Carnival Valor 7 days, Eastern Caribbean 2-11-2007
These are my personal opinions, comparisons, and my experiences only. I will state the facts, both positive and negative. My experience may not be the same as yours...so take it with a grain of salt...like all reviews.
I am married, in my early 40's, and have sailed twice with Royal Caribbean and twice with Princess. This was our first Carnival cruise and we now have a total of 46 days at sea. On this cruise, we sailed with 24 family and friends.
We flew down to Miami a day early, and out a day after the cruise. We stayed at Sleep Inn Miami Airport. The price was right, and it's a decent hotel. There are places to eat nearby, but most sites are a good cab ride away. We used Miami Sunshine Transportation to haul our large group to and from the Port of Miami. They did a fine job at about $8 pp.
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION: We were traveling with family, and one of my children was under 21. Carnival will not put people under 21 in a cabin without the other person being less than 25. Fine. TA stated that Carnival's policy was this way when booking, but it could be switched at the pier. I'm hoping the Carnival Rep was just having a bad day...but she was extremely short tempered, rude, and we had a very hard time communicating with her. She turned our embark into a big headache. I won't go into details, but I took her name and reported her.
We brought our (under 25 children) along, and they were originally booked in cabins together. Carnival then changed the booking to kid/parent in one cabin, kid/parent in the other. They said we could switch it at the pier later. (Rules state under 21 must stay in cabin with someone over 25 years old)
TIP: If Carnival books you this way, and you need it changed (to parent/parent, child/child), here's how it works: You will check in at Embark (they will pair each minor with parent/older than 25) If your cabins happen to be on different decks...you may be split up from each other (minor/parent) while boarding to pick up your Sign & Sail cards. Don't fret...once you are onboard, take the matter to the INFO DESK (Purser) and they will change it right back and issue new S&S cards. This can be very confusing if you don't know what to expect when you get there. Picking up your S&S cards onboard is a new procedure on Carnival Valor.
After embarkation, Carnival doesn't allow you to go to your cabins until after 1 or 1:30 pm. They close the access doors to the cabin locations, and ask that you don't go there. Stewards need time to do the cleaning from previous guests. This makes the ships common areas VERY crowded. Some people disregarded the request and went in anyway. Most people head to the buffet for some food and on deck for drinks.
Debarkation went very smoothly. We chose the traditional method of luggage out by midnight, and wade through to find your luggage on the pier when they call your color.
CABIN: We booked an 8A on Upper Deck (6), right outside the forward lobby (atrium). I liked the location, right near the forward elevator banks. The cabin was well appointed, very functional, and we liked it. Balcony was a little smaller than on previous ships I've sailed. The cabins aren't immune to outside noise. Talking, yelling, or running in the hallways can be heard by everyone...so please be courteous to others. This cabin is located near the atrium. You can hear the elevators dinging and piano music pretty easily. That didn't bother us.
TIP: Please turn out your exterior balcony light when you don't need it. It will light up two balconies over at night. I like to sit in the dark and watch the stars at night.
TIP: Port side of the ship (outside/balcony), on the Eastern itinerary had better views while in ports. (At least on our cruise) The Port side was always facing away from the other ships docked, and looked out over the bays. Nice.
The TV is interactive. You can book excursions, view your S&S account, the dining menus, or watch movies. We really like being able to check our account from the room. Network channels came out of Colorado. There were a couple cartoon channels, news channels, and a few channels running the (ship DVD), ship's position, bow cam, and deck cam.
THE SHIP: This is a large ship, and I like the patriotic theme everywhere. Carnival decorates very whimsical, and I'm used to more of a traditional dEcor. For the most part, I was still very pleased with the look...but not with the design. Example: ~Children's area above the relaxing SPA? ~Decks you can't walk through to reach dining rooms? ~Access to the internet center through a Cigar Club? ~An exterior deck (called Promenade Deck on other lines) with midship access only, and doesn't circle the ship? ~Go through the Spa to find the gym?
