We sailed on the Valor on May 6, 2007 and have nothing but great things to say about the ship and its crew. I feel obligated to write a review here since I used these boards prior to my trip and found them very helpful. I travelled with my wife, mother-in-law, and 15 month old daughter.
My wife and I are experienced cruisers. We've been on 5 cruises together (2 Carnival, 2 Royal Caribbean, and 1 Celebrity) and know the deal. Our last cruise was on the Grandeur of the Seas and it made us reconsider cruising - the 9 day trip was miserable mostly because of the staff on that ship. The Valor trip re-kindled our love for cruising.
Embarkation: Pretty standard. As per my luck, we came at a time with a pretty long line and by the time we reached the counter, there was no line at all. It's hit or miss. I don't understand why they check you in without giving you the sail and sign card - it just means another line once you get on the ship. Minor inconvenience, but a bit of a pain.
The Ship: Since this has been the newest ship we've cruised on, we were very impressed. It was very clean and in great condition. The Americana theme was well done and classy-looking.
Food: Meal service was great, as expected. Our dining room team took care of us and tended to the needs of our toddler. They went out of their way to keep her happy. The food was good - nice selection and good quality. I think it's hard to make 3000 lobsters and filet mignons perfectly, but we were all happy with ours. I did hear some complaints from other folks, but I enjoyed my meals. The only negative about this trip was that the high chairs in the dining room and buffet were usually hard to find and not clean. With a little girl, this was a significant concern. Of course, we could always find someone to help us get it cleaned, but with a screaming baby, time to the meal is important.
Activities: Standard. The whole boat is divided into three "teams" for activities - Red, White, and Blue. Points are awarded to the team for each activity won. I'd rather have them do this than give some cheap prize to the winner. It helped to have the crowd cheer for participants, too.
Shows: I went to a couple of shows. The comedian/ventriloquist was good. The 80s review was very good - much better than I would have expected. Just wait for the breakdancers (and check out the lobby after the show)!
Casino: Also standard. Many different games. The limits are lower the first night ($3 table games), so be sure to gamble then cause all other nights are $5 minimums. They have a hold em table too. It's automated, but wasn't in play most of the time since there often weren't enough players for a game.
Excursions: With a toddler, we only did one - Trunk Bay Beach and Snorkel. It was during the St. Thomas day - we took a boat over to St. John and spent an hour and a half snorkeling. The boat ride was interesting- good description of the islands and famous residents. The snorkeling was okay - the tides were a bit rough that afternoon. Overall, well worth the $59.
Debarkation: Not the best. We did the self-assist and had to wait in a huge line to get through immigration and customs. I know it wasn't the ship's fault, but it would be miserable for passengers with early flights.
As I mentioned, I would highly recommend this cruise. The cruise director was entertaining. The crew overall had great attitudes - we didn't have even one bad experience with the onboard team. After getting home last night, I'm ready to go back for another week.