Our adventure started with the night before our departure from Upstate NY being spent at the NY State Fair watching Jeff Foxworthy and eating Dinosaur BBQ until 11:00 pm. The only problem with this is that we planned on leaving our home in the Syracuse NY suburbs at about 4:00 am in order to make the hour drive to Rochester NY airport by 5:00 am for a 6:50 am departure on AirTran Airlines flight to Orlando.
With little sleep I loaded luggage and family into the SUV and we left, almost on time, and arrived in Rochester at about 5:25 am with time to spare.
Our plan was to fly to Orlando, rent a car, spend the day at Walt Disney World, and then travel to Disney's Vero Beach resort where we spent the night. The next morning we continued our trek. First dropping the rental car off at Alamo's location near MIA and then taking their shuttle to the Port of Miami.
All of this worked out well except when Alamo tells you that their location is at MIA it is well off the beaten path and took us nearly 45 minutes after arriving at MIA to actually find their drop off location.
We arrived at the ship around 2 pm on Saturday and began our embarkation on Carnival's Triumph bound for our 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise. The process went extremely well as we dropped of the bags right from the rental car shuttle and on to a skid bound for the ship! Our paperwork process was fast and painless and we were on the ship within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. Even the dreaded Embarkation Photo was quick and painless as they had three lines for processing guests for their photos.
Upon entering the ship (deck 3 Lobby) you immediately notice the 6 story tall atrium lobby. At the bottom is the Capitol Bar with 4 glass elevators behind it that go from deck 3 to deck 9. We took one of these elevators up to the Lido deck where we visited our balcony cabin (9290) on the port side mid-ship.
The cabin was a pleasant surprise as it was spacious with plenty of closet space and a wonderful perk of the balcony view (we won't soon cruise again without a balcony). Our luggage arrived with much time to spare before dinner (late seating in the London Dining Room is 8:30 pm) so in between we began to investigate the ship and its offerings.
First was lunch. One of the nicknames we gave this sailing was the "FOOD CRUISE".
Food was available everywhere and often. When Carnival says that the have Pizza and Ice Cream 24 hours a day they mean it. Not that you would really want to eat the pizza! We tried the pizza several times during the week and each and every time the crust was soggy, doughy, and tasteless. The other problem was that there was never pizza ready when you were and a line was always formed each time we visited. I think the pizza would have been much better if they had time to cook the crust completely.
However, the pizza line was no where as long as the line for the buffet! There are usually 2 buffet stations out closer to the pool and then 2 stations inside the South Beach Buffet dining room. Our first day we decided to try the buffet and stood in line almost 40 minutes in order to eat from the buffet. The staff in the buffet does to a good job at keeping up with the demand for tables at the pace of the exit from the buffet line. For fast food the NY deli or the burgers and dogs offerings were consistent and had fairly fast moving lines.
Food offerings were just OK, nothing special. Deserts were also average and we enjoyed the frozen yogurt as much as the offered desert selections. Drinks are a challenge for anyone looking for something without sugar. Water and unsweet ice tea are about all you will find. The one disgusting thing about dining at the buffet were all of the people that felt that they had to take 4 and 5 plates of food at one time rather than making another visit to the buffet line. Much food was wasted and it was disgusting to watch!
After this first visit to the buffet we then decided to use the dining room & room service most of the time. Offerings in the dining room were good to excellent with the Lobster Tail and Prime Rib being the best of the offerings. Service in the dining room was good but many requests (condiments and drinks) took two and three requests to complete. Deserts were mostly average. When there was a desert that sounded like it was above average (like Cherry Jubilee) it ended up being served in a very small dish with no presentation. The best of the deserts was a melted chocolate soufflé and a creme brulee souffle.
We were lucky enough to be seated with a very nice couple and their daughter who were from Michigan, which matched up well with myself, my wife and my daughter. It was nice having another family, with similar interests, to get together with during the week. We got along so well that by the end of the week we were going to the shows together and the last to leave the dining room just before 10:30 pm. Most of the shows were of average fare. None of them really stood out in my mind as being exceptional.
We also saw the comedian, Eddie Capone, self proclaimed "the godfather of comedy". We saw both of his shows. The first was a PG rated show which was funnier than his "R" rated midnight show. The midnight "adults only" show was to be just that, ADULTS ONLY, but even Eddie pointed out a 14 yr old boy in the front of the audience and a friend of ours spotted a teen age girl also near the front of the audience. We were disappointed in Carnival to police venues where there was an age restriction such as the casino, etc.
Something else that we were disappointed in (insert sarcasm here) that there were not enough bars on board since I could not order a Mojito (got addicted to these and were only available at the Casino bar) in my bathroom. Our stateroom bathroom was just about the only place where you could not find a bar on board & LOL!
Casino was just large enough. Slots opened at 9 am most sea days and the table games at 10 am. However, most of the tables were not open (such as the craps table) until much later. I won enough to pay for all of our excursions in cash (including a win at the Casino in the Sheraton in San Juan). I did give a few dollars back at the end of our cruise ;(.
Our excursions were all non-Carnival associated. At our first stop our original plan was to take the Carnival "Old San Juan Shopping" tour but we received a notice that it was canceled and a refund applied to our sign and sail account. We then decided to "wing it" and play it by ear.
