This was our second cruise; the first was on the Conquest to the Western Caribbean in 2005. My overall impression was that the food and service has fallen off since 2005.
On Saturday, we flew from Austin to Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest (free flights), and took a $100 cab ride to our hotel in Miami; the Best Miami Hotel. Believe me, it was anything but the best! We chose this hotel for the inexpensive price, the free shuttle to the port, and the free breakfast. The price was fine ($70 or so), but we were booted off the 11 a.m. shuttle to the 1 p.m., and ended up taking a cab ($35). And, the breakfast was literally bread and butter, no toaster, with two types of cereal!! The only good thing about the Best Miami Hotel was that it was within walking distance of a few restaurants and a grocery store!
We arrived at the port at 11 a.m., and were on the ship in a little over an hour. I recommend getting their at that time.
The Valor is identical to the Conquest in layout, so it was very easy for us to get around. But, for you first timers, this is a big ship, so be prepared to do some exploring. The decor was fine and not too outlandish as some say.
Our cabin was a balcony cabin, and it is well worth the extra money!
Our steward was Gustav (we called him Gussy), and he was fine. Nothing great about him, however. I think we were spoiled by our steward on the Conquest.
We at in the Lincoln Dining Room, and our waiters Elmer and Oksana were very good. Again, however, our wait staff on the Conquest was much better and attentive. We ate with a couple from LA, and the wife is Russian, so Oksana and she had many things to talk about!
I was more than excited about the food, but I was actually disappointed in it. Now, I'm not a food snob by any means, but the food on the Conquest was much better than this time. Our first night I had the snapper, and while good, it was a little over done. The next night was a formal night, and we had the lobster tail; only now it is a small lobster tail with a few shrimp. Again, it was good, but not the same quality. I don't remember the rest of the week's dinners because it simply was not that memorable. Even the escargot was not as good as before. So, I was disappointed in the food.
On the last night, we did eat at Scarlett's with our new friends, and it was very good. I recommend paying a little more to dine there.
This was the last time the Valor goes to the Eastern Caribbean, so I don't know how informative this will be for those going on this ship in the future.
Nassau: We got there early, and everything was closed in town. So, we went to Atlantis and to the beach. It was windy and cool, so we couldn't go in the water. We just hung out on the beach, then went shopping in town prior to getting back on the ship.
St. Thomas: This is a beautiful island, and we went into town and shopped, had a drink, and then prepared for our snorkeling excursion that afternoon. The excursion was to Buck Island, which was supposed to be a great snorkeling site. Two problems with the excursion were the water being cold and me being hungover from staying up late watching the comedy shows the night before!!! The two did not mix well, and the snorkeling was much better in Cozumel. Nevertheless, I want to return to St. Thomas; it was beautiful.
St. Maarten/St. Martin: Without a doubt, one of the best places I have ever been. It is beautiful and very different in a European way. We did not do an excursion, and instead took a cab to Orient Beach on the French side. Orient Beach is simply gorgeous. But beware!!! One half of the beach is clothing optional, and those crazy Euros do like to prance about in their birthday suits!!! And no, it's not the people you'd like to see naked!
Next, we took a cab with our new friends to Marigot, the capitol of the French side. There were plenty of outdoor shops for buying souvenirs and many little bistros serving lunch. I had a Creole Seafood combo of shrimp, conch, and mahi mahi, and it was delish!!! Also, Presidente Beer goes very well with the Creole food.
Finally, we went into Phillipsburg on the Dutch side and at the port. It had the coolest narrow streets with shops lined up one after the other. All in all, this was the highlight of the trip! I absolutely want to go back there.
We didn't do the dancing and singing shows, but we did the comedy shows, and Jim Brick was very funny.
There are several trivia games you can play during the week, and I was officially the sports trivia king of the Valor for that week! They had a sports trivia game every day, and playing in six of them, I won four (3 pieces of ship on a stick and one medal)! I also made a lot of good friends during these games!
I did play some craps and blackjack, but I didn't go crazy. You do have a bill to pay at the end of the cruise!
Very easy, we took our own bags off the ship, rented a car this time, and were on our way to Ft. Lauderdale.
This was a great vacation. I know I've criticized the food and service, but all in all, I had a great time and would do it over again in a heartbeat. Next time, however, we will probably try Royal Caribbean or Disney since our twins will be old enough to go then. BTW, a big thank you to my mom and mother-in-law for taking care of our 2-year old twins!!!