Sail Dates: 08/01/09 to 08/06/09
Ports of Call: New York City/ St John NB/Halifax NS
Eddie Burke, Long Island NY
I recently completed my 34th cruise and the 13th on a Carnival product. I have sailed to these ports of call three times in the past with the latter being in July 2007. I selected this itinerary once again because of the easy access to the NYC cruise terminal and of my positive experiences in the past. Accompanying me were my friends Charlotte Cognato, her daughters Karen Cognato and Denise Gallo and grandsons Justin and Nicholas Gallo.
I will basically grade each segment of my cruising experience. These opinions are my own.
Our group arrived at the Manhattan pier at 11:30 AM after a train ride from our local Long Island Rail Road station to the last stop in Penn Station in NYC where we hopped a cab to the terminal. We arrived to a partly full terminal, but were directed to the VIP area due to the concierge status of our repeated cruises on Carnival. The VIP area had two Carnival reps checking in passengers with the concierge status. This area was a true delight with juice and beverages available plus some of those famous Carnival home made Danish (more on that later). We were asked to fill out a short questionnaire on our health status over the past three days. There was one group ahead of us and the efficiency of the reps simply amazed me. We were asked to show our credit cards and passports and were given our Sail and Sign/Room Key cards and were on the ship in about five minutes. We were asked to take an embarkation photo from the ship photography department, which I bought during the cruise. Our key cards were then certified by security with our pictures and off we went. We did sit in the lobby bar area and punched our cards so they could be hung around our necks on a lanyard, which we had from past cruises. This was one of the smoothest embarkation process experienced in all my cruises. Here Carnival did a great job and I hope they continue the good work.
Stateroom Precruise Preparation: A+
After boarding the Triumph we headed for the self serve Lido area for lunch as we did not have our luggage in hand (checked at the terminal) and we assumed that our staterooms were not ready. For this cruise, I booked an inside room on the Main Deck 2 #2-388, while Charlotte and her daughters were right next door so Denise could keep an eye on her two teenaged boys who shared a room with me. Our room was spotless as we entered for the first time, with the boys asking me tons of questions about the room set up and who would take the top bunk which was not as yet pulled down by the room steward. Justin said he would take the top bunk and brother Nick just below him. Carnival continues to provide a goodie pack in the bathroom, though fewer items that you find on a seven day cruise. The shower curtain in the bathroom was brand new and the lav was spotless and clean. It still amazes me, after all my cruising experience, how the housekeeping staff get staterooms ready for incoming passengers with such short time parameters and how well they do it.
The Ship: Carnival Triumph: A
The Carnival Triumph was entered into service in July 2003. This "Conquest" class ship is 952 feet long and can hold up to 3,710 passengers with a crew of 1,160. This six-year-old ship, which was once the diamond of the Carnival fleet, does not look her age. The ship looks and smells brand new with the crew constantly cleaning and polishing. I did not see any wear and tear that was in need of repair. Second hand smoke was minimal (perhaps more and more people are quitting the habit) and the crew and staff seemed friendly to me. One thing I did dislike about the ship was the numerous "dead ends" on the ship's design. The reason was the two-multi level dining rooms took up most of decks four and five. I did do a lot of elevator changing and walking to get from deck to deck. The front of the ships elevators go all the way up to Deck 11, while aft elevators only go to deck 9. I guess with all the meals, a little walking would not be too bad. A new installation when the ship last went to dry dock for refurbish, was the installation of a movie/TV screen by the center pool. This was where all the activity was on sea days. Late movies were screened at night, but the dense nighttime North Atlantic fog and the Triumph's blaring foghorn prevented passengers from enjoying nighttime screenings. I especially enjoyed our NY sail away. We were provided with crystal clear skies on the day we left with summertime temps in the 80's. The city looked so beautiful with its skyscrapers soaring into the heavens. As we passed "Ground Zero" my heart still aches from the loss of life there and the lack of the soaring twin towers missing from the NY skyline for almost eight years now. Rebuilding continues on the site, which will someday rise from the ashes of 09/11/01. The Triumph now has a cell communications system installed, which enables cell phone users to make calls with their cell phones. I made two, but I do not know how much it cost me.
On Board Entertainment: B
I usually do not attend after dinner show time, but this cruise was an exception. Having an early dinner seating, I went to the shows without falling asleep in my seat. After 34 cruises, the shows all seem the same, but this cruise was different. I would not call them spectacular, but they were very entertaining and well worth the time spent. One show was great. a magic show and a comedian. Very funny as the comedian raked over the coals cruise line bathrooms, photo departments, embarkation process and cruise line staff. He did pay tribute to serviceman past and present in the audience, which I though was a nice touch. The other shows consisted of musical presentations with Las Vegas type showgirls and one aging guy, which I though did not fit in with the rest of the young dancers. I did enjoy them though and I am giving them a well-deserved B rating.
Sea Day Entertainment: C
Carnival continues to do silly things that other cruise lines do not do on sea days, where passengers need to be entertained. I wish they would forgo that stupid hairy chest contest. I guess people enjoy them and that is why they continue them. I did not attend, but I did see theses guys making idiots out of themselves with an in room TV presentation. At least they discontinued the knobby knee contest that used to be part of the sea day fare. Other things done on the two sea days were Bingo, Trivia, Newly Wed Game, Latin dance contest, bean bag toss and of course the art auction. I wish cruises would think of other things to do on sea days. Me, I spent it in the gym, spa, taking a nap, relaxing in a lounge which was not saved with someone's towel, looking at the beautiful sea before the late afternoon fog rolled in, people watching, eating lunch and looking for my cruise friends which I could not find most of the time.
