My family and I arrived a day early in Miami and stayed at the Embassy Suites Airport Hotel, which was a nice hotel; it was our second cruise on Carnival. I was almost dreading the check-in procedure for the Carnival Valor, but it went very quickly - the new self-service computers for check-in are terrific; we were on-board within 15 minutes of arriving at the port. And the Carnival facility seems new and is well organized.
We all had inside cabins, lowest level, aft. Remarkably, the noise from the engines was not a problem when arriving in ports (I thought I'd be awakened early at every port, but not so). Some things I liked about the ship were the efficient cabins (plenty of storage room; nice and clean) and the shows (we saw a stand-up comedy act, and an 80's Tribute; the lead female singer belted out almost every song like a Taylor Dane wannabe!).
We had room service a few mornings, as we preferred starting our day relaxing with coffee, and the continental More
breakfast was good. The breakfast buffet was OK but could have more higher quality offerings. Dinner service was, at times, a bit spotty, as our waiter seemed to be without his assistant 90% of the time - more staff shortages??). Nothing to ruin the cruise, though, and overall we liked the food.
The weather was beautiful all six days with low humidity - loved it!
One problem occurred while waiting to get back on ship in Grand Cayman. It would have been nice to spend more time in port after our morning at the beach, but the tender line was so long by 2 pm that we headed over to queue up (the ship left ~4 pm). Too bad, as it's no fun spending almost an hour waiting in a disorganzed line to board a tender instead of enjoying town.
Speaking of disorganized lines, the port of Ochos Rios seems to have one excellent dock (complete with shops and a beach; a P&O ship was docked there) and another dock that cargo ships use - guess which one we docked at? If the very long wait for our shore excursion driver to be allowed inside the gates (prison fencing)wasn't bad enough, when a fight broke out between taxi drivers and a port employee, it became insulting (every cruiser with a phone was taking pictures of the fight).
I was looking forward to again spending some time in the "Serenity" area, which is always full. It was anything but "serene". Between chair hogs holding chairs for hours every morning so dozens of people had nowhere to sit and no staff addressing this problem, to the band playing loudly (located right next to the Serenity area. Although the band was great, just too loud for a "serene" area), it was disappointing. This is a real shame, as it's a nice area to spend time in.
We had self-disembarkation, which worked extremely well except that very few crew were around to provide directions to get off the ship - even a few posters with arrows would have helped.
These are just a few things I observed/experienced that could easily be taken care of by Valor's staff. Despite these snags, it was a good cruise. Less