Hats off to great staff: Felipe (cruise director), Kristi/Andy/Erik in Washington Dining Table 311, and Andy in housekeeping.
I have been on 24 cruises (all with Carnival, and dating back to 1995), and though I was just on Valor for NYE, we elected to return on the same ship (great cruise director, Felipe) solely for this new itinerary for Valor. Of all the ports of call, I had only visited St. Thomas prior to this cruise.
I had been to San Juan before as a cruise stop, but never before as a point of embarkation. We flew down on Saturday, spent the night at the Best Western (comfortable amenities, great price, close to Walgreens, beach, and several fast food restaurants). We arrived at the port about 11am on Sunday. We were allowed into the VIP area (platinum guests) immediately, where we were surprised by sandwiches, cookies, pastries, and drinks. (The other embarkation VIP waiting areas we've visited have never had this before.) Check-in was very smooth and quick. I'd guess by 11:30 or 12, we were allowed to board.