Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers
Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Valor
by Patrick Seely
Eastern Caribbean
February 13, 2005

I cruised with my wife and 13 year old daughter. This is the 5th cruise for my wife and I and the 4th for my daughter. All have been on Carnival. As a family we have sailed the Triumph (2002), Victory (2003), Glory (2004) and Valor. My wife and I were able to ditch junior for a 4-day cruise on the Sensation in 2003.

OK, on to the review....

Day 1 (Sunday Embarkation)
We arrived at the port around 11:15 am. Check-in was a breeze! We waited in line no longer than 10 minutes. I've heard horror stories about nightmarish check-ins but I've yet to experience one. Maybe it's because we always arrive early and miss the crowds.

We gathered our S&S cards and were on the ship by 12:15. First, a quick trip to our cabin to check out the digs for the next week. The upgrade fairy was kind as we booked an inside guarantee on the Riviera and were upgraded to an inside on the Verandah deck (cabin #8328). The cabin was in excellent shape having only been used a dozen or so times previously. The room did not seem crowded even when all 3 of us were there. My daughter slept in a bunk that pulled down from the ceiling.

Day 2 (Monday, Valentine's Day-Nassau)
We arrived in Nassau right on time. We were off the ship early (around 9:00 a.m.) since we only had until 1:30 to be back on the ship due to the 2:00 pm departure. This is one of my few complaints. Anything earlier than a 4:00 departure and the day seems very rushed.

We caught a cab to Cable Beach. It was about a 15-20 minute ride. The driver dropped us off at Wyndahm Hotel & Casino. We just walked right through the lobby and casino to the beach. I walked down to the Radisson which is right next door (the beach was a little bigger) and set up shop and was soon chased off by a Radisson employee asking my room number. I told him I didn't have one but planned on buying some drinks and lunch. It did not matter. No biggie! Back to the Wyndham we went. It was very nice. The pool was big and warm. My daughter especially appreciated this because the Atlantic Ocean was really cold. It must have been because she is not a kid that is bothered by cold water. We shopped at the pier on the way back.

Day 3 (Tuesday, Fun Day at Sea)
Caught some rays on the deck and ate like a king.

Day 4 (Wednesday St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.)
Since we stopped in Nassau before St. Thomas everyone on the ship had to clear customs. This entailed waiting in a 25 minute line and showing your passport to a U.S. Customs Official. They do this by deck through luck of the draw. However, if you need/want to get off early don't wait for your deck to be called. Just get in line as soon as they start calling decks. All in all - it was pretty painless.

We caught a cab to downtown Charlotte Amalie for a couple of hours of shopping. I would recommend skipping the Havensight Mall at the dock if you're shopping for jewelry. The competition downtown makes for better prices. Our favorite place is Imperial Jewelers.

With the shopping done our next destination was Trunk Bay on St. John. Since we were downtown already we caught the ferry ride there instead of at Red Hook. The ride took 45 minutes and was pretty smooth. A 20 minute cab ride later and we were at Trunk Bay. Fine white sand, warm water, and a gentle breeze made it as beautiful as I had heard and seen on TV. It was not very crowded as there were only 3 ships in port that day. Trunk Bay is part of the National Park Service so it costs $4 per person. Kids under 16 get in free. There is a snack shop, lockers and showers. A word of caution. All of these close at 4:30 p.m. (ship time). We stayed until 5:00 p.m. and found the rest rooms locked up tight. The shower stalls were open but the water had been shut off.

Day 5 (Thursday, St. Maarten N.A.)
We caught the water taxi to downtown Phillipsburg. My daughter had her hair braided at a salon at a cost of $2 per braid. A little more shopping and it was off to the beach.

We were looking for something that was family appropriate and decided on Dawn Beach. The cab ride was about 20 minutes. The driver dropped us off at a place called Mr. Busby's Beach Bar & Restaurant. We rented two lounge chairs and an umbrella for $10. It was really warm so I decided to get a cold one. I noticed everyone was drinking a beer called Carib so I decided to order a bottle. The bartender says that will be 75 cents and my first thought was "What kind of swill am I about to drink?" I was pleasantly surprised...it was delicious. Tasted like Corona. So I decided to have 5 or 6 more. The lunch menu was pretty pricy at Mr. Busby's so we walked down the beach and had lunch at a place called Beau Beau's. The food was good and not too expensive. All three of us got out the door for around $35 including tip.

The beach was white sand and the water was warm with a lot of fish that would come right up to you in the shallow water. The peddlers were a bit annoying but moved on with a polite but firm "no thank you". There were a couple of topless women on the beach but no male nudity. Saw quite a few people from the Valor. Not much in the way of water activities though (i.e., water trampoline, banana boats, parasailing, etc..). All in all I would give it a big thumbs up!

Did I mention the 75 cent beers?

