We are a mid 40's couple who traveled with our 9 year old daughter on the Valor over Spring break week. We have been on 7 previous cruises including the (RCCL) Explorer, Voyager, Mariner, the (Princess) Caribbean Princess, and the (Celebrity) Century and Millennium. We have been hesitant to sail with Carnival due to the negative perception that we read about and heard from our cruise friends about it being a "low end" cruise line and all that accompanies that.
Well based on our recent experience on the Valor we found Carnival to be everything but that. In fact, we felt it was was arguably one best cruises (regardless of money) that we have been on and factoring the great price we got over spring break the value was off the charts.
I have never written a review before but felt I should share my experience with those other cruise travelers who have had reservations about traveling a Carnival Ship (though I only have the Valor as a reference points)
So hear goes.
We traveled down to Miami from Gainesville in the morning and found it quite easy to park (though painful at $20 per day - cash only) and the ship was a stone throw from the parking lot. We were on the ship and at the lunch buffet about 30 minutes after we arrived. There did not seem to be the normal chaos outside the cruise terminal that we normally encounter (either coming or going).
We really like the larger ships 100+ ton and felt this particular ship was easy to navigate around and we had a pretty good sense of it after just one pass around. The only challenge is when you try to get to the Atrium when you are on Decks 3 and 4 as there is not easy pass through. I am not sure we like the layout as well as the Explorer class ships but certainly better than the Princess/Celebrity Ships we were on. From an overall cleanliness standpoint it was as good or better than any other ship we have been on.
Cabins: We had a inside Cabin and thought it was one of the largest we have had on any ship. Our Hot Water did not work the first day but they were up to fix it within 10 minutes of our call. The room steward was not visible (ok by us) but all was in order every day (including the exotic towel animals that our daughter enjoyed).
Food: The variety of food options was the best of any cruise we have taken from a sandwich deli, Fish and Chips, Asian, general buffet, Grill, Pizza, Sushi. The Dining Room was operated with great efficiency and our servers ( Francis, and Ivan) were excellent. My Wife loved the SPA (i.e. healthy) menu options and my daughter who always eats off the kids menu never deviated from the Adult menu. The food was excellent overall especially the lobster and the beef/steak dishes. Food quality was better than RCCL and Princess and equal to Celebrity.
Entertainment: The entertainment had a little for everybody and the theatre was always full for most of the after dinner shows. The main singers and dancers we just ok but the theme were pretty good especially the first main the show. The comedians were average but the juggler was unbelievable. All in all entertainment was not a good as on princess or RCCL but way better than Celebrity. The think I remember most is the enthusiasm displayed by all the entertainers and cruise directors and staff. They work hard to ensure everyone is having a good time..and we sure did. The Bars and nightclubs were like any other ship but loved the color schemes and vibrancy you felt when you walked in them.
Pools: My daughter loved the large pool slide the she went down many many times. Wish the pool water was fresh water instead of salt but one cant be greedy. There was an adult pool aft by the grill that was truly adult only and a great place for those without kids wanting a place of peace.
Kids Program: My daughter was in the 9-11 group and went as the agenda offered things that she wanted to do. I would say she attended the kids camp less than on other cruises we have taken but that may be because the variety of things to do for the younger ones (under 8 is more diverse - as the older ones are no longer interested in things like face painting). That being said, she enjoyed those things she did participate in. My feeling was the RCCL has a bit more variety for the kids to do.
We generally prefer less sea days than the three offered on this trip and have been to St. Thomas, St. Martin, and Nassau many times.
Nassau - is a waste and would have much preferred visiting somewhere else (especially considering how little time we were there). Other than seeing Atlantis, or going to Paradise Beach there in not much of interest here.
St. Thomas. Have been to Magen's Bay before and this time we opted to go to St. Johns for the day as we were in port until 8pm. What a great way to spend the day and one I would do it everytime we are there in the future (weather permitting). We took a cab from the cruise ship to Red Hook and then a Ferry from there to St. John ( maybe a hr 15 minutes total - probably $100+ round trip for the three of us but way cheaper than a excursion with limited time/options). You could also take a ferry from Charlotte Amalie but we did not want to be a a ferry for that long. St. Johns is beautiful and unspoiled and the beaches are some of the most beautiful I have seen including Hawaii. A trip to St. John is not complete without a stop a Trunk Bay (one of the 10 best beaches in the World). There are places to find shade and even when the tour buses arrive from the cruise ship and it gets busy is far from overwhelming (at least when we were there). The sand, water, and view is stunning and the trip to St. John and trunk bay was the highlight of our cruise.
St. Martin. Love Orient Beach but have been there many times. With the shopping, beaches, bars, and Rest. just a small distance by Water Ferry from the docks we decided to spend the day close by. Liquor prices are really cheap here as well as beer at the beach bars. we love this island as its very clean and there is much to do.
Disembarkation was not great as we had a high number and the lines to get through customs was long we finally go off. That being said, we were in no rush so no big deal. My brother had an early flight out of Miami and thus go an early number and was out of the port by 8:00 and to the airport 30 minutes later.
The Carnival Valor delivered the goods and then some and we would not hesitant to consider Carnival in the future. That being said, the many positive review I read about the Carnival Valor on CruiseCritic helped us select this ship over other Carnival Cruises of about the same price (i.e Glory). Future cruises on Carnival (or any other cruise line) will obviously be influenced by the Member Rating I see here (and in this case the 5 star member rating for the Valor is well deserved). Thanks to all of you who have written reviews.
Great Weather, much relaxation, super family time....nothing like cruising.