We sailed on the Triumph’s 5-day, 1/4/14 sailing. I celebrated my 50th birthday on this cruise. This was our 7th Carnival cruise, first on the Triumph. Previously we had sailed 3 times each on the Ecstasy and Conquest. Our last Carnival cruise was on the Conquest in Dec 2011. After that cruise we said we may not cruise at all anymore, and definitely not on Carnival. We did do an NCL cruise out of New Orleans last February. And even though we enjoyed that cruise very much we still said, meh, we may be cruised out. However, we wanted to take a quick trip for my birthday and the RCCL ship sailing out of Galveston is in dry dock this month. I really just wanted to be able to lie out in the sun and enjoy some drinks and relax on my birthday, so we went ahead and booked the Triumph. The day before we sailed Carnival called with an upsell offer to go from a lido balcony to an Ocean Suite on Empress. We took the deal. In hind sight we would have been happier on lido.
We did have fun on the trip, but mostly in spite of Carnival and not because of them. We typically find a way to have fun where ever we are and whatever we are doing, and that was the case on this trip. I think that since we have seven Carnival cruises since 2005, I am qualified to comment on the increasingly poor product that Carnival offers. We are not people who are difficult to please and we went into the cruise with lowered expectations, and even so we were disappointed.
Below are some random thoughts, opinions and comparisons on the cruise. I hope they don’t anger anyone too much. They are my honest opinions.
The Ship –
I was expecting a ship that had recently been through an extensive remodel to be in better looking shape than it was. Nothing horrible, horrible, but a lot of rust, worn varnish/stain on wood work, warped boards on deck, things like that. The traffic flow on the ship is ridiculously bad. The locations of the Guy Fieri’s and the Blue Iguana Grill, the deli and Chopsticks limits the flow through aisles on lido greatly and makes it especially difficult if you are trying to navigate while carrying food, and even more especially since there are no longer any trays to carry your food and drinks on. There were drink stations set up so that people in line for drinks were lined up out into the traffic flow. It was just ridiculous. The other ridiculous traffic flow area was on Promenade during the evenings when they sit up all of the photo op stations. It limited the flow through area to a corridor about the size of a normal hallway. Throw in people stopping to look at the photo backdrops, 20-something guys trying to bull their way through, etc, it just made for an annoying trip down the Promenade.
The Stateroom – Cabin 7312, Ocean Suite on Empress Deck
We had originally booked a port-side lido balcony, which is what we usually get. We love being on lido. We had also purchased FTTF. However when they called with suite upsell offer, we went ahead and took it because the weather forecast was iffy and we thought we might appreciate the extra room if we were forced to spend a lot of time in the cabin. We were able to cancel the FTTF for a refund. When the Carnival rep called regarding the upsell, she assured me that the suites would be one of the first cabins open to passengers and that suite luggage is sent up right after FTTF. Neither of those things were true. They opened the suites at 1, but they weren’t all completely clean. Our luggage didn’t come until we were at dinner. The only perk suite passengers get is priority embarkation, and supposedly debarkation, but it seemed like there were an awfully lot of people off before us. They could have all been self-assist I suppose. The room itself was very comfortable with plenty of storage. There is a flat screen TV (not the greatest picture and limited channels), a wet bar and fridge, a dressing area, two separate closets and a full bath. It is not THAT much larger than a regular balcony room and we wished we had kept our original room and FTTF.
What we liked about the room:
The bedding, mattress, pillows, and linens, were all very, very comfortable. We slept very well every night and we are both somewhat picky about our bedding.
The storage – There was more storage than we could use. We like to unpack and get everything put away and there was plenty of room for everything.
The fridge - I don’t think regular balcony rooms have them.
Our steward – He did a good job but I just felt bad for him. He and his assistant had 25 cabins to do everyday plus, they have to do all the outside balconies, windows, etc. When we boarded the windows and balcony were more encrusted with salt than I had ever seen on a ship before. Apparently the previous cruise was pretty rough weather wise. You couldn’t even see out the windows. DH got a towel and started cleaning the windows himself and about that time the steward popped through the door from the balcony next door with his cleaning supplies. We really kept our room neat and clean so that they wouldn’t have to spend too much time cleaning our cabin
What I didn’t like about the room:
It wasn’t on lido. My fault I know. I should have kept the first room.
For a recently remodeled ship there were some cosmetic things in the room that I wasn’t expecting. The bottom drawer in the dressing area would not close all the way. It stuck out about an inch. Where they had installed the baseboards, one piece was too long and so they didn’t meet flush. It looked like they had taken a hammer and just forced them together. They were all bent up. Just cosmetic I know, but both of those things should have been easily fixed.
The bathtub – The bathtub was very tall and narrow. Anyone very “fluffy” at all would have had to squeeze to sit in the tub. I am 5’ 5” tall. The top of the tub was ~5” above my knee. It might be difficult for anyone with knee or hip problems to get in and out of the tub. DH is 6’ and less than 190 lbs, so not fluffy at all. He said the tub was so narrow that he had to shower sideways.
