We traveled from MCO to Port of Miami staying in Stuart, FL at the Ramada Inn Stuart. The Ramada Inn Stuart is half way from MCO to Port of Miami. It was an excellent property, and for only 74USD was an excellent value. We used Budget rental from MCO to Port of Miami. Would never use Budget again, as the downtown Miami location is in a ghetto location and was very hard to find a cab in this area to take us to the port.
We thought the initial look of the Carnival Triumph looked older and a bit tacky. I think old school Las Vegas hotels like the Sahara is how I would describe it. Not near as nice as the NCL Dawn. As the title of this review says, you can't get there from here was the theme of the week on the Triumph. If you want to go anywhere on Deck 3, 4 (Where most bars, guest services, dining rooms are located) you need to go up to at least deck 5 to from fore to aft on this ship. Extremely annoying and time consuming especially because one of us couldn't take the stairs due to her being in a stroller. You also have to remember that for the Paris dining room, every person is trying to use the aft elevator at the same time!!! You can only imagine how long the waits were. Not only that, perfectly able people would refuse the use the stairs and allow those with wheelchairs, strollers, people obviously unable to walk up/down stairs to use the elevators. Those in wheelchairs would push the button, the doors would open and the able bodied people would rush in leaving the wheelchair person without access to the elevator. This ship has very poor design!
TIP: Always push both the UP and DOWN buttons at the elevators and get on no matter what direction the elevators are going. Its your only chance to get to the dining room on the aft elevators.
Embarkation took about 1h 20m and we arrived at 11am. I thought that was a ridiculous amount of time, but was told this is actually normal. As only previously being on the NCL Dawn from Miami, which only took 20 minutes, so I thought the wait was a little long.
Stateroom was standard I guess. A far cry from the NCL Dawn staterooms we were in last year. The grout around the tile was starting to crack away and the shower curtain was not as nice as the glass door you get on NCL. The room had wear and tear, which is to be expected. Our room steward Rodney, was really bad. About 4 mornings, we did not have our room cleaned for some reason. Later in the week we learned Rodney was sick and they had not yet assigned his rooms to other stewards. After that, our room steward cleaned our room once a day while at Dinner. Poor management in this department.
Dining is where Carnival is better than NCL. I enjoyed having assigned dining team and feel David and Celedion were the best team on the ship. They were so good with my daughter throughout the cruise. If I could somehow hire Celedion as a nanny, I would love to bring him and his young child home to Canada. (More on this later). The main dining room food was much better than NCL. Speed of service was much better as well. I only had one dinner in the buffet due to my daughter having a melt down as we entered the dining room and did not want to interrupt others having dinner. The Buffet salad bar was excellent, but the hot choices were few compared to NCL. The Buffet lines at lunch are unreal. You have to wait 15-20 minutes just to get lunch. This whole area really needs to be redone. The Coney Island grill had good burgers and fires. The pizzeria was OK, but I would never pay for the pizza they serve. I thought the soft serve ice cream was excellent.
The Maitre D Ramesh, was annoying. They practically beg for tips for the Maitre D through the Capers, envelopes left in rooms for him, and at the disembarkation meeting. Why would I tip him? What did he do? He is management, and Carnival should be paying his FULL wage as management personnel. Who tips managers? I can see where this is heading. Soon the maitre D will be getting tipped out from the passengers automatically so Carnival can reduce his wage. Every penny given to him should have been given to the staff actually doing the work.
I found the activities on board all involved spending more money. From Bingo, to Art Auctions, Casino, wine tasting. The main shows involving the Triumph staff were like high school productions, but the shows with talent brought on the ship was good. NCL had far better entertainment as far as the main shows are concerned. We had Kevin and Caruso and some guy with a juggling act. Both were good.
My daughter was too young for Camp Carnival. They do set aside time everyday for those under 2 to play with toys but that is between 12-2! That is when pretty much EVERY under 2 has there naps, so that was in fact useless. After a couple days at sea we realized that no one followed the 'no swim diapers allowed' rules in the main pools and wading pool, so we then decided to take our non toilet trained daughter in the wading pool with the other 5 kids with swim diapers on.
