My husband and our 3 adult children along with their significant others arrived in Miami on Sept 28 to embark on the Carnival Valor on an 8 night cruise to Turks and Caicos, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. Embarkation was as expected - hundreds of people with the same purpose. It took about 45 minutes for us to get on board which wasn't bad considering we arrived around 12:30 pm along with everybody else. We immediately went to our staterooms , left our carry-on luggage and went to grab a bite in Rose's cafe on the Lido deck. It was busy but not crazy busy. Food options included the usual fare but was adequate for lunch - we did not decide to go on the cruise for the dining experience or to gorge, we went to relax.
We really enjoyed St. Maarten (our second visit to this port and we will definitely return again), we also really liked Puerto Rico and will also be returning as we didn't get to see all we wanted (I have developed a sensitivity to the sun so am careful not to spend too much time in the sun when its hot), we enjoyed Coki Beach on St. Thomas. I was disappointed with Grand Turk. The facility CCL has built is very nice but I was not impressed with the beach area and there really is nothing to see in Cockburn Town unlike on other islands where you get a feel for the Caribbean or culture of the specific island. As a matter of fact, I much prefer the private cruise line islands to this port. However, I must admit that I do want to visit Providenciales one day.
The food served at the buffet was of fair quality - same as we could get at a coffee shop in CA. When we were not in port we always ate from the fish and chips venue located in the mezzanine area of Rosie's Cafe. The food was made to order (with the exception of the tuna / watermelon, octopus salad, ceviche, which was pre-made). While the fish and chips, fried oysters and calamari were good, the bouillabaisse was not as good. When we had discovered this hidden gem on our prior CCL cruise 5 years ago, the bouillabaisse was finished off with a touch of Pernaud, not the case this time around which was disappointing. The chevre and mushroom pizza was as good as ever but service was somewhat slow. And, on those days we were in port service slowed down even more about an hour to an hour and a half before we were scheduled to leave when everybody was returning to the ship. The staff overall was friendly enough but gone was that edge staff provided in the past.
So a few things we missed but which were not deciding factors one way or another in how we viewed our cruise experience.
- no informative folder in our stateroom
- no clock in our stateroom
- selection of food greatly diminished
- staff not going above and beyond in being friendly
What we did like.
- ports of call
- new deck chairs
- no hawking of drinks
- serenity area for adults (but needs to be expanded more)
To summarize, we got what we expected, nothing more, nothing less. We know that the price of food has dramatically increased the last few years as has the price of gas. All cruise lines have had to cut back somehow in order to make cruising realistic and affordable. In our case the cost per person for an oceanview stateroom came to $87.50 per day. I don't know where you can go on vacation and only spend $87 per day which will include your hotel room, all 3 meals, snacks, nightly entertainment and being in several different countries in such a short period of time. So we will be cruising again, hopefully next year. If not then the following year. This cruise allowed us to be with our family in some very beautiful locations, we got to swim in phenomenal warm waters, we got to see different cultures.