Carnival Triumph 4/16/05 Western Review - Finally!
First I will give a little bit of background.....I am a 37 year old single mom with 4 children. This was my kids Spring Break week at school here in Connecticut. My ex husband took 2 of the children on an RCCL cruise and 1 of my children was scheduled for a school orchestra trip to Disney World. About 3 weeks prior to the sailing I looked at my 12 year old DD and said "Let's go away - just you and I!"
I used a wonderful TA and looked at several sailings that fit into my time range (specifically a 4 /16 sailing). After considering about 3 different ships/itineraries I decided on the Triumph. I sailed on the Triumph 2 years prior on an Eastern run with all 4 of my kids and I have also sailed on Carnival Destiny (sister ship) solo.
I booked a Balcony Guaranty. I planned on flying down one day early and booked my own flights and hotel for the pre-stay. As soon as I booked the trip I checked out the Roll Call Boards on Cruise Critic and was lucky to find a great group of people on our sailing! We chatted quite a bit in the weeks coming up to the cruise and made arrangements for Meet and Greets. Chuck became our official "pre-cruise director"! He made baseball caps that were emblazoned with the logo "Triumph Travelers Caribbean Cruise" on the front and "April 16, 2005" on the back and offered them to us at a special price!! Some of us got our caps via UPS prior to the cruise and some of the group got them when we met up onboard.
The CC group also had a game of "tag" started with a special hat that we would sneak back and forth to each other and see who was "It" at the end of cruise and a scavenger hunt was also planned by Chuck - Thanks again Chuck!!. Door Decoration poster was also emailed to the group and we shared cabin #'s and some of us cell #'s.
This was all so wonderful because we were able to start the festivities in advance and my DD was able to "chat" with some other kids her age that would be on the sailing.
We flew Jet Blue from JFK to FLL. I booked a very early morning flight (6:30AM) so that we could enjoy the day on the beach. A shuttle picked us up at our home at 3:30AM and got us to the airport. Had a great flight and landed on time (9:30AM). I had scheduled for a private car with Meet and Greet service with Tri-County Limo. I did not mind the shuttle going to the airport but for me...that is probably the only time I don't mind it! I prefer to have private transportation arranged for most other aspects of travel as I don't like the added time it often takes to wait and pick up other passengers. I have decided that my time/aggravation is not worth the money that I would save with shared ride or shuttles.
We were at the hotel and checking in by 10:30AM. We stayed at the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza in the South Beach area of Miami. I really wanted to have a nice beach day as well as show my daughter a bit of South Beach. I booked this hotel through Hotwire and got a good deal.
Our room was not ready at that early hour (as I expected) but they held our luggage and we had full use of the facilities and amenities they provided. We had bathing suits and cover ups in our carry-on's so we changed and headed right for the beach. The front desk took down my cell and said that they would call me as soon as our room was ready.
Hotel was lovely. The grounds were beautiful! This is a beachfront hotel so we only needed to walk across the sandy boardwalk to get there. After a bit of water play and sunshine we were ready for lunch. DD and I opted to sit at a table by the pool and eat al fresco. The food here was eh and of course overpriced - but once again I expected that!
When we were done eating at about 1:00PM, we walked over to the front desk and our room was ready for us. We decided to go up and deposit our luggage and freshen up and re-sunscreen. We were in a suite. This was nice because it gave a place to just dump our luggage and not have to step over stuff. I can't say too much else about the accommodations as we really were not in this room very much. My DD only wanted to go back to the beach! This was fine with me and back we went for a while. We also sat by the pool and enjoyed the floating stuff the hotel provided.
We showered and changed and went down and caught a cab to Bayside Marketplace to meet some of the CC folks who were in town already for a pre-cruise dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. What a fun time! It was really wonderful to put face and voice to some of the people we had been emailing with! We took along our baseball caps and it was easy to find each other! We had a lot of laughs at dinner and then my DD and Chucks DS went off to do a little shopping while the adults went to an outdoor bar and had a drink. We left shortly after to catch a cab back to the hotel. DD and I were both exhausted having been up since 3:00AM.
Saturday morning I woke early. We got our bags together and DD and I had a nice leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant. This meal was much better than our lunch the day before. They had a very extensive buffet with an omelet station. The food was good as was the service. We checked out and got a cab over to the pier. Took photos of the ships as we drove over. It was pretty cool for us because the RCCL ship that my other children were on was docked with only one ship between us.
