Background There were five of us on Carnival Triumph on the 6/2/07 Eastern Caribbean itinerary (Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk), our 13th cruise overall (8th on Carnival). It was actually our third time on Triumph; we booked this cruise mainly for the new itinerary as we had not yet visited Half Moon Cay or Grand Turk. We booked this cruise through our regular agent at a well known cruise agency approximately five months prior to the cruise date. It was a family cruise for us this time and we had two inside cabins. My husband (47) and I (45) shared our cabin (#8295) on Verandah Deck with our 15 year old son Tyler. After having a cabin to ourselves for the past several cruises, it was an adjustment having our son in with us, but we all survived the week. Our oldest son Andrew (22) and his fiancE Vanessa (23) were on Upper Deck. We almost always book a category guarantee, but at the time of booking there was a past guest promotion available that allowed us to go ahead and select our cabin and still get the lowest possible price. I think we were all happy with our cabin locations, but I did miss having a balcony this time around.
Embarkation We drove to the Port of Miami from our home in Orlando, staying over the night before at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton, then continuing on to Miami the morning of the cruise. I hurt my back two weeks before the cruise and thought maybe it would be a good idea to break up the drive a little (even though it's only about a three and a half hour drive from our house to the port). It also didn't hurt that we were able to get a great rate at the hotel of $80, which included two hours of free drinks Friday night and breakfast on Saturday morning.
We'd kept a close eye on the weather all week, and Tropical Storm Barry seemed determined to give us a wet start to our cruise. It rained off and on all day Friday during our drive south and for hours after we arrived at the hotel. We also had some rain Saturday morning, but it was dry when we arrived at the port. It was cloudy most of the day, but cleared up nicely later on. For the most part, we had pretty good weather during the cruise except for a brief heavy downpour Sunday while we were anchored at Half Moon Cay and a short shower during our last sea day on Friday. Seas were kind of rough the first night but I think, overall, considering the lingering effects of TS Barry that were still out there when we left the Port of Miami, we had a pretty smooth cruise the entire week.
I always dread cruising out of Miami, because even though it is probably the most scenic port we've ever cruised from, it is also without a doubt the busiest and most chaotic port we've ever experienced. It had been a few years since we'd been to this port and I was very pleasantly surprised this time around! We pulled up into a line of cars to drop our luggage off with the porters at about 11:10 a.m. and parked in the parking garage at approximately 11:20 a.m. - not bad at all. The garage has been built since our last cruise from Miami, and it was nice to be able to park under cover, but it came at a higher price - $105 for the seven nights. We entered the terminal building and moved quickly through security. My husband and I carried on four bottles of champagne in our wheeled tote bag with no questions asked. The lines to check in were short and moved at a good pace the entire time we were in line. We turned in our Sail & Sign account form and showed our credit card at that desk. There was a little bit of confusion (with the Carnival embarkation staff) about whether we needed to fill out a Bahamas Immigration form (none were included with our docs and no one was distributing them when we entered the line). Apparently, they didn't request them from any of the guests checking in at that desk prior to us (including our oldest son and his fiancE), but they started with us. It only took a minute to fill them out, but it may have slowed things down a bit if everyone in line had to complete them at the desk.
I saw only a few guests waiting to check in at the VIP counter, and more employees arrived to help out there when the line got just a bit longer. We're on a countdown until we can take advantage of the Platinum benefits - two more cruises to go!
After checking in, we were directed to another area where we picked up our Sail & Sign cards - no lines there at all. The ship had run out of gold cards and we were all given the blue cards that first time cruisers get, but the woman who gave us our cards noted that they did have our past guest number on the cards. I imagine she was tired of explaining that by the end of the day. About an hour after we boarded I heard a Carnival employee on a radio listening to another employee questioning how they could have run out of gold cards. I guess some people were a little unhappy about that. Way too early in the cruise to get upset about something as trivial as that. ;) I don't know if some people got gold cards and some didn't, but I didn't see one all week.
Cabin The cabins weren't ready until nearly 1:30 p.m. (which is typical), but our cabin steward (Leonard) let us put our carry on luggage in our cabin a little earlier than that.