Cheers and bar service
We purchased the Cheers program. We couldn’t purchase it until the day after embarkation. It was $459 total. On this cruise Carnival made money from us on Cheers. When I was reading Cheers reviews, I didn’t understand how people complained about only getting 15 drinks a day. Normally I wouldn’t be able to drink that many drinks without passing out first. But after my first few drinks I understood because the drinks were so weak. I’m talking really, really weak. Those drinks were from the EA Sports Bar (fruit juice with a splash of alcohol) and the New World Bar at the back of lido. But we found it really depends on the bar and bartender. The Blue Iguana Cantina and Red Frog Rum Bar seemed to make stronger drinks, especially the Iguana. You have to drink about 6 drinks or 8 beers to break even. We probably came out a little ahead on both sea days, CCL came out ahead on the Progreso day, and way ahead on the Cozumel day.
I know food is very subjective. I come from a family of good cooks. I’m probably one of the worst cooks in my family, and I’m pretty good. Also, we live in an area where we have access to many great restaurants of all different types. So I’ve never been overly impressed with cruise ship food, but I can tell it has gone downhill from our first cruise. The food was edible. You will be able to find something to eat. But it wasn’t much better than that. There was nothing we had that we felt like we would want seconds of. The best thing I had was a Greek farmer salad in the MDR. DH enjoyed the ribs in the MDR. We ate dinner in the MDR on 3 nights, at the buffet one night and had room service once. We had a couple of Guy’s burgers. They are good burgers but they aren’t better than Fuddruckers or any other land based burgers. They are just good for cruise ship burgers. DH liked them more than I did. I had one shrimp burrito from the Iguana grill and it was one of the better lunch items. This I don’t understand – they have a salsa bar, but no chips. That makes NO sense, especially for a Texas based ship. Chopsticks was blah. Any local fast-food Asian restaurant would be better. The MDR is not open for breakfast or lunch and that was disappointing. Also – no more nightly sushi which had been one of our favorite things about sailing Carnival. I had the “Study in Sushi” one night in the MDR. That was a joke. The Tasting Bar was also somewhat of a joke. They had a meatball one night that was so salty that I couldn’t finish it, and it was only meant to be a bite! Other than the meatball, the only other thing we had that we simply couldn’t have more than one bite of was the piece of birthday cake that they brought me in the MDR on my birthday. It was weird and horrible. We had Anytime Dining. We requested and got the same table and servers each night we were there and the service was good.
Once again, we have access to lots of entertainment options at home, so my opinion of the on-board entertainment is colored by that. We tried to see a couple of the comedy shows, but even getting there 15 minutes early it would be standing room only, so we never got to see the comedians. We saw the end of the “New Wave Magic” show and it was the same thing we’ve seen in the magic shows for the last few years and really not as well done. “The Big Easy” had a lot of potential. We both agreed that of all the cruise shows we’ve seen over the years this one had the best music choices, costumes, backgrounds, etc, but it was hampered by two weak lead performers. If those two had been stronger performers, that would have actually been a really good show. We enjoyed Jerry, the singer in the lobby bar in the evenings. He was an Asian gentleman with a very deep voice who sung mostly classic country. But he was a good singer and a good entertainer. Also, the band that played on the promenade next to the casino bar was very good. The lido DJ did a good job of sometimes playing mellow, tropical music and sometimes cranking up the party, except on the last day. He had the volume up SO loud. We were over behind the slide and we had to lean over and yell to hear each other. When he took a break during the ice carving demonstration I went and asked him if he would please turn it down some, it was just too loud. He said he would and bless his heart, he did.
Honestly – I am not a big Progreso fan. We have seen ruins in other places and didn’t want to take a long bus ride. So we took the shuttle from the pier into town. There we took the tour around town on the double-decker bus. It cost $5 pp and I thought it was worth it. Then we walked down to the beach, stopping in route to get a drink and nachos. The vendors here are relentless. Even sitting at a restaurant table they are just lining up. I know they are trying to make a living, but it gets exhausting saying “No thank you” every minute. It makes it impossible to relax. We went ahead and walked the length of the Malecon and back, stopping at Tommy’s, which is next door to famous Buddy’s. DH got a half-hour massage. He paid $10 and tipped $10. I had a couple of margaritas and they were very weak. They were 2 for $5 and they certainly weren’t worth more than that. We enjoyed meeting and visiting with some of our shipmates and the weather was beautiful that day while we were there. The service at Tommy’s was very good. It was just difficult to relax and a have a good time with the constant parade of vendors. On our way back to the ship we walked through the flea market located at the shuttle stop and bought some souvenirs. Prices are better here than you will find in Cozumel and vendors here will negotiate.
As we were getting ready to sail away, the cold front that gripped the US last week caught up with us. The ship started rocking so much that the water in the lido pool started flowing out of each side as the ship rocked back and forth. That night was one of the roughest of any cruise I’ve been on. When the weather started coming in, I went to the cabin and took a motion sickness pill and I was fine but I think other people had problems. The crew put the sea sickness bags out everywhere.
