Carnival Valor - Western Caribbean: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by rico
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Valor - Western Caribbean
Destination: Western Caribbean
EMBARKATION We caught a taxi from the Miami Intercontinental hotel and arrived at the port at noon. Shore-side embarkation was well organized and fast. We were on the ship within 20 minutes of arriving. Carnival was testing something new this time; they did not complete the credit card/sail and sign card process in the terminal. They had staff completing that process aboard the ship. Past guests were given red dot stickers. Once on board, we were directed to the mid-ship dining room where they took our credit card info and set up our sail and sign accounts. Our friends were directed to deck 4 to do the same. But More there was no one on deck 4 to set up accounts. All the first time cruisers stood there wondering what was going on. This process didnt work well at all. I didn't see any problem with the old process of doing it in the terminal. Carnival needs to fix the new system or revert to the old one.
SHIP - The ship is in great shape. At only a bit over 2 years old it looks great. The interior design was flashy, but done well. Not obnoxious or too Vegas, but not subdued like a Princess ship. We had over 3,100 passengers onboard and I never felt cramped or crowded. There were times I was amazed at how few people were in some lounges, rooms, etc. Often the four of us would be the only people sitting at the Jeanne's wine/martini bar, or in some other room. Carnival has done a fabulous job designing the Lido deck buffet areas. There are 4 different main buffet lines, spaced apart to keep congestion down. There is also a deli window, an oriental food window, and a fish and chips buffet counter located in other parts of the buffet restaurant. With seven different serving areas congestion was not a problem. This is a BIG plus over the Princess Grand class ships that push all 2,700 passengers through two serving lines. The open decks are big with lots of space for all the sun worshipers. If you want to be right down in the middle of the action near the main pool, it gets crowded. But if you just want a lounge chair and don't care or actually prefer it to be up away from the crowd, you'll have no problem finding it. There was a lot of open deck space that rarely got used. Carnival bills the Valor as a non-smoking ship, except in certain areas. Well, one draw back of the open bars and casino open to the entire promenade deck, is that the entire promenade deck is smokey, whether it's a smoking area or not. It didn't ruin our opinion of the ship, but it was very noticeable.
CABINS Carnival gets a big PLUS for their cabin designs. We had an 8A balcony on deck 6. There was an amazing amount of closet/storage space in that cabin; much more than we experienced on Princess Grand class ships. The room has a full sofa and coffee table. The bathrooms are also a bit bigger than their Princess counterparts. There is a fridge, but it's stocked as a convenience mini bar. It's not open for regular use. That was one feature we missed. Balcony furniture was metal frame, not cheap plastic.
DINING ROOMS The food was GREAT! The variety was wonderful and the quality was always above expectation. Our wait staff did a spectacular job, knew us by name after the first night, and service was always top-notch. Here's another little Carnival thing we don't like. the song and dance routine in the dining room. I'm not there to be entertained. Although it's not our thing, again, it didn't detract from the great experience we had on this cruise. We realize it's something Carnival does. We ate one dinner at Scarlett's steakhouse. Wow! Well worth the $30 per person charge. Service was beyond belief; we had four attendants waiting on our table. The food was incredible. Two of us had surf-n-turf, one filet mignon, and one a chicken dish. All great meals. Would have been $100 each person back home for a comparable meal/restaurant.
STAFF Our cabin steward was named Joseph and he was from India. He stopped by to introduce himself the first afternoon we boarded. He asked if we would like the mini bar unlocked, confirmed our dining room times, asked if we would be using hypodermic needles in the room, and things like that. Joseph greeted us by name every time he saw us during the entire cruise. He was probably the best steward we've had on any cruise. The rest of the staff also impressed us. You pass staff members in the passageways and on deck all the time. Every single one of them smiled and greeted us, Good morning, Good evening, etc. It didn't matter what their position was, every one of them greeted us. Something so small makes such a HUGE difference in a passenger's experience. We're not people that really pay much attention to the cruise director or social staff. We don't play in the deck games or things like that. That being said, the cruise director and his staff seemed to do a fine job. They always had activities going and seemed to be very active and energetic. Show room entertainment was high quality, as we've come to expect.
PORTS Ports are what you make of them. So I won't go into much detail. In Belize we went cave tubing. It was a fun excursion. The tour guide really made the trip. Very informative about the life and history of his country. Very proud to be Belizean. In Roatan we went SCUBA diving with Anthony's Key Resort. Top-notch operation, great resort, very nice boats, great staff and the reefs were spectacular. Grand Cayman SCUBA diving again, this time with Don Fosters Diving. Another great dive operation. In Cozumel we did the Mexican Cuisine cooking and tasting at Playa Mia. This was a GREAT excursion. The staff there was fabulous. We each cooked a full three-course meal, we supplied plenty of margarita's and had an hour plus on the beach after we ate.
DEBARKATION I would guess half the ship did the self assist bag drag to get off the ship. We did the old-fashioned color tag method. Until they make me drag my own bags off the ship, I'll do the colored tags every time. The buffet restaurant wasn't even a third full. We met our friends there at 8am and sat and talked until our color was called. We were off the ship and standing in the terminal within 5 minutes of our color being called. Once in the terminal it took about 20-30 minutes to make it through the lines, pick up bags and get through Customs. They ran the Miami Marathon today, so there was a problem with the bus transportation to MIA airport. The buses were available but could not get to the port because traffic was closed for the marathon route. That made for a VERY close call in catching our 1pm flight. That's one of those things that almost never happens and really isn't Carnival's fault. This was probably one of the easiest debarkations we've had (bus issue aside).
OVERALL Wow! What a great vacation. Carnival does a great job of catering to everyone's cruising style. They provide the party experience if that's what you want. They provide a relaxed low-key vacation if that's what you want; and just about everything in between. Great ship, fantastic staff, wonderful service. Will we cruise with Carnival again ABSOLUTELY! And we'll back to Princess again also. The Carnival Valor certainly exceeded our expectations and they've earned our repeat business. Less