We took our first ever Carnival cruise (we had both previously cruise RCI) on the Valor 01/13/08 - 01/20/08. We had an Eastern itinerary so we hit Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Our group consisted of my boyfriend and I and his three daughters (ages 19, 12 and 9). We booked two cabins, a balcony for us and an inside across the hall for the girls.
Saturday We flew AA into MIA from DCA on Saturday afternoon. Rented a car from Hertz and stayed at the Courtyard downtown near Bayside. Overall, this was a good experience. We had a corner suite (unfortunately, no view of the port). Had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and the bummed around Bayside for a while. We drove over to South Beach for the later part of the evening. We stopped by Miami Ink so the girls could have their picture taken in front of it and then went down to the beach. We headed back to the hotel and all crashed out early.
Sunday We were up and out early. We left the hotel after breakfast about 10am. My BF dropped us at the port with the luggage. The luggage porter showed up instantly and whisked our bags off to be loaded onto the ship. My BF headed to the downtown Hertz location to return the car while us girls headed over to the port building to wait (we were not going through security without him). He was back to the port by 10:45 and we were on our way.
We gathered our carry-ons and headed through security. They checked our ids against the passenger manifest (we were surprised that this was paper based and not electronic) and then went through the actual security scanners. We were through in no time at all and headed upstairs to check in. We grabbed our Bahamas documentation, filled it out and got in line. While we were in lines they started calling Zones to board. It took about 15-20 minutes for us to get our turn at check-in. Our check-in agent Lloyd was great. Very nice, very prompt and quite funny. We were done and had our Sign and Sail cards in hand in less than 10 minutes. We headed over to the waiting area and they were already on Zone 6 (we were Zone 9). In less than 15 minutes, our Zone was called and we were headed on board. We were on board by 11:30.
We had an hour and a half to kill before we could get to our rooms, so we checked out some of the ship. We stopped in the American Lobby and bought Coke cards for all of us for the week. We then headed over to the Washington dining room (we had the early 17:45 dinner seating) to check out where our table was. We were seated at Table 312. This is a table for 6 on the right-hand side of the dining room when you enter. The table is OK, but not great. We had a half window and half wall next to us, so though we could see outside, it was limited. Thankfully since it was January, it didn't matter much as it was dark every night shortly after we sat down to eat.
From the dining room, we went up to check out Camp Carnival (small, but nice) and then went to the Lido deck. We checked out the pool at the back of the ship and then headed into Rosie's for lunch. We walked in, quickly found a seat, dropped out stuff and hit the buffet. The food was good. My BF found the Roast Beef at the carving station and had at least 3 servings (I tried it and he was right, it was good). The youngest found the pizza station and was in heaven (she had pizza EVERY day we were on board). The rest of us just grazed, but we all agreed that the food was good. Typical buffet, not spectacular, but good.
Once we were done with lunch it was time to head down to our rooms. We gathered up our carry-ons and headed down to the Upper Deck (Deck 6). When we walked up to our room, one of my bags and one of my BFs were already at the room waiting for us. In a short time the girls bags started showing up, so we were able to start unpacking. Even though the last bag (the 12 yo's) was the last to arrive, we were all completely unpacked before the muster drill. We were amazed!
The room location was great. Right in the middle of the ship on the Port side. The only problem we encountered was that on two evenings we could hear the noise from the casino in our rooms (it was right below us).
The rooms were an 8A (Balcony - 6328) and a 4C (Inside - 6330). Both were typical, standard rooms for their category. Nothing special about either. Our room had a couch with a small table in the sitting area. The girls had a chair. Their room also had two pull down bunks available. Our balcony was not large, but it was nice to have. We brought a bungee cord and slept every night with the door to the outside open listening to the ocean. (It was wonderful.)
The bathroom was expectedly small, but it was all that we needed. We actually had more closet space than I expected (one with shelves and two for hanging). The cabin was in decent shape. It was clean and everything worked.
We were done unpacking by 1400. The girls headed off to explore. My BF and I headed over to Formalities to pick up the tux he rented. Even though the pants ran small (he is always a 36 and needed the next size up), that went very smoothly. We exchanged the pants and had no problems at all.
