This was my sixth cruise on my sixth different Carnival ship. I have to admit that I went into this one a bit skeptically--after being on six Carnival ships, things can feel very similar and even tedious. One can easily develop a "been there done that" mentality. And yet the Triumph impressed me. In fact, there were times when it felt like my very first cruise with all the emotions and "wow-factor" that come with that first cruise. So, with that in mind, here are some highlights:
Jen the Cruise Director. She is truly "brilliant!" But beyond her up-front personality and performance skills, there were two things about Jen that really stood out to me. First, she has that unique ability to make every single person she is speaking to feel like he or she is the most important person on the ship. I watched her do this time and again and was impressed with how well she was able to interact with guests. Secondly, she is obviously a great leader, because her entire staff is outstanding. It seems obvious to me that she has spent a great deal of time training her staff and coaching them on what outstanding customer service and Carnival-style fun look like. Keely, Kevin, Stephen, and all the others were truly great, whether it was managing the comedy club, hosting karaoke, or doing trivia.
The live music. I'm not a bit country music fan, and there is a lot of that, but I can appreciate a live band over pre-recorded music any day. The large show band (which is a dying breed on Carnival) was outstanding (their set in the casino bar was fabulous), but the country band, the guitar player/singer in the lobby bar, and the Latin band were all really, really good. The two shows were well-performed and truly enjoyable.
The food. I believe I had the best service in the dining room I have ever received on a Carnival ship. The food was always hot. The orders were always correct. And the waiters dealt with changes and requests with an amazing amount of charm and grace. They seemed to truly enjoy what they were doing, and I noticed this not only with my own servers but with the servers at the table around us as well. Guy's Burgers and the Blue Iquana were also quite tasty. I did not eat in the buffet, so I cannot comment on that.
The drinks. Say what you will--Carnival has really good bartenders and their drinks are consistently high quality. From the Alchemy Bar to the comedy club to the MDR to the Casino Bar--every drink I had exceeded my expectations and was served with a smile.
The cabin. I had an ocean view cabin for the first time ever (prior to this I have always booked a balcony room). The cabin was clean and well-kept. I liked the vanity in the bathroom as opposed to the glass shelves that my other ships have had. The hair dryer was a bit on the silly side but it did the job for me. I'm a big guy and found that the shower and toilet were just fine. Water pressure was excellent and I never ran out of hot water.
The staff. In short, everything that everyone else has said about the staff being so friendly is absolutely true. I had to interact with guest services on two occasions and found them to be very friendly, quick to action, and willing to do whatever it takes to remedy any situations that come up. Everyone said hello, made eye contact, etc. This is obviously coming from someone in management on board the ship--I don't know if it's the hotel manager or the Cruise Director or what, but whoever is setting the tone and creating this climate should be duly rewarded.
I did do one excursion--Ux Mal at Progresso. I did the Carnival excursion. The guide, Julian, was very knowledgeable and personable and led a fantastic tour. The bus was comfortable and the ruins are magnificent to see. In Cozumel I followed some Filipino crew members to a Filipino restaurant where I had some of the best Lumpiang I've had in a very long time as well as some free Wi-Fi.
I utilized Carnival's Fly Aweigh service for flights, and the flights were timed perfectly and cheaper (that's right--CHEAPER) than I was able to find anywhere on my own. I also utilized the Carnival ship-to-shore service for the same reason. Transfers, loading, unloading, etc. all went very smoothly.
So was it all perfect? Of course not, but my negatives are few and far between and, I believe, a bit nit-picky:
The window in my cabin did allow a certain amount of water to seep through when waves were crashing up against the ship. Not a big deal--it's a metal window frame on a ship sailing in salt water--things rust.
The volume of the music at times was a bit loud in the show lounge. However, I found that if I just moved over to a different seat it made all the difference in the world.
I wish the Alchemy Bar offered the martini tasting more than just from 6-7 pm. I did 6 pm dining and was never able to take advantage of this.
I felt bad for the kiddos that the slide was closed for maintenance. I know it has to be done, but it seems like it could have been done in November when there aren't as many children on the ship.
We did have one group in the MDR who got a bit out of hand one night and put the servers in a very uncomfortable position during one of the dances. The maître d addressed this, however, and the last two nights they were very well-behaved.
So that's all the negatives I have about the entire cruise. It was a great value for the money and I would certainly sale on the Triumph again, although, since Jen is moving to the Dream this summer, I might just have to follow her over there!
Final thoughts--I still enjoy the Carnival experience when it is well-executed. They provide everything that is necessary to have a fun cruise is one is willing to enjoy the ride. I won two "ship on a stick" trophies for trivia. I used the gym every day to make sure I didn't bring home more "me" than I took down with me. I even had them do my laundry for me so that I came home with a suitcase of clean clothes and no mountain of laundry. I can't think of any other vacation I can go on where that happens.
Do yourself a favor--experience the Triumph out of Galveston. You won't be disappointed.