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Carnival Valor
October 21, 2012
Making Lemonade: Hurricane Sandy

by Keith Henderson

We sailed on the Carnival Valor leaving on October 21st, 2012 out of Miami, Florida as a 6-day cruise to the western Caribbean. The cruise left Miami with planned stops at Key West, Montego Bay, and Grand Cayman before returning to Miami. It was our 5th Carnival cruise (19th overall). We have sailed on NCL 13 times and Royal Caribbean once.

This was our first cruise where the weather forced an itinerary change. Due to tropical storm Sandy, our ports of call of Grand Cayman and Montego Bay were changed to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico.

We had booked this cruise because of its itinerary and price. I had always wanted to visit Key West and this ship had a scheduled full day stop there. The Valor is a sister ship of the Conquest which we had sailed on during its inaugural year in 2003, so we would be familiar with the layout of the ship.

Arrival in Miami

We flew into Miami the day before our cruise arriving in the late afternoon. We had booked a room at the Comfort Suites Miami Airport North located in Miami Springs. We found that they offered a free shuttle from the airport to their location and also to the Miami cruise port which we thought would be a time saver. Once we picked up our bags, we called the hotel and they were there to pick us up within 10 minutes. The ride to the hotel took about 10 minutes.
We had a deluxe queen suite with 2 queen beds and plenty of space in a room of 486 square feet. Our rate was $129 for the night and included a hot buffet breakfast in the morning. When we checked in, we told them that we needed a shuttle to the cruise port. They signed us in for the 10:45 am shuttle to the cruise port and our ship.

The hotel is not in the most scenic area as it is on the edge of the airport, but it served the purpose of an evening’s stay before our cruise. Across the street was a Valero gas station with beer, soda, and water along with snack foods. For dinner, we had a few options there within a few blocks of the hotel. There was a sports pub, a Honduran restaurant, a Peruvian restaurant, and a diner called the Airport Diner. We chose the diner and had a very nice meal there. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Valero to pick up a 12-pack of Diet Coke to bring with us to the ship the next day.

Day 1 – Embarkation Day
It was a sunny day with temps in the mid 80’s F. After our breakfast, we checked out of our room and took the hotel’s shuttle to the Miami cruise port leaving at 10:45 am. The shuttle had passengers for the Valor as well as a few for the Norwegian Pearl.

A few days prior to our cruise, Carnival had sent us an e-mail asking to not arrive at the terminal prior to 1:30 pm, but since we had to check out of the hotel, we would take our chances arriving earlier. Carnival uses the cruise terminals D and E which are located on North Cruise Boulevard at the port of Miami on Dodge Island. It only took 15 minutes for the shuttle to reach the cruise port after leaving the hotel.

As we drove over the bridge from the Bayside area and into the cruise port area we saw that three ships were in port that day. The Valor and the Pearl were on the left and on the right was the Aida Luna. Our shuttle stopped to drop off a few guests at the Pearl first and a few minutes later we pulled up to the terminal for the Valor. Porters were waiting for us after they had just finished with the offloading of the previous cruise’s passengers.

When we walked into our terminal at 11:15 am, there was a very short line for security. They scanned our passports and wrote down a number on our boarding pass. We went through the metal detectors before heading up an escalator to a large lobby area. From our assigned number, we were told to get into line for the green sector to get our keycards. As we got into line, we were handed a plastic card with zone number 8 on it. When we reached the end of the line we were greeted by an agent who looked at the number assigned to us on our boarding pass. She then spoke into her headset giving the number. A minute later, someone behind a counter waved to us. When we walked up to the counter, the agent there already had our cards. I had previously registered on line and provided all of our information, so we only needed to get our keycards. In the terminal hall, there were several hundred other passengers waiting to board. We sat down until they called our zone number about 10 minutes later. We walked to the door leading to the pier. It was here that they took our photos to match with our keycards. The whole process was very smooth.

As we boarded, there were signs that stated that our cabins would not be available until 1:30 pm. We went topside to the Lido deck for lunch. After a while we started to walk around and explore the ship. By 1:00 pm, they announced we could go to our cabins. Ours was an inside cabin (room 2357) which was near the midship stairwell. Two of our checked-in bags arrived just before the muster drill which we quickly unpacked. We went to our assigned station for the muster drill at 3:30 pm. We did not have to bring our lifejackets to the muster. While we were in the shade, it was still hot and humid as everyone had to stand close to each other and listen to the instructions. After the drill, we headed back topside to find a spot in the aft Serenity area for the 4:00 pm sail away.

