Booked this cruise through Carnival to celebrate our honeymoon and an escape from a cold Canadian winter (ironic considering the Florida weather while we were there). Initially booked an interior cabin on deck 2, but I was watching the rates fluctuate and ended up calling my PVP when I noticed a change and ended up with a past guest upgrade to deck 10 and a lower rate too!
We had Carnival book our air as well and went through the deviation dept to get a flight in a day early. Ended up paying less for the flights than we would have if we'd gone the day of the cruise...and we had non-stop flights too which was a relief.
Booked the Hampton Inn & Suites Blue Lagoon for the pre-cruise night and booked the cruise package which included the port shuttle. I had requested a high floor room but was placed on floor 2 which was a bit of a disappointment but the room itself was nice and the included buffet breakfast was good too. It turned out to be one of the coldest nights in Miami in 30+ years so we couldn't enjoy the outdoor pool. We arranged for the 1st port shuttle of the day which was at 11am, but the shuttle driver was disorganized, ended up leaving the hotel late and stopped at another hotel before the port. After arriving at the port of Miami & giving us our luggage the driver tried to claim that I hadn't paid for the ride but thankfully didn't insist I pay again as I explained that I had already paid the hotel. He didn't thank me for the tip either which was irritating.
The embarkation process at the port went probably as smoothly as it usually would. The Carnival computer check in kiosks sped the check in process a bit, but before we could start onto the ship we still had to stand around waiting for over an hour as there aren't enough chairs inside the terminal and we had a zone 30 embarkation zone card. The week of lining up had begun.
Finally got onboard and had a nice lunch on the Lido deck. As I had been on the Freedom before it was easy to find our way around with the identical deck set up. Our interior room was on the 10th deck which was fabulous as it's so convenient to the Lido deck and pools. The room itself was good...though starting to show some wear (eg. tarnishing mirrors from the condensation of the bathroom, drawers that open & close on their own with the ship movement, and an "old fashioned" tv, not a flat screen and a remote with most of the numbers & markings rubbed off and on button not working). Nothing that hampered our enjoyment of the room, just things that I noticed. We did have one instance where the toilet would not flush, but a call to maintenance and it was fixed quickly. Our room stewards did a good job cleaning & doing all that was expected of them, but they never introduced themselves & we didn't see them much at all during the week.
We had dinner every night in the Lincoln lower dining room - early seating. We were initially assigned to a table for 8 despite my request to my PVP for a table for two. On the second night I went to the maitre'd to request a small table and he was able to move us to a booth for 4 - but we were the only ones assigned to it. Our waiters Joselito & Marlon were wonderful. Sometimes they didn't remember to bring all the coffee supplies at the end of the meal, but otherwise they were a pleasure and made dinners even more enjoyable for us.
We had breakfasts and lunch on the Lido deck...enjoyed the variety daily and knowing the standard fare was there too. Especially loved the Chocolate buffet items on the last sea day...wish they would do that more often. My husband is a major coffee drinker and he was pleased with the quality of the coffee which was a relief.
Loved watching some of the movies big screen on the Lido deck. It was football playoff time which doesn't appeal to us, but likely really pleased the NFL fans on the ship. Wish they had played a Toronto Maple Leafs game on the big screen...that would have been fun.
We didn't attend the shows or games on this trip as it was more about us spending time together then about spending time sitting with a bunch of people. The cruise director Big Tex was amusing from what we saw, but he wasn't overwhelming and didn't wow me either...he was just as informative as we needed him to be. I honestly can't even tell you the name of his ass't cruise director as she was basically invisible to me the majority of the cruise. It was very different to what I saw on my last cruise on the Freedom transatlantic cruise where you knew who was running the entertainment and the 'morning show' was informative.
We did attend the past guest reception & enjoyed the free drinks that were really flowing for that hour. Unfortunately we didn't win the free cruise raffle though. =(
We also attended the galley tour on the last sea day. It was interesting to get to see the kitchen area...but would have been even more impressive if the staff had been preparing food at that time. Logistically I understand why they do it in an 'off' time, but it would have been cool to see it when they were busy there.
We tried our luck at the casino a few times & I think they must have been the tightest slots machines I've ever seen. There was absolutely no money to be made in there and we thankfully gave up before losing even more. It was a disappointment...the slots wouldn't even pay enough to keep you playing.
I was surprised that we didn't hear from the captain except for the last sea day...in the past I remember daily updates from the bridge over the PA letting us know what was going on with the ship. I would have liked to have had that feature on this trip, especially as it was basically impossible to find out what the weather forecasts were going to be from either the pursers desk, or through the Colorado based tv feed. It made for harder excursion packing, but I wasn't going to pay for the internet just to check the weather.
Despite being such a large ship we were able to find areas of quiet fairly often. We did have the hot tub under the water-slide to ourselves one afternoon, and the pool there to ourselves one evening. Also, if you're looking for a quiet area to watch the sea go by deck 3 behind the guest service or shore excursion desk is the place to find it.
We did self assist debarkation this time as my previous 2 cruises were a disaster with regular debarkation. They ended up calling self assist for the upper decks first, and it was impossible to get an elevator down as they were always full. Luckily my husband was able to carry our 2 bags down the stairs to deck 3 without too much trouble or we would have been there waiting for an elevator forever. It would have been better if they had stuck to the debarkation schedule they had given us the night before, or if they hadn't called so many decks at once. Even so, it was a much less painful process than I had experienced before on the Freedom & Ecstasy. Customs was pretty quick too and we were off to the Miami airport for our 5 hour wait to board the plane home. I had signed on to the internet on the last day strictly to check in with Westjet, and it saved us a lineup in Miami so it was worth it.
Overall we had a fabulous cruise and really enjoyed our time together and on the ship. The Valor is showing some wear in the public areas - especially in Rosie's where the chairs need some tending to and the Eagles lounge where the fabric seats will need to be reupholstered sometime soon. The crew does their best to keep the ship clean, and if people would be a bit more careful & considerate it would be great as they wouldn't have to work so hard. Dropping used cups and food wherever you feel like it might be convenient in the moment, but the staff don't deserve to have to work harder because of utterly lazy guests. It's simple to figure out where things belong. I am definitely a fan of the Conquest class ships because of their size and features, and I look forward to booking another cruise sometime soon!