Carnival Triumph - Eastern Caribbean: Carnival Triumph Cruise Review by kcs
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Triumph - Eastern Caribbean
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
We were a group of 3 - Mom (me), 17-year-old son and Aunt. Mom and Son (who wanted another cruise vacation) have cruised several times before on Dolphin, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Princess and Celebrity; Aunt, my sister, only once before on NCL. We were departing from different areas, but planned to meet up at DFW and fly into Miami together. Our plan was to arrive in Miami early enough (a day ahead of cruise date) to take an airboat ride in the Everglades. We had sufficient notice before our August 11 flights that I was able to repack to comply with the new TSA "no liquid" rules - so our flights were uneventful - actually, easy!
We did not arrive in Miami with enough time to take a side trip to More the Everglades - but we got the rental car (from Enterprise - who offered the opportunity to return the car downtown with a shuttle to the Port) and drove ourselves, through Miami rush hour traffic and construction, to the Bayside Holiday Inn. I had made earlier reservations requesting a room on a higher floor facing the port. The hotel, while older, was clean and our room was very spacious - on the top floor, facing Bayside Mall and the Port! We were fortunate that a RCL ship was still in Port on our arrival at the hotel. We spent a very pleasant evening at Bayside Mall and had a wonderful dinner at Bubba Gumps.
The next morning, we were excited to get going. We wanted to purchase some water so set out from the hotel before 9:30 AM. After asking directions from a couple of campus police officers - who disagreed about where to direct us! - we found the Walgreens, got our water, and stowed it in the luggage. Next task was to find the Enterprise location around the Hyatt to return the car! Which was completed - both the Hyatt parking valets and the Enterprise staff was very nice - directing us to the proper spot, letting us temporarily park in the Hyatt drive and getting the shuttle to take us to the Port. I was informed that Enterprise will not be offering this service any longer, but I informed the manager that the downtown drop and shuttle to the port was the ONLY reason I chose Enterprise over other car rental companies.
Our Enterprise shuttle driver dropped us at the Port - in the wrong place. Porters were quick to take our bags - and before the porter started the dun for a tip, I put it in his hand with a smile and thanks. We were very early - but were directed to the correct door - about a block up the pier - and discovered that we were not the first passengers on line even as early as we were! The Carnival personnel were efficient and pleasant and directed us into a line for early check in. All of our documents were complete and in hand - we were in the air-conditioning - baggage being dealt with by someone else - vacation started! Did I say we were very early? It was well before 11:00 AM - but we were processed and moved to another line - then processed some more and led to a seating place - then directed through another line --- which turned out to be embarkation! It still took about 1 1/2 hours - most of that sitting and waiting. But - we were VERY early.
My first impression of the ship wasn't &. great. It was nice enough - but I am used to stepping into a huge open atrium - we stepped into an area that is before the atrium with a very low ceiling with dark paneling - then the bar - then finally the atrium. Not the gasp that I am used to experiencing on first sight. It was nice enough -- just not especially overwhelming or bright. No cabins were available and the heavy doors were adamantly closed, so we headed to the Lido deck for some lunch.
After brunch (leaving the hotel so early meant we skipped breakfast thinking wed find a bagel and coffee someplace!!) we explored the ship a bit - looking around the public areas. I found the ship fairly easy to get around - once I remembered that deck 5 was the through deck. After 1:30 PM we found the doors to the cabins open and found our balcony cabin, #8300, and our first big disappointment!
We booked a cruise for 3 - my TA suggested I choose a cabin, which I'd never done before usually choosing a "category guarantee". Nonetheless, at his urging, we choose cabin 8300 - with his knowledge and Carnival's knowledge that I was booking for 3 adults. The room was well located, but smaller than I had expected (of course, DS is larger now so it could be a "proportional thing!"). But -- the 3rd bed was only a "half bed" - the length of a love seat - not a full length pull-out cot size sofa bed - but a VERY SHORT, (side to side) narrow love seat! We inquired of the steward what could be done - but there was nothing to be done according to him. He said he had a blow up mattress - also short - but that was all. My son was a champ - he said he didn't sleep full length anyway and that he would be fine. And - trooper that he is - he didn't complain once.
