General Comments: This was our second short (4-day) cruise out of Galveston in recent years. Our last Carnival cruise from Galveston was on the Ecstasy which we enjoyed very much. Our group consisted of 4 siblings in their 50's. Two of the siblings, including myself, had cruised on Carnival and other ships a number of times. This was the first cruise for the other two siblings.
Embarkation: While the line to check-in was long, it moved well and this embarkation was a much better experience than our previous Carnival embarkation in Galveston in 2009. It took about one hour from the time we got in line until we were walking up the gangplank. Everything was well-organized and the Carnival personnel were both friendly and helpful.
The Ship: I understand the decor of this ship is supposed to be "Great Vacation Spots of the World", but it seemed like a hodgepodge of American and European names. Mainly it was as I expected--a lot of neon and glitz (and there's nothing wrong with that). I thought it a bit odd that games were played and music was performed in the corridor adjacent to the casino. You had folks walking between the musicians and the audience and you had people walking through the trivia games shouting out the answers. I don't know why Carnival couldn't find a lounge for both the musicians and the game-players.
Safety Drill: As a result of the recent sinking of the Carnival-owned Costa Concordia, I expected to have a well-organized safety drill. It was anything but that. First, while there was a note in the stateroom about the time of the safety drill, there was no on-board announcement to let passengers know to get ready for the drill. Second, passengers were not required to bring their life jackets so I imagine that most passengers never found them in their room. (Unlike other cruises I have taken, the life jacket was not easily found in the closet and there was no sign in the room saying where it was. I just happened to discover them in a storage compartment at the foot of the bed. Our compartment was often covered with luggage, clothes, and towels so it would have been difficult to retrieve in a real emergency. ) Third, once we got to our muster station, people were talking; babies were crying; and little attention was being paid to the staff member conducting the drill. What a useless exercise this was!
Stateroom: We had a mid-ship interior cabin and, as advertised, it is more spacious than the interior cabins on other cruise ships. The space was well organized so I felt that we had more than enough space in this cabin. I liked this cabin and its location very much.
Dining: We opted for the My Time Dining as I had used this option on a recent Princess Cruise and it had worked out well us then. But, the My Time Dining on the Triumph worked out even BETTER than on the Princess. First, our party of four never had to wait to be seated, unlike the 10-15 minute waits we encountered on Princess. Second, the hostess took our room numbers before seating us to make sure that we actually were booked for My Time Dining. On the Princess, folks who had chosen an assigned dining time would slip into the My Time Dining Room (no checks by the hostess) which is probably one reason we had to often wait for a table. Third, there were plenty of 2-person and 4-person tables in the My Time Dining Room (part of the London Dining Room), so we never had to be seated with strangers at dinner. It was nice to know that our family could always sit by ourselves and be as silly as we wanted to be. Although we had a different wait staff each evening , they were all excellent and, except for the final evening, they kept things moving at a good pace.
One note about "Elegant Evening", the new designation for "Formal Night"--I don't know if it was because it was a Carnival cruise or a short cruise or a cruise out of Texas, but I did not see one woman in a full-length gown or one man in a tuxedo. Most (but not all) of the dining room patrons were dressed up a bit but there was nothing really fancy. So if you plan to "dress-to-the-nines" on this cruise, you will likely be somewhat out-of-place.
Food: I am a fan of the food on Carnival and we did not have a bad meal the entire time that we were on board. After fighting the crowds on the first day at the Lido's breakfast buffet, we chose to have breakfast in the dining room on the subsequent days--a wise decision. The food and the ambiance were so much better in the dining room. Lunches were in the Lido and we enjoyed the variety of food. The pizza, Chinese noodles and deli sandwiches were big favorites and we did not encounter long lines for these special choices. The regular buffet line offered a different option each day as well--Caribbean, French or Italian. The dinner choices were always good and our party particularly liked the appetizers. In fact, one of us even had an all-appetizer meal (3 of them) one evening. (Don't miss the strawberry soup!)
Activities and Entertainment: This was one aspect of the cruise that I felt was lacking. My last cruise had been on Princess and there were so many fun things to do each day that it was a challenge to organize myself so I could do most of them. Many of the activities seem to involve spending money (e.g. Bingo) or buying art, neither of which I was willing to do. We did participate in some of the trivia games which were fun, but there were only a few of them and were held in a hallway which wasn't particularly enjoyable. The final show of the cruise, The Big Easy, was cancelled due to rough waves, but they never made an announcement about it--we learned only because we came in late and there was no singing and dancing going on. (In fact, that was one of my gripes about the cruise--the lack of communication. The safety drill wasn't announced, the arrival in port wasn't announced, the cancellation of the show wasn't announced, etc.) One entertainer that I suggest you NOT miss is the sleight-of-hand magician, Berman (a Carnival dining staff member!) who performs in the hallway by the California Wine Bar at 11pm. (Another case of entertainment in the halls.) He is absolutely amazing!
Fitness: The ship has a great fitness room with loads of equipment, most of which face the picture windows to the sea. The fitness room is only open until 10pm, but they didn't kick me out when I was working out past closing time, which was nice. I went to the fitness room at least once a day and it was never crowded--you should be able to get on any machine you want.
Debarkation: We were taking our own bags off the ship, so we did self-debarkation. On our last Carnival cruise, it was chaotic and it took us forever to debark. This time, we were ready to go with the first group and even though our deck was supposed to go later in the morning, we went with the first group. We quickly got through Customs and Immigration and were set to go home by 9am.
Best Surprise--There is no longer a "Captain's Reception" on Elegant Night. Instead there is a "Fun Farewell Party" held in one of the lounges at 5pm on the final sea day. It was listed in the Fun Times, but not highlighted, so there really weren't many people there. That's a shame because the drinks flowed freely and the band from the nighttime shows and a great singer performed for an hour. The music was great and folks enjoyed dancing too. Don't miss it!
Worst Surprise--The Starlight Theatre. This huge screen TV blared juvenile movies incredibly loudly. Perhaps this is a popular feature for families, but for this 50+ person, it was just the most annoying thing ever. It kept me from enjoying the pool in that area and I am so glad that the ship on my next Carnival cruise doesn't have it!