EMBARKATION: Let me preface this part of my review by stating that New Orleans is not one of my favorite cities to visit. Although I live less than four hours from the city, I've only been there two times in the past 20 years; both times were to cruise. That being said, from the time we got off of the interstate, it took us approximately 30-45 minutes to get to the Erato Street terminal and to park. The traffic was horrible and some of the people were outright rude!
Once we were parked and told where to go, we realized that the line had snaked around and was actually outside of the terminal. Although the line was long, it moved fairly quickly. I would say that it took less than an hour from the time we got in line until we boarded the ship.
Upon boarding the ship, there were people waiting to greet us and told us how to get to the Lido deck and the South Beach buffet. We were instructed that our rooms should be ready by 1:30.
CABIN: We reached our cabins around 2:00 or a little after and everything was ready as had been promised. Since we were traveling with our two teenage children, we had two rooms on the Veranda deck. DH and I had a balcony room while the kids had an interior room across the hall. Our cabin steward was very helpful, always smiling and just a joy to see in the hallway everyday. He would speak every time he saw us and wish us a good day or night.
Our balcony room was 8324 and was very spacious compared to the rooms we've had in the past on the Fantasy. There was much more storage space in it than there was in the interior room that our children had. Also, the bathroom was much nicer than the ones on the Fantasy. There was a full counter with the lavatory that ran the width of the bathroom, as well as a medicine cabinet. Neither of these were on the Fantasy. Beneath the lavatory was a full shelf that was nice for storing small pieces of luggage.
The bathroom also had a hair dryer, however, I never used it so I cannot speak of how well it did/did not work.
As for the cabin itself, it was one floor below the Lido deck and we could hear something almost all day and most of the night. We still are not sure where the noise originated but it sounded as though something (maybe chairs?) was being scooted around. We initially thought that it was chairs from the tables on the Lido deck but the noise was too often, I think, to have been that. Perhaps it was coming from the kitchen located behind the buffet line on the Lido deck.
All in all, we loved our balcony cabin and will most definitely book another but this time, I will be a little more diligent about researching exactly where it is located on the ship.
DINING: We love having dinner in the MDR every evening. The wait staff has always been more than accommodating to us and we have always been pleased with the meals that we've received and this time was no different.
Our reservations were for the Paris Dining Room for an early seating. Again, a little research prior to sailing on my part would have been most beneficial, but I never thought about it. We realized once we were on board that the Paris Dining Room was in the aft of the ship. I know that some people have no problem with this but for me and my ds, we notice much more motion on the aft. When they directed us to our seat the first night, we were in the very back of this dining room and my son became sick because of the motion. I had brought some Ginger Root, the trans-dermal patches, and the wristband (I was prepared...I also brought Dramamine for nausea & Ambien to help me sleep, too). He made use of all three and was able to stay and have supper, however, the following evening was our first elegant evening and I was the one who turned sick. Our waitress, Sylvia, was wonderful! She realized that something was wrong and promptly moved us to another table in the dining room, a little closer to the front. Even with this, I was unable to stay for supper. I missed lobster and it was the only night that they offered it on the menu. Major bummer but it was not the fault of anyone, especially not the cruise line nor wait staff.
The following day, my husband made mention to our cabin steward what had taken place and that he would like to get our reservation moved to the London Dining Room which is located more to the mid/forward of the ship. Our cabin steward gave my dh the number to guest services and told him that they could help him. Guest services put him in touch with Paul who was that Maitre d' of the London Dining Room. They had no openings for the early seating but did for the late, so we took that and actually enjoyed have the later seating more than the early! Paul has to be the best Maitre d' that we've had the privilege to have. He made his way to every table in the dining room every night and spoke to everyone, making sure that they had need of nothing and that they were being well taken care of in his dining room. I have nothing but good things to say about the staff of the London Dining Room!!