We went up from there and toured the spa and the gym. They both looked nice, though throughout the week we did not utilize either. The one annoying things (ok), was the staff (ok), used the word "OK" after every sentence (ok). By the time to tour was ending, I looked at my BF and said "What would they do if I said 'NO! It is not OK!'?"
At 1455, we met the girls back at the rooms for the muster drill. The usual muster drill. No excitement. As much as people complain about muster drills, they serve their purpose, provide good (hopefully unnecessary information) and are harmless. There was a couple that had just gotten married and they got a huge round of applause from everyone as they headed to their station in their tux, gown and lifevests. (Very stylish.)
Once the muster drill was over, we dropped our life vests in the rooms and went up top for sailaway. The weather was perfect. Sunny, warm, beautiful! We spend time on deck and snapped some pictures and then about 5pm headed back to our rooms to change for dinner. This was the first time that we saw our room steward Alexis. Sadly, I don't have much to say about him. My BF and I were both used to overly friendly room stewards from our previous cruises. The usually greeted us as soon as we got to our room, knew and addressed us by name every time they saw us and went above and beyond to make our vacation wonderful. Not this time. Not to say that we had any complaints, but this room steward was just hardly noticeable. Were it not for the fact that our room was cleaned everyday, we probably would not have known he was there. We tried to engage him in conversation a couple of times and got nothing. It was sadly disappointing.
From there we headed to the Washington dining room again, but this time for dinner. Our wait staff was Jompard (from Thailand) and Manny (from Thailand). They were the best! Jompard has been with Carnival for 11 years and is spectacular. He was very kind, very helpful and every night tried to do something to entertain the girls (made a napkin mouse and then taught the girls to do it, folded a napkin hat for the youngest, etc). We loved him and loved being served by him. We had such a great experience with him that we had dinner in the dining room every night of the cruise.
The food in the dining room was spectacular; none of us ever had a complaint about anything. MY BF and I are not picky eaters, and will try all different things, but the girls can be picky. That being said, they did try new things and actually liked some of it. The lobster was wonderful. The prime rib (my BF's favorite) was perfectly cooked. The chocolate melting cake was a HUGE hit with the two younger girls (the rest of us liked it too). No complaints of any kind on the food or service in the dining room.
After dinner, we headed to the Eagles Lounge for the Camp Carnival registration. We singed up the two younger girls and they got to meet their counselors. Once that was done the 12yo was off to her CC mixer and the 19yo, my BF and I headed to the One Small Step disco with the 9yo for the family dance. It was lightly attended (only 4 families) and even though none of us were dancing queens (or kings), we won ourselves a coveted ship on a stick (the first of two our group would obtain that week).
From there we checked out the shops on board. Some cute stuff, but nothing we couldn't live without.
We went to the 2230 welcome aboard show and got introduced to Becka (our cruise director for the week) and her staff (Matt, Lauren and Shannon). They were all wonderful! We got to see a VERY interesting round of the Spoon game. Let's just say that the tighter the dress, the funnier the spoon game becomes.
Once the show was over, we roamed around the ship some more. We went upstairs to Lido Deck and the 9yo go more pizza (I truly think she ate her weight in pizza this week) and then headed back to the room about midnight to get some sleep.
Monday Monday morning was our first port, Nassau. My BF and I had both been there before and neither was ecstatic about the prospect of going back, but since the girls were with us and had never been there, we decided that we would all head to the island.
We docked around 0700, but only had a short time in port (we had to be back on the ship by 1330). We got the girls up, grabbed breakfast and headed off the ship about 0800. As we were getting off the ship, the Disney Wonder was pulling in next to us. The girls were bummed that we were not on that ship, as it had a video screen on deck and we didn't (Valor gets hers in drydock two weeks after our cruise).
