Carnival Triumph - Western Caribbean: Carnival Triumph Cruise Review by robntawn
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Triumph - Western Caribbean
Destination: Western Caribbean
We always try to More start our trips a day early in order to prevent any last minute snafus. We live in Sacramento and the cruise left out of Miami. We are a family of 6 traveling together. I started investigating airfares 6-8 months prior to departure, and found the best deal on Jet Blue from Oakland to Fort Lauderdale. Airfare was $350 apiece, and the flight is nonstop. The flight was very smooth and we had plenty of legroom. They provided full sodas and lots of snacks, but no meals. We even got an overnight travel pack consisting of an eye shade, chapstick, and free headphones.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale feeling refreshed at 0730 on 4/14/06. I wanted to save money on transportation, so we rented a minivan through Avis, picked it up at the airport, and arranged for return at the newly opened downtown Miami office on SE 2nd Street. Total daily cost was $83, including taxes and all fees. For those of you wondering about transportation and storage, we had 6 full grown people, 10 suitcases, and 7 carry-on bags fitted into the minivan!
We had reservations at the Hyatt Regency but our rooms were not available until after 2pm, so we dropped off our luggage with the Bell Desk and grabbed some breakfast. We then drove down the Tamiani Highway to Gator Park for some tourist activity! We werent too impressed with Gator Park. It seemed run down, and was quite expensive for what you got. We paid $20 apiece and got a cool airboat ride into the swamps. The first part of the ride was real slow and the guide pointed out iguanas, fish, and a few gators. Then he opened up the engine and we took an exhilarating ride further into the Everglades&that part was pretty fun! Then, we turned around and went back to the dock. Total boat time--about 30 minutes. There was also a show and some exhibits, but they seemed hokey. It was okay for a first time tourist or for small children, but I wouldnt recommend it for anyone else. We left and had plans to continue on to Shark Valley, but the trip caught up with us and we decided to go back to the hotel and get some rest instead. On the way back, we stopped at The Pit Barbecue for lunch. Pretty reasonable prices, somewhat small portions, and a rustic environment.
When we got back to the Hyatt, there was a problem with our rooms. I had booked 2 rooms through Priceline 4 months ago for $100 apiece. I had called the Hyatt numerous times leading up to our trip just to ensure we had 2 adjoining rooms, preferably on a high floor with a bay view. They were always very polite and told me not to worry, even though nothing is guaranteed with Priceline requests. Well, when we tried to check in there were no adjoining rooms. The clerk called over a supervisor and he apologized, and then upgraded us at no charge into the 26th floor Panorama suite. This was great customer service! Our rooms had great views, and there was plenty of room for everyone. The grounds and pool area were quite nice, and for the price we paid, we were very pleased! We were right downtown--very close to the Port of Miami, and only 6 blocks from Bayside Marketplace.
At 7pm we went to the Hard Rock and met part of our group. Ron and Debbie (rfendt), Chris and Boo, and their 4 children all showed up. Introductions were made and we had a good dinner inside. It was Chris birthday, so Ron and Debbie had the staff sing Happy Birthday in front of everyone. Pretty funny stuff! We said Good Night about 9:30 and walked back to our hotel. It seemed pretty safe, but there is a lot of construction and traffic, so use your judgment! It had been a tiring day, so off to sleep so we could start our cruise on Saturday!
Saturday morning came way too early, but my wife and I got up at 0700 and took a walk around downtown. We wanted to grab some breakfast at Don Pan, but it wasnt open, so we settled for Subway instead. We went back to the hotel and woke up the teenagers, and we all ate breakfast. Everyone got packed up and showered, and we got the car loaded up. We went to the port of Miami and dropped off our baggage first, and this was a great idea! We tipped the porter $20 and headed back to drop off the car at the Avis site on SE 2nd Street, but decided to fill up the gas tank first. It took us a while to find a gas station and we got lost trying to find our way back, so we didnt get it dropped off until 11:00 am. Now, remember when I told you that we rented a car to save on transportation costs? Well, it seemed like a good deal on paper, but we ran into a few extra expenses. There was the $26 valet parking charge, the $25 gas fill-up, and we had to pay an extra day of rental because we had the car for a full 24-hour day, AND an extra 3 hours. So it ended up costing us over $220 for our transportation! Keep this in mind when comparing costs!