We got to the pier at around 10:30. Handed our luggage over to the porter and then took a few photos in front of the terminal. When we entered there was a line of people waiting to check in. We saw some of our fellow CC'rs here as well. Waited in the check-in line for about 15 minutes, got our sign and sail cards and then moved over to the line waiting to board. At about 11:15 they stopped pre-checking and everyone coming in got in line behind us. About 20 minutes later they let those of us who already had our sign and sail cards pass through security and head over to a waiting area with chairs. We received info sheets and were told that we would be able to board in a few minutes. The Lido Deck was ready and waiting for us but not to go to our cabins until after 1:00PM as they were still being cleaned. As promised just a few minutes later we were allowed to proceed. Walked through the terminal, got our sign and sail pics and then the embarkation photo. We were on the ship at noon.
We boarded with some other CC Members and we all headed to the Lido Deck. Got settled at a couple of tables and got some food and drink. There was a table set up to purchase Fountain Cards and we got my DD one while the line was short.
At 1:00PM my DD and I headed for our cabin. We were on the Empress Deck, 7409. We met Sherwin, our cabin Steward. He said that he still had a couple of things to do but it was OK for my DD to stay. She began unpacking her carry-on and I headed over to the London Dining Room where we had a late seating time to get info on our dinner table. I like to check this out right away! I was told that we were at a large table and there were some teens seated with us. Just what I wanted to hear!
DD and I decided to walk around a bit and reacquaint ourselves with the ship before heading back to the cabin for PFD's and the Muster Drill. Muster Drill was pretty quick and painless this time. We returned our PFD's and headed out to the Sky Deck for a SailAway Meet and Greet with our fellow Triumph Travellers CC Members. As soon as the other girls her age arrived they made quick introductions (they had been emailing pre-cruise) and then took off! We adults had a nice time hanging out. Went to a lower deck and got some drinks and chatted.
Only my DD and I as well as one other couple from our CC group had a late dinner seating so after a while we went our separate ways. I headed back to the cabin to re-meet up with DD and see if luggage had arrived. One of my DD's bags was there and she unpacked. I laid down for a rest. We talked about plans for later in the evening and the Camp Carnival First Meeting time was scheduled for 8:00PM. I told DD that it was fine for her to go to that and go off with the kids and skip dinner that night. We made a trip to the Dining Room so she could see where our table was in case she needed to find me.
We had another CC Meet and Greet scheduled for 7:00PM in the Atrium. DD and I went down but those who had the early dinner seating did not make it. The few of us who had late seating sat and chatted for a bit then went to get ready for dinner. I went to the Vienna Cafe for my first double cap of the cruise and also to the internet area to sign up for package for the week. The plan was for my other children to do the same on the RCCL ship so we could keep in touch. I checked several times throughout the week but my other kids never emailed so I wound up letting DD use the time to email her friends whom she missed! Then it was back to the cabin to freshen up for dinner and DD went off to the Teen Meeting. Luggage was all there and I unpacked.
I went to dinner at 8:30 in the London Dining Room. My tablemates were all already seated when I arrived. We were seated with a single father who was with his 2 teen age children (DD 16 and DS 18) and each of his kids had a friend with them. The sign language interpreter for the sailing was also at our table. We had a nice time talking and getting to know each other. My DD came to dinner with me every other night and all tablemates showed up every night as well.
Our Headwaiter was Harry and the Assistant was Dennis. They were great! I just love how they remember the details about what you like after the first night. Amazes me how they make each one of us feel as if we are the only PAX they have served and yet they do this every week!
Our CC group had one more Meet and Greet scheduled for 10:00PM (Adults Only) in the Oxford lounge so I headed there after dinner. Only one other CC'er made it and we had a drink and chatted for a bit before both going off to bed tired and ready to rest for the next day!
Days at Sea:
We had 3 days at sea on this itinerary which I really liked and was one of the reasons I chose Triumph. We did a variety of things on the various days. We checked out photos and made gift shop purchases, found some chairs on the Lido Deck and relaxed, ordered room service and ate on our balcony, got together with our fellow CC Triumph Travelers.
We did not attend many of the scheduled functions.
I will say that on the first Sea Day DD and her friends tried to do a couple of the Camp Carnival scheduled activities for Teens. Some of them went to the Dance Class with a Triumph Dancer and not one Carnival staff member showed up! They also went to Scooter Soccer and were put in groups with much younger kids and they left in disappointment. After those experiences DD was not really keen on checking out the scheduled activities for the teens and the kids just hung out as they wanted instead.
I did go to the Wine Tasting in the California Wine Bar (also on the first sea day) which I enjoyed. Boy was that place packed and overflowing! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and were very friendly in spite of the close quarters. The wine tasting was a selection of white wines. They gave us a list of white wines with a brief description of each wine. We were able to order whatever we wanted to try for $2 per glass. I am a red wine drinker and was disappointed to find out that this was the only wine tasting of the week but enjoyed trying some whites and meeting new people! Also saw some of the CC folks there.
