This is my 5th cruise, 3rd with Carnival. I'll try to provide some details on certain aspects of our cruise, both the good and the not so good, as well as information on our ports-of-call.
Friday Arrival: We flew in from Charlotte to Miami the day ahead and stayed at the Clarion, downtown. It was clean and comfortable enough for one night. We ate dinner at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co. at Bayside Marketplace. Excellent food. Be sure and watch the movie again before you go and see how you do at their trivia questions. Arrival the day ahead is the way to go. It makes things seem to go more smoothly and you're not as stressed as arriving the day of and then feeling like you are rushing to get to the port.
Embarkation: We took a taxi from our hotel to the port, arriving between 10:30 and 10:45. We went immediately to check-in after dropping off our luggage. This is the best time to arrive. As soon as we finished check-in, they started the line to walk through the security section. After passing through security, we picked up sign & sail cards and then were directed to a "holding area" where we waited until boarding the ship. We started boarding around noon and were some of the first 15-20 on board the ship. That was the earliest I'd ever been able to board, and I appreciate Carnival making that accommodation even though they advertise boarding starting at 1:30. Our table mates arrived later and said that embarkation later (around 1:30) is very hectic. So go early!
Food There are two dining rooms on the Triumph. The London is midship and the Paris is aft. Both have early and late seatings. Paris has early at 5:45 and late at 8:00. London has early at 6:15 and late at 8:30. We were in the Paris Dining Room, early seating, upper level at table 524, near the window. Carnival seated us with another family around our age who had a son near our daughter's age (they became friends as the week went on). We were served by Raymond and Wanpen, both very attentive and efficient. Wanpen always had a smile on her face! They quickly learned our names and our likes/dislikes. The food was excellent and the servings were just right. I never left feeling like I'd eaten too much. The cappuccino pie was excellent as well as the chocolate decadence! The food at lunch in the South Beach Club was buffet style. We only ate there a few times. There were always long lines. We ate breakfast usually from the outside buffet lines on Lido Deck (near the pools). We did not try the NY Deli or Hong Kong Noodle Factory, but it must have been good because the lines were always long there also. We enjoyed the Coney Island Grille for lunch and never did try the pizza.
Entertainment: There are two "show times," at 8:30 and 10:30. The shows performed by the Carnival dancers on Mon. and Thurs. nights in the Rome Lounge were very good. But the rest of the "shows" in the Rome Lounge were disappointing. The magic show on Tuesday night was OK, but not the best I've seen. There were several nights that the provided entertainment was games with passenger participants. That's personally not the kind of entertainment that I expect for the money I've paid. There was a comedian, but he only performed at one of the later show times and had an adult late-night comedy show. We never got to hear him. The best entertainment we had on the ship was in the Big Easy Piano Bar. Unfortunately, we didn't "find" it until Tuesday night, but thereafter, we were there every night. Ed Rrocks was great! He is a phenomenal pianist and can put away his coronas in six seconds! He is very personable and does his best to entertain and get you into the party spirit. For those of you cruising after 8/21/04, you'll miss him because his stay on the Triumph ends then. That was the most fun we had during the entire week. Carnival needs to promote him more when he's back on one of their ships. Other entertainment on board the ship included karaoke, a band called Hi-Lites (very good also), and the poolside games during the day.
Cabin Service: Our cabin steward on the Main Deck was Harvey, and he was wonderful. Always smiling! He kept my cooler filled with ice the entire week also. We had to book our cruise at the last minute due to my husband's health and booked a 4A guarantee. Bad decision. We ended up being on Main Aft, inside, and our cabin was right above the anchors and engines. Each time we arrived in port, we were awoken to the sounds of the anchors being lowered and the engines cutting back. We didn't complain, because we were so thankful to have been able to cruise after all. We will do our best to do cabin selection any other time.
Ship Layout: The ship is very easy to get around. We had learned our way the very first day. The ship is maintained very well to be 5 years old and is kept clean and shiny. The crew works very hard on port days to keep it in tip-top shape. There is some wear and fading of the upholstery on the benches in the Rome Lounge and on the chairs in the South Beach Club, but that is to be expected. They are clean though and the carpet is in good condition.
Teen Program: Carnival is known for having an excellent program for children, Camp Carnival, which we used years ago, but they need to work on improving the teen program. There were lots of teens on our ship and some activities for them, but not interesting enough to really want a teen to get involved. Our 15 year old daughter went to two different advertised activities early in the week, but when she got there she found out the activities were for 12-14 year olds. There were groups of teens traveling together, and those teens were always active. But for teens traveling with parents only, they need to make sure that there are activities to get those teens more involved with one another. Maybe some kind of team activities.
CD and staff: Our CD was Carlo Lombard. We were not impressed with him at all. He came across as phony, silly and many of his lines sounded too rehearsed. I realize that CD's have to use the same lines over and over, but his were not delivered well. He needs some polish. On the other hand, the CD, WEE Jimmy, was wonderful! He was very enjoyable and more of a natural with his humor. He works very hard at making people laugh and have a good time. We made it a point to tell him personally how much we enjoyed him and had made positive comments on our comment card about him. The other social staff was acceptable...........about the same as on other Carnival ships I've been on.
Ports-of-Call: We had a Western itinerary. It is my favorite itinerary. We did not book any of our shore excursions through Carnival. I did my homework before our cruise, and we knew what we wanted to do on our own. Cozumel: We were in Cozumel on Monday, arriving around 7:30 a.m. It was very, very hot that day, so we did not spend a lot of time trying to shop. We took a taxi to Paradise Beach ($12 each way-be sure to have correct change). This is a free public beach, very pretty and clean. Arrive early ( before lunch) to get the best spot. There are free beach chairs and umbrellas, free use of rafts and kayaks. The snorkel gear is $10, but we did not snorkel here. There is also a large water trampoline. There is usually a "climbing rock" in the water, but it was not set up the day we were there. The food and Margaritas there are excellent also. My husband had a large basket of Mexican chips and salsa for $5 and my daughter and I each had chicken quesadillas for $7. This was a very enjoyable and relaxing day for us. Many on our ship headed in to Carlos & Charlie's or Fat Tuesday's that evening, but we chose not to because of not wanting to leave our daughter on board without an adult contact for her. We did hear the next day that there was a couple who partied a little too much and missed the ship. They were left in Cozumel and had to make flight arrangements to meet the ship in Cayman on Thursday. Cayman: I've been to Stingray City before and highly recommend it if you've never been. This year though, my daughter and I snorkeled at Eden's Rock. It's within walking distance from the pier (to the right). We saw some huge fish in the water there! Very relaxing time. Ocho Rios: My husband had surgery recently so the climbing Dunn's River Falls was out this year. We've been before though and loved it. This year we chose to spend a few hours at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. It's right on the water and has a small beach. There's also a beach dining area and volleyball net set up. There's a small pool with a water slide and of course, Buffet music playing! Lots of fun.
Overall, this was a great cruise. We were disappointed with some things on the Triumph, but we were not going to let minor issues ruin our fun. There are some things that Carnival needs to update (like some of their games, canned lines and intentional "plants" for some of the games), but if it happens to be your first Carnival cruise, you would enjoy it all. I guess I'm ready for a change from Carnival for awhile. What I do enjoy the most about cruising is being able to truly get away from it all and relax in my own little paradise for a week. It wouldn't matter to me if I was at sea the entire seven days! There's something about the peacefulness of the water that puts my soul at rest for a few days.