BACKGROUND: First time cruisers HOTEL INFO: We flew into Ft Lauderdale the day before embarkation, spent the night in Lauderdale, then took Carnivals shuttle from FLL to the port of Miami. We stayed at the Stirling Suites in Dania beach, which was quite run down. The beds were terrible, and the dEcor was really out of date. The staff was rather unpleasant also. The only thing we enjoyed about the hotel was the full hot continental breakfast in the morning. We are going on another cruise in January 2008, and will not be staying there again.
EMBARKATION: We got to the port of Miami by noonish and were through security and on the ship about a half an hour later. We were very impressed with how organized everyone was, and how quickly we were on the ship. We went with our carry-on to the Lido deck to have some lunch, and bar staff walked around with trays of their special 'Drink of the day'. On the ship, you never pay with cash, you just show your sail & sign card (which is also your room key and the key to your in-room safe) the charges are added to your sail & sign account.
STATE ROOM: After eating, and exploring the ship a little bit, we went by our stateroom and it had already been cleaned. We were very impressed with the cleanliness and the special amenities that were in our room. They aren't replenished throughout the cruise, however, there is enough of everything to last through out the entire cruise. There was no bath tub, only shower stall, but that was not a big deal for us, you adjust very quickly.
SHIP INFO: The Triumph is a huge ship, many places to explore and after about the 3rd day we knew our way around it pretty well. First impressions are that it is very brightly lit and there are many unusual pieces of art, but you get used to everything so quickly, and it felt like home to us right away. There are a few stores onboard, to do a little shopping. The casino is fully loaded with everything anyone would need in a casino. The photo gallery is on the same deck as the shops. You will have your picture taken a dozen times during your cruise, then they are displayed along the walls for you to purchase is you wish. You can also get your own photos developed onboard.
SERVICE: You do not have to tip the staff directly, Carnival automatically charges gratuities to your sail & sign account for you, however, the staff on board was so wonderful, we ended up tipping our dining room waiter every evening, and our room attendant got a nice tip from us at the end of the cruise. We were treated like royalty by all staff on board. I've never experienced anything like it.
DINING: We had dinner almost every night in the dining room; we had the 8pm dinner seating, which proved to be very convenient for us. We were assigned to a 4 person table, but the other couple never showed up for dinner, so we had a nice private dinner every night. Our waiter, was so wonderful, he would always give us a heads up on what was good on the menu, and what to stay away from. We always trusted him, and we were always pleased with our meal. He was so speedy and efficient at getting his tables served in a timely manner (that seemed to be pretty standard with all of the waiters there) It was amazing to see them serve SO many people at the same time, and get it done so quickly. We always enjoyed the breakfast buffet on the lido deck, the selection was great, and the quality was pretty darn good considering how many people they were cooking for all at once. Sometimes we would eat lunch at the buffet (though the quality was often a little less good for lunch and dinner. Breakfast was always the best meal at the buffet) There are so many choices for lunch/dinner; Pizzeria, Deli, Noodle House, the grill, or the dining room. We never did make it to the deli, but we really enjoyed the pizzeria and the grill. There is also has 24hr all-you-can-eat soft serve ice cream onboard. Overall we were very pleased with the quality of the food onboard.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Our ports of call were Cozumel Mexico, Grand Cayman & Ocho Rios Jamaica. We tendered in Mexico, and instead of going to Cozumel, we booked the excursion to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum. The fairy took us to Playa Del Carmen, where we rode a bus to the ruins. The ruins are right at the coast line, so there is a small beach where you can go in the water. I would HIGHLY recommend this excursion to anyone who has even the mildest interest in ancient ruins. In Grand Cayman (another tendered port) we went to stingray city to swim with and feed the stingrays, then go snorkel the coral reef. This was an amazing tour, again I would HIGHLY recommend it. In Ocho Rios Jamaica, we did not book a tour through carnival, instead we got to port and made our own arrangements. We rented a moped (motorized scooter) and went to Dunns River Falls. That was really cool; very beautiful, it is right in the rain forest. I would highly recommend Dunns River Falls, though I would NOT recommend renting a vehicle and driving yourself... Driving in Jamaica is crazy beyond your wildest imagination.
ENTERTAINMENT: We did not really partake in a whole lot of the onboard entertainment. We saw a couple of shows, and what we saw was pretty good. Next time, we plan to go to a few more shows and perhaps hit the night clubs onboard.
DISEMBARKATION:The day before we got off the cruise ship, the cruise director held a disembarkation 'seminar', where he went over everything you need to know about disembarkation. We found this to be quite helpful. The morning of disembarkation went really smoothly; we got up, had breakfast, and were off the ship by 9am(ish).
SUMMARY: We had a magnificent time aboard the Carnival Triumph, we enjoyed it so much, we were already talking about planning our next cruise before we even got back home. We were thinking of trying a different cruise line next time (for no other reason than to simply try new things) but after some research, and reading a number of online reviews, and talking to other people who had cruised, we decided to stick with Carnival. We know first hand that it is an amazing experience, and we are eagerly awaiting our next cruise aboard the Carnival Miracle in January 2008.