Okay - so here is my review from start to finish. If you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask. Like I said above, this was our first Carnival Cruise so I'm by no means an expert on everything Carnival, but I am more than happy to answer any and all questions about our experience.
On Thursday, Feb. 20th, we arrived in Galveston to check out the sights and see if the Triumph had made her appearance yet. However, due to heavy fog in the Galveston Channel, the cruise returning from a 5 day was delayed getting in and didn't arrive in Galveston until about 1:30 that afternoon, instead of 8:00 a.m. that morning. So, since we were early - VERY early - we went to breakfast at Star Drug Store on 23rd Street. It is the oldest drug store in Galveston and has a lot of neat gifts and great breakfast - all the way down to the soda fountain counter in a horseshoe shape right in the middle of the store. Anyway, after breakfast we decided to go driving down the SeaWall and see what all was there. It has a lot of great places to hang out and shop or stay the night and even to play on the beach. We will be making a trip just to hang out there in the near future. After that we went back to the pier just to hang out and have a few drinks and some appetizers to get our party started early, as well as watch the Triumph come into port. Also, we had dropped our luggage right before this about 1:15.
The Boarding Process - About 1:30 that afternoon, she finally arrived in Port. However, it was another good 2 hours before we were even allowed to start the boarding process. Thanks to someone on here mentioning the FTTF Pass (Faster to the Fun Pass) and spending the extra $50 - we were through security, got our cards and in the waiting area all in under 30 minutes. We kept saying the entire trip how nice it was that we had the pass and how much time it saved us just by having that little card. The FTTF is only $50 PER stateroom - NOT per person. It can be found under Shore Excursions in your booking info on carnival.com. They only allow so many to be purchased and they go very quick - I now know why. So... about 4:15 we began the actual boarding process and we were on the ship fairly quickly after that. - I'd say within 15 minutes max. They take the wedding parties, gold, platinum, faster to the fun first and THEN the rest of the passengers. Due to the late arrival and boarding, however, our cabin wasn't going to be ready until 5:30 that evening instead of being ready before we ever boarded (another perk of the FTTF - cabin is ready as soon as you board and you receive your luggage much quicker). So, the cokes and water we had, plus our carry on, we had to lug around for a good hour. But, since we had already met people on Facebook who were going too, we just met them at the Red Frog rum bar and put our stuff down and began to have drinks and make new friends! :)
Our Cabin - Cabin number 6352 - At 5:30 we went to our cabin to check things out and see what our first towel animal consisted of. The cabin was VERY spacious (we had an Upper Deck 6 Interior cabin Mid-Ship - no port hole or window, or balcony). It was GREAT and VERY QUIET. There were 3 closets (one had the safe and life jackets in it), the others had robes and extra hangers and places for your shoes to go. The bathroom wasn't very big, but definitely had plenty of space for all of your stuff to go and the shower was very spacious. However, the shower head is actually one that you can just pull off the top and run all over you if you wish. And the other downside in the bathroom was the hair dryer - it looks more like an old timey square vacuum cleaner from many years ago that they hung on the wall. And the dryer part actually looks just like it as well. And... it does NOT dry your hair at all. I was glad I had brought my own hair dryer. On another note, regarding that - there is ONLY a plug in (on the dryer) that will allow a shaver to be plugged in - nothing more. I tried plugging my hair dryer into it, but it wouldn't work. Also, there is a bottle opener in the bathroom too. HA! In the room there are mirrors and drawers and extra cabinet space and there are 2 plug ins on that same wall right at the mirror area, so we had plenty of room to plug a hair dryer, phone chargers and flat iron into. Our room stewards were VERY nice and always smiling when we saw them. I can't recall their exact names, but I know that the "helper" was nicknamed "Indie". I can't recall the main guy's nickname though. They kept our ice bucket full at ALL times - from the very first day (without us even asking for them to do so). They provided excellent service and remembered our names and always had a huge smile on their face. We did tip them extra for their efforts as they well deserved it.
