So far, I've cruised both Royal Caribbean and Carnival. This was my 4th Carnival cruise. In the past, I've always found the food on Carnival to be much better than the food on Royal Caribbean. However, this trip was quite a disappointment in that arena.
Let me start by saying this. Just over 1 year ago, I found out that I have allergies to dairy and to gluten, along with onions and mint. In February, my husband and I took a cruise on Carnival Elation. At that time, the list of foods that I was allowed to eat was quite limited. Once I boarded the ship, I was told that if I ate all meals in the dining room, the chefs would be able to accommodate my needs. The entire dining room staff, including the chefs were quite happy to work with me. In fact, they did a fantastic job, and I was always given a meal that both tasted good and that I could eat. Not only that, the Elation had a stir-fry area for lunch on the pool deck. The chefs there were also happy to accommodate me and cook up something that I could eat. Furthermore, on that ship, the hamburgers and french fries were gluten free. (The chef checked and verified that for me.) Therefore, on a day when we were in a port, I was able to come back onto the ship and have a quick late afternoon snack that was allergy friendly. (We had a later dinner seating so a snack was necessary.)
With all of that being said, my experience on the Triumph was completely the opposite. Let me start by saying that I am now allowed to eat a huge variety of foods. My list of allowable foods is MUCH longer than it was when I cruised in February. First, Asta, who worked in the dining room tried her best, but the chefs didn't seem to be motivated to make any food that tasted good, or that was properly prepared. Almost every meal that I ate in the dining room took 2-3x as long because our waiter would bring something out that tasted awful and didn't resemble real food, or it would contain something that I couldn't eat. Mealtimes were very stressful and frustrating for me, and I'm sure that our friends who were cruising with us didn't appreciate it when dinner would take an extra hour because my food was always wrong.
I kept asking for chocolate, and kept being told they couldn't do anything for me. I knew better though because my mother-in-law and sister-in-law had just taken a Carnival cruise and the chef made them gluten free flourless chocolate cake each night. Finally, on the third night, our waiter brought out a gluten free/dairy free flourless chocolate, which was fabulous. I did have this dessert for the 3 nights that the chef made it for me. In fact, it was the only food item that I looked forward to eating on those days. Just wish it had been available to me starting on night one.
Carnival gets enough guests with food allergies, that the chefs should prepare a gluten free flourless cake every night, just like they offer the chocolate melting cake each night. It should just be a part of their daily dessert menu. After all, they always offer sugar free desserts.
I also had an experience at lunch in the dining room where I ordered gluten free/dairy free avocado soup. What was served to me looked like green gloop, and it tasted of alcohol and burned going down. My husband located the maitre d, and she went to the kitchen to check. Sure enough, my dish contained nothing but avocado, Tequila (yes, tequila), and lime!!! For the record, I don't drink. I REALLY didn't appreciate that!!! How dare the chef assume that I'm OK with alcohol!!!! This was just one of many TERRIBLE dining experiences I had while on Triumph.
Furthermore, I found out that there was nothing except for lettuce, tomato, carrots, and mushrooms that I could eat from the buffet on the Lido deck. It turns out that on this cruise, the burgers and fries were not gluten free, and there was also no stir-fry station on the pool deck where I could have a quick gluten free meal.
There are so many companies who make gluten free/dairy free french fries, cookies, breads, etc... I don't understand why Carnival doesn't provide a gluten free area on its buffet. Carnival provides sugar free alternatives. They really need to start providing gluten/dairy free alternatives as well! They do have soy milk, but they don't provide it in the buffet area, only in the dining room. Actually, there is now a better alternative to soy milk,and that is coconut milk. It's made by a company called So Coconut. There is even a coconut creamer by that company. Carnival should offer both alternatives in the buffet area.
I'm highly disappointed that Carnival makes no effort to accommodate guests with food allergies outside of the dining room. There are many times on a cruise when a guest with food allergies is not able to eat in the main dining room, for example: When I re-board the ship after an excursion, there is nothing and nowhere for me to eat until my late seating dinner, but I, like the rest of the guests would like to have a snack/small meal in the late afternoon to tide me over. Another time when I am not able to eat in the main dining room is Day 1 of the cruise. If we board the ship at lunchtime, I have nothing to eat until 8:15PM. That's completely unacceptable!!! It would be easy enough for Carnival to provide gluten free and gluten free/dairy free pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs,french fries, cookies, crackers, etc... in the buffet area for guests with allergies. Mealtimes equaled high stress times for me, and that shouldn't be the case when you are on vacation.
I also had one other horrible experience that really ticked me off on this cruise. It was late afternoon/early evening. My husband and I were laying in lounge chairs in the back pool area, which was the "adults only" area on this cruise. I was sleeping when I felt water falling on top of me. It turns out that the INCONSIDERATE crew was washing the top deck and then pushing/sweeping the filthy water over the deck onto the deck/people below. They didn't give a rip that they were doing it either! I was furious!!! I try really hard to avoid situations that will make me ill on a ship, and thanks to these idiots who showed no care or concern for the passengers, I was exposed to who knows what. I did report this to guest services. They did call and ask if I needed to see the doctor. Thankfully, I didn't get sick. Regardless, this NEVER should have happened. Most of the crew on this ship was quite rude!!!! Highly disappointing!!!
Another thing I didn't really enjoy about the cruise is the area where they held the trivia games and karaoke. Normally these activities take place in an area that is enclosed, such as in one of the lounges. On this ship, these activities were held in an open walkway area. It was difficult to hear trivia questions/music, and it was really just a strange and awkward setting...and once again, the staff conducting those activities wasn't dynamic at all, unlike the experiences that I've had on past cruises. Once again very disappointing.
This ship also didn't have any shaded pool areas. All other ships on which I've sailed provided a shaded adults only area. I have very fair skin, and I can't just bake in the sun all day. All I can say is disappointing.
Three good things I can say about this ship. Our cabin steward was wonderful. He kept our cabin cleaned and our bed made. The second good thing was that there was a fabulous live band with a fantastic singer, one of the best live bands I've ever heard on a cruise ship. The third good thing was the Vegas magic act. That was actually the best cruise ship show I've ever seen!
Overall, I enjoyed my vacation because I was able to spend it with my family and friends. I loved the days in port. However, I'm not inclined to sail on the Triumph again, and I'm a little frustrated with Carnival for not providing gluten free/dairy free options on the buffet.
Not sure when I'm cruising again. We normally would cruise in February, but I'm not sure if we will do that in 2012 because of this experience.