And this turned out to be his least favorite cruise. Aside from the bed - the teen activities were of no interest to him. He looked at the schedule posted and knew he wasn't interested, but planned to attend the Meet and Greet. But - left it early not seeing anyone whom he would be comfortable hanging with. The demographics on this ship were very different that what we've previously experienced - and frankly, seeing the teens hanging - there wasn't anyone I would have wished him to be around. So - my DS now has two strikes against this cruise - sleeping arrangements and O2 (both pretty much non-existent) - and it is only Saturday night!
I'm sure that older teens are a difficult demographic for cruise lines - they aren't old enough for the casino and bars (not real revenue production for the cruise line) and they are too old for counselors and board games. But they still need some attention and activities. The adage is "If Momma ain't happy &. and Momma isn't happy unless her kids -- even the older ones -- are happy". We found stuff to do - his Aunt and I became his hanging companions - but the dearth of activities for him altered our vacation and our experience.
I love this itinerary - lots of sea days, good ports. In San Juan, we booked the Bioluminescent Bay excursion through the ship. I posted a review on the Port of Call board. In St. Thomas, we booked the barefoot sail and snorkel through the cruise line - also posted a review on the Port of Call board. In St. Maarten, we rented a car and struck our on our own. First time for doing that -- we drove around the island (with our hearts in our throats -- the roads are not well marked), saw Phillispburg and Marigot (parking was a real problem in P'burg) and spent time at Orient Beach.
Our cabin steward was fine. Quiet, but he responded to our limited requests (we are not high maintenance people) when he could - he said he couldn't do anything about the short bed, but he was compliant with extra towels -- but our "beach towels" were never returned after Wednesday.
Our dinner servers were pleasant - nothing extraordinary (and we have experienced extraordinary!). Some surprises in the dining room: our table (Paris, #514) was a booth for 4, since we were a group of 3 we didn't have any table mates; the bench seat on one side of the table was rump-sprung so the table was about shoulder level to the diners on that side - the other side was under an air conditioning vent so the diner on that side had cold air blowing down their back; we were offered bread from a basket brought around by the assistant, we didn't have a bread basket on our table, during the LONG wait to be served, more bread for my hungry teen had to be requested; entrees were served with no vegetable side dishes - to get a vegetable, order the vegetarian plate as an additional entrEe; the fish dishes were good (and I am not usually a fish eater - but I always try the fish on a cruise); the food was just adequate.
On this cruise, it turned out that we didn't care to spend as much time dining as was required in the dining room. Our schedule came to prefer dining around 7 - which meant the buffet or alternative venue. So - we gave up the dining room.
The buffet, in my previous experience, as been a decent alternative to the dining room. Here, it was merely passable. A decent, tho plain, pasta dish (Alfredo or tomato sauce on pasta) was always available; good salad vegetables, (tho the pre-made Caesar salad was unacceptably fishy and wet); the buffet entrEe was often ..& odd, tho again the fish was good; I don't care for carving stations so I didn't try that. I expected some kind of potato --mashed, roasted, something other than buffet French fries - to be offered with that carving station. As a women with whom I was chatting while in the buffet line said "What do French fries have to do with this buffet?" And - desserts - were uniformly lackluster in both the dining room and everywhere else. The diet alternative was never particularly well presented - and was salty.
The 24-hour pizza was very good. Though it was understaffed - too often only one person was staffing the entire venue - so the lines would become very long. We did not care for the goat cheese and mushroom, but the "cheese" "veggie" and "pepperoni" offerings were very good - DS enjoyed the pizza -- a good thing since he did not like the buffet.
The New York Deli was also very good - we liked the hot sandwiches, especially the Rueben and the servers were willing to alter the preparation to suit us (I preferred dressing on one side only and more sauerkraut!) The only problems: the line was often long so the wait was often very long; they ran out of Swiss cheese!! Apparently the demand for Rueben sandwiches was higher than expected (due to the mediocre offerings elsewhere perhaps??)
We didn't try the Chinese place -- it didn't smell good to me (and I usually love Chinese) and the menu was different enough to be "off putting" for DS.
24-hour ice cream - when it was actually available, it was good - but it was broken, or empty, too often. I don't know that the station being empty was necessarily the complete fault of the cruise line. Many, many, TOO MANY children were permitted unfettered access to the ice cream station and I witnessed several children create a cone 6 inches tall, eat the top layer and throw the rest away - only to create a new 6 inch cone.
Again - that was a demographics issue - but the line could have been more prompt in responding to the demands of the community rather than adhering to the prescribed schedule. As I said in a different thread -- ice tea was difficult to find -- too often the "machine" was out, or tea simply wasn't being offered. My sister had similar issues with ice being available. Okay -- I can drink ....something else, we can deal without ice.