We pulled away from pier around 4:15 pm. Our ship had to turn around in order to head out the channel to the open sea. We sailed past the Norwegian Pearl which pulled away from its pier after we left the channel. On the Lido deck, they had a DJ playing music which was just not the same as having a Caribbean style music band playing. Not hearing “Hot, Hot, Hot” or some Jamaican style music made us feel that something was missing.

For this cruise, we had chosen the “Your Time” dining option. For our dinner, we went to the Lincoln Restaurant, which was one of the two main dining rooms on the ship. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual.

The show for the evening was the “Welcome Aboard” show in the Ivanhoe Theatre at 10:15 pm. Earlier in the evening, they had trivia contest, a game show, and then a few games of bingo in the theater. The Ivanhoe Theatre holds about 1,400 people and has a variety of seating with most having good views, but there were poles to contend with. The “Welcome Aboard” show was hosted by the Cruise director, Felipe Couto. It started with the traditional “Carnival Fun” opening number with singers and dancers. After that, Felipe came out and introduced himself and welcomed us to the ship. This was followed by two comedians, Al Romero and Larry Omaha. This was our third Carnival cruise in the last two years and each time Al Romero was one of the comedians. While he is funny, it becomes less humorous hearing the same jokes each time. It is the bad luck of the draw. We thought Larry’s laid back humor was amusing. After the show, they had a DJ providing dance music in the disco nightclub (One Small Step) which they had every evening.

Day 2 – Key West
It was a beautiful day with partly sunny skies and temps in the mid 80’s F with a nice breeze.
The Valor was docked at pier B in Key West and we were the only ship in port that day.

We had breakfast and then headed off the ship. We walked a few blocks towards a large red brick building known as the Custom House. We came across three different trolley tours that had sales offices there. We chose the City View Trolley ($21 per person) which had hop-on/hop-off service on its one hour loop of the sites in Key West. The driver, Jamey, pointed out buildings and things of interest as we went around the area. We passed the Audubon House, the Southernmost point marker, Hemingway’s house, US 1 mile zero marker, and Truman’s Little White House. We got off at the stop for the Hemingway house and after taking a few pictures, we walked up Whitehead Street to take a picture of the Mile Zero Marker for US1 (the intersection of Fleming and Whitehead streets). Being born in northern Maine, I have been to Fort Kent in Maine where US1 starts, so it was a kick to see the other end of US1.

We then walked over a block to Duval Street to do a short pub crawl. While on Duval Street, we paid a visit to the local Hard Rock Cafe. It was my 62nd different Hard Rock site to visit. Next, we stopped at Irish Kevin’s which had the coldest beer we have had in a long time. They had a singer/guitarist playing inside, but he only knew one Irish song?!? After awhile, we headed out to finally arrive at Sloppy Joe’s for a quick pint before heading back to the ship by 3:30 all aboard. We did stop by a few shops on the way back. We sailed away at 4:30 pm. I thought Key West was a cool place. It reminded me of Venice Beach, Provincetown, Bourbon Street, and Lahaina in Maui all in one.

For dinner in the main dining rooms, the dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. We decided to go up to Rosie’s buffet instead. We were disappointed that only one food station was open compared to all the ones open during lunch. So there was a long slow line to pick out our food.

The evening’s entertainment in the Ivanhoe Theatre was a magic show with Rand Woodbury which we did not attend because we had seen him on a Carnival cruise we had taken last year. Instead we went to the casino stage area to listen to the band called Music Reality and play trivia games that included one called “Guess that 70’ Song”. It was hosted by Felipe, the CD and a lot of his team. It was a lot of fun as they played a few opening notes of songs and then afterwards, he would play the song and we would all sing along. It was a great time and the area was packed with people. It seemed odd that they used this area for live music and games since it was opposite the casino and the only seating was along the wall on the two sides of the stage. Also, the smell of cigarette smoke was everywhere. We wondered why they couldn’t use the large Winston room on the deck below which would have been perfect for these activities.

