Just got off the Valor and wanted to add my 2 cents worth. Too many of the reviews on here are nit-picky and just way off base.
Pre cruise ... Stayed at the Embassy suites by the airport. Great hotel with a fabulous pool and managers happy hour that was 3 hours long and with nicely mixed cocktails. Lacking a little on the finger foods..basically consisted of chips with ranch and salsa. If you order from the bar expect a huge tab. Way overpriced on the drinks. They had an outback resturant right in the hotel and food was good and fairly priced. Very close walk to a supermarket and a walgreens. If you want a late check out place your order early as the hotel only has a few select spots for late check out. Check out is 12 noon. Floated in the pool until it was time to go to the ship. Would stay there again. Cab Fare to the port was 21.00 plus 1 dollar per piece of luggage.There were four of us and 7 suitcases, all told with tip, 40.00 Thought this was a fair price for the More
distance we traveled from the hotel to the ship.
I dont care what I have read on here about this process...in 26 cruises this was by far the easiest and fastest we have ever gotten on a ship. Now we are seasoned cruisers and DID NOT rush to be the first in line to get on the ship. That may have helped our process quite a bit.We arrived at the port just after 1 pm. and basically walked right thru the process. Had no problems with Luggage or check in...But again being seasoned cruisers, we did have all of our paper work filled out in advance, luggage tags on our luggage and the appropriate boarding documents out, ready and signed. Time and time again I watched people who were not prepared for boarding. These might be the same ones who complain about the process,while in fact being the ones who delay the process itself.
San Juan port area is very nice, granted they have done a lot of improvements to it. They still need to work out the traffic patterns, but yet when we got off the ship I did notice that the local police had change the traffic flow to one way making getting out of the area a breeze.
Once on board we went right up to the pool area and found aour spot. We had a bite from the buffet area. Then it was pool time and relaxation.
Just a note here about the buffet area ...I have read so many negative reviews about this that i must comment. Fist there are many different areas of the buffet, including a sandwich area, a burrito area,Hambuger and hot dog area, and 6 yes count them 6 areas of the inside buffet..you just have to know not to stop at the first line you come to and complain that the line is long.Not one time on this entire trip did I wait in line in any of the areas of the buffet, for more than a few minutes and this includes waiting for an omelet and specialty eggs for breakfast almost every morning. If you walk past the first line or do a little exploring you will find that they serve the same food in the different locations and if you by pass the first location you normally will not have to wait in line. NOW , this is a port intensive cruise , most of the ports have an early morning arrival time 7, 8, 9 am...and guess what people do before the get off the ship...Bingo , they have breakfast... we kinda dawdled this cruise ,not trying to be the first ones off at every destination and found breakfast enjoyable every day. We had 6 people with us and did not have a problem finding food, or a table for all of us. Don't be afraid to ask the person sitting alone at a large table if you can join them. Met some great people by sharing.
Also on the buffet food..Carnival could do a little better on the selection...it was the same stuff every day..could do a better fruit selection...But the food was good , hot and plentiful. I had made to order eggs every day except one and every time I just surveyed the different areas and never had to wait in line.
Pool deck and hot tubs...I MUST GIVE CARNIVAL CREDIT HERE...the first day i was relaxing in the pool, I had my legs up ovedr the edge and just floating on my back in the water..had my eyes closed and must have really been enjoying myself , when someone from the staff came into the apron area of the pool and tapped me on my feet to see if i was ok. I Loved that fact that the deck attendants were doing their jobs and keeping an eye on the pool area.
Hot tubs were nice, not overly hot, but nice..the hot tubs in the serenity area were hotter than the ones on the pool decks. Even with a lot of kids on board, did not get overcrowded in the main pool deck hot tubs.
I have read some complaints about the loudness on the pool deck ie .. music. I did not think the music was overly loud. What I did notice was the staff felt the need to scream into the microphones every time they were doing something on deck. That was annoying. Same old pool games and contests.. hairy chest, drink mixology, ice carving, line dancing.etc. I liked the news being on the big screen durning the morning breakfast's on the pool deck. I would like to see more sports, movies, concerts etc thru out the day shown on the big screen. They did play movies, concerts, sports on the screen, but there was also a lot of down time between shows. Dont know if the itinerary had anything to do with that or not. And really only noticed it thru the caper and our day at sea...
Having just gotten off the Glory in august, i liked the way the Valor was laid out versus the Glory. I did like the 2.0 pool deck version and the 2 bars on the Glory, But both my wife and I really noticed that the lay out of the Valor did not make us feel crowded on the pool deck the way the Glory did.Also like the additional seating area on the Valor which was removed from the Glory to accomidate the 2 pool side bars.
Serenity area: Day at sea...walked up to the area to check it out and found that putting it in the front of the ship makes for a very windy adult area. liked the hot tubs there but as soon as you got out of them and even with 85 plus degree tempatures it was a wind freeze jolt to the body. Our friends tried the area out one day while we were off in port and found they had to move about every hour if they wanted a shaded area. I think this area could be better designed or moved to a location that would allow you to actually relax instead of getting wind blown. Also the steps to the water slide were right there at the entrance to the serenity area so when the slide was open you could here the noise from the lines waiting to go down the slides.Also the ping pong, bean bag toss and kiddie area were right there. Loved the seperate joggin track area and the sports area..Very nice. you can take a walk around the ship without getting run over by walkers and joggers, and the walkers and joggers didnt have to dodge people just want to walk around the ship. Thought is was always funny to watch the joggers up there from the pool deck..while there are plenty of signs stating which direction you should go and how far a mile is there was always someone who wanted to run the wrong way..and on a curved track with a blind line of sight , the near collisions became almost comical. Carnival does have salt water pools, however the system they run it thru is much better now than on previous ships we have been on.It was not ovedwhemingly salty.
