We were spoiled last year (Dec 2008) on Carnival Miracle compared to the cruise we just took on Carnival Valor.
Dining room: the dining staff were not as attentive and friendly as we had last year on the Miracle. The cocktail hostess was the worst. She never came over to the table unless we hailed her, and she did not follow up to ask if we wanted an after dinner drink. We were offered rolls only once during our dinners. Usually the staff is more attentive. There was no energy or feeling of being happy to have us on board by the dining room staff (we had 6:00 pm seating in the Washington room).
Scarlett's Steakhouse: This is the premier dining experience that you pay extra for. The service was horrible. We had to wait for extended lengths of time between courses. The lobster tail was dry and salty, but the Porterhouse Steak was excellent. I guess you shouldn't order lobster at a steakhouse! We waited 20 minutes for out dessert and coffee after we finished the main course. It was freezing in the room which made it harder to wait for the hot coffee!
Balcony cleaning: we were informed by the flyer in our room to lock our balcony door and close the drapes during the balcony cleaning. My husband was still in the room when the cleaning was taking place and workers tried twice to go through our room to the balcony (even though the balcony was already cleaned). When he left the cabin he made sure that the balcony door was locked but when we returned to the cabin the balcony door was unlocked. We reported this to Guest Services but did not receive any feedback. This is a concern since we were not sure that the workers were supposed to be in our room - other than our room steward.
Room Steward: Artini was our room steward. She was excellent! She was the most friendly person on the ship. We adjusted the tips at the Service Desk to provide her and her assistant with the majority of the gratuity and deducted the dining room tip to reflect the lack of service.
Excursions: We opted for two excursions on Cozumel. The two couples split up. The ladies went horseback riding and the men went deep sea fishing. The horseback riding experience was great and a lot of fun. The deep sea fishing not so much. Unfortunately, the boat driver drove like a bat out of hell on the choppy water and made it a very unpleasant and uncomfortable ride.
The Valor is the same size as the Carnival Miracle but it looks like they downsized the public areas to make more room for cabins. The pool areas are smaller (less space for lounge chairs) and the casino and theater are much smaller. If we take another Carnival cruise, and have a choice between the Valor and the Miracle we will definitely book the Miracle.
The ports of call on the Western Caribbean cruise were not as much fun as the Eastern Caribbean - at least for us. Belize was a disappointment, but to be honest we didn't go on an excursion. We were advised by the ship staff not to venture outside of the port gates without an excursion guide due to safety concerns. If we go again we will book an excursion in order to see the sites.