Since tomorrow was a sea day, we stayed up late. We went to the Punchliner Comedy Club to listen to Larry Omaha in the Eagles Lounge. The comedy club offered family friendly shows early in the evening and adult humor in the later hours. Again, we avoided seeing Al Romero.

Day 3 – Day at Sea
It was a mostly sunny day in the 80’s F and breezy. I went up to the Lido deck to get our morning teas around 8:30 am and was amazed to see that almost all of the chairs around the pool were empty and did not have the territory markings of chair hogs. But when we went up for breakfast an hour later, every chair had a towel, book, or flip flop covering it!! It did not seem that the crew was making any attempt at stopping chair hog activity. For a sea day, the breakfast buffet in Rosie’s was very crowded. We did find plenty of empty tables located on the second floor of Rosie’s that overlooked the aft part of the buffet area.

The Valor has 3 main pools. The Argonaut Pool is found mid-ship on the Lido deck. Also found mid-ship on the Panorama deck is the smaller Dolphin Pool. The Prometheus Pool is found aft on the Lido deck and has a retractable roof cover that is used when there is inclement weather.

Shortly after noon, the Captain came on the intercom to announce that we would have a change in our itinerary due to tropical storm Sandy that was heading towards Jamaica the next day. Instead of Grand Cayman and Montego Bay, we would be going to Costa Maya and then Cozumel in Mexico. It did not matter to us because we had been to both the Caymans and Jamaica on previous cruises. We had been to Cozumel before, but this would be the first time for us to see Costa Maya. Another bonus would be that the stops in the two Mexican ports would not have us leaving until 5:00 pm each day which was a few hours later than the planned stops in the other ports. Our only issue would be that we had arranged for a driver in Montego Bay to take us to a few sites around the area. I sent him an e-mail and he (Courtney Taylor) confirmed that he would refund our small deposit. We did feel bad for passengers that were looking forward to the ports that we would be avoiding due to the storm.

Later on in the afternoon, they put out revised listings of excursions for our new ports of call and they announced that the excursion desk would have extended hours. Anyone who had booked a shore excursion for Grand Cayman or Montego Bay would receive refunds.

In the afternoon they had pool side games, trivia games, and a Teddy Bear Workshop. They had a Captain’s Celebration on deck 5 promenade where you could meet the Captain and his staff near the casino. They had $1.00 off all drinks at any the bars on that deck from 05:00 pm to 08:00 pm. For dinner in the Main Dining Rooms, the dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. On the menu was lobster and prime rib which were very popular.

In the casino bar area, they had a “Guess that Motown Song” led by Felipe again. The place was packed and everyone had a great time singing the tunes together. The main show in the Ivanhoe Theatre was a stage show with the Valor singers and dancers called “Nightclub Express”. They sang and danced to songs from the 40’s to the 80’s. The show was okay. It seemed like the dancers were not totally in sync. We later found out that this group of dancers had just joined the ship a few weeks before. I am sure they will improve as the weeks go by.

Day 4 – Costa Maya, Mexico
At the start of the day it was raining, but it became a sunny day with temps close to 90 F and very humid. The Costa Maya cruise terminal area was built by Disney cruises. It is located near the small seaside town of Mahahual about 100 miles south of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. It is very close to the Mexican border with Belize.

We were docked at a very long pier and were the only ship in port. We arrived around 08:00 am ship’s time and had a planned departure time of 05:00 pm. The ship’s time did not change to the local central time, so while we anchored by 08:00 am, it was only 07:00 am local time. Everyone needed to remind themselves of watching the time based on the ship’s time so that they are not left at the pier waving goodbye to the ship sailing away.

The main attractions of Costa Maya are Mayan ruins that are one to two hours away from the port. The ship had several excursions offering visits to them. We decided to just walk off and visit the cruise terminal area. The walk off the pier was quite long especially under the hot sun. The terminal area had a variety of shops as well as a Carlos and Charlie’s and a Señor Frogs. There was a small pool area in the middle near the two bars. By the pier, they had a large pool area with dolphins where you could pay to swim with them. After an hour or so, we headed back to the ship.

The Mexican Peso is the official currency. One U.S. Dollar is equal to about 13 Mexican Pesos. All of the shops and bars accepted dollars and gave change in the same. Around noon, the Disney Magic arrived and pulled up to the pier opposite our ship. It was her scheduled stop there. After lunch, I headed up to the jogging track, but they had the entire area roped off as they were painting.

