Almost immediately, the inaugural dance begins. First up? A two-night ceremonial cruise to the Bahamas that departs on December 15. Roughly half of the passengers onboard will be "regular" guests, the other half media folks, travel agents and VIPs. Upon its return on December 17, Katie Couric, co-host of NBC News' "Today," will handle godmothering duties as the ship is officially inaugurated. Carnival Valor will then undergo customary Coast Guard inspections before heading out on its first "real" cruise, a seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyage calling at Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. The ship, which homeports in Miami, will sail alternating seven-night Caribbean itineraries year-round; Western Caribbean trips will visit Belize City, Isla Roatan, George Town and Cozumel.
Curious about the ship itself? Keep an eye out for Cruise Critic's "sneak preview," which will launch later this month. But we can tell you that like its older Conquest-class siblings Carnival Conquest and Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor features a plethora of big-ship amenities -- 22 lounges and bars, 4 swimming pools, a 214-foot water slide and a 13,300-square-foot health club, just to name a few. One highlight is its theme of American heroism: The One Small Step Dance Club celebrates astronaut Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, while the ship's two main dining rooms feature themes revolving around American presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.