I am by no means a cruise snob. I enjoy cruising and I enjoy the amenities that make you feel like a king for as ever long as your cruise is, which in my mind Valor seems to be lacking.
Our adventure began on Saturday August 23, as we flew from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale using Spirit Air. I highly recommend them. It was the most comfortable flight I have ever been on. Anyhow we spent a day in Ft. Lauderdale at the Hilton Garden Inn. It was a nice place and met an extremely nice shuttle driver who took us pretty much anywhere we wanted to go.
On Sunday the 24th, we were taxied to Miami to board the Carnival Valor, which was docked in between the Carnival Triumph and Freedom of the Seas. The embarkation process went smoothly except for the fact that we got through the process of sail and sign card issuing and other miscellaneous things, yet waited to close to 2 or 3 pm to board the ship. I do not know why it took so long to clear the ship to start letting the next set of anxious passengers on board and no Carnival staff member would say what the problem was or the reason for the long long delay. Once we boarded the ship, we went to Lido deck the home of Rosie's Restaurant; I loved the Rosie the Riveter theme as well as the women in the NAVY theme. The food was decent. You could always find something to tickle your fancy. After lunch we made our way up to our cabin which was a balcony on the 11th deck of the ship also known as the Spa Deck. The room was amazing and our steward did a phenomenal job The muster drill was fun as per usual. I highly recommend that you do not rush down to the drill and take your precious time. If you get their early you will be against the wall with 4 rows of people in front of you, it's not worth it especially when the air is so thick to begin with. Of course after the muster drill, I made my way up to the sail away party. Which the band played Island tunes for like 10 minutes and ended, which was kind of disappointing. However, this is where the best service on the whole ship comes to play. My dad and our friend Wally were standing looking out on Miami as we sailed away. A bar maid named Teni came up to us and asked them if they wanted drinks, she brought out a bucket of Heineken and took down their names and everyday of the cruise she would find them and acknowledge them by name. She knew the folio number so we didn't even have to bring out our card when she came around.
However, some of my biggest concerns are when it comes to the Lincoln Dining Room. Our maitre'd I felt was unprofessional and did not run a smooth environment. We had a table in the corner furthest from the kitchen on the lower level. It seemed as if every night the dining room did not have enough staff or they were really confused. I would say we had three different Assistant waiters throughout the week and I think I only saw him to pour water and hand out bread. I did not know their names and I did not know them. There in no reason why it should take 25 minutes just to get an ice tea in the dining room. There is no reason why a dirty plate should be in front of me for 20 minutes in the dining room. When I brought this to our Maitre D's attention he pretty much told me my expectations are too high. I felt disrespected and when it came time at the last dinner to give him an envelope, we did not. Although, I wanted to write a note in the envelope saying perhaps your expectations were too high.
The Supper Club on board the Valor is known as Scarletts. This was the best dining experience on board. For 30 dollars extra a person you get the service that you expect in the main dining room. The food was amazing and boy do you get enough of it. Essentially you are getting a meal for 30 dollars that if you went to the Palm or Morton's you're looking at 60 per person. I highly recommend it. I suppose if you dined at Scarletts every night of your cruise it would come to 210 dollars more a person. The money you most likely saved by sailing Carnival instead of Royal Caribbean. Just a thought...
Through out the week, I would explore new aspects of the ship. This is rather hard due to the design and layout. There is not one deck on the whole ship that you can walk from one end to the other without being forced to go up or down stairs. Being the connoisseur of fine cigars I thought I found my heaven when I found Winston's Cigar Bar, except for the fact that you can no longer smoke cigars in this magnificent "Cigar" Bar. So when it came time to smoke cigars, we would sit out on our balcony with a bottle of wine that we snuck on board. We would also send someone down to get us a plate full of sushi at the sushi bar on deck 5, which was always a delight in the day. The other lounges were decent; the piano bar with Claude was fun. The One Small Step Club was fun, but it's not as fun when you're on a family trip and not with a bunch of friends or your girlfriend, because there were more young couples than anything.
The ports of call were St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau. Nassau, you only have to 1:30 in the afternoon, not much time to do much of anything. St. Thomas is where we did a snorkeling excursion which was a lot of fun. This is also where we were swimming with "Casper the friendly Barracuda" The excursion was the Sea Blaster and it was awesome. After an hour in the water, the bar was opened on the way back. All the Rum Punch you could handle, all the way back to the port. Since we had a full day in St. Thomas after snorkeling we came back to the ship to get cleaned up and to have lunch. We later went out into the shopping district, where we bought some jewelry as well as some booze. I thought that is was quite amusing that you could be 18 to buy booze but 21 to buy a cigar. Though to say the least it was a fun day. It was also interesting because on the way back the Valor we were sitting behind a specialist on board the Valor who pretty much told us that Carnival is not service oriented and if you do want good service as well as good entertainment, you should sail Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, so that pretty much told me everything I have to know. St, Maarten, I would go back today if I could. We went to the beach and lived the good life. There was a bar on the beach selling Carib for 75 cents a bottle. We were chilling in the ocean with a cigar as well as 75 cent beers, can't beat that lifestyle.
The disembarkation process was ok. They had no air movement in the building with the tarmac and you have to wait in a long, long line for Customs. Well my little sister who wasn't feeling well already. She left her mark in the facility. As she threw up while we were waiting in line to go through Customs, well she sure cleared out that line and we pretty much got escorted to the front of the line, so that we could get her some fresh air. I sure hope that they learned their lesson to crank up the air conditioning because the duct work and the vents are there, and when you have thousands of people in one spot, it tends to be hotter than it really is. Of course we flew Spirit back to Atlantic City and as we were in the air, we received a call that Fort Lauderdale had sent a piece of our luggage to San Juan, Puerto Rico. What can you do, besides try to joke about it, Spirit was nice and said we can either send it to you by Fed Ex or you can come and pick it up when it arrives and if you come pick it up we will give you a hundred dollar credit towards your next flight. We decided to have them Fed Ex and hopefully it comes back in one piece.
The cruise itself was fun because I love being out on the water. However, I would not recommend sailing on Carnival unless they get their priorities straight because once you do a Royal Caribbean cruise your expectations must be really high when it comes to cruising. Like I mentioned before I rather pay a little bit more and be pampered than pay less and get less. Hence, I do agree with the statement made by many that Carnival is the Wal-Mart of the Seas. I guess that is fine if you're into paying less and you don't expect the best. But I do expect the best for my vacation experience, its only every so often you get to go on a cruise. Carnival did not do their absolute best and I do not believe I would ever sail on a Carnival ship again. However, I would recommend Spirit Air though despite our luggage situation, which could happen with any airline.