I did not notice a lot of chair hogging going on around the main pool area. We had a regular table and chairs near the pool and when the sun moved so did we. One thing i still do not like is having to check out a pool towel from the little stand there. If you want a dry pool towel , you have to take you card , go sign a piece of paper saying that you will return the towel. Now they do provide you pool towels in your stateroom every night for you to use , but if you want an extra one or a dry one you have to use the stand and swap out a towel or sign for another one. I am on vacation, the only thing i want to sign for is drinks. I do not want to babysit my pool towel.
This was one of the best crews i have experienced. I read so many complaints about the staff, I feel it very necessary to comment here.
First, bar servers and wait staff...The best crew of servers on a carnival ship I have witnessed. They knew us by name, were always smiling , found us at every location we were at on the ship, clubs, comedy show, dinner, casino, pool ..and provided the best service. A big thank you to Mimi, Aguang, and Hua ya no( who ya know). My buddy who had a terrible time with servers on a previous cruise , commented on the great service we all recieved. Bar prices keep going up with less for you money. Bucket of 4 beers and one frozen drink for the wife was 38.00. And put 5 beers back in the bucket, please. Pricey. no happy hour specials or buy one get one free as on other lines. Also no regular drink specials. Would be nice to see carnival adopt other lines cheers program. My wife does not drink much and it would be a waste of money to purchase the package for both people in the cabin. RCI and Celebrity have changed their packages, and offer more choices for everyone.
We found a table in the anytime dining that we loved the first night and always asked if we could have the same table. Anni and her crew provided us with great service. We were given a pager I think twice and both times the wait was minimal...less than 10-20 minutes if that much. I have read about the food on here and DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE REVIEWS ARE TALKING ABOUT!!! The food was very good, every meal there was a wide variety of choices and my plate was always full. Serving sizes were more than adequate and if you didnt like something , ask for something else and they bring it to you. We managed most nights to get to dinner in time for the singing and dancing waiters, which we enjoyed. The Matire'D and the hostess were very nice in taking care of us. The wine list could use a update, but always found something suitable.
The service desk personnel were always smiling and very friendly. Stopped in once just to chat and say thanks for all they did.
Room Staff: We must always get the absolute best attendants on every ship we go on. Knew and greeted us by name , Knew what we wanted and accommadated every request. Took one night off this cruise and slept in..and was never disturbed . He replaced my wine glasses every day with out having to be asked. Room was kept clean and serviced well. One day in port with prior notice they cleaned all the balconies. Nice.
And this is hard for me to say even the photo people were very nice on this cruise. I normally dislike the gangways being stuffed up because the ship wants to take everyones picture getting off at every port, or interupting you at every dinner or closing down most of the walk ways for formal pictures...But i really did not notice the over the top photo ops like on past cruises. Well done, Carnival.
Crui9se director and staff. Only one complaint...STOP SCREAMING INTO THE MICROPHONES... we can all hear you..you have microphones...seemed they did this at the pool events , deck parties, and in the comedy clubs...Now I know its your job to excite the people on board and entertain them, yet when even our groups most outspoken person notices you screaming at every event, it might be a bit over the top. You can show enthusiasm without screaming. Thank you.
SUPER CUDOS!!! Did not feel over pressured on sales items on this cruise. Now carinval did have there tables set up selling sodas, spa treatments, drink packages, and even had their 10.00 dollar sale listed in the caper...but did not feel everyone was trying to sell me something..Thank you. If you wanted to shop the sales they were there, they just didnt bring them to you , you had to go to them .
Entertainment: Comedy Club :A+, Shows(what I saw): A ( and I was even in the legends Show,I did a horrible Garth brooks). Movies in the room and on screen: A, Deck parties: B , Triva and extras: A+
There was always something going on somewhere. And if you didnt want to do anything there were areas on the ship to just be alone and quite..A much improved entertainment schedule. We often we so busy doing something that I rarely made it to the casino to give them my money.
Ok Im not going to go into ports on this review...they are what you make of them....it really is up to you.
Price , quality, enjoyment, sunshine, good friends, and good times. Carnival really did this trip right...
Getting off the ship: as we spent the last night at the comedy club and with being in the Legends show, I was really just too lazy to pack our suitcases so we decided to just haul ours off the ship in the morning. Our cruise mates packed theirs up and set them out for pick up. So we have both sides of disembarkcation as a group. Woke up at 7 30 ish am..went up to pool deck for breakfast with our group. Toted out luggage out on the pool deck and stashed it in a corrner out of the way. As we were staying an extra day in San Juan, we had no rush to get off the ship. Our friends group time was 9: 45 and we thought that was fine for all. Gathered our stuff , elevator, down to luggage and picked up thier bags and got in customs line...all inless than 10 minutes...CUSTOMS LINE...PLEASE HAVE YOUR PASSPORT, CRUISE CARDS AND PAPERWORK FILLED OUT PRIOR TO GETTING IN THIS LINE!!!!! You want to know why the line goes so slow...people who dont have the required items out and ready...Still even with the people who seem destined to hold up everyone else...This was one of the fastest disembarkations we have had in 26 cruises. Walked out of the terminal and got in a cab to our hotel.
Great and fun times had by all of our group..would do this trip, ship, itinerary again. Hope this helps others who see the negative posts to know that this is a great trip, value priced, fantastic ports and sunshine in Novemeber!!! Less