My husband and I and another couple just returned from the Carnival Valor, March 23-30, 2008. I'm pleased to report that we had an awesome time!!
We flew in a couple of days in advance as we had a house booked in the Miami area. I won't get into any details there; suffice it to say that Air Canada continues to make it difficult to get anywhere from the east coast of Canada. We ended up arriving three hours late and in Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami. Air Canada blamed it on "weather"; I guess sunny and mild now makes it difficult to fly!! It was an $80 cab to Miami. We lost our rental car as we were late, and ended up paying triple the cost for a vehicle. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the couple of days before the cruise. It gave us a chance to unwind and get some sun.
We arrived at the port about 11:30 Sunday morning and were onboard within an hour. Now, we had booked an inside cabin but did not know our cabin assignment. A few weeks before the cruise, I had read on these boards about a trick where you try to send yourself a gift; if you get the message "gifts cannot be sent to a guarantee cabin", it means that is your cabin at the moment. Sadly, this trick did not work for us. We ended up in an inside cabin, however it was still an upgrade as it was on the 10th floor, which was a great location. I was a little disappointed as the last two times we booked insides, we were upgraded to outsides, but I know that's the chance you take. We were more that content with the cabin. It was comfortable, lots of storage space, but I did miss the couch. We met our room steward, Henry, who was terrific, and greeted us by name all week long.
The ship itself is beautiful and it was spotlessly clean. It is large with a lot of passengers, but it never felt crowded. I didn't find any of the lines too long, nor was it difficult to get a chair on sea days, provided you didn't mind not being right next to the pool. Heroes and Heroics is the ship's theme, and I was afraid it would be overly gaudy or patriotic, but it was done in a somewhat understated way. The only thing I didn't like were all the Eagles everywhere. I didn't use the spa, but did use the gym and had no problem getting a treadmill or elliptical. We didn't attend many shows. The second last night, we went to the 1980's music show, which was okay. The best part was the breakdancers. We also saw the R-rated comedian that night and he was funny - crude but funny. We went to the Legends show the last night but it was awful. That show involved fellow cruise passengers singing - a take on American idol, I guess. Partway through, I began to sympathize with Simon Cowell.
We found the food on the ship excellent. We enjoyed the fish and chips (not up to Newfie standards but not bad) and the Mongolian buffet. Pizza and calzones were good, as was the deli. To be honest, I enjoyed all the food on the Lido deck. My favorite, however, was the cheeseburgers and onion rings. I don't even want to think of how many I ate that week. We also found the food in the dining room excellent. I loved the rack of lamb and the duck, and every beef dish we ordered that week was tender and cooked perfectly. Favorite dessert - the bitter and blanc. Our wait team, Anthony and Joseph, were great. Loved Anthony's laugh - bah ha ha ha. We also ate at the supper club - Scarlett's -and it was fabulous. I would definitively recommend the supper club experience.
Our first port of call was Nassau. We only had a few hours so we walked around and shopped a little, went to the straw market, and then took a cab to Atlantis to take a few pictures. Our plans in St. Thomas were changed last minute as my husband cracked off a tooth that morning and it would not stop bleeding. He ended up visiting the infirmary while I spent the morning on the ship sun-tanning. It was actually pretty nice. I would have rather gone to the beach, which was our original plan, but I had the entire pool to myself!! In the afternoon, we headed downtown and did some shopping. I bought a diamond ring and tennis bracelet; hubby bought a Tissot watch. Some advice - do your homework, know your prices, and barter hard. There are deals to be had but it's easy to get taken in too.
The best port was St. Maarten. We had booked a tour with Bernard's tours and it was awesome. Bernard was there when we got off the ship. The first stop was Rima's. It reminded me of a Caribbean-themed dollar store but it was great for cheap souvenirs. I did almost all my souvenir shopping there - bags, hats, magnets, key chains, etc. From there, we did an overview of the Dutch side of the island, stopping a few times for photos. Bernard gave us lots on interesting information throughout the ride. Then we stopped at Maho Bay. We sat at the Sunset Beach Bar, drinking guavaberry coladas, and watched a couple of planes land. It was so cool. I could have sat there all day. Then, we went to the French side of the island where we spent 45 minutes at the market. I enjoyed that market - lots of spices and hot sauces, paintings and carvings. Then we had two hours at Orient Beach. It was raining when we arrived at the beach, but it cleared off quickly. I didn't see any nude or topless sunbathers in the area where Bernard dropped us. The beach itself is heavenly and I would love to return there and spend a full day. Finally, Bernard dropped us off in downtown Philipsburg where we did some shopping and then walked back to the boat (no more than a 10 min walk). We boarded the ship about 5:20 after a very full and terrific day. I would absolutely recommend Bernard's tours.
We chose to do self-disembark Sunday morning which was relatively painless. The longest part was clearing customs as there was a bit of a line, and the line we chose was the absolute slowest. The whole process took about 30 minutes. My only complaint all week- I had received a 45 day letter after I wrote a letter last September commenting on my experience on the Legend. I called in before I cruised this time and chose the four drink coupons as my gift. But they never showed up in my cabin first or last!! Not a big deal. I didn't write the letter expecting it but I was looking forward to receiving the coupons since I was told I would.
All in all, it was an awesome cruise. It was our fourth, and our friends' second and we all had a fabulous time. I can't wait to sail on the Valor again this summer.