Carnival Valor - Eastern Caribbean: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by CruzCrazy

Carnival Valor 4
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Carnival Valor - Eastern Caribbean

Sail Date: April 2006
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
CARNIVAL VALOR REVIEW, 04/23/06-04/30/06

This was my 4th cruise, all on Carnival: Destiny (2000), Triumph (2002), Victory (2004), and now Valor.

GETTING THERE: We did Fly Aweigh, as we always have, with airline flights arranged by Carnival. My husband and I were traveling with 2 other couples (my Mom and Dad and another couple). The flights were a complete mess. When we first received our documents, we had arrival and departure flights through US Air from Roanoke to Philadelphia to Miami. (Picture the map: Thats the wrong wayflying north to go south). We were able to get the arrival flight changed by calling Carnival. They changed us to a flight going through Charlotte (which makes much more sense). Unfortunately, the return flight home after the cruise was left going through Philadelphia (more on this later).

We were promised new documents, and they did arrive promptly. The flights themselves were fine, and we got to Miami, did the luggage dance, and More proceeded to the bus for transfer to the port. They took our vouchers and deposited us into the hands of the porters. Obligatory tips later, we moved to the line for embarkation around 1:00 p.m.

EMBARKATION: Absolutely no problems. There was a line, but the line kept moving. Funpass in hand, Bahamas immigration papers completed, and Sail and Sign application completed, we breezed through, picked up our Sail and Sign cards, and had the dreaded Welcome Aboard picture taken. We were aboard by 2:00 p.m. We had all of our luggage by 4:00 p.m.

CABIN: Our cabin was 8300, port side, Verandah. We had chosen this cabin because of its mid-ship location. No surprises. The cabin looked as we thought it would. The mini-fridge was nice and we had the cabin steward unlock it right away. The linens were upgraded (as we had heard). My husband loved the pillows. I still detest the 2 twin beds pushed together to form a king. I really wish Carnival would designate a certain number of cabins as true kings, although I realize this would complicate things for the reservationists. Im just saying that a real king-size mattress would be a big plus in my book. They do it in hotels.

As the cruise went on, we were dissatisfied with our cabin because: 1. The header above the balcony door rattled anytime the ship was moving. Not a littlea LOT. It was not something you could ignore. This was my 3rd balcony cabin, and I have never experienced this before. This ship just went into service in November 2004, so I was surprised. We tried locking the balcony door, but the noise seemed to be coming inside the wall/header above the door, and there was nothing to be done about it. The ship was full, so we couldnt switch cabins. 2. The first time I took a shower, the entire bathroom floor got flooded. With the jet lag, I hadnt noticed that the shower curtain lacked a full 4 inches of meeting the floor. What a mess. I was lucky I didnt bust my behind. We reported this immediately and within 24 hours we had a new shower curtain installed (my husband had to help because our steward couldnt reach the shower bar). I find it hard to believe that other passengers have been in this cabin and said nothing about this. Incredible. My parents cabin was next door to ours, and their shower curtain was fine. Go figure. 3. The toilet paper was what you would expect from Motel 6. If you are used to Charmin, youll be unpleasantly surprised at the cheap offering on the roll. Sure, the cabin steward folds up the corners, but its still rough and sub-par. Sorry to be so crude, but it made a bad impression on me and my fellow travelers.

Other than these things, the cabin was fine. The cabin steward, Renatus, took very good care of us. He seemed disappointed that we didnt oooh and aaahh over the towel animals, but honestly, Ive seen them all and the novelty has long since worn off. We sought him out and gave him an extra tip on the last day. He did a good job.

FOOD: We ate breakfast in Rosies (the Lido deck casual restaurant) every morning. In comparison with my 3 prior cruises, I felt that the food was less appetizing than before. The coffee was bitter and strong everyday. OK, I wasnt expecting Starbucks, but maybe something like what McDonalds serves. McDonalds has them beat by a mile. The room service coffee was the same bitter stuff according to my mom. I didnt order any in the dining room but my tablemates said it was equally unpalatable.

The deli was good, especially the tuna fish. We didnt try the Chinese station. The hamburgers at the grill were fantastic! I had heard great things about Fish and Chips upstairs, but I was disappointed. The battered fish filets just tasted greasy to me. My husband thought so, too. Maybe just our taste buds. The pizza was good, as usual. The soft serve low-fat yogurt and ice cream stations ran out of cones on more than 1 occasion during the week, and lots of times only 1 station was in operation and not well stocked. Not a big deal, but they do advertise 24-hour pizza, ice cream, and drinks. They could improve on this.

The dining room food was just OK for me. We were in Washington Dining Room, late seating. The chateaubriand was tough. Everything else I had was decent, just not outstanding.

We ate in Scarlets 1 night (Tuesday), and it was superb. The service was excellent, the food was outstanding (I had the filet mignon), and the performers, a male and female duet, were very good. There was a nice little dance floor, and my husband and I actually did a little Carolina shag. The experience ended up costing us $80 including gratuity, but we both thought it was worth it. I only hate that it seems that with the addition of the supper club the main dining room has gone downhill.

SERVICE: Cabin steward, as I already mentioned, was very good. He was friendly but unobtrusive. He kept our cabin in great shape and restocked the mini-fridge as needed.

