This was our first cruise so we didn't really know what we were getting into(we're hooked). we started our vacation in Florida a couple days before the cruise and used priceline to book the hotels. I highly recommend this as we got great hotels in cocoa beach and in palm beach for $60 and $75. I will be using them again in the future. We had been reading post on the boards here and had a pretty good ideal what embarkation would be like but it was better than we could have ever hoped for. We arrived about 11:30am because we had been told on here not to wait till 1:30 like carnival says too , I now understand why everyone said that . We went thru the security checkpoint with only a small line . Got upstairs to a longer line but still relatively short wait. We were onboard by 12:15 or so. We did make the mistake of having a large carry-on without wheels ...don't do this my back was killing me by the time we could get to our room at 1:30.
We went straight to the lido deck for lunch , food was good small line again but not too bad. Once we made it to our room we were surprised at its size. we had thought it would be smaller. it was a balcony room on lido deck real close to the front of the ship. We dropped off our way too heavy carry-on and went looking around . I have to say this ship is a little hard to figure out at first, it wasn't too bad after a few days though. We made last min. phone calls and got ready for sail away . The muster drill wasn't bad and I don't understand why everyone complains about it so much , we were there about 10 min or so the only bad part of the whole drill was walking up 5 flights of stairs afterwards but I needed the exercise anyway . We went to the pool and I got me a margarita and my wife got one of the daily special drinks and we made our way to the secret door (that's not much of a secret) for our meet and greet. There wasn't anyone there on the lido from cruise critic or at least no one made themselves known so we had our drinks and watched Miami fade into the distance.
The first nights meal was a little scary we went to our table and found only 2 women at a table for 8 . No one said anything to each other for like the first 10 min and we were starting to get a little worried then another couple sat down and everyone started introducing themselves . The 2 women (Terri & Lynn)were from up around Boston and the other couple (JF & Milyn)were from Quebec . We all became fast friends and supper every night was a high point of the day. Our first formal night was Sunday night and it was really nice. we had lobster and shrimp and I had seen a lot of ppl on here complain about the lobster being dry and tough, mine was neither it was really good all be it a little small (I had 2 so that wasn't a problem either) the food onboard is pretty good everything we ate was at least as good as you would get at most restaurants back home and our waiters(Sherwin & Reynold) were great ,They were there with things before you knew you wanted it. I did try the escargot the last night of the cruise I had never had them before but figured I should try new things , I was surprised when I liked them, not what I would go out looking for but they were good. The singing in the dining room was a bit much but it was still fun.
We saw a show every night all of which were good , the singers were both pretty good and the dancers were amazing especially Josh . The comedians were all three pretty good and the adult show Eddie Capone did was really funny ,especially when the woman in 4th or 5th row left him speechless when he put her on the spot . The oxford bar was our favorite just for the atmosphere. We loved the jazz band and my wife discovered that she likes jazz. The piano bar was ok but the piano player that was there the night we went wasn't much of a singer. The ship is beautiful in almost every way, we did see a little wear but nothing bad and they were working on the ship in every port. We did smell the sewer that everyone talks about on the boards but only a couple times and it was there for only a few seconds , not sure where it was coming from but it was always in a hallway and never in our room. The lines at the lido deck buffet were not as bad as I had expected and only at certain times. The NY deli had great Rubin sandwiches and the pizzeria was great especially the de shevri (mushroom and goat cheese). As for the grill we never tried the hamburgers but they looked good and the fries from there were pretty good.
We did go up to the funnel deck once and sure enough there was a few women up there sunbathing topless but nothing to right home about. Were not much on swimming and there were crowds at the mid ship pool most of the time but the band there was pretty good . We spent a lot of our time just chilling on our balcony, it was well worth the extra $ for us . We did think the drink prices were a little high but then again we don't drink a lot so I guess it wasn't too bad either.
San Juan is a great port but I wish we had went during the day . We explored the old city on foot for a couple hours and did some souvenir shopping, found some pretty good prices and got the kids some stuff . Found a nice cigar shop and got me a few cigars for a lot cheaper that in the states . Mainly just looked around though and found that Old San Juan is a beautiful old city with wonderful architecture. At St. Thomas we had a tour booked with "" We got off the ship to meet him and found there was a mix-up in the time but it still worked out except that we wanted to do a little shopping and couldn't because of it. The tour was great though and we saw the most beautiful island that we had ever seen . We went to the mountain top mall overlooking magens bay ,the view from there is breathtaking. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and had talking points for all of the stops. We didn't go to magen's but could have if we had wanted too , instead we went to coki beach it was beautiful although a little crowded . We could have stayed a little longer and that's my only regret . But we got in a traffic jam on the way back to the ship so it was probably better that we didn't stay longer anyway. For $25a person I felt we got more than our money's worth. We shopped a little in the mall right beside the port and did buy some liquor but not much else as the prices were a little high. Grand Turk was our least favorite stop . There is a nice beach right beside the pier, but it was really crowded soon after we arrived there . The swimming was nice and water was clear as can be but a little rocky . There not a lot to do on the island as far as we could tell we talked to a few ppl that went out on the island for the day and from what they said there wasn't really anything to do(I already knew this from so many post here on cruise critic). The shops at the port are HORRIBLE they are VERY high priced and not very friendly. Wife got a bag of m&m's and didn't think to look at the price we found out later they charged us $9.00 for m&m's (so that's really her fault but anyway)this port could be so great but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done ,we wont be going back to Grand Turk . Just not worth it to us. All in all only thing we didn't like was Grand Turk . The weather was great, not a cloud in the sky and slight breeze everyday. The ship was wonderful ,the ships staff was wonderful and we will be cruising Carnival again( probably next Jan.) Not sure if we will go from Miami again for more than one reason but not the least of which is the parking is just too much of a rip-off(I don't want to sound like a whiner and I didn't really mind it much but I know a few ppl on the cruise were really surprised by this and it hurt there budget ) $20 a day is just taking advantage of ppl when we booked it was $12 they changed it sometime between then and now . I think we will go from Cape Canaveral next year just because its closer anyway and the hotels in the area are so nice.
In closing what ppl on these board say is 100% true if you go to have a good time you will if you go expecting problems you'll find them we could have let the little things ruin the trip for us but when something went wrong we just said the heck with it stuff happens and went on with our vacation. We had the best time we have ever had vacationing and are now addicted cruisers. Thanks to everyone on cruise critic for all the dumb questions you answered for me before the trip and all the good advice we received . And to anyone thinking of cruising on the Triumph go for it she's still a great ship.