When we arrived our beds were already pushed together and made up as one bed. Once again, we really enjoyed the fairly new "comfort bed system" - the pillows are great, but the beds were a little off. The bed near the wall was a little higher than the front bed and we could feel the "seam" between the two beds. On our last cruise on the Legend, the beds were so nice it felt like it was only one large bed. The sheets and comforters are wonderfully soft.
As soon as we walked in, our 15 year old wanted to know where his bed was! He would have a rollaway which hadn't arrived yet. We wondered how it was going to fit, but amazingly, it did without too much trouble and still left us some walking space in the cabin. If we'd had an upper instead of the rollaway bed, it would have left us some more floor space but then I would have been worried about hitting my head on it in the dark every night, so in the end it worked out fine.
Storage space didn't seem to be as plentiful as on other recent ships, but of course, we always tend to overpack after swearing we won't. :) Also remember, it's just been the two of us in a cabin for our last several cruises. I can't remember how on earth we ever before did it when our kids were smaller and they were both in the room with us! Anyway, it was tight, but we managed (for the most part) without going nuts before the end of the cruise. ;) There was, however, plenty of shelf space for all our toiletries in the bathroom mirrored cabinet and our empty luggage fit easily under the bed. There was a dispenser on the shower wall with (adequate, but not wonderful) body wash and shampoo. I loved the green hand soap Carnival now provides for the sink area, but have noticed that not all ships have the same products for the shower wall dispenser. On the Legend, we had Dove shampoo and Lever body wash and both were great, not sure what it was on the Triumph.
We brought with us a soft-sided collapsible cooler for our champagne, and our cabin steward kept it filled it with ice throughout the cruise. There are no refrigerators in cabins (except in suites) on this class of ship. Most everything in our cabin was in decent to good condition and worked properly (safe, shower/sink drains - no flooding for us!, doors, drawers, TV all worked fine, carpet appeared clean with no stains, etc.). The hot water control was a little touchy in the shower and it took a little bit of time for me to figure that out. A couple of the lights at the head of the beds fell apart if you touched them on the end, but once we figured that out, we knew where not to touch them. We never thought to mention it to our cabin steward. In hindsight, we probably should have so maintenance could have taken care of them before the next cruise.
Our cabin steward seemed to make up our room and replace towels the second we stepped out. I've always heard the CD's jokes about the cabin steward hiding around the corner (or under the bed) so he could do his magic as soon as you leave, but we've never had one that was this quick!
Entertainment We attended less shows at night on this cruise than we normally do. We attended the Welcome Aboard Show the first night, featuring our cruise director Paul Santley and comedian Marvin Bell. Yes, some of Paul's jokes were corny, but I thought he was pretty funny most of the time and we enjoyed him throughout the week. We also attended Eddie Capone's ("Godfather of Comedy") adult show one night - he was a riot. Our kids had seen him in a show the night before and convinced us to go to his show the next night. Our kids also heard Paul sing during that previous night's show and they all said he had a very good voice - like Frank Sinatra. I'm sorry we missed that show. One thing I wasn't crazy about was the production shows on both formal nights were at 7:00 p.m. - before our late dinner instead of afterwards. Because of the timing, we skipped both of them. Mark, Tyler and I attended the Legends show the last night and it was pretty entertaining. Some of the singers (selected during auditions at karaoke during the week) were really good and some were not, but it was all part of the fun. :)
Fellow Passengers As expected because of the time of year, there were lots and lots of families with kids of all ages on this cruise. There seemed to be a very large number of people from Florida onboard; maybe because our schools (for the most part) are out for summer beginning sometime in May. In our case, it's also because we like to cruise before we get too deeply into hurricane season. We heard only a few vocal complainers during the week, but for the most part people seemed to be there to have a good time and looked like they were enjoying themselves.
Food/Food Service We had breakfast twice in South Beach (on Lido Deck) during the first two mornings of the cruise. If you didn't get there early, and fortunately we did, lines grew very long, often wrapping around outside on the pool deck for the inside buffet lines! The rest of the week we had breakfast in the Paris Dining Room where they had open seating from 7:00 - 9:00 a.m. on port days and 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. on sea days. Service was good every time and we thought the food was much better there than at the buffet. The hash brown potatoes were really tasty and the omelets were very good as well. Everything that was supposed to be hot was and foods were well prepared.
