We flew from Pittsburgh to FLL a day early to avoid delays. I highly recommend that if you don't book flights through the cruise line, and especially if you are coming from a winter climate, you allow for weather delays. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn. It offered an airport shuttle and they picked us up about 20 min. after we called. The hotel itself is your typical chain hotel. Nice and clean, a small pool in the courtyard and a little lounge. Friday nights, ladies drink free. They had just opened a new restaurant called The Chef's Table. Don't let the decor and menu fool you. Looks like a diner, reads like a diner, but the food was definitely 4 star! We had salads with delicate mixed greens in a light vinaigrette with fresh parmesan shaved on top. The mac and cheese choices turned out to be lovely pasta dishes with freshly made sauces beautifully presented. And the prices were so low we felt like we were ripping THEM off!
Saturday morning we had the shuttle take us back to the airport where we had booked ground transportation to Miami through Carnival. We had no trouble finding the Carnival rep and by 11am or so we were on our way to the cruise terminal in Miami.
Embarkation: And so our cruise of standing in line began. We couldn't even get in the door it was so crowded with people waiting to get through security. After clearing security, we went upstairs to check in and wait in another line. All in all about an hour of standing around waiting. This was our first time we ever had to wait more than a couple of minutes. Our friends, however, arrived around 1:30 or 2 and had no wait to get through, so it may be better to arrive a little later rather than stand in line. We made our way to the Lido deck (why can't they just say deck 9? It confused me all week!) and were immediately greeted by a crew member with lovely drinks. These lovely drinks cost $7 each so be careful how many you buy! This was the pool deck, also the buffet deck, and was very crowded by now. We found a deck chair and just chilled for a bit. Eventually we made our way into the buffet to stand in yet another 15 min line to get to the food. This came to be par for the course in the buffet. We met up with our friends and headed up on deck for sail away. Miami is a beautiful city! Don't miss the sail away.
The Ship: I had heard tales of the gaudy look of Carnival ships, but Triumph is a beautiful ship. It's in very good condition for its age, although there were some signs of wear if you looked closely. It was always clean and neat with crew members constantly cleaning. The layout, however, left much to be desired, and the catch phrase for the week became "you can't get there from here". We spent 45 minutes the first day trying to find the Paris dining room, and we asked 3 crew members! The problem is that on most decks you cannot go all the way through from one end to the other. The London dining room is in the middle of the ship and the doors are closed most of the time so that you cannot pass through. You must go up or down a deck,through the casino and Oxford lounge or down the cabin halls to get where you want to go. Even when you think you've got it figured out, you don't. I've had better luck driving in downtown Boston! We carried a map of the ship with us everywhere, and it proved to be quite useless. Now, we had a retired Navy CPO and a retired Coast Guard CPO with us. Maybe they should hand out GPS systems when you board? : ) The pool area is set up in tiers and I really liked it. The ship was sold out and even on "at sea" days we could usually find a deck chair (ok, it was on an upper deck, but who wants to be right by the pool?). We did not get to enjoy the actual pool since they were so small and usually full of children (yes, even the adults only pool!) And the slide was closed quite often because of rough seas. Other areas of the ship such as the casino and the Oxford bar were very nice, although we only saw them in passing through from one end of the ship to the other. And other parts of the ship were seen only when lost and saying to one another "you can't get there from here!" Photo shoots were often set up in the passage ways in the casino and main halls congesting the flow of traffic. Sometimes between the confusing layout of the ship and the congestion in the passages, it just became too much to try to go anywhere. Trying to see your photos at the end of the day was near impossible.
Dining:We had the early seating in the Paris dining room. This is a beautiful dining room located (when we finally found it) in the rear (aft) end of the ship. The food was much the same as we have experienced on our previous cruises. There was always a nice selection of fish, poultry, meat, and salads. Alternates are offered every night. The prime rib was melt in your mouth. One of our group really enjoyed the Maui Maui each and every time it was offered. My DH enjoyed the black bean enchiladas (add beano to your must pack list!. I have a terrible sweet tooth, but have never been very impressed with the desserts on cruises. Some of our group really enjoyed the warm chocolate melting cake. The only dessert I found worth mentioning was called "bitter and blanc". It's a warm, white chocolate bread pudding served with a vanilla sauce--delicious! We had breakfast in the dining room and at the buffet, and except for the lines, I preferred the buffet. The hash browns served in the dining room were two (2) tiny, miniscule, half dollar sized deep fried pieces of something that had once been a potato (think McD but smaller!). The buffet had delicious home fries and an omelette station by the pool along with all of the other breakfast foods. The buffet also had a nice selection at lunch with a New York style deli on one side with made to order sandwiches and an oriental food service on the other. In the middle was your typical salads, soups, meats, pastas, desserts. The only thing we didn't like was that every time we went, we had at least a 15-20 min. wait in line. It is set up to come in from the two sides like a , well, buffet line. On other cruises, the buffet has been set up in stations and that seems to work more efficiently. We never used room service because, unlike our other cruises, you could not order off the regular menu, but only from a very limited selection. You could not get a full breakfast, only continental, and our friends who did order said it took 3 phone calls to get it right.
