Carnival Triumph Review - Feb 9th to 16, 2008
My husband and I are from Canada and this was our first cruise, therefore it is quite detailed for the new cruiser. I researched (mainly on CC) and read a lot of reviews and picked this cruise mainly for the itinerary.
Hotel & Air
We booked our air and hotel through Carnival as it was much cheaper doing it through them than on our own. All air, hotel and transfers were included in the price. We left Vancouver, BC on Feb 8th at midnight for Toronto via Air Canada, we were worried about only having an hour between flights but we made it for our flight at 7:30 am with plenty of time to spare, both flights were in the same terminal so that helped. We were delayed in Toronto for de-icing and arrived in Miami at 9:30 AM. When we got off the plane there were three ladies with Carnival signs who I talked to about the transfers, they were very helpful and told us to wait with our luggage and they would tell us what to do. We were then loaded on a Greyhound bus and dropped off at our Hotel. Carnival put us up at the Wyndham Hotel at the Miami airport. The hotel was really nice and clean. They had 4 or 5 computers in the lobby where you could use the internet as well as print boarding passes, etc. Check in time was 3:00 PM so we dropped off our luggage and jumped on the free shuttle back to the airport so we could grab a bite to eat as there is nothing within walking distance to the hotel. We had lunch at Chili's looked around the airport and took the shuttle back to the hotel during which time it started to rain!!! What!!!! It rains in Miami???? we thought we left that behind in Vancouver! Our room was ready so we freshened up and decided to go to South Beach on the local bus. We went back to the airport and took the "J" bus to downtown Miami. We walked around Lincoln Ave and also Ocean drive had dinner and did some shopping and took a cab back to the hotel.
Friday morning we were told to be in the lobby by 11:30 am, it was quite chaotic as they tried to get everyone organized. We were at the port by 12:30 and on the ship by 1:00 pm. This process was very painless and time was passed quickly talking to people in the lineup. We had lunch at the lido buffet and toured the ship to get acquainted with the layout.
The ship was very clean, someone was always steam cleaning the carpets or doing some sort of maintenance. We did not smell the "infamous" sewer smell but did meet people that smelt it. We found the layout to be very easy to get around. We took the stairs most of the time as were on a central deck (empress). Our cabin was room 7204 on the empress deck. This is located in the very front of the ship and has access to the "secret deck" which is not really secret as we saw people out there a few times but still not crowded at all. Very handy when sailing into and out of ports to get good pictures.
For both formal nights we noticed that everyone looked really nice, for men there were a few tuxes but mainly suits and ties and some men just in shirts and ties. The women looked really good with everything from long dresses to mostly cocktail length dresses; I did not see anyone in jeans at all on formal night although we did see a few people in jeans through the rest of the nights. The predominant color was black dresses for the women but on Valentines Day I did notice a lot of women wearing red, some of the kids looked really cute all dressed up. The photographers are out in full force on both formal nights but there does get to be lineups, as some others have mentioned the photos do not go on sale at the end of the cruise you still pay full price!
Service & Food
Service was great, our cabin steward (Carolina) and helper (John) were always around and were busy all the time. We had a problem on the second formal night when the fuse blew when I was using my hairdryer, we told the steward and within 10 minutes the electrician was there and fixed the problem. Good thing as my hair does not do well with the humidity! The dining room service was also good, we were in the London dining room at the 8:30 PM seating. Next time I would pick an earlier time as this interfered with meeting our new friends and seeing some of the shows. We had breakfast only once in the dining room which was excellent, next time I would do this more often. Food in general was pretty good, the pizza was great as many people have mentioned. You will not go hungry on the ship, there is always something to eat.
Activities & Entertainment
We only went to a couple of shows which were okay, the performers put in a lot of effort. The comedian (Mike) was quite funny. If you miss any of the shows they play them on the TV as well throughout the week. We did not really hang out in the Casino as it is very smoky and we are not big gamblers. We did go the karaoke bar a few times and it was quite entertaining, some of these people can really sing! We did not really hang out on the lido deck but everyone always seem to be having fun when we passed through. We went to the deck party and that was a lot of fun.
Halfmoon Cay-We did not do any excursion here, just enjoyed the beach. The water is beautiful and sand is like baby powder! Our CC friends had rented a cabana and invited us to join them (thanks Ken & Joan)!! The BBQ lunch was okay, not bad not great.
