My DH and I sailed on the Carnival Triumph out of New York (Sept 4-7, 2009). It was a much needed 4-day getaway. We arrived in New York (drove from PA) at about 12:45 pm. Since we only had 2 small bags we carried them on ourselves. We were through security in about 5 minutes and through check-in in about 10 minutes. This was the fastest embarkation we've ever experienced! I really like cruising out of New York because security makes everyone have their passports & documents ready before you can even enter the security line. Keeps the lines moving very smoothly.
Once on board it was very crowded in the Capitol bar area (where you enter the ship) because of the lines getting into the London dining room. Not sure if all of those people were waiting to eat or alter their dining preferences? We then proceeded to our cabin on deck 7 (Empress) to check out our cabin and drop off our bags. Cabin was nice and my favorite part was the balcony door. It was a regular door (not sliding). DH was very happy about this over the course of our cruise because the door didn't wake him once when I went out for my morning balcony fix.
The bed was soooo comfortable. That was the best sleep we've had in a long time (or it may have been because of the nightly drinks, LOL). Cabin location was perfect. Up 2 floors got us to the pool/ buffet/ pizza and 2 floors down got us to the casino/ shops/ Rome lounge. We never had to ride the elevator. Cabin was very quiet. I was a little nervous at first because the housekeeping closet was directly across the hall from us but we didn't hear a thing. We always sleep with white noise playing in the background so we don't hear the little hallway noises.
Balcony was a slightly smaller than I remember it being on my other cruises but it was plenty big for the two of us. The bathroom layout was best I've seen so far. It actually seemed spacious as far as ship bathrooms go. Lots of cabinet and sink space. Although there wasn't a fridge in the room, I was surprised to find I didn't really miss it.
My DH spent most of his time in the Casino while I went to a lot of the other activities. I was so pleasantly surprised by the number of daily activities available! Again, another stereo-type I had in my mind. I thought Carnival skimped on services and activities. (Not sure where these ideas came from but I was way off.) There were way more activities on Carnival than I can remember seeing on any of the other 3 ships. They had bean bag tossing contests, the "hairy men's chest" contest, a digital scavenger hut (very original idea), mixologist contest, acupuncture & herbs class, pilates, 2 cent slot machine contest to win a BMW or $25,000 (a woman actually won on our cruise), blackjack tournament, mini golf tournament and a couple more things I can't remember right now. They actually gave away real prizes, not just key chains, hats, and cheap bags like on the other 2 cruise lines. The couples who participated in the "love and marriage" show each won a bottle of wine and a gift certificate for a couples massage. Trophies were also given out to other contestant winners. Not to mention the twisty slide, 3 pools, and LIVE music all over the ship! They also had the usual bingo, trivia, yoga, nightly variety shows, comedy and usual things you find on most cruises. My favorite part was the movie at sea. It was like going to a drive in but way more comfortable because you had plenty of room to stretch out on a lounge chair. I was really touched how Carnival "gives back". They held a "cancer walk" on the last sea day. Passengers could donate $10+ and walk a mile around the jogging track. They were given a free t-shirt and their entire donation would go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Very nice testament to the character of Carnival as a company. Haven't see NCL or RC do anything like this.
Another small fear I had was that nothing would be open when I got hungry. This happened to us several times on RC Explorer of the Seas (only had finger sandwiches, bad pizza, and room service in the evenings), that's why we chose NCL for our 2nd & 3rd cruises (they had free-style dining). I was very surprised to find Carnival had many dining options at all hours of the day. When in a pinch, I found their pizza to be very good. I also had a grilled mozzarella & mushroom panini from room service that was delicious. Dining room food was also very good (mostly had fish/ seafood) but their desserts weren't anything to write home about. Which is a good thing because I really didn't need those extra calories, LOL. We went to Paris Dining Room only once for breakfast and it was very good. Buffet wasn't very good for breakfast but was very good for lunch and late night. Only ate in the main dining room for dinner so can't comment on the buffet for dinner.
Let me finish by saying the entire crew was absolutely fantastic! Let me say it again... they were fantastic!!! I was really impressed how they all worked as a team (I hadn't seen this level of professionalism or dedication on the other 2 cruise lines). Every single crew member I saw always had a smile on their face and didn't mind answering any question I might of had. They seemed like a well oiled machine. On the other cruise lines it seemed as if the crew were afraid to talk to the passengers, which in turn, makes you feel like you are bothering them. The activities staff seemed to reach out to the passengers to ensure they were always having a good time. Our bar waiter (Chayanton) and head waiter (Alexis) were wonderful! I can't say enough good things about them. They always had a big smile on their face and weren't afraid to joke with you, which makes you feel very welcome. The dining staff also put on a little show every night during dinner which was quite entertaining and added to the whole "dining experience".
Thank you Carnival for a memorable cruise! My only regret is that I already have a 10 day cruise booked on NCL for Jan 2010.
After walking back from the falls we went to the shops in the Square but it was just like a mall (nothing I couldn't see at home). The space was well designed and feels open and inviting. All in all it was a quaint little town infused with a little industrial flair. It's a nice day off of the ship but there are other places I'd like to see before going back there.