The magic just wasn’t there: Carnival Valor Cruise Review by jesterjax
Overall Member Rating
The magic just wasn’t there
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
There are 4 separate lines. Wait for initial fun pass/passport inspection. Wait for self-check-in at an electronic kiosk. Wait for your Sail and Sail and get a zone pass. Wait for you zone to be called. Wait outside on deck 3 for a Security photo. 90 minutes from arrival to entry.
Was told they were late getting the last group cleared and off the ship, and that was the excuse given for the ship not being ready.
The "Fun" started when then they called our zone, then the next zone right after. There was already a backlog getting on the ship, so we were held standing at the bottom of the escalator. 300+ folks from multiple zones. Let the griping, shouldering, and penguin walking begin! The CCL staff member seemed confused, didn't know if we could get on, as there was already a large line waiting for boarding on the deck 3 promenade. Finally we were allowed up in dribs and drabs, for another line outside on deck 3, when security did your Sign and More Sail picture as you entered. If this is CCL's idea of progress, they should re-evaluate that position. I miss the old process when you waited, spoke to a person who did everything, credit card, passport, photo, so you could just get your happy family photo, hear the ding as you walked on, and felt the "wow I'm home again!".
It looks tired. The dEcor is ugly colonial style and looks very dated. The Washington dining room reminded me of a Bob Evans. Didn't take one single interior ship picture, it just looked like "so what". They make you walk thru the casino to go from one end of the promonade to the other, so I hope you don't mind second hand smoke.
Buffet was varied and overall very good. The meats were not great, but the prepared salads were tasty and well composed. Deserts were very good, with an excellent selection. The Mongolian wok, open around noon to 3:00 daily was excellent. The burgers and chicken fingers were very good as well.
Only ate in the main dining room the last evening. We were strangers to our waiter and assistant, who acted like we were table crashers upon seeing us for the first time. The assistant quizzed us on table number, and wanted to know where we had been eating all week. Then the waiter shows up, asks the same questions, shakes her head, and tells us that it's a problem for them because the Matre De had adjusted the workload. The dining service pace was glacially slow. After 90 minutes, we still hadn't seen the desert menu yet. It seemed to be this slow across the room, so I felt better that our little party of 3 had not created a total meltdown of service across the entire room.
St. Thomas:, Fury Charters. 3 hour sail and snorkel, well worth it.
San Juan: Rented car to rain forest. Hiked the Big Tree Trail and had a refreshing swim in the La Mina Falls.
Grand Turk: Rented car for sight seeing and beach day at the Sandbar beach bar on Front street.
Half Moon Cay: Seemed like a sea day.
Still trying to get "Uno-do'-tres-cuatro..I know you want me..you know I want cha" out of my head. This seems to be the official Carnival party tune, and you will hear it no less than 50 times in a week.
Tried to do a smooth self assisted departure.
We have self-assisted the last 7 years, and know the drill. The ship gets in early, the call to leave goes out early, and you have about 15-20 min. to get off. No problem, we have a drive home, and like to get an early start. The ship docked by 6:00. No announcements, no nothing, but I pop down to deck 3, and see folks leaving at 6:15. OK. So it's a silent departure. This ship seems strange, so this is normal. We get down, and are told, "no, you can't depart, those folks are crew going on leave". "Please wait in the lounge". We wait in the lounge for 45 min. Folks are piling up, by 7:15 there are over 200 folks waiting. Actually, found out the people leaving are VIP guests, not crew going on leave. While waiting in the lounge, I only saw 3 people leave in a 45 minute stretch. Also overhear the staff talking on walkie-talkies, and frankly they sounded confused and were wondering where the cruise director was. By 7:15, even the published schedule was late, so I'm sure from my personal observations and also other reviews that there was a trickle-down effect from the botched and inefficient debarkation processes. This could have accounted for our slow Embarkation, as this particular crew seems to be slow at releasing folks.
My wife's theory is that this must be a training ship and crew. Usually we are a bit sad on the last night, seeing the crew cleaning, and getting ready for the next bunch of lucky folks. When we drive off, it's always like saying goodbye to an old friend who took good care of us. It ship was more like basic transportation from point A to point B, not a "Fun Ship" experience. Less