This was my third cruise in three years, all of which were 7 nights in the Caribbean. First cruise in 2012 was on Norwegian Epic, second in 2013 on Celebrity Summit, and now January 2014 on Carnival Valor. Compared to Celebrity and Norwegian I found Carnival extremely disappointing.
The room was an ocean view on Deck 2- the stateroom was spacious although dated which doesn't make much of a difference to me as long as it is comfortable and clean. Unfortunately there were several large stains on the lampshades in the room that looked like old water damage- not sure how housekeeping / quality assurance could have missed that.
My most significant issue with this cruise was the service / food. I really cannot even blame my disappointment on having had 2 other cruise lines to compare with; let me explain. On the first night in the Lincoln Dining room, one of the two main dining rooms, I ordered shrimp cocktail for an appetizer. I had to laugh when it was put in front of me because the shrimp could only be measured in centimeters they were so small. Forget about hanging on the side of the bowl they were so tiny they were just laying on the ice. My companion ordered an appetizer that was supposed to feature fried duck- it came with a piece of ham, no duck. Yes, ham being passed off as duck. Another night one of the entrees promised jumbo prawns- to me that would be similar to shrimp and would be huge- nope, they were maybe what would be considered the small size if you purchased a bag of frozen shrimp at the food store. I could go on and on with such examples but you probably get the idea.
I found the service in the dining room to be extremely poor also. Yes the dancing waiters every night is entertaining but organization and attentiveness were lacking. There was one exceptional section I was seated in twice where the services, headed by Gerson and Gospodin was exceptional.
The buffet, Rosie's, was also a let down. The pizza which is supposed to be 24 hours was very slow, and again deceiving- Margherita pizza- the picture shows the beautiful pizza with the mozzarella and basil against the red sauce- every time I ordered it, it looked like plain red pizza with oregano, and no basil at all. Most of the food in the buffet was mediocre at best- rubbery pancakes, eggs that tasted like they had flour mixed in, etc.
I noticed that on the last full day of the cruise the buffet had all kinds of fancy desserts and they were delicious- I checked the menu of the steakhouse which is an additional $35 per person and sure enough they were all listed there...so they keep the good stuff in the steakhouse until they have to get rid of it before the cruise ends at which point they let everyone have it...
I also thought the excursion selection was lacking. Not a huge deal to me as I found my own tours on the islands but compared to the other two lines I have traveled on the selection didn't seem as good.
Additionally, I went to an art auction on board, the first time I have ever done that. I actually made a significant purchase which I was very excited about, until on the last day I saw my bill and they charged me 2x. I went to guest services and they seemed almost put out to have to correct it and instead of apologizing explained their error by telling me about what time the bill I had was printed and it was already corrected in their system right after that time, etc...the only bill under my door had the same purchase 2x, so....anyway- they fixed it quickly.
Although I sound like I am full of complaints, I really did have a very nice vacation- I don't think I could really go on a cruise and not have a good time. The ship was generally very nice and it is just fun to be on a giant floating hotel and wake up in a different island every day. Also, I saw the show featuring 80's music which was wonderful.
My recommendation would be tried Norwegian, that is by far my favorite so far- the food that is included (even though the ship I went on had about 20 additional eateries with a fee I only ate in the main dining room) was delicious and the entire operation was extremely organized throughout the ship.