I am a agent group leader who escorts groups from 20 to 200 on many ships and itineraries. Since my groups are generally comprised of well seasoned over travelers in the 50 to 85 age range, I was a little reluctant to sail Carnival that has developed a reputation over time as the young kids and "spring break cruise." I have sailed many lines over many years, and this is my first return to Carnival in 10 years.
My group was 33 passengers, mostly older seniors who had a lot of cruise experience to compare. We arrived on a charter bus around 12:30 p.m. Embarkation was a little crazy. We had all received flimsy paper baggage tags which were clearly a chap cut back on the part of the Cruise Line. We stapled and taped the tags on our bags very securely with packaging tape. But when we arrived the porters told us that Carnival had just changed the type of baggage tags and all of our passengers had to write their names and info on the NEW bag tags right in the middle of a bus parking lot with busses coming in and out and fumes. Not safe or healthy and an aggravation to say the least. Carnival should have provided proper bag tags in the first place.
Check in was long lines and moves at a moderate pace. Once checked in and provided with our cards, there was another long wait for actually boarding the ship. Thanks to a very congenial employee, we were allowed to board as a group.
Staterooms were clean and ready upon arrival on the ship. The staterooms on the Triumph were very clean, spacious and welcoming. Our cabin steward Michael from India was top notch. He introduced himself. I told him I liked bottled water in my stateroom and he brought 6 large bottles and told me he would keep track in case I needed him to replenish. Michael was also extremely helpful in giving us directions about the ship. He knew where we were likely to go such as dining, shows, how to get off the ship in ports etc: And his information was detailed and concise. He is truly one of the best I have had on any line in over 30 years of cruising.
We had lunch on the Lido after checking out the stateroom. The food was good, but the ship was crowded and lines were long that first day.
After lunch our luggage had already arrived. Very fast service on getting our bags delivered to our stateroom.
Because check in took so long and everyone had to have lunch on the Lido, the Muster drill ran late. Unfortunately we were standing at our muster stations with lifeboats blocking all views as out ship left Port of Miami. This was a real shame especially for anyone who has never cruised out of Miami as it is one of the most beautiful ports to sail from. Sadly the Bon Voyage from Miami was in the middle of the muster drill.
FOOD was good at times and just OK at other times. The Lido actually had a nice variety but breakfast on the Lido was in need of improvement with cold waffles and cool eggs etc: At lunch there was a nice desert selection but there was an over abundance of flies in the area which made things look less appetizing. We do like the fact that there was soft serve ice cream 24 hours as well as ice tea stations at the pool areas. This is something many other cruise lines have cut back on, so Kudos to Carnival for keeping this service.
DINING ROOM - Our group ate in the London Dining Room early seating. Food was tasty and well presented. The highest praise goes to our waiter Onesimo from Honduras. We called him "Chris Rock" because of his humor and antics of the comedienne whom he impersonated well. EXCELLENT service, friendly, efficient (even when as a joke we switched our seats and he managed to remember what we ordered anyway). He danced with us in the dining room, took photos. This waiter had more people skills than the best of Cruise Directors. He truly made our cruise experience fun. Thanks Onetime!!! YOU ROCK!!!
Group Services - Debbie was our onboard group coordinator. She was friendly and left a nice welcome note in our stateroom and was readily available. We cannot fault Debbie for the criticisms below as I think some of the Carnival policies left her hands tied. This is a shame because it can well be a deterrent for future Carnival bookings. We had 2 anniversary and 3 birthday celebrations. On ALL other lines a small cake is offered for those who are celebrating special occasions (which is why many cruise in the first place). On Carnival the group leader had to PAY $7.95 for each cake. This is NOT the case with any other line including Holland America which is owned by Carnival. Another group problem that is UNIQUE only to Carnival is that group cocktail parties are shared. Not a good thing by far.
For instance, last month I escorted 30 passengers on Holland America. Our cocktail party was in a quiet piano bar with hot and cold hors d' ourves.