Anyway, we took a taxi back over to the Port (I think it was $12), and headed inside at 11:30 am. There were a few lines, but it wasnt too bad. After reading numerous reviews on Cruise Critic, we made sure we stopped at the restroom before we went through the security checkpoint. This was a good idea, because there werent many other opportunities to do so until we got aboard the ship. Just a quick note here regarding wine and champagne. We brought 4 bottles of wine and 1 bottle of champagne with us, and carried it aboard in one of those cardboard duty-free liquor boxes from a previous cruise. We sent it through the security checkpoint X-ray machine, but nobody asked to see inside the box at all. I had filled out our demographic information online before we came (on the Carnival website), and I also filled out the credit card form prior to coming as well. This really expedited our check-in, and we went to get our Sail and Sign cards. This only took a few moments, and then it was upstairs to get our picture and get boarded! Total time from start to finish was 45 minutes. ABOARD THE TRIUMPH:
Once aboard, we got our first look at the lobby. Wow! It is a real breathtaking site. There was plenty of wood and chrome, and the colors were quite festive. There was some nice piano music playing, and everyone was smiling and welcoming us aboard our home for the next week. Immediately after boarding, we headed across the other side of the room to the Pursers Desk so that we could get our cards punched and change some rooms around.
We had booked 3 cabins for our family. Because of Carnivals booking rules, we had to book one of the boys with me in the balcony, while my wife was booked with the other boy in an inside cabin about 6 cabins down the hall. The 2 teenage girls were in the adjoining inside cabin. The purser cheerfully switched my wife and our son without any hassle whatsoever. She also made extra keys for the teenagers rooms for us, just so we could keep tabs on them. Luckily for us, our kids are very trustworthy, but we wanted to hold the threat of bed checks over their heads! Of course, it also helped having 3 families in our Cruise Critic group right across from them!
We headed upstairs to the Lido deck for lunch since our rooms werent ready yet. The kids enjoyed the buffet, my wife went to the Hong Kong Noodle House, and I tried the Reuben at the NY Deli. The buffet line was very long, but the food was fresh and plentiful. There were no lines at all for the deli or noodle house. One thing to keep in mind--we were expecting separate stations for the deli and noodle house, but they are actually just openings in the wall around the sides of the buffet. You have to study your deck plan to figure this out.
That also reminds me of another observation. The Triumph has some very hard-to-read signage. They use this fiber optic signage that is inset into the wall right above the location. It is real easy to miss these signs initially, especially when the color cycles into something similar to the underlying wall. Once we realized this and studied our deck plan, it became easier though.
After we dropped off our bags and got settled into the room, we went exploring. The Triumph is in good shape, and looked quite clean during our trip. We did not see any really frayed carpets, stains, or poor housekeeping. The glass elevators in the foyer were beautiful and offered an expansive view around the interior of the ship. As a general rule, we tend not to use the elevators during our cruise, but we just had to try these out. Our biggest gripe with this ship is that there are a lot of dead spaces on Decks 3 and 4. We tried to traverse the entire ship but invariably got stopped between the London and Paris dining rooms. This was very frustrating and continued on the entire cruise. Just when we thought we had the deck plan figured out, we would get stuck again. This was easily remedied by going down to Deck 2 or up to Deck 5, which ran the entire length of the ship, but it was inconvenient. This was not that big of a deal, but it did get old after awhile!
We also liked the pool areas aboard the Triumph. The main pool has 2 attached hot tubs and a bar nearby, and the surrounding decks are cantilevered for different seating heights all with a view of the pool and its activities. A reggae band plays above the pool, and the infamous funnel deck is above that. Interestingly, whenever I looked up at the funnel deck from the pool area, all I ever saw was a lot of guys looking down at the pool area. We didnt make it up there to sit, but I thought it was funny seeing nothing but guys up there!
The Lido buffet is inside, and through the buffet is the New World pool (Aft Pool) as well as a bar and the pizzeria. The aft pool area has a retractable roof but we had perfect weather all cruise and didnt need to close it. The one real complaint I have is that the Aft Bar and pizzeria are both located on the Port side, which is supposed to be non-smoking. As you can imagine, the proximity of the bar and the open air added up to many people smoking, to the detriment of those trying to enjoy a smoke-free meal at the pizzeria.
