My husband and I have cruised Carnival over 15 times in the past 10 years. We are in our late 40s. We enjoy getting away from the responsibilities of daily life and relaxing at sea. I enjoy catching up on sleep and reading. This trip I finished three novels.
We booked directly through Carnival. We also book our own airfares. We flew Saturday morning from Minneapolis to Miami via American Airlines nonstop flight which arrived promptly at 12:30 pm. Then we grabbed a taxi from the airport to the harbor (approx $35 with tip). We are Platinum so were able to bypass the long lines, enabling us to be in the Lido eating lunch by 2pm.
We paid for a balcony guarantee at a relatively low rate about a year prior to our cruise and were pleasantly surprised with being assigned Lido 9237. This is a good location, toward the front of the ship and high up which maximizes the up and down motion of the sea, that I love. With our balcony door propped open, it almost sounded like sitting on a beach with the waves crashing into the shore…but in this case, the waves were hitting the hull of the ship…almost directly below our room (but some odd 9 floors down!).
The Eastern route through the Atlantic is usually a wavier voyage than the Western route, and this cruise was no exception. Just enough waves to know you were at sea. We enjoy this! We laugh whenever we hear first-time cruisers being surprised that they can feel ship movement after being reassured from their travel agent that they wouldn't feel any motion. This is only true when the ship is docked! People, if you easily get motion sickness, bring medication OR chose another vacation!
Triumph was almost exactly what we were expecting. We have sailed on her sister Destiny twice in the past. I wouldn't recommend Destiny or Conquest class for a first time cruiser as she is difficult to get orientated in with the chopped up dining room/kitchen issue. When you are new to cruising, it's nice to have uncomplicated, direct walkways up and across a ship. Having said that, I find Triumph fun to navigate and learn the various paths around the ship.
Triumph was decorated in a conservative fashion, from a Carnival perspective. In many ways she reminded me of Paradise. She has been very well cared for over the years and is very clean and pleasant.
I use the internet service daily to communicate with work and home. It is very slow, however, it does work. I also used my cell phone daily to phone my teenage son at home. With Verizon we had access everywhere but our last port of call in Grand Turk. Reception was fine otherwise for our daily 5 minute calls. At $1.69 per minute, this was fair less expensive than the old $10 per minute (now a bargain $7) direct from the ship to simply say "Hi, How are you? Bye"
Half Moon Cay was our first stop on Sunday. We had a beautiful sunny day. In the past we have booked a Cabana. This cruise we didn't to save a few dollars. So we simply walked the beach, went swimming and then had lunch on the island. By then it was early afternoon and we decided to tender back to the ship. We were very grateful for Platinum status when we went ashore in HMC. We were able to get a tender ticket immediately and just go down and board the next tender. This probably saved us about an hour of wait time.
St Thomas was our 2nd port of call. We had to go through customs on board the ship for clearance before going ashore (even if you stayed on the ship, you had to go through customs). Here is another example of Platinum status paying off…we were able to wait in a separate lounge (about 25 of us) and get clearance first…others I am sure waited an hour or more (standing) after us. We have been to St. Thomas about 4 times. I have to say that I don't think there is any EASY and FAST way to get to St. John. This is the last time I plan to attempt it. We have done it on our own and via shore excursions…I don't like the length of the trip to St. John, period.
We booked a shore excursion…the St. John Catamaran Champagne Sail Away. This was a big disappointment. We never SAILED at all…we motored on the cat there and back. I was looking forward to the quietness of sailing…argh! They took as to Honeymoon Beach, which was fine. We were there an hour or so and then motored back…and then the long tax bus back…we TRAVELED about 4 hours for a one hour swim…DUMB!
I think you have to plan at least 3 hours round trip travel time to get to St. John from St. Thomas. It is good to see Trunk Bay at least once…but after that; if you are a real beach fan…I would recommend an all inclusive vacation ON a beach property instead of cruising.
San Juan we enjoyed. This was the first time we have been in SJ during the day rather than the evening. We took the Old San Juan Walking Tour and were very happy with it. It was a LOT of walking, but we needed it! The day wasn't unbearably hot and we took the morning excursion, so it worked out perfectly. Based on all the shops I saw downtown, I would say SJ is a good port to shop at. We went off on our own after the walking tour and had lunch at La Bombonera which was a recommended restaurant. The food was ok…but the pastries were to die for! They have them displayed in their front window. I picked out 4 different ones for $1 each, they boxed them and I took them back to the ship. They didn't last long! I suggest just stopping in to pick up sweets!
