Hello - There are not very many Valor reviews and this one will sink to page 20 in a hurry but I will put it out here for anyone that does a search in the future. I am not a fan of the shorter cruises because I have to consider airfare or a very long drive to get on any ship. I like to make it worth the time/money spent just getting to & from the port.
This was a family cruise that was originally scheduled for March 2018 on the Magic. About 2 months before the cruise, one of my brothers was diagnosed with cancer. Still given the go ahead by the doctors - until he couldn't breath as the chemo had damaged his lungs severely. He ended up on a ventilator and due to massive amounts of steroids and prayers, his lungs healed and he is on the road to recovery. He had surgery to remove the cancer and followed up with radiation and is now able to walk again with the use of walker or cane but still has a long way to go to get back to "normal". So, after cancelling our cruise on the Magic we decided to to a "Thanksgiving Cruise" as our family has a lot to be thankful for and the Valor fit our schedule. No longer a week long cruise or out of a tropical port but we were going to make the best of it.
We flew into Houston. I had arranged transportation to & from Galveston with Island Breeze. They were fantastic. They provided everything including 2 car seats for my grandchildren. They emailed the day before we arrived and made phone contact once we landed at the airport. Our driver Marty navigated thru rush hour holiday traffic and even made a stop at Buc Ees (sorry if misspelled) so we could get snacks, pop and wine. He even got a luggage rack and helped us with our luggage once we arrived at The Harbor House in Galveston.
Dee at the Harbor House had called a day before we left to arrange our shuttle to the ship times. She was working at the front desk when we arrived and is a very warm and hospitable person. The Harbor House is within walking distance to the ship but with my brother's mobility issues we took advantage of the free shuttle service. We ate at the Olymlpia Grill which was both tasty and very convenient. A continental breakfast with substantial offerings is provided in the morning. I apologize to any other guest who may have been awoken to by the squeals my grandkids made when they were able to see the ship arriving. The views were fantastic.
A private shuttle bus arrived while we were outside waiting for the motel shuttle. The weather was overcast, windy and a little cool. The driver in the private shuttle offered to let us sit in her heated shuttle. That was so nice of her but we explained that we were from the midwest so we were more than comfortable. Our motel shuttle was also smooth. The driver let us hand the luggage to him to load and drove us a couple blocks over where....a porter had just unloaded a luggage cart from passengers that were on the previous cruise. The driver and porter pretty much handled all the luggage from there. I have never, ever had anything work out so smoothly.
This was the first time I had ever cruised out of Galveston. I am used to Miami, New Orleans and Port Canaveral. The Galveston port just had a different vibe, not bad - just different. The others seemed to put you in a more tropical mood but maybe that is just me. The whole process was smooth and painless and the every staff person we met was super friendly - and they were working on Thanksgiving Day!! I did not encounter one grumpy person at all.
This was the first cruise for 7 out of our group of 12 and I really, really wanted them to love cruising as much as I do. THANK YOU GALVESTON AND CARNIVAL VALOR!! We all had Faster to the Fun and boarded early and painlessly. We had 4 cabins next door to each other on the Lido and one cabin on the Spa deck as there weren't any cabins for 4 available on the Lido when we booked. We went to grab lunch first. While everyone was visiting, I checked our cabins to see if they were ready. I figured those of us on the Lido may have the same room steward and didn't want to overwhelm him with us all arriving early and at the same time. Our cards were all in the mail boxes so I am probably on camera being seen grabbing all of them.
Our luggage all showed up pretty quickly. I have bright green luggage and one of my brothers was always able to spot it getting loaded onto the airplane and also when we were walking the "gangway" onto the ship. The teens in our group took off to explore after the unpacking. I had to wait around as the deadbolt in my cabin door wasn't working and the previous passengers had left the safe door locked open. Even with it being busy with all the people boarding, both items were taken care of while I was unpacking. Muster was as usual. I do wish they would talk louder or broadcast all of the instructions. My past experience with muster is that there is always one or two passengers that have had too much to drink already and a comedian or two in the group. I did NOT encounter that on this trip. I wonder if most of the passengers were also family groups even though this was a 4 day cruise.
