Getting There: We used Carnival's Fly Aweigh program for our air travel. For the most part we had no issues, except that for some reason, one of our nine group members ended up with a different reservation number than the rest of us. This wouldn't have been an issue, except they didn't tell us! When we went to print boarding passes, she didn't have one! So we had to call the airline to figure it all out which too a bit of time. A little irritating, but not something that would keep us from using the program again. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, and found the Carnival reps very easily. After grabbing our luggage, we were quickly loaded onto the bus for the drive to Miami.
Embarkation: As our flight didn't get in until 1:30pm, we didn't arrive to the Port of Miami until about 2:45sih. There was NO line whatsoever, and we able to check in with no wait. The only disappointment here was that they had stopped taking the embarkation photos. Our group had been looking forward to taking a unique photo, and we were bummed out they were over.
Ship/Cabin: I was pretty sure that I would like the ship, as several of our group members had sailed on Valor's sister ship, the Freedom, last spring. As expected, the ships are identical. We went directly to our Lido deck cabins. I have to say, I LOVED staying on the Lido deck! This is where I plan on staying on all future cruises. It was great not to have to take the elevators/stairs to get to the pool or to Rosie's. The deck was not at all loud. In fact, it seemed really quite up there since there aren't that many cabins. The coolest part of staying on the deck was that at the end of the port side hallway, there was a door that led to a small deck on the front of the ship. There were some great views up there! The 'secret' deck has been mentioned on the CC boards which is how I found out about it. Overall, I was very impressed with all of the ship's staff. Our cabin steward was great! He introduced himself after we had been in the room for about 10 minutes. After the initial introductions, he would use our names and say hello to us even if we were down the hall. Our dining team was also outstanding. At the end of the week, our waiter Joel, and his assistant Ida, came to each of us and gave us a kiss on the check and a great big hug! It was a nice personal touch that we all appreciated. All staff members that I encountered were extremely friendly. The staff also kept the public areas of the ship very, very clean.
Ports: We had two tender ports and two docked ports. There were no issues getting onto the tenders in Grand Cayman. The process was easy-show your shore excursion ticket on deck 1, and the let you down to deck 0. Those without a scheduled excursion had to go and retrieve a tender sticker. Getting off the ship in Roatan was a disaster!!! People didn't wait for Big Tex to announce it was ok to go into Roatan. People started to line up and this caused a HUGE mess. By the time it was all said and done, passengers were lined up from deck 0 all the way up the stairs to deck 6 or 7. It was hot, and crowded. The tenders in Belize were fine. Excursion people went to the Ivanhoe Theater to get tender stickers, everyone else went to the Eagles lounge. Easy process. Docked in Cozumel, no problems here. Debarkation: Getting off the ship was greatwe had a shore excursion in Miami, so we were in group 3 to disembark. We were off in no time. Finding the luggage on the carousel took a few minutes, but was painless. Customs, on the other hand, STUNK. It took forever to get through the lines. I think there were 2 lines that actually moved really fast. The rest of the lines moved at a snail's pace. Some of our group members had to wait for the rest of us for over 30 minutes. There were no set lines for non-US citizens, so they were spread out and causing most of the back-ups. It was very frustrating. After the customs mess, we did the Art-Deco tour of South Beach. I felt there could have been a bit more when it came to the Art-Deco information, as it seemed a bit rushed & brief. South Beach is gorgeous though, and we enjoyed strolling along the beach and down Ocean Drive.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a great cruise!! I would definitely sail on the Valor again with the very same itinerary. The ship was clean, the staff was great, and the ports are full of fun and exciting activities for everyone!!! Kudos to the Valor staff for making my vacation one to remember!