In Grand Turk my husband took the Light Tackle Fishing Excursion and enjoyed it. When we go back someday, it looks like this would be a very easy port to have a free beach day as the beach is right next to the port. (Carnival built this port and shopping area).
We didn't participate in many activities this cruise other than losing at bingo about 4 times! Never did get to play Mini Golf - we tried our first Sea Day on Tuesday, but it was too windy for access to the higher decks. This made the Lido area feel crowded that day, so we spent a lot of time on our balcony.
On the second Sea Day we had some rain, which again made the Lido crowded and noisy…so we retreated to our balcony…we would carry the food tray right from the buffet to our room.
My husband went running three times, but neither of us made it to the gym. We did take the steps 95% of the time. Thank goodness as I still managed to gain 4 pounds! I even ate the SPA menu choice 2 evenings!
We attended three of the evening main shows. We enjoy the song/dance productions. I get a kick out of the costumes and stage sets. We also saw the magic show, which was enjoyable and done professionally. We skipped the juggling act and the talent show.
The crowd on this cruise was very low-key. They said 600 children were on board, but it felt like much less than this. I think the ones on board were well-behaved as they weren't noticeable to me until the last sea day when they got restless.
The most startling difference on this cruise as compared to others…or maybe there has been a general decline in quality or maybe just an increase in my expectations, but I felt the dining room food was not the best. Now it wasn't horrible, but it didn't shine either. It was difficult to pick something I thought I would like. With all the cruises with Carnival, I know their menus quite well and usually find something I enjoy. This time the food just wasn't prepared as well as in the past. I did enjoy the SPA menu on two evenings…however, when I looked at it the third time…it sounded exactly like what I had the prior two nights… Two nights we completely skipped dinner and went to the buffet.
The best food was to be found at lunch time in the buffet area. They had many salad choices, fresh fruit, always had grilled vegetables, starch choices and a huge roast of some type. A large variety was available. Along with the buffet they also had the sandwich shop, the hamburger grill, pizza and the noodle shop. (Missing from this ship is Fish and Chips and the "Upscale" supper club). At the noodle place I loved the egg rolls and the ginger fried rice. I ate here 3 times and enjoyed everything.
We ate most of our breakfasts in the dining room. There I was able to get my baked apple, omelet or French toast, and chicken sausage. I despise waiting in lines, and this was the best solution. They will make your omelet they way you want it…I had veggie omelets without much hassle even though the menu only has ham or cheese as choices.
I thought the desserts were not up to par in either the dining room or the buffet. For really good desserts and cakes, you need to purchase them at the Vienna Café for $2-3…worth the charge. I'm not saying ALL the desserts were poor, but the majority weren't great. Even the chocolate melting cake…was really just warm chocolate goo - it had no cake-like consistency at all…should be called Warm Chocolate Pudding. On our first two nights our waiter actually forgot to bring one menu choice (both were starters)…this has never happened before on a Carnival cruise, so when it happened two nights in a row, we took notice. We said nothing, but noted it on our comment card. Now did this ruin our cruise? Hardly! As I stated earlier, I did gain 4 pounds!
We had a very warm and friendly stateroom steward. His name was DeeDee. He made a point to greet us in the hallways by name everyday. He kept our room tidy, responded to our requests and never interrupted us. (We are religious about using our Privacy/Make Up our Room card which helps.)
Our cruise came to an end too soon, just as I was catching up on my sleep! We had a very late flight back to Minneapolis planned…and seeing as how a taxi was already $35, we decided to book the Everglades Tour to kill time as it was $70 for both of us. Well, it was truly a good way to kill time! I would not recommend it unless you have NEVER seen an alligator farm. I guess boating through the everglades was kind of neat…but the place was really a run-down tourist trap. It was kind of historical in an odd way. It was a pleasant enough way to kill 4 or 5 hours. We still had that many more hours to wait until our flight left at 9pm.
Overall I would rank this as a very good cruise vacation. Triumph is a beautiful ship.