Since we had such a short time in port, we decided to skip Atlantis. (Never gotten there, but this would be my only reason for ever going back to the Bahamas). Instead, we wandered over to the Pirates of Nassau museum. I had heard mixed reviews on this museum, but the 12yo is a HUGE pirate fan, so we decided to check it our for her sake. We all had a great time! It was a little hokey, but quite interesting and informative. I suggest checking it out (especially if you have kids). Just take it for what it is,.. Something fun to do.
We left the museum and just bummed around town. Bought a couple of cokes. The girls thought it was cool that the coke they got was made with real pure cane sugar instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup. We hit the straw market and the girls each got a necklace and a purse. Due to the haggling that my BF is so good at, we got a great deal on all of it. The only bummer is while we were there we saw a bottle of Captain Morgan's Gold Spiced Rum right next to a bottle of regular Captain Spiced. As my BF and I are both rum drinkers, we like to try new things. We didn't buy the gold in Nassau thinking we would see it on the other islands and never did. ?
We headed back to the ship about noon. We grabbed our pool stuff and headed up to Lido to chill in the sun. We grabbed a quick bite to eat (burgers and fries from the grill) and just enjoyed the afternoon at the pool. We played trivia while we sat on the Lido deck (didn't win). Went down the waterslide a couple of times and just had fun. The two younger girls were in and out of Camp Carnival (they were both old enough to check themselves in and out). There were not a whole lot of kids on board, so there was not a whole lot going on there.
My BF and I headed down to the American Lobby that afternoon at 1500 for the Battle of the Sexes. It was a fun game and the Women won (thanks to Matt from the CD Staff for his help).
That evening was our first formal night so when BOTS was over, we headed back to the room to get ready. That night was also the Captains reception, so while the girls continued to primp, the BF and I headed down to the Eagle Lounge for the reception. We had a couple of drinks and stayed while Captain Cutugno introduced his staff. We then went back up to the room, collected the girls and headed to dinner. Dinner was fabulous again.
After dinner we had some formal pictures taken. Once pics were done, we again lost the 12yo to a CC mixer and the rest of us headed back to change clothes. From there we decided to head to the Eagle's Lounge for Karaoke and ended up spending the entire evening there. Unfortunately that means we missed the show in the theater - NightClub Express. (We didn't realize the time until after the show had started.)
By this point, the 9yo and 12yo were tired, so we dropped them off at the room and took the 19yo to the adult comedy show. It was entertaining. The comedian was pretty funny. After that we just headed back to the room to get some sleep. Sleeping with the waves in the background was FABULOUS.
Tuesday This was our first full sea day. The water was like glass. The BF and I got up about 0730 and headed up to Lido deck (we let the girls sleep in). We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Rosie's and then grabbed a couple of lounge chairs. We basically hung out at the pool most of day. The girls came and went as they pleased sometimes spending time with us and sometimes going to CC or somewhere with the friends they had met.
At 1300, we decided to check out the Art Auction. It was the usual. Some free champagne, some cool art, some not so cool art. We ended up staying for the entire auction and didn't get out until almost 1530. The only bummer about this is that we had wanted to attend the wine tasting and due to timing we missed it (it was at 1400.) Once the auction was over, we headed back to the pool and just chilled some more until it was time for prep for dinner.
After dinner we again lost the younger two to Camp Carnival. So the three of us that were left went to check out the show in the lounge. The show was good. The first half was a juggler, the second another comedian. They were both quite entertaining.
Once the show was over we went back to Karaoke for a while. We had planned to attend that nights Adult Comedy show, but the full day in the sun had wiped us out. Instead, we all headed to bed a little early that night since we were going ashore the next morning.
Wednesday We work up Wednesday morning and my BF and I sat on our balcony and got to watch us pull into St. Thomas. It was a perfect day. We hit St Thomas about 0900. We got moving, got the girls up and decided to have breakfast in the dining room this morning. We had a waitress that was ok and the food was good (though the girls were not impressed by the French Toast). I had Eggs Benedict (my favorite breakfast food) and it was really good.