St Thomas-We had booked with Sunny Liston for a shopping, sightseeing and beach excursion for $25 pp. We were late due to a very unorganized customs clearance procedure that took way longer than it should have! I think there is room for improvement in this; however once we got into the right line it moved quite quickly. Sunny was waiting for us and dropped us off for shopping. Shopping was okay if you are looking for jewelry, don't know if there any deals to be had as I was checking for a Gucci watch and it was more expensive than back home. Sunny's tour is very loud and fun; everyone had a good time singing if I close my eyes I still can hear the"follow the leader, leader" song!! (LOL) Some people were dropped off at Coki Beach, we elected to go to Sapphire beach which was really nice and had lunch in the café at the beach which surprisingly was very good. We headed back to the ship and put away our purchases and came back out and looked around Yacht Haven Grande, most of the stores are not open yet, this is a more upscale shopping area. There is a more touristy shopping area closer to the ship,I think it's called Havensight.
San Juan-We had planned on doing a walking tour which I had downloaded from Frommer's but we were kidnapped by a taxi driver that said he could take us for a tour for $10.00. We figured we couldn't go wrong with that, however we did have to wait in the taxi for 15 minutes while he tried to get more people we couldn't get out as he locked us in! My husband was ready to knock down the door when the driver appeared and we went on our tour to the newer area of SJ and then he dropped us off at the San Cristobal Fort, from there we walked uphill to the El Morro fort. The forts were great photo opportunities and the views were amazing, very enjoyable. For those people considering doing the walking tour, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into as walking to the two forts uphill in the extreme heat can be quite hard. There is a free trolley service that runs all through Old SJ every 30 to 40 minutes. We then did some shopping, I bought a purse at the Coach store and looked for Senor Frogs but couldn't find it, ended up it is across the street from the port behind the Sheraton Hotel.
Grand Turk-We planned on renting a golf cart or scooters. We talked to our new CC friends and decided that we would try and rent a golf cart for the 5 of us. In order to get to the carts you have to walk through the parking lot and outside the gates. I just asked a couple of local people in the parking lot where I could find Tony of Tony's scooters and they directed me to the right spot. We asked the guy how much and he said $80 for 4, we asked how much for 5 but he said you have to rent 2, as we started to walk away he said to wait as the owner was coming around. A guy in one of the taxis came by, took a look at us and said okay for the 5 for $90.00, we hopped on the golf carts and headed down the road. We had a map but it wasn't very helpful as not too many of the roads are marked. Anyway by trial and error we ended up at the lighthouse, it is not hard to find your way around as the island is very small. We checked out some off the beaten paths and ended up on a really nice deserted beach area not too far from the ship, I think it is called Governors Beach. We had the golf cart for 3 or 4 hours, we just dropped it off where we rented it. We couldn't leave Grand Turk without a drink at Margaritaville, it seemed like people were having a really good time as they had been there all day! We had our drinks, an impromptu salsa lesson for Heidi and myself and went back on the ship. A very enjoyable day, probably one of my favorites!
We decided to do the tag system and leave our luggage outside the cabin on Friday night. Our number was 10. We decided to have breakfast in the dining room with our friends, it was perfect timing as we came back they called our number and we headed to the Rome lounge, they were very organized in there we were off the ship in no time and at the airport.
This had to have its own heading as this was an adventure (or nightmare) in itself. We were booked on at 1:45 PM American Airlines flight from Miami to Dallas and then Dallas to Vancouver. Once we arrived at the airport an AA person came on the bus and told us we could do curbside check in for $2 a bag plus tip and the line up was only 20 minutes or we could wait in the general line for 1 hour. So we went in the curbside lineup and after waiting for 20 minutes were told that this lineup was only for direct international or domestic flights, nobody told us this!! Then we were told that the self service kiosks would be faster than the massive line that snaked all through the terminal and outside the building, however this kiosks would not work, back to huge lineup which after a while started moving quite fast. Anyway 2 hours later we have our bags checked in and find out that there are other self service kiosks that were working!!! We were lucky to be at the airport early so I urge people if you have flights early morning or late afternoon, make sure you get to the airport as soon as you can otherwise you could miss your flight. It was very maddening and I will probably try to avoid AA if I can next time, the AA staff was not helpful at all and did not give accurate info. There must be a better way to do this as I am sure it happens every week, so many people tried to cut in line and people were getting testy! This was not the end of our nightmare, once we got to Dallas we were in a holding pattern due to bad weather and circled in the air for almost 2 hours, we for sure thought we missed our connecting flight but luckily it was also delayed. Ended up home 2 hours later than expected but happy to be home!!
As first time cruisers we did not know what to expect, but have to say this cruise surpassed our expectations. We had lots of fun, good value for the money and best of all met some wonderful people through the roll call on CC. Our new friends made our cruise even more fun, by the end we became our own little CC family! I found the demographics on Carnival to be great; there was a good mix of different ages, families, couples, retiree's etc. By the way Camp Carnival did a great job with the kids on our cruise; we were told that there were 500 kids on the ship but to tell you the truth I did not see very many of them. I found that all the people I talked to on the ship, our tablemates, people in the hallways or buffets lines etc always were friendly and approachable. I will definitely cruise Carnival again, the Triumph was definitely a "Fun Ship"!