EMBARKATION If you are lucky enough to board at the newly finishedTerminal D in Miami you will hopefully be as impressed as I was! Beautiful, brand new (2nd time Triumph docked there), and so well planned! We (travelling w/cruise buddy Ray who is Platinum!) got to the port at 11:15 - were ushered to the VIP lounge (yes they absolutely said I could go with him!), got checked in and were literally on the ship by 11:40 am - dropped stuff off in cabins/safe and onto Lido for lunch! (please note we were all charged an extra $1.28 on our S&S cards for cost of new terminal - there was a note in our cabins explaining this!).
MY CABIN I was lucky enough to get the special 1A window cabin (Ray had the corresponding one on the starboard side) and just loved it. (I had the same cabin on the Liberty which has the 2 twins/queen - but this one was a single and another in the ceiling if required!) However it was somewhat noisy - when in Half Moon Cay - sound of flushing/running water on port side - as if there was a pipe running thru the wall. Not a problem except when i got back and tried to take a nap - noise did disappear once we started moving. Other noises/vibrations did occur esp at night when we were literally 'motoring' - and of course anchor/engine sounds when docking.
Room steward Suryo was excellent - finding lots of extra hangers for me as required!
DINING ROOM We were assigned the 8:30 pm seating in the London, first time on the upper level. Large table for 8 - seemed like the 'canadian' table - another couple from Toronto on their honeymoon, a couple from Quebec, and one more from Virginia (altho she was an 'ex-canadian' and he was from Puerto rico!). Most at the table were 'virgin' cruisers so we quickly 'trained' them on dining etiquette (order as much as you want - taste everything) - they were quick learners and we had a great time with all of them.
Our wait staff Victoria and Vasil were also excellent - and after the first night the lemon slices for my water and my after dinner decaf cappuccino magically appeared every evening
Food was mostly good except the beef was hit or miss. I would suggest ordering it a 'grade' lighter than usual (e.g. medium instead of medium well) - while we found the filet mignon to be a bit chewy, the chateaubriand was exceptional and literally melted in your mouth.
Due to Ray's 'platinum powers' and an attentive assistant maitre d (Anthony) we were able to special order the escargot appetizer on the first formal night (as most at the table didn't feel they could wait for that until the last night! LOL). Anthony came thru for us and we had a great time dipping into that garlic butter!
The only downside was the 'drinks' girl - very slow in getting the soft drinks/wine etc sometimes arriving with these as we were finishing our main course. We did mention this to Anthony and things seemed to get a bit better. We also noticed the 'trainee' designation on her name tag - but really someone should have been 'training' her and not letting her work on her own. One night our tablemates got a bill to sign for one beer in the amount of $387.00 - luckily they checked it before signing - but this really should not have happened?
Also got the new 'funnel' cup - they did not seem evident on the first few days of the cruise - but they suddenly appeared in all of the bars - supposed to make a good piggy bank (to save up for the next cruise?? LOL)
THE SHIP I must say I was worried but the Triumph is in excellent condition - even noting new hallway carpets on most decks and brand new carpet in my cabin! I saw no signs of wear and tear and no bad smells at all!
...and maybe too diligent in cleaning up? One afternoon upon returning to the ship many of us were in the South Beach eating a late lunch (pizza/grill) as the buffet line was already shut down and one of the staff was literally vacuuming the floor under our feet as we ate! Had to pick up our feet and even stand up and move our chairs so they could clean up!
ROOM SERVICE Much improved - orders came exactly as ordered and on time - very prompt and good service!...and I almost got my fill of smoked salmon ( I said almost....)
PORTS/WEATHER Half Moon Cay is as gorgeous as everyone says - sand is soft and water clear and blue. I was surprised to see that not all the cabanas were 'rented' as I thought they were a 'hot item'. If you want a more secluded beach area - just wander down the beach awhile - no problem finding loungers and some shade if you need it.
Lunch - room for improvement. I would suggest Carnival provide some trays for lunch! Such a simple thing but greatly appreciated by all. It was a bit risky trying to balance plate w/food and then trying to get a drink!
Instead of plastic cups as on Lido, there were these tiny (6 oz?) plastic coated paper cups. Without a tray you are now stuck trying to balance a plate or put it somewhere while you fill your paper cup. And given the heat and humidity you want more than 6 oz - so we saw lots of people trying to handle 3-4 filled cups while carrying their plate, cutlery and trying to find an empty table!
Tendering took a while as well given the size of the tenders and amount of people they carried - almost 20 mins to load/unload and 15 ride - took us almost an hour from start to finish until we were finally settled on the beach.
St. Thomas - Having been there many times before we are always looking for something new to do. Booked the Sea Blaster thru Carnival - great crew and fun time, altho to be honest the boat did not go as fast as I expected nor did we all get 'soaked' as mentioned (they made us put our gear in plastic bags).
We rode out to a secluded cove and snorkeled for about an hour - then a leisurely ride back with plenty of drinks, snacks, and RUM PUNCH (need I say more?) Also had a few of our CC friends on this excursion which made it extra fun!
In the afternoon despite the excessive heat (after changing and having lunch on board) off we went to Paradise Point for the ride up, great view and Bushwhackers. As previous cruisers have mentioned that's a mighty powerful drink - but so yummy. We also got souvenir mugs to take home (get the ride/drink combo when you purchase tickets as you save some bucks!)