We were done about 0930 and from there we headed to the One Small Step Disco to go through Immigration (since we were back in the US). This was painless and we were off the ship in no time at all. We were one of 6 ships in port that day. Right there with us at Havensight were the NCL Norwegian Dawn and RCIs Freedom of the Seas (not sure of the other ships, know one was a Costa Boat). That being said, nothing seemed over crowded.
From Havensight we grabbed a cab and headed to Megan's Bay. Our cab driver was fascinating. Mr. Edward Potter had lived his whole life in STT and had started driving cabs in 1952. He took a short sabbatical to become a chauffeur for the previous Governor of STT and then went back to being a cab driver. He was very knowledgeable about the island and its history. He also (unprompted) praised FEMA for the help they provided to the island after hurricanes and other disasters. This was ironic because my BF works for them and told Mr. Potter that is was refreshing to hear someone say something nice about what they do rather than all of the negative he is used to hearing. MR. Potter said that most of the island being a US Territory a would not change it for anything. Not even statehood. They get the best of both worlds this way. The help without a lot of the extra bureaucratic crap. It was interesting, perspective and one I had never though of before.
Mr.Potter dropped us off at the beach and we set up with him to come back about 1400 (Ship Time) to take us downtown to shop. The weather was beautiful. We had one short 5 minute rain shower, but did not let that dampen our spirits. We grabbed a quick lunch there at the beach. You can tell that they have a captive audience as food and drinks there are not cheap. The funny thing was the Do Not Feed the Iguanas signs. And we learned why they were posted. Right by the little restaurant, was an iguana and he was more than willing to check out your food if you let him.
At 1345 we started to gather our things and at 1400, Mr. Potter showed up and chauffeured us downtown for our shopping excursion. We spend the next 3 hours roaming around. My BF and I got some great deal on rum (6 bottles for under $100) including some old favorites (the Captain) and some we had never seen before (Cruzan Spiced).
About 1630, we started to walk a back to the ship. It is only about a 10 minute walk and the weather was great (why bother with a cab). We found a little straw market and bought the girls a couple of things. Across the street from the market was the USVI Fire station. Since my BF has spent his whole life in Emergency Response and Emergency Management (he was a firefighter/medic prior to his move to his current job with the federal government), he decided he wanted his souvenir to be a USVI FD shirt. We stopped by and the guys working were really cool. They chatted with us, talked about what life as a FF in the USVI (they cover all islands, not just STT). The sold my BF a shirt for $15 and off back to the ship we headed again.
Back near the port and Havensight, we stopped in some of the shops. We ran into the US VI Brewing Company. We ere very bummed though as it was just after 1700 and they were closed (we were hoping to get some beer for some friends of ours back home). We stopped by Bad Ass Coffee (all thought the name quite funny), but again were disappointed when we realized the company was actually based in Utah. From there we headed back to the ship and got ready for dinner.
While we were at dinner at about 6pm, we got to watch RCIs FOS pull out of port. It was some pretty amazing maneuvering. They were parked between us and the NCL Dawn. Smooth as glass, they pulled out from between the two ships. Quite a feat for such a large ship. Shortly after FOS, the Dawn pulled out as well. We were all alone at the dock at that point. At 8pm, it was our turn and we sailed.
After dinner, we headed to the show in the Ivanhoe. The Wednesday night show was a 70's Motown singer. He was good enough that we actually saw both of his shows that night. The night thing was he mixed it up and did different songs for each set.
Thursday This was our day in St Maarten. We woke up and again thanks to our balcony got to watch the ship pull into port. There was a short 5 minute light rain shower as we docked, but not enough to dampen our spirits. The BF and I watched the Liberty of the Seas dock next to us as the girls got ready. LOS is HUGE and beautiful.
We grabbed a quick breakfast at Rosie's and headed off to see SM. We did not do any excursions, but rather rented a car ourselves and toured the island on our own. I can say that I think this is the way to see an island like SM. We picked up the car from Hertz at the port. It was a Nissan Almera (which are not available in the states) and headed out.
We drove through Phillipsburg, but didn't stop. We were on a mission. We were headed to Maho Beach to watch the planes land. On the way to Maho, we stopped at a roadside over look (along with what seemed like 300 other people). The view was breathe taking. We were atop a hill and to our left was the ocean and to our right we could look down on Cole Bay. We each grabbed a drink while there and then hopped back in the car to head to Maho.
