We just returned from a 7 day cruise on the Valor to the western Caribbean. Ports included Grand Cayman, Belize, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico. 2 Adults and 2 kids, ages 5 and 8.
This is our fourth cruise and my first review and sorry if I am little critical or blunt but these are the things that I would like to have known before booking this cruise.
Firstly the ship. I think we got spoiled on NCL and Royal Caribbean but Carnival Valor really did not live up to past experiences on cruise ships. If I was to compare, I would say that if NCL is like a 4 star hotel, Carnival is at best a 2 star.
The 2 pools on the main deck were tiny and way over crowded. The first day the hot tubs were full of 3 to 6 year old kids in their underwear because they hadn't got their luggage yet. Their was nobody trying to control or manage the people. The large slide did not even end in the pool and the wait for a slide was about 45 minutes. There was a small adults only pool in the back which was a lot nicer but was not open the first day.
The food quality in Rosie's (The main buffet) was only average at best. There was a stir-fry station that was very good but the wait was anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.
The kids camp was not open the first day and their was no baby sitting, so we couldn't do the late seating at the formal dining room. We had room service which was not bad.
On the positive side. The food in the main dining room, The Washington, was very good. We were very pleasantly surprised. The wait staff were great but we never saw the Maitre d'. Not that I needed to but they tell you that you are supposed to tip him... not sure what for.
The kids center, Camp Carnival, was great for the kids. They loved it and the staff were fantastic.
Finally, I know it seams to be industry standard now but Carnival adds $10 per person per day for automatic gratuities. I am not cheap but I strongly disagree with this. I tip my waiters, cabin staff, baby sitters and all drinks already include 15% gratuities. They claim this automatic gratuity is for 'behind the scenes' staff. I'm sorry but if I stay at a hotel, I don't tip the janitor. They should be paid a salary. They make it extremely difficult to remove this charge but it can be done. Secondly, automatic 15% on drinks gives no incentive for better service. On other ships, the pool staff knew our names and what we drank and made it so much more fun.
Conclusion. I think the Carnival Valor is good for kids and ours did have a really fun trip. Apart from the main dining food, it was not that great for us grown ups. I personally would not book Carnival again and I would also stick to Eastern Caribbean instead of Western. For the same price or only slightly more you can get something much better on other cruise lines.