TRAVEL TO THE BIG EASY:
We arrived in New Orleans the afternoon of Friday, January 28th after two smooth flights on Southwest Airlines. Catching a taxi was very easy in New Orleans with the taxi booth right outside of the baggage claim. Taxi service was $33.00 from the airport to the Avenue Plaza Hotel in the Garden District.
ACCOMODATIONS AND STAY IN NEW ORLEANS:
We stayed at the Avenue Plaza Hotel on St. Charles Avenue. This was a great location as it was right in front of the St. Charles street car which generally came around every 10 minutes during the day and every 15-20 minutes at night. This hotel was about a 15-20 minute streetcar ride to Canal Street and an easy 10-15 minute walk to the French Quarter. In New Orleans we had Beignets at Cafe Du Monde, lunch at Napoleon House, Shrimp Po Boy at Johnny's, a great dinner at Clancy's (with a wonderful Icebox Lemon Pie for dessert), a fantastic dinner at Delachaise. We also ate at the Cheesecake Bistro (on St. Charles) but the food was average at best and food at Cafe Beignet on Bourbon street had a nice location but a very small bowl of shrimp and chicken Gumbo which two stale pieces of bread was $10.00.
The streetcar system was very easy to navigate and reasonable at $5.00 for an all day pass or $1.25/trip - best if you have exact change.
We did not go to Bourbon street at night, after walking through their several times during the day - just way too many drunk individuals, bars and strip clubs for us. We also visited the cemeteries and Audubon park as well as City park - both parks were nice and was a good place to run.
Arrived to the Erato St. port via $14.00 taxi ride from the Garden district. We arrived around 1:00pm and were on the ship by 1:30. The lines were long but were always moving. Carnival did a good job getting 2400 people on the ship. We had lunch on the Lido deck buffet while we waited for our rooms to be ready and luggage delivered.
Generally, we have cruised on ships that are 4 years old or less. However, the Carnival triumph is about 11 years old. We had room 1227 on the Riviera deck forward. Room was okay for an older ship. The room was much larger than those on the Norwegian Pearl, for comparison. There was ample closet space and the bathroom/shower space was fine. Our room was well maintained by Lydia and her crew. They even brought us a foam mattress overlay to make the bed more comfortable (actually two beds pushed together). No complaints about the room itself. As for its location on the ship, it made for a lot of stair climbing and walking to the back of the ship for meals or shows. This room was also quite noisy when arriving at ports, with all of the thruster engine noises, vibrations and rubbing up against piers in port. The noise was especially bad the morning we returned to New Orleans - woken up at about 4 - 4:30am with loud vibrations, squealing and the engine noises. The other downside of being on this floor was that we were the first group to leave the ship at 7:00am - 7:20am. Nice being off first but getting up early made for a very long travel day back to California.
The gym/spa on the ship was good size with plenty of equipment. We enjoyed reading outside of the coffee bar and in the Venezia lounge because both were relatively quiet and smoke free. Many other rooms on the ship were thick with smoke so we tried to stay away from those areas. We did not try any of the pools or hot tubs because these were in high demand throughout the cruise. The slide was good fun and really made for a good time with the kids on the ship. All in all, there seemed to be fewer community spaces on this ship compared to other ships we've been on. The atrium on the Triumph is impressively tall with easy access by stairs or elevator.
Favorites on the cruise were the two comedians, the newlywed show. The Carnival dancers were okay. The lead female had a wonderful voice. We did not get to see any magicians because they were delayed with the bad weather covering much of the northern US at the time.
We had the 8:15 traditional seating and ate on the upper level each night. We had great table mates from Kentucky and we had good conversation and laughs each night. Our wait staff was tremendous and really made our dining experience enjoyable despite the average food. I should start by saying that we are not really picky eaters and don't expect culinary perfection, not even close. However, compared to the Miracle, Norwegian Pearl and the Princess Sapphire, the food overall on the Triumph was...forgettable. The fruit on the ship was good, except for the sour oranges and inedible grapefruit the last day of sailing. We had a great Martini fish dish and an Italian chicken dish that were great. Two desserts stood out, the Chocolate melting cake and one caramel pastry that were quite good. The breakfast and lunch at the buffet were really average and the selection limited. Snacking opportunities on the ship seemed limited to three options: soft serve ice cream, burgers/hot dogs/fries, or the option of room service. After dinner snacks were not put out until 11:00 or 11:30pm. We had room service twice. The second was on the day of debarkation due to the 7:00am check-out time for our floor (self assist). The breakfast was tiny (one strawberry, one small piece each of melon, lukewarm coffee. Needless to say we went for a second small breakfast off of the ship.
Service on the ship was excellent and all of the Carnival staff we encountered on the ship were friendly and helpful. As was said earlier, our room stewards and wait staff were tremendous and really did their best to be sure we had a good experience and we are tremendously grateful to them.
PORTS OF CALL:
We stopped at Progreso and Cozumel. We took an Autoprogreso tour of Uxmal ruins about an 1 1/2 hour ride outside of progreso. We were very impressed by Uxmal and this was really the highlight of our tour. We booked the tour by emailing Autoprogreso because this tour was not listed on their site. It was $49.00 US which was cheaper than the ship. We had air conditioned transportation, English and Spanish speaking guide (Sophia). The tour did not provide any water or snacks so that was on our own at the Uxmal ruins or back in town at Progreso. The tour was very professional. We walked around 8 or so blocks in progress but did not really see the need to look around much more. Would have been nice to go to Merida but time did not allow. We were back on board the boat with plenty of time to spare - the tour returned us right to the shopping area next to the ships, on the 4-5 mile long pier.
We really had no plans in Cozumel so we shopped near the pier and then rented a tuk tuk (a kind of enclosed, three-wheeled motorcycle) for $45.00 US for the day. We used it to go to the ruins and around to the east side of the island, around Punta Sur and back to the town. Traffic was good we felt safe the entire time. As for shopping in either port, the prices are much better outside of the cruise line sponsored/built shopping adjacent to the ships.
We enjoyed our time in New Orleans though many parts of the city are very run down. The French Quarter was nice to visit during the day but we really don't feel the need to go back their specifically to visit...unless it would be to have a few more beignets at Cafe Du Monde. The french architecture of the Quarter and lower Garden district was beautiful. Transportation was very accessible and reasonable. As for the Triumph, we don't have any plans to travel on her again....only if an itinerary landed us on the ship in the future. Not much to do on board and the ship and not many places to hang out that did not allow smoking. I also think I would think twice about getting a room on the first level of the ship due to the noise and vibration in ports. We really don't have any desire to return to Progreso or Cozumel but would return to the Yucatan to see more ruins.