Our group would scatter during the day. We all had the chat app and I can't say enough about how much that was appreciated. We had two people in our group that did not always receive the texts but other than that, it worked fantastic. We had anytime dining and ate 3 out of the 4 nights in the Lincoln Dining Room. Again, I cannot emphasize how great our experience was. Because of our group size and the fact that we had a 3 & 6 year old, we did show up at 5 45 and were able to be seated together. They would push several tables together to make one long table. The wait staff were all very attentive and very good to my grand kids. One night, they brought chocolate covered strawberries to my granddaughter was was done eating but trying to steal fruit off of everyone's plates. Another night, the waiter made a pirate hat and gun out of napkins for my grandson and bird out of napkins for my granddaughter. Several of our group were apprehensive about using the dining room before the cruise and were all won over. An advantage to eating early, was that there was still time later in the evening for the teens and some of the adults to make room for pizza!! Also, not sure if it was because we were always seated early, but we did not encounter the photographers that always show up when you have just put a fork full of food in your mouth!!
Our only port of call was Cozumel. We had wonderful weather. We had planned to go to Chanknaab but ended up taking a large taxi to Buccano's and then shopped before getting back on the ship. The weather turned out great. The kids were able to snorkel. The place was nice and clean and my Mom was happy with her choice so it was all good.
Other passengers!! This was also a first for me. I had warned our first timers that they may have trouble finding empty deck chairs due to chair hogging. Not sure if we were just lucky or what - not only did we find plenty of deck chairs on our final sea day (first one was overcast & rainy), but there were even empty chairs in the Serenity Area. We did notice that whenever we were at a show or somewhere where they would ask "where are you from?" the answer was often some town in Texas. Perhaps it was a family cruise or just southern hospitality, but our fellow cruisers were all very pleasant.
The one and only complaint I have about the Valor was the internet service. I had purchased the value plan. I gave up trying to connect on my tablet the first night after spending about 45 minutes. Tried my phone and could connect but then it would drop. We had a blizzard at home and I was trying to keep up on emails and track the storm as well as any flight notifications. I finally spent an extra 20 dollars to upgrade the service and it did not make any difference. I even tried using the Fun Hub computers on the last night of the cruise and the morning we disembarked. I was finally able to confirm our flights using the app on my phone.
Extra's that never happen to me: My brother with the medical issues had casino cash waiting for him and ended up money ahead, he bought bingo tickets for the group one night and my other brother won $150. He also bought pull tickets (not sure what you call them) and my nephew won $500 with one of them as well as a few smaller winning tickets. My niece is a Harry Potter fanatic and was excited to see that there was a Harry Potter Trivia that she won! Most of us went to the Dive In movie one night. We did bring seasoned salt with us (learned my lesson on the Splendor last year).
The comedy club was a hit with our family. We attended a couple of the production numbers (some one night, others another night), the Hasbro show, etc. One of my brothers and nephew attended a Q&A session about crew life on the ship and thought it was very informative. The teens in our group had the time of their lives and thought they were on first name basis with cruise director TJ. TJ was very upbeat but not overbearing.
My favorite class of ships is the Dream class so I was grateful that our family was going to finally be able to go on a cruise. I was just disappointed that it was a shorter cruise on a smaller ship. The Valor and her crew more than made up for any doubts that I had. The ship was clean, not too hard to navigate for my brother and the crew was fantastic. Anyone thinking of sailing on her has an experience half as good as we did - you will be happy.
Island Breeze was waiting for us when it was time to disembark. Our driver this day was Jim. He sent a text and asked that I call when able to do so. We had two fellow passengers that were also going to the airport. Jim gave us some interesting information about Galveston (he lives there). The drive to the airport was smooth and painless.
We arrived back in Iowa two over a foot of snow. Fortunately, the roads had already been cleared and we missed having to drive in blizzard conditions that had existed earlier.
If you are on the fence about going on the Valor - DO IT!