We had lunch twice in the Paris, and ate in South Beach the rest of the week. In addition to the regular "Grand Buffet" line, we had food from the "taste of nations" lines once or twice, Hong Kong Noodle Company, the New York Deli, Coney Island Grille, and the Pizzeria. I think this was a first for me, but I only had one piece of pizza and one calzone the entire week. I've always liked Carnival's pizza and calzones (and they were fine this time too), but I guess that just means I found good food everywhere else and didn't need to resort to pizza. :) The burgers and fries were always consistently good (and freshly made) at the Grille. Most of the food I had on the Triumph was good to very good in South Beach and very good to excellent the Paris Dining Room.
One minor irritation on Lido (both inside and outside South Beach) was that one or two of the drink stations were "temporarily out of order" almost the entire cruise or just out of drink mix with no sign posted. Not a huge deal, because, sure you could walk to the other side of the room to get a drink, but when we got to one that worked, that one might be out of ice. Just when I thought I had it figured out which ones were broken (from earlier in the day), they switched it up on me. ;) Not the end of the world, but sometimes I was in pain and just wanted to sit down with a drink.
Paris Dining Room We had the 8:00 p.m. dinner seating at table number 426 for just the five of us. It was a booth with a chair at the end and it worked out nicely for us. Our headwaiter was Milen from Bulgaria and our assistant waiter was Natalia from Ukraine. We had excellent service every night, definitely among the best we've had on any of our cruises. They were both very personable and worked hard to make sure we had whatever we needed and that we were enjoying our dinner each night. Milen went out of his way to let us know (several times) that if we ever ordered something we didn't like or wanted more of something at any time to let him know. I cannot imagine anyone in the dining room worked harder than he did. After a most disappointing experience in the dining room on the Carnival Legend in December, this was really what we needed to restore our faith in Carnival - both with the excellent food we were served and the wonderful wait team we had. One note about the food - great desserts on Carnival remain elusive to me, so I usually end up getting sherbet after trying something else the first couple of nights. I love cheesecake, but not on Carnival. Mark and the "kids" all had chocolate melting cake almost nightly (as well as another dessert occasionally), so I'd say Carnival finally has a winner with that one.
After the first couple nights, Milen knew what kind of wine we preferred and made an excellent wine recommendation for us on the third night. We liked it so much, we ordered that same wine the next few nights. On Carnival, it is the wait team that delivers and serves bottles of wine consumed during meals in the dining room and they did a great job with it.
Tyler had a Fountain Fun Card, and after the first night the bar waiter brought his Coke without him having to order it. He even got refills on it a few times, which was amazing considering how busy he was delivering drinks (for which he received gratuities) to "paying" customers. When you buy the FF card, a 15% gratuity is added to the cost of the card at that time, but that sure doesn't amount to much for the individual servers. The bar waiter seemed a bit surprised and happy at the end of the week when Tyler tipped him on the last night when he delivered his Coke.
One thing I feel Carnival should change in the dining room is the way the dirty dishes are cleared before bringing out your next course, new silverware, etc. During one of the lunches we had in the dining room, we had a clear view of the station where the waiters take dirty plates. We watched waiters (several, not just one or two) clear tables of dirty dishes and silverware, scrape food off plates, stack the dirty plates, then without washing their hands turn around and pick up fresh plates of food or new silverware to deliver to tables. Not very hygienic, especially when the cruiselines are concerned with cutting down on Norovirus outbreaks. Maybe a better solution would be to have designated personnel scraping the dirty plates in those stations, rather than have the waiters handling them prior to bringing out the next course. Please note, these waiters were not our regular dinner waiters, and I don't know what procedures they should be following; this is just an observation we made one day - and I do think something needs to be done to correct the situation.
