If you're looking for a fun, affordable cruise with fewer sea days and floating resort-like amenities, Carnival Valor might be your perfect match.
The 2,980-passenger ship stands out among its fleetmates with port-intensive itineraries (one sea day versus two on a five-night sailing, for example), and, like its fleetmates, embraces the "no shoes, no shirt, no problems" mantra with multiple pools, Tiki-style bars, a three-deck-high water slide and handful of complimentary dining options.
Many of its bars and restaurants were added during a May 2016 refurb -- part of Carnival's $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 investment. The line's much-loved Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina are now open for lunch, while the BlueIguana Tequila Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar, RedFrog Pub and Alchemy Bar serve even more flowing drinks from morning to night. Those who've sailed on the ship before also will notice the new Cherry on Top candy shop and changes to the kids' club.
One of Carnival Valor's most appealing attributes is that it doesn't seem to draw one particular type of traveler over another. Friends can let loose, families can bond and couples can play without the ship ever feeling like a spring break party or playground. All ages and backgrounds come together at the main pool, outdoor movie nights and various deck games like Ping-Pong and cornhole (beanbag toss).
The service is also some of the friendliest and most attentive we've experienced on a mainstream cruise ship. Every crew member -- from the cabin stewards and guest services receptionists to the bartenders and waiters -- embodied the line's "Fun Ship" culture and made sure everyone was satisfied and having a good time.
Another reason we fell in love with this ship? Its decor pays tribute to American history in a fun, creative way.
Unlike some of the line's older ships that flaunt trippy colors and sculptures, Carnival Valor doesn't come across as ostentatious. Floors and cocktail tables are American flag print, and the trim is decked out with tiny Liberty Bells. Passing through the atrium, hallways and lounges almost feels like a scavenger hunt. See how many U.S. presidents, landmarks and major events you can identify in the artwork -- keep your eyes peeled for the Apollo 11 moonwalk!