A review of my first cruise... DISCLAIMER: This is a long review with a lot of tips for first-time cruisers, specific to the Triumph and the ports of Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica.
We drove down from PA to FL in 18 hours, straight down 95. I won't bore you with the details, but if you have any questions about the drive feel free to email me. Now, onto my review!
EMBARKATION The embarkation took about an hour. For any first-timers out there, it's very similar to the whole airport thing. You walk from one line, to another line, to another line... and then onto your beautiful ship!
Embarkation tip for first-timers: They'll take your pictures as you get on the ship. Wear something comfortable AND presentable, as your luggage may not get there until about 5 or 6 pm. Consider packing a bathing suit, but DEFINITELY pack: sunscreen, deodorant, a camera, and a few hairties/headbands for all of the ladies out there-once the ship starts to move the wind will whip your hair around!
TRIUMPH DECOR: Pleasing to the eye. Not the best or "ultimate" in decoration, but the ship is lovely. Clean overall and in good condition. I'm not the most discriminating in this respect, though. Bottomline, it was not as gaudy as some have described it. Sure, some of the color selections are questionable, but in the end, the ship floats, so I'm happy!
TRIUMPH DESIGN: Have fun exploring! The ship's layout can be confusing at times. It's nothing terribly severe unless you allow yourself to get upset about it. Take it all in stride. On Tuesday night, our fourth night in, we had NO clue how to get to our dining room (but that may have been the dirty bananas talking!!!). See my tips below for a guide to the layouts. My tip: Use the 5th level, or the level of your stateroom, to get from one end of the ship to the others, because levels 3 & 4 are broken up and sealed off throughout the day. The 3rd and 4th levels are like this: (excuse my lack of ship jargon...)
FRONT BACK 4-Rome Lounge * Photo Gallery /Upper London */ Oxford Bar/*Upper Paris 3-Rome Lounge *Purser & Tours /London Dining*/ Crew Area /*Paris Dining
*=elevators / = doors that close throughout most if not all of the day
Other ship tips: *The deck on level three is beautiful and peaceful! There are lounge chairs and benches for you to use as well. *Want an awesome view? Go to level 6 and walk towards the front of the ship. There is a deck at the very front that offers amazing views! Turn around and wave to the people in the bridge! (Learned this tip on CC) * The gym has a cool view as well. Even if you don't want to work out, head to the gym to check out the view. There are hot tubs in there as well that are usually empty so if you want a sun-free relaxation spot, this is it.
SHIP CREW: Loved them, loved them, loved them. Carnival must put something in their water because they all had the biggest smiles on their faces the whole time! Our room steward did the usual: made up our room each day, gave us a towel animal and capers each night. I left him a note on a post-it about ice and he did it the rest of the week! Our waiters got to know us and our tastes and were always eager to hear stories from our days in port. In general, the crew isn't too pushy, either-I wasn't being forced drinks or forced to buy pictures or forced to do anything... except smile and relax!
SHIP DECKS: We had gorgeous weather throughout our cruise, and for that I am quite grateful. It's amazing though, on sea days, the deck of the ship just fills up to the brim with people! And yes, people save lounge chairs. If you are desperate to have a place in prime location on lido deck by the reggae band, you'll have to get on deck by about 9am. But if you are open to other locations on the deck, wander the lido deck (deck 9) and or deck 10 towards the aft to find some lounge chairs that are empty. They're not too difficult to come across until about 11:30.
DECK TIP: If you are with a group and want chairs together, or you oversleep and get on deck after 11:00... go ABOVE the South Beach Club, on level 11, where the track is. The crew leaves the lounge chairs stacked up there and people come throughout the day to set up themselves. It's quieter than other places, and you can see to both sides of the ship. And yes, the servers still come up to bring around drinks on that level!!!
DRINK SERVICE: Not sure if this is supposed to be part of a review, but it was a huge part of my cruise so here goes: throughout the day, whether you're on deck, around lido, around the casino, or in the rome lounge (the auditorium), there will be servers walking around, hoping to give you drinks. They are nice and prompt and able to carry three buckets of beer at one time! Now that's what I call service! Drink prices: bottom line cocktails $4.75 (I think), Frozen drinks $5.25, Better frozen drinks $5.75. 4 miller lites in a bucket: $18. Honestly, the prices aren't that bad.
DRINK TIP: Go to the gift shop and look around at the liquor deals. There might be certain deals that can be taken back to your stateroom at certain points of the week.