Dress Code One thing that is discussed in great detail on Cruise Critic is the dining room dress code. As was the trend on our last cruise six months prior, people (in general) were dressed a lot more casually than on our past cruises. The first night, we observed an amazingly large number of people entering the dining room for the first dinner seating wearing shorts. I imagine a lot of them hadn't received their luggage at that time because there were far less people wearing shorts that night during our later seating. I did see shorts (which guests are explicitly asked not to wear) in the dining room just about every night. Jeans were common attire every night except formal nights, although I even saw a few people wearing them on the second formal night. Did it bother me or affect my dinner in the least? Heck no, we were too busy enjoying our food and service to care, but I did look around and take notice, mainly because of the heated discussions that take place on the Carnival board.
On the first formal night (which was Monday, a sea day, instead of the traditional second night of the cruise), I'd guess about 50% were really decked out (men in suits or tuxes and women in gowns or cocktail dresses), 40% were dressed "nicely" (jackets but no tie, shirt and tie but no jacket for the men, and dresses or pantsuits for the women) and 10% were dressed like it was casual night. The second formal night (Thursday, the day we were in Grand Turk) was drastically different. It dropped down to about 20% decked out (first time I ever felt overdressed on a cruise), 40% dressed nicely and the remaining 40% were dressed fairly casually, even a very few in jeans. This may have had something to do with the fact that we were in port until 5:30 p.m. that day. It seems to me that it would work out better to have the second formal night on Wednesday, since we were only in San Juan until 3:30 p.m. that day. My husband bought a tux right before this cruise and he looked great in it. If the trend continues, I may bring cocktail dresses on future cruises and leave the long gowns at home.
Wine Tasting Mark and I went to a "wine and cheese party" one afternoon at the wine bar. There were eight or nine different wines available for tasting at $1 per taste. We were given a plate of cheese and grapes to try with or between wines. Lydia was our very enthusiastic bartender pouring the wines, and we both enjoyed it. Captain's Cocktail Party One of the reasons I enjoy having a late seating for dinner is so that we can enjoy our day longer and don't have to get ready until later in the evening. I was a little disappointed to find out that the Captain's Cocktail Party was held at 6:00 p.m. (rather than 7:00 p.m.) for late seating. I was also a little surprised to find out that the party was held in Club Rio (aft lounge) instead of the much larger Rome Lounge (main show lounge) or all the aft lounges, as was the case on some of our past cruises. I was pleased to discover that there was plenty of room for all who attended; everyone seemed to find a seat with no problem. Maybe the early timing of the party has cut down on attendance somewhat - I don't know, but it worked well. We tipped the first bar waiter who brought us drinks and we had excellent service for the entire party. Our glasses never stayed empty for long. Waiters serving appetizers came by our table every couple of minutes. I venture to say there were meatballs on the late night buffet that night, because it looked like they had tons of them and they couldn't give them away fast enough. There were also some breaded chicken rolls which were pretty good, but would have been really good if there was some dipping sauce available, but I suppose that would have been too time consuming to serve. The only other appetizer I saw during the party was an odd thing that tasted like it was smeared with tomato paste. No problem, the several glasses of champagne we had more than made up for it. :)
Past Guest Party The past guest party was held at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday in the Rome Lounge. We had each received a personalized invitation in our cabin on Monday night. Requested dress was "smart casual"; but we saw everything from sparkly tops to tank tops. Again, we had excellent drink service here and skipped most of the appetizers, which, if I am remembering correctly, were all Tilapia and Salmon based.
Beverage/Bar Service I don't think we ordered any drinks out on the open decks this time, but there seemed to be plenty of servers available at all times. I had a couple of great Bloody Marys from the bar by the aft pool. Most of the (many) drinks we bought on the ship were from the Capitol Lobby Bar; our favorite bartenders for the week were Haneman and Stanislava. Mark drank mostly beer, but I tried out several frozen drinks (rum runner, mango daiquiri, pina colada) and all were good. We saw the drink of the day mix being made and judging by the amount of alcohol in them (not a lot), you will get more bang for your buck if you order something else that the bartender mixes individually for you. I have no complaints about the amount of alcohol in any of the frozen drinks I received. ;)
Ports Half Moon Cay - Sunday This was one of the stops I was really looking forward to, and unfortunately, we never made it off the ship. Mark and I got up early and ate breakfast on the Lido Deck. Around 10:00 a.m., Mark, Tyler and I headed down to get in line for the tenders, thinking that maybe the lines had lessened a little by then as it was about an hour after we arrived at this port. The lines were pretty long at this point, so we headed back up to Lido to relax for a while. By 11:00 a.m., the lines were much worse. By then, I was on my second Bloody Mary so I saw no problem just sitting it out for awhile. No problem, mon, we were on vacation and didn't want to sweat the small stuff. With my recent back injury, I knew there was no way I could stand still for that long to wait in the long lines.