Spa Facilities: F
Here I have to give Carnival a failing grade. First of all, all whirlpools on the Triumph were taped off with yellow tape and were closed for some reason. One pool contained disgusting green water that was not drained completely. Here we have a full ship, and I just don't understand why the whirlpools were not fixed for passenger use. Additionally, the indoor whirlpool in the gym was removed and converted into an exercise classroom. I suppose this was done at the last retro fit. The men's sauna did not work and did not generate any dry heat. The steam room was five minutes full stream and off for thirty minutes. The gym area was standard fare with a line to use the treadmill and other equipment. The men's room spa bathroom was filthy with unsanitary conditions, which would fail any sanitary examination. The locker area was, however clean and neat with plenty of fresh towels available with spotless floors. This area needs improvement. One more thing...spa treatment prices have gone up considerably and are basically unaffordable by most during these rough economic times. My cruise mate Karen, did win a free spa treatment resulting for a drawing on sail away day. Lucky her, though they did push spa products.
Bar Service: B
What kept me giving this area an "A" were the prices Carnival charges for drinks. A Pina Colada now costs $6.25 with the gratuity added and a bottle of Bud Light is now $5.00. A simple can of Coke is now $2.25 with the gratuity. Bar service was generally good with drinks arriving in a few minutes after ordering. I thought the colada's were more ice than liquor and became tasteless after a few minutes. Beware that beverages in your room are extremely expensive and can really run up your "sail and sign" account, especially when you get thirsty in your room and you don't feel like going to one of the many bars aboard ship. I am not sure if Carnival allows passengers to bring aboard their own sodas and water, but I know that liquor bought at ports or aboard ship are held to disembarkation day.
Stateroom Maintenance: A+
Stateroom attendants always get my highest rating. They work real hard to keep your room clean and neat by servicing it twice a day. On this cruise, they did a great job, especially cleaning up after two teenaged boys who had a tendency to leave their clothes and shoes on the floor and the bathroom not in the neatest order. Good job here Carnival! By the way, I did enjoy rooming with Nick 16 and Justin 14. They were very well behaved and I did enjoy their antics during the cruise. They both never cruised before and we always had a Q and A time every night before they fell asleep, with most questions asked about ship operations and ports of call. I remember one question was why the toilet makes so much noise when they flush it and where does the dirty water go. Of course, I had the correct answer for them!
We took an early seating assignment on this trip for dinnertime. Personally, I had breakfast and lunch on the Lido self-serve area, but I did have breakfast twice in the dining room. Here, I recommend eating breakfast in the dining room for breakfast with its open seating concept. Breakfast in the dining room was good...not excellent, but good. I do recommend the oatmeal with brown sugar. It was so delicious! Service was excellent. The Lido self serve breakfast was also great with those delicious raspberry and lemon Danish that Carnival is so noted for. The scrambled eggs were so so, not like mine when I make them at home. The wait staff at the Lido was always ready to remove your tray and clear the table for the next customer. Once I got up to get a cup of coffee, and when I returned, my uneaten breakfast was gone...removed by a server who thought I was finished. Stay away from the 24-hour Pizza service. The pizza was horrible (guess I am spoiled by living on Long Island with its hundreds of pizza places). Carnival does provide free lemonade and ice tea to wash down this terrible pizza product. Also prepare to wait on long lines on the Lido deck during peak lunch hour times. The NY Deli pastrami sandwich was lousy with shredded pastrami on rye. Pastrami is not usually shredded, at least here at home. Carnival chefs need to go to a good NY Jewish Deli to see how pastrami on rye is to be served.
Dinnertime was a delight and a feast to behold. Carnival food had improved so much over the years; they are now up to par with high-end cruise lines. Service by our wait staff was A++, while attending to our every dinnertime need. The lobster was wonderful and I mostly enjoyed a seafood fare throughout my cruise. The chocolate warming cake was my favorite desert. Dinnertime is what makes cruising so wonderful along with the great service.
Port of Call Excursions: C
If you are going on a Carnival Cruise, you will be shocked to see how high the prices have gone up, I guess attributed to higher fuel costs. A one hour tour at St John, NB ran $40 bucks on a motorized trolley, while a Gray Line "Hop On/Hop Off" bus tour of Halifax was another $40 bucks. The tours were very interesting, but not worth the $80 bucks I paid out. You will get the pricelist in your stateroom and I suggest you choose carefully. The weather in the ports were clear and dry, quite different to my last trip when it rained in both ports. What a difference a beautiful day makes.
The locals in both ports were real nice and welcoming. I just love visiting Canada, as the country is so much like the USA.
Today, Carnival passengers are given the option of leaving the ship early while hauling their luggage off the ship themselves or following the traditional way of waiting for your preassigned color to be called. We opted for hauling our own luggage off the ship, which worked out great for us as we were off the ship and through customs by 9:00 AM. I realize that not all can take of this advantage of leaving the ship by hauling their own luggage, but it is a great option and I recommend it for a short five nighter like this cruise.
Casino Operations: B
The Triumph houses a full service casino, but getting your winnings is quite a process. Your "Sail and Sign" card has to be registered with a PIN number when inserted into a slot machine. I can see the marketing concept here. They try to get you to add to your personal bank by using your card ($1,000 a day limit); this of course, will be added to your shipboard account. If you win something at the slots, you have to take your sail and sign to the casino cashier, enter your pin in order to get your winnings. Way too much trouble for me. What ever happened to the clanging of coins in casinos today?
Overall Cruise Rating: A-
I really liked my short five night cruise to the Canadian Maritimes and I do recommend it for cruisers who are short of time and who wants to get their feet wet in the cruising concept. Don't let the high prices on drinks and tours hold you back. The Triumph is a beautiful ship and in great condition. Go and enjoy all that she provides. My next cruise will be on the Glory in September '09 and I look forward to my 14th Carnival cruise.