Overall our experience with Carnival was good and we enjoyed our week on the Valor. The stateroom, though an inside room about midship, was the largest we've had. There was plenty of space for clothes and the beds were tall enough that our luggage fit neatly underneath.
The buffet food was the usual, which isn't spectacular. But the restaurant food was excellent. We were in the Washington Restaurant for dinners, early seating, and the staff were as pleasant and efficient as ever. The gourmet food was to die for and every dinner was the difficult choice of how to choose from so many great options.
The Las Vegas style reviews in the Ivanhoe Lounge were terrific, especially the '80s show. The comedians were truly funny. The music groups that played in the other lounges were excellent. Our favorites were Music Zone, a Filipino band that has such a wide range in their repertoire it's astounding. They can play anything from the '50s and '60s, most music from the '70s, the top names from the '80s, etc. They moved smoothly between Eric Clapton and Frank Sinatra. And watch them pull out the stops on the likes of the Eagles and ZZ Top. Absolutely amazing. They may not look like the bands whose music they're playing, but they've got the sound down pat.
We visited 4 ports - Grand Cayman, Roatan Island Honduras, Belize City Belize and Costa Maya Mexico. Excellent choices every one of them. We snorkeled in Grand Cayman, went on a dolphin encounter and beach party on Roatan, did cave tubing and the rainforest in Belize and toured Chacchoben from Costa Maya. Every excursion was well organized and well designed. Safety was always top most in the guides' minds and we always felt we were in good hands. We are adventurous so our excursions left little time for sight seeing or shopping, but we certainly got our money's worth in each port.
Then it came time to say good-bye and everything fell apart. We attended the lecture on debarkation in the Ivanhoe Lounge. We had a flight to catch in Miami at 12:10pm the next day. The cruise director made it clear that if you had a flight before noon to go to the Eagle's Lounge and show proof of the flight and the time and you would get off earlier. If your plane left 10 minutes later from Miami or an hour later from Ft. Lauderdale, you were encouraged to contact the Purser's Desk for a tag upgrade. When we got back to the room, my husband called the Purser's Desk and was assured we would have no trouble making our flight.
The next day we waited for our tag color to be called in the Ivanhoe Lounge like we were supposed to. For one, they didn't start calling out the tag colors until nearly 9:30am. Then there were at least 15-20 minutes between colors (and they were grouped by twos, each color representing a deck of the ship). There was a long delay of 30-45 minutes which we later understood was due to someone falling down the stairs in the terminal and the debarkation process being halted until an ambulance could arrive. Our tag wasn't called until 10:30am, however, we were hopeful that if the Immigration and Customs processes went smoothly we would still be to the Miami airport in time to make our flight.
No such luck!! We waited in that line for 1 1/2 hours. The line of people debarking ran through the terminal and snaked Disney fashion through the building. At one point we were told it was just another 10 minutes to the Immigration desk from where we were standing. We looked at our watches and checked the time; 30 minutes later we finally spoke for 2 seconds with an Immigration official who checked our passports and waved us through. We made it to the airport by 12:40pm.
Now, even if they had not had that accident, we still would not have made it to the airport in time for our flight. We would still have been clearing airport security when our plane was taking off. Not only did the Purser's Desk figure wrong, but the entire process of getting people off that ship was snail-like in its slowness and unacceptable. There were older people standing in line who were getting exhausted, people fainted, got sick from being overheated and others whose ankles and feet swelled and who had to be taken away in wheelchairs. That is not how you deal with people.
To make matters worse, we rode back home with a couple who had been on an even bigger Royal Caribbean ship and they spent a whole of 15-20 minutes debarking. It would seem to me that if Royal Caribbean can move 5,000 people off the ship in 15-20 minute increments, there is absolutely no excuse for the lines of 3,000 people debarking the Carnival Valor to take 1 1/2 hours to process. My husband and I may have enjoyed the onboard experience, but we consider everything as part of the cruise and are now actively seeking other cruise lines to sail with.