I have cruised about 12 times however this is my first review. There were four girls traveling with two to a room for an after Thanksgiving cruise. Hoping to soak up some sun and relax before the frenzy of the holidays. Our husbands stayed home to care for kids and pets and off we went for what we hoped was the vacation of a lifetime. We flew to Miami on Saturday and took a taxi to the Miami Intercontinental Hotel in South Beach. The taxi ride was $25 for the four of us and took about 30 minutes. The hotel was beautiful and decorated nicely for Christmas. We were located within an easy walk to Bayside Market which is an indoor/outdoor venue filled with shops, restaurants and bars. This was a nice area and we were able to kick start the vacation by relaxing at one of the bars after our flight. Some of us turned in early while others tried out the area nightclubs. The next morning we took a cab to the ship for $7 for the four of us and arrived at 11am.
EMBARKATION: Getting on the ship was without a doubt the easiest I have experienced. After swiping our passports and boarding pass into the kiosk we waited in a short line to get our sail and sign cards. After receiving our cards we walked right on to the ship and up to the Lido deck for lunch. The lines on the Lido deck were very long however this was the only day we dealt with long lines. Our rooms were ready as promised at 1:30pm. Our luggage arrived by 6:00pm.
DINING/FOOD: We had anytime dining and would arrive between 6pm and 6:30 pm every night for dinner. We never had to wait for a table although there was always a line, it moved quickly. The dining staff wrote your names on cards to give to the waiters as we had a different server every night. We usually requested a table for two as only two of us utilized the dining room. We never had to wait but be warned when seated at a table for two there is another table next to you with only a few inches to spare. You are therefore forced to talk to the people next to you or appear rude as you can hear all conversations. Service in the anytime dining room was somewhat slower. A meal would take a minimum of an hour and a half, sometimes longer. Service was fairly prompt however for some reason we always had problems getting our water glasses refilled. We found it easier to order a soda from the bar service so we could be assured something to drink during dinner. Food in the dining room and the Lido Buffet was consistently lukewarm to cold. We never had a meal that was served hot. Food in the Deli, Mongolian Wok and Pizza were always hot as they fixed it while you waited. As far as the new menu - it is a personal taste. Some that I would order again include the Bacon Mac and Cheese. Some that I would never order again would be the Southern Fried Chicken. The chicken had bones that looked like Cornish game hens and a taste unlike any chicken I have ever had. Again, this is a personal taste so I will not spend a lot of time critiquing the food. One last word of warning - the menu is not posted outside of the restaurant. It is available on your interactive television however on two nights the wrong menu was posted. We skipped what we thought was an unappetizing meal to find that the menu was incorrect and the meal we thought we skipped was served the next night. Room service was speedy and always as ordered. Coffee was somewhat bitter but better in the dining room.
ENTERTAINMENT: A must not miss show is the 80's production. The comedians were funny. The love and marriage show is played on your television all week. The shopping talks are also played all week. The nightclubs were underutilized by us however the casino bar was hopping at night.
ROOM: We were located near the back of the ship in room 6445. The balcony was nice for two people. Our room had two twin beds and there was sufficient room for us to maneuver with plenty of storage space for two females. The room steward did a good job however the first two nights he had not made it to our room by 10pm. When we told our steward that we tend to go to bed early and get up by dawn he was kind enough to accommodate our request and finished our room usually by 9pm. He was still working on rooms some nights at 11pm. We were located near the aft elevators which one could hear arriving with a ding at night if you were a light sleeper. We were also located just above the nightclubs which you could hear, especially the bass.
SHIP: All of carnival ships seem to have the same red/orange color scheme, this being the same on the Valor. The exception is the red/white/blue tiles in the shape of flags and the pink walls in the dining room. The ship was very clean with the exception the the tables on the Lido deck. There was never a problem finding a table, just finding a clean table.
DISEMBARKATION: Sorry carnival but this is where you really messed up. We had an early flight home leaving Miami at 11:50AM. We received a letter in our stateroom directing us to meet at 7:15 am in the Ivanhoe Theater where we would be escorted to the gangway after the ship was cleared by customs. Instead, an announcement was made for all passengers that were self dis-embark to leave the ship. By the time we were "escorted to the gangway" there were about 1,000 passengers waiting to go through customs. There were three customs agents total. My luggage was tagged with priority 2 but did not come out until priority 15 was unloaded. By then most all passengers were off the ship and the customs line was wrapped around the building. If it were not for my fellow travelers I would have missed the plane but they persuaded a customs agent to allow me to join them closer to the front of the line. We utilized carnival transportation to the airport. It was quite a walk and a sky way ride to get to the AA terminal and we made it as passengers were boarding. Although we had fun it was good to be home.
Overall I feel we got what we paid for. A value cruise at a value price.