This triumph cruise was held in a very noisy crowded Disco with a group of 100 young people who were screaming, using obscene language, breaking glasses on the dance floor, and the waiters were so busy with trying to control them and the crowd that we had to get our own drinks or look for a waiter. This was far from a positive experience for a small group of 33 seniors who wanted to chat over cocktails. Carnival should at least consider the demographics if they are going to cheapen the cocktail party experience of their guests so it is not a complete fiasco.
ENTERTAINMENT - The showroom entertainment in my experienced opinion was the best at sea. The singers, dancers, stage sets, overall production was truly top notch. Even the last show that was audience participation was complete with costumes, lights, and professional enhancements. I never go to magic acts on cruises but this one again was enhanced with costumed performers, music and the works. No complaints about the shows. Better even than Holland America and they are a hard act to follow. The Triumph has amazing talent on their stage.
What the Triumph lacks though is dance music to live bands. The disco is for the kids. There was an excellent lounge called the Venezia and a great dance floor and a fabulous band. Unfortunately the band did not begin playing until Thursday (second from the last day of the cruise). The lounge was empty the rest of the cruise.
Another large lounge was used for nightly Karaoke with loud drunk young people (some of which did not look old enough to be in a cocktail lounge at that hour). Nightly Karaoke is not lounge entertainment and passengers should not be a replacement for a dance band. Another cutback, perhaps?
PORTS OF CALL - We were blessed with wonderful weather throughout the cruise. HALF MOON CAY is always a pleasure. It was a great place to relax and just play in the warm waters, and enjoy a picnic put on by the Cruise Line. We don't do shore excursions in the Caribbean since the cost is more than twice what pay when you just get off the ship and rent a cab or bus driver. In ST THOMAS $20.00 got us a great drive with excellent narration to all of the great look outs, a city tour of Charlotte Amalie, a trip to Magen's Bay, and a trip to Blackbeards Castle. If you are a jewelry shopper, skip the stores that the Cruise Lines get a commission and head for Ballerina's Jewelers. They guarantee everything, offer amazing personal service, stay in touch long after you get home, and have the absolute best deals bar none, in St Thomas. This may be due in part that they don not pay a commission to the cruise line for advertising their store on the ship. SAN JUAN is such a beautiful place. Again we got together in a cab/van and for $20.00 went to Old San Juan, took a great City tour, visited two forts and went to El Morro Castle which is a must. Our driver gave us extra time to spend there at our request. GRAND TURK is a lesser traveled port. We took a cab for $5.00 and went to Cocksburn town and visited some historical sites. The port area has nice shops a great beach and Margaritaville with a restaurant and swim up pool, so you can sip a cool drink and have a famous "Cheeseburger in Paradise" that Jimmy Buffet made famous.
DEBARKATION - This was a bit of a problem since I had spoken with our group coordinator Debbie, and informed her that our group had a charter bus that would arrive at 9:30 a.m. Debbie told me earlier that we could have a 9:00 a.m. debarkation and to meet in the Rome lounge by 8:30 p.m. Unfortunately this became VERY unorganized when we made arrangements to meet there at the designated time and our passengers were made to leave the ship when their number was called early. So consequently I had senior citizens on canes, walkers and even a wheelchair to get off the ship before our arranged time. This resulted in them having to stand at the curb in hot sun waiting for a bus that we knew would nit be there until the time that was pre arranged.
Overall, the cruise was enjoyable thanks to a great cabin steward, outstanding wait staff, great showroom entertainment, smooth sailing, great ports of call. We also had good service from the photo department in doing a nice group photo for us. Everyone was very pleased with that.
Improvements need to be made with cut backs on the little things that mean a lot to me and my groups. Nice baggage tags, good coordination. When a group travels together the MOST important thing is keeping them together. Shared cocktail parties can prove to be a disaster. It would not cost more to let the older group passengers have a quiet elegant space to have a cocktail party. (The empty piano bar was directly across the hall from the noisy and out of control disco). A little common sense can go a long way. And if Carnival wants to keep older travelers (the sales reps tell us older passengers are important), then they will need to accommodate them with a quiet cocktail party and organized debarkation that meets their needs.
In Summary, we had a good time for a decent price. We still prefer a Cruise Line that caters to the demographics of our groups. But I will give 5 stars to the cabin steward, Waiter and the Showroom Entertainment.