Maho was FABULOUS. The beach was beautiful. The weather was perfect. We parked, grabbed our beach stuff and cameras and hit the beach. MY BF and the oldest grabbed the camera and the video camera and took pics of a bunch of the planes landing. It started with a small prop, then progressed to a small jet and last that we got to see was a 727. That was the coolest, but be warned of the backwash from the engines. We were bummed that we did not have time to stay until the afternoon and see the 747s land, but alas, we had more island to see. We definitely decided that we will be returning to both SM and Maho.
Before we left Maho, we stopped at one of the beach bars, and I tacked my (and accidentally my bosses) business cards up with the others. Then we hoped back in the car and were off again.
Out next stop was Marigot. The drive there was absolutely beautiful and we got there in time to grab lunch and do some shopping. We found a cute little French cafe for lunch. The food was pretty good.
From Marigot, we headed to Orient Beach to spend some more time in the sun. We got there, grabbed our spot and enjoyed ourselves. The water was much cooler and choppier on that side of the island than it had been at Maho, but we still had a good time. Orient is a optional topless beach. The BR, the 19yo and I were all aware and though there were plenty of topless people spread about, the two younger girls never noticed. (It was pretty funny.)
We hung at Orient for about 2 hours and then piled back in the car to head back to port. We dropped off the rental car, which was a painless process and then did some shopping right there at the port. Once we had shopped till we dropped, we headed back to the ship in time to ready ourselves for dinner. We were back by 1600 even though the ship did not sail until 1800.
After dinner we headed to the Art Auction and "Accidentally" bought some art. My BF bid on something pretty cheap and when no one else bid, we got it. It was pretty funny.
The show in Ivanhoe that night was another two parter. Part One was a 80s/90s female singer, followed by a comedian. We enjoyed it a lot.
After the show my BF was not feeling well. We hit Karaoke for a while and then he headed to bed. The girls and I headed to the deck party. They had a Mexican buffet, but none of us were hungry. The also had a pretty good spread of desserts. We chilled out on deck for an hour or so. Danced, sang, laughed and had a good time. Again, the CD staff was really great for this. From there we were all beat so we headed to bed.
Friday It was another glorious day at sea. The BF and I were up early again and followed the usual sea day routine. We got up, grabbed breakfast and then grabbed a couple of chairs by the pool. The seas were still a little choppy, but not enough to make any of us sick.
For most of the day, we did very little other than sit out at the pool and soak up the sun. Most of the activities were downstairs and we wanted to get as much time outside as possible. We did get to watch the Hair Chest Contest though and that was funny.
We attended that days art auction and due to the "accidental" bidding of my BF, bought art. It wasn't too expensive and now we have something to look back at and laugh at. After attending the auction, we were broke, so we headed back to the pool since soaking up the sun is free.
The younger girls two spent the day at CC again and at 1430 the rest of us headed to the Ivanhoe for LSR followed by the Newlywed game. We all participated in LSR (but did not win) and we watched and laughed at the Newlywed game. The older couple had been married for almost 55 years and were really cute and funny.
That night was our final formal night so we headed back to get ready and had yet another wonderful meal from our spectacular wait staff. We had a couple more formal pictures taken and then quickly changed clothes before the show.
The show in the Ivanhoe Friday night was the final full entertainment staff production (I am not counting the Legends show.) It was ok. Again the singing was better than the dancing.
The night, the 9yo did the late night party at CC (And had a blast). The 12 yo spent the evening with her new found friends, and the 3 adults hit the adult comedy show. The comedian picked my BF and his daughter out as one of his targets in the crowd and it was quite funny. Crude, but funny.
Saturday Our last full day and again we were at sea. We spent the full day in the sun on balcony. The BF and I were up early and grabbed our chairs again. We read, drank, soaked in the sun and just plain relaxed. We watched the Survivor show and enjoyed our last day of good weather before heading back to reality.
