My family of six, including a one, three, five and nine year old just got off the Valor on Dec. 18th. I had cruised twice before on other cruise lines but chose this ship and company because of the kids camp. Being a police officer for many years I was reluctant to trust my kids to anyone or any shore excursion. My wife wanted this, so I gave in.
The port of Miami was horrible. Not sure if its too small to handle the larger ships and all of them but it took six hours from the time we arrived at the airport to get our luggage and catch the shuttle to the dock. That's where the horror in horrible began. Hundreds of cars, limos, taxis, buses, forklifts and people all come together with no organization or traffic control. I had to carry my kids as we stood for four hours in long strung out lines in the heat. The vending machine was out of order. The water jugs were empty and no help or representatives dared stepped out to explain the delay or mess or the crowd would have killed them. Now the good news. Once on the ship our cabins were excellent. It was large enough for four people. We had side by side rooms with three in each. It was super clean and kept that way the entire trip by a team that worked like fireants. I was impressed.
Our family began checking out the ship. I examined the kids camp like a crime scene and the talked to camp team like any good investigator. Once again I was impressed. It was very clean and the workers were so organized and personable I left very content that my kids would be happy and secure. It turns out the nine year old about left our family to live at the camp. The younger two went a couple times but we kept busy as a family with excursions and they were happy without much use of the camp. There were many kids on this trip and I was very happy we brought them. In fact the ship employs workers from around the world. The workers must miss their kids and relatives as they hugged and talked to ours often. I would have brought home any of them as nannies.
We had inside cabins. For kids its safe and great. So dark they couldn't tell when the sun was up and slept better than they do at home. No one got sick and I gambled on no insurance and it was never needed. But our personal insurance company said they would cover any bills incurred anyway. The pools were small onboard. But we took all easy kid beach excursions and got plenty of sun and beautiful warm water so we didn't use the pools which were chilly anyway. The dining room was too formal for my kids. I was in fear we would ruin it as my kids are good but coming from a farm community we don't dine with 'pinkies' up and "pass me the butter please" manners. So we ate at Rosie's every meal. It was great laid back, ever changing buffets all the time. Plus fish and chips, a deli, oriental, pizza window and burger window are all right there. All a kid could dream of. With that in mind, I went to the purser's window and cancelled the automatic dining charge for the dining room which was over 150.00 for a family our size.
We booked shore excursions through Carnival in Grand Cayman. I would not if I did it again as locals swamp the dock area with cheaper prices for the same tours. But I enjoyed Honduras and that excursion was best purchased by Carnival. In Belize we went to the island and snorkeled. We were limited in choices due to the kids ages. But everywhere people watched out for out kids and loved them to death. I would bring them every time without a doubt. They learned a lot about socializing and different cultures. All three that can talk said they would love to do it again.
I came back and began looking for another cruise. I will not however go out of Miami but will go to Puerto Rico and try a five stop cruise. Departing the ship in Miami and the airport was exactly like I described getting on. The ship was new and clean but not as nice as smaller ships I had been on before. It was money well spent and I thanked my wife and booked a villa in Jamaica next June where we won't need to spend 12 hours out of the week standing in lines.