Carnival Valor 3/31/2012
First thought: what attracted me to this cruise? This cruise was about an excellent itinerary that fit a specific time I could travel, Spring Break.
We flew into Miami that Saturday morning. This flight works fine, but typically we like to travel the day before in case there are flight cancellations. Miami airport is about 25-30 minutes from the airport. We took the transfers from carnival for 16$. Taxi works fine too. You pay about the same, and you can leave right away. Miami is not my favorite port due to the chaos that occurs when you get there. Bags are stacked all over and you do not see your bags go into the building. You just hope that all is well. One member of our parties bag was damaged between the port and arriving at the room. Carnival actually took care of this for that person which was nice.
Arriving as a Carnival VIP is always wonderful. We went through the special security lines, and we were checked in right away. My folks are not VIPs, but they had a very easy time of embarkation. We arrived at the port around 11:00, and we were on the ship in 15 minutes.
The ship is one of their Conquest ships. The ship is well laid out and access to everything is simple as long as you use the 5th floor as your primary route. There are plenty of elevators to allow plenty of access around the ship. The decor is not the older over the top decor with lots of neon. It is styled around the Valor theme. Non- fiction heroes followed by some fictional heroes that demonstrate the theme of valor fill the ship. The ship is in great shape and well maintained.
Room: cabin 7434 we booked this room due to its unique shape. We read reviews and it surpassed what we expected. The room is wide and the bed faces the windows. The balcony is twice the size of the regular balconies on the ship. There is not sofa, but there are two chairs and a small table in the room. The balcony also has two chairs and a table, but it also includes a lounge chair. Plenty of storage in this room too.
Carnival dining room: as always, the first day is not the best for the firing room experience. We expect this. This first trip to the dining room was no different than the past visits. I like that they updated the menu from my past trips. This was a great change for carnival. The rest of the days in the dining room went well. The only other day that was an issue for service was the first formal evening. Our assistant waiter was in the galley due to the increased volume of people wanting the multiple orders. It was lobster night. The food quality was great considering how many meals they serve. I like the fried chicken they have added to the menu as a staple for those nights you do not feel like eating someone fancy. One issue I still have with carnival and RCL is sodas. They are horrible with getting sodas, even with a soda card. They are not good with refills in the dining room in regards to sodas. Disney does the best job with this. They need to add soda access in the dining roots allow a quicker turn around on drinks. I really believe the servers need to have one less table, and then give them the bar service. This way they can serve their customers faster. They would also receive the additional gratuity which is nice for them.
Spa: we did the couples massage in the massage. That went fantastic. The spa is well laid out. The therapists were very good at what they do. They do not try to overkill on post upsales, which is nice. The only issue I had was when we took advantage of the embarkation day sale. They gave us a 4:30 appointment, but the door did not open until 4:30. They did give us the full amount of time, but I do not like that rush into a spa. They needed to have someone outside of the door to update those folks who have those firs appointments. Besides that, all went well with the spa.
Entertainment: this is always a plus for carnival. The shows, 80's tribute and night club are standards in the recent years for carnival. The male singer Otis ship was stronger than the female. The comedian focus for carnival is another plus. The punch liner take brings on about 4 to 6 comedians on to the ship. They run about 4 shows on comedy nights that focus on family and adult style comedy. Very fun!
Day two: sea day number one.
Plenty of things to do on the ship. The serenity spa area and the back part of the ship allow for great adult only swimming and relaxing. The families pretty much stay around the center of the ship. Plenty of room for everyone. The hot tubs in the serenity area are the best. It can be cold on a windy day, but the view is great.
Casino - I like Carnival casinos better than any of the other lines we have been on. All seem to have the smoke issue, but in regards to the winning opportunities, carnival really does the best job. I seem to fare better in all areas of the casino. RCl just takes my money. Other Carnival lines seem to fare. Better in the casino area. I have seen so many of the RCL casinos become empty by the end of the cruise due to horrible odds. Only the tables seem to get any business. Way to go Carnival. I like the new fun 21 tables they added. The odds are not the best, but it is cheaper to play. The fun pairs element was rewarding for me. The staff is friendly. There are plenty of slot tournaments during the cruise. People seem excited in the casino.
First formal night. Plenty of picture opportunities. The singing and dancing is what carnival is all about. Fun! You will see waiters on the counters dancing. Production show night - nightclub.
Day three: another wonderful day at sea.
Same thing - lots of things to do.
Day four: St. Thomas
Plenty of things to do at this port. Shopping at this port has slipped over the years. There are plenty of stores nearby, but not what it used to be. We enjoy going to the hooters nearby for the wings. It is walking distance from the port. Both set of parents go with us and they enjoy this stop too. I recommend taking a beach or snorkel excursion to st. John. You will not regret it. Meagan's bay is ok, but I would rather see St. John. The snorkeling there is amazing.
Day five: Antigua
Tis is the first time I have been to this port with three other ships. They handled the crowd wonderfully. We took the catamaran snorkel tour. It was wonderful. It was just a 4 hour trip. The reef was quite some distance from the shore, but the reef was excellent. The depth was only 15 to 20 feet. Some portions extend to the surface. The beach time was excellent. Beautiful beaches. The country is very proud and the people were wonderful. Lots of things to do. Same shopping at the pier. I actually liked this better than St. Thomas.
Day six: Tortola
We purchased the snorkel tour at the baths. It was unfortunately cancelled due to dangerous surf. They quickly placed us on the Tortola snorkel tour. It was a beautiful boat ride followed by average snorkeling. The three tunnels were a nice perk for snorkeling. The cruise tour guys were fun. It was only a three and half hour tour. We went to two different islands for snorkel and back time. The island is not known for shopping. For those who want to venture it, there is not a lot to do. A tour might be a good idea for those who do not want to take in some adventure. We were the only ship in port. It looks to me that they can only take two ships top at the port.
Day seven: day at sea. This worked well after three stops in a row. Sleeping was the primary item. Formal night number two for the cruise. The 80's tribute show was tonight. This is a great show. The entertainment team was wonderful.
Day eight: Nassau
What a great day in Nassau. Three other ships in port. The port was busy, but the crowds were fine. We went back to Venetian Jewelers who we bought from last trip on Monarch. Vince is the manager in the main store and helped me by a new Philip Stein watch. The shopping guide on the Valor was a huge help for me on this. I got a great deal. The stop is filled with many activities. Quite simply a beautiful day in Nassau. This is one place you should by your Jewelry. They are not as picky with customs as they are with St. Thomas. Plenty of stores. We saved our shopping for this port.
Day nine: Back in Miami
We selected the Self Assist. Very easy. We were called down early, so we headed down and almost walked off the ship without stopping. Customs was quick and easy. We took a cab for the set price of $25.00 back to the airport. We were at the airport within 30 minutes. We had a flight at 12:00 noon. We had lots of time at the airport. Plenty of food places at the airport. Great debarkation Carnival! I heard the airport program they use now is great. This is where they give your boarding passes and send your luggage ahead of you to the airport. There is a small fee for this though. Many people seem to use this.
I recommend this trip because it has a great itinerary. It is not a Crystal or Celebrity in regards to service, but it was a great trip with good service. Doing a back to back on the 6th day to Key West, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman would be a great addition. This is ship is very nice and well maintained. The room was a bonus!