Sailed on the Carnival Valor Jan 17-24. Had a great time overall but for reasons outside Carnival's control.
Embarkation - Went pretty smoothly. Arrived at the pier around 1130 and we were on the ship by about noon or so. Rain in Miami so couldn't really sit out on deck or do much until Sail Away. Sat at the Casino bar had a few drinks enjoyed a walk around the ship to get acquainted and that was about it.
Cabin - Very nice. Balcony on the Lido deck. No Complaints about the balcony itself, enough space for two to mover around quite comfortable. Balcony was a tad smaller than on other lines but still served its purpose.
Itinerary - itinerary was great. we took advantage of a special with shoretrips.com where you select three excursions for $150US. Painless, worked well in all ports, and was nice to have everything organized before hand. ROATAN is an amazing island, and the Zip lining tour is amazing! Such an amazing time for people of all ages.
Weather - was alright! Miami was cold, but the rest was progressively better. I missed out on the feet burning on deck sensation, which only happened once on this trip.
Staff- Staff for the most part were alright. Pleasant but not overly friendly. There were a few bar tenders that were polite and would serve with a smile but for the most part it was a fairly standard blah atmosphere. Then again, the type of cruisers on Carnival cant be a real handful to deal with. Within the first few hours of being on board a couple had a public fight in the Casino which is ridiculous and a result of alcohol and severe lack of class and consideration for other people.
Food - overall was good. Main dining room had fast courteous service which was professional. No one really went out of their way to be very outgoing, which is fine, those people tend to be annoying anyhow. The magician at dinner though i found was annoying as hell. Nice guy, but he reminded me of the annoying host from Slumdog Millionaire.
Entertainment - Bingo dragged on forever it seemed when it was hosted before the show. getting a seat was a challenge on the nights with only one show, particularly if you were in the late dining group. This may be rude, but Carnival should account for the fact a good handful of the passengers require slightly more space to sit for the shows, therefore restricting the capacity of the theatre. the adult acts in the eagles lounge were good fun. One small step night club was what you made it! We were there everyone night and met some great people while we were there, so for us it was a lot of fun.
Ship - alright, so the layout of the interior of the ship i found worked quite well. Great use of interior space with the many lounges and bars at the back end of Deck 5. Overall it was not a challenge to really get anywhere. The layout of the Deck space around the pool i found was horrible! plenty of stairs everywhere. To get complete sunshine you would need to walk up to deck 12-13, yet the bar was poolside at deck 9. very few times would staff make their way up to those decks to serve you drinks so you would find yourself having to walk down multiple stairs to get to a crowded bar. Trust me I'm in my 20s and a fit person, and even for me this became slightly annoying. the decor of the ship was charming at first but became stale pretty fast. I mean, the American flags everywhere was just a bit much by the end of it. On the floors, in the lifts, on the bar tops, everywhere! I understand patriotism, but this was over kill. Other than that, i preferred the layout of the NCL Jade more for the outer deck space. it was simple, efficient and more spacious that that of the valor.
Disembarkation - this was pretty standard. Did the self walk off option and we left the ship after we had some breakfast and walked around. we were not in a rush. Customs was a breeze.
One thing that was horrible was getting of the ship at tender ports. IN Belize and Grand Cayman, this was i found, disorganized and confusing. getting your tender tickets was annoying, and you had to stick around that space til your number got called. On NCL they made announcements throughout the ship as to when you should head for your tender. this made a lot more sense as you could go back to your room, go grab a coffee, sit by the pool. and when your number was called you went and got off the ship, which btw had its own tender boats on it, which was convenient.
Overall the trip itself was great because we met some fantastic people. we made the most of the weather, the excursions, and the atmosphere on board. If you are looking to just get away, and can go with the flow, and not complain a lot, then Carnival is for you. We just wanted to get away have some fun in the sun and relax and well that is what we got. it was a lot of fun! But if you are a complainer, i can see how you would have many issues with this ship an the cruise line in general.
Would i sail with carnival again, absolutely, but i would think twice about the exact ship to go on. I would consider the decor actually in my selection, because some of it is just downright tacky. The deck space was an issue too, but then again, if i go down south i want a tan, so having to move my chair every 20 minutes to be in direct sunlight was slightly annoying. Hopefully youtube will help out with that!
Overall you get what you pay for, and some guests will be VERY interesting to just people watch. If you are lucky enough you will find some of your own kind and just have a blast.
I read a review saying do a land holiday instead of a cruise, cruises are horrible. Sure they aren't for everyone, but i think everyone should try it. I have had the opportunity to travel around the globe, staying in hostels to 6 star hotels, and beach holidays and backpacking, all sorts, and cruising to me has become one my favorites. You are on vacation, just enjoy it!!