My mother (68) and I (49) drove from North Louisiana to New Orleans on Sept. 9, 2011, and spent the night at the Maison St. Charles Quality Inn in the Garden District, which is less than a 5 minute easy drive to the port. The room was about $70, plus $17 for parking and includes breakfast. We have found that it's much cheaper and quieter to stay in the Garden District and there is a trolley stop right outside of the hotel. For $1.25 you can ride to the French Quarter.
We arrived at the port around 9:30 Saturday morning. It's so nice to be a member of the VIP club. We had parked the car ($112 plus tax), checked in, and were waiting to board the ship in less than 45 minutes. We were on board and eating lunch before 11:30. The weather was beautiful and our vacation had officially begun.
We enjoy staying on the Lido Deck in a handicapped room, if possible. Those rooms are a little bit larger than the regular rooms and there is not a step up to get in the shower. We were allowed in the room about 1:30. Of course, we had to go to the safety drill at 3:30, but at least you don't have to take the life vest anymore. We were supposed to depart at 4:00, but for some reason we didn't leave until a little after 6:00.
We enjoy the main dining (6:00). In March, we tried the "Any Time Dining" but we didn't care for it. You don't get to know your waiter because you have a different one each night & they tend to rush you through the meals so that the next people can be seated. You also don't get to enjoy the singing and dancing with the wait staff. Our waiter was "Agus" in the Paris Dining Room and he was very good. He always remembered what we wanted to drink, what type of bread we liked, and that my favorite dessert was "Warm Chocolate Melting Cake", which I had every night. A couple of nights, he brought an additional dessert for me to try. The waiters also have to work during the day. Each time "Agus" would see us, he would stop and talk us. He even joined in a hand of dominoes one day. A good waiter makes all the difference in your dining experience!!!
We went to Belize, Roatan, and Cozumel, which we had done before. You have to take a tender at Belize, which was about a 25 minute ride. I don't know why we stopped so far away, but the ride was smooth and enjoyable. We walked around and shopped and had some chips, salsa and beer before coming back to the ship. We docked at the piers in Roatan and Cozumel. We walked into each port and shopped and came back to the ship for lunch. We put our swimsuits on and went back ashore to the beaches that were within walking distance. You can't get into the water at the small beach area in Cozumel, but that's fine with me. I really enjoy napping and reading my book more than actually getting into the water.
The food on the ship is not the type of food we normally eat, but we enjoy it while sailing. We really enjoyed the grilled ham & cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, chicken strips, and pizza. We could normally find something on the buffet that was good also. The menu in the formal dining room has changed. In the past, you got a four course meal, i.e. appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert. Now it's a three course meal, but you can still ask for a salad with your appetizer. Shrimp cocktail used to be offered every night - now only offered one time during the 7 day cruise. One thing I will suggest to Carnival - you ought to be able to list a preference as to being seated at a large table with different people, or request a table for just your group. My mother & I like to meet and talk to different people at dinner, but this time we were put a booth by ourselves.
We went to the family comedy acts and shows in the theater most every night. I really enjoyed the last night of the Legends Show. We also enjoyed listening to karaoke in the Rio Lounge. We normally like to sit around the pool area and eat breakfast & lunch, but this time the volume on the big screen TV was too loud. We found that it was much more pleasant to sit at the back of the ship and enjoy our meals.
Carnival added a Farewell Party on the last night of the cruise with the band playing and free drinks, which was very nice. It wasn't a lot of people at the party and the waiters were very liberal with the drinks. After several Whiskey Sours, I had to tell them that I didn't need anymore.
Our room steward was great. We gave him $10 when we first met him & asked that he keep our little ice chest filled with ice, which he did. He also spoke to us in the hall and called us by name and asked if we enjoyed our day. He definitely earned the additional money we gave him the last night of the cruise. The little things make for a much nicer cruise. Of course the alcohol prices were steep. I had a frozen drink which was almost $9 and a bucket of beer (16 oz) which was about $25. Photographers were always trying to take your picture, but you just learn to say no.
For debarkation, we always do self-assist. We were instructed to be in the London Dining Room at 6:45 Saturday morning. Upon arriving at 6:40, we were told we could go ahead and disembark. We were through customs, in our car, and leaving the parking garage before 7:00. This was the fastest, smoothest debarkation ever!!!
This was a very fun, relaxing cruise. The weather was beautiful, with the exception of one afternoon. I love the size of the Triumph. As long as you remember that you can't walk from the front of the ship to the back of the ship on Decks 3 & 4, you will do fine. After dry dock, the Triumph will be moved from New Orleans to Galveston. I look forward to sailing on the Triumph in the future!!!