My husband and I are in our late 30's and went on the November 10, 2007 sailing of the Eastern Caribbean with ports of call being Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk. This was our second time sailing with Carnival, which is the only cruise line we have sailed so far.
We flew from Seattle to West Palm Beach on Delta Airlines arriving at 9:30 am and rented a car from Alamo to drive to Miami. It's about an hour drive from West Palm Beach to Miami. We dropped off the car at the Alamo location near the Miami airport and the Alamo shuttle took us directly to the Miami cruise ship terminal for free.
We were happy to see the new Carnival terminal as last year we boarded the ship through the old and very crowded terminal. The new one is much nicer and seemed to be much more organized. We had completed our Fun Pass already, which sped up the check in process. There was a large line up right when we entered the terminal, which was the security check, and then we headed into the second long line up for checking in. The whole process to get on the ship took us about an hour.
THE CABIN: Once on the ship we went to drop off our carry on bags in our cabin. We like being on the first deck as I get motion sickness and we've heard you feel less motion of the ship the lower the deck you are on. We also like being away from the stairs/elevators, as these areas can be fairly noisy in the nighttime. Our cabin was an ocean view cabin with a large window. The twin beds had been pushed together to make a king and there was a sitting area and desk area as well. The bathroom was a good size although a little too pink for our taste. Overall, we thought the cabin was a good size and the only complaints we had about it were that the window was very dirty, the bed was a little hard for us and the medicine cabinet in the bathroom was still dirty from the previous guests. We left it open and it did get cleaned the next time the cabin steward was in.
THE SHIP: We had sailed on the Valor last year and the Triumph seemed to have a very similar layout. The ship seemed to be in good condition and always appeared clean to us, which was amazing, as we had heard the ship was at capacity for our cruise. They were replacing the hallway carpet on our deck during our port days and we observed painters and various other maintenance people doing general upkeep but never in the guests' way. Since the cruise was so full, it was difficult to find deck chairs unless you got out there early. Of course there were always the people who would put their beach towels on the chairs to save them and then would walk away not to return for an hour or more. Another couple at our dinner table said they had removed two towels from chairs that had been saved with no one in sight. When the people eventually returned, they just picked up their folded towels and moved on.
We went on this cruise with the intention of working out in the gym on the sea days. Well we did check out the gym, which was very well equipped with cardio machines and weights, but we never managed to get back there for a workout. Oh well...
THE FOOD: We really enjoyed the buffet food as well as the pizza, deli and the fries and chili at the burger station. Oh yeah, and how could I forget the unlimited frozen yogurt? Yum! We didn't purchase a soda card as we don't drink a lot of soda and there was always free juice and lemonade as well as coffee and hot chocolate for our morning mochas. We did use room service one morning for breakfast on an early port day. The food was delivered right on schedule and was pretty good...muffins, toast, bagels, yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal, coffee, hot chocolate and juices. We ate dinner in the dining room all but the second formal night, which was on a port day, and I just wasn't up to getting all dressed up that night. We really enjoyed the other four people at our table and our waiters were great. The food was just okay though. There wasn't anything wrong that I could really point out, just that it was not exceptional in any way. Even the desserts were just okay. I was a big fan of the chocolate melting cake from last year and was disappointed that it arrived just luke warm like it was warm pudding with not much chocolate cake. The cheesecake didn't have much cheese flavor either.
THE ENTERTAINMENT: We caught a few of the night shows which were all pretty good. We thought the cruise ship dancers were very good and the magicians were great! We were disappointed that there was only a late show (10:30) on most of the nights as our dinner was at 5:45 and with being up early for four ports of call we were already pretty tired so staying awake for the shows was a bit difficult. We usually passed up on the shows for a good night sleep.
We attended our first art auction while on this cruise and found it quite interesting although we never bid on anything. The entire art show was about 3 hours long and they served champagne while everyone checked out the artwork. The auction went on way too long for us but it was a rainy sea day so we just hung out and took it all in.
We skipped the Captain's cocktail party this trip but did attend the past guest reception where there were unlimited free drinks being served as well as a video of the entire Carnival line and some past guest testimonials. We couldn't believe there was one couple that had been on 33 Carnival cruises in the past 10 years!
