I have a slightly different take on these cruises than some reviewers. I was on the ship for nine nights, having done the 6/20 (five days) and 6/25 (four days) cruises back to back, and I was sailing by myself. I took this trip primarily to relax and rest, as well as to see a couple of places I'd never been. I didn't have to worry about driving or parking, as I'd flown into NYC four days earlier and spent some time sightseeing (in the rain the news said this was the third wettest June on record in New York City and I can believe it)! This was my first Carnival cruise in about seven years, so I had no recent Carnival experiences to compare it to, though I have sailed several other lines, and I do read the Carnival boards so I know what some of the frequently-discussed issues are.
Embarkation: On embarkation day I used the Dial 7 car service (I'd planned on a cab, which might have been a tad cheaper, but it was raining that morning and I didn't want to try to hail a cab in the rain). They were right on time and were able to drop me off right at the porter stand at about 11:25 AM. The lines were divided by decks, and moved quickly by 11:45 I was seated and waiting for boarding zone 9 to be called, and by 12:10 I was onboard the Triumph. I found everyone courteous and friendly a very smooth start to the trip. I was extra-pleased when my suitcase was delivered at my cabin before 2 PM. I was unpacked and exploring by 2:30.
Muster/Sailaway: On June 20 it was raining, so I wasn't as disappointed when the ship began sailaway during the muster drill as I might have been. On June 25 the weather was nice and sunny, and both muster and sailaway were delayed, so there was no conflict there. I had lots of time after muster to go to Deck 9 forward to see us cast off and start down the Hudson, and then to the funnel deck aft to see us sailing under the bridge. I was able to get really nice sailaway photos and I was very happy about that.
I thought a SMALL number of my fellow passengers were pretty rude during muster, both times, but particularly on the 25th. At station G there were two women who talked loudly throughout the drill, a group of teenagers who vocally made fun of the crew as they were demonstrating the life jackets, and some people who just walked away during the drill, ignoring the crew's requests to stop. When I was putting away my life jacket afterwards I saw a woman from the cabin two doors down from me talking to the steward, saying that she had skipped muster because "we know what to do." She then asked the steward "by the way, are we in the front or back part of the boat here in this cabin?" Suuuure, she knows JUST what to do in an emergency as soon as she figures out which end of the ship she's on!
Anyway, it wasn't only the passengers. Based on this most recent experience on the Triumph, I was left with the impression that Carnival itself doesn't take muster drill for passengers seriously (at least not as seriously as the other lines I've sailed), and as a result neither does Carnival's crew. They do not take attendance, they do not wait for absent passengers to be present, they do not enforce the rules about staying quiet and listening during the drill, etc. We were told at our station there were supposed to be five lines of passengers there were three, which seems to indicate that only about 60% of the passengers were even present at the drill. During the transition day of my back to back I had a chance to see a crew-only muster drill and THAT one was quite serious. The contrast to the "whatever" attitude at the passenger drill was marked. I don't know whether that implies an overall lackadaisical attitude about passenger safety, or not, but I did find it troubling.
Cabin: I had Cabin 2445, Category 1A. This cabin is perfect for a solo traveler, having one twin bed and one non-convertible sofa. There is a second bed that pulls down from the ceiling and is reachable by a ladder, so 2 travelers can use the cabin. The cabin is an odd shape, with a corridor leading to it from the hallway door, and it has two large (not porthole) windows. Great cabin - I posted some photos of it here at Cruise Critic at this link http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1015096&highlight=2445. My cabin steward was great, the cabin was always clean no complaints about service or cleanliness at all. I did find the shower to be temperamental in the extreme. I'd get the temperature perfect, but before I was done showering it would have varied from freezing to scalding several times, requiring me continually to adjust it irritating at best, dangerous at worst sometimes it suddenly got so hot my skin was reddened for quite a while a child or older person could easily have been burned.
