We embarked on this sailing on the Valor because we were celebrating a friend's birthday, and the itinerary included both San Juan and Grand Turk. The price was very good and although we don't usually do 7-day sailings, this worked for a quick getaway since we didn't have time for a 14-day cruise.
The bad started early - embarkation. Why Carnival thinks it is better to have you stand in multiple lines to get on the ship I don't know - it was an hour from the time we arrived at the port until we walked onto the ship. Comparatively, in May we sailed on the Allure - 6200 passengers - and from the time we arrived at the port to the time we were on the ship was 22 minutes.
That set the tone for the cruise we came to find out. We went to the Lido with everyone else and found some lunch which was tasty. At 1:30 we proceeded to our cabin and had luggage already so we unpacked. The room was spacious, clean, and had plenty of storage space for our things. We met our cabin steward, Rommy, who was very nice, unlocked the mini-bar, and offered her services if needed. Her services continued to be satisfactory or above the entire cruise.
After leaving our cabin and walking around, we immediately noticed that the staff all seemed grumpy - they didn't speak unless spoken to and then it was a forced smile and greeting. We attributed it to the first day and big effort required to get everyone off and on the ship. The ship is showing some signs of wear here and there, but is generally in good condition but in several areas, not clean. Furniture needed cleaning, both on fabric and wood surfaces, deck furniture was grimy with fingerprints, and some of the public bathrooms needed the walls and doors wiped down or scrubbed. Definitely the worst I have seen on 17 cruises.
We had anytime dining in the Lincoln Dining Room. We were seated promptly about 7 and had a very nice waiter (Dedi). He seemed rushed but did take care of us well, and chatted a little with us. It didn't appear he had assistants in the area that were functioning well filling water, bringing wine glasses, etc. and appeared unhappy with them. Our dinner was tasty, well presented, and more than adequate. We ate with Dedi every night but one on the cruise and his service was always very good and he had a great attitude both in the dining room or elsewhere on the ship when he would see us. He always spoke with us or waved. He was one of only three staff members that seemed to know they were working in a service industry on the ship.
Service during the day was spotty and poor at best everywhere on the ship. If they were pushing drinks, they were reasonably attentive, but if you were waiting for dishes to be picked up or areas cleaned, they were nowhere to be found, or worse yet, right there in groups chatting in foreign languages oblivious to the work that needed to be done 5 feet away. Dishes sat on tables for hours on the Lido and in the adults only area on the back of the ship. At two occasions, we had dishes on our table well after we were finished and the busing staff was not 10 ft away chatting. We took the dishes to them and they were put out they had to take them from us and interrupt their conversation.
We ate in the Steakhouse one night and it was very good - the food was delicious and well presented (actually pretty much like the DINING ROOM food was 15 years ago). The Staff however, were poorly attired for serving in the specialty restaurant we thought (nearly all female, but ill-fitting shirts and pants, hair in disarray, no make-up, etc.) The service was good, not exceptional, but good.
We did befriend another waiter on the ship who was good about bringing drinks and being friendly with us on the deck whenever he saw us. We continually noticed the crew all seemed crabby with each other and with customers. We finally asked him what was wrong - he just shook his head and said, "Yes, it is bad" he said that he has worked for Carnival over 8 years, but wasn't planning to come back when his contract was up - he was going to look for another cruise line. Since top Carnival management (President/CEO)changed he said things have gone from good to bad to worse for the crew and we were right, they weren't happy. He told us he used to love his job, as did most of his friends, but they now were overworked, under appreciated, and taken advantage of at very opportunity now. He said the managers on the ships in the bar and restaurants were ineffective, lazy, and weren't respected by the other staff members. We had noticed the maitre d Jan seemed to be just in the way in the Lincoln dining room - he seemed to be a hindrance to the hostess at the front and to the waiters. We never did see him help when it was needed at all. After talking to him, it seemed to explain the prevailing attitude all over the ship.
The ship captain was never seen in the 7 days we were aboard, and we seldom saw any officer's on the ship at all - quite a contrast from the Allure and the NCL Pearl over the last few month where the officer's were always out and about and spoke to you.
We did find that the adults areas of the ship were very nice, there were no children, and we enjoyed the quieter areas to play cards, read, or visit with our friends. There were not a lot of children on the ship - probably due to the time of year, but those that were on-board generally behaved well and had supervision of either their parents or the Camp Carnival staff. There were, however, a lot of poorly mannered adults on the ship - loud, crude language, inappropriate dress, - they were easily in their 30's, not 18 or 21! There was a dress code in the dining rooms at night, no ball caps, no bathing attire, no ratty jeans - but it wasn't enforced at all, even on dressy nights. If they aren't willing to enforce the rule, don't make the rule. It ruined the ambiance of the dining room - if you want to wear junky clothes and a backward baseball hat, please eat in the Lido buffet!
Overall rating: Embarkation - VERY POOR, Service - POOR, Cleanliness of Public Areas - POOR, Food - GOOD, stateroom - VERY GOOD, Entertainment - FAIR, Casino - GREEDY, General atmosphere - TENSE.
All in all, we decided that this would be our last Carnival cruise. The service, the ambiance, the cleaniness, the life style of fellow passengers all combined to eliminate Carnival from our menu of cruise options in the future.