We sailed on the Carnival Valor on August 22-29, 2010, and had a great time. We were previously NCL only cruisers, but went with Carnival because of the price. Carnival was hands down, the best cruise we have ever been on.
At time of embarkation we waited in line for about 20 minutes, and were on the ship before we knew it. We waited about an hour for our room, and were impressed with all the space and storage available. The ship is absolutely beautiful and very clean, well maintained. Our room steward introduced himself and remembered our names, by that first night, we couldn't believe it.
The food was very tasty, and the steakhouse that carnival offers for a fee of $30 was well worth every penny. Out server at dinner made us look forward to getting dressed up and head down to the dining room, and there were short "performances" put on by the dining staff nearly every night. We were unsure about the dining because we had only ever done freestyle dining, but carnival placed us at a table for four, as requested and dinner was great.
There is always something going on at the pool deck and I found that carnival had more than ample places to sit n the deck, which does get crowded by noon. If you like to sit in the sun, the sooner you fond a place to sit out, the better. The prices on the ship for souvenirs was good too, but they have a very limited shop on the ship. I did get a 240 piece scrapbook kit for $13 on the ship,so if you like to scrapbook keep your eyes peeled!
The cruise staff, cruise director, everything was great. The comedians at night were really funny (go to the R rated shows though). We didn't get to see the shows, but I heard good things from fellow guests. Carnival offers at the end of the cruise, putting $100 down on your next cruise, and they will give you up to 200 dollars onboard credit for the next cruise. You have 4 years to book,and it takes $100 off the deposit, so we definitely went for it! It is refundable if you choose not to cruise. I would totally recommend Carnival to anyone, and already started planning my next cruise.