The Lido Deck was very crowded on these days. There was A LOT of chair saving going on! What I found most annoying were the people who saved chairs for their younger kids…you just NEVER saw these kids lying in a lounge chair! At best they would go over to their parents while they were eating an ice cream or something and usually just plopped down on the edge of their parents chair for a minute or two before running off again. I never saw adults in those chairs so I am assuming that they were saved for the kids but one never really knows!
We usually found chairs further up or when DD was off with other kids I enjoyed the privacy of the cabin balcony and a good book.
DD and I had decided on Paradise Beach before we went for a few reasons. DD really wanted a day at a fun beach! We had looked at the excursions on the Carnival website and DD was hooked when she saw the Beach Break! We looked into a Swim with Dolphins but due to our late booking for such a busy time only "encounters" were offered and not "swims". I tried directly through Dolphin Discoveries as well. I thought about Xcaret but although I would have loved that I was not so sure that it was what DD would enjoy. We decided to table the Dolphin Swim and possibly do it in Jamaica or just wait until the next cruise! I knew that the Carnival excursion was to Playa Mia and I was able to go directly to their website and see what that would cost for the same thing. I also checked out some other beaches. I decided on Paradise Beach - same water toys as Playa Mia for my DD and I, menu looked good and prices reasonable and I had read good reviews of the food etc on the CC Boards. I figured that since Play Mia was where the cruise ship excursions went that it would be pretty crowded and Paradise Beach might not be as bad.
The day before Cozumel I made arrangements to go with CC friends to the beach. At around 9:45 we headed down to our CC friends cabin. We all headed down to the gangway. The line to get off was not bad and went quickly. We purchased cold water bottles just before we got off. There were 2 photo op's at the gangplank there - one with the life preserver and one with a man in 'native wear".
They sure do get you in Cozumel! You have to walk through a large Duty Free Shopping area before you can get anywhere! Once through that indoor area you reach a nice outdoor shopping area filled with all kind of shops and restaurants (Fat Tuesdays' etc). There is also a nice area with lounge chairs and hammocks where you can just relax and have a great view of the ships in port We walked through and went over to the taxi stand, They have a list of points of interest with taxi fares posted. As we were walking one of this girls realized that her lanyard had broken and fallen off during the walk. I took 2 of the girls and got a cab and our CC friends retraced footsteps with their DD and DS and were going to meet us at the beach. Cab fare to Paradise Beach was $12.
We got to the beach and paid the $5 pp for the wristband. Lounge chairs were free but the $5 pp gave us use of all the non-motorized toys for the day. There was a water trampoline, climbing water 'iceberg", kayaks, floats and snorkeling equipment. I found enough chairs for all of us. My CC friends arrived a few minutes later and the girls were off and checking everything out. For an additional cost there were motorized water sports - Jet ski's, banana boats etc - , Henna Tattoos, Hair braiding and massage. My DD got her hair braided. I found this be on the more expensive side compared to the various places we have gotten this done. If I recall correctly we paid $35 for just the half head.
We had a very enjoyable day here! We all ordered lunch right on the beach and had the Pina Colada in the pineapple. Food was very good and I thought very reasonably priced. Keep in mind that they do not take American Express cards! I DID know this in advance but somehow left my MC in the safe in the cabin! I had some cash but wound up putting my lunch on CC Friends credit card and paying them back later.
Also of note….In order to use a Kayak or Snorkel gear you must put down a deposit which is returned when you return the equipment.
At some point in the afternoon we decided that we were ready to go back and we got 2 cabs again. DD and I went back to the ship. We had about a 20 minute wait on the line to reboard. We brought our beach stuff up to the cabin and freshened up a bit then we got back off the ship and did a little shopping. We were just interested in souvenir type things so I can't comment on any other prices or "finds". We went back to the ship and found a very long line to reboard. We were waiting for about an hour before we finally got back on the ship. Had a nice chat with the people around us though! Suppose we could have done something else and come back but DD was tired from all the activity at the beach and she was able to sit down while I stood in line.
Paradise Beach was great and I would recommend it.
We knew that we wanted to have a visit to Stingray City. These boards at CC are priceless for all the info you can glean! I emailed several private tour companies in advance. Based on times of excursions available I had selected Native Way Watersports and the Rays/Reef excursion for us.
The plan was to have an early excursion then get back to the ship and have lunch and still have time for a visit to 7 mile Beach.
