My wife and I take one or two cruises a year. This was out eighth cruise together, and our second time on the Valor within a year. We had such a great time last year that we decided to sail the same ship again.
Unfortunately this experience was not as much fun as the last one. We live in Georgia, so we drove down to Miami and arrived about 11am on the day of embarkation. The line was very short it took us less then 20 minutes to get on board. Some of the luggage arrived within one hour the last bag didn't show up till after the muster drill. The room was very clean (balcony stateroom deck seven). There was plenty of closet space for our stuff. The room was set up the way we requested (beds together). We dropped all our stuff and went to the Lido deck for a cup of coffee. The buffet was in full force. We just had coffee and some cookies. There was plenty of seating.
After the usual muster drill, the Cruise Critic meet and mingle (there were 60 of us and about 25 showed), and sail away routine, we did some exploring. The ship was just as clean as we remembered last year, and very well maintained.
For dinner we always go to the dining room to be served (after all we are on vacation). We were assigned the Lincoln dining room main seating (6:00). We were traveling with another couple and wanted to be seated together, that was already taken care of we had a table for four. Our waiter was Winston, he was very attentive. The food throughout the cruise in the dining room was just incredible. That is not easy for me to say because I was raised by a gourmet chef and I'm also a gourmet chef, although I don't do it for a living. We never had to send anything back or request something else. I was very impressed with the portion size, quality, and presentation of all the meals. Last year the wait staff had a nightly dance during the desert. This time they only did that once. We were a bit disappointed, as the entertainment was great during dinner last year.
We ate at Rosie's diner (the Buffet) for lunch on sea days. You MUST try the Fish & Chips (upstairs from the buffet) it's the best kept secret on the ship.
We ordered room service for breakfast everyday. They were very prompt.
The nightly shows were so so. The dancers were great. The singers were rejects from American idol; Simon would have thrown them out. The comedians were very good. The midnight Adult only comedy shows were also very good.
The casino was very spacious and well laid out. They had lots of slot machines from $.02 to $5 a pull. Many of the slots were selectable as to what amount you wanted to bet $.02, $.05, $.25 $1 and up. You would select whatever you wanted. They also had coin less betting, this was a "players bank" that you would put money into and could play on any machine in the casino without cashing out and carrying around buckets of coins. If you had any winnings you could save it to your "Players bank" for future play. On the last day you can cash it out at the cashier or apply it to your Sigh & Sail account (if you had anything left). We were told of one slot winner who won just over, $8000. So I would say that the slots were somewhat tight. They had all the usual table games, Blackjack, roulette, Craps, and an automated Texas Hold em' table. I'm a craps shooter, and the craps table was very cold.
All the public rooms were spacious. We did not use the HUGE Winston's Cigar Bar this time. It is now a smoke free zone. Yes I said no smoking in Winston's Cigar bar, apparently too many people complained about having to walk through the smoking area to get to the internet cafe, or the Washington dining room, so now it's just "Winston's" a large room with lots of leather chairs.
Service onboard was great; there was someone to help you when ever and where ever you were.
The disembarkation process was the lengthy, because the customs folks were being VERY through. They started the process and called the first group at 8am. We were in the third group and didn't get called till 10:30am. This is in no way a reflection on Carnival cruise line, the customs people just decided to break chops this day.
Overall we were not as impressed with the Carnival Valor this time. I will cruise with Carnival again see my review of the Valor from November 2007 at this link.