I had been one of those people who had aspired to be "Diamond" on Royal Caribbean. Royal was the only line that I had ever experienced. I was satisfied with everything they offered for my first 3 cruises, and would have happily continued to sail with them, and never tried another line, had I not noticed the benefits of being a repeat customer with Royal were declining while the prices per person were rapidly escalating. I still can't make myself believe that this marketing tactic is going to work well for them, but...good luck RCCI. I hope my comparison is helpful to anyone who may be searching for this kind of review.
EMBARKATION: We sailed from the Port of New Orleans. On this point, I have no basis for comparison since I have never sailed from the same port more than once, and Royal Caribbean does not offer any sailings from this port, which I think is another poor marketing strategy for RCCI. Since we live in Birmingham, Alabama, it was an easy drive to the port. We sailed on Monday, December 7. We arrived at the port around noon and paid $80 for parking for 6 days. The porter's, located in the parking garage, took our bags and we tipped them $5 for two bags. We parked and took the elevator down to the first floor to join a very long line of passengers. The line moved relatively quickly, however, once inside we were packed into a very small space with no opportunity to sit while we waited. Once we reached the processors, things moved very quickly and Carnival made this process with the "Fun Pass" very quick and convenient.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE SHIP: We walked into the main lobby and the ship was decorated for Christmas. Beautiful trees and garland adorned the main lobby and the balconies that overlooked the main lobby. We had expected Carnival to have a much different dEcor that what we were accustomed to with RCCI, and while it was different, it was not garish by any means. The Triumph is decorated with a much more contemporary feeling that you will find on the previous RCCI ships that we have sailed. It was clean and every surface was shined and polished. We did find that the layout of the ship made it difficult to move from one end of the ship to the other. By the end of the cruise we had learned that it was easier to use deck 5 to make our way around the ship.
STATEROOMS: The stateroom attendant opened the doors to the hallways at exactly 1:30 PM and we were allowed to go to our cabins. We had booked a category 8B balcony cabin for this cruise. The layout of the room was very spacious with plenty of storage space for the two of us. The suitcases fit nicely underneath the bed. I might suggest that one bring extra clothes hangers for the roomy closets. We probably could have requested additional hangers from our steward, Dee Dee, but wound up folding some things and putting them in the drawers and shelves. My previous balcony cabins on RCCI were approximately the same size, but they didn't seem to take advantage of the space as well as Carnival managed. Also, the shower and bathroom on the Triumph were huge in comparison to the RCCI cabins. The dEcor of the room was simple with light oak colored laminate surfaces and not distasteful in the least, with the exception of the hideous peach leather couch. Everything else about the room is comparable to RCCI. On two occasions, I did notice a very faint sewage smell in the hallways of deck 6, but it couldn't compete with the stench that we experienced in the hallways and the room on my last cruise with RCCI.
CREW: We only saw Dee Dee, our room steward, once during the entire cruise, but our room was always clean, and the bed made/turned down with chocolates and towel animals each night. Just like on RCCI, there was a friendly, smiling face waiting to help with any request or need. We spent quite a bit of time in the Monte Carlo Casino and the dealers and bar service waiters and waitresses were very prompt and friendly. Also, I have to give a shout out to my new friend, Alois. He was one of the pit managers and just the sweetest thing! Also, don't forget to take advantage of the $5 match play that's available by taking your receipts for premium cocktails to the casino cashier. Jorge, the Cruise Director was a pretty fun guy. Whenever we were in the room, we turned the TV to the ship's channel and enjoyed his sense of humor. We never made it to any of the presentations in the Rome Lounge, but heard several people giving them good reviews. The live entertainment in the lounges and lobby was excellent and on par with RCCI.
DINING: We were scheduled for late dinner in the Paris dining room. We were seated at an 8 top table next to the window in the very back of the ship. There were only the two of us and one other couple at the table. This is the only area in which I noticed a significant difference in the two lines. Carnival's food is much more palatable than RCCI, but the service on Carnival was lackluster, disorganized, and left much to be desired. Every night, the courses were served to the four of us at different times. On the second night, my fiancE and I and the other man's wife had been served the appetizer and the salad courses before the waiter delivered his appetizer. The Maitre D' was a complete joke, a real embarrassment to be honest, and Carnival should really reconsider their choice here. "Woohoo!" was his catch phrase, and it made my skin crawl every time I heard it. Get on the ball here Carnival; this is your only downfall.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Triumph has 4 pools and ample deck chairs, the big screen TV by the pool, and the waterslide. We really didn't take advantage of any of these activities either. (Did I mention that we spent quite a bit of time in the casino?) I think, if you have kids or if you are younger and into a cruise that offers more physical activities, RCCI will be your choice. However, I never even noticed that there was no rock climbing wall, flow rider, or ice skating rink.
DISEMBARKATION: This time we did the self disembark. This was the easiest and fastest disembarkment that I have experienced. It was also, by far, the friendliest. My last cruise felt like we were being herded like cattle, ordered around by uniformed security guards who couldn't answer any questions or provide any direction, and they couldn't wait to get rid of us. We actually felt like Carnival wanted to make this as easy and painless as possible. Thanks for that, Carnival.
Overall, I'm glad that we tried Carnival and will definitely do it again as soon as possible.