The gym and spa were at the front of the ship, and were very well laid out. There were separate dressing rooms, and each had a steam room and dry sauna with ocean views, and there were also adult-only whirlpools in the gym area. The equipment was in good shape, and they offered numerous exercise classes, including aerobics, spin cycles, and yoga. We did not get any spa services, but they offered the usual array of massages, wraps, and beauty treatments.
The teen center was above the gym, as well as the entrance for the water slide. Our teens had high hopes for the Club O2, but didnt spend a lot of time there. The water slide stayed busy most of the cruise, and sadly we did not participate, although it looked fun! Most of the action was on Deck 5, which housed the casino, Club Rio, Wine Bar, Disco, Piano Bar, arcade, and coffee bar. All of these venues were kept clean and gleaming, but were not overly crowded. This was very surprising to me, since our cruise was sold out and took place during Spring Break.
There were over 3000 people on board, but the ship never really seemed crowded, except for embarkation, debarkation, and around the pool area. We had a lot of teenagers roaming the ship, but they were well behaved for the most part. A lot of times the teens outnumbered the adults, especially after midnight!
Our biggest complaint was that the bartenders did not do a good job of checking IDs. There were many instances that we saw underage drinking going on, but the bartenders didnt call them on it. Whenever a bartender did ask for ID, the customer would start raising his/her voice and getting belligerent, usually saying that they didnt have ID with them. This was usually enough to convince the bartender to back off. Im sorry, but if Im serving alcohol to someone who doesnt look 21, they had better be able to produce an ID to prove it! Luckily, we didnt see anyone overly obnoxious or drunk.
We had booked 3 cabins on the Empress deck in order to keep things as quiet as possible. The Empress deck is sandwiched between 2 other cabin only decks, and is real quiet as a result. My wife and I had room 7391, and the kids had Rooms 7363 and 7367. The balcony room seemed small at first, but once we got everything all put away, it was fine for the 2 of us. We had a nice balcony with a chair, chaise lounge, and a small table. The railing was glass and offered good views. The walls between the balconies are removable for those of you who book adjoining rooms. We did not have a refrigerator. There were 3 large drawers, a small cabinet, and 2 shallow cabinets for storage. There were 2 closets&1 of them had bars at 2 different heights and the other had a tall bar for hanging long objects, dresses, etc. There is also another folding closet door next to them that has storage for the life vests and the safe. There is plenty of room under the beds for luggage as well. The countertop has an assortment of sodas, water, drinking glasses, and an ice bucket that is filled incessantly. The TV is mounted above the counter and is easily viewed from the bed. There are 2 plugs available on the countertop&be sure to bring your power strip for plugging in your stuff. The bathroom has plenty of counter space and 3 shelves of storage in the mirrored medicine cabinet. There is also storage under the sink. Carnival provides a nice amenity basket full of toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, razors, and dental floss. The shower has a wall dispenser with soap and shampoo, and uses a shower curtain and raised floor lip to keep the water inside during showering. We never had a problem with it.
The Inside rooms were set up similarly, with the beds in a V formation along the corners of the walls. These rooms are not 4-star quality, but we felt they were more than adequate for our week long stay.
We ate all of our dinners, and most of our other meals in the dining room. We had requested main dining in the London dining room (6:15pm), and we received it without any problems. Since this was a CC Group Cruise, Neal linked our reservations and we were all seated nearby. The dinners were uniformly good, and sometimes great. I cannot think of one bad meal or dish that we had. We especially liked the Jamaican jerk pork (VERY SPICY!), jumbo shrimp, filet mignon, prime rib, and of course the lobster tails. Each dinner had 3 appetizer choices, 2 or 3 soup choices, 2 salad choices, and 3-5 main course selections. Main course pastas were also available as an appetizer. There was always a fish/seafood dish available, and steak or chicken could be obtained at any time. Desserts offered at least 3 choices nightly, with other options including ice cream or a cheese course. Im happy to report that cappuccinos and espressos were available complimentary at every meal served in the dining room.
