Just to give you a little background, this is our 9th cruise, 8th with Carnival and 3rd with our children (5 and 7). We have been on older ships (the Festivale, the Holiday), the Fantasy class (Paradise, Sensation, Ecstasy, twice) and the Destiny class (Victory). The Paradise was our favorite ship to date. That was about to change....
EMBARKATION Having our Fun Pass, completed, in hand, we arrived at the Port of Miami around 11:45 am. No need to get there any earlier. They do not start boarding until maybe 12:30. Lines were long but moved very quickly. We sat in the waiting area for about ½ hour and were on board in no time.
THE SHIP What a beauty! We were on the Victory a few years ago and really did not like the Atrium. The green, lighted ceiling really gave the Atrium a "tacky" feel. The Triumph was a different feel immediately. The ceiling consisted of a brass, template of the globe with tiny white lights More
illuminating it. It was by no means tacky, rather very attractive and classy looking. The ship is huge and pretty much easy to get around. That is, if you remember that the Paris and London dining rooms are 2 story and block access to certain decks. The easiest way to get around is to go up to World's Way and use that as your main access to the ship.
Speaking of World's Way, it's a great area with clubs and some great seating areas. You will also find the Vienna Cafe here, with great coffee and coffee drinks, fabulous pastries and chocolate covered strawberries. The color scheme was not as flashy as other ships. Very nicely done! The Paris and London dining rooms are almost identical. The London dining room is midship, the Paris, aft. Both have 2 levels and are quite impressive. If you are seated on level 1, you should enter on level 2 and descend the grand staircase. It really gives you a feel of how big the dining rooms are and you feel as if you've entered the dining room on one of the great liners.
The Rome lounge is a bigger version of the show lounges on virtually every Carnival ship. Very nicely decorated and again, not tacky at all. The night clubs (there are many) each have their own theme and unique in their own right. We only visited the Big Easy Bar (discussed later) at night. The South Beach Club is the casual, buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck and is also 2 stories high. Lots of seating and has access to the rear pool area (which has a retractable roof for inclement weather).
The Continent Pool area is the hub of the daytime activities. There are 2 pools here and multiple hot tubs. On this class of ship, it's all about deck space so don't expect a large pool. The older, Fantasy class ships have much larger pools. There are multiple levels with plenty of deck chairs for all. There is also a large stage for live, Caribbean music, played throughout the afternoon. The water slide, unlike the older ships, does not empty into the pool. It has a separate landing area, which makes it safe and enjoyable for young children. It is enormous. You will have to climb at least 3 decks for access. Once at the top, the view is breathtaking!! Ocean as far as the eye can see. You truly feel like you're at the top of the world. The slide is great fun for all ages. It is however, closed on windy days. The reason will be clear once you ascend to the top and feel the breeze.
THE FOOD Carnival has always gotten mixed reviews in this area, and I have to agree. On this cruise, however, the food was fantastic. All the beef dishes were cooked to perfection and could be cut with a spoon! The lobster, typical for cruise fare, was ok, especially for those from the New England area, like us. There are some new items but for past Carnival cruisers, expect most of the same dishes and desserts. As always, order as much or as little as you want. The waitstaff are more than accommodating. The food in the South Beach Club is nothing to write home about. Typical cruise, buffet fare. There is a salad bar and usually a carving station, with roast pork, turkey or beef. The Hong Kong Noodle Factory has some unusual Asian dishes and some familiar ones. The NY Deli has corned beef, pastrami and turkey sandwiches. Both are great!! The pizza is very good and plentiful. I do have to say that Carnival has the best burgers and fries around. We just couldn't get enough! There are multiple ice cream/yogurt stations located near the Continent Pool and in the South Beach Club. We opted for frozen yogurt. The kids didn't notice any difference and the reduced calories didn't bother us a bit. We made up for it on other items!
THE CABINS The one thing we like about the newer ships, is the fact that you can get a balcony very inexpensively. On the Fantasy Class ships, for example, we had to get a Cat 12 suite just to have a balcony, with room enough to sleep 4. On the Triumph, Cat 8 or higher all have balconies. The one drawback: the square footage of your balcony is INCLUDED in the square footage of the overall cabin. That means you lose 35 square feet as compared to an oceanview cabin. You just have to weigh the pros and cons. For us, with 2 small children, it worked out great. When the kids were in bed, we could slip out to the balcony and enjoy some quiet time under the stars and listening to the gentle sounds of the ship cruising through the water. Absolute Heaven!
Our cabin had a small, leather sofa, which converted to a single bed, without taking up any more floor space. We also had a pull down bunk. The highlight of our cabin were the 2 twin beds that were pushed together as a king. For the FIRST time on any of our cruises, an insert was put in between the beds and king sized sheets were used!! No crack in the middle or separate sheets! Nice touch! The bathroom was an adequate size and very clean. Our children did miss the whirlpool tub we had on the Paradise last year, but alas, last minute upgrades don't always come along. Our room steward was great and kept the room tidy. Not an easy task with 2 adults and 2 small children. There was plenty of storage and the balcony was certainly big enough for the family to enjoy.
