Who was sailing: Party of 5: Father, Mother, Dtr (age 19), son (age 15) and son's friend (age 14.
Embarkation: went very quickly. Hardly no wait at all. We arrived at the Port at 11:30 a.m. and were able to begin the embarkation process immediately. Only glitch encountered was that there were 5 of us and they could only figure out how to get 4 signed to a credit card. We had to use a second card for the 5th. This was for the Sail & Sign program.
On the Ship: After the requisite boarding pictures were taken, we walked the gangway onto the ship at the 3rd level, and found ourselves in a patriotic themed lobby area. There were 3 glass elevators as well as a winding stairway. by 1:30 we were able to check out our cabins. We had a balcony cabin on the 6th deck, midship.
Food and Dining:
Rosies Buffet: Typical buffet food. Rosies was an elaborate, very large buffet with many tables both inside and out. The food was ok. Nothing to write home about - typical, tasteless variety items. There was also a pizza bar, oriental bar (which husband said was very good), a deli (also, husband had a reuben and said it was very delicious). There was a fish-n-chips bar. Fish was ok, chips ok. Also a grill where you could get shoestring french fries, hot dogs, and burgers cooked to order.
Lines for the "specialty" food bars got quite long during the normal eating times (like 12:00 - 1:00 for lunch) but were manageable at other times. Not all the food bars remained open however.
Boys swore by the ice cream machines and dtr loved the caesar salads.
I was glad we had late seating - Lincoln Dining Room - because our luggage did not make it to our cabins until 6:00 - 6:30'ish.
Our table was 139 and our servers - Leonara and Gerald (both from Philippines) were exceptional, hard working and very sincere. Always quick with smiles and eager to please us. I cannot speak more highly of them.
Food in the Lincoln was very good, very tasty and so hard to choose. The offerings each night were plenty and had a wide variety of options. Vegetarian dishes were offered each night, along with beef, poultry, pork and fish items.
The night that lobster was served, they were the largest tails I had ever had for a formal night dinner. We asked for 2, thinking they would be on the small side. Bad idea. They were cooked perfectly and served with melted butter.
The only critique I have is that every night they offered up entertainment. Now, I don't know what other people expect from formal dining rooms, but singing and dancing through the restaurant in a conga line every night is not my idea of one. Sure, it's ok for like 1 or 2 nights - maybe the first and last night of the voyage, but not every night. The wait staff have enough to do on top of singing and dancing for us too. We actually felt bad for them.
Bars & Entertainment Opportunities:
If you can't find something to do on the Valor, you are not trying hard enough.
There were plenty of bars to be found; unfortunately, most were smoking. We are extremely sensitive to smoke, so we weren't able enjoy ourselves in the bars and night clubs. We both like to watch sports but the sports bar would become so smoky that we never could watch a game for any length of time. I finally stopped trying.
I did realize - late in the cruise - that the Martini Bar was totally smoke free. So this is where I sat and chatted and enjoyed a drink or two. Our bartender even concocted a special martini for us - Rum Punch Martinis. They were very, very good. Could get you in trouble if you drink more than 3 or 4.
Our daughter was looking forward to dancing in the nightclubs, but there were no nigthclubs that offered a smoke free environment. I would think with so many nightclubs on one ship, they could make one smoke free - with the current music. My daughter said the clubs would get so smoky, her eyes started stinging.
The teen boys enjoyed themselves in the arcade, ping pong tables, the deck and pools. Neither one liked the hot tubs since they were filled with small children. However, the slide is a lot of fun. You actually can get going pretty fast on it. The pools were nothing special. Neither boy wanted to try out the Carnival program for their age group, opting instead to entertain themselves.
My daughter was disappointed that there was nothing really organized or available for the 18-20 year olds. Besides tanning on the deck or working out in the weight room, there was nothing organized for this particular age group. I think Carnival is really missing out here, as these are their future cruisers. She did go to a mixer organized for the young adults (18-25 yrs old) but she was the only one who showed up. Sad. Besides that one event, there was nothing else on the daily planners for this age group.
The shows offered in the Ivanhoe Theater were very good and full of energy. The female singers were very good, but the lead male singer should be replaced. He ruined every song he solo'd on.
The comedians were very funny, especially the adult shows. Why people insisted on bringing their young children to the midnight comic show still amazes me. Granted, most of them slept through it.
Ports of Calls:
Nassau: Disappointed with the Straw Market. For every stall selling straw goods and island crafts, there were 20 selling the knock-off designer purses, wallets and sun glasses. On a side note, the offerings were better than China Town in NYC, so if that's your thing - as it appeared to be for a lot of people - go for it. We had a drink at Senior Frogs and that was fun.
St. Thomas: We had a friend who lived there so she picked us up and took us to a private island for snorkeling. Glorious day and evening. I cannot wait to go back.
St. Maarten: We did not venture farther than Phillipsburg. We were tired from the previous day in St. Thomas, and chose to do some shopping. I was disappointed with the jewelry pricing. I thought that I would be able to find some really good deals - I love opals and emeralds, but I have a really good jeweler in my hometown and having purchased exquisite items from him, the prices and quality of the offerings in St. Maarten just didn't impress me at all.
We did not do any shore excursions either through the ship or on land direct. We did hear people talk positively about the Golden Catamaran Sail & Snorkel excursion, as well as the Divi Beach Break - both offered in St. Maarten.
7 nights was a bit much for us. I did not like the 2 back-to-back days at sea. They should throw in another port of call, like Tortola to break it up. We followed in the shadow of the RCCL Freedom of the Seas the entire time. The entire cruise staff were great. Always smiling, always accommodating, and always pleasant.