FOOD: So good! The prime rib was just about the best I have ever had. The filet mignon was so-so, but overall the food was impressive. If you don't like something, just send it back! Get something else and keep on with your vacation! In addition to the restaurants, there is a general buffet, a pizza place, a deli, a Chinese noodle company, and a burger grill. The 24 hour pizza and ice cream is on deck 9 at the very back of the ship. The pizza was very good and always fresh. The ice cream was yummy! Too yummy! Bottomline: Like any place you go, there will be some things that don't meet your taste. Don't be afraid to speak up and change it! In general, expect very good food for the price you pay. Tip: Go to the New York Deli and get the smoked salmon on bagel! Absolutely amazing.
ENTERTAINMENT: There was something wrong with Triumph's stage, or something. No worries for you, our CD said it was going to be fixed when we were in Miami on 2/11/07. What this means, though, is that I can't comment on the Triumph dancers or Broadway revues... we didn't have any. But we had some decent comedians, jugglers and magicians. There were also trivia games, bingo games, dance classes, exercise classes, and other family friendly activities throughout the week.
Our CD was Chris Jefferson; I loved him! He was funny but not over the top and not arrogant at all. We went to the "Up Close & Personal" talk on Friday-which is basically a time for you to ask the CD and Asst's questions about stuff. He was really personable, down to earth, and humble... at what other resort would you get the chance to ask questions??? It was great! Rinaldo, the assistant CD, is absolutely wonderful, as well. By the end of the cruise we were all saying to ourselves, "kissy kissy, bye byeeeee". After dinner the waitstaff will sing songs and/or dance (don't worry, they still bring around desert and coffee). It was so entertaining! They don't dance actually ON the tables, they have little podiums that they dance on. If you are in the Upper level of your dining room, be sure to find a balcony that you can look over so you don't miss the dances!
SHIP GYM: Used the facilities a few times and they were good. There are freeweights and machines, ellipticals, treadmills, and bikes. Nice saunas and steamrooms available as well.
FORMAL NIGHTS: We had two formal nights, Sunday night & Tuesday night. There were places around the ship where we could get pictures taken. It was so fun to be dressed up with many people! But if dressing up isn't your thing—there were many others who weren't dressed up. Just relax and go to the South Beach Club (buffet) for dinner.
KIDS ONBOARD: Camp Carnival was really active on this ship. Saw kids doing lots of fun stuff. There weren't too many kids on the ship, and the kids that WERE on the ship were generally well-behaved and quiet. Security was careful to enforce that, too-not in a mean way but in a way to enforce safety. Examples: kids were kicked out of the adults-only hot tubs, kids (teens) who were running around the south beach club with hands full of ice cream were stopped and their parents were found.
DISEMBARKATION: Okay. This is the one place where I can say that Carnival may have messed up. We chose to go it on our own, so we could get off the ship faster. I don't know what the hold up was, but we went to level 3 at 9:00, and were standing around on level 3 for about 45 minutes. Our CD announced that customs was being really particular about our IDs but that didn't make sense. In general, it kinda sucked... but to be quite honest, it made getting off the ship slightly bearable for me! I didn't want to leave!
Tip: If you're claustrophobic/impatient/OCD, check out level 3 before lugging everything and your family there. By the time we were able to move, the lobby of the 3rd level was PACKED, the stairs both down and up were full with people, and people literally COULD NOT get off the elevators. Not a fun experience.
Bottomline: I really loved Triumph! It's a beautiful ship with a great crew and satisfying food. I will definitely sail Carnival again and would definitely go to these ports again, as well-there are so many things to do and none of them felt particularly unsafe.
COZUMEL Beautiful! It had its caveats and questionable areas, but all around a good time. We walked around a bit and then picked up a taxi to go to the beach. Taxis are easy to come across and the main part of town is VERY tourist-friendly, so you can ask someone if you can't see any. We chose to go to Paradise Beach but when we got there the place was packed and our cabbie suggested Mr. Sancho's. What a beautiful beach! The water was so blue and the beach was incredibly quiet. There were only about 50 people, mostly cruise passengers but a few locals as well. We got lunch there-sandwiches and burgers for $8, and drinks were about $6. Not a bad price. The restaurant itself is in a thatch-roofed open building... basically what you think of when you imagine a Caribbean paradise. Not bad. The beach itself was rocky but if you swam out 20 feet it was sandy. I got stung by tiny jellyfish a few times but the sting disappeared within 20 minutes.
Cozumel Tips: This is the place to get souvenirs. Right at the end of the dock is a liquor store where you can get miniatures for $1 a piece. If you go out to the left, along the main drag, there are markets back in the stores (if you don't see any, ask-they'll point you to them!). You can negotiate some amazing deals (on a carved mask, I went from $60 to $12). Keep walking a few blocks and you will find bars with $1 Coronas. Behind the most noticeable of these bars is the market where he will give you a shot of tequila with every purchase! Amazing!
