In total we were a group of 15 family members from Ontario. There were 7 in my party (3 cabins). We left the afternoon of March 8th in a horrible snow storm on our way to Detroit. Luckily we made it on time and no delays with the planes. We had a great flight to Miami - smooth and clear. I had booked the Sheraton Miami Mart for one night. We arrived late, and with the time change, it was almost 3:00 am before we got to bed.
We arrived at port at 12:25 pm and were on the ship by 1:00 pm. It was very easy and quick and everyone was very friendly. We explored the ship and were in our staterooms by just after 2:00 pm. All our luggage arrived quickly, except one bag that lost a luggage tag - we recovered it later that night. My husband and I had balcony cabin 6443 and our kids had inside staterooms 6451 and 6455. I was very impressed with the size of the balcony cabin and it felt bigger than the Monarch of the Seas (Royal) cruise we went on 12 years ago. Our room steward was Mong from Thailand (I think) and he was fantastic. We introduced ourselves briefly and he called us by our first names each and every time he saw us. I thought that was pretty impressive! The rooms were clean and towels were plentiful. The kids really liked the towel animals. We loved having the balcony and this would be a must for any future cruising we do. The convenience of our cabin to the elevators was wonderful but I must warn you if you are a light sleeper or if noise bothers you .. do not book cabin 6443. The location is great but you are right smack at the hall where everyone gets off the elevators. People warned us that we might hear noise from above or noise from below but the real noise was from the hallway. You could hear every "ding" of the elevators, which did not bother me but the problem was that everyone who got off the elevators stood outside our cabin door and discussed their morning plans or said goodbye to their friends before retiring for the night. We really only heard noise from the piano bar below the final night -- I think people were partying it up!! The noise was not enough to spoil our vacation but next time I would request being a little further up the hall. My kids were just down the hall and they did not hear the noise at all.
It was very windy when we left Miami and the next day so the ship was moving around quite a bit. I found I felt the movement much less at the back of the ship then I did at the front. We went up to the Spa to check it out and I couldn't believe how much movement you could feel up there.
Overall the ship was very nice... much larger than the previous ship we were on. The decor was... well... kinda tacky in my opinion, but then again I'm Canadian so the whole Americana theme doesn't do much for me. Decor aside, more importantly the ship was VERY CLEAN, which means more to us than the decor. There was lots to do and the activities were really fun. I thought the entertainment was very good -- except for the last night when the passengers did impersonations. That was brutal and painful to listen to. Surprising with a ship of 3000 passengers they couldn't find anyone who could sing (except for the Frank Sinatra guy, he was really good). We loved Chris the cruise director. I thought he was very funny -- although I heard lots of people say they found him very annoying. We loved Matt the bingo guy - YA BABY!!!
Food was very good. We cruised 12 years ago on Royal as did some others in our party and we all agreed that Royal has better food and better presentation overall. The Valor food was still very, very good don't get me wrong. The deli was awesome and the turkey sandwiches and wraps were so good! The kids loved the pizza and ice cream. Food at Rosie's was good although other than breakfast, we didn't eat there a whole lot. The food waste is incredible and I wish people would only take what they are going to eat. It bothers me to see plates loaded with food and see the waiters throw it all away. We had the 8:00 pm seating in the Washington dining room. "Park" was our head waiter, a very nice man from Korea. He was kinda forgetful and mixed up a whole bunch of things throughout the week, but hey it's vacation so you gotta let the little things slide. The assistant waiter Kadek was wonderful as was our beverage waitress who was very good at remembering our drink orders each night. We loved the singing and dancing each night in the dining room and the kids loved swinging the napkins around in the air!
PORTS: At Nassau we booked the Blackbeards Treasure Hunt and Snorkel excursion. Weather was overcast that day - warm, but not overly hot. This is the only excursion I booked through Carnival and would not recommend it. There was no "treasure" to be found and no fish anywhere in site. We should have done the stingray excursion which was on the same beach. No complaints about the beach or the lunch we got, but if you advertise a treasure hunt then there should at least be someone who finds something!!! And if you are advertising snorkeling, then perhaps there should be some fish?? We had a great day regardless.
Our next day was at sea and everyone kept busy but I found it kind of long. My son loved the bball court and ping pong tables. Chair hogging was crazy -- so many people put towels on chairs but don't sit there for hours and hours on end. If you are on deck later than 8:00 am and you are with a group you likely won't sit anywhere near each other. This was spring break week so lots of young people partying it up.
I booked a private tour with Henry (EEE Tours)for St. Thomas and it was FANTASTIC. He was waiting for us as we got off the ship. Very friendly and knowledgeable about the island. He took us to Sapphire beach, which we loved. My teenage daughters loved the open market where we got some nice purses and souvenirs. It was a great day and I would highly recommend Henry as a tour guide. We loved the open air taxi.
I booked another private tour with Bernard's Tours for St. Maarten. He was also very good and I would recommend him. We loved St. Maarten!! The weather was awesome and we had a great time at Orient Beach. We saw the planes land at Maho beach which is a must see.
The remaining days at sea were long, but everyone kept busy. We did some ship activities and did the galley tour. The galley was sparkling clean which was nice to see!
We opted to keep our luggage with us and since we were staying in Miami one extra night we were not in any rush to get off the ship. When our luggage tag was called we proceeded to deck 3 only to be told there was a bottleneck downstairs and we'd have to wait. We waited an extra 20 or so minutes and then were allowed to go. When we got downstairs the lines were still quite long at immigration and it was well over an hour before we were outside.
We stayed one extra night at the Best Western Atlantic hotel in Miami Beach. The rooms were so/so but it was a good price and the location is great. We walked 30 minutes down the boardwalk to South Beach and explored the area. It was over 90 degrees that day in Miami!
Overall we had a very good time on this cruise and we are ready to book the next one. Our philosophy about vacation is relax, enjoy yourself and don't sweat the small stuff. Good food, clean rooms, friendly staff, fun excursions -- what more can you ask for?
Hope you found this helpful and you enjoy your cruise on the Valor as much as we did!
PS.. To the lady who's daughter is named "Georgia"... you need to lighten up. We saw you complaining in the gift shop, at the bar, in the restaurant. Relax you are on vacation!