Cabins: Our cabin was roomy and we had adequate storage for all of our belongings. Our luggage fit nicely under the bed and the bathroom was nice sized as well. Although the same square footage, our friends cabin (6307) had a much better layout than ours. Our cabin steward, Edwin, was the best! He introduced himself the first night when we had friends over, and thereafter remembered all of our names and inquired after our friends each time we saw him (which seemed to be all the time!) He was always friendly and helpful, especially when I misplaced my wedding band. He went out of his way to help find it, offering to empty out the vacuum bag and tear all of the linens off the bed. Our room was always cleaned and made up twice a day. Whenever we left, we'd come back to a clean room. Unfortunately, our friends in 6307 did not have Edwin. In fact, the first day they had to make several calls to get their room made up from the previous occupants. They finally got someone in at 10pm. They never saw any steward for 3 days, although their room did get made up thereafter. We never did find out what happened to their steward, and no explanation was ever offered.
Service: In general, we found the service on this ship to be mediocre at best (with a few exceptions). We weren't neglected, but compared to the level of service we have received in the past, it was definitely sub-standard. There was a general attitude of indifference among most of the crew members. It seemed to be the same attitude you would get from the kid at the fast food place when you tell him your fries are cold. Even our dining room servers, who were good, fell short of the outstanding service we have received on other cruises. A photographer even got snippy with our group during a photo shoot. The two couples with us who had never cruised before thought service was great. I guess everything is relative. I believe you find out what kind of service you are really getting when there is a problem. We had a couple of minor ones, and were treated as an inconvenience. Our friends who had room steward problems never received so much as an apology for the inconvenience.
Ports: Halfmoon Cay is a beautiful island. The water is turquois the sand soft as flour! Unfortunately it rained on us and we didn't get to enjoy much of it. The buffet lunch was nice. ST. Thomas: Beware the immigration! OMG! Every person on board must go through immigration and show passport and ship ID. This mess took almost 2 hours! I've read on these boards that it doesn't always take this long, so I don't know what the problem was. We got off the ship around 11:30 and did a little shopping before lunch. We booked the Island Girl Catamaran Sail and Snorkel through the ship for the afternoon. The winds were high and the seas were high and and the young men were three sheets to the wind by the time we returned! We were in for the ride of our lives! We headed out to a little island which took over an hour to reach. I think the sail out would have been much nicer if I had not been in fear of ending up at the bottom of the ocean each time a large wave crested over the front of the boat and we dipped straight down into the ocean! We finally made it, alive, and had about an hour to snorkel. I don't know if it was the winds and high seas, but the snorkeling wasn't very good. Only saw a few fish. Nothing interesting. On the way back, the seas were much easier and the rum punch flowed freely. San Juan: We booked the Rain Forest tour through the ship. It was very informative, but again the weather didn't cooperate and in the end, I think we would have been better off doing this one on our own. We didn't get to go into Old San Juan because by the time we got back the winds were so high you could barely stand. In fact, that night, many on board got sea sick (one right outside the dining room!) The captain made a slight detour getting us into ST. Thomas a little later to get around the winds and high seas. My friend ended up in the infirmary for a shot in the rear and felt much better the next day. She had nothing but good things to say about the physicians and nurses. Nassau: I have heard this port described as a wasted stop. Well, considering we had the best weather of the trip here, it was our favorite stop. We went up on deck to watch as we pulled into port. The view was magnificent. The water colors are indescribable. They change with the way the sun hits them. We watched the Atlantis resort get closer and closer. Almost like the real Atlantis rising out of the waters. The sun was shining, the wind was warm, we were ready for a lovely day. We did the Blackbeards Deluxe. The ferry ride out to the island was about 35 min. Be sure to ride up top. Once on the island, we found the facilities to be somewhat wanting considering the price we paid. There were not enough beach chairs, and many of the chairs were in bad shape and broken beyond use. Lunch was burgers and chips and sodas. There was a bar for purchasing more substantial beverages. The water was warm and great for swimming and snorkeling, although there weren't many fish to see. Snorkeling with the stingrays was pretty cool and feeding them was awesome and freaky! All in all it was a really nice beach day.
Billing and Gratuities:The recommended gratuities are automatically added to your on board account. On previous cruises we were given envelopes and forms for gratuities. If you wish to change the amounts, you must go down to the purser's desk and adjust your account. When we inquired how we might go about extending an extra gratuity to our room steward, we were met with the "attitude" and told to just hand it to him. Billing to your on board account is confusing. You can view your account on the TV in your room (no you can't view it in another cabin--we tried). My husband and I shared an account, but were given different account or folio numbers. Whoever set up the account, has the master account. So, whenever anyone on the account buys something, it shows up on that persons folio, and on the master account folio, making it look as if you've been double charged. Also, any excursions you've booked show up as credits and debits, confusing you even more. On day 5, they sent around a flyer explaining the accounts and how they work. Now, if, as one crew member so forcefully informed me, "we do this every week, it will balance in the end", then why in the world don't they send that flyer out on day one?! Apparently this is a problem on every cruise "every week".
To sum up our experience on Triumph I would have to say it was disorganized and confusing. Things just never seemed to run smoothly. Lines were the order of the cruise. Finding your way around was daunting. I was hoping that Carnival would win me over and broaden my cruising horizons. If I ever cruise Carnival again, it will be only with a great itinerary and decidedly lower expectations. At the end of the cruise, they gave us the cruise review forms to fill out. Their ratings included: Exceeded my expectations, Met my expectations, Opportunity for improvement. I'd say they met my expectations. But my expectations were not very high to begin with.