We are not new to cruising. This was our first Carnival experience and I have to say, it will likely be our last.
I think the word that best decribes our experience indifferent. But, I want to start with the good parts.
Our room stewards were simply awesome and I felt good overtipping them this morning. They took care of things without being asked (like placing an ashtray on the balcony) and made a special effort to engage the kids. If you are a cynic, you can make the argument that I fell for it when tipping but I choose to hold on to the notion that they were genuine people. If there is anyone who works harder on these ships, I don't know who it is.
The kids clubs were pretty good and I have to say both of mine enjoyed their experiences. Kudos to those departments.
Debarkation in Galveston worked well. Good job there.
Ok, the bad:
- Family Atmosphere: You need a family pool area. No alcohol service. I cannot believe what my children had to hear from drunken slobs and slobettes that felt the need to express themselves openly. Those actions are not the ship's responsibility but surely the cruiseline managers know how their passengers will act when they have been drinking for two straight days. If you want the family crowd, you need to be considerate of the family sensibilities.
- Food: I would have paid double for something hot, even moderately warm. It didn't matter whether it was a buffet or a restaurant, food was uniformly cold. Also, uniformly tasteless. Really, guys, I know you are trying to offer a different-from-home culinary experience but you are over-thinking things. You might do better taking things like frog legs off the menu (though they weren't bad) and focusing on a few truly extraordinary dishes that will wow your guests. What we got was basic fare that had been fancified to look and sound better than it was. Also, if you cannot cook lobster properly, do not serve it.
- Restaurant: I don't need to be entertained while eating and, honestly, ended up sitting in the dining room for 2 hours every night and missing the shows and activities that I wanted to see. I would rather have better food, served hot than a show of dancing waitstaff, a Maitre D' comedy routine or even parading the chefs around for applause.
- Pools: Maybe newer vessels have larger pools but the Triumph has 3 very small pools. (Waterslide: great idea. Loved it.) Also, when did the whirlpools become unofficial kiddie pools? Not cool.
- Music: Background music is fine. But the music on the pool deck is so loud that you cannot have a conversation. I had my iPod on full volume and couldn't hear it over the music from the ship. This repeated itself in the restaurants, the Capitol Lobby and other venues.
- Photographers: By the second day of our cruise, I was tempted to do physical harm to the next person who offered to take my picture. Seriously. Too much. And not in the dining room. Photos are too expensive.
- Security: I reboarded the Triumph in Cozumel without being asked for my sign & sail card or my photo ID. Also got screamed at by a security officer while disembarking in Cozumel for bringing my mother-in-law down to the exit deck on an elevator. Fortunately, after I explained that she cannot handle 3 flights of steps, his superior stepped in an allowed her to exit the elevator.
- Elevators: At least 2-3 were out of service at any given time. We had to allow an additional 10 minutes to get from point A to Point B for that alone. Not good.
- Entertainment: Um, boring. Yeah, very very boring. Bad comedy, truly horrid "Broadway" style shows and, frankly, not much else. I don't know what else to say here.
All of this is to say, if you want to sail from Galveston, spend the extra money on the Royal Caribbean cruise (or Disney when they arrive.) Better value for money and, in general, a better operation.