The sail away was at 05:00 pm. At 5:00 pm, they had a reception for Past VIFP Guests in the Ivanhoe Theatre. This was our first party since Carnival changed their past guest program where they only invited Gold, Platinum, and Diamond members. They offered free beers and punch drinks along with hors d’oeuvres. Felipe, the CD, welcomed everyone and introduced a few of the ship’s staff (the captain was busy with sail away). Then, they showed a small film about the history of Carnival and all of the ships they have had in their fleet. Everyone cheered whenever they saw one of the ships they had sailed on. Next came the tease where they asked if we would like a free cruise. After everyone cheered, they announced that we could buy raffle tickets that offered a free 7 day cruise. (Everyone groaned after that announcement)

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. For the evening entertainment in the Ivanhoe Theatre, they had the “Marriage Show”. They had 3 couples come up on stage and they had to answer embarrassing questions to win the big prize (a bottle of champagne). Felipe the host and the contestants made it a funny show to watch.

Day 5 – Cozumel, Mexico
It was a sunny day with temps in the high 80’s F and humid. Our stop in Cozumel started with an arrival around 8:00 am and scheduled departure of 5:00 pm. Again, the ship’s time is one hour ahead of the local time. We needed to keep that in mind. The ship docked at the pier area called Puerta Maya which was about 3 miles south of the city of San Miguel. We could see the Disney Magic was docked at a pier at the city. You could Playa del Carmen across the channel from Cozumel.

There is nothing really close to the outside of the Puerta Maya cruise terminal besides a few shops. To go anywhere, you needed to hire a taxi or rent a scooter. There were horse and carriage rides available as well. Around 11:00 am, the Carnival Triumph arrived and pulled into the pier opposite our ship. During the docking process, no one was allowed to go off the ship.

We saw a large Hard Rock Café guitar sign near the cruise terminal and took a walk. When we got to the small mall where the sign was located, we saw that the place was under construction. We were told that the Hard Rock at that location would not be open for a few months. There was a Harley Davidson shop there as well. We had already been to Hard Rock located in the city, so we just headed back to the shops in the cruise terminal area.

There were plenty of shops and bars within the cruise port area. We visited a few of the shops before returning to the ship to relax. Sail away was scheduled for 5:00 pm. All aboard was to be 4:30 pm, but at 5:00 pm they were making announcements for several people to call the front desk. By 5:30 pm, we sailed away.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. The main show for the evening was song and dance show called “Far From Over” which featured songs of the 80’s. We thought that this was the better of the two production shows on this cruise. In the casino bar area, Felipe and his team had the “Guess that 80’s song”. Again it was well attended with lots of participants.

Day 6 – Day at Sea
It was a mostly cloudy day. The temps were in the 80’s F with a nice breeze. As we went up for breakfast, we could see the coast of Cuba off to our right. During the day, we crossed paths with two other Carnival ships and then the Norwegian Pearl that was returning to Miami as well. As the day progressed, the seas become rougher. When we were on the deck 3 promenade in the late afternoon, we were pelted with sea spray.

Before dinner, we packed up our suitcases to get ready for tomorrow’s disembarkation. We had chosen to have the relaxed disembarkation since our flight was not until 5:00 pm the next day. Our instructions were that we had to have our luggage outside of our cabins (except for our carry-on with necessities) before midnight. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. We went up to Rosie’s for dinner instead of going to the dining room.

In the Ivanhoe Theatre was a show called “Carnival Legends” hosted by Felipe. He had fellow guests singing with the show dancers and singers.

They had the Punchliners Comedy Club in the Eagles Lounge with Al Romero and Larry Omaha having early family shows and then adult only shows later on in the evening. We went one of the later shows with Larry and he was funny.

During the night, the seas became rougher due to the after effects of Hurricane Sandy. There was constant banging against our cabin’s wall from something rolling back and forth all through the night.

Disembarkation Day – Miami
It was an overcast morning with temperatures in the low 80’s F. We were scheduled to arrive in Miami by 8:00 am. Our instructions had told us that we needed to be out of our cabin by 8:30 am. This was to allow the cabin stewards to have their cabins cleaned and ready for new passengers later that day. By 7:45 am, the ship was in the Miami harbor and was docking by 8:00 am. In the same channel already docked were the Norwegian Pearl and Carnival Liberty. We were followed by the Aida Luna that docked on the other side of the island. We headed up to Rosie’s buffet for breakfast before returning to our cabin.