At 1500 we all headed to the Lincoln dining room for the Galley tour. It was very cool. My BF is the cook at home and he loved seeing the workings of the kitchen that can do what the Valor kitchen can do in one seating. We got some great pics.
After the galley tour we headed to the American Lobby for Becka's Up Close and Personal talk. She sat and answered any questions the guests had regarding herself, her job, life on a ship, etc. It was fascinating and she was very cool and very informative.
Then it was off to the dining room for our last dinner on board. Between dinner and the show, we packed our stuff up in preparation to leave the next morning. Once packed, we headed to the photo area and started gathering and sorting our pics from the week. Started is the key word. This was a long slow process and we ran out o time.
From there we headed to the Legends show. It was hilarious. The CD staff totally helped to make it memorable. They did a great job. The girls thought "Dolly" was hilarious.
Sunday We got up at 6:30 in time to watch the boat pull into port. We got dressed and got the girls up and then headed back to the Photo area (We had never gotten our butts in gear to actually figure out what pics we wanted to order). Ended up getting stuck with all 8x10s due to the time. BIG and EXPENSIVE MISTAKE, but we can only blame ourselves. It was a pricey lesson to learn. From there we headed to the Washington dining room for breakfast as we were in group 18 for disembarkation and knew we had the time. It was a pleasant surprise when we were taken to our table and Jompard was our waiter. We got one last chance to receive his excellent service and had our picture taken with him. It was wonderful. From there we wandered over to the Ivanhoe Theater. They were already on Group 12, so we knew we didn't have long to wait. We sat and chatted until it was our turn. They called our number around 0915 or so and sadly, off the ship we headed. Our luggage was on Carousel B. By the time we got down there, the first few pieces were on the belt and in five minutes we were in the Customs/Immigration line. We did not use luggage porter, though we had a good number of bags, most had wheels, so we just schlepped it ourselves. It took less than a half an hour to get up to Customs and we breezed right through. We headed outside with all of our stuff. Getting a cab to the airport was painless. We quickly got directed to a van driver that could take us to MIA and he loaded us up and off we went. It was about $50 for the five of us to get to the airport, but that was cheaper than the cruise line transfers. MIA was a pain as usual on a Sunday, but that is to be expected. No problems, just slow and long lines.
Weather (Not that the cruiseline has anything to do with this) - Exceptionally wonderful. Gorgeous all week, sunshine and very warm. The seas were like glass the first few days. A little rocky Thursday, but not bad. No one in our group got sick. Captain Cutugno stayed a little south of the normal course Saturday to keep us south of a cold front and for that we thank him.
Cabin Steward - OK. Not Bad. Not Good. Basically non existent. Our cabin was always clean. We aren't demanding, nor are we messy so we are pretty easy passengers. The girls can be a little messy, but he kept up with them as well as we can expect (he is not there to pick up their piles of clothes on the floor).
Dining Room Bar Staff - Nice and prompt. Had a 2 Cokes and a Sprite (for each of the girls) each night. Our bottle of wine was at our table waiting when we got there.
Head Waiter - The best! Our only complaint is that we could not take him back home with us to serve us this week.
Assistant Waiter - Great service! Very prompt and willing to get us whatever we needed. (And if I had to carry as many plates as she did, I would certainly drop something on some poor passengers head.) Plus, every night my cappuccino was at the table with my dessert.
Maitre D' - Not in the least rememberable. Not bad, but not excellent. Rarely saw him. He came to our table a couple of nights, but not every night. When we did see him he was pleasant and asked if everything was fine and how our day was.
Dinner - As stated previously, the food in the dining room was spectacular; none of us ever had a complaint about anything. Entertainment in the dining room each night was cute. Kind of silly, but fun. We were on the white team for the color contest and still the color thing.
Rosie's Buffet - The food was good, not great. Typical buffet. I have to say that the variety was good.
Poolside Grill - The burgers were yummy and we all loved the fries. I think the 19yo ate fries everyday we were at sea for lunch.
