Carnival Triumph Sailing 6/2 - 6/9/07
Please know that I am a very positive person and as a result, I don't go on vacation looking for things that might negatively impact my experience. Having noted however, several quite negative reviews prior to this sailing, I was somewhat apprehensive. As an experiment, I decided to make a conscious effort to find those things that others have reported on; things that apparently did affect their cruise experience. I shall give a summary of my findings at the end of this review.
We loaded up the car and left Mobile, AL around 6 AM Friday, 6/1 and arrived at the Amerisuites in Fort Lauderdale at 5:15 PM. We usually dine at the Mexican restaurant which is within walking distance, but alas, it has now gone out of business. Instead, we found a very good Italian carryout just a block away in the new shopping village near the hotel. On Saturday morning we had breakfast in the hotel lobby buffet and proceeded to drive about 30 minutes to the Miami port.
We arrived at the port at 10:40 AM. Dropped off our checkin luggage and then drove into the parking garage. Parking fees at the Port of Miami are now $15 per day, payable in advance in cash only. After parking the car we proceeded to the VIP checkin (we are Platinum) line (only 4 people ahead of us) and received our Sail & Sign cards and setup our on board account with a credit card.. We were then directed to another area of very long lines, but after pointing out to the attendant that we are Platinum guests, he then directed us to another lady who escorted us to a separate holding area exclusively for VIP guests. At about 11:35 AM, we were escorted to the picture taking area, and then onto the ship. We were among the first 10 passengers to board and for a brief period of time we seemingly had the ship to ourselves; kinda nice.
We had some lunch on Lido Deck, explored the ship, and at 1:30 PM we were allowed into our cabin #2444 on Main Deck. This cabin, along with 2445, are IMHO the best cabins on the ship for the money. The cabin is a 1A, but it has two large picture windows, a couch, and all of the other amenities that a 6B has, except it has a single lower bed and an upper that folds down from the ceiling.
Lifeboat drill was at 3:45PM and we were underway by 4:15 PM.
The fun & games began right away with the sailaway party near the main pool, and continued non stop for the entire week (or so it seemed). They don't call Carnival the "Funships" without a good reason. Of course there was the spoon contest, hairy chest, belly flop, newlywed/not so newlywed game and a host of other events to keep everyone entertained. Recently released movies were available in the stateroom, but I still cannot figure out why Carnival chose Denver for all network programming. And then there is CNN..., the most biased news source available anywhere; but I digress.
Entertainment in the Rome Lounge was very good all week, Production shows were excellent and the comedians very funny. We didn't attend the magic show. There was always something going on in the casino, from blackjack tournaments, to slot tournaments and Texas Holdem. Since I get a free entry into the slot tournament, I gave it my all but failed to make the finals; but then, I never do, lol. Swimming pools and hot tubs were all operational (with one exception) all week, and some were open 'til around 9 PM. Most of the lounges had live music until after midnight, some much later than that. The Camp Carnival staff and O2 counselors were very busy all week since nearly 900 of 3800 passengers on board were in the 17 and under demographic.
FOOD & SERVICE:
Since food quality is very subjective, I can only give my opinion relative to it. As for the buffet food, it was average to good. We especially enjoyed the deli sandwiches and hamburgers. Pizza was also quite good. Selection was also very good as was the service. Waiters hawking drinks were there, but not pushy at all. I'd recommend trying one of the daily specials as they are quite good if you like fruity drinks.
We were assigned early seating in the Paris Dining Room (5:45) and had an excellent wait team, Anna and Ketut. They were not only very friendly, but extremely efficient. We never felt hurried, but courses were served in a timely fashion. Overall, the food was excellent. Dishes that stood out were the vanilla creme brule' and the chocolate melting cake. Then there was the shrimp cocktail, escargot and lobster tail. Most of the beef dishes were too tough for my liking however. I can also recommend the Mahi Mahi.
I cannot say enough about our cabin steward, Renadis. He excelled in every way, from the towel animals each day, to keeping my collapsible ice chest full of ice everyday. I didn't even have to ask. He always had a smile and a pleasant greeting each time we saw one another.
PORTS OF CALL:
Half Moon Cay: Having been to HMC on several occasions on Holland America Cruise Lines, I pretty much knew what to expect here. It is a tropical paradise. HMC has won the award for "best private island" from Porthole Magazine for the past four years. If one cannot have a good time on this island, perhaps vacationing in the Alps would be a viable alternative. There is something here for everyone, snorkeling, jet skies, reef fishing, trail hiking, horse-back riding, parasailing, or simply sunning on the gorgeous white sandy beaches. If 'ya get thirsty, the bar is open and all you need is your trusty Sail & Sign card. BBQ lunch begins at 11 AM and it's always good with plenty of choices. I have to thank the Captain and crew for their efforts to complete this port of call since it was quite windy and tendering all day was quite a challenge. Some Captains would have skipped this port (and often do) rather than make the effort. I must also mention that being a Platinum guest, I merely had to flash my Sail & Sign card to board the tender; no need to go to the Rome Lounge and get a number.
