A little background information on me; I am 51, DH is 56, and this was our 15th cruise together, and my 16th overall. Previous cruises have been on Princess (9), Carnival (3), and one each on HAL, RCCL, and NCL.
This cruise was booked on a whim-we were visiting family near Houston, TX, and thought why not add a cruise if I could find something affordable. So two days before the Triumph "Incident" we booked a Spa Interior so we could have access to the Thermal Suite at a lower cost than if we had booked an Instant Saver Rate, and then paid for Thermal Suite passes. I had rather high expectations for this cruise because we were going on a newer ship, and I had paid more than what I normally pay for a cabin. My mantra is "If I pay Motel 6 prices I do not expect a Ritz Carlton experience" however, in this case I had paid Hampton Inn prices so I did expect a little more.
We didn't get off to the best start. After being dropped off at the airport we went looking for the Carnival Rep as we had purchased transfers from Carnival as it was the most cost effective way to get to Galveston. It took awhile to locate him, and then he escorted us to another terminal, and then we waited, and waited........and waited some more for a bus. There seemed to be an issue with the busses; there weren't enough for all the people who were waiting on transfers. It was getting ugly, and the two kids that were "In charge" were not capable of dealing with the situation. They merely threw their hands up, and walked away, with "Advice" to complain when we did get on board. Anyway we were lucky and made it to Galveston in time. Embarkation was very quick; the only real line was at security. Our wait in line to get our Sail & Sign card was probably less than a minute. After getting our Bon Voyage photo taken it was off to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bags, and off to the buffet to get something to eat.
Cabin-As I wrote earlier we had a Spa Interior (Deck 11). I loved the location, the cabin itself was nice, a bit smaller than what I have had on other Carnival ships, but I really liked the earth tone decor, very soothing and calm. The bathroom was very small, and the shower was as small as those on Princess ships. Our shower curtain was very fresh-always clinging to my body with my husband just outside the door! We had an excellent cabin steward; Jose from India who kept our room serviced twice a day and made some amazing towel animals. He was always very pleasant when he saw us each day. I later found out he has been with Carnival 12-years.
Ship-The decor is understated, which I personally liked. I have read some reviews that felt the ship was missing "The Wow Factor" but I liked not having my eyes assaulted by neon, and garish design. I thought the ship layout was good as it was easy to find most areas-stay on Decks 5 & 10 have most of the public rooms. Starting with the outdoor areas I thought The Tides pool which was aft was lovely. I enjoyed the fact it wasn't as loud as the Lido pool area, and I found it quieter than the Serenity (More on that later). Another plus was there were a few sunshades available and it was only steps away from the Lido Marketplace (Buffet). I wasn't a big fan of The Beach (Lido) pool during the day as it was just too noisy during the day, but at night I did like the "Dive-In Movie Theater" concept. However, they showed the worst movies; Older movies, but not necessarily Classic movies. Some examples were "Forrest Gump", "50 First Dates", & "Sweet Home Alabama". During the day they started with the Today Show, and then usually showed a concert like Cher in the afternoon. One area I did like very much around the Beach Pool was on Deck 11. Ringing the pool they had Wicker Chairs with deep, comfy yellow cushions, with matching ottomans. This was a perfect place to read a book, drink a cup of coffee, or just relax. Deck 12 had the Sports Square, which we discovered on our last day. My DH enjoyed participating in an informal pick-up game of basketball; old guys against younger men (The old guys won!). There was also putt-putt golf, and of course the ropes course. Our first two sea days were very windy so it was closed. I assume it was opened our port days, and it was open our last sea day as the winds were calm. The Waterworks area, also on Deck 12 was very popular with the children and adults alike.
Deck 5 had some interesting open areas. There were 4 hot tubs, 2 on either side that afforded great views, and I really liked the Lanai areas. On sea days there was an open air BBQ called Oceanside BBQ that offered sliders, BBQ Chicken Tacos, and a few other things. Other areas on 5 that we enjoyed were The Spotlight Lounge (All the comedy shows that we saw were here), and the RedFrog Pub.