Our waiter was efficient, but not very talkative. If I had to criticize anything, it would be this lack of communication. To his credit, our meals were served promptly and at the right temperature, so I can live without idle chit-chat. We actually enjoyed the nightly wait-staff shows in the dining room. They didnt take up too much time and were festive. If we were there for a romantic getaway, Im sure it would be different, but we enjoyed them for our Caribbean family trip!
For those of you who like eggs Benedict, it is available every morning in the dining room, and actually quite delicious. We dont eat this at home, but really enjoy it when cruising! We used the Lido on embarkation, and it was satisfactory. The food was tasty and warm, and there were plenty of choices. It was not gourmet food, but it was fine for a buffet. We also tried the Reubens, and they are indeed as good as most people have mentioned! A small gripe is that it is hard to find the deli and noodle shop at first. Pizza was also pretty good. It was always busy back there, but it never took more than a few minutes to get a few fresh slices. We especially liked the goat cheese and mushroom pizza.
Now, if only they would enforce the No-Smoking rule on the port side! The smoke from the Aft Bar was terrible, and we couldnt seem to escape it back there. The kids enjoyed the Burger Bar near the Lido pool area, and it was busy there all week, so most others must have felt the same way.
Finally, we REALLY enjoyed the self-serve ice cream machines. They had frozen yogurt and ice cream, both chocolate and vanilla, and the machines were open 24 hours. YUM!!!!
We spent the day in Cozumel at Paradise Beach, and really enjoyed ourselves. Originally, I had wanted to go to Xcaret, but with the decreased time available in port, there just wasnt enough time. After reading a lot of favorable reviews online, we decided to make it a beach day. We mustered in the Rome Lounge at 7:30am, and we got into a tender by 8:00am. A short ride later, and we were on shore. WOW&what a lot of devastation we noted. The piers and building are just demolished, and most of the trees and vegetation is just gone. We hopped into a van taxi, and were charged $27 to get to Paradise Beach. Since we were one of the first to arrive, we had our pick of chairs and chose 6 loungers on the beach just in front of the iceberg. The beach and grounds were immaculate! We relaxed for awhile, and then bought our activity wristbands for $8 apiece when they opened. Freddy was our waiter and he kept the cervezas and sodas coming all day long. We played on the iceberg, trampoline, and kayaks for a few hours, then had quesadillas and nachos for lunch. I think we spent about $60 for food and drink all day. It wasnt exactly cheap, but well worth it when considering that it was entertainment as well. We caught another taxi downtown to do some shopping, and it cost $30 to go to Los Cinco Soles. We bought some souvenirs and also some silver jewelry and it was very reasonable. There was no bargaining, but the price and selection were great. Of course, we had to eat at Panchos Backyard! We had nachos and drinks there, and it was excellent. Again, the prices were higher than I expected for Mexico, but we still had a great time. Another taxi ride and we made it back to the pier for a quick tender ride back to the ship. We did peruse the shops at the pier area, and they were pretty good as well. They have a Cinco Soles there, and the prices were the same as the downtown location, so if you dont feel like going downtown, go ahead and shop here instead. All in all, we had a relaxing day and enjoyed our time there. Cozumel looks very battered now, but hopefully it will come back stronger than ever in the future.
