12 per taxi and fit 4 adults and 1 child in each way. Nice hammocks, free admission. It was something like $5 to buy an activity bracelet for kayaks, bouncy iceberg, etc. A bargain, but we just sat making sand castles and looking at the parrots. Free chairs and shade, very nice. They had massages on the beach which I didn't use, but wish I did. nice toilets, showers, drinks, palm trees etc. Ordered their guacamole/chips and nachos which were surprisingly good. From there you can walk to a few other places which have restaurants, birds, shopping, etc.
Grand Caymen: it was a zoo! Too many boats there for the day and had to be pushy in order to get a taxi, very annoying. Went to Sea Grapes beach for the day. Beautiful sand and nice water. There were flush toilets and a fresh water shower to use. Collective taxi for $4 per person each way and they crammed as many people as possible.
The End: We self disembarked around 7:45am and it worked out wonderfully. Just be a US citizen and carry your own luggage and off you go. None of that trying to leave your luggage out the night before! Highly recommend it. My hubby paid $16 on the ship so he could take the transfer to FLL airport. He made it for an 11:30am flight no problem. Will definitely do Carnival again especially with children.
My wife and I sailed on the Valor and except for the normal things that aren't perfect on any vacation we had a great time.
We arrived at the terminal at 3 PM and the ship was due to leave at 4. We entered the building and never saw another guest until we boarded the ship. It was a fantastic way to start the trip---not a line in sight. Sure we missed some of the early feedings but any experienced cruiser knows there's plenty more to come.
The ship was in great shape and the staff did all that was expected. Our servers in the dining room were more than personable and served us with a smile and lots of great conversation. Everyone should take the time to try and get to know these people and learn about their cultures. Everytime we go cruise we try and come home with a lot more understanding about other cultures. Believe me, it's a lot more valuable than any piece of jewelry you'll ever buy.
We thought the entertainment was great---it all depends on what you like. The neat thing is you don't haveto stay and watch a show or activity if you don't like it. Just keep moving till you're comfortable and then settle in and have some fun.
We normally pick a trip based on the ports and we weren't disappointed here. The cave tubing in Belize was wonderful and we snorkeled in Cozumel and Isla Roatan. We couldn't land in the Caymans as the sea was too rough but safety should always come first. A day at sea in the Caribbean is always better than a day shoveling snow back home in the north country fo New York State.
Getting off the ship was a breeze as we always book some type of excursion and are in the early groups to get off and head out to explore some new place. This time we took the Art Deco tour in Miami and really learned a lot.
We cruised with spring breakers, families with children, retired couples, young, old, loud, quiet,---all types on board. If we wanted to be around them we were--if not we just moved around till we found a group or activity that made us comfortable and we joined in. It's a really BIG ship with lots of room.
The Valor was a great time and worth the money. Most people can find something wrong with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Our advice is to go and have reasonable expectations and remember that no one is on board that ship [staff or guest] with the sole intent of ruining YOUR vacation. Everyone needs to be able to tell the difference between an inconvenience, a problem, and a crisis. Bon voyage.
What can I say. This is a beautiful and amazing ship and the service was wonderful.
Embarkation was fine. We got to the port around 10:00 because we wanted to be the first in line and get on the ship first and we were. Although cabins are not ready until 1:00 pm so you can go straight up to Lido deck to eat lunch. The food was very, very good. They have a lot of diffent variety to choose from. The only complaint was long lines everywhere, however, they did move pretty quickly.
The first day in Belize it rained hard all day. We did not get off the ship that day. They had cancelled the Cave Tubing excursion due to the river being flooded. You also have to be tendered to the island. We were told by the cruise director, Josh, that if you dont have a tour booked there, you would be right back on the ship in 30 minutes because there is not much there to see unless you have booked a tour and go out into the mainland.
Isla Roatan Honduras was beautiful. We did the TabayanaBeach Day. Water is beautiful and crystal clear. This is a very crowded area so if you want to do a beach day and have a lot of privacy, they suggested you do the Paradise Beach Day. By the way, Paradise Beach is where they filmed the Corona Beer commercial.
Grand Cayman was amazing. You have to do Stingray City. The Stingrays are amazing and so loveable. We also did the Turtle Farm and visited Hell on this excursion. Again, amazing! There is still alot of Hurricane damage from Ivan. Very sad.
Cozumel. This was my favorite stop. You must do either the Dolphin Encounter or the Dolphin Swim. We did the Dolphin Encounter. Our dolphins name was Amaya. They film the whole experience so you can purchase the video afterward. The video was 29.00 and well worth every cent!!
The cruise director Josh Riffe was good. Not the best we have had, but good. Be sure to keep up with your Carnival Capers because he did not keep you much informed as to what is going on throughout the day.
The shows where the best I have ever seen on all my cruises. Go to all the shows!!!
We had late seating dinner for the first time. We enjoyed this better because we had more time to spend out on deck and were not rushed for dinner. They also have a Sushi Bar, so if you want an appetizer for dinner, perfect!
The disco was fun but they seemed to play the same type of music every night and did not play alot of variety. Be sure to go to the Eagles Lounge and hear the Music Society. They have been on every ship we have been on and they are great. They play a variety of music, top 40, disco, country, you name it, they play it.
Cool Runnings was the Reggae Band out on deck. They are great also.
Embarkation was a breeze. Here's a little secret. After you get your luggage in the warehouse, be sure to let one of the porters from outside take your luggage for you because you get to go straight to customs and bypass the very, very, very, long line waiting to go thru customs.
All being said, I would definately go on this ship again and I am starting to plan my next cruise.
Carnival Valor - Maiden 7 day Caribbean Voyage - December 19, 2004 from Port of Miami. Cruised to Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
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 movedus 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 excellent job!
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 "friendly" atmosphere.
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 dining.
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 Ships.
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 enjoyable.
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 tuxes.
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!