Dining: I requested and received late seating on both trips I'd have preferred anytime dining but the Triumph hasn't implemented it yet, so I went for late. The first part I was in the Paris dining room and the second part I was in the London dining room, both times at the "solo" table. I preferred Paris, because it's larger and feels airier, but that might also be affected by the fact that our wait team in the Paris dining room (Joan and Cynthia from Peru) was simply wonderful. The staff in the London dining room at our table couldn't seem to get it together they seemed out of sync with each other and with delivery to our table. For instance, not one time did we receive coffee with our desserts, even though we all requested it be served that way, and had ordered it at the same time. Every night we reminded them about the coffee as the desserts were served, and every night coffee finally showed up after the dessert dishes had been cleared.
I thought the dining room food was very good to excellent overall. Some highlights were the mushroom soup, the chilled fruit soups, prime rib, baby back ribs, Maine lobster, and the warm chocolate melting cake. There were a few duds diet pumpkin pie (made without sugar, and also without any kind of pumpkin spices <shudder>), baked chicken (extremely dry), and a couple of other things. But overall I was very pleased.
For breakfast I normally got room service or the "express breakfast" on the aft lido deck (at the grill). There was NEVER a line at this location, nor was there a "bacon policeman" to dole it out with tongs. I did eat breakfast in the dining room twice and I think the eggs benedict there is the best I've had anywhere. Really yummy!
I don't care for a dining room atmosphere at lunchtime, so in order to avoid the insane lines at the South Beach buffet, I tried to eat lunch late. That buffet is just abysmal due to extremely poor design in that the buffet is just twin long, long lines no action stations, separate salad bar, etc. You have to wait while each person ahead of you decides if they want 3 olives, or 4, on their salad and do they want croutons or bacon bits or maybe both etc., etc. I'd read about this prior to the trip, so I stuck my head in on the first day to witness it (on my way to the pizzeria at the aft lido for lunch), and from that point on I never went into the buffet before 2 PM! Even with eating late there often still were lines and more often than not I chose either the NY Deli sandwich window, or the Hong Kong noodle window both of which I thought were better than the food on the buffet anyway.
Other food I enjoyed was the sushi in the evenings, pizza from the aft lido deck pizzeria, and the room service turkey sandwich.
Entertainment: I saw both production shows "Wonderful World" and "The Big Easy." The following are my opinions only you may disagree! I thought the first one had interesting sets, pretty costumes, and performers trying their best but I didn't think the choreography and song choice were very good. It was pretty ho-hum overall. I thought "The Big Easy" was much better the song choice was a lot better, and the choreography wasn't as repetitive. I'd go to "The Big Easy" again (and did) but passed on that chance for the other show.
The fly-in entertainers were good. The comedians on both trips were very good (Dan Siegel and Leighann Lord), and I thought the hypnotist on the June 25 sailing, Asad, was very funny. His R-rated show is DEFINITELY R-rated. Take them seriously when they say before the show "If you are under 18 or easily offended, leave now." Since I didn't fall in either category, I stayed and thought it was great.
The other entertainers I heard throughout the ship were also good. There seemed to be music choices everywhere Club Rio, Venezia, the Piano Bar, the Casino Bar, the Oxford Bar, the Lobby Bar lots of choices and different music styles. There were also musicians on the Lido deck when the weather was good.
This may be heresy, but I am not a fan of the giant tv screen on the lido deck. I thought it was played WAY too loud, especially when they were playing a concert like the Beyonce concert they played during the port day in Saint John. When I got back to the ship I tried to sit out and read and enjoy the sight of the town, but the volume on the screen was so loud I could feel the bass in my lungs, as if at a rock concert. It was very unpleasant. I also found it virtually impossible to get away from the sound of that screen so that I could listen to my own music through my headphones that got better when the weather improved and they put deck chairs on those decks behind the screen, though.
Ports: I had a wonderful visit in port - Saint John, New Brunswick (twice) and Halifax, Nova Scotia (once). In Saint John on the first visit I took a tour to St. Martins and the Bay of Fundy, learning a lot about the extreme tides and history of this important fishing area (unfortunately, we were there at high tide so couldn't walk out to the sea caves low tide wasn't until after we sailed), visiting the reversing falls twice (so we got to see it going both ways), and seeing some of the beautiful countryside of New Brunswick. The second visit to Saint John I took a shuttle from the pier to the uptown area for $5, and wandered around the Loyalist Burial Ground, the City Market area, had a snack at Billy's Seafood (fish and chips fabulous!), and then I walked through the harbor area taking photos and window shopping.
