This was my 6th cruise on Carnival, the only cruise line I have cruised on. I traveled with my brother and a few of his friends, all of us in our early 30's. This was my first time to the Eastern Caribbean. I think this cruise was everything that makes Carnival so popular.
Despite being almost 9 years old, the Triumph looks great. I was concerned being a full ship there would be massive lines and crowds everywhere, that wasn't the case, or at least I managed to avoid them. I had also sailed on the Liberty, and its difficult to tell this ship is smaller, but barely so. Paul Santley, the cruise director was great, as was the staff, always smiling anywhere I went on board.
Embarkation: We got to Miami at 12:30 and already there were long lines. The lines constantly moved and we were on the ship in 45 minutes, not as bad as I expected. It did seem well organized.
I had an inside cabin on the Panorama deck. Quiet, comfortable, although in retrospect I think I would prefer a cabin on the Lido in the future. Having to go all the way up to 10 was somewhat of a pain, that extra flight of stairs always killed me. I did enjoy being able to go just down the hall to the forward outside deck, I suppose you can call it the poor mans balcony.
Half Moon Cay: Simply the best beach day you can imagine. Holland America did a great job developing this island. The beaches were soft, white powdery sand and the water was clear and warm. The ship crew actually staffs the food and beverage service on the island as there are only 35 residents. They set up a great lunch in the food pavilion, with ample seating under cover for everyone to sit and eat. There were also an abundance of beach chairs which are free to use. The calypso band from the ship plays at one of the bars on the beach, but if you prefer a quieter area, just keep walking and serenity is there. There is a tender process which two 300 passenger tenders are used. Getting ashore was well organized and the wait was not long once we made it to the Rome lounge. Getting back on board was just a giant line, no real organization. That was the only downer from that day. Whats nice is there was no locals trying to push anything on you, or harass you to buy something, just the crew pitching water to people standing in line.
St Thomas: There is a lot written about St Thomas on this site, so I wont get into it. I did a snorkeling excursion to Buck island, and until I snorkeled at Grand Turk, this was the best I had done yet anywhere in the Caribbean.
San Juan: I was surprised how nice and pretty Old San Juan is. Also, the rainforests in San Juan are spectacular. I would love to go back there and hike the trails for a day.
Grand Turk: The island is nothing special, quite run down and poor. The nicest place on the island is the port that Carnival developed. It's very nice. This is another great beach fun in the sun day. There is a huge fresh water swimming pool right out from Margaritaville, lots of pool and beach chairs to use. I did the Ultimate Snorkeling excursion which took us to two different reef sites. The first was a series of smaller reef formations. The second was a giant coral reef, the size of a house. I saw stingray, giant grouper, barracuda, all different colorful fish, and amazing coral. This was by far the most amazing reefs I had ever seen, the kind of stuff you see on TV.
Food: This was the best food I had experienced on a Carnival ship yet. Other than a few subpar deserts, everything I had was great. Even the Lido food was very good. I ate in the dining room for dinner every night and really enjoyed the food. How anyone could knock Carnival food after sailing on this cruise, I don't know. I never ate breakfast, but its the standard Carnival fare. One thing I noticed on this ship. There are two main buffet lines inside, and two outside. Often the outside lines had no one in line, with long lines on the inside, and it was the same selection.
Debarkation: This I didn't understand. Carnival uses a number code system now in Miami. You got a number in your cabin, and if you did not do self assist, you waited for your number to be called. Only problem, they never called the numbers. After waiting about 30 minutes AFTER the self assist had finished, I headed down to deck 3 and got in line, from there I was off in 10 minutes to then wait in the customs line and then to the luggage. I am sure the system would work if they actually used it.
All in all, this cruise was just the thing that makes Carnival so popular. Great entertainment, smiling staff and crew members everywhere you turned, great food...add a awesome itinerary, perfect weather, smooth seas, and at a great value...what more could a person want for a great vacation!!