Just a word of warning. This is a lengthy review but if you really want to know about the Valor and Carnival and a western cruise, read on. This was our second cruise with Carnival. The last one was maybe 8yrs ago. Cruised with Princess five years before. They had a huge screen under the stars and wanted the same thing this time, which the Valor had.
This was a 21st birthday celebration for my son. I am in my mid fifties and I brought my friend and my son's friend along. I am in need of a knee replacement so take that in consideration.
We started at La Quinta close to the airport in Miami. They offered free shuttle to the Port of Miami. Within five minutes of being in the room my son's friend saw a huge bug and she freaked. We asked to change rooms which they did after 10 minutes of haggling. They were very nice about it though. Breakfast was OK. The free transport was something else. I think the name of the transport bus SKA but wouldn't swear to that. I guess you get what you pay for sometimes. Terrible. First he packed us like sardines on a no air-conditioned, no opening windows bus in 90 degree plus heat sitting out in the sun. After 15 min of that he got on and announced he had 3 rules. We are on vacation, no complaining and he drives fast. Well I had 3 rules for him. So another 20 min of extreme heat, driving like a crazy maniac I couldn't wait to get off the bus.
Embarkation: Not to terrible, lots of lines but was par for the course. Offered a buffet while waiting to check in the room. I was just terribly glad to sit down and thought the buffet was good. The deli on the Lido deck was great.
Ship:Seemed a bit eclectic but was supposed to be patriotic. Very difficult to get to areas without constant detours. Huge ship, impressive, clean.
Room:We had 4 people sharing a balcony cabin 2 twins pushed together and sofa and twin up top. The twins pushed together were roomy and comfortable. The young adults weren't crazy about the sofa bed and top bunk but they were young and dealt with it. Our steward never introduced himself and gave us any idea of what to expect as other cruise lines had done but we muddled through that too. The room was always clean and he was fairly prompt when we needed something. The ship was very clean .
Casino: I like to gamble and seemed the slots weren't as tight as I expected but don't expect to win. I enjoy Texas Hold-em but unless you had a full table it is hard to win with the blinds rolling around so quickly. Many times I wanted to play but their was no one there.
Dining room: We ate all our food at mealtimes in the open seating dining room. Never a wait to get seated unlike Princess. Service was a bit slow. Sometimes it took nearly 2 hours from start to finish. The best was about an hour and fifteen. The staff was extremely nice and attentive. They even had a little song and dance show 2x during the dinner hours. Was really cute. Was nice to try different foods without having to worry about the cost. Desert was a bit of a let down. I think they consider the deserts to be more like European deserts. Kinda of heavy, not very sweet and left kind of a lard like film on your teeth. Coffee was excellent in the dining rooms. If you typically spend $100 or more on meals then you may be disappointed. If you dine at Bob Evans and Apple bee's frequently then it was impressive. I heard the Steakhouse was superb but cost an extra 30 dollars pp. The menu for dining room lunch and dinner and steakhouse was always available on the tv in the room.
Other dining choices. Didn't eat at the buffet or sushi bar but did like the Deli, fish and chips and burrito bar. The only thing open 24-7 was the pizza and it was very so so. Cal zones seemed the best. Mongolian buffet was OK. Very limited hours on the fish/chips, sushi and burrito bar.
Shopping: I was really disappointed with a bad experience. The "destination shopping specialist" was Jeff. Since this was my 4Th cruise I thought I didn't need to attend the shopping seminars. I had heard it all before. I guess the difference this time is that I had more money to spend than before. A very dangerous thing in a high pressure sales situation. Once you set foot in the Diamond and Tanzanite stores the pressure to buy was intense. I realized the only reason they offer the "free charms and bracelet" is to get you into the stores. Logical, I guess but "buyer beware". You could ask for the charm 3-4 times and they would ignore that and keep talking about their merchandise. Anyway after making an 1800.00 purchase on a ring I had no plans to buy I decided against it. Is it posted anywhere that all sales are final? No, because according to Jeff, the on-board shopping specialist, that would be bad for business and besides it is posted on the back of the receipt that you get after making the purchase. So I am thinking "Jeff" works for the port shops.