San Juan - had my heart set on seeing the El Yunque rainforest and was able to book thru carnival (this is a 4.5 hour tour and I sure did not want to get stuck there w/independent tour if something went wrong!).
While the rainforest was amazingly beautiful and lush and green I was a bit disappointed in our tour guide. It seems to be 'luck of the draw' as to how informative your tour is. Friends of ours on the same tour/different bus raved about their tour guide who gave a 1 hr narrated tour on the way to the rainforest and while there explained all the fauna/flora. We got very intermittent information (this is white ginger, the bamboo grows 1/2 inch in 48 hours) and not much about anything else. Also some of the stops were too short. El Portal, which is the visitor's center was our first stop with only 20 minutes allotted - of course everyone first needed a potty break (10 mins?) which left little time to view all the exhibits and information provided. The climb up Yokahu Tower was gruelling but worth it due to the great view and photo ops at the top!
And when we told our friends about our 'limited' tour experience they said they hoped we mentioned it on the 'comment cards' that were provided! WHAT COMMENT CARDS??? was our reply!
Grand Turk - big disappointment - if you like the prefab shopping experience you will love it - lots of shops/margaritaville at the pier along with a beach right there so you don't have to venture far.
I preferred to see more of the island and a group of us (CC roll call members) decided to head out to Bohio Dive Resort. The beach there is quiet and not crowded and they provide diving, as well as snorkeling off their boat. There is also a nice 'patio' area w/drinks and food available for purchase. Unfortunately it was a a grey/overcast and drizzly day - so while I did try out the water - I spent a lot of time on the patio with my new CC friends just relaxing and listening to the waves! Actually it was a nice break from the heat and sun of previous ports!
The drive to and from Bohio allowed us to see some of the island which is obviously very poor - but it was the garbage and neglect all around us that bothered us the most! Hope the cruisers can help the economy of the island!
Weather was fabulous and no hurricanes in sight - we did have a burst of rain on a couple of days and a bit of general 'rolling' but nothing major - Grand Turk day as mentioned was the only non-sunny port!
ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES As always I really enjoyed the entertainment on board. The main shows were wonderful - even with some of the 'technical' malfunctions (fireworks/streamers prematurely going off during Italian love ballad - freaking out the audience but singers kept on going!).
Hope you get to see Kevin & Caruso - MOST AMAZING magic show (and yes I sat up close so I could figure out the tricks - ya right!). Comedian Jim Panzeca was okay - Eddie Capone was hysterical - just beware most of his material is based on 'audience' participation - choose your seats carefully!
Piano bar - I thought Garth was supposed to be on board - but instead we found Steve in the piano bar. Sorry to say he is not the best singer altho he plays well! One night someone requested "mack the knife' - instead of singing it Steve handed the mike over to the 'guest' - and he was AMAZING - did a great job and I think we all wished he would take over the singing. And you know something's wrong when there are empty seats around the piano!
Bingo seemed to be very popular altho I did not participate. I am a 'trivia buff' - and very happy to have returned home with one shiny ship on a stick (cartoon trivia) and one medal (runner up in 'name that tune trivia')
Hairy chest competition and ice carving were 'rescheduled' due to some rain and I saw many people participating in the cornhole competitions!
Sergiy - great piano player in atrium/lobby bar every evening. Also loved Pure (Venezia Lounge) and the Dave Blazer orchestra - as well as the classical music trio in Oxford Bar who I chanced upon a few times!
Altho I was looking forward to Paul Santley as our Cruise Director as I heard good things about him he was on vacation so instead we had Brad Calabrese. I found him to be an EXCELLENT CD - not too intrusive with the messages, pretty funny and very genuine - I was not disappointed! Other cruise staff just okay - no one else seemed to stand out!
DISEMBARKATION We were allowed to stay in our cabins much later than usual which was nice. In fact I was awoken by the anchor/docking noises and NOT the voice of the CD in my cabin at the crack of dawn. Ordered an 8 am room service breakfast and out of the cabin by 9 am. Off the ship by 9:30 (they were still doing self-disembark at this time) - and into the new terminal to find our bags.
The new terminal baggage area is just like an airport baggage claim area - with the turning ramps going round and round with luggage on it. There are several clearly marked w/numbers as per your luggage tags (distributed the night before in your cabin). Mine appeared pretty quickly - Ray's did not - he was getting panicky - but it took about 15 mins and there it was!
On previous cruises we always 'hired' a porter as they took you thru a special line which was usually shorter than the regular lines. Not so in the new terminal - we got in line w/everyone else so you may still wish to get a porter to help w/luggage but remember it won't be any faster.
Also we are all in the same lines now - as a non-US citizen I was usually directed to a different, and typically shorter line - but not this time so choose your line carefully.
Purchased Carnival transfer to FLL airport - bus filled up and we were there by 10:30 am w/lots of time before my 2 pm flight!
Home now surrounded by luggage, laundry and cruise gear - wish I could call room service cuz I could sure use a break and a snack right about now!
....and of course one of the main highlights was the CC meet and greet we scheduled just after muster drill, at sailaway. It was a blast to finally meet everyone and put names and faces together. In fact I saw many of my CC friends a lot during the cruise, either hanging out or on an excursion and I can only say they added to my wonderful cruise experience. I miss them already!