Background: We were a party of 7 consisting of two grandparents (one restricted most of the time to a wheelchair), two parents and three kids (ages 11, 9 and 8). We reserved two adjoining balcony cabins and one inside cabin on the Veranda Deck (Deck 8). My wife and I, who are both 40, have taken over a dozen cruises together with, and without, the large party on multiple cruise lines.
Embarkation: I notified Carnival approximately two weeks in advance that one person in our party would be primarily restricted to a wheelchair and faxed in the required paperwork. Consequently, when we arrived at the Port of Miami at 12:30 we were provided assistance with the final check-in (we completed most of the paperwork on-line prior to our arrival). Consequently, the time from when we entered the door to when we were on the Lido Deck eating lunch was under 30 minutes. Carnival's new terminal GREATLY reduces the stress related to boarding.
Cabin: Having cruised on the CArnival in the past, we were well prepared for the cabin / closet size. Even with three people in a cabin, there is plenty of room as compared with other cruise lines. The only complaint was that we could not open the partition separating the two balcony cabins as one or the other of the doors leading into the cabins would have been blocked (this is not the case during a prior cruise where we had the partition open the entire time). A minor inconvenience, but one that should have been noted by the travel agent from Carnival when booking through them.
Ship Itself: Many people have commented on the Triumph showing its age (it is due for a major drydock renovation in September) but it still looks fantastic. We did notice that each of the pools received service work during port days and our balcony was also painted while in port. However, there wasn't anything that stood out in need of major repair during our cruise.
On a side note, we were initially concerned about a member of our family being primarily restricted to a wheelchair (although she could walk when required). Other than having to wait for elevators at key times during the day and several areas on the floor associated with the fire doors, the ship was generally wheelchair friendly. However, if you are restricted to an electric scooter I would strongly suggest the handicap cabins as the standard cabin doors would be an extremely tight fit.
Staff: The staff on our crew was fantastic - especially the Head Waitress Mire. My wife and I have been on numerous cruises in the past and the service we received during this cruise was superior. Everyone, from the bar staff to the entertainment staff to the Purser's Desk was eager to make our trip exceed our expectations.
Ports of Call: Our first port of call was San Juan, Puerto Rico. We docked at 5pm (6pm local time) and departed at midnight. To be honest, I can not understand why we bothered to make this stop (other than the beautiful sights of sailing into San Juan harbor at sunset). All of the local stores and historical sights in Old San Juan were closed and the shore excursions were all at night. Given that we were not "pushing it" speedwise to get to San Juan, it would have been nice to have gotten there several hours earlier to better enjoy this beautiful place.
St. Thomas was fantastic. We rented a minivan just outside of the Havensight port ($98 for a Dodge Grand Caravan with 985 miles from Budget)and spent the day on our own shopping in downtown Charlotte Amalie as well as letting the kids have fun at Coral World and Sapphire Beach. Although the cruise lines will always try and scare you into purchasing their shore excursions, there is no substitutions for being able to come and go from the ship at our leisure.
Grand Turk: I would imagine that Grand Turk is what other islands in the Caribbean used to be like - quaint and unrushed. We hired a private taxi at the cruise port and got a fantastic tour of this small island in just under two hours. I wish that I had funds to invest in this island - property on the cliffs overlooking the ocean going for $500,000 today undoubtably will likely be $5,000,000 in the near future once the developers discover this gem of an island and develop it to its potential.
Entertainment: The ship has two primary shows - one of which is scheduled to be changed when the ship is in drydock in September. Although not as good as some of the shows on other ships / lines, it still amazes me how great they are considering the size limitations dictated by the ship. For this particular trip, the "fly-in" entertainment was heavily favoring comedians. One comedian is ok, three is too many.
Kids Program: Camp Carnival was well prepared for making the kid's vacation one to remember. Although our kids chose mostly not to be at the organized activities, the availability of options is great as parents.
Debarkation: The ship tied up in Miami at 7am and we were off the ship, with our luggage, at 8:30am - you can't beat that. Carnival has obviously spent a lot of money making the start, and end, of the cruise less painful and it clearly shows.