We are a family of 5 with a 14, 13, and 10 year old. We drove down to Port Canaveral and stayed at the Country Inn Suites near the port. Nice hotel, reasonably priced. We parked at the Radisson Parking deck and shuttled over to the ship. We embarked with little trouble. The cabins were clean and every day our cabin attendant was helpful and did a great job. The ship is large and it took us some time to figure out how to get where we needed to go. As with most ships there are some decks you can't get all the way across the ship but this one really made it difficult to figure out even when looking at the map. It is beautifully decorated. I was expecting cheap and tacky decor as many past cruisers of Carnival and told me in comparison to Royal Caribbean and I have to disagree. The pool is small but the kids had the water slides so they weren't too crowded.
*Dining - We ate in the Scarlette lower level and served by David who was wonderful. Our food was fantastic. My steak was flavorful and cooked perfectly. Again, I was not expecting it to be this good. The buffet for breakfast was typical and nothing to rave about. The pizza bar makes fantastic brick oven pizza's all the time. The line can be long but at off times it takes just minutes to get served. The pasta bar had a 30 minute wait time which I was surprised but was well worth the wait. If you go there the day of embarking you won't have to wait since most don't realize they are open.
*Entertainment - the shows were okay. One night they were fantastic. They had acrobats and hip hop dancers that were very talented. The regular cast and main singers were good enough to entertain but the kids didn't make it through the whole show. There are two comedy club showings the 1st being family friendly was fantastic. I highly recommend this if you have teens. My husband enjoyed the piano bar singer and I enjoyed a night at the Oceanside bar with the band playing.
*Activities- well I have to say we played bingo often and my daughter WON A 7 DAY CRUISE FOR 2!!! We are already booked for a another Carnival Cruise on the Valor this summer to the southern region. We played trivia and watched the ice sculpting and hairy chest contests. All hokey but very fun, especially for the kids. My kids didn't go to the clubs. My daughter was approached by another teen with an inappropriate comment (an I am nowhere near a prude, but this was bad) so didn't feel comfortable hanging out in the teen lounge after that.
*Cruisers - lots of kids of course during a holiday cruise. I have to say most of them were well behaved (except obviously the one I mentioned above). The only issue we had were with the 20 yr olds who didn't know to hang out either inside their cabin or find a place to talk at 1am. They were laughing and talking loudly outside out cabin door so I had to ask them to leave. After the 3rd group of them I finally called guest services and the problem was handled immediately.
*Ports - Cozumel was nice, did the dolphin swim excursion., kids loved it. If you have one person who doesn't want to do it they can take the pictures, otherwise you will pay a fortune. In Belize we kayaked which also was a really nice excursion. In Mahogany Bay we ziplined. You DO NOT need to buy into the expensive all day zip line tours. The Express Zip Line was perfect and leaves enough time to enjoy the port. This port is really nice and you don't have to go far to enjoy the beach.
Overall, I highly recommend this ship and this itinerary. Carnival is a great value and I don't see enough of a difference to feel the need to pay more money for Royal Caribbean again for the same cruise.