We recently sailed on the Carnival Valor and were pleasantly surprised. Party of 6 (49,47,45,45,14,8). Our friends have sailed 2x (NCL, RCCL) but, we are avid cruisers. We've sailed approximately 11x - Celebrity, NCL, RCCL, Carnival, Princess, HAL.
Embarkation - smooth as can be. We boarded the ship nice and early and found it to be spotless. We headed up to the Lido deck for lunch and purchased beverage cards at that time. Very organized.
Ship - The ship was decorated nicely and not at all over the top as with some. The "hero" theme was a nice switch. The atrium was decorated beautifully and had many shops. We did, however, find it difficult to get around on the ship. Certain decks did not allow walk thrus from one end to the other. Took quite a while to find our way around with ease.
Activities - many things to do for all ages. Some pool games, trivia, bingo, etc.
Service - our room steward was average and brought what we asked. But, did not really take the initiative to see if there was anything we needed.
Shore Excursions - we booked on our own, not through the ship. We had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed our excursions.
Balcony Cabin - the balcony was a very nice size (aft) and plenty of room for 3. We had lounge chairs and 2 upright chairs with a table. This was my first aft cabin but, won't be my last! The layout of the cabin was odd. Not as well organized as other lines.
Dining - the food selection was very good and they also had the classic menu (items served nightly). The service in the dining room was excellent. Luce & Anoma in the Washington DR were wonderful! Both very on their game and made dining a great experience.
Kids Club - my niece (8) loved the kids program! She had a ball and spent more time there than with us. LOL. My daughter (14) found the program just ok. the age group for her was 12-14 and she was a bit bored. But, she found some things to do.
Entertainment - Excellent. A nice variety of shows - singer, comedy, juggler, ship shows, etc.
Tendering - overall good with the exception of a change in location. Instead of docking in Georgetown, we tendered to Spots Bay. To return to the ship, the wait was over 2 hrs in the blazing sun, no shade, no place to sit and hundreds on line. But, no Carnival rep was able to tell us what was going on. Yet, HAL & RCCL tendered right next to us - no line and smooth.
Spa - huge disappointment. Unorganized, noisy, etc. No one there to greet you or show you around. There were women walking around the locker room is very small towels because they did not know to ask for a robe. There was no relaxation room to wait like most lines. When I left the locker room there were 2 boys (approx 8-10) running around the reception area, peeking in the lockers looking for their sister and her friends. Carnival has a long way to go in the spa department.
Disembarkation - smooth. Signed up for luggage express and it was heaven! My bags were actually waiting for me in Newark. Wonderful!
Summary - We are happy we gave Carnival another shot. Our last sailing was in 1990 and we weren't thrilled. This time they did a great job. We will most likely sail with Carnival again.