Food - we had the early seating in the Paris Dining area lower - table 428. Our main waiter was Eugene (he was adorable and very efficient - and ALWAYS smiling). Also, he always remembered our drink choice and they were kept full for the most part without asking. I can't recall our other waiter's name, but he was very helpful, just not as friendly - kind of quiet and reserved. The dinner was very good the first night, but after that it left a lot to be desired to be honest with you. We sat at a table for 8, but only 3 of us couples showed up the first 2 nights and then the last 2 (actually 3 - but more on that later), then only 2 of us couples showed up. We actually ended up hanging out with the other couple that showed up with us each night. They were a lot of fun, our age, and live within a few hours of us. We have all become fast friends. :) Dinner on the last night was again, very good, like the first night. I think it was because it was supposed to be the first night's dinner for the next cruisers - but due to heavy and dense fog, we were on board an extra night because we couldn't get into the channel. I'm not sure why their food in the MDR wasn't that great, but it wasn't. My husband and I are not picky people at all, but some of the food was honestly inedible and we just went to dessert instead. However, some of their desserts weren't that great either - but the Melting Cake was to DIE FOR! It was DELICIOUS!!! The Pizza bar is opened 24 hours a day. It was just okay - nothing to rave about at all. We didn't get to try chopsticks because we didn't know about it in time. The buffet was pretty good - just your standard pancakes, bacon, eggs, etc., along with other options including sweet rolls and fresh fruit. Also, the 24 hour a day ice cream was available as well and it was good. Oh and of course, Dave's burgers was on the ship. The burgers and fries were delicious and we actually ate that for lunch every single day. We didn't get to try the italian restaurant or steakhouse or chopsticks at all, so I don't know how their food was. There was also a taco bar and a burrito bar as well as a deli. We didn't try any of those.
Entertainment - leaves a LOT to be desired. My husband and I were both in drama in high school and college and love going to see musicals of most any and all kinds. The welcome aboard show on the first night was pretty good. However, the last 2 nights were very good. They entertainers preformed the Big Easy and it was a fantastic production. They are all really very talented. We didn't go see the very last night's show because we had to get up extra early the next day to disembark (this was after our extra night at sea). The Comedians were OUTSTANDING and VERY VERY FUNNY!! I cannot recall their names other than one of their last names was Foust. Would love to see them both again sometime! As far as the cruise director - we had Gumby. He was okay - not really funny, but just okay. I wasn't real impressed with him as a cruise director at all. There was also Irish Bob and Keely - as well as another couple of guys who were really good though. Bingo was good and fun. It cost $20 to $30 per person depending on how many cards and stuff you bought. The only thing we were disappointed about was that we thought we would at least play 3 or 4 games for that price but we only played one cover all game (we had a total of 3 cards between us) and the game was over within 30 minutes or so. Two people bingoed and were able to split $1,000 so we were happy for them - just disappointed that we didn't get a chance to play more games. They seemed to be running a lot (too many) shows and activities back to back in the Rome lounge, which meant things seemed to have gotten rushed a lot. The Love Game was great and VERY funny - but definitely not something you take your children to. They also had a game called the Liar game and it was the audience against the panel of 4 and that was really good - but also, not always something your children should attend.
Drinks - VERY good and VERY strong. We didn't do the drink package but chose to bring on a bottle of champagne and a bottle of wine when we boarded instead. (you are allowed 750ml per bottle and only one per person) We also brought a 12 pack of cokes and a 12 pack of water. (you are allowed a 12 pk of cokes and a 12 pk of water per person). We did drink Pina Coladas among beer and other fruity mixed drinks too though while on board. The tip is automatically added into each of your drink purchases. Which was fine because that way the bar tender was receiving their tips - however, I didn't feel like they ever went above and beyond to deserve extra tipping, so we never did. They didn't all seem to be very friendly or outgoing at all either. We mainly drank at the Red Frog but had a couple of drinks from the Blue Iguana as well. Mainly we enjoyed just hanging out there and having a few drinks with some new friends we had made. There was ABUNDANT lemonade, water, iced tea, coffee and hot chocolate on board at all times. The water was just fine coming out of the spout - it was filtered and never had a bad taste to it at all. We tried the specialty coffee bar once and it was okay. Nothing spectacular, but still good. The prices were VERY reasonable I thought - and much cheaper than Starbucks (I am a Starbucks junkie) and larger cups. In other words - a "grande" size on ship was only about $2.25 to $3.25. However, again, they had fresh hot coffee and hot chocolate there in the buffet area. Can cokes ran about $2.25 and beers in bottles about $4.25 and other mixed drinks ran about $7.50 each. And these were all before tips.
