We were first time cruisers who selected this cruise for our kid's (16, 13, 9 and 7) Spring Break. We had a great time on this cruise and being prepared for dire events based on all the cruise reviews read over the past months, we were more than pleasantly suprised by how terrific this trip was. Great ship, great weather, and fun excursions. Thank you Carnival and the Valor.
Embarkation We were dropped off at the terminal by shuttle where we were promptly met by the friendly baggage handlers. We then proceeded through embarkation with equally friendly Carnival staff and were on the boat in less than 45 minutes door to boat. From the entrance at deck 3 we headed up to deck 9 (Lido) for a buffet lunch to wait for our rooms to become available (1:30PM).
Room and Room Steward We had two rooms - a balcony room and a quad interior room on deck 6 mid-ship. We thought the balcony room to be HUGE with ample closet and drawer space and a nice sized bathroom with plenty of places ascending the mirror to store various toiletries. The quad room seemed smaller with the pullmans dropping from the ceilings but it was fine and comfortable for the kids. Loved the balcony (worth the $$) and the beds were nice and firm. We met Jerry the room steward within a few hours of embarkation and saw him at least a few times each day of the cruise. He never addressed us by name but he was always friendly and timely/helpful when we needed something. A note of caution about the location of this cabin. We were mid-ship just above the casino bar area where the band sets up each night and plays until 1AM. On some nights and into the morning it sounded like the band was playing in our room. Note to self - book future rooms more thoughtfully and not over the band!
Ship This ship sails with 3400 guests at 100% booking and because of Spring Break, we heard the cruise had 3685 aboard including 1200 kids/teens. To our surprise, the ship rarely (to us) felt crowded. We ate most breakfasts and all lunches at the buffets on the Lido deck and never waited more than 5 minutes in line except for once when I waited 20 minutes in line for the Mongolian Wok. The ship was clean with the crew constantly seen cleaning something, including the ceilings and cracks where carpeting meets bulkheads. We hate smoke and smokers and were somewhat disappointed with the seemingly endless smoking occuring throughout the ship. We would gladly pay extra for a smoke-free cruise. Pools fore and aft are tiny tiny with the hottubs being overflowing. The slide was open about 10% of the entire cruise - a disappointment. The fore pool for kids is too deep for younger kids so they all mob the hottubs - adults are forced to flee aft for respite. We both did the fitness club but it really is too small for a ship this large. Always had a small wait for the treadmills and recombinant bikes. Did not use the spa. We mostly used the outdoor jogging track.
Food We ate dinner every night in the Washington dining room with Sumi/Armada as our wait-staff. Both were attentive and friendly but did not address us by name during the week cruise. We all felt the food was very good - the cold food was always cold and the hot food was always hot. The flavors were excellent and the presentation was great. The buffet food was fine - no complaints. We had dinner (lobster/filet) at Scarletts on the last evening and the food and service was as good as any I've had in first rate restaurants. I've seen others complain about Scarletts but I don't agree - our experience overall with the food was exceptional.
Entertainment Have to put in a plug for Big Tex - the Cruise Director. I would pick a future cruise over another if I knew he was aboard. He had good humor and his Disco moves are a hoot. We went to every show and while not Broadway material, they were all good with the "Far From Over" show (I think on Thursday) being very high-energy and well-produced. The break-dancers during this show brought the house to it's feet. Note - get to the Ivanhoe Theater early for seats as this smallish theater fills up fast and early for the prime shows. We never played Bingo. Would have liked more dancing 80s/90s music in the bars instead of the grinding junk and alas - all the choking smoke.
Kids Camp Carnival for our 7 year old was great - thank you to the staff. Our 9 year old liked CC but not as much as the younger one. Less to do for the Circle C 13 year old but she is great making friends on her own. The Club 02 for the 16 year old was a joke. Nothing organized. Just a mob of teens parading endlessly back and forth on the promenade into all hours of the mornings - hey Carnival - how about a curfew of, oh say, 1AM in the MORNING - for <18??