The weather was really rough going into Cozumel. High winds and waves. It was damp and dreary all day. It took the captain about an hour to get the ship parked correctly at the pier. We were originally scheduled to dock at Puerta Maya, but the CD said that due to the weather we were docking at Punta Longusta downtown because the water is deeper there. So we were late in getting off the ship. We had planned to do Chankanaab on our own and had brought our own snorkel gear. But after seeing the winds and waves we scrapped that plan and went into town instead. We have always enjoyed Cozumel and several times we’ve just gone into town and walked around, had drinks and shopped. We’ve even been to Cozumel on land vacations. This time the shop vendors seemed much more aggressive than ever before. Even waiters at restaurants were aggressive in their attempts to get patrons. And town was packed with people. There were 6 ships in port and I imagine that most water activities were canceled. I don’t see how they couldn’t have been. Walking on the Malecon was uncomfortable due to the wind and spray from the waves coming over the sea wall. So we went back into town a few blocks and wandered around. It wasn’t as wet and windy back there and no aggressive vendors. We walked through a residential area and it was interesting. We eventually made our way to Jeannie’s which is a restaurant next to Margaritaville. We had a nice lunch and headed back to the ship.
OK – I am hesitant to type this paragraph, but I’m going to do it anyway. Whenever I have read reviews where people were talking about Carnival cruises being wild, party, booze cruises, I’ve always thought those posters must be snuck-up snobs who were cruising Spring Break and didn’t know what to expect, or something along those lines. I had never really seen that behavior to any kind of extreme. Until I went on this cruise and now I’ve seen what they were talking about. We are not prudes, not at all. We are 50-something young. For goodness sake, I just got my first tattoo and of my group of friends I would be considered the party girl. But there were people on this cruise who took it to a whole new level. First of all, we booked this cruise thinking that all the kids would be back in school but there were a lot of children on board, young kids and teens, and worse – college age. This cruise is what I imagine a spring break cruise must be like. We got to see live twerking for the first time. It looks better when Miley does it than when a bunch of drunk bachelorette party girls are doing it around the pool. That group also played a version of bachelorette party scavenger hunt during the Progreso sail away. They were all in one of the hot tubs and they would take turns getting out and running up to people asking them something. DH went and asked one man what they had said to him. He laughed and said she wanted to know if he would “trade drawers” with her! When I went to the cabin for a minute one of them asked DH if he had change for the condom machine. I hope none of them did anything really stupid that they regretted when they sobered up. Another example of the type of behavior I’m talking about was the family on the double decker bus tour with us in Progreso. They were whooping and hollering and yelling at people on the street to the point we sometimes couldn’t hear the guide. They were acting like they were all liquored up but it was only 9:30am so that might just be how they act. It was embarrassing to watch. In Cozumel we watched another family from the ship taking turns downing tequila straight from the bottle. They would count and see who could drink to the longest count. It looked to me like they were inviting alcohol poisoning. And this was a family, parents, grandparents and young adult kids. When they killed the first bottle, one of the women brought out another to the cheers of the group.
Did I have fun – yes, but that is because of my DH, who did things like decorating the room while I was in the shower complete with a bubble machine, and because my main goal for this trip was to be able to get some sun, read a couple of books and relax and I got to do those things.
Would I cruise Carnival again – I’m not sure I’m going to cruise again at all. We have a big land vacay planned for Hawaii later this year and next year we may do the Florida Keys. But for sure if we cruise again it will not be with Carnival. Now that RCCL is sailing year round from Galveston and NCL and Princess will both be sailing from Houston, we will have more local cruise options. We did a NCL suite from New Orleans last Feb and you can’t beat those suite perks.
Would I recommend Carnival to someone else – It depends. If my son’s friends wanted to go and they were really only looking to drink and party on a limited budget, I might recommend Carnival as an acceptable option, especially if they were first time cruisers. However, I will no longer recommend the line to my friends.
One last note and another reason I’m not happy with Carnival – I found out today that our best friends had ordered gifts for us to be delivered onboard for my birthday. We never received those gifts. She called on Wednesday to make sure they would be delivered and was assured they were going to be delivered that day so that we would have them the next day, which was my birthday. I know that she was talking to someone on land who can’t control what happens on the ship, but there should be systems to be in place to insure that gifts that are bought and paid for are delivered. CCL’s mistake has cost her money, and will cost here time in getting her refund I’m sure. It would have been a lovely surprise for us, and that moment can’t be recreated.
I know that a lot of Carnival fans on these boards can see no wrong in Carnival, and actually find a way to blame the poster for any complaints voiced and I hope my review doesn’t stir up too much wrath. This was my 7th Carnival cruise, so obviously I’m not just a Carnival hater. It’s something that has developed over time. I just feel the experience has slipped so much that I don’t enjoy it anymore and it is not worth the money it costs. And people trying to decide on a cruise need to hear all opinions, not just the completely rosy ones.