As we disembarked at the pier in San Juan we found a tour operator at the end of the pier (just look for the orange and white desk at the end of the pier on the right side). The tour was of the New & Old San Juan at a cost of $20 per person. We got a very good look at both parts of San Juan. Our tour driver was very knowledgeable and gave us plenty of stop time for pictures at the most interesting stops. At the end of our tour he let those that wanted to shop off the tour in Old San Juan just a few (8 or 9) blocks from the ship.
If you need any incidentals there is a Walgreens in Old San Juan. We also stopped at the Hard Rock Café (had a nice dinner here) and also stopped by Senor Frogs (too loud and for the 25 and under crowd). All of these places are within a short walk back to the ship. There is also an area just three blocks west of the pier where for about $50 to $75 dollars you can take a carriage ride and see Old San Juan. We also left San Juan with one less passenger than we came as the Purser's desk was paging an individual and then as we sailed away they then paged for this person's family or friend to inform them that she had not returned to the ship.
In St. Thomas we booked a sightseeing and shopping tour with Godfrey (he was highly recommended by people on Cruise Critic). He picked us up at the pier at just about 10 am and we proceeded to downtown shopping area where he dropped us off for 2 hours of shopping time. We found some good deals on rum and perfume at A.H. Riise and then visited the Del Sol shop (clothing and related items that change from colorless to vivid colors when exposed to sunlight).
We also found some exceptional bargains in the local merchants market just up the block from the major shops (Very nice Polo shirt for $8 for me and a hooded sweatshirt for daughter for $12).
At around noon Godfrey arrived back at the designated pick up spot. However, two guests were a no show and as Godfrey waited he was told to move (double parked) by a local policeman. Godfrey, trying to do the right thing and not leave these two guests behind, circled the block and went back to the designated meeting place to see if the two MIA's had returned. After only 30 seconds of waiting the previously mentioned policeman spotted Godfrey in the same place, and with much attitude, gave Godfrey a ticket. As he tried to explain his situation, this policeman told Godfrey that he was an idiot and that if he said one more word he would "lock him up"!. With that Godfrey gave him his license and registration and took the ticket and left the area.
Godfrey then took us on a better than two hour tour of St. Thomas. He was very informative and showed us some great vistas of the island (see our pictures). I would highly recommend using Godfrey for a St. Maartin tour!
In St. Maartin we decided to just "play it by ear" (as we have been to this port before). We used the water taxi ($6 for all day unlimited use) to get to downtown Philipsburg (major shopping area).
St. Maartin is the best place for purchasing jewelry and watches (in my humble opinion). My wife bought a pair of diamond earrings and a fire opal necklace for my daughter. My wife is not an adventurer like my daughter and I so while she shopped and gambled in the casino we were off to have an adventure.
We rented a quad runner and headed off for Maho Beach to see the airplanes land over the beach. The cost of the quad runner rental was $65 for 2 hours (these are legal on the streets in St. Maartin) and we had a blast riding around the island. We did not visit the French side of the island as we had visited the butterfly farm on a previous visit. I have also taken the America's Cup boat race excursion and found it to be one of the best excursions available.
Our last two days at sea were very relaxing as we did just about nothing at all. Eat, drink, take in the sunshine up on deck (yes, there was much deck lounge chair saving going on) .
We did have some issues with room service as we were served on consecutive days spoiled milk. The first day we received bad chocolate milk for my daughter and the last sea day we received bad skim milk. We notified room service each time with not much of a response other than "would we like a replacement". We did ask for a replacement on the skim milk but our replacement was a bad as the original. The morning of our departure we also found outdated milk product again being served at the South Beach Buffet. We again notified the staff with the same "deer in the headlight" response.
Debarkation was a snap as our color/deck was called about 9:15 am and we were off the ship and on the shuttle bus by 10 am.
There were other issues to which I have not elaborated, but I have added in the following lists of Hits and Misses during our cruise:
Hits of our Cruise
Embarkation and Debarkations Process NY Deli Entertainment of Dining Staff at dinner Captian's Reception on first formal night Casino Room Service delivery (not the food) Balcony Cabin size and view Cabin Steward Excursions at ports of call (booked on our own) Cruise Director Paul (very informative and good vocals)
Misses of our Cruise
Buffet (food and lines). Guests behavior at buffet (taking 4 and 5 plates of food at one time). Food (quality poor to at best average). Art Auctions (beware of this as it is the biggest come-on on the high seas) not really an auction! Kids in elevators. Carnival policy not being enforced (children in Casino, children in ADULT comedy venue, jeans being worn at dinner in dining room). Being served out-dated dairy products after continued communication to food service staff. Fight on deck that had to be broken up the last night of our cruise.
Suggestions for improvement
Offer a movie in showroom on sea days during mid-afternoon Galley tour for guests to see how food/deserts are prepared. Add more serving stations in buffet area to process guests. Better presentation of food in dining room (should be equal to that of a good upscale restaurant). Ship personnel on hand to enforce basic rules of conduct.
All that being said-did we have a good vacation as we would not let the "misses" stop us from enjoying ourselves.
The question is then would we sail with Carnival again-probably not. We would gladly pay more for better food and service. We will look to sail next year with another cruise line such as RCL or go back and sail again with Disney.