Myself and others found this ship difficult to navigate. At the end of the week...I was still going in the wrong direction. Signage is not the best. They really need to mark 'port & starboard' inside around the elevators so you can tell which way to go. Some signs are made of little lights and are hard to read. The common areas always seem to be crowded on this ship. With so many people onboard...it's often a problem. Some other ships seem to do a better job of dispersing people.
At first, I didn't like the mid-ship pool area design. I came to like it in time. There are some food stations outside, between the buffet and pool bars. This helps keep traffic down in Rosie's during peak hours. I liked the dual bars, but the one on the non-smoking side was closed most of the time.
The Lindy Hop is an entertaining place to sing-a-long with the piano player. They serve a good snack mix with drinks. A cozy lounge, next to several other bars. Arrive early for seats around the rotating piano.
The Ivanhoe Theater is pretty well designed. I liked the feel of the room, but the views from the lowest level aren't great. Not enough slant to the floor. Much better views from upper levels. Bar service up there sux though. There are some nice little table/stools up on the very top rear sections.
Dining Rooms are pretty funky. The pink/orange thing is...weird looking. I much prefer the dining room dEcor on Royal Caribbean ships. They are much more elegant. Service for dinner was outstanding! Some of the best we've experienced. Natalia and Iliana were an awesome team! The dining room staff preformed some singing, or dancing every night. The service at open seating breakfast and lunch was pretty bad. It's almost like they don't care much. The hostess was rude, the waiters forgetful, the food not as great. I preferred to eat at Rosie's...and I usually avoid buffets like the plague!
THE FOOD: I'm not a picky eater, and never have a problem trying new things or finding something I like to eat. I was happy with the choices on each night's menu...even when others were not. With that being said... I thought the food was great! I ate many of the seafood dishes, such as flounder, tilapia, & shrimp. I didn't eat the lobster, but many said it wasn't very good. The hot soups I ate were also very good, as were the Starter courses. The rolls and breads were good, and deserts as well. The Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is on the menu every night! (It's a good one too!) The only thing I really didn't care for the entire week in the dining room was the Filet Minion. Mine was very tough, but others said theirs was perfect.
Rosie's was themed like a 50's diner. I liked it that way. I prefer feeding stations, like Princess & RCI have rather than the long line type. Stations flow smoother and faster. You don't have to stand in a long line to pass over things you don't want. Just grab and go. Rosie's has A LOT of seating, both indoor and out. Never had much of a problem finding seats...even at peak times. Fish & Chips, deli, oriental, pizza, and burger places were great too.
PORTS & EXCURSIONS: Nassau, Bahamas This is a short port stop, so we had to be back onboard by 1:30pm. Our plan was to take a taxi over to The Atlantis Resort to explore and view the aquariums. (The Dig)
Upon arrival, we were approached by taxi tour guides, and decided on a tour with Derrall Fox. The price was $25 per person for a tour of Nassau, Paradise Island, Atlantis Hotel (including The Dig), some historic sites such as The Queens Staircase, and shopping. We thought this was MUCH better than a taxi ride to explore on our own. The driver was a very knowledgeable guide, and walked us through everything. I highly recommend doing this type tour instead of going out on your own. Atlantis is spectacular! A must-see. We then shopped near the ship, straw market, and hit Senor Frogs for some party action.
St. Thomas, USVI You must process through customs at this port stop whether you get off ship or not. The line moves very fast once they start processing. Start to finish it took us 25 minutes. We pre-booked a tour with SUNNY LISTON TOURS for $25 per person. We were picked up right on time and dropped off in Charlotte Amalie for shopping. Angela was our driver, and she was great. We were cut short on our shopping time, which was disappointing for some in our group. We did not visit Sir Francis Drakes Seat, Bluebeard's Castle, nor did we choose the beach. She brought us to Sapphire beach, (where we wanted to go anyway) which is very nice. More beach time would have been great. After this stop Sunny himself picked us up. He is a very fun guy, and sang the "Sunday, Monday" song. They kept the music cranked up and the sing-along was really fun. People are definitely turning their heads as you pass by! The view from Mountain Top is spectacular, and the Banana Daq's were great… and strong! Overall, the tour was very fun, and well worth the money. Angela and Sunny are great!
