My girlfriend and I sailed on the Carnival Triumph from Miami to Jamaica, Grand Cayman Island, and Cozumel (10/19/08 thru 10/26/08). Although we have both sailed before, this was our 1st cruise on the Triumph.
The embarkation went very smoothly. We were onboard and roaming the ship in no time (we had an hour before our stateroom would be ready), and enjoyed a lunch at the "Grand Buffet".
Our stateroom (inside cabin) was more than adequate for the 2 of us...maybe a bit bigger than we expected. (those that have cruised before know the smallish sizes of cruise ship staterooms). The room was immaculately clean. The only down side was that the configuration of the room had the king-size bed sideways against the wall, forcing my girlfriend to have to climb over me to get into and out of the bed. (hmmm...maybe really not so bad after all)
Food was varied and plentiful. I found the buffets (grand, pizza, deli, grill, asian, etc.) tended toward the "institutional/cafeteria" feel, with some difficulty keeping the foods warm. They were, however, mostly acceptable for quick meals and snacks. Eating in the main dining room was a somewhat better experience with more elaborate meals cooked fresh to order(plus a nightly waitstaff dance or sing-along performance that was a blast). In either case, you won't spend time hungry on this (or pretty much any) cruise.
There were a myriad of daily activities to choose from, covering many interests...probably more than any other cruises I've been on. If anything, there were too many as we found ourselves going to 1 activity, but missing another desired activity scheduled at the same time. A "don't miss" activity is the nightly Karaoke in 1 of the lounges...sorta like a big party amongst friends. The entertainment was typical cruise ship fare, with 3 different comedians performing during the week (each did a "family" show and a "late night adult" show), and 2 "gala" musical productions performed by the cruise ship entertainment staff. Add to that, a "Passenger Talent Night" which actually wasn't bad at all. The ship recently added a gigantic outdoor screen overlooking its main pool deck. This screen was misused, as it generally showed loud and overbearing music videos, when it would have been better utilized by showing movies. The excessive loudness of the main pool area caused my girlfriend and I to generally avoid the area.We couldn't carry on a conversation, read a book, or simply relax. We found a more pleasant environment at the rear pool area.
The staff was unfailingly friendly. At every interaction was a cheery "good morning", "how is everything", "did you enjoy your day", etc. with our dining room waitstaff greeting us by name (after learning them the 1st night) each time we were seated at our table. I did have 1 issue as it relates to the staff...the constant, overbearing sales pitch. Sometimes we couldn't be in certain public areas without being accosted to buy spa treatments, gold chains by the foot, raffle tickets, credit card sign-ups, etc. Also included in this gripe were frequent sales pitches at many activities and over the P.A. system. The ports and shore excursions were both good and bad.
The good: Grand Cayman and Cozumel with modern, clean cruise ship ports ( excursion meeting areas shopping areas, bathrooms, etc.)...tendering on Grand Cayman. We went to Boatswain's Beach turtle farm on Grand Cayman which included a man-made snorkeling lagoon where we swam with fish and turtles, an aviary where we had birds literally eating out of our hands, as well as the main turtle area where we were able to grab and hold some of the smaller turtles (the biggest ones were some 600 lbs). On Cozumel,we did a "Discover Scuba" excursion. My girlfriend is a certified diver, but was willing to do this beginner's dive so that we could share this great experience. The bad: Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The port was sorta an industrial area with the closest "guest" facilities in town about a mile walk away. The excursion meeting area was a tight parking lot with groups wandering around looking for their tour. A mishmash of confusion. We went to a beach excursion (Bamboo Beach Club...advertised as being across from a shopping area) that we could come and go as we pleased. Bull! We were driven about 45 minutes from the port and led through a locked gate to a small, private beach. Nowhere near any shopping area, and we were told if we go out of the facility, it would be at our own risk. Although our "hosts" tried hard, there was no mistaking that Jamaica is a poor country and that the emphasis was to have the tourists spend.We intentionally avoided "Dunns River Falls" because we knew most of the excursions included a visit to the falls and that it would be crowded (a suspicion confirmed by later conversations onboard ship).
To summarize: A large, modern cruise ship with wonderfully friendly staff. Food was of mixed quality with the dining room preferred over the buffets... not that the buffets were bad. Many enjoyable activities to choose from with the emphasis on keeping the Carnival "Fun Ship" reputation. Typical cruise ship entertainment...enjoyable, mostly. Too loud, overbearing at times at the main pool deck. If you do this cruise and wish to relax in port aboard ship while most of the passengers are ashore, do it during the Ocho Rios stop. A bit too much pressure onboard to buy, buy, buy...whether it be photographs, spa treatments, bingo cards,etc. Overall, a good (but not great), enjoyable cruise choice.