Sail Date: 03/10/13
Just returned from my first ever Carnival Cruise yesterday (3/17/13) and felt the need to share my experience. The easiest way to do this is to break down the major components:
FOOD: EXCELLENT food. Again, EXCELLENT food. Much better then Royal Caribbean, especially the room service. I don't know if you have cruised before and if you have, if you have taken advantage of the room service, but my boyfriend and I are daily room service abusers! They actually served real food as opposed to just snacks or finger foods. From hot pastrami, corn beef, or BLT sandwiches to cold salads, tuna, chicken, and decadent desserts cheese cake, fruit, etc. You also have your choice of juices all delivered in a timely fashion. The continental breakfast I thought was much better then the buffet only because of the lox (there was no lox in the morning buffet at least that I saw) and because of this we ordered breakfast every morning. The drinks were all made well especially the martinis (visit Kate at the bar near the One Step Night Club) and the Long Island Iced Teas. Free ice cream all day and night if your into that sort of thing. We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants although we did hear good things about the Steak House from a few of our neighbors. The formal dining hall was pleasant and I HIGHLY recommend the 'My Time Dining' as opposed to a scheduled time. Our food was never cold (a lot of of reviewers seemed to experience cold food) however 2 out of the 7 days we did wait an exceptionally long time for out food to arrive. It was hot, just took a long time. Wait staff was pleasant and fun.
ROOMS: We stayed in a balcony room on the 6th desk towards the back of the ship. Room was clean with plenty of storage space (3 closets, a desk with 5 drawers, under bed storage, 2 night stands). We had a king sized bed and a couch that pulled out into a bed if needed. The bedding was SO comfortable. The bathroom was clean and our house keeper was excellent. The balcony was a must as after spending a full day on any of the islands, it is nice to be able to relax outside with out the hustle and noise of the common areas. Few people were using ipods or stereos on their balconies, my boyfriend and I included. Some blast the music a little to loud but nothing a quick yell can't solve! Clean towels provided multiple times a day. Of course there is a safe, TV, hair dryer, shaving mirrors, laundry line in shower for hanging clothes or towels as well as complimentary toothpaste. During late night deck parties, we could hear the music from out room but NEVER past mid-night.
CREW: The crew was pleasant, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable about the islands. Not overly friendly yet not cold either. We did have an issue with one of the employees at the Pixels picture gallery but other then that everyone was very nice. They are very persistent when it comes to the drinks but hey, your on vacation right? Drink up!
SHIP LAYOUT: This is the reason why I am giving this 4 stars as opposed to 5. When I cruised Royal, by the second day I knew my way around the ship with my eyes closed, however, this was not the case with the Valor. On the last day, I still had no clue how to get down to 0 deck or really find anything except for Lido. In order to reach a few places you have to go down or up to a different deck, walk through a different deck, and then go back down or up. This was extremely annoying when trying to reach a certain place by a certain time to make a particular activity. There is a laundry room on each floor so if you are looking to pack light, this is perfect for you! $3.00 per wash and $3.00 per dry just make sure you bring you own quarters as there is no change machine in the laundry room. There is an iron which you can use free of charge.
ENTERTAINMENT: The activities on board were fun and we took advantage of a lot of different things such as the Sports Trivia, Deck Parties, Comedy Shows, Charades, Mini Golf, Casino, and others. We did not go to any of the shows but there was always something to do with time to take a quick nap in between.
POOLS: The Valor has a few different pools and Jacuzzis on board as well as a water slide. The Jacuzzis always seemed to be full so we steered clear of those (a lot of kids) however there was a salt water pool in the adults only section which we took advantage of a few times. We really did not spend a lot of time swimming on the ship as you will find yourself at a beach almost everyday when visiting the islands.
EXCURSIONS: We only booked one excursion through Carnival (Catamaran and Sea Turtle Snorkel in Barbados) which was worth the $70 per person. Especially with the free rum punch! The rest of the islands we toured on our own and ended up saving a lot of money. If you want to see more of the islands I recommends doing your research before cruising and hiring your own taxis. Don't be afraid to haggle to get a lower price. If the first guy won't budge with his price, look elsewhere. There are a million cabbies looking to take your money and you can always find a good deal. If you are traveling to St. Lucia, look for STEVE (drives a van with chrome rims and a diamond Mercedes emblem - Tell him Laura and Pete sent you! ) as he gave us the ultimate St. Lucia tour for an awsome price! St. Marteen, def visit Orient Beach and Maho Beach (near the airport)!
All in all this was an very fun cruise and I enjoyed every second of it! If you have the chance, don't pass this one up! The islands are great with plenty to do and the best scenery around! I don't think I took one bad picture. One national geo shot after another! Will def cruise with Carnival again. Great people and like they say, it is the FUN ship!