We finished packing our carry-ons and left our cabin by 8:30 am. We found a table and chairs near the Java Café on deck 5 where we stayed for the rest of the morning waiting to be called for disembarkation. By 8:45 am passengers using the self assist debarkation process could get off the ship on deck 3 midship. Around 9:00 am, they announced the first numbers for passengers with porter service could leave the ship. Our number was 25 and it was not until 10:40 am that they called our number. We headed down to deck 3 by the atrium lobby and said our final goodbyes to Felipe and some of his staff as we walked off the ship.

In the terminal, we found that there were three large rooms with carrousels with luggage. We found the room that had our number and waited for the pieces of luggage to come around. The areas were not clearly marked, so there some confusion as to where to find your bags.

We had arranged for a Hertz car rental for the day. We had a 5:00 flight, so we thought we would rent a car and explore the Miami area for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Hertz has a shuttle running every half hour to pick up customers and bring them to a Hertz satellite office that is located nearby on Southeast 2nd Street. Unfortunately, when we got to the office, there was a long line of customers. We had been waiting for over an hour before finding out that they did not have a car for our reservation. We were told it would another hour or two before they would have a car ready for us. So we asked them to take us to the airport with their shuttle. By the time we made it to the airport, we only had two free hours before needing to check in, so we decided to just check in and relax inside before our flight.

The ship –
The ship was built in 2004 as part of the Conquest class for Carnival. She was christened by Katie Couric, the ship’s godmother. The Valor had renovations in 2011. The theme for the ship’s décor is Heroes and Heroism. All around the ship were pictures of famous people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Neil Armstrong, Einstein, Garibaldi, Admiral Nelson, etc.

Fitness and Spa –
The large fitness center is located on the Spa Deck forward. You had to walk through the spa area to get to the gym area. There are a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other pieces of equipment available at no extra charge. All of the equipment faced out to windows. The hours it was open were from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

The Spa found on the Spa deck has several treatment rooms. They offered spa treatment specials during port days. The running track was found on the Spa deck going around the iconic smoke stack. A sign posted stated that it takes 9 laps to complete a mile. Also on that spa deck area was a small basketball court surrounded by a net. On the Sun deck midship was a mini-golf course.

Pools and Serenity areas–
Between the lido deck and panorama deck there are three salt water swimming pools with two pools midship and one aft. The two larger pools found on the lido deck are 4 ft 6” deep. The smaller Dolphin pool on the panorama deck only has a depth of 4 feet. There are hot tubs next to each pool. There was no cover over any of the pools to provide any shade.

On the port side of the Sun deck was a small kid’s pool (depth of 1 foot) that was not near anything. The entrance to the water slide was on the Sky deck. The slide does not end in a pool. For the most parts, the pools were open from 08:00 am to 10:00 pm while the hot tubs were open until 11:00 pm.

An Adult-only Serenity area was added during the 2011 renovations and is found forward on the starboard side of the Sun Deck and both sides of the Sky Deck. It has two hot tubs and its own bar. The bar was only staffed by one person, so we always saw a line of people waiting to buy a drink.

Our cabin –
We usually book an inside cabin. With the Valor, the space of the inside cabins are 185 square feet which is about 40 square feet larger than most of our inside cabins on Norwegian cruise ships. It was more than enough space for us. It is funny that our hotel room in Miami was more than twice the size.

The cabin had three closets. Two came with bars with 10 hangars each while the other closet had shelves. We stored our 2 large pieces of luggage under the beds. There were two terry cloth robes for our use.

There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin. The safe could only be locked with a credit card or a driver’s license that had a magnetic stripe. You could not use your room keycard. The fridge had an assortment of beers and soft drinks which we took out so that we could put in the 12-pack of Diet Coke we had brought on board with us.

The bathroom had a shower with a cloth curtain with dispensers for body wash and shampoo. There was a soap dish. The hair dryer was located in a drawer by the mirror inside the room. The cord was not very long though.

The location of our cabin (2357) was only a few steps from the midship stairway on the Main deck. This made it convenient to go up the stairs to the decks above. On port days, our cabin was not far from where we would disembark.

