My boyfriend booked the cruise last minute for an anniversary celebration. It was less than 7 days prior to departure and booked the "Guaranteed Balcony" option for $699/pp. We were automatically assigned an 8C cabin, #8202.
Because of the short advanced notice of sailing, we opted to fly to Miami the day of the cruise which turned out to be one of the coldest and windiest in the history of NYC for the end of October. The flight took off on time, thankfully.
Upon arrival in Miami, we noticed a Carnival representative that was selling transfers via motor-coach. We opted for this as well as a return. I think the cost was about $30, give or take. At any rate it was fairly inexpensive. When we lined up, it did get a bit confusing when a group of disabled travelers nearly got separated from there party and got panicked, but eventually we were ushered to the coach and were quickly off to the port of Miami. The driver was very nice and got the passengers "pumped- up" for the cruise.
Once we arrived at the port we were required to put our luggage in a series of large cages. The men who were organizing this required all passengers to pay per piece of luggage as it was placed in the cages. I thought it was odd that he referred to this as a payment rather than as a tip which implied that it was mandatory if you ever wanted to see your luggage again. Oh well.
We then proceeded to the Carnival terminal and despite the long lines, everything moved swiftly. We were checked in, received our "Sign & Sail" card and on the ship in about 45 minutes. Crossing the gangway and onto the ship was exciting since it was my first cruise. Since it was too early to go to our cabin, we had a seat at the bar and had a couple of drinks while listening to a pianist play on the elevated baby grand behind the bar. Afterward, we explored the outside decks and went to the Maitre'D for our table assignment. We were given a nice table for two at the rear of the dining room overlooking the lower level and the orchestra pit.
Once the announcement was made that we could proceed to our cabin, we did so to unload all of our things. The room was adequate in size and the bed was quite comfortable. The room is right next to the port side bridge wing which has its ups and downs. On the upside, it blocks wind passing around the front of the ship. On the down side, the officers on the bridge have an unobstructed view onto the balcony which limits privacy.
The muster drill was quickly taken care of and we were free to wander the ship. We went up top and took the requisite photos in front of the "whale's tail" funnel as well as the Miami skyline as we headed out to see. The sunset was beautiful.
This was my first cruise and though I had nothing to compare it to, it did not meet my expectations in every regard. I knew before we departed that Triumph was a bit old. While she was gleaming white on the outside, the funnel was faded and dull and the inside was another story. The smoked glass,well worn brass, and neon lighting used throughout the ship gave the impression more of a 1980s Atlantic City casino than a cruise ship.
The fitness facilities were adequate but again outdated. The "tinting-film" on the floor to ceiling windows was blistering and peeling in spots and at times the jacuzzi just didn't work.
The entertainment onboard was somewhat lacking according to my boyfriend who referred to it as the worst he has ever seen. Having worked aboard cruise ships as a Saxophonist I guess he is more knowledgeable than most. He said that he got the impression that the actors were the "rejects" of the industry, not able to get work on better lines.
I was disappointed that there was very little live music aboard. With the exception of the pianist on day of departure and some shows in the theatre, the only live music was a jazz band in the cigar bar. I had imagined that there would be bands playing out on deck during the cruise, but this was not the case.
We spent a lot of time in the cigar bar, the bartender there was the friendliest on the ship. She gave us tips about things to do in the various ports. It was also one of the nicer bars on the ship. Dark paneling and "clubby" looking. The rest of the bars had relatively apathetic bartenders and the "frou-frou" tropical drinks were overly sweet and underly alcoholic.
The food on board was okay. I live in Manhattan and consider myself a "foodie" and while I would not consider the food to be gourmet by any means, some of it was better than good and quite imaginative. One dish I particularly liked was a curried apple soup at lunch time in the dining room. Spicy and slightly sweet with coconut milk it was cool and refreshing. One dish that was particularly bad was the highly touted Baked Alaska. It was just awful. Bland with cheap ice cream and rubbery sponge cake. My boyfriend said the burger at lunchtime was pretty good. At dinnertime, the wine list was extensive, but we often found that the better bottles were not available. This was a disappointment because what was available was not so good. The dining room staff was very nice and helpful and extremely attentive. Our waiter and head waiter were from the Philippines and I think the fact that I speak Tagalog helped because they always remembered me and were extra concerned that I was happy.
The buffet food was typical buffet food as far as I am concerned but since I have never cared for buffets I'm probably not the person to ask. I can say however, that the desserts on the buffet were horrible. All were dry and tasteless. The lines moved swiftly though and there was adequate seating for all. The pizza served on the aft deck late at night was not bad either (but I was usually close to drunk) and the self serve serve ice cream machine was often out-of-order.
We did not book any excursions through the ship because we slept late every day. In Cozumel, we rented a jeep and drove to some Myan ruins that were okay but not as spectacular as the ones in Tulum or Chichinitza. We then drove to the beach and had a beer before returning to town to do some shopping for souvenirs. Silver is pretty reasonable here.
In Ocho Rios, we got a cab and took it to Dunn's River Falls to take a snap shot and then went off to Dolphin Cove where we lounged on a rather rocky beach and drank rum punch. The dolphin swim was over-priced so we skipped it. We then returned to the port area and had a couple of drinks at Margaritaville in a little plaza adjacent to the pier. This area is off-limits to locals and is guarded by the police. Of all of the ports I thought Jamaica was the prettiest but the people were horrible and so it was my least favorite. The locals are aggressive! Watch your belongings at all time and DO NOT talk to anyone, unless you want to get mugged. I'm not kidding. It seemed as though all sorts of riff-raff descend upon the area when ships dock.
Grand Cayman had the nicest beaches. I highly recommend just going to the Seven Mile Beach area and swimming the day away. The sand and surf was just beautiful. The center of town is nice if you want to buy luxury items such as watches and jewelry. There were many shops. Since I am not a watch and jewelry kind of person, I can not attest to the prices. Tendering at Grand Cayman was handled with ease and well coordinated.
The only on-board fee based activity I wanted do was the golf simulator. I made a reservation and when I showed up, there was no one there. I had to search for someone to call the guy who operated it only to find out that it was broken. No courtesy call! This was rather irritating.
There are only a few things about the cruise that really annoyed me. First was all of the photography on the part of the cruise line. Everywhere you went they were snapping pictures and trying to push you into buying them. Second was the art auction. Do people really go on a cruise to buy overpriced motel room art? I guess so. It cluttered the walkways and was an eye-sore.
All in all, I enjoyed the cruise. So much so that once I was back in New York, I booked my whole family on one for their Christmas gift but on a different line. For a first cruise my Carnival experience was nice. It was fun and I'll always remember it. I don't know if I'll ever sail on Carnival again because there were quite a few people on board that were the sort of low class individuals I expected to see on a Carnival ship. There was the drunk at the Black-Jack table that had to be removed by a couple of annoyed guests because the cruise line staff wouldn't or couldn't do anything about him. There were the passengers eating their "buffet lunch" at the slot-machines which the cruise line did do something about. It was a good, not great cruise, but I recommend anyone give it a try for a first time, no expectations cruise experience.