This is our 3rd cruise on the Carnival Valor. The previous was 5 years ago. Providing my review in hopes it helps someone else.
My mistake: We threw this vacation very late and I didn't have much time to plan. The airfares I was finding on a travel website were significantly more expensive than the price Carnival was offering. I didn't think about the fact that SW airlines rates are not on this website. So I ordered my airline tickets through Carnival. Not only did I pay more for my airline tickets than I need to, but this also meant we had to travel on the same day that we boarded the ship. We had to wake up at 3:15am and travel most of the day. This left us dragging for the first few days of our trip. We normally travel to the port a day early so we are refreshed and ready to go when we board. I won't make this mistake again.
After boarding in San Juan, we left the ship to walk around Old San Juan. There is a CVS a couple blocks from the ship (exit the pier and make a left) where we picked up a case of water. It was not an issue bringing this on board and gave us some water to take on excursions. There is also a free trolley that drives you around Old San Juan. I wish I would have known this in advance so I could have researched where it went ahead of time.
I was a little worried about the weather since it is officially Hurricane season. We had some rain in San Juan on both ends but the weather in between was perfect. The seas were calm all week.
We were the only ship in port all week. It was not overcrowded anywhere we went. We were also at the dock all week (no tendering).
My wife and I were traveling with our 2 teenagers. Last time we were on the Valor we had a small inside state room. It was really tight with two kids. Now that they are 5 years larger, we opted to splurge on a balcony room. This was a very good decision. We had a king bed and the kids had bunk beds. Having the balcony was very nice.
We were happy with the food in the dining room. The food at Rosie's was pretty much the same for breakfast every day but it was fast and allowed us to grab a quick bite before heading for our excursions.
The sea-day brunch in the dining rooms is a new idea that we liked.
Carnival has added a lot more comedy shows. We really enjoyed them. We had a total of 4 comics (2 early in the week, 2 late in the week). They have "family" shows around 7:30 and 3 adult shows later in the evening. We really enjoyed what Carnival has done with this.
I also like what they have done with karaoke. Last time we were on the Valor, karaoke was taken over by the kids. Now the kids can sing until a certain time and then it is just adults singing.
The production shows in the theater were good but much looked very familiar with what we saw 5 years ago.
We also like the fact that the aft pool is adults only. There is also a "serenity" area that is adults only. It was nice to be able to relax in the pool without a kid doing a cannon ball next to you.
Drinks are expensive of course. A 16 oz beer was almost $7 including tip. This adds up on a 7 day cruise so we kept it under control. My wife was drinking Miami Vices (1/2 pina colada, 1/2 daiquiri). They were a little under $8 I think. The kids were drinking the virgin version for a couple dollars less.
I'll post our excursions with the port reviews. We like to snorkel. In summary, I was a little disappointed with the snorkeling. The reefs don't seem as lively and colorful as the last time we were in the Southern Caribbean. Part of this is because we were limited on money. We spent about $100pp on 2 separate excursions. As expected, these were the excursions we enjoyed the most. The other excursions, we basically took taxi's to beaches that looked to have decent snorkeling. In hindsight, I really wish I would have spent some extra money to take an excursion to St. Johns where the reefs are less disturbed.