Public areas for entertainment –
The main show room was the Ivanhoe Theatre which holds about 1,400 passengers and has entrances on 3 decks forward. There are a few poles to contend with. We always found a seat for a show.

Besides the theater, all of the evening activities are focused on the promenade deck. There you find the Eagles Lounge, Lindy Hop Piano Bar, Shogun Club Casino, Paris Hot Jazz Bar, Jeannie’s Wine Bar, The Dream Bar, and the Bronx Sports Bar.

There was a large screen over the main pool area that showed movies and shows.

Music –
While Carnival has reduced the overall amount of musicians, the Valor did have a few talented musicians on board to entertain people at various locations and times. There was a quartet called “Music Reality” that played pop songs. “Music Reality” was a duo with a singer and a keyboard player. The trio “Mambo Chilango” played latin style music along to background tracks. “Pytaro” was a singer/guitarist who played with background tracks as well. A few times, the Valor show band played at the casino bar along with a singer named Meg Ryan. In the Lindy Hop piano bar, they had a pianist named Greg.

One thing we missed was a Caribbean style band playing on the lido deck. They have been replaced by a DJ playing incredibly annoyingly loud music that did not make us feel like we were on a cruise. Instead, it just made us want to leave the area. You would think that a DJ would know their audience and play music to suit them and not their own ego. (pet peeve), The DJ’s also played music on the lido deck each afternoon.

They have a dance club located on the promenade deck aft called “One Small Step” that has a light-up dance floor. Its theme was centered around the Eagle landing on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s historic words from there. They had a DJ playing music every night of the cruise.

Other general info –
On decks 6, 7, and 10 forward there were doors that led to balconies overlooking the bow of the ship.

On deck 3, there is a wooden promenade on both sides of the ship with lounge chairs available. We enjoyed sitting in the shade and watching the waves go by. We rarely saw anyone in those areas.

Navigating the ship on decks 3 and 4 was a little confusing because of having a large main dining room located midship. You had to go down to deck 2 or up to deck 5 to go from aft to midship.

The hallways with odd number cabins were on the starboard side while the even numbered cabins were on the port side of the ship.

They did not have a bridge viewing room.

We are not smokers and my wife cannot be around smoke for health reasons. Smoking was a problem for us on this ship. A lot of events were in the casino bar area and every time we went back to our cabin, our clothes reeked of smoke.

Laundrettes – There are 5 small laundry rooms located around the ship:
Riviera Deck 1: across from 1357 and 1359
Main Deck 2: across from 2365 and 2367
Upper Deck 6: across from 6385 and 6387
Empress Deck 7: across from 7337 and 7339
Verandah Deck 8: across from 8349 and 8351
Lido Deck 9: across from 9268 and 9270

They each have coin operated washers and dryers ($3.00 each load for both) along with an ironing board and iron. They also had dispensers for soap packets ($1.00 each). You could get quarters at the guest services deck.

Dining –
There were several dining options on the Valor.

For dinner, the Valor has two large main dining rooms with assigned early and late seatings. The Lincoln Dining Room is located midship on decks 3 and 4 with capacity for 744 diners. The Washington Dining Room is located aft on the same decks. It’s the larger of the two MDR with a listed capacity of 1,120. The table areas on deck 4 seemed to be a little quieter than the areas in deck 3.

They also offer “Your Time Dining” which allows you to show up at the Lincoln Dining Room on deck 3 from 5:45 pm to 09:30 pm. When they had an available table, you would be seated for dinner. We chose the YTD option and never waited any longer than 10 minutes to be seated. The longest lines seemed to be at 5:45 pm and 7:00 pm.

In addition to the main dining rooms, they have Rosie’s (Rosie the Riveter) which is their buffet style restaurant (no fee) on the Lido deck and Scarlett’s Steakhouse (fee) found on the Sun Deck.

Inside Rosie’s, they had several food stations which included a Mongolian Wok, a Deli sandwich bar, a burrito bar, a salad bar, 2 carvery stations that offered different foods each day, and a 24 hour pizza bar (located near the Prometheus Pool aft). In addition, Rosie’s had a second floor with a fish and chips station and additional tables and drink stations which most passengers did not seem to know about. They also had a coffee bar where you could buy Starbucks style of coffees. While these stations were all open for lunch, they only had one of the carvery hot food stations open for dinner; everything else was closed except for the deli. The deli was open for from 11:30 am to 11:00 pm each day. They had a variety of hot and cold sandwiches available that were made-to-order.

