We recently sailed on the December 22, 2013 Valor Christmas cruise. This was a family cruise, our family, my sister's family and our parents. This was our 3rd Carnival cruise since 2010. The Valor has not undergone the 2.0 upgrades and was very similar to my previous experiences. We like staying on the Empress Deck because it is located inbetween two other "sleeping" decks.
Overall, this was a great cruise. The itinerary is really good although it will wear you out a little wiith only one day on the ship and full day potential on every island. Our weather was ok. Lots of rain in the beginning but it was warm so we really didn't mind. We even sat in the Serenity deck hot tubs for an hour in the rain and it was still nice. I think the service is still really good. The dining staff, room steward and most bar tenders work really hard at anticipating your needs and remembering your name. Dining room food was good. I have seen John Heald talking about the new menu. I think it is a good idea because really the menu is still about the same as 2010 - especially the desserts and it is time for a change. My only food complaints were the breakfast - very limited selection and eggs are really not very good and the room service menu is extremely limited.
We generally play Bingo - don't win, but still have fun and attended some of the comedy club shows and evening shows. The biggest hit of the cruise seemed to be the 70's and 80's trivia nights. Folks really came out to play and then danced by the casino area as we went through the correct answers and the songs were played. The cruise director was very pleased at the turn out.
I did use the self-serve laundry facility for the first time - the wet clothes were getting to be a bit much. $7.00 for one load which included the washing maching, dryer and 1.00 for soap.
Islands we went too included St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Barbados and St. Kitts. We were in St. Thomas the last two years, so this time we took the ferry over to St. John's and went to Trunk Bay. We also spent several days in advance seeing San Juan. We were able to see San Cristobal and El Morro as well as take the ferry to the Barcardi factory. The Barcardi factory has a great rum tasting tent where each adult gets two free ticket drinks.
St. Lucia had a tremendous amount of rain and the road from Castries to Soufriere had been washed out and was unpassable. Many shore excursions were cancelled. We had hired Andre Joseph - A-Touring Service whom we had used previously. Andre was great and helped us get to the Northern part of the island called Rodney Bay. We went to Pigeon Island which is a park with an old fort and a beach. It turned out to be really nice and we enjoyed hiking the park and seeing the ruins. Andre explained when they have those significant storms the beaches aren't always safe as the sewage temporarily pollutes them.
We took an island tour on St. Kitts and really enjoyed Brimstone Fortress and the Carabelle Batik store located at Romney Manor (which was beautiful). We also went to the Carombola Beach Club and had a great time at the beach.
For St. Maarten, we hired Jo Junie Tours. Jo Liburd was great. We have done the basic island tour in the past and found it too much for too little time. This time we devised our on plan and had a great day. We started out traveling to Pinel Island. This is part of a marine reserve and is a beautiful beach. You will need to take a ferry over to the island - $10.00/person. The beach is called Yellow Beach and it is great. Reminded us of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas as the beach is wide and you can go out quite a ways without the water getting very deep. Food prices are high and the umbrellas and chairs are great quality but cost $25 per pair. Pinel is on the French side and we did experience some topless sunbathing! Next we had Jo take us into Marigot to eat lunch at Sarafinas. This is a wonderful french bakery with great sandwiches and pastries. We ended out day at Maho Beach with the jets flying over.
We went to Barbados on Christmas Day and for those of you wandering if there is much operating on Christmas - well there really isn't. But this was still one of our favorite days. We went to the Boatyard which is located near the dock. This is a large beach with a wonderful restaurant/bar. There is a water tramp and iceberg and a really cool deck with a rope swing and life guard assisting. You can also rent a boat to take you snorkeling out to the turtles and to see a shipwreck. You will be able to negotiate the price you want to pay to go out to see the turtles - there is a lot of competition.
Last thing I will say is the ship was decorated well for Christmas and looked lovely. I would recommend this cruise and ship. It was a great cruise!