Dining room team: We were not impressed. Maybe I have been spoiled in the past, but I know this is not anywhere near the best Carnival has to offer. I guess you cant be lucky all the time. The first night, 2 people at my table ordered iced tea but never got it. Later in the meal, the head team member denied that they had ordered any iced tea at all. My husband reminded her of the conversation where he said he wanted sweet tea and she said they had only unsweetened, and he jokingly asked her to sweeten it by inserting her little finger (an old, tired joke he cant seem to give up). She was put off by being corrected and simply stated that it wouldnt happen again and blamed it on her assistant. My husband sat with an empty water glass and empty ice tea glass for 20 minutes another night while neither of the dining service team was in sight for a refill. We get better service than that at Shoneys. The head team member also seemed indignant if anyone ordered something from the menu other than her personal recommendation. Since the tips were pre-paid, we didnt have them removed, but they didnt get anything extra from us. This is the first time ever we have skipped dinner in the dining room, but on the last night, we just ate dinner at Rosies.

As an aside, we were disappointed at the table configuration. We had a rectangular table for 6. We were 3 couples, which meant that at least 1 couple had to sit across from his/her spouse. The table next to ours rotated every night so no 1 couple had to do this the entire cruise. Round tables are much better, but they were scarce. I suppose this use of rectangular tables is to save space. Bad idea.

Bar service: All good in our experience.

Photographers: Very good, especially James from Trinidad and Tobago. He was actually on our last cruise on the Victory, and he took extra time with us. We ended up buying too many pictures, as usual!

ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES: The show on the first formal night in Ivanhoe Lounge was really good. It had a lot of '80s music which was right up our alley. That was the only show we attended. A lady was saving several seats behind us, and I thought it was going to come to blows before her companions finally arrived. She must have fought off 20 people to hold those seats, and not all of them were amused.

Lounges: I did Karaoke one night, and it was always crowded. There was a limited number of song-list books. They were still looking for acts for the Legends show, and this was somewhat annoying. If you didnt want to be James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Brittany Spears, Ricky Martin, or Elvis, you were out of luck. I didnt go to the Legends show, but I heard it was pretty good. I did not visit the piano bar. The One Small Step disco was good on the one night we went there. We went into Paris Hot for a drink one night, but its small, and I felt claustrophobic.

On-deck activities were pretty good, with the usual Fear Factor and take-off on Survivor. The social hosts were energetic. It got kind of old by the end of the cruise, but if you didnt like it, you could always head back to the aft pool where it was quieter. Confession: I was dared to do the water slide and did (I am not a kid, and its getting harder to remember when I was a kid, LOL).

Casino: I played a little roulette, though Im not a serious gambler. I had fun. My dad hit a small jackpot on a slot machine. The casino was entertaining if nothing else.

PORTS: We did the Eastern itinerary this time, including Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. I had been to the first 2 ports before. In Nassau, we did the Glass Bottom Boat excursion, and it was good. In St. Thomas, they were having carnival, and getting a taxi was tough. We shopped a little downtown and then headed out to Magens Bay. I had been there before, but my husband had not, so I wanted to show him what a lovely spot it is. It was more crowded than when I was there before, and somehow it had lost some of its luster. Other people in our taxi went to Sapphire Beach and really enjoyed it there. St. Martin was all I had heard it would be: Beautiful beaches, nice shopping, and friendly people. We are already talking about going back. Tip: Dont bother going into Phillipsburg really early. The shops dont open until 9:30 a.m. or so. We had a fantastic cab driver named Peter who drove us out to the beach and stopped to let us take lots of pictures. He picked us up at the arranged time and took us back to the water taxi.

MISCELLANEOUS: Cruise director, Jen Baxter: OK but nothing to brag about.

DEcor: I really thought the Valor was the prettiest of the 4 ships I have been on. Even the pink dining room was OK by me.

Hair Salon: I had an up-do for the second formal night, and the girl who did my hair did an excellent job. Her name was Anita from South Africa. It was $45 plus tip.

Fellow passengers: A very eclectic group, all in all very friendly. We met some nice people, all ages. There was not an abundance of children, but those present were well behaved.

Weather: We had excellent weather everyday except the last day out, when it was very windy with high swells. The ship was rocking all day until sundown. I was starting to get a headache when it suddenly smoothed out.

DEBARKATION: OK, everybody dreads this part. We were to vacate the cabin by 9:00 a.m. We waited on Promenade deck until 10:00 before our deck was called (Deck 8, Verandah). Luggage identification: No problems. Customs: No problems. Transfer to airport: No problems other than the begging for a tip by the driver.

GETTING HOME: At Miami International, a porter checked our bags for us so we didnt have to wait in that horribly long line. He smelled a tip and got a good one. Our flight was at 1:45 to Philadelphia. We joked that if we only had parachutes, we could have jumped out when the plane was over Virginia. We had a long 4-hour layover in Philadelphia before our flight home, and if Carnival tries to do this to us again, we will simply not cruise with them. We made our booking 4 months in advance, and Ive heard that they dont do anything about the flights until much closer to the sail date. This is the first time we have had this kind of trouble with our flights. I know lots of people book their own air, and I guess now I see why, but because we dont live near a hub, its actually cheaper for us to book through the cruise line. Next time I will be precise about what flights we will or will not accept, for all the good it will do.

SUMMARY: The Good: Beautiful dEcor on the ship, nice fellow passengers, lovely weather, beautiful ports, lots of fun and sun, good cabin steward, great pictures, and hey, we were on vacation!

The Bad: Horrible coffee, minor problems with our cabin, below average dining room service, bad dining room table, and horrific flight arrangements.

This is the first time I have been ambivalent about taking another cruise on Carnival. Time will tell whether we decide to try another cruise line or maybe just fly directly to St. Martin next time. Less

Published 05/05/06

Cabin review: 8C8300 Balcony

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