Our 2nd port was Georgetown, and it was a tender port as well. The tender process was largely uneventful here, and there wasnt much of a wait at all. We had booked our CC group with Nativeways prior to our trip, and they had a representative waiting at the pier. There were about 20 of us, and we had a few more join up at the boat. We took a bus from the pier to the boat dock, and climbed aboard a nice-sized vessel for our trip to Stingray City. There was PLENTY of room to walk around, and the crew provided punch, water, and soda for us. One of them even let my son drive the boat for awhile, and he really liked that! We soon arrived at the sandbar, and there were a lot of ships anchored there. We found a spot and got into the waist deep water behind our boat. Just a little insight&most of the other tours were more like cattle cars and were overloaded with people. Their guides, for the most part, did not have much personal interaction with them. Our guides, on the other hand, captured the stingrays and made sure everyone posed with them and held them. They were very patient with the children, and this allowed some shy children the chance of a lifetime to hold and feed a ray. They also had a photographer on board, and she took pictures of each family. We paid her up front for the photos, and she mailed them to us once we got home. We received ours within 2 weeks and they are fantastic! After our stingray excursion, we motored a short distance to Coral Gardens and went snorkeling. All equipment was included in the price, and we had a great view of marine life there. One of our group found a conch shell, and 2 of the shells were brought aboard the boat. Our guide showed us how to get the meat out of the shell, and let everyone try some conch, if they so desired. He then cleaned the shells and sent them home with the family as a souvenir. We got back to the pier, and a bus took us back to the ship or 7-Mile Beach. My family and I went to the beach, and the white sand and azure blue water were quite beautiful. We did have some lunch at a beachfront cantina, and it was REAL expensive. Keep this in mind while in Grand Cayman. There are not a lot of bargains to be had. We took a taxi back to the pier, and did some last minute shopping. We ended up buying a lot of rum and rum cakes at Tortuga Rum Company, which is right at the pier, as well as on every block around the area! Trust me, if you want rum, you wont have to look very far! The tender back to the ship was uneventful. I just have to a plug in for Nativeways Watersports. This is a top notch company with very good customer service and value for the dollar. You wont find a lot of bargains here, but Nativeways is WELL worth the price!
Our final port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Prior to this trip, I had read a lot of negative things about Jamaica and was worried about what it would be like. I am happy to say that this port was our absolute favorite, and we would go back in a nanosecond. Again, we booked an independent tour prior to arriving for our CC group with Peat Taylor. His company had received uniform praise from fellow CCers, and Im happy to say that the accolades are true. We docked right on time and proceeded down the pier to the Visitor Center. Once our group was gathered, someone led us to Peats tour bus and we were met by his son. ONeal is a polite and energetic young man, and he drove the bus outside the gates where Peat met us. Peat was great&he kept us entertained with local reggae songs and stories. He pointed out many interesting things and really put a personal touch into his tour. He took us to a roadside carver and showed us the local vegetation, which was really interesting. My sons especially liked looking at the ganja plant that was there (lol). I got a cool mask carving while we were there, and it was reasonably priced. He then took us through Fern Gulley and the surrounding countryside, which was really beautiful. Soon thereafter it was off to Dunn's River Falls. Our entrance tickets were included with his tour price. We got checked in and deposited our items in lockers, then met our guide and proceeded to the bottom of the falls for our trek. We had our group of 18 joined with 18 others and set off with our guide up the waterfall. We tried to keep our hands linked but it wasnt always possible because of the terrain. It was somewhat crowded when we started, but we never had to wait in line too long. We had kids and adults in our group, and everyone did just fine. The water was cold, and surprisingly forceful in some spots, but we all made it to the top without mishap. There was a videographer who accompanied us, and after the climb we could buy the DVD. I used a credit card to pay for it, and it was waiting on our ship when we arrived back. The quality of the footage from the climb was good, and it was set to reggae music. Im not sure if I would buy this again, but for a first time climber, it makes amice souvenir. After the climb, we got changed and had some Red Stripes at the store there, then started making our way back to the bus pickup site. This is where the infamous gauntlet of shops is located, and I had heard many stories about overly aggressive vendors. I am happy to report that our experience wasnt anything like that. We were asked to buy at each location, but the vendors were polite and took No quite well. The prices were inflated, but it was fun bargaining with them. We had absolutely no problems here, and actually enjoyed perusing the different shops. Peat met us at the top, and we piled back in the bus for a trip downtown. He was going to take us to the Ruins restaurant initially, but most of the group wanted to go to Hard Rock Cafe and Margaritaville, so he dropped us off at Taj Mahal shopping area. His tour was fantastic, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Ocho Rios area. We did some more shopping, and again the locals were simply delightful. Everyone was nice, and didnt hassle us a bit. In fact, Ill bet we were the only ones who werent even offered marijuana! I felt kinda cheated (lol)! We ended up at Margaritaville and had some free margaritas from the website, as well as appetizers for the kids. Margaritaville was a lot of fun, and they have a water slide, pool, and nice beach area real close to the ship. It would be fun just to hang out here as well. Needless to say, Jamaica was our favorite port, and we would love to return for a land based vacation soon.