In Halifax, I rented a car at the Westin across from the pier and drove to Peggy's Cove really a beautiful location. I did a self-guided walking tour using information from the visitor's center there, and then drove over to the Swissair 111 memorial, which was moving and hauntingly beautiful. I drove back to Halifax, and came to the highlight of the trip for me I'm a big Titanic buff, so being able to visit Fairview Cemetary to pay my respects, then to go see the artifacts at the Maritime Museum was a great opportunity. Then I returned the car and walked back to the ship. Even in the nasty weather I really enjoyed my day in Halifax.
I think both these ports require a little effort by the cruiser to do some research ahead of time and think about what one would like to do. Even for a history buff there are only a few things to do while "walking around" the towns, and avid shoppers will likely be SORELY disappointed in both towns not a Diamonds International to be seen! I talked to several people on both trips who were disappointed in the port(s) and thought they were "boring," but when asked said all they had done was "walk around the town."
Weather: Prepare for bad weather on this routing. I'd read that, and did, but many folks on the ship apparently hadn't (judging by the number of people I saw wearing their Carnival robes as if they were coats when out on deck). Out of 9 days I was on the ship we had two sunny days, two days with mostly overcast but a little sun peeking through, and five days of rain and clouds and fog. The foghorn sounded over and over and over the captain only made it to a couple of events, each time apologizing and saying he'd been on the bridge due to the weather. I imagine that is a very nerve-wracking thing. There were times you couldn't see the water from the deck, and he's responsible for this mammoth ship with a schedule to keep.
Disembarkation: At the end of the first trip I didn't "disembark" but had a chance to see how it went and everyone was off the ship by 9:50 AM. Carnival handled the back to back transition easily. Those of us doing both cruises met in the Lobby Bar at 10 AM and about 10:30 we were escorted off the ship, through customs, then back onto the ship and we set up our new sign and sail at the purser's desk. By 10:40 we were taking photos of the completely empty ship (except for crew getting ready for new arrivals). Disembarkation yesterday wasn't quite as smooth my zone wasn't called until 9:55 AM and I wasn't the last zone to be called, nor was self-assist disembarkation finished at that point either. Once I was off the ship, though, it was quick and easy through customs and off to my transportation to the airport.
Service: I have nothing but good to report here, other than the London dining room glitches mentioned above. I thought everyone was friendly, the crew I ran into always said "hello" or "good evening," and I was constantly noticing crew members performing maintenance or repairs on various things.
Random Notes:The ship was nearly full to max capacity, and felt it at times, but less so that I'd feared. The buffet area, as noted, was often a madhouse, but I never had trouble finding a seat at a show or bar, or in the casino, or on the Lido deck; For as full as the ship was, I really witnessed very little rudeness from fellow passengers or maybe I was just so into doing my own thing and enjoying my cruise I didn't notice it for the most part, which is also possible; Use Decks 5 or 9 to go from one end of the ship to the other 3 and 4 are broken up by the galley shared by the 2 dining rooms it's confusing until you get used to it; If the galley tour is offered during your cruise, take it it was very interesting and something only a few lines still offer; It was partly a function of the weather (which kept deck 3 outdoors, the Promenade deck, closed a good bit of the time), but this ship lacks quiet outdoor public spaces where you can hear the "swish, swish" ocean sound; I found this to be a "loud" ship very few areas were designed for or conducive to small groups and quiet conversations even the promenade deck seating was right beside the casino, for example. I found myself using places like the disco during the day for a quiet spot to read and listen to my music through headphones; The ship handled going ashore and reboarding at the ports of call well only a few short lines during the three port days I had.
Overall: I enjoyed myself on these cruises. I think Carnival offers a good product at a good price which to me means it's a good value. I will sail Carnival again, and next I want to go with my SO and have a balcony cabin (which would address my need for quiet areas and ocean swish sounds!).