Cozumel Warning: My husband is South African and we looked at many of the advertised Tanzanite deals. Don't trust them. Don't buy it. Tanzanite, even in Africa, is extremely rare and extremely pricey. There is no way you can buy a decent pair of Tanzanite earrings for under $300, so try not to be fooled by their certificates of authenticity!
GRAND CAYMAN This is the port where we tender (park ourselves up to a mile off the dock and ride boats in). It was a painless experience for us; we walked right down to 0 deck, waited 2 minutes and walked right onto the boat. When you exit the port, there will be a variety of people offering the stingray city tours for $40 pp, so if you can't make up your mind before you go, you have a 2nd chance. I saw at the dock: Moby Dick tours & Nativeway, so you know they are reputable companies. We went with the first one we found, because we were eager to go. The company we went with is a much smaller operation than others...! Anyhoo, we paid $40 and walked around before meeting our guide @ 9:00. He piled us into his taxibus and drove us towards the marina (about a 5-10 minute drive). At the marina, we got into a small motorboat. There were only 10 of us. When we got on the boat, our guide told us that we may be the smallest boat, but we were the fastest, as well! He wasn't kidding. I'm not a small boat person and I was totally freaked out, to be honest. But it really was a lot of fun speeding past the overcrowded tour boats in our tiny boat! Stringray City was AMAZING. If you've never done it, you have to do it. Enough said. Words can not describe it... so experience it for yourself! Other than the initial shock of seeing the huge things swim past you, it's not scary at all. We then went snorkeling at the reef which was fun as well. We spent the afternoon at 7-mile beach before getting a $5 ride back to port and shopping for awhile. Again, Cayman is more expensive. Get your souvenirs in Cozumel!!!
Cayman Tips: Cayman is expensive. Food at restaurants is expensive. BUT! Appleton Rum is actually cheaper in Cayman than in Jamaica. So if you want a nice bottle of the reserve or whatever (I am not a liquor expert), buy in Cayman. Also, the line for the tender BACK to the ship was a bit long. We probably waited 20 minutes, so it's nothing ridiculous... but if you have kids, plan accordingly. As for us, we grabbed margaritas to go at the bar across the street before joining the line:). Shops here do not negotiate prices.
OCHOS RIOS, JAMAICA Ah, Jamaica. A beautiful place. We went with a private tour guide, but I probably would not do the tour again. Our tour was supposed to include Dunn's River Falls, Coyoba Gardens, the rain forest, and shopping for $35pp. By 12:30 in the afternoon (after leaving at 8) all we had done was Dunn's River falls and a lot of driving around while the other people on the bus went river tubing. I was sick that day anyway, so driving around aimlessly was not what I had hoped for. Anyway, our guide arranged for us to get back to port, I stopped in at the infirmary (good place!) and was back out shopping for our last hour in port. The Taj Mahal (a shopping place) is right across the street from the Island Village (basically keep walking, stick to the left of the road that leads out of the port, and you will see it). All of the stores offer rum samples, so if you keep walking up to the shelf of bottles in each store saying, "What's THIS?"... you could have yourself a great afternoon! Island Village is nice, also. More touristy. Be sure to grab a "free shot" coupon at the entrance to Margaritaville. You can get right to Island Village from the port exit. At the end of the day, the line to get back to the ship was pretty substantial, and we were the only ship in port! It wasn't anything to do with Carnival; the port officials were searching all the bags (looking for some fine Jamaican plants, I presume!). We saw one passenger that was completely drunk/high out of his mind... his wife literally had to drag him onto the boat! Ah, no problem mon!
Ochos Rios tips: It's supposedly dangerous, so, like any place, be cautious and don't go down any dark alleys. Look for JUTA on any taxis-so you know it's a legit driver. If you want to do Dunn's River Falls, do it yourself! It will cost you $9 pp for the taxi and $12pp for the Falls. You can rent shoes ($5) and they actually aren't so bad-when we returned ours we saw the guy dipping the shoes in antiseptic! That's what I like to see. The shops here negotiate prices. Dunn's River was beautiful, and there is a beach at the bottom you can relax on if you'd like. In town all the stores try to sell their rum creams. The banana rum cream is to DIE for! If you like the Dirty Banana drinks on board, get some banana rum cream and make yourself a few when you get home... it helps to take the edge off from your cruise withdrawal.
I hope this helped. I had a great time and am eager to offer any advice to those you out there, so you can have an equally great time!!!
Feel free to email me with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org