ENTERTAINMENT Our cruise director, John, truly is a great asset to Carnival. For first time cruisers, he's the best. For seasoned cruisers, beware of the same jokes and routines. It's impossible to have new jokes and routines for each set of passengers. I can understand that if a joke gets a roaring laugh from the audience, why not use it over and over? We still laughed and the reaction from others made it enjoyable.
There were 2 main shows, Wonderful World and Century Cafe. Now, for this size ship, we expected Las Vegas style entertainment (as we've had in the past). Not so, on the Triumph. The shows weren't flashy at all BUT they were visually, stunning. Lot's of set and costume changes and very well written and performed. Wonderful World was the best of the 2. Century Cafe dragged along but came alive near the end. There was a magic show with Kevin and Caruso midway through the cruise and was the highlight of the entertainment! It reminded us of shows in Las Vegas, but on a smaller scale. Music and special effects were outstanding! Do NOT miss this one! The 2 main performers were good. The female headliner had a nice voice but was more suited for a Broadway style musical. She was not very strong and the high pitch did get to you after a while. The male singer definitely had the voice for the productions. He had a strong presence and his voice was well suited for the shows. After reading MANY posts about Ed Rock, we searched him out in the Big Easy Bar and it was worth it. The club was packed around the rotating piano and all had a great time!
PORTS OF CALL San Juan: As this is a night visit, for those with children, stay on board. We took them off for about 1 hour just for them to say they've been to San Juan. Back to the ship and dinner. After dinner, the kids went to Camp Carnival and we left the ship to walk around. After visiting the Wyndam Casino for about 10 minutes, we headed back to the ship. We did not feel safe at all.
St. Thomas: Our favorite port of call. We've visited several times and always feel safe and welcome. Last year we went to St. John so this year, we opted for Maegen's Bay. Although it was crowded, it's a beautiful beach with facilities for the kids. After a day of swimming, we brought the kids back to the ship (Camp Carnival) and headed back off to the Havensight shopping area at the pier. We purchased some rum and some souvenirs and boarded the ship for departure. If you're looking for bargains, go downtown to Charlotte Amalie. If you're not looking to stock up, there's plenty to buy right there at the pier. For us, we'd rather spend the day at the beach and save the shopping for the end. Just a personal preference.
St. Maarten/St. Martin: There's so much to do here for everyone. We chose Le Galion Beach, near the butterfly farm. With 2 small children, facilities and lack of topless women (and bottomless men) guided our decision. If you're looking for a secluded beach with shallow, calm waters and no crowds, Le Galion is the choice!! There were about 10 other people on the beach. There's a small restaurant and you can rent chairs and umbrellas. The children could almost walk out 75 feet and still stand in the water. Great windsurfing too! You will have to take a taxi there AND arrange for return pickup. The taxis and buses do NOT regularly go there. It's about $25.00 for 4 one way but well worth it. We returned to Philipsburg and while my wife shopped, I hung out at Grand Case beach with the kids. After more beach time, we headed back on the water taxi to the ship. It was a beautiful island but we did find the islanders VERY pushy. Not nasty, just persistent.
CAMP CARNIVAL I cannot say enough about Carnival's children's program. No matter which ship you choose, the counselors are great and the kids can't get enough. Our children were in separate groups (2-5 and 6-8). If you're child is near the next age group (our 5 year old will be 6 soon), they usually want you to keep them in their own age group for the first day. We agreed and were happy with our decision. After all, it's their vacation too. They each had their own activities apart from each other and made their own friends. The nighttime babysitting, aka slumber parties are the best. For $6.00 a child ($4 for the second) per hour, parents get to have some private time to see a show, hit the casino or simply stroll on deck. The service is offered until 3 am, but we usually picked our children up by midnight. There were, however, still children there at that late hour. For those of you who have never used this service, you are missing out!. The children just love it. They can go in their pajamas, hang out with their new friends, have snacks, watch movies and fall asleep. This is the primary reason we choose to cruise with the kids. We each have our own time to ourselves and come back relaxed. With a land vacation, when the kids are tired, you're in for the night!
SUMMARY This was going to be our last Carnival cruise for a while. We were getting a bit tired of the same routines, food, etc but with a $1,000 Capital One credit, we really couldn't see throwing that away. This cruise really gave us a new appreciation for Carnival. The service was outstanding and the best we've had so far. All of the staff were friendly and accommodating. We will probably still try another line soon but we WILL be back on Carnival as well. For the price, I really don't think there's another vacation that will give you everything you get on Carnival. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Less