We went on a family cruise aboard Carnival's Triumph and had a great time. Not to say that everything was perfect on the 5 night cruise from Galveston, but all in all, an enjoyable experience was had by everyone. Our comments are not intended to sway people from sailing with one cruise line over another, but rather to provide one family's perspective on the experiences we had.
The cost. The cost of this cruise was lower. This should not be an excuse for poor service or unmet expectations, but sometimes I think this gets overlooked when "grading" is considered.
Our girls enjoyed the pools since they weren't too deep or too shallow (a problem we had on Disney). Having said this, expect the main pool area and hot tubs on mid ship lido deck to be dominated by kids. For adults, the hot tubs located at the rear of the ship next to Pizza Pirate were adult only.
The food was fine. With so many complaints about the ship's food, I wonder if our expectations were that low. Yes, there is a "mass production" feel and quality to the food, but not below the quality we have experienced on other cruises. At the end of the day, this cruise WAS less expensive than other cruise choices. If you're expecting a 5-star food experience, you'll probably be disappointed, if your family survives on every day grocery store items like ours, you'll be fine. Based on the feedback from other reviews, we decided to avoid high "rush hour" dinner times. Because of this, any time dinning worked out well. The London Dining Hall staff was friendly and the food service time was fast. The food at the South Beach Club met our needs as well. Pizza and ice cream were always available, which I can say we had our fair share. One drawback on Triumph was the lack of additional restaurant choices found on today's larger, more modern ships.
The entertainment was good. We found comedian Tim Young very funny. We also enjoyed the main production stage shows which were song and dance numbers. Perhaps not on par with Disney cruise productions, but again we paid twice as much for the Disney cruise and the Disney cruise was one day shorter in length. Since both major stage shows were song and dance productions, it did become somewhat repetitive in nature. We found the seating in the upper balcony annoying as no matter where we sat, there was a safety railing in our line of sight. We fixed this by sitting stage level.
We didn't get to know our cabin steward very well, but our room was kept clean throughout the voyage.
For us, the highlight of the cruise was Cozumel. Excursions can be very hit or miss, so ports of call can be good or bad experiences as well. We did the Amazing Cozumel Race excursion and had an absolute blast. We got to experience San Miguel beyond just Main Street. The people running the excursion were supper friendly. This is by far, the best shore excursion we have experienced. If you're a fan of the show and you're fit enough to run around San Miguel for a few hours, it's a great time.
Finding a deck chair during peak pool times is a challenge on every cruise ship, but for the most part we were able to secure a chair without too much effort.
The fitness center was well laid out and had adequate exercise equipment.
Could Be Better:
The ship is showing its age a bit, I know other reviews mention the older TVs in the room. I don't think we ever turned on the television, so expect older decor then go out and have some fun.
Our room was on deck 8, mid ship. From time to time the scraping of deck chairs on lido deck above us was annoying. If you're sensitive to noises, I would recommend staying at least one deck lower on deck 7.
More than once we were surprised that an activity came with a cost. This is undoubtedly tied to the lower cost of the cruise booking. If money matters, double check the activity schedule for associated costs before heading to the activity.
We left Progreso disappointed. This had more to do with our choice of activity. We decided to take the shuttle into town and spend the day at the public beach. Unfortunately, we found the panhandlers on the beach annoying. There were simply too many of them. We don't mind people selling stuff, but the beach was relatively small and we pretty much had to tell someone no every few minutes for the first hour we were there. The other problem we encountered was that the surf zone is dominated by broken sharp shells. Not sure if this was due to the time of year, but if you're going to the public beach you may want to bring rubber swim shoes. We did speak with other passengers who raved about their Mayan ruin excursions at Progreso.
There were times when it felt like cleanliness onboard ship was lacking. Nothing catastrophic in nature, but several times we noticed dirty dishes, a bottle of beer with chew, etc. on floors and in the hallways. I watched a movie for 2 hours on lido deck and someone else's dirty dishes sat next to me the entire time. Oddly, one of the issues we had was the ability to throw garbage away. Other than a few dish stations were you could place you dirty dishes, no garbage cans can be found. The idea being that Carnival will take care of your dishes. This is fine until you have a rapidly melting half eaten ice cream cone you want to get rid of.
Our biggest complaints stem from the ship's layout and Carnival's smoking policy. By day 3 we figured out that the best way to get from forward to aft and vice versa was through cabin levels -- 1,2,6,7, or 8. Even though we asked, no ship deck plan was available to use as a map. Throughout the ship, deck plans are only found on certain levels, rather than on each level as you make your way up and down the stairwells.
By design, other than the cabin levels, the only main level that allows complete passage through the ship is deck 5, which forces you through the casino where inevitably you're greeted with a wall of smoke. With a 13 and 9 year old, this was a continual source of irritation.
Smoking is also permitted on lido deck (9) on the starboard (right) side. This is right next to the main pool area, one of the buffet lines, a drink service machine, and an ice cream station. Even though the policy considers this area an "open deck," it's actually enclosed. If you like to avoid smoking like we do, consider hanging out on the port side of lido deck. We also had better luck avoiding smoking in the pool area at the back of the ship (next to pizza pirate), though I don't remember the exact smoking policy there.
Cruising is so much in part what you make of it. We had a great time aboard the Triumph. If you're looking for a cost effective get away and a laid back cruise experience, chances are you'll have a great time.