Shortly after 11:00 a.m. we started to notice that the ship was turning and moving a bit; the captain was trying to maneuver the ship into a better spot for the tenders. Apparently, the winds and seas were causing some problems and the tending process had to be stopped for a period of time. Not long after that, there was a brief downpour. It rained hard enough that they closed the ceiling over the aft pool, but the rain didn't last too long. I'm not sure what time the tendering process started back up, but it was around 1:30 p.m. when the CD announced that the tendering had begun again and the lines were once again moving normally. Since the last tender was scheduled to leave HMC at 3:15 p.m., we decided to stay on the ship and just enjoy the rest of the day.
We found out later that the lines actually moved quite quickly in the beginning, so lesson learned - we should have just gotten in line the first time we went down and waited to see how it was moving. Andrew and Vanessa were able to get off the ship around 10:00 a.m., but they didn't stay on the island too long. While they were having lunch there, they were fighting off mosquitos the whole time and came back with a lot of welts from the bites. I think it may have been a temporary problem, probably caused in part by the rain. because we talked to other passengers who really enjoyed Half Moon Cay and saw no sign of mosquitos whatsoever.
St. Thomas - Tuesday I had planned to book a shore tour online at the Carnival website for this port before our cruise, but I never got around to it because I couldn’t decide on which tour. I knew I wanted to book a catamaran with snorkeling, but there were three I liked and couldn’t make up my mind. Because I dragged my feet on it, we almost didn’t get one at all. All catamarans were sold out (or had only one or two spots and we needed three). Luckily, because the demand was so high, Triumph’s shore tour staff requested an additional sailing on the Castaway Girl (Castaway Barefoot Sail & Snorkel to Shipwreck Cove) at 9:00 a.m. and we were able to book that one the day prior to arriving in St. Thomas. Another lesson learned – book shore tours early, they really do sell out!
Mark and I got up early and had breakfast in the dining room, then headed back to the cabin to get Tyler out of bed. Just after 8:00 we headed down to the Deck 5 to clear U.S. Immigration. (Anytime you visit a foreign port prior to arriving in St. Thomas you must clear Immigration before getting off the ship.) The lines were long and wrapped around by the elevators and merged in a couple of places. It was somewhat chaotic with not much help from crew members for any type of crowd control. This was one of the minor frustrations we had during the week that seemed a little more stressful at the time than it really needed to be.
At 8:15 a.m., the CD started making announcements that lines for Immigration were at least an hour long and please don’t get in line unless you had an early tour and needed to get off right away (or as Paul said, “straight away”). Uh oh, our tour was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. (we had to meet on the pier – not in a lounge to be escorted off for our tour like in the “good old days”) and we were near the back of the line that hadn’t moved a foot at that point. Not good. By 8:30, we’d cleared the elevator bank and had gone a few yards by that time. I spotted Ronaldo – Ay, Ay, Ay! (not sure how to spell that in Spanish) near the top of the stairs. I went over and asked if there was a separate line for early shore tours as we needed to be on the pier at 9:00 and had quite a line to get through. He said not to worry, we’d make it. Easy for him to say. ;)
By that point, people were getting out of line and just pushing in front of others. All the while the CD continued making announcements asking people not to get in line if they didn’t have an early tour. Of course, people had been standing in line for some time by then and they weren’t about to get out of line at that point whether they had a tour or not. (Can’t say I blame them, but it wasn’t helping my stress level much.) People behind us started telling us we didn’t need to stand in line if we had a tour – they saw the tickets in my hand or maybe it was the painful look on my face. ;) They kept telling us “go ahead, they said if you have a tour, you don’t need to wait.” We moved ahead a few people and figured out that was NOT what was announced. They misunderstood and we looked like line cutters. Oops. Finally saw another member of the social staff and she said they were holding up the early tours somewhat on the dock because they knew the process would take awhile. Stress level went down a couple notches (I had to keep telling myself to chill out, I’m on vacation) but I had worked too hard to get us booked on that tour and would have hated to miss it. At around 8:50 a.m., all of a sudden the line started moved at a nice pace and we actually made it off the ship at 9:05 a.m. Sorry Mr. Photographer, no time to stop for pictures. ;)
Fortunately, Sarah from Castaway Girl was waiting for us on the pier. We waited a few more minutes for some more passengers to get off the ship and make their way over to us. It was probably close to 9:30 by the time we walked over to and boarded the catamaran. It was definitely worth all the stress, which melted away as soon as we set foot on the boat!