The entertainment was fine. We like to see the big spectacle shows and they were fine. The Rome theater balcony was the preferred seating for us - the main floor isn't tiered so sightlines were poor. Some places in the balcony have obstructed sightlines. What is annoying are the reserved rows for Camp Carnival in prime seating locating - that are then not used. We were not treated to the second comic - we were told that his flight did not arrive in St. Thomas before we sailed - so the headliner comic for the 2nd comedy show and the adult comedy show wasn't available - nothing was substituted. The magicians were good - our family loves magic, DS is an amateur magician - and still found the illusions and slight of hand well presented.
The cruise director means nothing to me - I usually find them merely an annoyance as an "entertainer" -- but as a facilitator I know they are required. The social hosts are usually unremarkable -- but here a couple were outstanding -- one for his amazing dumbness - another for his amazing mean streak! (During disembarkation I commented that the "mean one" probably wanted a megaphone - my sister commented that he probably wanted a whip!) I know they have a hard job -- certainly not one that I would care to have -- but I already know that my personality is not suited to that job -- some of them have yet to realize it!!
Other activities seemed pretty limited. We aren't shoppers so the shop talks hold little appeal - besides, they are just commercials. Our excursions were already booked - so the excursion talks held little appeal - and they are just commercials. We watched the pool stuff (my sister and I were forced to as part of hanging with DS) - not activities that we usually enjoy; we took the ONE dance lesson; played some music trivia --- so we filled about an hour a day with ship arranged activities. But BINGO was always available - and offered before every other activity in the lounge. And - not only Bingo - but also straight out gambling with the scratch off tickets!! The gambling offerings seem to be the big activity for Carnival ships.
What is Carnival thinking with this self-assist disembarkation? What a disaster. Little old ladies, requiring a cane to shuffle along, towing a tippy stack of suitcases - in self-assist? Families of 5 with more luggage than Noah - struggling to meet, keep the "teens" unplugged from their electronics, stay together and get that mountain of bags down 3 flights of stairs? Puulleeeze!
And - with that - Carnival isn't controlling customs, can't control customs, so the line in the Customs shed just grows and grows and grows - exacerbated and frustrated by the porters pulling luggage carts stacked high, yelling at those later passengers to keep up while they cut in and through every line they see. What a disaster. The worst I've ever experienced.
Our personal issues - my sister had an early flight so we were in different lounges to disembark. Okay - we were going to have to say goodbye at some point. Ahead of time, my son and I purchased a shore excursion since we had a late flight. We were directed to a lounge with disembarkation scheduled - I was told we were getting off first to get the excursions out of the way.
At disembarkation were told our luggage had been specifically identified and would be at a particular location. Well - I purchased our excursion tickets from the Purser (since the excursion desk was not open when they said it would be open) and the Purser's desk staff did not say anything to me about special identification of our luggage - so our luggage was NOT specially identified, but mixed in with all of the other luggage from our deck. No problem, really - since everyone was going through the same Customs shed and we found our luggage quickly and we could efficiently deal with it. But, the fact is, that we weren't given the correct information - and disembarkation, this day, was a freaking disaster. I know that the ship needs the passengers off - I know that they need the rooms available to turn and clean - but the entire process could be much easier if they weren't so done with this group.
I am not a Carnival Cruise Lines apologist. I know that there are many other lines - some very similar, some different, most more expensive than Carnival. I had previously found Carnival to offer good value, good service, good activities - all on a par with other lines.
But, I feel that the growth of the industry and the mass marketing has diminished the experience. We had a good time - this was our first balcony, we love to be on the ocean, our shore trips were enjoyable (BioBay ranks among the best I've ever taken!), we enjoyed being together overcoming the difficulties together - so our vacation was still a good one.
But, I think our vacation would have been a better value and more enjoyable with a real teen program, other different ship activities (cooking demo, talks about the area or the sea, behind the scenes information - tour or talk, organized cards, ship stuff activities - napkin folding, towel animals, food garnishing - there are things they could offer that wouldn't require an expenditure of money - just an exercise of imagination), better food offering - and certainly a bed that would actually fit an adult!
On the whole - we had a good time - but Carnival made me feel like "revenue" not a guest. Less
Cruising the seas with RC on t...
Very Relaxing Anniversary Crui...
Exceeded our expectations for ...
First Timer 50th Birthday Crui...