I just returned from a week in the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Triumph. We were a group of 7 made up of two families. My family has cruised before, but not on Carnival. The other family were cruising virgins. I will say that I was a little nervous about cruising Carnival, having heard horror stories from relatives who cruised them in the late 80's and early 90's.
Because of work, we had to fly down on Saturday, the day of embarkation. Because of price, we flew JetBlue out of JFK on a 6:40 am flight to FLL. Unfortunately, JFK is 1:30 away from my house, so we left at 3:30 am to begin our vacation. Fortunately, the flight went well, we received our luggage almost as soon as we reached the luggage carousel. We booked with Absolute Limos for a Super-Strech from FLL to the Port of Miami. They arrived about 40 minutes late. No big deal since we were so early, but not what you would expect from a Limo company. Anyway, we were happy to be on our way. We arrived at the Port t about 11:30. There were two massive Voyager Class RCCL ships, a small NCL ship, a smaller CCL ship and the Triumph. After waiting in a slow moving line, we finally were able to board the Triumph. Carnival should really improve this part of the process, as on our Celebrity Cruise, embarkation took about 5 minutes, not 45.
We headed straight to our cabin, 1050, on the Panorama Deck. We looked out the balcony, changed into bathing suits, dropped our bags and headed strait out onto the deck. The Triumph has this extra deck, unlike the Destiny. It is basically the same as being on the Lido deck. As the week went on, we realized what a phenomenal location our cabin was in.
We checked out the lunch buffet on the Lido deck, grabbed some chairs and got a bucket of Coronas. Went back to the room, and my luggage was already there. Great, I could get unpacking out of the way quickly. We were basically unpacked by the time we mustered. I will say that I was a little disappointed by the Bon Voyage party on the outdoor decks, but I guess since we left before I even made it back to my cabin to put away my life jacket after mustering, I'll assume that half the ship was in the same position.
Now, the long day hit us. We decided to take a nap, which would be a daily occurrence with an 8-year-old. We had plenty of time since we had the 8:30 dinner in the London Dining Room. When we awoke from our naps, we explored the Ship and prepared for Dinner. Our waiter Edy from Indonesia was good, but couldn't hold a candle to the waiter we had on Celebrity, nor the waiter we had on RCCL. He always seemed rushed, and we were always a course or two behind other tables. Our Assistant waiter, Lucia, from Romania was excellent. Very fast with the water and iced tea refills.
I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with the food. While I think that the food and the service especially was better on Celebrity, There was nothing I could complain about with Carnival. There were plenty of choices during the day, N.Y. Deli (Not the Carnegie Deli, but pretty tender Corned Beef and Pastrami), Coney Island Grill, Chinese (not very good, but my wife liked it), pizza (not even close to NY, or NJ for that matter), and the grill. Breakfast buffet was identical every day, except they alternated pancakes and french toast. The dinner in the dining room had more than enough choices for appetizers and entrees. I never went to the dinner on the Lido deck, as I didn't go on vacation to slop warm food on my plate in my bathing suit for dinner. All in all, you'd be hard pressed to complain about the quality of the food on this ship.
The show on the Saturday night was a Broadway Review. Much more extravagant than the shows on Celebrity and RCCL. It was enjoyable, especially for the kids.
On Sunday we spent the Day at Sea. I had no problem getting lounge chairs at 8:30am. This brings me back what a great location being on deck 9 or 10 (on the Triumph at least) is. Short walk back to room if you forgot something, or later when you want an iced tea, coffee or ice cream. The weather was great. I missed the hairy chest contest. I'm not sure if that is good or bad.