St. Maarten We pre-booked a tour similar to Sunny's…which Sunny himself booked for us with his friend Victor Bryan. The tour ($30 pp) was in an air conditioned 12 passenger van. It was nice and informative, but lacked the fun-spirited sing-along of Sunny's tour. We toured the island, saw Maho Beach, around to (French side) Marigot for some shopping, photo stops, and to world famous Orient Bay Beach. This is a beautiful beach where tops are optional. You can go all nude at the end near Club Orient. You can Jet Ski, parasail, snorkel (go near Club Orient), swim, or play in the surf. There are bars, restaurants, playgrounds, chairs/umbrellas, you name it. Very beautiful place. Good for families too, if you aren't hung up on topless or naked people. After 2 hours Victor was supposed to take us shopping in Philipsburg, but most opted to be dropped off at the ship instead. There is a small area of shops by the ship.
ENTERTAINMENT: I attended the welcome aboard show, and a couple comedian shows. I didn't go to any others. Typical cruise show, nothing spectacular. Comedian made fun of himself for an hour, but he was good at it. My favorite entertainment is live music like the deck band 'Eclipse', Thomas with his guitar on the Promenade, and in the Lindy Hop with Trevor. I did participate in "Name that tune" and "Battle of the Sexes" games, and watched many others such as "Fear Factor", "Survivor", "Love, Sex & Marriage", and others. There is an endless amount of activities for you to do all day…and you'll never be bored. __________________________________________________
Things that I liked:
The many activities offered.
The Topless deck! (What man wouldn't like this?)
No tendering on this itinerary! Yah!
Carnival's Veteran/Military discount! Hope it stays around. Other lines could take note!
Most of the staff onboard was very friendly. Bartenders and cabin stewards go out of their way to say hi, or make you laugh.
Towel animals are pretty cool.
The shops have good sales all week. There is a great Tanzanite sale as well, with drawings to win more jewelry. Must be present to win.
On St. Valentine's Day, the ladies in the dining room were all delivered a single red Carnation to the table. A nice touch.
Buckets of beer…great idea. They go down quick on a hot day.
Those blue plastic rockers on the terraced deck. Fun to sit and people watch.
The chocolate buffet is pretty good. It's served once in the afternoon.
The Deck Party under the stars is fun. They don't do much besides line dance, but it's nice to have live music on deck until late. The band was still playing at 2 am! Cool.
Thumbs up to the deck band, piano players, guitar player near the casino and all the other entertainers. They are all very good.
There was an entertainer who did tricks in the dining room. He was very good with coin tricks…and I liked him a lot. Amazing.
Getting through Customs in St. Thomas goes very smoothly. There is a huge line up, but the line moves really fast. In fact…you barely even stand still once the agents arrive onboard. Quick and painless.
Room service. It was great for us, but I heard from others that never received deliveries. Not sure what happened there but mine was always right, and on time.
All the different places to get a quick bite to eat! Deli's, buffets, pizza joints, burger joints, sushi bars, dining rooms, room service, fish & chips, etc.
Warm Chocolate Melting Cake…need I say more???
The bathroom is very functional. This is one of the best showers I've seen on a ship. The curtain doesn't attack you like on some ships. Love the shower head/hose and the soap/shampoo dispensers. Two thumbs up.
Love the Lobby (atrium). Valor's goes from deck 3 all the way to the sky. Princess ships have short 3 story ones that aren't that impressive. RCI still has them all beat! Love the decor with the wooden (flag) flooring.
The beds and comforters are very nice.
Carnival Capers with the removable schedule section. Nice. __________________________________________________
Things that I didn't like:
No steel drum music! What's up with that??? I really missed this.
Hot tubs were never really hot.
Security seems to hassle young people for ID all the time. You'd think by weeks end they'd stop asking the same people. It's good to keep down the underage drinking that's happening, but they don't have to be rude about it.