They offered to give store credit or upgrade if you found something better later in the trip. So since I couldn't get my money back I tried to get something I liked better for not much more money. I found another ring in the next port that was almost a carat larger in the tanzanite solitaire and retailed for 200.00 more than the ring I had just bought. Did I mention the gold in ring appeared much thinner after they sized it? I thought I was imagining that until I looked and compared it to all the other rings on display. It was half the gold post sized. They said they don't stretch the gold but add to it when they size up but I don't believe that for a second. So if you decide on a ring don't let go of it to let them re-size it. They also don't tell you that they charge 24.99 to size it. They make you think it is free. They remove the small sticker attached to the ring with the carat size of the gems and the retail value. They kept that and recorded the original retail price on your receipt with a code instead of the retail value. So when I tried to "upgrade", the retail price of the ring I had just bought had magically changed to 1000.00 less than the sticker originally reflected, You can't prove that any differently because it wasn't recorded as a number on your receipt only a code. Now the retail difference between the ring I had and the ring I wanted to upgrade to was no longer 200.00 but a whopping 1000.00. Now they want to renegotiate the price difference of 1000.00 instead of 200.00 Did that once, didn't want to do that again. Having no proof on my receipt of what the original retail was I could not get the better ring. What a racket. Another thing, if the ring was retailed at 7800.00 why would the appraisal you get say 1800.00 which is the price it was purchased? If you really get a discount then the appraisal would reflect that. Don't be stupid like me.
Last but not least, don't believe a word they say. After finding out no refunds, I asked another sales associate at yet another port for the same store, if I bought a ring could I return it for my money back and he didn't hesitate to say yes. They will tell you anything. Don't trust them for a second or the on-board shopping specialist. He is in on the scams while all the time saying if you have any problems come see me. "I will help you". He will help you let them take your money. I wouldn't put it past them to exchange the gems while resizing the ring. Something that has happened personally to me in the states at "reputable stores" . Don't let them have the ring back if you decide to purchase. Re-size later in the states.
Carnival credit card: Avoid this. If all you want is the back pack and lanyard for your sign and sail card, go for it. But all the other freebie's are a joke. Free 10min of Internet use after paying 100.00 for 30 min. Really? $5 poker play after playing 5 of yours not good for slot play. Offer you 50.00 on ship spending if approved but won't tell you if are not approved. So you spend 50.00 and no freebie. Probably would spend it anyway though. Drinks are 7.50 each, laundry 3.00 to wash and same to dry. Don't even get me started on price of pictures. Agree if they would lower the prices would sell many more pictures. Nice pics just cost too much. Bring your own camera.
Entertainment: It was OK. The 80's show was interesting but lasted way too long. Magic show was marginal. The comedy show was short at least but not that funny unless you think constant vulgar is really funny. Too windy for putt putt. The big screen has blank areas on it and it seemed there was always those partyers that felt like laughing and joking and being loud while the movie was playing, so much that you couldn't hear the movie. Go to the bar or your room or another area for that. Movies in the room was a nice touch as was tv but do you really want to go on cruise to sit in your room? Still late at night was nice to rest in bed and watch something as you fall asleep.
Cozumel: Excursion to paradise beach for around 64.00 pp. Kids loved it. Great guide. Shopping same as all other ports.
Belize City. Kids went cave tubing excursion 109.00 pp Said at least a 30-45 min walk with inter-tube and lots of mosquitoes biting them. Once in the water was good. Said I would never have been able to do it with bad knee. Said drive there was depressing. Friend went on tour of city. She liked but also very sad. 20 min tender to shore wasn't as bad as I had heard.
Honduras:Mahogany Bay. Beautiful. Lots of hummingbirds and very clean. Weather was threatening so magical chair to beach was intermittent. Had to cut visit shorter than what I had wanted due to exhaustion. This was the fourth port in 4 days. If you are older or disabled this is too much. Wish this one had been the first port. Wanted to explore more. Merchants not pushy like other ports.
Debarkation: As good as it gets. Higher decks leave last which is OK if not on early flight. Gives you a chance to eat a leisurely breakfast in dining room. Be aware if you don't smoke that one side of the lido deck where the open eating seating is nonsmoking. Learned that 10 min before we left ship.
Conclusion: To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Lots of choices. Can't really beat a cruise, weather permitting. Would do it again in a heartbeat. Do it when you are healthy and young but with caution if disabled. 4 ports in 4 days too much.