This was our 5th cruise, 4th on Carnival. We also brought my parents with us, their first cruise. My husband and I are both in our early 30s, they are in their early 60s.
Embarkation/Debarkation: We booked this trip through the Carnival Vacation Club, so had priority during these processes. However, it seemed to go pretty smoothly and we heard no complaints from other passengers. Yet you should consult some other member reviews on this.
The ship: I was pleasantly surprised when we boarded the Triumph. Great dEcor that was consistent throughout. Incredibly clean, and was kept that way during the entire trip. The layout is convenient, as long as you remember to go to Deck 5 Promenade to get from one end of the ship to the other. My only negative overall with the Triumph (and this is a big negative) is that the aft pool is not an adult only pool. We had recently sailed on both the Miracle and the Destiny, and the aft pool on both was an adult only area. This was extremely disappointing as there are plenty of places for kids on the ship, that they could have left this one area for the adults traveling without kids. The whirlpools here were designated 18 and over, but that was basically ignored. Granted, the staff was good about enforcing the rule, but every time we got into the whirlpool, we were joined by a child who treated it like a swimming pool. And very often these kids were with a parent. On the other ships, the aft pool was our haven on sea days, and to relax after a port day. However, we got none of that given the amount of kids there each day who took over the entire pool. Carnival definitely needs to change this.
The stateroom: We had a nice room, quiet, great storage space, very clean. If you're looking for a quiet room, be sure to check the deck plans online to make sure you're not above or below a lounge. The balcony is a must for us, and we really enjoyed the views. The bed of course was incredibly comfortable. Carnival has its Comfort Collection on all ships, and we had great sleep every night. The beds on Carnival are far superior than our experience on Royal Caribbean (Serenade of the Seas). Our Steward, Roderick, did a fantastic job throughout the week, as did Cordozo who took care of my parents' room.
The food: We're not food critics, so we are content with the food on Carnival. (We traveled on RC in the past, but noticed little difference in food quality.) I've heard mixed reviews from others, but I enjoyed all of our meals (we mostly eat in the dining room to avoid the lines at the Lido buffet which gets way too crowded.) And if there was something we didn't like, Imade, our Head Waiter was more than happy to bring us some other options. I have to say that our Assistant Waiter, Francis, was the best waiter we've had on any cruise. He was very attentive, funny, gave us puzzles and showed us tricks, very entertaining. There were nights we were going to skip the dining room to grab something quick at the buffet, but we would go back just to see Francis.
The entertainment: This was the biggest surprise of the entire trip. The fly-on entertainment on the Triumph was the best I've ever seen on a cruise. I would actually pay to see these people if I had the opportunity to go to one of their shows again. The singers/dancers were the same as expected. But kudos to Carnival for getting some wonderful comedians and magicians that were far superior than your standard cruise ship shows. And the cruise director was one of the best as well. He and his staff could have a career in comedy. They all did a great job!
Half Moon Cay - We'd never been to a cruise line's private island, so didn't know what to expect. We planned no excursions, just decided to get there and see what it was like. The tendering process seemed a bit daunting, but we only waited in the Rome Lounge for about 25 minutes. And the social staff did a good job of keeping us entertained. Half Moon Cay is a beautiful island, great beach. Obviously crowded with the entire ship there, but still had plenty of chairs and room to swim. We rented a clam shell for $20, which was worth it. The lunch buffet on the island was provided by the ship and better than I expected. The only negative to Half Moon Cay was the ridiculous prices for rentals (kayaks, snorkeling equipment, etc.) If you want to snorkel, bring your own equipment. If you don't have any, it's not worth renting. The snorkeling area is too small to make it worth the price. But other than that, it was a great stop, very relaxing. And great for kids. There was a special section of beach just for the kids and they seemed to have a great time.
St. Thomas - We planned an excursion of our own on St. Thomas with Daysail Fantasy. The four of us were met at the pier by Wally (the company driver) who was very pleasant, and gave us a great tour of the island at the end of the day. We met Captain Pam and her first mate Shannon at American Yacht Harbor, and boarded her sailboat for a trip to St. John. We sailed for about an hour which was a real adventure. I was worried if it would be too adventurous for my parents, but they loved it and the crew did a fantastic job of keeping everyone comfortable. After about an hour we arrived in St. John where my husband and I snorkeled with Shannon for about 90 minutes. This was probably the best snorkeling we've done in the Caribbean. We swam over to the beach, rested for awhile, then swam back to the boat. Pam and Shannon provided breakfast snacks, a delicious lunch, and open bar for the entire day. The best part of this excursion is that Daysail Fantasy takes a maximum of 6 people on each tour! It makes a huge difference compared to cruise ship excursions where they pile people on top of one another. It costs a few dollars more that what you'd arrange through Carnival, but is totally worth it. We've done a few of these types of tours before, but Pam and Shannon were the most attentive and provided the best service we've experienced so far. More information about the tour is at http://www.daysailfantasy.com/ . I'd highly recommend contacting Capt. Pam at 340-775-5652 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a trip during your stay in St. Thomas. You won't be disappointed. If you just want to visit a beach, and enjoy snorkeling, then head to Coki Beach and Coral World. Fantastic place to spend the day and see some amazing marine life
San Juan - My husband and I had been here a few times before so decided to tour Old San Juan on our own with my parents. We spent a good part of the day at El Morro, which is a must when visiting this port. You can take a walking tour arranged through the ship, or own your own. Maps are provided at the tourist information desk, so it's probably best to save the money and explore at your leisure. We stopped at the Parrot Club for lunch, which is a favorite in Old San Juan. But if you're in the mood for something interesting, try to stop for lunch or dinner at Tantra, which is an Indo-Latino fusion restaurant located at 356 Calle Fortaleza. This is our favorite restaurant in all of San Juan. Probably our favorite restaurant overall. If it was in NY, we'd probably be there every week.
Nassau - We decided to spend the last day of the cruise doing the Atlantis Aquaventure (which we booked through the ship). A pricey excursion, but overall, just a lot of fun. We waterslides are fantastic, the lazy river takes you through rapids and to various slides in your tube. It took awhile to get there though. We were supposed to meet at 10:15, but of course did not get going until about 11:45am. Walked for about 10 minutes, then boarded a boat, and eventually got to the water park by 12:00. However, we never really hit any lines, and even though it was only in the low 70s that day, the water was very warm. We were worried we wouldn't have enough time there, but we had plenty. Even got to visit the "Dig" which was a must-see exhibit. Atlantis is a fun resort, and I'd consider a long weekend there in the future. My parents did the Pirates of Nassau tour which is reviewed as "one of the best pirate tours in the world". They didn't exactly agree with that, but had a fun time nonetheless.
All in all, this was a fantastic vacation. I would say it was our favorite Carnival cruise yet, but the lack of an adult pool is the only thing that prevents me from making that statement. If having some quiet time by the pool is important to you, don't sail on the Triumph. (One other point I should make is that we were told by the cruise director that there were 600 children on the ship. Camp Carnival must do a fantastic job. Because other than this pool situation, you didn't even know they were there.) However, if you enjoy the fly-on entertainment, then the Triumph is the way to go. I've actually Googled the acts when we got back to see if I can get tickets to see them on the mainland. And for my parents, who had never cruised before, they're now hooked. I'll sure I'll be helping them plan their next Carnival cruise soon.