Breakfast - We had breakfast in the dining room two days (Wednesday and Sunday). The food was at the level of the dining room excellence that we had seen at dinner. The other mornings, the buffet was nothing spectacular. Good, but just good.
Midnite and Special Buffets - There was a have a Grand Gala buffet, a Mexican Buffet (Thursday during the deck party) and a Chocolate Buffet (Saturday during lunch). There was also food available each night at like midnight. We checked these out, but never participated. The food looked good and the carvings were amazing.
Pizza - Four of the five of us (all but the 9yo) thought the pizza was ok, but not great. We all tried it at least once, but 9yo was the only one to go back more than that. The De Chevere (Goat Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom) was my choice and had the other food not been as good, I might have had more.
Coffee Shop - We never even hit it. The coffee on Lido and in the Dining Room was good. Not great, but good. My BF and I are coffee snobs (Jamaican Blue Mountain and Gevalia is our primary coffee at home). I did though have a Cappucino each night after dinner and that was always good.
Room Service - Though we talked about it, we never tried room service.
Drink of the Day - These were cute. We tried 3. The Funship Special on Sunday. It was ok. Our glass started to crack the next day though so it got pitched. The Goombay Smash (in the Funnel Cup) on Tuesday was my favorite. We also got a Coconut Monkey Friday with a Dirty Banana in it (the DBs at our All Inclusive resort in Jamaica back in May were better).
Lido and American Bar Service - Great! They took our drink coupons with no questions and we never got up charged. When we went up with our soda cards, we got good prompt service as well. We frequently stopped by there for a drink.
Lido Pool Deck Staff - Was a little slow, but the boat was full. We usually opted to get off our butts and go to the bar ourselves as it was much faster.
Ship Layout - Like so many before us, our only complaint was that the boat was not laid out well. Promenade (Deck 5) was really the only east deck to pass through on.
Ship Decor - We liked it. Not too loud. It was evident in some places (dining room wall, carpets, etc) that the boat is going into drydock soon. There were large stains on the carpet and moulding missing from some of the walls. Very clean, but worn in places. Over all though it was not bad.
Spa - We toured it, but never used it. It seemed pretty nice though.
Casino - Walked through it, but never gambled. It was a little smokey for our liking Shows - Entertaining. The singers and dancers were decent. Dancers were not great, they need to work on dancing in time with one another. They were frequently out of step with one another. That being said we did enjoy them. We went to all of the shows but Nightclub Express (Monday night). The singers and comedians the other nights were good. The Legends Show the last night was hilarious. Karaoke - We went most nights to watch, but did not participate in the singing.
Deck Party (Thursday) - Fun! Lots of people on deck dancing and having a good time.
Muster Drill - Painless as usual.
Pursers Desk - Quick service. Only the problem was that when the 9yo could not find us, she went to the Purser to have us paged (we were in a show). They wouldn't do it. They asked her if she knew where her room was and she said yes. They told her "then go back to it". IMHO, not the answer to give to a 9yo that is a little scared because she cannot find her big sister or her parents. Luckily as she was walking away, we came our of the show.
I also never received a final bill under the cabin door and had to go to the pursers office as we were leaving the ship. This was not a problem, but definitely annoyed me.
Passengers - An older crowd due to time of year. Not many kids on the ship. Two large groups - Maximum Farming and Clowns (who ever thought to put those two groups together). It appeared that most people dressed for dinner each evening AND on formal nights. It was nice to see. Embarkation and Disembarking - Quicker and smoother than I had ever expected.
Word to the Wise - If you plan to order any of the pics from the ship... Do it EARLY. WE procrastinated and then the last night gathered all of our pics. We ran out of time weeding them out and had to come back the next morning before disembarkation. That meant we HAD to take the 8x10s they had printed. This was a VERY costly lesson.
Overall We had a really good time, but my BF and I agree that we both preferred RCI a little more than Carnival. Nothing major. We like Carnival overall, but everything we liked about Carnival, we liked a little more on RCI. The food, the staff, the boat itself. We would definitely consider Carnival again if the deal and time were right, and if we do do Carnival again would definitely revisit the Valor.