My wife (Sheri) and I have cruised 4 times - 2 previously on Carnival, 1 on Norwegian, and 1 on Princess. This time (Cruise 5), we decided to bring the kids (Kaitlyn 5 and Nicholas 2 (Sheri and I 36)). In addition, Sheri's parents joined us, as did my parents, grandmother, sister (40), two friends of ours and their daughter (6). This was the setting for a great family vacation. Prior to leaving, we had everyone over for a briefing and to decide what everyone wanted to do....went well.
This particular ship hit the water in 99, and shows typical signs of age such as : dated color scheme in the bathroom, and carpeting, cabin decor. This did not in any way detract from the cruise experience. There always seemed to be a crew doing maintenance all over the ship from carpet cleaning, painting, and window cleaning. Overall, this ship is in great shape.
We were in an inside stateroom, for four of us. Thoughts? Never again. THe upper bunks were uncomfortable and on about a 15 degree pitch. Never rolled out, but very uncomfortable. Aside from that, the two lowers were already made into a queen where the kids resided for the week. Kaitlyn ventured up to the bunks once and loved it, but I wasn't willing to risk broken limbs should she have fallen out.
Since we had a mixed bag of age groups, there certainly was something for everyone. Camp Carnival had great programs for every age group, although our children only spent a short period of time there, aside from the Build-a-Bear workshop (which was a hit). Casino I suppose was good, but didn't spend any time in there due to the fact that my wife and I aren't gamblers (I take gambles, but not in a casino). There were plenty of venues to visit if the casino didn't peak your interest. There were piano bars, discos, salsa dancing, among many others. They advertised that there was something for everyone - this holds true!
We flew from Toronto to Miami via Air Canada with absolutely no issues. We were at MIA by 10am, located my dad who flew on American Airlines (late booking) with little hassle. We arrived at the pier just before noon. We all made our way into the lines to check in, when my wife and 2 children were stopped prior to entering the line (About 100 people). Upon seeing Nicholas in the stroller, he ushered us into the VIP line (for people who had cruised 10+ times). We checked in in about 10 minutes, had our Gold Sail and Sign cards in hand, and off we went. It was this added service that CCL adds that keeps me coming back. The rest of our party was checked in a short time after and met up with us to board together. All in all, a very smooth process.
Since our party consisted of 13 people, it was originally said that we'd have two tables for our Paris Dining at 5:45pm. Upon arriving for Saturday night's seating, we discovered that we had one large table for all 13 - we were off to a great start. That would come to a grinding halt as dinner service commenced. Orders were placed about 20 minutes after we were seated. Meals arrived an hour and ten minutes later, and the kids orders arrived with the adult meals despite the request to have them brought early. 45 minutes later, they cleared the dishes, but never offered coffee or dessert. 8:10pm, the announcement was made for the wait staff to prepare for the next seating. We were the only ones left in the dining room - waiting for coffee and dessert. Through much coaxing, we finally left the dining room at 8:25pm, and only then, were the next seating allowed in. At this point, we were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was the first night, and see what transpires the following night. Well, Sunday night is upon us and we experience the same level of service. I seek out the maitre de and express our concern, adding in that a couple and their 6 year old daughter are first time cruisers and this is not leaving a favorable impression on them. Konstantine assured me that this would be taken care of. It's now Monday afternoon as I receive a call from the Guest Services desk, enquiring about our experience last night. I then reiterate the entire story to her, ending with her reassuring me it would be taken care of. That evening at diner, we were presented with Jose and his assistant who were absolutely remarkable for the rest of our dining experience. He catered to the children by bringing them orange juice to start, having their meals brought out first, entertained them with napkin animals, and just general attention which went miles in my books. The maitre de visited our table enquiring about the level of service on two separate occasions. Again, a big plus.
We exercised the room service option a number of times, ranging from late night services after the children were in bed, to early morning smoked salmon and cereal/fruit - great service. Our cabin steward was always courteous and very friendly - always seemed to be working (except the time when I asked him to stop and have a drink with me). Overall, we have no complaints about the service.
We had prebooked our Sail away Snorkel Adventure in Grand Turk before we left Toronto. This was one of the best snorkeling tours I have been on (have taken 5 over past cruises). Grand Turk was very picturesque and the captain of the vessel was very helpful to those who were first time snorkelers.
My friend Clayton and I opted to play golf at Mahogany Run in St. Thomas. Though pricey ($205), it was a phenomenal course (Look up Devil's Triangle on Google). We also used the simulator on board for a warm up (inaccurate, but gets the job done, nonetheless).
We all (13 of us) did the Bacardi Rum Factory Tour and Old San Juan Tour. For $45, I'd save the $$. The Bacardi tour was a joke. We drove in the gates, and gathered in the main lobby where we were giving a 5 minute speech on the what we were to see inside. We then moved into a theatre that would seat about 100 people and watched a video on the history of the Bacardi family and how the business grew. Then walked through a REPLICA room of the old distillery, then outside where we each received two drinks of our choice. We were never did see the inside of the facility - or even the bottling plant.........nothing. In my opinion, save your $45 and just purchase a bottle of rum and look at the picture on the front of the bottle while you drink it - provides the same effect as this tour did. The Old San Juan portion of the tour proved worthwhile. Since no one in our party had visited here before, it was nice and very informative - even I learned a few more interesting facts on my fourth time there.
At the pier in San Juan, they have a great Duty Free store where most any liquor product can be purchased at great prices. They'll even place them in air-bags or prepare them for checked luggage. My bottles made it back without breaking due to this method of packaging.
We were able to see two shows (The two main shows at 10:30pm). Fantastic. Though, with the children, it was difficult to venture out and see different venues and shows. However, from what we saw and what other people saw, entertainment was great.
Very smooth. We received luggage tags two nights before with appropriate tags per deck. Since we had 12:30pm flights, we were instructed to call the Pursers Desk and get different tags. We all met for breakfast in the Paris Dining room, where we said our farewell to Jose. Kaitlyn had an extended goodbye with all hugs and kisses from Jose. I thought that after the relationship that had developed between Jose and her, that she'd cry....she didn't, but I almost did. It's always heart warming to know that your kids had a great vacation - it's no longer about us, it's all about the kids.
We proceeded back to our stateroom to gather our bags, and head down to the Rome Lounge. No sooner did we get seated, we began to make our way off the ship. Our vacation on the Triumph had come to an end. We collected our luggage and headed off to Miami International. We were at the airport within 30 minutes, without any issues.
It was agreed that it was a great vacation for all of our 13. My mom and grandmother said that there was too much walking involved. My father, who I thought would have hated the entire trip from start to finish had a great time and said he'd like to return on a future cruise. My in-laws said they had a great time. Our first time cruiser friends said the same, and that despite the service issue at diner during the first two nights, said they too would cruise again.
We'll be back on Carnival. Hats off to the crew of The Carnival Triumph, with special mention to Jose and Konstantine - great job.
Vijay Doobay and family Markham, Ontario, Canada