I am not a frequent cruiser. This was my second cruise in 10 years, and it will be my last. Some friends of ours talked us into going on the Triumph out of Galveston for a long weekend to Cozumel. We are all around 30 years old and did not travel with any kids. I wanted to share my feedback so that some future "cruisers" know what they might be getting into.
Food: Overall pretty good. Nothing to brag about or complain about. The buffet was fine, just plan to wait in line all the time.
Service: All of the staff were very friendly. Gratuity is already included so they were not in any rush to bring drinks, food, etc. Also, the service staff in the pool areas was exceptionally pushy. They constantly trying to sell us more expensive drinks, and extra large portions in order to increase the tab - and their automatic tip. No big deal, just very annoying. Also no matter where you go on the ship you will constantly be harassed into buying something - watches, pictures, spa treatments, etc.
Drinks and Bars: Figure $7 per drink for beers and simple mixed drinks. They run some special drinks on sale that will still cost you between $9 and $15. You are trapped. Either sneak booze on and/or plan to spend some serious cash on drinks. They offer the Cheers package. I do not think it is a great deal unless you plan to drink a ton. If I had to do it over - I would buy the package just so that I did not feel bad each time that I picked up a $7 beer from the bar.
Pool: The pools were a complete joke. None of the four of us in our party ever got into a pool. They pools are entirely too small (about the size of the kiddie pool at most public pools). On the one side of the boat you literally could not get in the water without touching other guests. On the other side you had a better chance of getting in but that pool had substantially more young kids playing most of the time. Also annoying was the fact that many guest reserve chairs. If you do not get to the pool area by 8 or 9 in the morning then most of the chairs (at least those anywhere near the pool) will already be "reserved". Basically Carnival allows guest to place towels on the chairs. The deck may be almost empty, yet most of the chairs are reserved. We witnessed a fist fight over a chair on our last day at sea. This was followed by guests standing on tables chanting "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry" - just the kind of crowd I want to be stuck on a boat with. In addition the tiny pool that everyone used had to be closed and cleaned due to the fact that someone supposedly went #2 in the water. Overall, we got tired of watching a bunch of overweight people, covered in tattoos, cram into a kiddie pool. We finally found a more isolated deck nowhere near the pool to hang out on our own a bit. The other nice thing was that the pool attendants did not harass us once we got away. Oh yeah - we did try two of the hot tubs - one was cold, the other was luke warm.
Cozumel: We were able to get off the boat at around 9:45am and had to be back on by 3:30pm. By the time you figure in an hour each way to get off and board the boat - you are looking at about 4 to 5 hours in Cozumel. At least 1 hour of this will spent walking through a maze of duty free shops and over priced street vendors. We ended up taking a cab to Paradise Beach. It had a nice pool (for the first time on our trip we actually used our swimsuits). The beach was crowded and the water was not very good for swimming.
Casino and Shows: We had a good time in the casino, and enjoyed two of the comedy shows. The other live entertainment was ok, but nothing to brag about.
Cost: For the two of us we ended up spending about $1700 for everything. I realize that is not an enormous amount of money for 3.5 days and 4 nights with food included. The cruise itself was about $1000. We spent about $600 on drinks and the casino, and about $100 in Cozumel.
Cabin: We had one of the less expensive cabins on the interior. It had one king size bed, a tv, and a bathroom. We actually enjoyed the room. It was relatively quiet and the lack of windows allowed us to keep it pitch black for sleeping. The room attendant was nice and helpful. We tipped him $5 or $10 on the first day and it seemed to go a long ways the rest of the trip.
Summary: If you don't mind crowds, long lines, gross pools, and constant sales pitches then this might be a good vacation for you. Our next "inexpensive" vacation will be spent on the Texas coast at a beach house or small resort for a three or four day weekend.