We had multiple weddings, realtors, a large Do-Wop group, and other meeting groups onboard this week. Lounges and clubs were constantly closed for private parties. This just doesn't seem fair. Many daily activities were moved to locations that weren't very suitable. This is the first time I've seen a big, beautiful atrium/lobby used for such activities! They held break-dancing shows, cornhole tournaments, trivia contests, Battle of Sexes, Golf Putting contests, etc. This made taking a nap in your cabin or falling asleep before midnight very difficult…as they were using loud music and PA systems in the atrium at all hours.
Deck chair saving: This is WAY OUT OF CONTROL. Valor deck chairs were VERY hard to come by in nice sunny weather, or on sea days. People toss stuff on the chairs and never use them. On the bright side…you can bring home a lot of $22 towels. ? Chair hogs….two thumbs down to you. You know who you are.
Attention Smokers…you're not going to like this part so just skip on by it… Interior smoking. I'm not a smoker, and don't think it should be permitted anywhere indoors. Until society catches up with the times…I'll deal with it best I can…in protest. The bars, lounges, and casino are smokey, as is the Promenade (deck 5) in general. It's a high traffic area, and there is no shortage of smokers onboard. How does this affect my cruise…other than the deadly health hazard? I like to pack light, and sometimes wear my
dinner clothes on more than one night. That’s tough to do when they smell like cigarette smoke the next day. Exterior smoking: While I’m on the subject…Starboard side of the pool deck is the ‘smokers-gone-wild’ section. Some people disregard this and smoke all over the place. The smell of cigars and cigarettes will sometimes chase you off of your ‘premium priced’ balcony as well. (Not to mention the marijuana smoke we smelled a couple times out there)
I didn’t like the fact that some passengers think it’s ok to walk around wherever they want with no clothes on. I don’t mind this outdoors…but I didn’t like all those shirt-less, and shoe-less men walking around inside Rosie’s getting food or in the American Lobby having drinks. It’s just tacky and unhealthy. Try this at a nice land based restaurant. Wise up fools…if you only knew how stupid you look.
I hate cruise ship coffee on all lines equally. It’s all very bad. I think it’s a ploy to get you to the Java Café for $4 lattes. Dining room coffee is a bit better than everywhere else…but not much.
This ship has a very crowded feel. I think it has to do with the proximity of all the clubs, venues, shops, etc all being located together. There are a lot of people on board…yes. It is nice to stroll down the Promenade and see what’s up. This is both good and bad because it gets crowded. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of crowds?)
I prefer a sliding door to the balcony. The swinging door just wastes space. The balcony seems even smaller because of this. I didn’t like the furniture out there either. The best furniture I’ve seen was on Island Princess. Large table right up against the rail, and two chairs that can lay back.
Shows starting at 10:30pm for late seating. Princess has many shows BEFORE dinner for late seating. This way, you are not up all night trying to see everything.
I like to see the ships position on a chart broadcast on the TV in your cabin like Princess and RCI. Carnival Valor didn’t have this feature. You had to go down on the Promenade to view it. _____________________________________________
TIP: FRS radios: They are a good way to communicate onboard. The problem is, parents give these things to their kids and let them run amok! They are on every channel, screaming and cursing on them. I found them to be useless onboard because of this. If you bring them…bring one with privacy codes. Oh yeah, this ship has cell phone service at sea…so you’ll see people all over the place yapping it up.
Note: Parents…you brought those kids, and it’s YOUR responsibility to watch/parent them…24/7. I saw unsupervised kids running loose everywhere. I saw small children climbing up onto the upper rails of the 10th deck! Now I love kids, but they need tending to. Don’t you people watch 20/20?
CONCLUSION: Many things on this cruise simply didn’t live up to the ‘greatness’ I’ve experienced on other cruises. Don’t get me wrong, this was a good cruise…just not as good as it could have been. It started out on the wrong track right from embarkation…where I actually said I would never sail Carnival again…before I ever stepped foot on their ship! (Yea, I was mad!) There was a lot I liked about Carnival Valor, and a lot I didn’t care for. All in all we still had a good vacation experience. We received good value for our money. I believe we will sail Carnival in the future sometime. But for my money and experience…I think Royal Caribbean and Princess are more our style.