We sailed on the Carnival Triumph with a group of seventeen people, most of whom were friends or family. There were only two who were friends of friends we had not met before. They ended up being great people and now we have two new friends. I had never cruised before because I have a terrible motion sickness problem. The friends who had cruised before insisted that with the patches I would be okay. There were also people who claimed that the ship was so big you would not be able to tell it was on water. Well, I could definitely tell it was on water and there was one day that we had to sometimes grasp hold of something to keep on our feet. But those patches are wonderful things. I was never sick. However, there were two days when I also took a dramamine right before bed. I had also followed on-line suggestions to choose a cabin in the center of the ship. This was a big help. On those days when things were rocking, our cabin was the least rocking place. So if anyone is holding out because of the fear of motion sickness... go ahead and book. I have taken dramamine just to be able to float in a backyard pool. So I firmly believe that if I can do it, anyone can.
Now for the cruise itself. Every member of the staff we encountered was wonderful. We never had anything but top notch service. No one on staff ever passed us in the hall without saying hello with a smile. I guess it's possible that was the only word of english they knew, but it was good to hear. I don't know how many hours a week they put in, but I suspect it was a lot. The wonderful head waiter we had (Johnford or Jonford) for our 5:30 dinner was also seen serving deserts at the lunch buffet. I sometimes saw our assistant waiter clearing tables around the deck area. We tipped them well and I hope if you are cruising that you will do the same. The only time we had to call maintenance to our cabin they were there within 15 minutes.
The food was good but not great. If you go hungry on a cruise, it's your own fault. There was a good variety. The buffet was open for several hours a day, so there was never a terrible line. I had a terrific grilled Reuben from the deli. We were all from Kentucky, so maybe its just that we didn't find the southern foods that we are used to. I promise that you won't go to a breakfast buffet anywhere in Kentucky that does not have biscuits and white gravy on it. And a lunch buffet without fried chicken - unbelievable! Maybe that is something that the cruise line should consider. A southern cuisine cruise. They could get Paula Dean or Rachel Ray to be the on board celebrity. I don't want to sound too critical here. I suspect that maybe my expectations were just too high. We had good food and plenty of it. It was just not "I've died and gone to heaven" good.
The shore excursions were very nice. In Mexico we went to the ruins of Tulum. We had a great guide named Raul. He gave us a lot of good, interesting information. He was Mayan and obviously very proud of his heritage. He was desperate for us to get an understanding of his culture. The ruins and adjacent beach were fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone. However, after returning we found that we were not able to donate blood and would not be able to for a year. Apparently that area is at risk for malaria. If I had known that, I would have worn insect repellent. Anyway. We never saw any mosquitos, and as far as I know we didn't contract any diseases. At Grand Cayman, we went to the Sea Grape Beach. I didn't know that water could be that clear. It was gorgeous and we got some really good photos. The only problem we had there was that we had booked an excursion that included a beach chair. We were assigned to a certain area of chairs. We each had a chair, but they were crammed so tightly together that you could do serious damage to yourself trying to get into your chair. I am talking just inches apart. Practically the only way to get into and out of the chair was to climb over the end. In Jamaica, we passed on the Dunn falls and went instead to the Mahoe Falls and gardens. I can't even begin to describe how beautiful this area was. The exotic flowers and lush vegetation were incredible. We took a lot of pictures, but even pictures can't capture the beauty of this place. The excursion also included a stop at a pottery factory. I still wish I had bought something there and had it shipped home. They had some beautiful things.
Now, back to the ship. As I said, this was my first cruise so based on what I had heard, I expected the cabin to be practically microscopic. But I found it perfectly acceptable. The bed was at least queen size and very comfortable. There was room to move around. The bathroom was pretty compact, but it had everything that a person could need.
We never had a problem finding a deck chair. But here is where we did encounter one problem. Around 5 or 6 o'clock they start stacking up the deck chairs. We had our dinner around 5:30 and then we wanted to meet up on deck and sit around and talk about the day's events. By then all chairs were stacked up and roped down. I understand that they need to secure the chairs overnight. But I think that at least some chairs could be left out until at least 10 or 11:00. We would really have enjoyed being out on deck. A lot of people wanted to be up there to watch the sunset. That would be one of my main suggestions to the cruise line. Keep deck chairs available in the evening hours.
Now for my biggest complaint. Children. I love children but they did take a lot of enjoyment from my first cruise. They monopolized the pools and even the hot tubs. And they were LOUD. Even though there were signs that hot tubs were not to be used by children under 13 they did use them and no one made them get out. There needs to be at least one pool and a few hot tubs that are restricted to adults, and the restrictions enforced. Likewise we were never able to play miniature golf. Some of the children enjoyed riding up and down the elevators, which made it a lot harder to get around the ship. Whenever they got off an elevator, they would push all the floor buttons, so when you did get an elevator you had to stop on every single level. They also ran the halls, and I do mean ran. My husband had a collision with some boys who came running around a corner. They could easily have hurt an elderly person. If you are cruising with children and young teens, please supervise them. I would strongly suggest that if you are not traveling with children, that you might want to make your cruise plans for a time when most children are in school. That would be the only time that I would do it again.
Lastly, there was a problem with the debarkation. I never found out what it was, but about half the way through the process it came to a stand still. Part of our group got off a long time before we did. Eventually they came on the intercom and said that the passengers on the last few decks would have to leave their cabins but could not yet leave the ship. So we were all hanging out along hallways and elevator areas. When they finally called us to get in line, the line never moved for at least another 30 minutes. That was not a good experience, and I felt that we should have been given some type of explanation for the delay. A really good idea would have been to sign up for a debarkation day excursion and then we could have gotten off early, seen something of Miami and then been taken to the airport.
So, in summary. We had a lot of fun and saw some gorgeous sites and met some wonderful people. I am glad that we went, but I don't know if I will take another cruise - except perhaps an Alaskan one. We did talk to one woman who was on her 15th cruise. So, some people must really love cruising. Now, the suggestions of this first time cruiser to any other first time cruisers would be 1. Get the patches !!! 2. If you don't have children don't cruise during the times that there will be a lot of children. 3. Go on the shore excursions. You will feel very safe and have a great time. 4. Wear sunscreen, even when you think you don't need it. We saw a lot of people with some serious sunburn. 5. Talk to your fellow cruisers. There are some great people. 6. Go to the onboard shows. It's free and it's fun. 7. When you leave the ship, take plenty of tip money. You will need to tip practically everyone you meet. Bus drivers, ferry drivers, cab drivers, tour guides, assistant tour guides, waiters, you name it. They all say that most of their income is from tips. I don't know for sure that is true, but I suspect that it is. It's not a major expense, but you do need to make sure you have plenty of ones with you. Also, if you can take some 2 dollar bills for tips, do it. They are considered good luck. I took some of the new dollar coins, and they were also a hit. 8. This one you probably already know, but when shopping don't pay the marked price for any thing. You can get it for a lot less. It's not rude to bargain, it is expected. If there is something in the ship's gift shop that you want, it will probably be on sale the last night of the cruise. 9. Get back to the ship on time! Twice we saw people racing back to the ship after the warning whistle. Rumor was that there were two people who did not make it back to the ship in Cozumel. They tell you as plainly as they can that the ship will not wait for you. Believe them. 10. Don't take time out of your day to go to the informational meetings that they have. They record them and show them on a specific channel over and over. It is good information, but just watch it on the TV whenever it is convenient. Most important - Just have fun!