BUFFET: Here is where my biggest beef with the cruise comes into play: Perhaps I'm not "cultured" enough or don't know how to appreciate "fine dining." I throughly enjoy and actually look forward to the fine dining in the MDR, but for lunch, I would much rather be offered a more casual menu on the buffet. It seemed that every day, the menu would consist of several things that I had never heard of and that did not look nor sound appealing. For the Taste of Nations, you would think that they would offer a few things that you would recognize and perhaps one or maybe even two new dishes but this did not seem to be the case. Example: On the day we boarded, the Taste of Nations was Italian and the menu was as follows: Pasta Fagioli, Fish Sicliiana, Lasagna Bolognese, Chicken Veronese, Grilled Tuscan Vegetables, Rosemary Potatoes (my dh made pics of everything, including the menu, so this is how I know exactly what was offered). The only thing that I remotely recognized was the lasagna but it wasn't until I sat down that I realized what the "Bolognese" in the name meant...spinach. Spinach may belong in a lot of places, but NOT in my lasagna!!! I also got the fish, pasta fagioli, which was a soup that I didn't care for, and the rosemary potatoes. The fish and potatoes were good but I would have much rather have seen some familiar dishes being offered. There are a host of other dishes that could have been prepared such as chicken Alfredo, grilled chicken penne al fresco, chicken Parmesan, ziti, and minestrone, just to name a few. This seemed to be the trend all week and to be honest, I grew tired of eating burgers and pizza because I didn't see anything on the buffet that was appealing.
Another thing that I noticed was that, aside from salads (and they did offer several different salads each day), there were very little side dishes. There might be four entrees and one or two side dishes. On the day that they had fried chicken (a Southern classic), the only side item that I saw was a stuffed baked potato and I had already eaten several baked potatoes for supper earlier in the week. For the record, this day I didn't see what was offered inside the South Beach. We were on the Lido deck and this is what was being offered on the buffet outside.
I would love to see Carnival offer a Classic casual buffet along with the Taste of Nations and have plenty of veggies (not the fine dining sort) available, as well.
ENTERTAINMENT: We were able to catch several of the shows that were offered in the Rome Lounge during the week and for the most part, enjoyed them all. My least favorite was the magician team of Kevin & Caruso. IMHO, a truly good magician act would not need the showgirls as a distraction. I felt that there was more emphasis put on the girls than there was anything else.
There were several other things that I would have loved to see and do, for example, some of the comedians and the trivias, but they were being held in some of the bars and the smoke is very unpleasant to me, so that was out of the question. This wasn't a biggie but it would have been fun, I think.
We thoroughly enjoyed having Noonan & Corey as the CD and Assistant CD. They were a lot of fun, as was everyone in that department.
O2 CLUB: Since our ds and dd were traveling with us, they made full use of the O2 Club. This one was considerably larger than the one aboard the Fantasy and also seemed to be much more organized. Lana, the directress, had a detailed schedule for the week available on the day that we boarded and had plenty of activities for the kids to enjoy all week long. They had Wii contests, Guitar Hero, movies, Pizza & Ice cream night, among other things. I believe they also had an excursion planned for one of the ports but our kids didn't do it, so I can't say what it was or how it went.
DEBARKATION: On our other cruises, after the self-assist and VIP's had debarked, they would begin with the cabins on the highest decks and work their way down. I always thought that this was due, in part, to the fact that those cabins generally cost more than the ones on the lower decks. With this is mind, I was excited that, since we were on the Veranda, we would be among some of the first to debark. However, the Triumph did the total opposite. Although it took us longer than expected to actually leave the ship, this wasn't a big deal since it gave us a little more time to get breakfast before hitting the road.
Once we left the ship, everything seemed to flow smoothly. Even finding our luggage, getting a porter and going through customs was a breeze.
Now, outside the port was a different story! In times past, the porter was allowed to assist you all the way to your vehicle in the parking garage. He could help load the vehicle and you could then leave the port but this has changed, so while my dh went to get our vehicle, the porter escorted me and my two teens to the loading/unloading area. To say that this was mass chaos would be an understatement! Instead of those who were directing traffic trying to find out where the driver needed to go to pick up their belongings, they would just point and show you where THEY wanted you to go. This may be no where near where your family and luggage were located and such was the case for us! We were standing on the curb and there was no vehicle anywhere near us, but the officer still directed my husband to go to a totally different spot. This meant that the porter had brought our luggage but because of the absolute unorganized way that this was being handled, we had to then drag our luggage to another part of the port!
OVERALL: Another great cruise! Even with the "bumps in the road," it was still a great ride! Will we cruise with Carnival again? Most likely. Will we cruise out of NOLA again? Maybe, maybe not. I'm already looking at our next cruise for Spring 2011 but I'm looking at one out of Galveston. I've heard good things about that port and we'd like to see that part of Texas. Also, major factors in our decision is that the Carnival Conquest and the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas both sail from Galveston, so we will probably be looking at one of these ships since they both have itineraries that we would enjoy.