We are back from our New Years Cruise on the Carnival Valor Jan 1-8, 2012.
I sailed with my Husband and two of my boys, and with close family friends and their 4 children. To sum it up it was a very nice trip.
We arrived in Miami on the 1st at 930am and waited for the other family to arrive at 1130, and together we got on a shuttle from VIP Shuttle Service that we prepaid for at a cost of $10 per person. Since there was 10 of us this was the way to go. We arrived at the terminal in Miami at 1pm and after an hour of long line ups we were in our cabins by 2pm. We quickly got rid of our bags and went for lunch up at the Lido....which was jam packed with people, but not hard to find a table for the 10 of us together. By the time we finished our lunch and headed back to the room, it was close to 3pm and our luggage was in our rooms...that was amazing...since there were 3000 people on board. Our Cruise was sold out. So we got changed into our SUMMER clothes.
We had been on 2 Royal Carribean Cruises before this one on the Valor (the Freedom and the Serenade of the Seas). Our first reaction to the ship was that is wasn't as well kept as the Royals we were on. In fact the room didn't look too clean to us when we first arrived...with some wear and tear showing in the room and someones hair still on the counters...ewe. So I took out some wipes and wiped down that counters myself. I will say however, that the room was alot bigger than on the Royal's. The balcony was tiny, but enough room for us. The chairs were dirty and worn, you didn't want to sit on them for fear of getting your clothes dirty. The rail made of glass were dirty, you couldn't sit on the chair and see through the glass. The bathroom was very roomy...the showers were bigger than on the Royals. That was a bonus. It was equipped with shampoo and body wash, which was good. I loved the set up of the mirror and sink area. It had glass shelves building into the sides of the mirrors so you could put all your stuff out and off the counters. Also, there were freebee's in a small bowl...with a women's razor, body wash, body lotion, breathright strips, and toothpaste. That was nice. So off we went to explore.
The ship was very confusing and hard to get used to. There were several floors that didn't go straight through from front to back, so you had to get used to which elevators you could take that would have access to the area you wished to go to. For example, the Lincoln dining room which we were assigned to for "anytime dining", you had to take the front elevators and go down to deck 3 because you had to only use the front entrance for anytime dining. It was weird anyways. At one point I had to get to the internet cafe, which was on deck 4, had to go into a bar all the way around the room to a door in the corner....but that was after I got lost trying to get there...I was getting anxiety over this...crazy stuff.
Anyways, we got back to the room and got cleaned up for dinner. We went down around 630 to the dining room and presented a problem with the hostesses with a group of 10 of us. We didn't wait too long, but you could tell it was a challenge for them every night it seemed...until one night we would of had to wait an hour for dinner until I suggested we have two tables of 4 and one of 2 somewhat together, and they seated us right away close to eachother. WHAT THE BIG DEAL WAS, I COULDN'T FIGURE IT OUT.
Dinner was always good...the selection was ok. The desserts were always nice and lots to choose from. My first experience with the "chocolate melting cake", was amazing. Off to the show afterwards which was a combinations of what to expect during the week. I found them to be ok, again comparing them to the Royals which were amazing. Off to bed, being tired from a long day of travels. The beds were ok, again Royals were so comfy, these seemed a little on the hard side. Which because I have memory foam beds at home, it was an adjustment. Also, on the Royal's you couldn't tell that they were two beds put together because they put padding on the top layer after putting the beds together...these beds on the Valor didn't have that, you had a space inbetween them that was annoying sometimes. The ship was smooth the first night.
Day 2, we started off with breakfast....good selection...long lineups for omlets, but worth it. They seemed to have lots to choose from for meals, but long lineups for the specials items like burrito bar, omelet bar, deli, pizza, etc. First day at sea, wow, crowded...but we finally found some loungers up on the top deck...woo lots of stairs. Oh and lots of saved loungers, even if they only used them to hold their towels on, they were still saved. ....grrrr.
Lots of fun activities on Lido....hairy chest contest comes to mind...lol. The water slide was a hit....oh and mini putt, after waiting in line for a half hour to get the clubs it was fun and scenic up on the very top deck.
Oh, now time for lunch (all we did was eat, it seemed, lol). Lots of hot selections and good stuff. Lemonade was watered down and gross most days. But the water was good. Us Canadians that are used to sweet tea came up with a solution....mix half lemonade and half iced tea and it tasted just like our iced tea we are used to at home. lol. It was a nice relaxing day at sea, the weather was amazing throughout the whole week. Very lucky. Only one rocking night during the whole week. We dined in the dining room every night, it was good. The table dancing waiters were fun....but again, the staff seemed to be like puppets to me, not very happy. The Maitre D, was boring and mono toned with an Italian accept....and he was just going through the actions it seemed. When you saw him walking around he was expressionless most of the time. Weird. Again, I'm comparing with Royal...we had amazing waitstaff there, they even entertained our kids with magic tricks mostly everynight. I found a big difference. Once night on the Valor we waited 20 minutes with empty water glasses. While on Royal you had someone constantly monitoring your table.