We were lucky enough to have 3 sea days on this cruise. The weather was absolutely perfect for our trip, and lots of people chose to spend time outdoors. Therein lies the rub. Beautiful weather, 3000+ passengers, and limited deck space all add up to problems. Even when finishing our breakfast at 8:30am, most deck chairs were already saved. There was absolutely no help from the staff, and chair saving was rampant. We usually solved this problem by getting our own chairs and wedging them in somewhere. Then, when our teenagers crawled out of bed at noon, we let them have the chairs and did our own thing. We never made it up to the funnel deck, but there were always a lot of guys hanging out overlooking the pool.
During the day, there were always indoor and outdoor activities going on. Were not big Hairy Chest people, but I am a huge fan of Survivor. Luckily, me and another CC cruiser (Chris) got picked for the Survivor contest. This was a lot of fun, and was pretty wild! We both lasted the first day, but I got kicked off early in the 2nd day. Chris ended up winning and had a great time! My wife and I also played a lot of trivia. There were only a handful of people who attended these events, but we all had a great time. We won a lot of medals and 24-carat-platic ships on a stick! Bingo was also available ALL the time. As a lark, we played on the 2nd Sea Day while waiting for a Ports of Call talk, and I won $750! That was a good feeling, and paid for a lot of our extras during the week! We also partook in Tea Time. This was held in the Oxford Bar, and was accompanied by delightful live music. Maybe it was because we were on Carnival, but one day we were enjoying some beautiful piano music and sipping our tea when some overweight shirtless guy came waltzing through the room with a floaty around his waist. We took it with a grain of salt, and have laughed about it since then. Bottom line--there are plenty of things to do on sea days with Carnival. They do a good job scheduling different events for different tastes, and try to mix a lot of fun into everyones day. My advice is to let yourself go and enjoy yourself. Dont be uptight about things that are out of your control. This is meant to be a fun cruise, and if you get involved, chances are good that youll have fun!
This was a bit of a problem. We ate an early breakfast in the dining room, then gathered all of our carry-ons and headed to the Rome Lounge as directed. We waited there, presumably until our section was called to debark, but the word never came. Instead, someone poked their head in the room and said that everyone should leave now. This included those who were self-debarking and those taking Miami tours. It all seemed rather disjointed, but we did as we were told. Once off the ship, there was a long backup at Customs which lasted about an hour. However, once that was done, we ended up in the warehouse and quickly found our bags. We were outside with all of our luggage by 10:30, so it wasnt too bad.
Just a quick note regarding taxi service at the pier. We had reserved a car for transportation, to be picked up at the downtown Avis location. Since they dont have a shuttle, I was told to take a taxi over to the store to pick up the car, about a $15 fare. Well, it was like pulling teeth to get a taxi driver to take me over to Avis because they like the more lucrative airport runs. I asked a porter what to do and he told a Miami police officer, and thats all it took. The cop came over and chewed the drivers up one side and down the other and threatened to ticket them all. Surprisingly, they were clamoring for my business then, and I had no further problems. If you find yourself in a similar situation, let one of the policeman solve the problem for you&they dont mess around!
I must admit that I was nervous about taking a Carnival cruise. I had heard the stories about non-stop drinking and rowdy behavior, as well as substandard service and sub par accommodations. Happily, these stories are both outdated and unfounded. Our family had a great vacation, and we thought the service was great. Carnival is not a luxury line, but then again we didnt pay luxury prices for our trip. The food was uniformly good, and I cant think of any real complaints about it, especially when considering that they were serving over 3000 people. There are the usual problems with chair saving and smoking, but that appears to be an industry-wide problem. We did go during Spring Break, so that had something to do with the way things happened as well. Regardless, a little patience and an open mind are usually enough to thwart any major problems. We had a great time on our family vacation, and I would definitely take Carnival again under similar circumstances. The price is right for what you get, and we felt like we got our monies worth! Hopefully this review will be helpful to others. I would also like to put a positive plug in for Cruise Critic Member Cruises. We had a fairly small group, but everyone that I talked to had a great time. We got a good price and some nice amenities, including onboard credit, but the biggest benefit was meeting new people and sharing our experiences. This is a great way to save some money and meet some future friends along the way! Less
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