Big Ship, Little Appeal: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by Jake Hauss
Overall Member Rating
Big Ship, Little Appeal
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
What a nightmare. We arrived at the port around 1:15 to find an already extensive line all the way up to the door. We immediately noticed that the ship wasn't docked in Carnival's beautiful new terminal, but in a very dated one next door. We stood in the exhausting heat and humidity for almost 3 hours before the doors finally opened. Once they opened to doors the nice orderly line broke loose and everyone literally ran towards the doors. They let people in one little group at a time. Once we got inside we had to wait in another long line just to get through security and then another line to get the Sail and Sign cards. This has never happened to me before on any other cruise. I have sailed on Holland America, owned by Carnival Corp, and know that if that were the case for one of their ships they would have no such lines and chaos. Even NCL wouldn't handle the situation the way Carnival did. We heard that there was an immigration problem and we saw a bus load of More people get driven off the premises. We heard that they all were fingerprinted but there were many other rumors floating around. I realize that this happens an infinitesimal percentage of sailings but when it does happen they really need to handle the situation better.
We had 5 people booked in 2 cabins, one inside and one balcony right across the corridor from each other. Originally, we booked 3 in the inside and 2 in the balcony because it was cheaper that way. The pursers desk changed the S&S cards for us right away when we asked. They were very nice when they could understand English and there wasn't 15 people in line. The cabins felt more roomy than on other lines. The beds were actually very nice along with the bedding. The balcony was pretty small but still very enjoyable. If you can afford it a balcony stateroom is a must. We never really talked to the cabin steward other than saying a quick hello in the corridor but we didn't know which one was ours. It didn't matter because they did a very good job of cleaning up our mess and keeping the stateroom tidy. The towel animals are fun but better on Holland America, even if that is getting a little knit picky.
I am a foodie in every sense of the word. Compared to NCL, Carnival does an amazing job with the food (anyone compared to NCL would do an amazing job with food). Lines like Princess and Holland America do better with the food, but that's expected. The food in the dining room was much higher than my expectations most of the time. The service in the dining room was very very good. Our head waiter was Barry and the back waiter was Elmur. The Maitre d' came around on his regular rounds and told us that Barry is the waiter who serves the captain when he eats in the dining room. We could tell why they chose him. Both of them were excellent. The menus were interesting. The way they present the food on the menu is definitely different than how the food actually is. Even still, it was pretty tasty. Rosie's, on the other hand, was not tasty. Typical steam table fare is not acceptable anymore. Carnival certainly has the means to move to action stations and limited steam tables but they choose not to. I wonder what their new ships are equipped with. We never got up to Fish and Chips.
The Heroes and Heroines theme or whatever it's called is definitely a bit too much. Talk about gaudy. all of the tile in the public rooms creates images of giant American flags. Even in the elevators. There are castings of eagles everywhere painted gold. In one of the atriums there are carvings of famous presidents and other classic American figures. The ship is beautiful by itself and they could have really let it shine instead of stuffing it full of shiny eagles and American flag tiles. The designers also really needed to reconsider the layout of the ship. On the decks mostly populated by public rooms and dining rooms it is very hard to get from point A to point B. When they close the dining rooms in between meals to clean, they actually put a sign outside that says something like "The dining room is closed, please use deck 5 to cross over." We got very frustrated many times. On one deck you actually have to walk through the disgusting Cigar Bar to get to the other public rooms.
Nassau- The ship arrived in Nassau before we even woke up which was amazing since we left Miami so late. I guess it really isn't that far from S. Florida to the Bahamas. We booked the Stingray Adventure shore excursion because what else is there to do in Nassau other than go see a giant resort, sit on the beach, or shop? When we got off the ship the guys at the computers where you scan the cards was telling everyone to make sure they had photo ID to get back on the ship. We didn't know that so 3 of us went back up to the staterooms to get everyone's ID while another one of us and I stayed down to get the guy from the tour company to wait for us. He said he would and then just left anyway. We were very upset but the ShoreEx desk refunded us promptly. We had a fun day at the pool. It was empty since everyone else was in port.
St. Thomas- We booked a private sail boat in St. Thomas that took us on a nice little trip around. They sent a cab to pick us up and take us to the docks at Red Hook. The boat is called High Pockets. It is only 42 feet but very nice. Look them up. It was a husband/ wife team sailing with us. They sailed down to the USVI from Maine many years ago. They took us to St. John which is very close by. The snorkeling was good. They made us lunch which was also very good. We got a lot of sun and had a lot of fun.
St. Maarten- We went on the Scenic Coastal Hike excursion from the ship. It was only a very small group since not many people want to hike on vacation. The guide was very good. He was incredibly knowledgeable. We saw lots of wild goats. The hike was nice and ended up at a little bar on the beach. It seems like everything ends up at a bar on Carnival. We got back to the ship and had a little time to shop.
Overall the trip was pretty good. If you look hard enough Carnival is a good value for the money. I do recommend the ship, but only if you don't like to complain. Less