We travelled on Carnival Valor to Western Carribean from Apr 25 to May 1. Weather was great, no rain. This was our 2nd cruise, we travelled on Carnival Splendor in Dec 2008. The checkin was much easier/quicker in Miami than our experience in Ft Lauderdale. We did arrive at port early around 10:00 am, which I highly recommend. No lines, we just gave bags to a porter and walked right in up to checkin. We went right to counter, and with my wife in wheelchair we sat in special waiting area and we got on as soon as they started boarding through elevator right there. In general, we found the Valor to be similar in setup to the Splendor, just on a smaller scale. The ship, though older, was well-maintained. I though the crew were very friendly across the board, very helpful. Particularly in dealing with my wife who is in a wheelchair most of the time to get around. The staff was very helpful in helping us get down to floor 0 for picking up tenders to shore, and we even had a staff member take us to the front of a long line in returning on a tender from Grand Cayman. The other note on rooms, we did not request a special room for wheelchairs. SInce my wife can walk short distancs, regular room worked. Elevators are tough at times to get into w/wheelchair. Often had to go up first in order to go down. The other thing I will note was a crew member giving out French version of the daily activity brochure when we first boarded. There was delay w/English copies, so she actually took the time to go hunt down the English version from another floor, and bring us one back. I was very impressed.
Room - Nice, clean, plenty of storage space. Nice that suitcases can fit under the bed out of the way. TV was small, not a flatscreen. Balcony was nice, our room was facing hallway out to elevators which would not be my first choice next time. But location on Lido deck was very convenient to run back to room from main buffet/sitting areas w/o having to take busy elevators/steps.
Positives about ship - clean, friendly staff, the quality and variety of food was good, Burrito and fish/chips bars are great. lots of activities to do. Karaoke was fun and often, my kids enjoyed alot. Flash, the staff person, was funny and really nice. Gym was open early, which I took advantage of several days while everyone was sleeping still.
Negatives about ship - mostly minor things of note. First, the theater shows in evening were only so-so compared to the Splendor shows. The magic show was not worth it, and only the 80's show they did was worth seeing. We actually skipped the last 2 shows in favor of other activities. When we were on the Splendor, we saw every one and they were all high-caliber. Food-wise, the hours for the fish/chips and burrito bars need to be longer. Don't know why they don't open in evenings. The stir-fry station needed more variety in sauces used (only 3, one of which was curry flavor, and one was super-spicy). We had 6:00 seating which was great to work in activities for kids afterwards. However, even though Carnival knew my wife was handicapped, they gave us a table on a step-up area. Luckily, my wife can get up and walk a little, so we got around that. Serenity area - nice, but needs more of the round covered sitting chairs. Those were "reserved" or used early in AM, could never get one. The big party on Lido deck looked fun, but they ended the line dancing stuff way too early, after about 1/2 hr or so. When staff was leading the dancing, the place was packed with people. Then they suddenly stopped and handed it off to general music/band, and everyone just disappeared after that. Comedy shows were hit/miss. 2 were not good, 2 were very funny, both family and adult version. My suggestion would be listen to family version which is earlier. If you like that, then take time to come back late at night for the adult version. They need to alter their handicap procedure to floor 0 for shore leaves. You have to go down to floor 1 first, and ask staff member to call for elevators to be turned on to bottom floor. But when they do that, all of a sudden anyone on elevators were using it to get to floor 0, and they were always full. They should dedicate one elevator for handicap use only during shore leaves. My kids, 9 and 11, thought they were too old for Camp Carnival. It would be nice if kids in this age group had access to do dancing in the discos, or allow younger kids acces at reasonable time of day that adults would not be there. You had to be 12 or older to be in a dance activity (Circle C).
Overall, great weather, nice ports, ship was fun to be on with friendly staff. I would travel on Carnival again, but we're thinking about bigger ship like the Magic perhaps.