For evening entertainment, Valor relies upon production shows, comedy performances and audience participation events. Valor's two musical shows, "Nightclub Express" and "Far From Over," engage the audience with classic Broadway-style fare. Talented lead singers belt out popular tunes, backed up by competent dancers who change costumes and songs without missing a beat.
The shows take place in the Ivanhoe Theater, which rises up three levels on decks 3, 4 and 5 forward. Some poles affect the sightlines, and the seats on the third level are not sufficiently tiered to mitigate obstructed views if someone tall sits in front of you. Whether the acoustics or the sound system is to blame, the often-too-loud and tinny-sounding music frequently detracts from the talented singers.
For two nights each -- a total of four nights -- two pairs of comics deliver laughs at the Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez. Since Lopez signed on as curator, the comics are often better known and funnier than previous onboard funnymen. At the 7:30p.m. show, each comic pitches a 20-minute family-friendly set of jokes. At the late-evening adults-only shows, the comics alternate, with one headlining at 9:15 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. and the other at 10:15 p.m. That's 16 comedy sets in a week, with 14 of them on our cruise presenting fresh material. The Punchliner Comedy Club is a big draw, particularly with the cruisers in their 20s, 30s and 40s, often with standing-room-only crowds. It's held in the Eagles Lounge, a mix of tables and comfortable banquettes.
That's the good news. The bad news: Four cruise nights feature no prime entertainment. Although the juggler at the Ivanhoe Theater is appealing, his act isn't memorable. Other entertainment evenings consist of the sailaway party, audience participation shows like the Game of Love and the passenger talent show.
You can also entertain yourself at the ship's various lounges. Try your skill at karaoke at Paris Hot, sip wine at Jeanne's Wine Bar, sing along at the Lindy Hop piano bar, and dance at One Small Step disco. The atrium's bar, Deck 3, offers some seating and decent standing-room-only views of the afternoon and evening entertainment from the railings on the floor above.
Bronx Bar, the popular sports bar, is unusually small, and Winston's Cigar Bar, which allows smoking, is, by contrast, much larger and less utilized, especially during the day. At night, Winston's offers a variety of live music, including classical, Latin and pop tunes by a duo that also performs in the atrium, which is a nice place to sip a drink, people-watch and enjoy various singers, musicians and dancers.
A singer and backup musicians perform in King Promenade outside the Shogun Casino. The casino itself offers rows of slot machines and table games, including roulette, blackjack, poker and craps.
At night, watch a movie under the stars on Carnival Seaside Theater's LED screen, visible on decks 9 and 10. During the day, you can grab a deck chair and take in a taped video of a concert. Additional daytime activities run the gamut of traditional cruise fun, from trivia contests, salsa dance competitions and putt-putt challenges to bean bag contests, Ping-Pong, shuffleboard and volleyball games.
Most of the public rooms are both easily accessible and comfortable, with a few glaring exceptions. A nightly traffic jam occurs when diners attempt to get to the Washington dining room for dinner and afterward from there to the Ivanhoe Theater for the show. Although both are on Deck 3, you must walk across on Deck 5 and then go back down two levels. The circuitous route is necessary because the ship's galley is in the middle.
Off the atrium on Deck 3 are the reception and shore tour desks. Most of the time staff levels keep the waits short.
The shops include a jewelry store, as well as a sundries shop that stocks over-the-counter meds, makeup, sweatshirts and other items you might have forgotten. To reach the small Internet cafe, you must enter through Winston's with its smoky air. Wi-Fi is available, so that might be a better bet. For Internet use on any device, pricing is 75 cents per minute, or you can buy a package: 45 minutes for $29, 120 minutes for $59, 240 minutes for $89 or 480 minutes for $159.
Self-service launderettes are located on decks 1, 2 and 6 through 9. They are equipped with washers, dryers, an iron and ironing board, and vending machines to purchase detergent.
The two pools on Deck 9 feature whirlpool spas. To get a chaise lounge (unpadded) on a sea day, arrive early, before breakfast. As is frequently the case, passengers claim these most-wanted spots with a towel and come back later. The 214-foot twisting waterslide on Deck 10 ends in a small pool, and Camp Carnival has a wading pool on Deck 12 near its facility. Serenity, the adults-only lounge area, spans decks 12 and 14. The lower level features comfortable chairs with footstools, as well as a couch under an awning, while the upper level is furnished with chaise lounges with folding hoods for shade.
The Steiner Elemis spa, Deck 11, offers a range of massages and treatments from skilled technicians. Unlike spas on other ships, there is no area to relax while waiting for a service. Instead you sit in an empty chair in the adjacent salon and listen to the chatter of stylists and the buzz of blow dryers.
At the gym, also on Deck 11, you can work out with free weights or on treadmills, bikes and other exercise machines. You can also sweat through spinning classes and stretch at yoga for extra fees.
Other fitness options include a jogging track on Deck 11 -- nine circuits equal a mile -- and basketball and volleyball courts. There's a golf driving cage, and instruction is offered through the ship's onboard golf program.