The burrito bar was only open for lunch. They offered made-to-order burritos with a variety of toppings like shrimp, steak, chicken, beans, rice, etc. The Fish ‘n Chips buffet was only open for lunch and offered fish and chips, fried oysters, shrimp and calamari fritters, bouillabaisse, ceviche, and BBQ octopus. This was my favorite spot for lunch. I thought that their bouillabaisse was very good. It was loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops. The Mongolian Wok was only open for lunch and there was always a long line. It was very popular with the passengers.

Scarlett’s Steakhouse had an added fee of $35 per person and required a reservation. Its dress code was cruise elegant every night.

For breakfast, you could go to Rosie’s buffet or the Washington Dining Room. In Rosie’s, they had extra omelet stations set up at the food stations. For lunch you could go to Rosie’s buffet or the Washington Dining Room as well.

There are lido deck grills with one near the Prometheus pool and two by the Argonaut Pool that are open from noon to 06:00 pm. They offered burgers, hot dogs, and fries.

They offered 24 hour room service with a limited menu.

The Java Café on deck 5 midship offered gourmet coffee and pastry bar (fee). It was open from 7:00 am to 10:00 am and then from 3:30 pm to midnight.

The Togo Sushi Bar found on deck 5 near the Video Arcade and the One Small Step Dance Club offered a small menu of sushi (no fee) from 05:30 pm to 08:30 pm. The same sushi offerings were available at Rosie’s dinner buffet station.

For those that like to go the extra yard with dining, they also offered “The Chef’s Table”. For a fee of $75 per person, you would have a personal meal with the executive chef who would provide a private galley tour and a multi-course meal for a small group. You needed to make a reservation for this event.

For breakfast on port days, the buffet lines can get quite long and tables are a premium. During breakfast in the lido buffet area, they had fountains with OJ, Passa-Guava Juice, Apple Juice, and unsweetened ice tea along with water. For the rest of the day, these fountains offered lemonade, iced tea, and water.

While I generally eat seafood, I was pleased with my food choices. My wife prefers beef and noted that she thought that the quality of the meats had declined since our last Carnival cruise.

For the first time with Carnival, we were able to try the “Your Time” dining option. Cruising together is our time to be together and we prefer the option to eat alone at our convenience. Over the years, we have had wonderful dinner mates, but I really enjoy having a meal with just my wife. That is why we have always enjoyed NCL Freestyle dining in the past.

Bar Service –
We are beer drinkers and Carnival offered beer bucket specials where you would get 4 beers (mix and match) with a $2 discount for the bucket. They did have daily drink specials as well. There were some martini tastings on a few occasions.

Past Guest Program –
We are rated as Gold Members of Carnival’s Past Guest Program (VIFP) and we were invited to the Past Guest party. Since this was our first cruise with Carnival since the start of the revamped program, they had VIFP Gold pins waiting for us when we went to cabin the first time. We were each given a free drink certificate ($9 value) which could only be redeemed in the Washington Dining Room during breakfast, lunch or dinner. We went to the dining room once during lunchtime and asked for two cans of Fosters beer.

Activities –
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions as well as poolside games. We like trivia and we took advantage of the several trivia games they offered during the cruise. We won 6 “Ship on a Stick” trophies and a bottle of champagne. We have a “Ship on a Stick” from each of the 5 Carnival ships we have sailed with. We think that they make a nice memento of our cruises. The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, so we cannot comment on the slots and gaming tables.

Crew –
Felipe Couto (Brazil), the cruise director seemed to be everywhere. We thought he and his cruise staff were one of the best we have ever had on a cruise. The cruise staff were very friendly, especially Marie (New Zealand), Kaitlyn (Canada), Harry (Georgia), Emelie (England) and Gary (Texas).

Our room steward Armando and his assistant were assigned 25 cabins to service during our cruise. We thought they did a good job.

Overall –
We enjoyed our cruise on the Valor. I think that they did a great job of adjusting the schedules to accommodate that change in ports of call due to the storm that became a hurricane. A link to photos we took on our cruise is here.

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