On Monday we arrived in Cozumel. We decided to spend the Day at Mr. Sanchos. The tprice was $30.00 for a Van or $14/ a car. We went with van. The beach was very nice. They had a water trampoline. It was $4.00 for 2 hours for the kids. They have free lounge chairs, but I suggest that you get the 2 for $10.00 real lounges with the cushion that is really a float. The water is crystal clear and there is an abundance of shells and coral. There was also a small fresh water pool with a waterfall. Great for pictures. The beers were 4 for $9.00 in a bucket. I do not recommend the margaritas, as they were the worst I ever had. All in all, a nice beach day. We returned to the Triumph and got ready for dinner. The show was the Mexican Folkloric Ballet. I guess it was enjoyable for some, but I thought it was good for getting the kids ready for bed.
Tuesday was another Fun Day at Sea. We relaxed and enjoyed the sun, the pool, the slides and some drinks.
Wednesday we arrived in Grand Cayman. We had previously booked a trip with Soto's Cruises. This was the highlight of the week. Please see my review of Soto's Cruises on the Cayman Islands Board. Enough said. It was unbelievable.
Thursday we did Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios. I have been there before, but my daughter and the other family we were with had never been there. Just a piece of advice, if you are going to get a guide, get your own. Do not go with a huge group. We had a guide, Barnaby, for the 7 of us. He took about 10 pictures of us with our own camera, and kept us at a good pace. If you get stuck with a huge group, you will move extremely slowly and not get so many pictures. Dunn's River came a close second to the Stingray/Snorkeling on Grand Cayman. What a fun day. The shopping in Ocho Rios is terrible. Very expensive and nothing worth buying. The people are very aggressive. Be careful of what you touch, you may be buying it. But don't be afraid to get your own taxi to the falls. It is not as dangerous as you might be let to believe. the people are just very pushy. Practice this word - you can say it in english or spanish -NO.
Friday was the last Fun day at Sea. Again, relaxing, kids playing, a few drinks and sun. The kids loved watching the ice carving demonstration and my wife participated in the Survivor game. She came in second and had a blast.
The shows overall were very entertaining, especially Eddie Capone, who did the R-rated comedy show at midnight on one of the nights. Carnival seems to spend a good deal of money on entertainment, and in my opinion it was money well spent. The shows, both productions numbers, comedy and cruise staff were by far better than on my previous cruises.
I'm sure that the John Heald Bedtime story is the same on every cruise, but being that this was my first time seeing it, I have to say that I haven't laughed that hard for that long maybe ever in my life. It was hysterical. All of the shows that John did were great. I didn't go to many of them live, but I watched them on tv while getting ready for dinner or bed. I couldn't even tell you who the cruise director was on either of my other two cruise. John was so good that I'll probably never forget him.
The Debarkation process was so easy. We had a late flight, so we slept as late as we could and got out of the room just at 9:00. We then just hung around at the South Beach Grill on the Lido deck until they finally called all of the decks and colors. We were able to relax until about 10:15. that was great since Miami was brutal and we had an 11:00 pick up. Again it was Absolute, and again it wasn't perfect. No recommendation here.
Overall, this was by far the best cruise that I have been on. Carnival gives you non-stop action with an emphasis on fun. The best way that I can describe this is my last cruise with celebrity was nice, but the Century had no personality. The Triumph was all personality. I am sure that I left out plenty, but this was just one great vacation.
I do have to add that my daughter loved the towel animals. Every night at dinner, she couldn't wait to get back to the cabin to see what animal was waiting for her. Our cabin steward, Anne-Marie, from Romania was absolutely wonderful. After 1 day, she knew all of our names. She kept an eye on the kids, and was just too good to describe. I plan on sending a letter to Carnival just to let them know how good she was. In our opinion she went beyond just her normal job duties, and yes for you cynics, we rewarded her for it.
One last thing. The casino was the biggest that I have encountered on a ship. I will also say it was very fair. We left just a small deposit. We won most of our blackjack losses back at Let it Ride. There were many people winning. I know of at least 1 person who won over $1,900 in slots. I can't remember anyone winning even $19.00 on the Century.
P.S. For those of you who are so concerned, yes it appears that the carpets are stained, but they are clean. I was them shampoo them. Not sure what the stains are, but the ship overall was very clean.