Day 3, Grand Cayman. Nice weather. We took a van to the beach for 2 hours. 7$ per person each way. The rentals on the beach were very expensive, so we just layed there. $95/half hour for the jetski...my kids were upset. Got back on the ship and went for lunch.
Anyways, to compare the wait staff and hostesses and the servers at Rosie's to the Royal staff, I must say that Royal's staff was more eager to please and were a lot more friendly than the ones on the Valor. In fact one day I experienced two situations with the staff. One in the souvenir shop, I heard him say under his breath, while referring to a customer who he was helping, and I quote "these stupid people". I understood him to be referring to the passengers because they were doddling and he was getting impatient with them. Another time, I witnessed a passenger come down the stairs from the upper deck of Rosies and he was greeted by a waiter that was monitoring the sweet table (which I thought was odd anyways)and after some small talk about having a meeting or whatever, the passenger then said "ok, I'll see you later" and walked away....both wait staff began to gossip and point and shake their heads while this man walked away. I thought that was really really rude and wondered what these staff members really have to say about all of us cruisers. I found them to be very cold and unfriendly and got the odd look. I never experienced this on the Royals for sure. I wasn't impressed with the fact that the sneeze guards were rather low and one of our kids actually burned themselves on the edge of the pans because it was hard to reach under these things. The bacon was put way in the back and there was an attendant giving you bacon because they were rationing it and didn't want you taking it yourself. Also the dessert bar was the same way, there was someone there giving you ONE dessert (tiny pieces too), of the specialty desserts. Weird I thought. The comedians were funny. I liked how they had family friendly shows and adults shows the same night. Although some comedians found it hard to do the family show without swearing....lol. One comedian on the first night was annoying, he kept complaining about the audience interaction...he was hard to follow at times.
Day 3, Cozumel. We got off the ship and walked around the shopping area. It was very nice and relaxed. We spent a lot and walked back on the ship by 2pm.
Day 4, Belize. Got an excursion for my 17 year old with his teen group from the ship. Cost $100 for the day, they spent 3 hours travelling and 45 minutes in the cave for cave tubing. Lunch was expensive, and they had to pay for lockers which was $5. I will not go for that ever again....rip off for sure.
We took a tender ride to Belize to do some shopping....lots of shops.
Day 5, Roatan. One of the nicest stops...the beach was amazing. We took the flying chairs $12 all day pass to the beach and grabbed a couple lounge chairs. The kids rented kayaks and toured around. Also did some snorkling at the end of the dock there. Beautiful.
Day 6 was a Sea day...and boy did we need this to relax. Having 4 ports was tiring. Again, busy on deck.
Day 7 debarkation. It went pretty smooth, except for the lineups with customs were nuts. I was kind of upset that Carnival wouldn't let us get a flight before noon. Later to find out that we could of walked off the ship with all our luggage as early as 645am. The ship got to Miami at 6am. We could of got a flight at 1145 through Spirit, but didn't and ended up getting the only one available which was at 830pm to Detroit. What a long day. We went on the Everglades excursion because we had time (hmmm, coincidence). What a rip off this was. The airboat ride was short, saw 2 alligators the whole time. They led us to a museum that consisted of 3 snakes...woopppeee....then over to a ccaged area where there was a guy with 3 lazy alligators and he fed them chicken and then the show was over. We then were led down a path with no one to guide us. It was in the middle of swampy land...and at this point I was thinking that at anytime an alligator could jump out and bite out ankles very easily. And then at that moment there was the encounter. A 15 foot Alligator sitting by the edge of the water staring at us. Needless to say, we got the heck out of there in a hurry. There were kids everywhere and some people approaching it. YIKES. So, then they had locked the doors to the buses so you had a whole hour to kill in the shops and restaurant (coincidence again). The bus ride home was awful, the driving was driving like a nut show....mostly in the middle of the road. The tour guide was trying to be funny but WASN'T...and then kept announcing that the tips were mandatory. I hate that when they tell me that I have to tip....I do anyways, but come on. So yeah, we had to tip the air boat driving for seeing 2 alligators, the guy running the show to take pictures with, and the driving and tour guide....all after paying $180 for the four of us to go on this excursion. We were let off at the Miami airport. Our flight was out of FLL airport. So the cheaper route was going in a cab, the driver told my Husband that it would be 60-65 dollars and it was a meter.....wooo, when we got to FLL, the meter said "$79". What the heck....an $80 cab ride to the airport after a whole day of being ripped off. Totally unimpressed. So then we had 6.5 hours left to wait for our flight home. Dinner at the airport, snacks on the plane....what a money grabb. Live and learn....next time I'll be a whole heck of a lot smarter.
To sum it up. It was a nice cruise. We got to do alot. The ports were Americanized, so we didn't get to see alot of culture. The excursions seemed to be dissappointing...and I'm afraid to say it.....we will search for a "Royal Caribbean" cruise next time. I just found they had better service and friendlier people on board. Even the excursions were better. Royal had city tours that were only around $25 a person and that way you got to see more of the port rather than a gated off area for which to shop in.
I hope this review helps you make your decision. The Valor was a nice ship, but there is better out there.