First, a short background on me/us to give a sense of perspective:
1) this was our third cruise vacation
2) I travel with a Significant Other (SO) and friends (ages 16-mid 40's)
3) my SO & I are not 'high maintenance' (we love canoeing, camping, hiking, roughing it, adventure, good times!)
4) we might consider ourselves 'foodies'
5) we are not heavy drinkers (most in our party not at all) or smokers
Now for the review:
This cruise departing the port of New Orleans on 9/17/11. Embarkation and muster was without incident.....to us. Apparently the ship had some (engine, I heard?) troubles and we did not leave port until 6:30-7pm, a full 2.5-3 hours after schedule. That would not and probably did not matter to the majority of the folks on the ship but we were very interested in seeing the Mississippi River on our way out to sea, which takes several hours to navigate. We did get to see the ship turn around in the Mississippi, which was fascinating and then very shortly thereafter, we watched the sun set over New Orleans. We really didn't get to see much sailing down the Mississippi because it was very dark in short order. No matter! On to dinner!
We had a late seating in the Paris Dining Room which is the aft-most dining room. Unfortunately for us, our rooms were in the most forward section of the ship. They have another Dining Room, the London, which was also forward, so why we weren't placed there was, and remains a mystery. Perhaps they wanted to give us the opportunity to walk off our meals, both prior to eating them and after? Thank you for that one....I think.
Our table for six was situated in the most odd section of the dining room. It was out of view of everything and everyone and separating us from the remainder of the dining room was a large wall/partition. Had we been two people on a romantic holiday, it would have suited but perfectly but as it was, our table of six, who is always ready to join in and dance (we're ballroom dancers too) to the unique and mostly off-key stylings of the Maitre d' was left sitting and straining our necks to see if each other could see anything at all. Because of our table location, we never so much as laid eyes on the Maitre d'. He never roved from the middle of the room where, I suspect, most people could see him. His disembodied voice filled the room, however, and was very, VERY loud. Too loud. To his credit, our waiter was at least attentive.
He had to be. To make up for the food. Ugh. The food on this ship was, how shall I put it? .....Not good. Ignore the fact that we were traveling with friends who have extreme food allergies. The food for those of us without allergies was just plain, tasteless and under par. There was one chef in the buffet area, forget his name, that was responsible one night for making the most incredible shrimp & calamari fritters. Loved those. Everything else: bleck. Ok, no, the gulf shrimp in the Paris dining room was passable good. The desserts were all too sweet, the vegetables mushy and the only thing I really, really enjoyed about the dining room meals was the coffee at the end of each meal. On this trip, too, I put the single worst tasting thing in my mouth that I've ever had the displeasure of eating. No worries though, you won't get it. It was a gluten free avocado soup that the chef made for my traveling companion that he put raw tequila in, ostensible, "for flavor". Everyone at the table tasted it in order to reassure my friend that no, it was not "just her" and nearly gagged. One other thing about the food/drink on this ship. When the label says "Creamer", Buyer Beware, it is NOT 'creamer' but Half & Half instead. I am lactose intolerant and so opted for the one island that consistently had 'creamer' available. It said "Creamer" clearly on the label yet I found out 4 days into the cruise that I had been unknowingly loading my coffee down with Half & Half instead. NOT cool, people!
No matter! On to the shows!
The Love & Marriage game the 2nd to last day on the ship was excellent, many great laughs there. The Vegas style Magic show was Superb! We also did the Charades game the last day at sea. The guy that headed it up was a lot of fun and I hate to say it (but I will) but the whole game seemed to be a huge opportunity for him to show off his charades skills rather than letting the passengers try their hand at it. Oh, the cruises got to do about 5 per side of the room (team) but then he took over and all we did was pick cards for him to perform. Got old quick. The karaoke was fun, always is, but they had it in what could be described as none other than a hallway. The whole set up was just weird. It was a tiny stage set up on one side of a hallway and the folks watching where shoved between a bar & the casino. People were walking between the singer and audience non-stop which led to a disjointed feel. Not that it didn't help me out personally. I sung terrible karaoke and the distractions of people walking by probably did me a huge favor! This was the same location that they decided to hold the Trivia games. Again, weird. The stage faced one way but the only seating was down the hallway. If you were unlucky enough to get a seat farther down the hall, you couldn't hear a blessed thing for Trivia. After being told by many people that they couldn't hear, the girl running it suggested those folks just "move closer". Seriously? If there was closer seating, it was occupied already. Hmmmm.....