The Spa Experience-We had a Spa Interior which gave us passes to the Cloud 9 Spa Thermal Suite at no additional charge above what we paid for the cabin. If you wanted to buy a week pass it was $149 for an individual or $249 a couple. You could also buy a day pass for $35 pp. We loved it. Besides the large whirlpool, there were heated tile beds, a sauna with 2 heated beds and enough seating for any additional people as well as a scented steam room, an Oriental steam room, and a fancy shower. It was well used as it was fairly busy at all hours. It opens at 8am and closes at 10pm. Even on our last day it stayed open until 10 pm, which DH very much appreciated. Just one deck up was the Serenity area, which I was a bit disappointed in. First of all it was noisy. Not just from others in the area, but it's proximity to the Waterworks, and it's built around something mechanical for the ship (Massive air conditioners?) that were very loud. Also, there was no shade. The photos of the area on the Carnival web site show round loungers with adjustable sunshades, but not a single lounger had a sunshade, but you could clearly see where they would go. I asked about them my first day up there and was told that ever since "The Incident" they had all been removed. I had no idea what "The Incident" was, my guess is that one blew off and hit someone, or fell into the sea. There are two hot tubs up there which were very popular, and always full (As were all the hot tubs). My other problem with the Serenity were some of the other passengers who apparently had no idea what "Serenity" means. Not just loud, but obnoxiously so. There was a group that sadly had walkie-talkies and the loudest, most obnoxious of the group was forever screaming into hers,giving friends that didn't have the pleasure of actually being in her immediate proximity a blow by blow description of what was going on. We did use it quite a bit, especially the first two sea days because it was close, and therefore convenient to our cabin. It was also mostly kid free. A few suggestions, the round loungers at the very front (There are three) should be the quietest. You will need to get up early though. The first day I was up bright & early and got THE primo spot. We were there all day, and everyone that walked by commented on how "She found the best spot". The next morning I was up bright & early again, but had been beaten to THE spot and had to settle for the one next to it, and on the last sea day I got up there kind of late, and even though overcast and somewhat dreary, I found all three loungers in the front taken. If you get up there by 8 am (9 on the first sea day) you should be able to find a nice spot.
Food-Always subjective. Most dinners were eaten in The Northern Lights Dining Room. For the most part I though the food was good, not great, but good. Service was slow most nights and unbearably so one night. We did eat one night at Cucina Del Capitaano (The Italian Restaurant) which is $12 pp for dinner. Frankly, I didn't think it was worth it. During the day it has a free pasta bar that I never had the opportunity to check out. The other for fee restaurant was the Steak House, which at $35 pp was a little rich for our blood. However, there were a number of fellow passengers that we spoke to that raved about it. The Marketplace, where we ate most breakfast's, and a few lunches was again, just okay. I did like the Burrito Bar that was available at lunch, and I heard other raving about Tandor (Indian food-not a fan so I didn't try). My DH loves the Mongolian Wok available at lunch, but the lines for that were very long and slow moving. My DH waited over 45-minutes to place an order! In the evening we both enjoyed the Taste Bar, which for free offers tastings of some of the restaurants of Carnival. Loved it, but it was only opened 4 nights out of 7. The RedFrog pub offered some Key West inspired pub fare at $3.33 per item. We tried the Coconut Shrimp and found it tasty. On our last sea day we did go to the dining room for the Punchliner Comedy Brunch (Had to redeem those free drink coupons) and really enjoyed that. We both had Eggs Benedict made with filet mignon that was excellent. There were still other options such as room service or the Chef's Table that we didn't try. So I would say with some confidence you shouldn't go hungry.
Entertainment-We are not Night Owls, so we missed most shows, but we did go to Punchliner's Comedy Club for 3 shows, all family friendly, and 2/3 were funny. I heard others talking about the Piano Bar, and they loved it. The RedFrog offered live music starting about 7:30. There was the Dive-In Movie theater that would have benefited from better movies, etc. so you should find something to your taste to occupy yourself at night.
Ports-Montego Bay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We booked shore excursions though Carnival.
Montego Bay, Jamaica we went on a 4x4 excursion. It was okay, we got to see more of the countryside then if we went on a bus tour. However, we did encounter poor weather-it rained heavily during most of the tour, so our guides were willing to take us to the waterfall described in the tour description, but no one in our truck wanted to get out. We did stop at the tour company's store when we had the opportunity to buy Jerk Chicken-delicious.
Grand Cayman we did the Dolphin Swim and Stingrays. Our dolphin of course was beautiful, and we got a kiss, and we "held" the dolphin, and take a belly ride. The pictures were $85 for the entire CD, so if you are a family/group of 4 I felt that was a good value. You could also buy a single photo for $15. For the Stingray part a boat took us out to Stingray City, which had a lot of people. Don't worry, you will see stingrays, they were everywhere. Don't be surprised if one swims right between your legs. There was a photographer on board that took pictures of everyone holding a stingray, kissing a stingray, and getting backrub, yes, from a stingray. These pictures were very good. I was a little leery because you paid, and he emails them to you, but just as he promised, within 5 hours the pictures were in my inbox. I think the price was $25 for 1, $40 for 2 or $60 for all the pictures of your group.
Our final stop was Cozumel. Here we went to Xcaret Eco Park. Oh my, talk about Paradise Found. There were a few drawbacks; you have to take the ferry to the mainland, which is a 45-minute ride. It's as stomach churning as everyone says. They do hand out barf bags, and people do use them. My advice is go upstairs and sit in the open air and look at the horizon. That should help with the seasickness. We only had about 4-hours to explore, which isn't nearly enough time, but it just makes me want to go back.
DH and I really loved this cruise, and it's made our top 5. Staff was great, food was adequate, and choices of what to do gave us a truly memorable vacation. We would go again in a hear beat.