The pool areas on the Triumph sort of smell like fried food! It's not a pleasant smell either. It did not bother us much because we weren't around the pools or anywhere outside except for the wading pool BECAUSE YOU CANT GET A SEAT AFTER 8AM! It's amazing that the NCL Dawn had only one pool, yet there were always chairs available. Not on this boat. This was chair saving gone wild. For fun, I would walk by chairs and remove towels and turn them into the pool attendant (the one who exchanged towels) for fun. In all seriousness, all cruise lines need to enforce these rules! The best sight all week was a very large man (350-400lbs) lying by the pool with his cheeseburger and beer resting on his belly while he had a nap. It was quite hilarious!
In San Juan, we just walked around, while MIL and FIL took a guided tour. Not much to do as most shops are closed by 530-6pm in San Juan.
St Thomas, we arranged transportation through Air Force One Fun Tours to three beaches. Magens Bay, Sapphire and Coki Beach. I am not sure what the hype is for Magens Bay. It was nice, but Sapphire and Coki are much better for views and snorkeling. Coki was quite crowded, but if you want to see tropical fish, this is where you need to go.
St Maarten, we toured with Bernard's, but got stuck with a third party cab operator because Bernard had overbooked his nice bus! Was not impressed. The day turned out good though. Orient Bay Beach was the nicest beach we went too this trip. Also went to Maho Beach and saw a 747 land and got jet blasted by a 737 and a 757. This was the best experience I had the entire cruise. I am a jet buff, and it was amazing to experience the jet blast of these monsters.
Disembarkation was quick. Getting the rental car was another story. Miami had a Marathon this past weekend and it went directly by the entrance to the Port of Miami. Who would allow this? There was traffic chaos and Hertz shuttles could not make it to the port. I hoped on an Alamo shuttle and booked a car with my IPhone (Thank god for the IPhone). In the end, we ended up paying less with Alamo and everything turned out great. Miami is ghetto and I think I am done with cruising from there. The day before we got off the boat 8 people were shot and killed by a masked gunman for no reason in downtown Miami. There are people sleeping all over the streets. It really is a dirty city.
Overall, we all decided we won't cruise with Carnival again. There seemed to be a higher percentage of trash on this ship. It was probably because of the price, which is why we cruised this time around as well. It was only 300USD per person. I think we will spend more and go back to NCL or maybe try Princess. Also in our bathroom and near the wading pool, there always seems to be a mild sewage smell. I think it's actually common with the Fincantieri Ship Builders, as all the ships that come from them have sewage smell complaints. It was mild, but noticeable. We got what we paid for, nothing more, nothing less.
My last comment is about the employees. Isn't it weird that all the kitchen staff, cooks, and room stewards are from poor countries? They work 14 hours a day, every day for 7-9 months at a time. Yes I know that when they go back to their countries they are well paid compared to those who work in their home country, but does that make it right to have to work all hours of the day? I would see my wait staff at 7am, then noon, then for Dinner, and then still see them after 10pm in the dining room cleaning up. If I hire someone from a poor country and pay them 20 dollars a day (14 hours everyday) to be my servant and they go back to their country and are rich because they make $15 more a day than people in their country (I am not saying they make $20 a day, just an example), does that make it right? Theses cruise companies should have to follow American labor laws if they are going to pick up passengers from American ports! As stated by Ryan our CD, the owner/CEO of the company that runs Carnival, HAL, and Princess etc is worth 30 BILLION dollars! Could it be he made his fortune off the backs of people who are willing to work 14 hours a day for far far less pay than an American/Canadian/European for 7-9 months at a time? With 3 hours a day TOTAL time off (in which they eat/shower/personal time). They schedule theses employees in these departments 7 hours of sleep time. They also like to call it a 2 month 'vacation' when in fact, they are off the boat for two months, but far from a vacation. They are NOT getting paid, which means it is not vacation. They also have to re-apply for their jobs and get a new medical. Any type of medical problem, their contract is ended as Carnival doesn't want to deal with or pay for their medical problems (This isn't just a Carnival issue, it's an industry issue) my assistant waiter (who should be the head waiter) asked what Canada was like. I told him, and you could just see the desperation in his eyes when I said if you work more than 44 hours a week, you get OT, and health-care is for everyone with equal access etc. I just wish there was some way I could sponsor his family and bring them here. He would out work any waiter in any high end restaurant around here. Anyways, I don't think NOT cruising in the answer to this because then they would have no job, but cruisers in general need to make it known that the labor standards on board need to be brought up to MINIMUM American standards!