My sisters and I had a blast on this cruise. We enjoyed the ship and the ports. My first cruise was on Carnival and I was left with a so-so opinion of the line. As this was my seventh cruise, I now realize part of the problem on the first cruise was I didn't know enough to maximize the experience. I am so glad I decided to give Carnival another try!
Embarkation - arrived at the port around 1pm. Absolutely loved the self check in terminals. By 1:30 we were seated on the Lido deck having lunch. Headed down to our cabin around 2pm and dropped off our bags. Headed back up to the Serenity area to wait for the safety drill. We hadn't even set sail yet and my sisters were already loving it!
Cabin - this was my first balcony cabin. I was not sure if it would make any significant difference in my cruise experience. It was nice to step outside and immediately check the weather. We enjoyed looking out at the ocean or having a glass of wine out there. The biggest disappointment was the cabin was just as a small as inside which made it interesting with three people. Our cabin steward was Chantai and he was absolutely amazing! He introduced himself the first day and was quick to get the room set for three vs two. He always greeted us and kept the room clean. The best thing he did was get a cork out of a wine bottle for us. We had brought three bottles but forgot a corkscrew so we bought a cheap one at a liquor store in Key West. It held up for the first two bottles but broke off in bottle number three. My sister wrote him a note asking if he could get us a corkscrew. We came back to find the bottle had been opened. We definitely gave him an extra tip!
Dining - we ate five dinners and one breakfast in the dining room. We had anytime seating and only waited for a table on the first formal night. All of our waiters did a great job. All the food was good but a few highlights were the crab cake, prime rib, lobster, bacon mac n cheese, and of course the chocolate melting cake. I told my sisters to expect something on par with Applebees, TGIFriday's, or O'Charley's and no one was disappointed.
Entertainment - we went to all the evening shows. I will say the sight of the female dancers in thongs with their bare bottoms exposed was surprising as it was not considered an adults only show. The comedians had family and adults only shows. We opted to go to the family ones. I appreciated the distinction and the opportunity to avoid the 'dirty version'. We also liked the quest, the marriage show, the gender challenge, and the movie theme trivia held in the theater. I was not overly impressed with the cruise director Goose.
Ship - we loved the adults only Serenity deck. It was wonderfully kid free. This is where we spent the majority of our deck time. We spent a little bit of time in the Lindy Hop Piano Bar but it was really small and crowded. We avoided the One Small Step Dance Club simply because it was freezing in there! The Eagle's Aft Lounge is where the comedians take the stage but we missed a couple shows because it filled up quickly. We did utilize the library for a few books and even checked out a board game. The library hours were posted in the daily schedule. It was slightly confusing to remember which way to go to get to the dining rooms on deck three (aft elevators for Washington, mid-ship elevators for Lincoln). On deck four, you could cut through the Lincoln dining room to get to the front of the ship.
Ports - In Key West, we booked our own excursion with Fury Snorkel. We were able to do the excursion and walk around town. We visited the Little White House and the southernmost point. We also did some shopping and were back on the boat in plenty of time. In Grand Cayman, our main goal was to go to the beach and we opted for a $15 per person mini tour of the island with drop off and pick up at Sea Grape. The tour included the requisite visit to Hell with enough time to take some pictures and mail postcards for .25 each. The driver dropped us off for two hours at the beach which was fine with us. We had time to shop before getting back on the ship. In Jamaica we opted for the ship excursion for the bobsled and Dunn's River Falls. The trip up Mystic Mountain was beautiful and the bobsled ride was awesome (I never hit the brakes). After the ride, we did a little shopping, listened to the music and watched the dancers, had a Red Stripe, and watched the hummingbirds. Then it was back down the mountain and on to the falls. I made it over 3/4 of the way up but my sisters made it all the way. The driver dropped us off in the Taj Majal area to shop after the falls and we opted to walk back to the port.
Unfortunately Saturday morning came and we had to get off the ship. We chose to carry our own luggage and were off the ship by 7:50am. We really enjoyed the Valor and I would consider booking another cruise on this ship. My sisters are already talking about wanting to go on another cruise so I think I got them hooked. I will definitely be sailing with Carnival again.