We(family of four-47,46,22,17) sailed on the Valor in mid February and chose the Southern route. We have been on 5 Carnival cruises (Eastern, Western, Southern) and one cruise with RCL. I prefer the fun, lively Carnival atmosphere for my family and the cabins are a bit larger compared to RCL.
We flew in on a Sunday, the day of departure, landed at 4 pm and took a taxi(about $25)to the Old San Juan port. I was surprised at the amount of people just arriving at that time. Very hot! Last time we cruised out of San Juan on RCL we also flew in on the day of embarkation. I know it's recommended to arrive a day early in case of delays. If we missed the ship, we could catch up on the next island. Sounds like a fun adventure...We did have a slight wait to board, about 15 minutes.
We always stay in a balcony cabin as the extra room is nice with four people in the same cabin. I prefer mid, 8th floor. I offered to get another cabin but everyone was fine staying together. We had a king bed for hubby and I, an upper bunk for our daughter and our son took the lower bed (couch converted). All beds and linens were exceptional, we all slept like babies every night, no complaints there. We had plenty of storage and all the suitcases fit under the bed. We met our room steward the first day and asked him to remove the contents from the servi bar and requested two buckets of ice for everyday,(I like ice) and he did just that. We brought a case of water and soda for the mini fridge and were all set. We did not see the room steward again for the rest of the busy week but he certainly kept our room spotless, morning cleaning and evening turn-down and some super cute towel animals. He was compensated for his efforts.
Our main purpose for cruising is to see as many Caribbean islands as we can and then return for longer visits in the future. That was the initial plan anyway after we switched from the all-inclusive resort vacations and we wanted to try something different, plus the food on a cruise is very good. I did not hear one complaint about the food, the selections were endless and something for everyone. We had Maine lobster, prime rib, a variety of fish, escargot, pasta, desserts, burgers, pizza,etc. If anyone complains about cruise ship fare you need to have your head examined. Come on...
The ports on this cruise were St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Thomas. We arranged our activities/tours on our own and have found TripAdvisor.com to be a great resource whenever we travel.
St. Maarten -Pirate Tour (powerboat around the island, snorkeling, lunch and drinks, $99pp)Fun! http://www.piratetourssxm.com
Barbados-The Boatyard (taxi or walk to this beautiful beach with activities, snorkeling, $12pp includes a chair, umbrella and 1 drink, and a free ride back to the cruise terminal)Beautiful white sand beach. http://theboatyard.com/home.
St Lucia- Spencer Ambrose Tours (Land and Sea Tour $88pp)I recommend the Land portion only on this tour. The Pitons, ocean color and cliffs are amazing on this island and I want to return.
St. Kitts- Palm Court Gardens (Day pass for pool and gardens) Beautiful view of the harbor with an infinity pool, cash bar and restaurant. $10pp Loved it! Awesome gift shop. http://www.palmscourtgardens.com
St. Thomas- Jester Sailing (38ft sailboat to St. John and other islands, snorkeling, lunch and drinks) Wonderful experience with only 6 passengers. $140pp
In summary we had a good time on this cruise and the Valor is spotless, well maintained, has friendly staff and plenty of activities. We never had to wait in any line for food or to get on or off the ship at any port. Everything worked out well and we came home to the North with a sun-kissed tan and some great memories.