Background: Husband 55, me 50, sons 20 and 18 and sons friend 18. 8th cruise for us, 6th for sons. Have cruised other lines in addition to carnival.
Arrived in Miami July 14 day before cruise (I always highly recommend arriving a day in advance) We stayed at the Biscayne Bay Marriott and got a fantastic rate of $93 this is because we are airline employees. Great hotel, great location. Visited Bayside market Saturday night and had dinner at Los Ranchos one of our favorite in Miami.
Arrived at port at noon we were on the ship by 1:00 line kept moving and it was basically a painless hour and we expected it would take about this much time to get thru the line so were not upset by the hour wait at all. We had 2 inside cabins side by side on the Panorama deck and loved the location. The inside cabins were perfectly fine. We would have loved a balcony but it was alot more money so we opted to spend our money elsewhere. Our steward was super friendly and always helpful. We roamed the ship and found it appealing in all ways. We learned quickly how to best navigate around. Our room location was great as we were right by the pool where we spent lots of time. We had an 8:00 dinner time and we visited the dining room (Washington upstairs) to try to locate our table but the numbers were not on the tables yet so we "guessed" at which table was ours. We also wondered who our tablemates would be. When we arrived the first night for dinner we had actually picked the correct table and we met our tablemates. They were a great family from Columbus with 3 daughters. Our sons hit it off with the girls and partied with them several times. First port was Nassau, which we had visited several times and we just went to cable beach. Learned from other cruise critic members that we could catch an open air local taxi for $1 each way to the beach. Great day at the beach..we went to the Wyndam. We used chairs and were never charged. Purchased drinks from the hotel great day. St Thomas we visited sapphire Beach as we had stayed at this resort several years earlier and knew it was a nice beach. Also learned of a $2 taxi each way from Cruise critic members. You catch it right in front of KMart. If you catch a taxi inside cruise terminal its $10 per person each way. For 5 it would have cost us $100 round trip to visit sapphire beach. Knowing what we learned from other members it cost us $20. Great beach and great day. St. Martin sadly it rained this day so our visit to Orient beach was called off. We shopped the town for a couple of hours and returned to ship. We went to several shows and found them entertaining. Liked the comediennes and also karaoke. We found the piano bar to be like a funeral home. Dead and boring. This was quite a surprise because on the Victory we sailed in Feb 06 it was so much fun. Valor really needs a different guy for the piano bar in our opinion. We visited the disco several times and had fun. I named it the freezer because they kept it about 50 degrees in there? Very uncomfortable to me so I could not stay long as I was freezing too much to have fun.
We enjoyed the meals on the ship, the pizza, icecream, sushi. We ate every night in the dining room and our waiter was a really nice guy but the service was terrible. He was so slow that we were just getting our dessert menu when all the tables around us were completely empty. It did not ruin our meal or cruise..you just go with it. We got a great value on this cruise considering it was summer and the boys said it was their best cruise ever. if you have questions, feel free to email me.