The ride out to Buck Island (about 45 minutes) was beautiful, but we hit some pretty large swells before we got there. Mark, Tyler and I felt fine the whole way (thought it was great fun, actually), but at least two people near us got really sick – I’ll spare you those details. ;) Just before we arrived at the spot to anchor the catamaran, the water became very calm – perfect for snorkeling and a gorgeous shade of blue.
Although Tyler is an excellent swimmer, we have never been able to get him to snorkel with us in the ocean – anywhere we’ve been. Because we had a pool, he learned to swim as an infant and can swim circles around me. For some reason, he hates swimming in what he calls “open water”, but loves a good boat ride so he’s always happy to go with us. I was totally surprised when he announced that he would snorkel and I figured he would change his mind by the time we got there. He was in the water before me and couldn’t get enough of it! I think half of my enjoyment that day came from watching him have such a good time. The water clarity off Buck Island was great, and we saw lots of fish, reefs and a shipwreck. A very curious Barracuda got way too close to me for my comfort – I hope those pictures turn out good. We don’t have an underwater case for our digital camera, so had to rely on film for the underwater shots. Our snorkel guide was excellent; he had a great deal of knowledge about the sea life and told us he had just graduated with a degree in Marine Biology from University of the Virgin Islands. What a life! :)
The seas were much calmer during the ride back to the ship and Mark and I happily consumed several cups of rum/pineapple juice concoctions on the way back. The crew was wonderful and never let us have an empty cup. Life was good! I told Mark I wanted to go back to St. Thomas (we’ve been there quite a few times, but only as a cruise port of call) and stay for several days. He was kind enough not to remind me that I say that everywhere we go after I’ve had a few drinks in me while onboard a catamaran. :) :)
After lunch on the ship, we tried to do a little shopping near the dock, but didn’t find anything that caught my eye. Tyler wanted a pair of sunglasses (and gave me a very specific, detailed description of what they should look like), but wanted to hang out with Andrew and Vanessa that afternoon. After looking unsuccessfully in the shops for a while, we stopped at the Delly Deck for a drink (which was probably my real goal anyway). We both had a frozen concoction called “Raspberry Wave” in a regular size cup for $8 each – made me really appreciate the drink prices on the ship I’ve been known to whine about from time to time. (Disclaimer: I have no problem paying $5.25 for a decent size frozen drink on the ship, but think it’s just silly that domestic beer costs $4.75. Heck, we only pay $5.50 for a whole pitcher of Yuengling at one of our favorite local restaurants in Orlando.) Anyway, the drink was pretty good, Mark couldn’t taste any raspberry, but I could. (It was a white drink, so maybe it was psychological, but on whose part, I don’t know). ;)
Leaving St. Thomas was bittersweet – I was sad to go, but ready to get on with the rest of the cruise. As we left the port, Mark and I went out to the front of the ship on deck seven or eight and there was only one other couple out there besides us. I took dozens of pictures; St. Thomas is one of my all time favorite ports, simply for the beauty of the harbor and surrounding islands. There is such a peacefulness there during that time of the day. Originally, our itinerary had us staying in St. Thomas until 8:00 p.m., but it was shortened to 6:00 p.m. prior to our cruise. I thought it would have been nice to take pictures of the ship all lit up in the harbor, but then I would have missed some of the other nice shots I got as we were sailing out, so it was all good.
