Just a little history... my husband (40) and I (33) have taken 4 Carnival Cruises - two 7 day cruises and two 8 day cruises. We have sailed on Miracle, Triumph, Freedom, and now Valor.
I read many mixed reviews on this cruise, so I was a little anxious initially, especially since it was a Halloween cruise. I wasn't too sure what to expect. Embarkation in Miami was very disorganized due to a broken loud speaker, so it was rather unclear and chaotic during boarding. This is hardly worth mentioning, as it was no fault of Carnival.
The ship itself was nice and reminded me of other ships we've been on in terms of a sometimes confusing layout. The theme wasn't as engaging to me as other ships, but overall it was okay. For an older ship, I felt it was well maintained.
The best part of the ship was the cruise director, Felipe, and assistant cruise director, Gary. I really enjoyed our 3 sea days because of them. Felipe was without a doubt the best CD we've ever had. He was very involved and funny. Gary was the type of person my husband I could have been friends with in another time and place in life.
Onboard activities were very enjoyable. Plenty of activities for any type of interest. This was the first cruise where I felt sad I couldn't make it to all the activities on sea days.
Dining.... We tried Your Time Dining on this cruise, and no doubt about it, we would never go back to scheduled dining times. We never had to wait for a table for two, and most nights we asked for the same server to have that more personalized experience. The food itself was the most disapppointing of all of our cruises. The lido food was the same, and overall good, but the dining room was very lacking. Very bland, lack of options, and the service was very slow on some nights. Ny husband's cherry jubilee was laughable. One little cherry in a plate. No kidding.
Our ports of call were St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, and Nassau. I enjoyed St. Thomas and Antigua the best. Definitely book a shore excursion in Tortola and Nassau. We did not, and it was very boring, especially Tortola.
The one thing I noticed about this cruise was it had a very big party atmosphere. Much more than I remembered. It is possible that Halloween (which they had a HUGE party for) and the 600 singles on board played a big part in that. We were midship right above the casino and promenade, and it was very noisy. I felt that people were running up and down the hall late acting very childish.
Debarkation on this ship was the smoothest we've ever seen. By 8:30 I had left the ship, took a cab, rented a car, and was on the road heading home.
The staff was overall okay. Somewhat of a mixed bag. We had a very pleasant room steward and entertainment staff, but other people were very unmemorable.
The shows were very good. The comedians (adult shows) were hysterical.