My family and I recently sailed on the Carnival Valor to the Western Caribbean. The islands we were to visit were Grand Cayman, Isla Rotan, Belize and Cozumel. Our cruise was from June 26th to July 3rd 2011. Unfortunately it was not the experience I hoped for. By profession I am Human Resources Manager for a company that provides customer service and technical support for a large computer manufacturer. I have a very good idea of what constitutes acceptable customer service standards. From a customer service perspective, this ship's customer service was one of the worst experiences I have ever encountered. When you asked a questions of the staff of Valor, at best you were ignored, at worst received a rude response. The staff did not seem to have any idea of the location of anything on this ship. When asked for directions to different sections of the ship most would not stop to respond to the question. They simply looked at you and continued walking. Those that did answer gave incorrect responses, causing you to end up in a completely different part of the ship. These were people that wore uniforms that identified them as Crew members that could assist with questions and general information.
One of several instances that really stood out in terms of poor customer service occurred in the Sports Bar. We were in the Sports Bar looking to watch the Wimbledon Tennis Men's Finals, only to find all the TV's were showing cartoons. (Cartoons in a Sports Bar where children aren't allowed????) There was no one behind the bar to ask for assistance in changing the channel. It took 20 minutes to find someone to ask if they could change one of the channels to the tennis match. The person that finally showed up another 20 minutes later said he did not have the key to open the box that controlled the TV. He left came back later with a pair of pliers attempted to open the box without success. Then he too disappeared and the cartoons were still on TV. No one else ever showed up.
Food Service - Mediocre to Poor
Some of the staff members behind the counter in the buffet area were simply rude. Some of the menu items required that the staff serve you. When asked for an item they snapped at you. I would rate the quality of the food offered in the various buffets from mediocre to poor. They lacked any varied - the options were the same every single day. The only exception to this was the dinner staff in the dinning room. They were very pleasant, efficient, and the menu options were ok.
Island Stops - Did not quite work out as expected
The ship did run into some issues with the ports of call which were weather related. Understanding that the ship's crew can not control the weather, but what they can control is the communication with the passenger as to what was going on. At which they failed quite badly. We did not dock in Belize due to weather. Ok understandable. The issue was they were completely unprepared as what to do with 3000 plus passengers for an unscheduled day at sea. Communications as to what was available to do while stuck at sea was disjointed and disorganized. When we docked in Isla Rotan, we docked on the opposite side of the island - i.e. the Royal Caribbean dock. This became an issue having planned on activities that were based on the Carnival dock side of the island. Additionally the time allocated for off ship activity was reduced by 4 hrs. It was not communicated that we had docked on the opposite side of island. The passengers only became aware of the change once you got off the ship.
Ship Board Activities - For Adults, Extremely Limited
If you like Bingo, Trivia games and constantly being accosted to take a picture, this was the ship for you. If not, there was little to do other that sit on deck (if you could deal with the high winds) and drink. My teenage nephew had a great schedule for things to do, which was great. The other eight adults in our party were pretty much bored to tears by the end of the third day.
Overall this ship and its crew have room for significant improvement. Based on this experience I will never sail on another Carnival cruise.