HOWEVER…..this was the ONE morning that I did not wake up very early!! I overslept and woke to realize that we were late. We tossed our stuff together quickly and made it down to deck 0 and the tender but by the time we got across to the pier we had missed our tour!! There was a man there with a Native Way sign as they had other excursions as well. I talked to him and explained. He got on his phone and talked to someone and then told me that there was another excursion about to leave the dock. I decided to jump on that one and he personally drove us in his car over to the dock. He remained in contact with the Captain of that boat so they knew we were arriving.
This "new" excursion was the Rays/Reef and Rum Point. We first boated over to Stingray City. There were only about 20 people on this excursion and the guides we had were wonderful! We anchored in a spot that was a good distance from what looked like much larger boats with LOTS of people which was nice. Each of us had the opportunity to have personal time with the guides. They held the Stingray and helped each of us to do the same and also took turns putting them on our backs. We also had the opportunity to each feed them if we wanted and time to snorkel and swim with the Stingrays as well before getting back on the boat.
Went over to a reef where we again had great service from the guides and time to swim and snorkel before we got back on the boat. As we got on the boat we were handed a menu and made our lunch order. The Captain called the lunch order in so that when we arrived at Rum Point our lunches would be ready for us.
Rum Point was nice. The food was brought out to a table and we could take ours and sit. There were plenty of picnic tables to sit at. After we ate I relaxed on a lounge chiar and my DD played on the beach and in the water with some other kids. There was a bar and shop but we were not into that. The bathrooms were well kept and clean.
After about an hour here we got back on the boat and headed back to the dock. Small bus brought us back to the pier. We still had time to walk around and souvenir shop a bit before getting in line for the tender back to the ship.
The line was long but moved pretty quickly as they can fit a lot of people on the tenders. As always, we had fun chatting with fellow cruisers waiting on line around us!
I have been to Jamaica on land vacations and seen a lot of sights in the past. I love Jamaica! I think it is just beautiful! My DD was not interested in doing the Falls this trip and when we discussed excursions prior to the trip we decided that we just wanted to "hang" here.
DD slept pretty late on this morning and I just let her go for it! I had woken her up to watch us pull into port early and after enjoying that and taking some pics she went back to sleep I was really enjoying myself with a book out on the balcony!! Ahhhh! R&R! She had a bite to eat and we got off the ship. By then the photo guys were gone. We decided to walk around a bit and headed left at the end of the pier. We walked by the beach but it was so hot and humid we decided to check out some shops first. Very pushy venders and shop keepers in Jamaica! My DD was getting frustrated and bothered by it after a bit and we were hungry so we decided to walk over to the Island Village shopping area and go to Margaritaville. We hung out there for awhile and saw some of our CC friends. Went back to the ship and had no line to get back on which was nice! We spent the rest of the time on the balcony watching people come back from the excursions.
Some Fun CC Triumph Travelers Stuff:
It was great to have the opportunity to “meet” people in advance and hang out with them on the cruise! The kids hung out and did some things together and the adults met up several times throughout the week to meet for a drink or a chat and sometimes to have dinner or go on excursions together. As a solo adult this was a nice option for me! I always meet people on a cruise and also enjoy alone time and adding this aspect as well was really nice!
Our group continued with the “it” game and had fun posting to thread when we got back to find out who was “It”
We also had the scavenger hunt which we tallied at a meeting in the Atrium on the afternoon of the last day at sea. Not everyone participated in this but it was fun for those who did and I think that even those who did not had fun watching us go through our stuff at tally time!
We had originally been planning an evening Adult Only Excursion into Cozumel but we decided that we would make some fun on the ship instead! While sitting there having drinks in the Oxford it was decided that we would have a “Cabin Crawl”. We got the listing of all the CC people in our group with their cabin #’s and we began! We would go to each cabin and have a drink and then move on to the next cabin. We would pick up members as we went a long! This was really a blast! We decided to start on the highest deck and work our way down. As we got into the elevator to head up to Deck 11 the elevator across from us opened and lo and behold was one of our fellow CC’ers! So we waved him into our elevator and began. We met some other people as we hung on various balconies and invited them to join us. This was really so much fun!! At one point we stopped at the bar near the casino and decided that we should go up to the Lido Deck and check out the big party that was going on up there. Lots of music and dancing and we finished the night there.
CABIN Empress Deck, 7409, Balcony, Starboard side, far aft. Cabin was just as we expected. We had more then enough closet, drawer and cabinet space for all of our stuff. The bathroom is roomy for a ship and the cabinet on the wall held everything we needed. There was a bowl on the sink filled with samples – some we used and some we did not - , shower gel and shampoo pumps in the shower. Water pressure was great! Plenty of towels. The beds were set up as 2 twins. The blankets have been updated since the last time we cruised and we loved them! Very soft, cozy duvets. With decks of cabins below and above noise from common areas was not an issue.