Day 6 (Friday) / Day 7 (Saturday) Fun Days at Sea
See Day 3 above.


Food
We were assigned table #170 for the 6:15 sitting in the Lincoln Dining Room. The food and service was very good as per usual in our experience with Carnival. The menu has changed since our last cruise. Not a complete over-haul but tweaked - some new main courses and deserts. They still had the standards such as Pumpkin Soup, lobster tail and filet mignon. If anyone has any specific questions, I will try to answer them. One thing we noticed was that the nightly "show" put on by the wait staff was later than in any of our previous cruises. This made it impossible to see the wait staff show and get to the Ivanhoe Theatre early enough to get good seats that evening's entertainment. This put us in the unfortunate position of having to choose between the two. We chose getting good seats in the Ivanhoe. This was a bit disappointing as we really enjoy the singing and dancing shows performed by the wait staff.

Rosie's Restaurant on the Lido deck had the usual fare: burgers, fries, pizza, chicken breast sandwiches etc.. My favorite is the roasted turkey sandwiches on a baguette at the deli. I think my total for the week was 9 sandwiches. They also had an Asian corner called the "The Oriental", also very good. I did not try the fish and chips restaurant (it would have interfered with my record setting turkey sandwich consumption) but my daughter said it was very good.

Every day on the Lido deck for lunch they had something called the "Taste of Nations". A selection from a different nation's cuisine was featured each day. Examples include; French, American, Caribbean, Indian, Japanese, and Chocolate (yes, I know Chocolate is not a country). It was an incredible spread of all things chocolate. Not to be missed.

Supper Club - Didn't try it.

Entertainment
It was simply the best of any of our 5 cruises.

Vegas Style Shows
There were two shows. The first was "Nightclub Express" featuring songs from famous night clubs in their heyday such as the Cotton Club (jazz), Studio 54 (disco) and so on.

The 2nd show should not be missed. It is called "Far From Over" and is a tribute to the music of the 1980's. You will hear hits form the various artists that dominated the charts in the 80's. It also includes a performance by a couple of break dancers that will bring you to your feet. Take my word for it and do not miss this show. By far the best Vegas-style show we have ever seen on a cruise.

Comedians
There were three on the cruise: Al Romero, Allyn Ball and Jim Brick. I did not see Al Romero so I cannot comment on his act. Allyn Ball and Jim Brick were very funny! We saw the family shows and my face hurt from laughing so hard. I did not see the "adult only" shows but I'm sure they would have been great. The "adult only" shows do not start until after midnight which made it tough for me to attend.

Other Entertainers
There was a comedian/juggler named Dana Tison. He was very good also. The bit he does with a "volunteer" from the crowd is hilarious (as long as you are not the "volunteer".

A singer named Yolanda Barber (from Pittsburgh, PA) also performed and was quite good. A word of warning here. She likes to choose people from the audience to perform with her. So if you don't want to be part of the show, I would advise not sitting near the stage. The woman will not take "no" for an answer if she picks you.

There was hypnotist named Glenn Miller who also performed. He put 15-20 people on stage and tried to hypnotize them. My daughter was one of the volunteers but she was not hypnotized. I think kids are harder to hypnotize. There were probably 4 or 5 people that were truly hypnotized out of the lot. His show was probably the weakest of the cruise, IMHO.

They also had an Elvis impersonator named Eddie Miles. He was pretty good. He had the King's on stage mannerisms down pat and his voice was really good. I only caught the 2nd half of his show and regretted not seeing the whole show. He only performed 1 show.

There also was a band called "Music Society that performed in the Eagles Lounge. They are 4 guys from the Philippines that play all kinds of music. One night they played all country music, another night it was 70's music and another it was all Beatles music. Every night it was something different. Don't miss these guys!

Cruise Director
Josh Riffe (pronounced like wife) was the CD. He was funny and quick witted. I really liked him. He was not in love with hearing himself over the speaker system like some of the other CDs we have sailed with. He kept the announcements to a minimum. He was out and about at the Captain's Party and very friendly.

Camp Carnival/Kids' Activities
My daughter did not attend many Camp Carnival activities after the 1st day or two. Once she made friends with another girl her age they hung out together. The Valor has a teen hangout called "The Caboose". It is a combination arcade/dance club. She really enjoyed it as no adults were allowed.

Service
Very good. From the room steward to the wait staff to the bartenders everyone was very friendly.

Gym
Awesome! The equipment is in great shape and plentiful. I counted at least 12 treadmills. The treadmills had a TV that you could plug your headphones into and watch any of the ship's channels. It made my 5 mile runs go by fast. (How else do you think I could justify 9 turkey sandwiches in 1 week?)

That about covers it. Sorry to be so brief..LOL. If anyone has any questions - fire away and I will try to answer them.


Pat
Running Dad