Port of call - we only went to one port of call since it was a short cruise and it was Cozumel. My husband and I decided in advance that we were taking this trip mainly for relaxation so we did not plan any excursions while in cozumel. However, we decided to get off the ship and go to the shopping area right where the ship was docked. I can't recall the name of it - Punta something I think. It is a VERY clean and great shopping place with very reasonable prices on things. We bought liquor and jewelry there as a matter of fact. Our shopping guru on board was Julie and she was very good at directing you where to go for the best prices when it came to jewelry. Also, if you get the chance, be sure and go to her "Fun Finds" show in the Rome lounge and buy the $25 coupon book. It has a TON of FREE stuff in it (that you get that day you get into Cozumel - including free jewelry, spices, tote bags, and more) and is more than worth the $25 price. And, it can be used throughout the caribbean islands (not just cozumel) and is good until December 1st. So even if you're not going on another cruise, you can pass it onto someone else who may be and they can use it. The liquor prices are very good and we brought back 4 bottles of tequila. However, even though it says duty free and tax free - just be aware that if you live in Texas or will be in Texas for 48 hours after your cruise, you will be taxed on liquor, cigarettes and cigars. The tax is very minimal however. And an FYI - you are only allowed to bring out ONE liter TOTAL per person without having to pay a duty tax on the alcohol, which we weren't aware of when we went and purchased the 4 bottles. Also, just another FYI - make sure that whatever you do buy and are bringing back into the US - that you don't spend more than your allotted $800 per person. I'm not sure if you will get taxed or fined on that if you do. We purchased both alcohol and jewelry and luckily we spent only $600 total on everything between us. But, we were looking to exchange my ring and purchase a new one - it's a good thing I couldn't afford the $30,000 or even the $2,500 one either - can you imagine the taxes I would have had to pay on that??? Especially, the $30K??!! YIKES!
On board shopping and photos - the shopping on board was great - they had a lot of really good deals. We actually were able to buy my husband a beautiful gold watch that was regularly $895 and we got it that night for $169 total - like I said, it was a great deal! The tshirts and such were reasonably priced too - though you can get much more for your money on tshirts in Cozumel ($4.99 each) than you can on the ship at $16.95 each. However, they did have some buy one get one free as well as some for $10 too. The photos are pretty expensive - $43 for two 8x10's to be exact. They are $21 each. We only purchased 2 from our formal night and that was because they turned out very very good. There are a TON of photo ops on the ship - you will never not be able to have many different photos made while there. Just be aware of the prices - however, they also give you a deal that if you buy 3 photos, you get a free gift, and so forth. The more you buy, the more free stuff you get - if you want to call it "free". But, all of the photographers were very good and very friendly.
We didn't do the casinos, piano bar or the alchemy bar, so I can't really rate those places.
Dis-embarking process - went VERY smoothly and VERY fast thanks to the "faster to the fun pass". We were off the ship, through customs and to our car all within 30 minutes total. Plus, we carried our own luggage on and off the ship - which was even better. And since we did that, due to having the extra night at sea, we didn't have to give up our luggage the night before like the others did, and we also didn't have to wait to have it re-delivered to our cabin once we had to stay on board another night. I highly recommend taking your own luggage on and off the ship, if you possibly can - it is so much easier. And, we parked directly across the street at "Galveston park and cruise". Very reasonably priced, very efficient and very friendly staff.
As far as rating the Carnival Triumph (our first carnival cruise)- we were slightly disappointed in the food and entertainment - we have had much better food and entertainment on other ships in the past - however, we did enjoy ourselves tremendously on the cruise and were able to make some new friends. And, we have actually already booked our next cruise on the Carnival Magic going out of Galveston in September. We are going with our best friends who will be celebrating their 20 year and we will be celebrating our 17th year.
All I can tell you is to go with the thought you are going to have fun no matter what. After all, no vacation is ever perfect - a cruise is just what you make of it. Only you can allow yourself to be miserable on board a ship. We, however, love to cruise, so I'm even more excited to have 2 booked in the same year! :)
Again, sorry for the extra long review - however, if you have any questions about anything I may not have covered, feel free to ask away! And if you are headed for the Triumph anytime soon - enjoy yourselves! She is a beautiful ship and the staff are all VERY friendly, always smiling, very helpful and are always cleaning the ship. They seem to really love their jobs and always want to please you in any way they can. :)