My 19-year old daughter and I took a cruise to celebrate my 52nd birthday. We take a summer trip together and generally choose a cruise but have also been on a few driving trips to Key West as well. We have loved each cruise we have been on, with the exception of this one.
For those who have not sailed out of Miami before, beware, it is a different world. Being from the midwest, we are accustomed to people at least being civil toward one another. In Miami, people tend to be very rude and in a hurry. Even at the Intercontinental Hotel where we stayed, not only did other guests not hold the door open for one another, hotel employees didn't either. We couldn't wait to get out of MIami and onto the Valor! What we found is the same nasty people from Miami were also on the ship.
People onboard were hurried, pushy and lacked manners. Approaching people in a hallway on the ship was like playing a game of chicken. No chivalry whatsoever. In speaking with a few guests onboard, they felt the way we did -- that this would be the last Carnival sailing and the last sailing out of Miami.
Food on board the Valor was mediocre at best. My daughter is a celiac and must eat gluten free. We visited the hostess in our dining room the first night onboard and explained my daughter's eating requirements. Very simple, no wheat or gluten. Onboard Celebrity, the same foods offered on the menu are offered to celiacs, including desserts. No so on the Valor. My daughter's choices were very limited and no effort was made to provide a like dish. An example is creamed spinach on the regular menu appeared as a bowl of microwaved spinach on the celiac menu. Apple pie was apple filling. These may seem like minor problems to most people but while on vacation and being told you can have "anything on the menu" is upsetting. Celebrity never disappointed us in this area.
No dress code is enforced in the dining rooms. It is disheartening to get cleaned up and dressed for dinner, only to have the people dining with you in their poolside finest, including sunscreen and sweat. Formal nights were a joke. People were in shorts, wifebeater tees and flip flops. I understand not everyone wants to dress up, that's why there are buffets available.
My daughter and I use the gym after dinner on each cruise we go on. We are very fit and active. Each night, the crew monopolized the gym so that we were unable to use many pieces of the equipment. They laid towels over machines and placed their ship ID on machines so that others could not use them. I have never seen this on any other cruise.
As is typical of a Carnival cruise, people would get off board in port and drink themselves into a stupor. One man was so inebriated that he could not stand on his own. He was falling over passengers in line, including two handicapped people. At no time did ship personnel attempt to remove the drunk from the line to embark the ship. On Celebrity, he would have been whisked away and boarded last. Additionally, crew was in line to embark at the same time as regular passengers, lengthening the time to get back on ship. On Celebrity, the deadline for crew to embark was earlier than passengers, eliminating this problem.
Times in ports were problematic as well but I blame us for choosing the cruise we did without looking at the times in port. We were in Grand Turk from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. Not ideal hours. We arrived in Curacao at 2:00 but didn't disembark until after 3:00 because the captain couldn't dock the ship. He ended up tearing the gangway off and doing damage to the Curacao dock. We were told this was his first year with the Valor. Reassuring.
In general, the staff onboard were not up to par with other ships we have been on. Our waitstaff in the restaurant were friendly but terrible at waiting on us. My daughter's special ordered items would be brought to her 5-10 minutes before or after everyone else's meal. Items requested, such as lemon for tea or a refill, would sometimes never be brought to the table. Our room steward was kind, although not good at his job. The room was never very clean and he left the previous passengers' personal documents in the room on our embarkation. Had I wanted to obtain their credit card information, it was there for me to use. Additionally, when we received our final bill, I received the neighboring room's bill as well.
Each night, when we would come down for a late night snack, children and teens would be running and screaming through Rosie's restaurant. They appeared to be from Carnival groups. To me, this was totally inappropriate but was not stopped or discouraged by Carnival staff.
I could go on and on nitpicking the cruise and the ship. My best advice to someone looking for a relaxing cruise would be to avoid Miami entirely and depart from Ft. Lauderdale, as we had in the past. I will also not sail Carnival again. A cruise is something I look forward all year. We came home exhausted from this one.
Any day at sea is a better day than a day at home but any day on Celebrity or Princess would be a better day than one spent on Carnival.