St Thomas, USVI: St Thomas has always been one of my favorite ports ever since I first visited there in May of 2000. This trip was kind of a pain as everyone had to clear customs before disembarkation could begin. It went smoothly, although when I waited in line with everyone else, a Carnival attendant asked my why, as a Platinum guest, I should have proceeded to a different area. Poor communication I suppose, but I was not notified of that privilege. We were nevertheless off the ship by 9 AM. I had pre-arranged an island tour with Godfrey and he picked us up at the Havensight Mall Pier at 10 AM just as promised; had my name on a card to get my attention. Godfrey dropped us off in Charlotte Amalie next to the town square so we could shop until noon. We bought a few souvenirs and trinkets and had a banana daiquiri before returning to our pre-arranged meeting point with Godfrey. He was right on time and then we went up the mountain to Mountain Top, stopping several times to view sites and take pictures. Godfrey is very knowledgeable about local history and therefore, very informative. Our tour included the option to be dropped off at a beach of our choosing for a couple of hours. Most decided on Coki Beach. We opted to remain onboard and go to K-Mart to shop for liquor. Godfrey dropped us off there and we showed our appreciation for the great tour by giving him a well deserved tip.
Folks, trust me on this one. If you are going to St Thomas and plan to buy some booze, K-Mart is it; this is where the locals buy their booze. We bought seven 1 liter bottles and the total was less than $31. We bought rum and vodka for $3.29 per liter, and there is no tax. Note that U.S. citizens can bring back four one liter bottles without having to pay import duty, as long as they were purchased in USVI. OK, it's about three block back to the ship, so we walked back. We were prepared to check the booze for storage when we boarded, but there was no one there to check it with, so we took it to our cabin; go figure.
San Juan, Puerto Rico:
Having been to San Juan a few times before, always arriving late in the afternoon, this was to be a new experience as we arrived at 7 AM. We were off the ship and taking a walking tour on our own by 8 AM and I must say, Old San Juan is beautiful. We never felt so safe in a port, as there were police everywhere; on foot, on motorcycles and in autos. There were many school children about, apparently on field trips. We decided to check out the Old fort and took the foot tour which cost $5 per person. It was a very interesting history lesson. Afterwards, we did some souvenir shopping, and then on to Senor Frogs. What can I say? Senor Frogs is what it is. Party 'til you drop. We resisted the temptation to overdo it, so we got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.
This was my second visit to this port, and it seems to have improved since my first trip last year. Things remain pretty expensive, but some things seemed to have moderated somewhat. Very good mixed drinks at the Margaritaville Bar were mostly under $10. We especially enjoyed the huge fresh water swimming pool in which one can swim up to the bar and order drinks. There was entertainment similar to that one would expect to experience at a venue like Carlos & Charlies. It was a lot of fun as well as entertaining. I was disappointed that the ship had been originally scheduled to depart at 7 PM, but this was changed to a 5:30 PM departure. I assume the change was in response to many complaints relative to this being the second formal night. Guess 'ya can't please everyone.
This is where Carnival continues to perform poorly. It seems that every ship, and in every port, the disembarkation procedure is handled differently. As a Platinum guest, I received a letter from the Purser's staff on the last day of the cruise which gave me my disembarkation options. I could chose to self assist, or place luggage outside my cabin for transfer into the terminal. The letter stated that we would have priority with either option. If I chose to self assist, we were to meet in the Rome Lounge (port side) at 7:15 AM with all of our luggage and we would be first off the ship as soon as it was cleared by customs officials. We arrived at the Rome Lounge at 7 AM and we were told that we could not enter on port side; we must go to the starboard side. When we entered the lounge, there must have been 400 passengers already present, with more arriving every minute. We questioned some of the passengers there and while some had early flights and had been told to report to the Rome Lounge, most had simply heard that if one wished to get off the ship early, one should be there at that time. There was absolutely no effort to verify if anyone present was supposed to be there. When disembarkation did begin at 7:35 AM, we were among the last to leave the Lounge. So much for priority disembarkation. SUMMARY:
As promised, here is what my investigation of the ship yielded. The biggest complaints that I read before sailing on the Triumph related to the food, condition of the ship, rude staff and, or crew, odors. As mentioned before, food quality is very subjective. Personally, I could not find anything that I would send back for any reason. Beef dishes I found too tough, but that is all that I could find to complain about. Anyone that complains about the quantity of food available must be somewhere in lala land. My inspection of the ship did yield some rust spots, a few stains here and there on the carpet in public areas, as well as some scuff marks on the woodwork in a few places. Please know that I was looking for these things or I would likely not have noticed. I did not find any evidence of excessive wear anywhere on the ship. I did find that the large Jacuzzi tub in the spa was not operational all week. Spa personnel told me that it had been out of service for more than a month; not good. The Carnival staff was in my opinion very courteous and efficient. My only complaint would be that there seems to be a communication breakdown in both the embarkation and disembarkation process. As for unusual odors, we did detect a sewer smell on main Deck forward as we re boarded the ship in St Thomas. On closer investigation, plumbers were attempting to repair a sewer line that had been stopped up by someone who had flushed something that they weren't supposed to. There was also a discernable odor in the aft elevators all week. It kinda had a strong odor similar to onions. It wasn't overwhelming, just annoying.
We had a very good cruise overall on the Triumph. We loved the itinerary and our waiters and cabin steward helped make it a memorable experience. It was not perfect, but I'd sail on the Triumph again if I get the chance.