This was my 6th cruise and my wife's 5th. All on carnival. It was our 1 year anniversary cruise + family cruise that we booked almost a year in advance so we were counting the days down from 340 down to the day it came! We live in Central Florida so we drove 3.5 hours down to Miami the morning of the cruise. No problems there.
We pull up and see the beautiful Valor. It is a giant ship. Parking was a little confusing because the signs say to go one way, but all of the lots were closed so we had to park in the parking garage and walk like a mile over to the boat. Thank goodness we dropped the luggage off first. We had 4 rooms booked on Deck 8 (Verandah) in the back of the ship that worked out pretty well because the wife and I would close out the casino almost every night and out dining room was the Lincoln which is always to the rear of the boat.
We arrive at our room and find that it seems a lot smaller than on Sensation, Imagination or Inspiration. Maybe when they built the Valor they found a way to make the rooms smaller? We aren't cheap by any means, but we always book interior rooms as we are only there to sleep, shower and change clothes. When we go to Alaska next year we will book a balcony for sure. Our room was always clean and the steward did a very good job making towel animals and keeping the bathroom nice and clean. No complaints there. I wish we would have met her on Day 1 or 2 though. We never saw her until the 6th night when I handed her some extra money. She barely spoke any English but was so grateful and appreciative of the extra money we gave her. I did not know her name though.
Dining: I have to say it was a big disappointment. Our previous cruises were filled with awesome food, buffets, etc..., but the dining room food was very average. We had Ruben and Roberson as our servers on Table 351 and 353 in the Lincoln dining room. Both were very social and we gave them some extra money as well at the end of the cruise. My wife is deathly allergic to garlic so the hostess would come over each night and get a special order for her which was nice. Unfortunately it was very bland and plain like the rest of our meals.
We did go to Scarlett's for our Anniversary dinner though which was very lovely. I ordered the surf and turf lobster w/filet mignon which was cooked perfectly. My brother's girlfriend is vegetarian and the chef cooked something very special for her as well which was very nice. My brother also custom ordered a bottle of Dom Perigon for the evening. Thanks bro! So yes, you can get that on the ship! It was a great evening with wonderful piano and singing while we dined.
Ports: Cayman Islands - The kids had all been there before, so we went to Senor Frogs and drank our faces off. The wife's parents did stingray reef and snorkel tour and thought it was great. It was booked through the ship. Roatan - We booked a private tour w/Victor Bodden Tours. After some navigation we found his booth and got Victor's Brother as our driver. It's a huge traffic jam getting out from the port, but once you are out it's a beautiful place to soak in the nature. We saw the ship wrecks and William (Victor's brother) drove us to the Jungle Canopy Tour place. Originally we were going to go to Pirates Extreme as my wife and I had been ziplining before in Antigua, however with some newbies on board, we did the Jungle Canopy for beginners instead. It's not as high up. We were separated in groups of 5 or 6. We had Brad as our guide and he was fantastic with my wife's little sister who is only 8, but was zipping all over the place! We even were going upside down by the end as were the parents! Definitely a great time and a great staff. Definitely have a beer when you're done too for only 2.00! After that William drove us to Victor's house where you can pet his monkeys and other animals as well. The monkeys are great and we also got to pet his deer and see his other animals: anteater, iguanas, monkeys, etc... Well worth the 2.00 entrance, then William took us back to the ship.
Belize: We booked a private tour with Major Tom. He came highly recommended and supposedly you pay after you are done. This is not the case. We got on as early a tender as we could and met Major Tom right outside the gates with Minor Tom and other members of the staff. I thought it would be a small group of 8 or 10 of us, but there were at least 100 people signed up just standing around while one person collected money in advance. Minor Tom and I are the same age so we chatted a while and he's a great guy however it seemed very disorganized and we waited nearly an hour before Major Tom finally announced follow me to the bus! So we get on this bus and ride an hour with guides Mark Mark and Mike or maybe it was Mike Mike and Mark. There were 45 or so of us on the bus. It was still pretty early (like 10 am) for us party animals that stay up all night and we had to listen to one of the guides just yap and yap and yap and tell bad joke after bad joke on the intercom while we were trying to take a nap. Oh well. So we get to the zip lining place where some people signed up for combo zipline and cave tubing and about 10 people got off the bus along with 2 of the guides. We head over the cave tubing and get our tubes and begin the "30 minute walk" to where the entrance of cave tubing is. What they don't tell you is that there is literally 1000's other people carrying tubes along this small passage. We also had this severely overweight gentlemen who had to stop every 5 seconds as well as a 90+ year old man who struggled severely with the walk. It was very disappointing. The walk ended up being over an hour and when we kept having to stop for the fat guy and the old fart, ants would eat your feet. We didn't let this get our hopes down though and tried to keep a positive attitude. So we finally get to the entrance of the cave tubing and we realize that our guide has to somehow manage to control 38 tubes along with his own down through the caves. Not happening! Our family just ended up breaking away from the pack and cruising down the river by ourselves! It wasn't that the guide wasn't trying to keep us together, it's just that 38 people for one guide is just too much to handle. Very disappointing. Definitely keep your "butts up" as the rocks in the shallow area will hurt you a bit if you hit one the wrong way. The river is pretty easy flowing though and the caves are neat. The water is very cold even for Floridians! There are rocks on the sides that can be dangerous to hit and the rapids can suck your tube out from under you if you aren't paying attention. I wouldn't recommend it for elderly or overweight individuals. So it's over and we change clothes (decent facilities) get back on the bus just to hear some more bad jokes as we head back into town. With the length of the tour due to walking and waiting so much, it left little time for shopping, etc... so we just got back on the ship after the wife bought some nice wooden vases. Major Tom is a nice guy as is his son, but I would not recommend it until he gets more guides per group. It was very disappointing.
On to Cozumel - We have been there 4 times already. We love Cozumel. We did not book a shore excursion. We did some shopping and checked out the Diamonds International where the guy didn't want to budge on a new diamond wedding band for my wife so off to Carlos and Charlies we went... Overpriced beers, margaritas and yards of fruity drinks and shots but who cares! The music and atmosphere is great and everyone ends up there getting wasted and having a good time. They had a balloon hat making guy as well as a magician working for tips that did great. I got a pink panther hat, my wife got a tweety bird and he made a bear for her sister. It was great. Lots of beer yards for me and shots and fruity drinks for her and we're stumbling back to the boat! weeeeee!
Back to the boat, I don't know why people think it's gaudy. It's a nice ship with great decor in my opinion. It makes you feel very patriotic and proud to be an American. The ship layout is not the greatest as there are several floors that do not go all the way through the ship. You'll get the hang out of it after a day or two though.
The sushi bar is very delicious!
Rosie's buffet is good and the pizza is good as always, but then again anything taste good at 4 am lol.
The dining room food however was subpar and a let down. Service was just okay.
We did not see any shows on board. We did do the battle of the sexes game which was pretty funny and we sang karaoke almost every night (my brother stole the show every night with kermit the frog).
The casino hosts were fabulous. We are pretty big betters and tippers in the casino and we had most of our drinks comped by the casino hosts which was very nice of them. (we made them a ton of money at craps though!) We also came back with more cash than we brought on board!
Departing was pretty harmless. We carry our own luggage off and load up the truck and back home in 3.5 hours.
It was a great trip with great memories. Can't wait for the next one!