I spent a ton of time on the balcony! At night I slept with the door open and dozed off listening to the sound of the ocean lapping against the side of the ship…HEAVENLY!!
Both myself and DD thought that the food was very good. I am a big red meat person and love to have steaks when I go out to eat. I like it medium rare and that is how I got it. My DD tried a couple of things and also ate from the children’s menu. We ordered Caesar salads even when it was not on the menu and filet mignon was available when not listed on the menu as well. The appetizers I had were wonderful, the soups were a little bland in my opinion, entrees were all good and the desserts that I had were great. I had a decaf cappuccino every night.
The Paris Dining Room is open for breakfast seating each day. We only made it to the dining room for breakfast one morning. I am not an early in the day eater and my DD slept in and preferred to get something on the Lido Deck when she got up or room service. The breakfast menu is the same every day and covers your basic breakfast fare – eggs, cereal, French toast, bagels etc. The food on the Lido Deck was exactly he same selections
Open seating lunch was also in the Paris Dining Room. This only fit into our schedule on 2 days. The portions for lunch seemed to be much smaller than what they served for dinner. If you know that you are hungry order 2!
The South Beach on the Lido Deck had a nice variety of food and everything that we had we enjoyed. Of course the pizza and the grill food is always a hit. I had great pastrami on rye at the Deli on our last sea day.
There always seemed to be tables available but we actually enjoyed carrying our plates down to our cabin and eating on the balcony.
On my previous Triumph trip I visited more of the venues than I did on this one. Those I frequented this trip:
Oxford Lounge – Very nice and inviting. My DD and I enjoyed music in here nightly before going to dinner. Classical and Jazz. I also met CC friends here for a drink after dinner many nights. This is a good meeting place because it is large, has comfy seats and you can sit and talk and plan on what to do next.
Big Easy – One of my favorite places! I just adore the piano bar! I went here most nights and once I entered I usually stayed until it closed down. I seem to always meet a lot of great and interesting people in the piano bars!
California Wine Bar – I liked to stop here sometimes before going into the Big Easy. A small bar and a nice place to meet someone and chat in a quieter atmosphere.
Atrium – Great place to people watch! I often sat here in the late afternoon after I got my double cap and before moving up to my balcony.
Shows – My DD and I only wound up attending one show. It was good and we enjoyed it but we just did not fit this into our schedule.
Captains Party – We started out on the Club Rio but wound up moving over to Venezia because it was just so crowded in Rio. We were able to find a table and enjoy the music and appetizers and drinks well in Venzia.
Past Guest Party – My DD’s first and she really enjoyed it!
Getting off ? and going home
Hate this part!!! Triumph was on the “newer” system of not calling decks. First were the PAX who would carry off their own luggage. NOT an option for us!!! We had packed and put our luggage out on Friday night before we went to dinner. Then early flight and tours were called and then there was a general call. We were not told that we had to be out of our cabins at a certain time. I let DD sleep and got some of her favorite cinnamon rolls on the Lido Deck for when she woke up. We took our time getting ourselves together and made a couple of calls to my other children who were getting off the RCCL ship which was docked right down the pier from us. Vienna Café was open so I had a last double cap on my balcony! Photo Shop was open but we were finished with that venue! At around 9:45 we decided to venture down and get in line to get off the ship. I am not really sure how long this took because I don’t wear a watch and what are you going to do about it anyway? Long and slow process but once again we chatted with people and had fun! Got through customs and went to find our luggage and get on a shuttle bus to FLL. I had purchased airport transfer for this through Carnival.
We got to FLL with a couple of hours to spare until our flight. DD had a cold that started the afternoon before and she was not feeling well. Got her some meds and then she sat while I waited in line for Chili’s. We had lunch and then headed over to our gate.
There was some bad weather in NYC and I saw some delays going on. Our flight took off on time but when we got to JFK we were unable to land and circling. Wound up having to be diverted to Atlantic City to refuel and then back up to circle some more before finally landing about 3 ½ hours later than scheduled. I have to say that Jet Blue handled this better than any other airline I have experienced! They kept us informed the entire time with many announcements and also brought a bunch of pizza on board while we were refueling so everyone could eat. My concern was that my other children were also flying into NYC and were supposed to come home after they landed. I used the refueling time to get on my cell and leave a message for my ex husband and make arrangements for my parents to be there to collect my children if they got home before me….which they did.
I had another wonderful cruise on the Triumph!! Of course I am suffering from PCD and am now looking into a family cruise for next year and a solo cruise for myself before the end of this year.