As I eagerly made my way aboard December’s inaugural cruise of the
Carnival Valor, I joined 2,973 enthusiastic fellow passengers in
celebrating the launch of Carnival’s newest mega-ship. Sporting the
distinctive red, white and blue fan-shaped funnel, and measuring
952 feet from stem to stern, the sparkling 110,000-ton stunner,
built at a cost of $500 million, is the 20th member of the Fun Ship
fleet. She joins sisters Carnival Conquest and Carnival Glory as
the third Conquest-class vessel. The Valor also becomes the largest
Carnival ship ever based in the port of Miami year-round, from
where it will depart every Sunday on alternating seven-day eastern
and western Caribbean itineraries. Like other Carnival ships, the
Valor exudes a festive, fun-filled atmosphere. This atmosphere has
helped make Carnival the world’s most popular cruise line, both to
first-time and repeat cruisers (approximately 20 percent on each
Carnival sailing are repeaters).
In addition to ports in the Caribbean, Alaska, Canada, New
England and Mexico, Carnival will cruise in Europe for the first
time this July, when the Carnival Liberty enters service.
The Valor’s decor is dazzling, thanks to the fertile imagination
of Carnival’s resident architect Joe Farcus, who has created themed
interiors of Carnival ships since 1982. Its centerpiece is a
gigantic, glitzy atrium replete with soaring glass elevators.
Public spaces feature bold, bright colors that highlight the ship’s
central theme the lives and exploits of real and mythical heroes.
The main dining rooms are named after presidential icons George
Washington and Abraham Lincoln, while the symbolic World War II
heroine Rosie the Riveter inspires the two-tiered Rosie’s
Restaurant on the Lido deck. Other “heroic” spaces include the
Small Step Disco, dedicated to astronaut Neil Armstrong and his
famous moon walk, while the Lindy Hop piano bar pays homage to
aviator Charles Lindbergh and the first successful crossing of the
Atlantic by plane.
Shipload of Superlatives
Similar to the other Conquest ships, the Valor is a huge “floating
resort” loaded with amenities and facilities including 22 lounges
and bars, four restaurants, four swimming pools, a jogging track
and volleyball court, onboard golf, fully equipped spa and fitness
center and expansive children’s facilities. Sixty percent of its
1,487 staterooms have oceanviews; 503 are oceanview with balcony
while another 337 are oceanview without balcony. Clients seeking
top-of-the-line accommodations can choose from 10 luxury penthouse
suites and 42 suites.
Food is a major selling point on the Valor, as Carnival has
upgraded and expanded its variety of restaurants and menu items in
recent years. In addition to six appetizers, two salads, six
entrees and four desserts, dinner menus in the main restaurants
also offer several low-carb as well as low-calorie SpaCuisine
selections. Particularly outstanding is Scarlett’s Supper Club
(named after the “Gone With the Wind” heroine), the Valor’s
specialty restaurant serving delectable cuts of beef including
filet mignon and porterhouse steaks as well as Alaskan king crab
and lobster tail. It’s a good idea to make reservations soon after
boarding, because it tends to book up quickly (there is a $25 per
Passengers can also dine informally at Rosie’s Restaurant, which
offers extensive breakfast and lunch buffets and features several
specialty areas, such as pasta and meat carving stations, a deli
serving freshly made sandwiches, a rotisserie offering broiled
meats and chicken, a specialty seafood venue plus a 24-hour
pizzeria and 24-hour ice cream/frozen yogurt station.
Fun Day And Night
During the day, much of the Valor’s organized fun and games takes
place at poolside around four swimming pools, where social hosts
organize various deck games. The pool on the Panorama Deck attracts
both kids and adults who wait in line to take a ride down the
214-foot-long corkscrew water slide. I preferred to join the
contingent of sun worshippers stretched out on lounge chairs
sipping pina coladas and basking beneath the warm Caribbean
Once the sun goes down the evening action heats up in the ship’s
lounges and watering holes. Many of the entertainment venues are
located adjacent to each other on the Promenade deck. Lounges with
live or recorded music include the popular Paris Hot Jazz Club
featuring “Karaoke Kraziness” and the Lindy Hop Piano Bar with its
spirited singalongs. The D.J. in the Small Step disco keeps
revelers gyrating into the wee hours of the morning. A big draw on
our sailing was the high-energy Shogun Club Casino, with its
assortment of slot machines (including the Megacash machine
offering the “largest jackpot on the seven seas”) plus blackjack,
roulette and craps tables. I’d like to say I broke the bank, but
alas, I haven’t quit my day job.
It’s always exciting to sail on a ship featuring something new
and different, and the Valor has the distinction of being the
world’s first completely wireless cruise ship, offering
bow-to-stern Wi-Fi high-speed Internet access. While other Carnival
ships currently feature Internet cafes and wireless Internet access
in select hot spots, passengers who bring their laptops on the
Valor can (for the ship’s standard Internet access fee) go online
from every public space and every stateroom. This sophisticated
system works with any Wi-Fi enabled laptop and is part of a pilot
program that may be expanded to other Carnival ships.
Satisfying the needs of families is a top priority for Carnival,
and children’s facilities and programs on the Valor are the most
elaborate of any Carnival ship. Among the activities available for
the first time in 2005 as part of the Valor’s Camp Carnival program
are A-B Seas, a reading program where youth counselors read
children’s books aloud to kids and parents in the ships libraries;
a science program known as H2Ocean that gives kids the opportunity
to create miniature helicopters and hovercraft; Exerseas, a
recreational fitness program encouraging kids to participate in
intense physical activity; SeaNotes, a new music program that
introduces kids to different musical instruments; and WaterColors,
an art program where kids can learn techniques employed by
professional artists such as oil painting, watercolors and paper
Carnival’s recently launched ad campaign makes a point of
touting all the “family friendly” attractions of the line. Based on
the enthusiastic participants I observed during the inaugural
voyage, the Valor’s Camp Carnival programs promise to be some of
the most popular at sea.
Another example of Carnival’s heroic effort paying off.
|Growth in Family Market|
Clients that sail on Carnival ships consist primarily of singles,
couples and families, with approximately 30 percent below age 35,
40 percent aged 35-55 and 30 percent over 55. The family market has
grown substantially in recent years, and according to the latest
projections more than 500,000 children will sail on a Carnival
cruise in 2005, a 300 percent increase in the number of children
that sailed 10 years ago.
According to a recent ASTA survey, cruising is a top choice of
families, with 75 percent of agents reporting that family bookings
have risen over the past three years.
“Ever since Sept. 11 families have been spending more quality
time together, and cruising has become one of the most popular
travel options of families,” noted ASTA president and CEO Kathy
The two key factors influencing family vacation decisions are
finding something suitable for all ages followed by overall
|ALL ABOUT VALOR Company: Carnival Cruise
Size: 110,000 tons
Capacity: 2,974 passengers
Year Built: 2004
Plugging In: 120 and 220 volt current in all
cabins; hair dryers supplied.
Hits: Terrific specialty restaurant; complete
wireless access; excellent children’s facilities and programs.
Misses: The location of the art auction seemed
more obtrusive than normal, and spawned numerous complaints.
Itinerary: Alternating seven-day eastern and
western Caribbean year-round out of Miami. Eastern visits Nassau,
St. Thomas and St. Maarten, while western calls at Belize City,
Roatan, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
Departure Dates: Every Sunday, year-round
Cost: Beginning at $529 per person