We liked it! Check that, we LOVED it!!!
We took this cruise in April of 2012. I am writing about at the end of August of 2012. Since then, we have cruised the Triumph twice more(May & July), with another leaving in a few days(My birthday cruise), and our first cruise on the Magic in November(10th Anniversary). So far, we have 3 booked for 2013, including the Barcelona to New Orleans 16 day relocation of the sunshine.
We have LOVED every cruise. Instead of reviewing every cruise so far, I am going to hit the first one real hard, and give little "points of interest" about the others.
My wife and I are frequent travellers, but we've always been landlubbers. After our most recent trip to Vegas, we decided to throw caution to the wind and cruise. Vegas was getting stale, we've lived in San Francisco and Chicago, and We're over New York and Los Angeles(I know there are MANY other great places in the U.S., but I don't have the space to mention them. Besides, we've been to most.),so cruising it is!!
Carnival was an easy choice, as we live in Galveston County, and the port is less than 20 minutes from our home. We booked the Triumph because we weren't sure if we wanted to commit to a seven day cruise, and the Magic wasn't even there when I booked.
I had originally booked an interior room, but eventually upgraded to a balcony. I'm glad I did. I'll never cruise without a balcony if I don't have to. There's nothing like sitting out at two AM, reading, on the open sea. If you've never had a balcony stateroom, you're missing something.
Embarkation: The gangway was malfunctioning when we arrived, and we had to wait over an hour to embark. The staff at the port were VERY courteous and helpful. Some people were getting stressed, but we were already in vacation mode, so it didn't faze us. Hey...stuff happens!!
The Ship: What can I say...it's a big honkin' boat!! it was clean, well-lit, spacious and extremely easy to get around, once you learned which decks went all the way through.
The Crew and Staff: EVERYONE we met was extremely helpful, nice and friendly. We had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world(My wife counted 15 nationalities, but I thought it was actually more), and everyone seemed to get along with each other. We even got a chance to talk with the captain one-on-one for a minute. Tex, the CD, was a bit of a disappointment. We thought his spiel seemed too rehearsed and canned to be spontaneous. We were right; we got the same exact speeches and jokes all cruise long on the next two cruises.
also, on the first cruise, I challenged him to remember me as I would be cruising again in a month(we re-booked while still on this cruise). He didn't remember me the next cruise. I'm 6'8"(that's why the captain stopped to talk to us), and my wife is 5'2", we're hard to forget. He was the only member of the staff or crew we met that seemed less than genuine and sincere. His assistant, Stephanie, was AWESOME!!
The Stateroom and Steward: on the first cruise we had a Balcony room, on the next two we upgraded to Grand Suite. The rooms were clean, spacious, comfortable and bright. I was disappointed that the light on my balcony didn't work, but I was told that was a common problem(the lights did not work on the other cruises either). My wife and I think that a room is merely a place to change your clothes and sleep, so we're not usually impressed with "hotel rooms". Carnival has changed our minds(at least at sea, anyway).
We had the same steward on the first two cruises:"Kim". He was great. He was very helpful and attentive and seemed to always be just where we needed him. He DID remember us on our next cruise.
The Pool areas: WOW!!! Great fun!!! They were a little crowded at times, but the salt-water pool was really cool. The hot tub was not too hot, and it offered a great view of the outdoor movie screen. This was so cool.
Seaside Theater: We loved this. They played the same schedule on each cruise, and that was a little disappointing, but that's okay. Sitting in the pool/hot tub or lounging on a deck chair as the sun goes down watching a movie. Not too shabby a way to spend an evening. Not too shabby at all.
The Entertainment: The shows were typical B-grade Las Vegas wannabe revues. My wife likes revues, I don't. Everyone seemed very happy and excited with the shows. Hey! as long as mama had a good time, I'm good. The musicians and bands were all great. Especially Jerry, the Taiwanese-Canadian country singer in the Lobby Lounge. The piano bar was a bit cheesy, but fun. The disco was packed the night we went('70s night, of course), but the crowd was having a blast. The two DJs working the ship were very adept at reading the crowd and changing the music to suite the vibe. The entertainment, overall, was top-notch. We had a ball!! Jerry, the DJs and one of the bands also remembered us on our next cruises. The comedians were pretty funny, nothing spectacular, but pretty funny. The later, adults only, shows are definitely better. Of course, everyone's funny when the audience is totally ripped, as they always are at late shows.
Bars and Cocktail Servers: Everyone was extremely nice and the bartenders were more than willing to mix new concoctions and try different stuff. We were remembered by a great many on the bar staff as well.
