I cruised on the Carnival Valor from 5/20/12-5/26/12 with a group of friends all in our 20s. This was my first cruise. Our ports of call were Key West, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. Let me start off with the good...
Rooms - Although small, our room was always clean. No issues there.
Staff - Our room steward knew us by name and was always smiling and chatting with us when we passed him in the hallway. Our waiter at dinner also knew our entire party by name. He was always pleasant.
That about sums up the positives. Now onto the bad..
Food - I did not know what to expect since I had never cruised before. The food at dinner was fairly good, but was only ever served lukewarm, not hot. Rosie's, the dining area by the pools on the Lido deck (which is where we mostly dined for breakfast/lunch), had an awful smell to it which made one person in our party sick the first day. I liked the burrito bar, and that was about it. The rest was mass produced slop.
Ports - I LOVED Key West and Montego Bay. I did wish we could have spent more time at each port. Especially since Grand Cayman was canceled due to bad weather. This is perhaps what really left a sour taste in my mouth about this cruise. I know the weather is out of anyone's control, but an extra day on the ship was more than I could bear. We were refunded our money for our excursion we had booked, and $12 and some change for taxes, but I felt we should have been otherwise compensated since the ports of call were the main reasons I came on this cruise to begin with.
The ship itself - I appreciated the Valor's theme/decor and most areas were clean and well maintained. BUT the ship rocked SO BAD due to the bad weather that I literally don't want to step foot on a boat for a VERY VERY long time. One of the girls in our group is a veteran cruiser (she has been going on cruises with her family since she's been little) and she said it was NEVER that bad. People had to hold onto the walls/railings it was so bad. Now, again, the weather is not anyone's fault, but for a first time cruiser like myself, this impression will always be in my mind. Fortunately I don't suffer from motion sickness.. Even with the rocking I never felt sick. But I could not imagine being stuck on that boat if I got seasick. It would have been an absolute nightmare.
Entertainment - I went to a couple shows on the boat. We went to a comedy show in the Punchliner venue, which I enjoyed. That was about it. The piano bar was pathetic. It was tiny and smelled like smoke even though there was no smoking. And it was always dead. We went to a "vegas style" show in the Ivanhoe theater which made me want to gouge my eyes out. The giant talking red couch narrating the show was the epitome of cheesy.
Overall - This was a terrible cruise for a cruise virgin like myself. Does not make me want to go on another one at all. The entire thing felt like a budget, bottom-of-the-barrel vacation. I had a great time with my friends (we can have fun anywhere) but I would NOT step foot on this ship again. I have never been more excited for a vacation to end in my life.