For my daughter's 15th birthday, my husband and I decided to take her on a cruise. She really wanted to go tot he Bahamas, so we found a ship that was headed to that part of the world during our Spring Vacation.
This was our first cruise and we didn't really know what to expect, but after reading many, many notes on Cruise Critic, we felt ready and excited. The Valor is a beautiful ship and the staff provided outstanding service. As our daughter was older, I can no comment on camp carnival except to say that when we arrived at the embarkation area, we noticed quite a few kids, but we never saw any of them on the ship! This might also be because we did not frequent the buffet on the Lido deck or enjoy much of what Rosie's had to offer as we loved being waited on by the quality staff in the dining room!
We had a wonderful balcony room on the upper deck (deck 6) in the forward part of the ship. We were unsure if the motion of the ship would bother us, and were pleased to learn that it did not. The room had more than enough space for the large quantity of stuff a teenage girl (ok, and mom) can bring with them, but we did not ever feel crowded. The bathroom at first blush seemed too small, but even that worked well and the water pressure in the shower was wonderful.
With the exception of the steak my husband had on the first night, the food on the Valor is super! There was a nice variety and the quality was excellent. Add to that some fun waiters and you have the mix for several nice evenings of dining. We did go to Scarletts our last night on the ship and this is an experience not to be missed. They delivered a birthday cake to my daughter that night, but we were so full, we had to take it back to our room. This was the only meal where I felt like I over ate, but it was more than worth it!!
After reading and researching, we decided not to do any excursions through Carnival, but instead made our own plans. We visited the Atlantis Hotel and Paradise Island, but due to the short stop in Nassau did not make it to the beach. In St. Thomas, we had plans to shop in the AM, and head to Coki beach in the afternoon, but we had to much fun shopping and again...did not make it to the sand. My husband did, however, surprise my daughter and I with some wonderful jewelry.
St. Maarten was my favorite island and we rented a car there and set out on our own excursion. I had done some research and wanted to spend the day enjoying Pinel Island, so we took our map and set out to find it. By luck or skill, we drove right to it (took about 50 minutes...longer on the way home due to traffic). Our passenger ferry was the first one of the day, and so we had our pick of umbrellas and chairs. Our waiter, Steve, kept the iced cold drinks and food coming and we had the most wonderful day vacationing of my life. The sun, water, sand, food and family made this a must repeat location for us. We loved it so much, I think we may return to St. Maarten for a full vacation next year!
The evening entertainment on board the Valor is top notch. The comedians were funny, the singers were good and the dancers gave a Vegas quality performance. On top of that, we had a chance to speak with many of them, and they were nice people too. Our cruise director, Josh Riffe kept everyone and everything moving along and if anything I felt like there was too much to do. I was exhausted by the time we got home.
The only "negative", and I'm not sure I would even call it that, but it did start to wear on me at some point, is that I felt we were being "sold" throughout the entire cruise. Buy Bingo tickets (though I did win a $500 bingo), buy scratch tickets, go the art auction, buy raffle tickets, sign up for a special master card. Ok, you get the picture. We participated in some and ignored the rest, but by the end of the week, I didn't want to hear any more about it!
Ok, so the ship is great, the food is great, the staff is great, the entertainment was great, the location were great...what am I missing? Oh yeah...a guy jumped off of our ship at 3:00 in the morning on our way to St. Maarten! Fortunately for him, he was with a crew member when he went over and her quick thinking and training clearly saved his life. She dumped a beacon overboard after him and then shot in a flair to mark the spot. The ship turned around and the search was on. After about 50 minutes or so in the water, the passenger was safely on board and one crew member was injured. The entire event played out directly in front of our balcony and my husband took some amazing pictures. The crew worked and worked to save that man's life and he was incredibly lucky. If you have ever doubted that safety is a priority on a cruise ship, I can honestly say that at least with Carnival, all of their training paid off and then some. Kudos to the crew!
When the cruise was finally over, we asked each other if we would do it again, and we all agreed we would. Happy cruising to you all.