San Juan - Wednesday All five of us had planned to go on the horseback riding tour in the rainforest here and booked it online a couple months before the cruise. Andrew, Mark and I had done the same tour about nine years ago and loved it. When I hurt my back, I knew there was no way I could (or should) go horseback riding, so I cancelled Mark’s and my excursion and we let Tyler go with Andrew and Vanessa. As I expected, they all loved it and had nothing but good things to say about it. We had booked the 8:45 a.m. tour online and found out (when the tickets arrived in our stateroom on Monday) that the time was changed to 7:30 a.m. - surprise! :) We got Tyler out of bed at 6:00 a.m. that morning and he was off to his brother’s cabin at 6:30 a.m. to enjoy a room service breakfast with them. Mark and I got to sleep in and then enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. :)
After breakfast, we got off the ship – very short line, no stress here. We’d been to San Juan twice before, and honestly it’s not one of my favorite ports. Our goal here was to find Tyler’s sunglasses and maybe take a shuttle to one of the forts to explore. As soon as we hit the sidewalk, we were politely bombarded with offers for a $10 tour, but first we were on a shopping mission. (We should have taken the tour just to get some new pictures – we didn’t have a digital camera the last time we were in SJ, so none of those pictures are online.) After stopping in several stores with no luck, we popped into Marshalls (yes, we have those in Orlando, too) where I found (YES!) a very nice pair of Nike sunglasses – which totally fit Tyler’s request. The best part is they only cost $25 (but he doesn’t need to know that, of course)! After we got home, I looked them up online and the cheapest price I could find was $50, so I feel like we did get a bargain – not that price was the biggest factor at that point. My back was just about done with all the walking around that morning, time to take some more Aleve. We headed back to the ship for lunch, thinking maybe we’d get off after and do the $10 tour, but decided to stay onboard instead.
I was really determined to try to stay up for the deck party that night (especially for the Mexican buffet at 11:30 p.m.), but I didn’t make it. I must be getting old . . . :( The kids went; Andrew wasn’t too impressed with the buffet. I think it would have been fine for me – I could live off chips and salsa. :)
Grand Turk - Thursday I loved this place!! The itinerary had us originally scheduled to be here noon - 7:00 p.m., but when we received the Capers the day before we found out the time had been changed to 11:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (to be back on board no later than 5:00). No problem. Vanessa decided to sleep in a bit, so the four of us had a nice breakfast in the dining room, then headed up to the front of the ship to watch our arrival at the island.
Soon after we docked, we headed down and made our way off the ship. There were lots of people getting off the ship at the same time, but overall, it wasn’t too bad and we were off around 11:20 a.m. Once on the beach, we grabbed a clamshell with two chairs and two chairs next to it, and took turns swimming in the ocean to cool off. It was hot here and we were starting to cook if we weren’t in the ocean. Around 1:00 p.m., the boys headed back to the ship to have lunch with Vanessa. At that point, we gave up the two extra chairs and Mark and I soaked in the cool water of the ocean for a little while.
A short time later we headed up to the pool at Margaritaville (a very fun place!) and ordered a couple of Coronas at the swim up bar – $6.50 each. Whoa! What did I say about the beer prices on the ship?? Luckily we were able to grab two chairs right at the pool, so I went down to the beach and grabbed our towels and beach bag (gave the clamshell to the people sitting next to it) and moved up to Margaritaville, where we alternated between the chairs and the pool. There was a DJ at Margaritaville and it was a lot of fun watching “dance” contests and beer chugging events, etc. They even got the kids involved in games here. Time for a couple more Coronas (I guess it’s the price you pay for “entertainment”, huh?), then headed back to the ship around 3:00 p.m. for a late lunch. They have some very nice looking shops here, and we thought maybe we’d get back off the ship after lunch and do some shopping, but of course, we didn’t. ;) Around 4:00 p.m., we went out on deck three (quiet, shaded deck with lounge chairs) and watched everyone getting back on the ship. The last stragglers finally made it on the ship at 5:30 p.m., even though we were told to be back onboard by 5:00 p.m. The captain had even started “honking” the horn around 5:15 p.m. as a warning, but the late arrivals didn’t seem to be in any hurry.
