My wife and I left the kids behind this time for a low-key relaxing cruise for two. We flew into Houston Hobby airport the night before, rented a car and stayed near NASA not quite half way to Galveston. We like to avoid lines, so we arrived at the port at around 2:00. There were still pretty long lines but we later found that there had been a computer problem that had held things up.
Upon boarding, we found the ship to be much more tastefully decorated than some other Carnival ships that we have cruised on in the past. Our stateroom was a little dated, but had a great balcony on the back of the ship. I'm still not sure who our cabin steward was. I introduced myself to one person who was around quite a bit and he was very friendly, especially when he realized that I remembered his name. But, there was another steward around who may have been assigned to us - just not sure as neither of them told us. We were wiped out on our first night and wanted to get to bed a little early around 11 p.m. At that point we realized that our room was located over Club Rio, the karaoke bar and things were just kicking into high gear down there. This wasn't muffled noise - we could literally sing along in our room as our floor vibrated and thumped underneath us. Needless to say, we had a discussion with guest services who assured us that was the only karaoke night in Club Rio. Technically, they were right, but a band-accompanied almost-karaoke was hosted most other nights. Since we hadn't slept the night before, we decided to take an afternoon nap. That's when band rehearsal started. We heard the entire country show word for word, so maybe the upside is that we didn't have to actually attend the show later in the evening. After speaking with guest services, they offered us another room on a different floor with a smaller balcony. By this time, we had adapted our schedules to the sounds below and didn't want to pack up/unpack again and give up our larger balcony. The guest services people were very accommodating and called to check on us regularly, even giving us a discount on our room at the end of the cruise. I have listed our cabin number in this review and took a shot at cabin class although I was guessing a little on that. Buyer beware if you book over Club Rio, unless you stay up very late anyway. Don't let your travel agent upsell you on that like ours did.
The ship's deckplan is a little awkward in that it is very difficult to traverse the ship on one floor. We often would attempt to move across the ship only to find that we had to go up or down and then across and back up or down. Naturally, we got the hang of this with only a couple of days left on the ship. We liked the pool area with the large tv screen and graduated seating that made it easy to view the screen despite large numbers of people milling around.
Dining on the ship was mixed. We were assigned to the late seating in the Paris dining room. Our waiters were very rushed and, although pleasant, didn't take time to get to know us and hurried us along. Our plates were routinely placed brusquely and forcefully in front of us. Also, the menu wasn't quite up to par with what we had experienced in the past. The food was good though, and due to the sometimes sparse menu selections, I did order things I wouldn't have otherwise and ultimately enjoyed most of them.
Lido dining was typical lido dining, with the buffet of the day, pizza, or burgers and dogs. The lines weren't as long as some that I have experienced in the past on Carnival, but I find that Royal and Celebrity seem to manage these better. I did like their specialty selections - the deli, asian food station, and italian food. All were pretty good.
We didn't attend many of the live entertainment events on the ship, especially since we heard many of them right from the comfort of our own room. However, we do look forward to the evening shows as a potential highlight of our trip. The shows on Triumph lacked pizzaz and just didn't do it for us. That's the first time that we've felt that way on a cruise. The singers, particularly the female, were talented, but just underutlized. The shows in general were just not put together well and we ended up leaving the Christmas show after about 10 minutes. We did enjoy the party for returning guests a little more. It probably didn't hurt that drinks and apps were free and there was a waiter standing by about every ten feet. The singing was pretty decent and this show was a little more fun. All in all, though, this was an area of disappointment for us.
The casino was pretty typical, but consistent with what I had heard in some forum posts prior to cruising, and from fellow cruisers, the payouts were pretty stingy. I suppose that's to be expected when there's no competition.
As is often the case, the staff on the ship were mixed in terms of service and attitude. My sense from the stewards and waiters was that they were rushed, which they probably were. We found many of the employees in the shops to be rude, but not all of them. The front desk staff, however, were mostly very helpful and, as I mentioned earlier, were good at following up to ensure they had done their best to resolve issues.
Our cruise was delayed due to fog (not Carnival's fault - the port was closed) so we debarked 11 hours later than expected, missing our flight. But, the communication from Carnival was very good and people were allowed to continue to use their staterooms. Breakfast and lunch were served on Lido and in the dining rooms, and karaoke, movies, and other activities were available. They also allowed those of us with flights to use the front desk phones to try to make alternate arrangements. I can't speak for the poor guests who were waiting to board, but from our perspective Carnival handled the situation very well.
Debarkation was about as smooth as could be expected when everyone is half a day late. We opted for self-assist debarkation and were only slowed down by those who had checked their bags, were supposed to wait, but decided to crowd the stairs anyway. Ironically, an employee who had been rude to us earlier on the cruise redeemed herself (to us anyway) by very assertively requiring them to wait to descend until those of us who had been called and had been waiting were able to clear the area.
We had planned to take a cab to the airport but were able to purchase transfer vouchers outside after debarkation for $30 each, which turned out to be less than the cab would have been (around $90 plus tip - more if there is traffic).
All in all, this was not one of our best cruise experiences. Had we been in a different room from the beginning and the entertainment better, I would rate it better. Triumph is a pretty decent ship and overall an ok cruise experience. But, overall it seems that Carnival's quality is declining and we'll probably opt for another cruise line next time or perhaps look at an all-inclusive resort instead.