No matter! On to the excursions!
We did not book excursions through the ship so I really can't speak to those. We usually find those overpriced and not worth the money and prefer to do things on our own. We hired a driver (William Lawson's) to take us to see the Cenotes in Progreso and hired Eagle Ray Divers to take us snorkeling in Cozumel. Both were excellent adventures. What I CAN speak to is getting on & off the ship. That's always a toss up based on weather conditions, etc. but on the Triumph it was basically easy and worry free. We had to wait to get off the ship in Cozumel but not long.
Getting a taxi in Cozumel was easy, however, make SURE you ask the driver how much BEFORE you load up. They tend to just 'shoot from the hip' about prices there and none of the cars have meters, so ask up front or you may be in for an ugly surprise after you reach your destination. As for Progreso, the pier is 5 kms or 4 miles long. They tell you, no worries, they have a Free Shuttle to take you to into town. Here's what they don't tell you: The shuttle will leave when it is full. I'm guessing that they don't want to use up gas going 4 miles for a half-full bus but it caused us a bit of an issue when we scheduled to meet our excursion at 7:30 (we were able to get off the boat at 7:00am, as planned) and the free shuttle did not leave from it's spot until 7:30am. We sat on the pier, inside a non-air conditioned shuttle for 30 whole minutes while they waited for it to fill up. ACK! So, when they tell you that you have from 7am until 4pm in Progreso, well, not really. You have from when they decide to move the shuttle until when they decide to move the shuttle back. The driver seemed to not understand English when we explained we had to meet someone in town at 7:30am. When I stepped up and explained in Spanish, he seemed not to understand that either.
No matter! On to the Casinos!
We don't gamble much but I lost $20 and made $18 at the automated Black Jack table. The whole thing is run by computer and we liked it. Also, much of the casino is non-smoking now, so that fell underneath our heading of "we like it!" We spent a couple hours in the casino for a few bucks and felt it was worth it completely for the fun we had and the people we met.
Now, on to the room!
Our room steward was great. I was going to say only 'good' because we kept failing to get the room service slips every night (and room service was the only way to get a bagel with lox aside from the dining room) but alas, I actually found them on our last night, hidden by our clothes on a hook, so my bad. I had covered them up. After that, the room steward was elevated to 'great' in our minds. He was on top of it completely...bed was always made and the toilet paper had the tell-tale triangle in it, letting me know he'd been there more times than not.
The only thing we did not like about our room location is that we had Smoky the Bandit two doors down and he smoked incessantly, as is his right to do in his own cabin, at least until 12/1/11. Trouble was, when he opened his door (to air it out?), all the smoke that had built up inside came ushering out into the hallway. I don't know how the fire alarms didn't go off. It was like going through a fog to get to our rooms but honestly, once in the room, we never smelled a thing.
We did however see many, many people smoking at the front of the ship, as though the "smoking on a designated side" edict did not pertain to the front for some reason. The front of the ship doesn't have sides? Too, there were countless cigarette ash "circles" everywhere on the Triumph where smokers had gone out to smoke one and ended the cigarette ON the ship itself. Seriously? There was a little alcove at the front of the ship, just out of eyesight of the captains area, where cruisers "hid" to smoke. It had hundreds of ash marks. Made us wonder if the cigarettes had gone over board, which is also against the rules. There seemed to be no enforcement of any of the 'rules' in this regard. All in all, the people who worked on this ship seemed not to care about too much. I could barely get eye contact from any of them. It was just weird.
Now on to the........well, I guess that's it, isn't it?
Overall, we had a good time, I just wouldn't call it great. Of the 3 cruises, this one would be rated the worst, unfortunately. I give it a mediocre score for those things discussed above. We tried very hard to see passed them and enjoy ourselves which for the most part we were able to do but on holiday, how much to you really want to struggle to look passed?