Debarkation After having a successful run at self-assist debarkation for the first time in December, we thought we’d try it again this time around. All our luggage, including our new garment bag that we recently bought specifically for this purpose, has wheels so we figured it would be no big deal to carry our own luggage off the ship. Mark and I had two suitcases, a wheeled tote, and the garment bag. Tyler had one suitcase and a backpack. Andrew and Vanessa had one large suitcase, a garment bag (both with wheels) and a couple of tote bags.
Anyone doing self-assist was advised to either wait in their cabin (what??) or wait on Promenade Deck 5. Self-assist debarkation was estimated to start at approximately 7:15 a.m. and we were told we would be called by deck number. Knowing that getting an elevator would be a problem if we waited in our cabin until our deck was called, we decided to go to Deck 5 early (6:45) and see what was going on. I had no problem pulling the small bags, but would have a big problem if I had to carry them down the stairs. Mark walked out to the atrium and saw that people were already down on Deck 3 where we knew we’d be getting off the ship. We took the elevator down and asked if there was somewhere we could wait on that deck until self-assist debarkation began. We were immediately directed to the Rome Lounge (where we later found out that they directed anyone who was Platinum or had early flights).
There were a couple of announcements that the ship was still waiting to be cleared by Customs/Immigration and then we were allowed to begin leaving the ship at approximately 7:50 a.m. Leaving the lounge, I saw a few people stopped who did NOT have their luggage with them. They had put it out the night before to be taken off the ship. They were told they couldn’t debark at that time, but would have to wait until self-assist was completed. Once we were told we could leave, the line was continually moving until we reached the Customs/Immigration officer and presented our passports and Customs Declaration form. All in all, it was a pretty painless procedure and we were off the ship and in the parking garage at 8:20 a.m. There were some people behind Andrew and Vanessa complaining about the time it took to get off the ship. All I can say is it must have been their first cruise and they are lucky they didn’t put their luggage out the night before and have to wait to be called by tag color to debark the ship. Any experienced cruiser knows that debarkation can be a nightmare – and this wasn’t one of those times!
Misc. Overall Impressions
Even though there are quite a few little things that could use some sprucing up on the Triumph (as well as some changed procedures to make things go more smoothly), this ship remains one of my favorites. Each time we have cruised on the Triumph, I am pleased to see that she has just about the friendliest, most accommodating crew you could find on any ship.
Even though I laugh when some people complain about the layout of the ship (because you can’t walk from one end to the other on decks three and four because the galley is between the London and Paris Dining Rooms), I still found myself going the wrong way from time to time. (OK, it happened every day.) :) I still love this class of ship (as well as the bigger version, Conquest class). One of my favorite things about these ships is the tiered decks out by the main pool.
I know a lot has been said about people experiencing a “sewer” smell on the Triumph, and I did catch a brief whiff of it once or twice during the week, but it wasn’t something that lasted and I can’t even remember where it was, other than once as we exited the Paris Dining Room after dinner one night. The others in our party either didn’t notice it or didn’t say anything about it. The next day during lunch, some ladies at our table said they had a really bad smell in the London Dining room – it must have been at about the same time we were leaving Paris the previous night.
I certainly don’t go around cruise ships looking for things that need to be fixed, but my husband’s job is all about quality control (facilities and property management), so the little things that needed some attention were more obvious to him than me. Burned out light bulbs or chipped tile don’t get me excited or bother me, but I do have to admit that the wall next the to elevator outside Paris Dining Room that looked like it was held together with masking tape caught my eye Thursday night. It was still like that Friday night. Hopefully, it was or will be fixed soon. Also, very unfortunately, one of the beautifully etched glass doors that lead out to the Lido Deck near the slide was broken about halfway through the cruise. I don’t know if that is something that can easily be replaced unless they use plain glass. I don’t know how it happened, but it’s a shame.
Overall, we had another great week on the Triumph and I would gladly take another cruise on this ship again (and again). We are looking forward to planning our next Carnival cruise and hope it isn’t too far into the future!