THE PORTS OF CALL: Our first port was Half Moon Cay, which I wasn't really expecting a lot of since it is owned by the cruise line but was I ever impressed. It was a tender port and the tender dropped us all off at the usual shopping area the cruise ships seem to provide but once we walked past there we couldn't believe our eyes. The beach was amazing with white sand like powdered sugar and the water was so clear and blue. We rented a clamshell to provide some shade and there were plenty of lounge chairs to go around. We just hung out at the beach and swam in the beautiful water. We agreed this was the best beach either of us had ever been to. Carnival provided a BBQ lunch just beyond the beach where it was easy to find a picnic table to eat at and the food was really good.
Our second port was St. Thomas, which we had been to last year. Everyone had to clear US customs whether you were leaving the ship or not. The process was well organized and moved very quickly. We planned to catch the ferry to the neighboring island of St. John so we could spend the day on Trunk Bay Beach. Last year we took a taxi to the ferry at Red Hook to get to St. John so this year we decided to try catching the ferry from Charlotte Amalie which is located a lot closer to the cruise ship terminal. The only problem was that we missed the 11:00 ferry and had to wait for the 1:00 ferry so we wandered around the shops for a bit. When we finally got to Trunk Bay Beach the weather had changed and it was cloudy and lightly raining but it did clear up while we were snorkeling around. This beach is also very beautiful with white sand and clear blue water. We found the underwater trail near the rocks to the right and snorkeled along it seeing various fish and underwater flora. We also saw a pelican land right near us which scared the schools of tiny fish near the surface making them practically "fly" above the water to get away. We caught the ferry back to Red Hook which is a shorter ferry ride but a longer taxi back to the cruise ship and figured that it cost us about $90 round trip for all ferries and taxis and took about 3 hours travel time round trip. We will probably check out one of the beaches on St. Thomas if we are ever back there.
Our third port was San Juan, Puerto Rico and we planned a walking tour of the old part of the city, which we had found in a travel book. It took us the entire day to see it all including the two forts, which were amazing. It costs $3 each to see either of the forts or $5 each to see both which is what we did. The history is truly amazing and we would definitely go back to see more of San Juan.
Our last port was Grand Turk, which was another beach day for us. We aren't sure what else there is to do in Grand Turk except for the few excursions or hanging out at Margaritaville or the beach. Our ship was the first into port and the dock is right in front of the beach blocking most of the views from the beach out over the ocean. Luckily we all got our lounge chairs before the second ship arrived as the beach became very crowded very fast. The beach again was really nice and the water was very clear with rough patches on the ocean floor. We went back to the ship for lunch and then headed along the beach on the other side of the dock to search for conch shells. There were many broken ones all over the place and we had to search really hard for a good one to bring back. We strolled through the typical shopping area and wandered through Margaritaville where it seemed like everyone was having a good time around the pool.
GETTING OFF THE SHIP: Last year we did the self-assist where you carry your own luggage off the ship. We found that to be crazy with everyone stuck in long lines waiting for elevators so this time we set our luggage out in the hallway the night before and waited for our number to be called so we could disembark. We were number 26 so it was expected we would be called around 10:15 am. We were up early so we went up on deck to watch the sun rise and to see the ship come into the port. We then had breakfast at the buffet and went back to our room to shower and prepare to leave. We then headed up to the lido deck and spent our last bit of time on the lounge chairs and at 10:30 our number was called and we were off to the Rome lounge where we had to wait for our number to be called again. About 20 minutes later it was our time and we swiped our sail and sign card for the last time and headed to the luggage carousel. Then was the long wait to clear customs before finding our Alamo shuttle back to get our rental car. We then headed to Naples, Florida to spend a week with a friend before heading home from Fort Myers.
To other Canadians out there, more specifically other Metro Vancouverites...make sure you check out flights from Seattle. We saved over $1000.00 by flying out of Seattle rather than Vancouver and flying into other airports besides Miami. Even with paying $100 for two weeks of parking in Seattle and $35 for the rental car, it was still a huge savings.
All in all we had a fun time on the Triumph. The ship was nice and comfortably appointed, the staff was good and kept everything clean and the ports of call were great too. We want to cruise around Europe next and may try a different cruise line in order to have something to compare Carnival to. I guess it will depend on itinerary and price, Carnival always seeming to be at a good price point.