On-board Activities: We didn't participate in any on-board group stuff. My wife and I aren't really "joiners", but the people who were playing games and singing karaoke and stuff were having fun. We were having fun people-watching and enjoying each other's company, as usual.
Kids' Stuff: It's just us, and we're both 50, so we didn't do the kids' stuff, but the kids we saw were all having fun. The activities and groups for kids appeared to be extremely well organized and monitored.
Ports and Excursions: On the first cruise we didn't want to commit to any excursions, so we decided to just get off and do our own thing.
What a dump! We took the bus past the armed guards and were accosted and harassed by what seemed to be a thousand vendors at the little bus-stop area. We promptly got back on the bus and headed back to the shop area by the dock, where we bought some gifts, had a margarita and went straight back to the ship. On subsequent cruises we simply went to this area for gifts and margaritas before going back to the ship and hitting the pool.
Nice and clean. We had margaritas at Fat Tuesday(as we have on each subsequent cruise),and lunch at Pancho's Backyard. The drinks and food were great. on our next two cruises, we did the "Twister Boat to Isla Passion" excursion. We plan on doing this every time we hit Cozumel.I could spend hours on this topic, but I won't. I'll simply say: do it! It's absolutely fantastic!!
Debarkation: 3,000 tired, but happy, people trying to get off a ship and go through customs. You do the math.
Parking: We found this AWESOME parking garage directly across the street from the port. B.O.I. Valet. Very helpful. They also remembered us form previous cruises.
Dining, Food and Service: I save this for last because, for me, it's the biggie. I started in the restaurant business in 1976, and it is all I have ever wanted to do. I love food, and food-service. I love everything about it. it has been my vocation and avocation for 36 years.
Pretty good. Some were better than others. The Mexican and French buffets were terrible, while the Caribbean buffet was excellent. The others were pretty much "okay".
Off The Grill was great, hot dogs and burgers late night...Heck Yeah! The sushi stand was also great. Simple, but very tasty.
Pizza Pirate was great, but EXTREMELY popular. Expect to wait a couple of minutes for your pizza to be ready. That's actually a good thing though, because the pizza is always fresh and hot(I mean HOT).
Chopsticks was terrible: gummy noodles...yuck!!
The Deli was pretty good. I'm not a deli guy, but my wife enjoyed it.
Vienna Cafe: The coffee was good, but the desserts...Holy Moley!!! I've stopped eating the desserts at the meals, so I can go here. You have to try the Black Forest Cake and The White Chocolate Raspberry Cake!!!
PERIPHERAL SERVICE, BUSSING AND MAINTENANCE:
Everybody was right on top of everything. It didn't matter what time it was or how crowded the areas were, the staff kept the areas clean, bussed and ready to go. GREAT JOB!!
MAIN DINING ROOM(We like the Paris):
The food was presented very pleasantly and attractively. It's obvious that a great deal of time and care goes in to the prep and serving of the food. The actual taste and quality of the entrees, however, seems to worsen as the cruise goes on. The soups, salads, appetizers, sides and desserts were great all the way through, but by the fifth day of cruise on the entrees were literally inedible. I took a couple of bites and had to give up, my wife was done after one bite. On the next cruises, there was a lessening of quality in the entrees as the cruise wore on, but not as bad as on that first cruise.
We had requested a small table for two because, as I mentioned earlier, we're not really joiners. We prefer dining by ourselves. When we got to the dining room, we had been assigned to a HUGE table with eight other people. Well, that just wasn't what we wanted, so we went to the Maitre D', who told us that we could have a small table to ourselves if we wanted to switch to the later dining time. We said okay, and we're glad we did! We have had this table on each cruise, and will have it again on next week's cruise. When we got to the table we were greeted by Hristo(call me Chris) the lead waiter, and it was smooth sailing(pun intended) from then on. We request this table not only because we like it, but because it is in Hristo's station when he is on board. To say that the service provided by Chris and his team was excellent would be a gross understatement. Everything was PERFECT!!! Trust me, I know the difference, it's my job to. The main reason we booked our next cruise on Triumph and not Magic is that it's Hristo's first cruise back from vacation(yeah, great service is that big a deal to us!). When we entered the dining room on the first nigh of our later cruises, we could hear Hristo and his team calling us as we made our way to the table where we were greeted with hugs and handshakes. They made us feel at home, and like family. This wait team is definitely one of the high points of the Triumph experience for us. It doesn't really matter if the food is good, this service MORE than makes up for any shortcomings in the kitchen.
Needless to say, we LOVE Cruising and we love the Triumph. If the Magic and Sunshine are anything like it, we're going to love them too. Carnival has made loyal customers out of us, and as long as they're still sailing, I see no need to sail anyone else. Unless it's free...I'm a sucker for free.