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Neil

Age: 29

Occupation:Technical Product Specialist

Number of Cruises: One

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Triumph

Sailing Date: March 25th, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was the first cruise vacation for my girlfriend and I. After reading all the reviews, I was under the impression that the food, service and ship conditions may be substandard on the Triumph. Wrong! This was a great vacation! The food, service and ship conditions all far exceeded my expectations. Remember, you're on vacation, so you really shouldn't be dwelling on the small insignificant things. I had read that the ship was dirty, and yes I did see minor carpet stains and some dirty dishes now and then, but come on...you're on a ship with 3000 people on it. Not everything can be perfect. This experience was excellent. Here are some observations/opinions:

Embarkation
We arrived at about 11:30 AM. We took a taxi from Miami airport...set rate of $24 total for the two of us. You can take the Carnival shuttle, it is $12/pp. It takes about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. Please note that there is some minor confusion during the embarkation process, but all you have to do is ask the Carnival representatives questions, and you'll have no problems. Here's a tip...if you don't have a room assigned, ask the baggage loaders for the manifest to find out what room you're in. I RECOMMEND VERIFYING YOUR ROOM BY GOING TO ANOTHER BAGGAGE HANDLER AND VERIFYING IT ON HIS MANIFEST. I only recommend this as we found 2 different room assignments on 2 different manifests. We simply went to a third and picked the room that showed up twice...I wasn't worried as I was certain the luggage would show up. Finally, bring some sandles and some beach wear in your carry on luggage so you'll have something to sit pool side with until the evening. I was 4 beers in by 2:30 in the afternoon!

Rooms
We were upgraded from an interior room to an oceanview (room 2393). We were pleasantly surprised as the rooms are big...and according to some seasoned cruisers we spoke to, the biggest they've seen on a cruise ship. Ours had a queen bed, with a full 3 person couch (that could be pulled out to being a double bed). Room steward was fantastic, as was room service. One beer order to the room did not show up, but we just called to remind them and they were there shortly thereafter. I recommend taking advantage of the free room service...it's nice to have snacks (both healthy-celery, carrots etc. and bad - cookies and brownies) in the room. Also, you can pre-order breakfast. Just ask for the pre-order card if it is not in your room. This is also well worth it. One thing that can be improved is the room service selection. The menu is rather limited.

Ship Condition/Observations
Ship is in great condition. It is laid out awkwardly...probably on purpose so you have to go through the bars and casinos to get to where you want to be (leading to additional drink purchases!). I was told there were 16 bars...and we hit each one. Each bar has it's own flavour. We thoroughly enjoyed the Oxford Bar. Although very dimly lit, the live Piano player, extensive drink selection and comfortable chairs make the experience unique. It is a cigar bar (for all those irritated by smoke). The casino was huge. Oddly enough, it always was busy, but you were never hard pressed to find a spot to gamble. Drink waiters/waitresses were always easy to find.

I had read that the decks were always packed and you were always hard pressed to find chairs. This is true, but you'll find a chair and space if you take the time to look. There are a number of different areas to catch sun, so take the time to look. Of course there are the people that save chairs with towels, for hours on end, but get past that and you'll be fine. The highest deck in the middle section of the ship is a topless deck. If you're an adult, I recommend this deck. It was always quiet, and easy to find a spot. One thing I did note was the pools were small. In fact, I did not swim once, but it didn't really matter to me.

Gym/Spa
The gym is well maintained and large. The spa personnel are inviting and friendly. I went to the gym 3 times, and found out the first time I went that perhaps going in the morning between 8-11 is not the best time (far too crowded). I definitely recommend taking advantage of their facilities. NOTE: the only true hot tub is found in the gym. The other hot tubs on deck are warm...the one in the gym is hot. I got a pedicure in the spa (never done that before...it was disturbing). Expensive, but if you take advantage of their daily specials, the prices are reasonable. Definitely take advantage of the in-port specials.

Dining/Entertainment
Simply put, the dining experience was incredible. I highly recommend taking advantage of the dining room seatings in either the Paris or London dining rooms for all your meals. The food is of better quality, and you usually get a more "sophisticated" selection. Of course, the dining room seatings may interfere with your mid-day activities, so the buffets are also available. The food is quite good, but the line ups are long during peak times. The eating areas also get real crowded during peak times. We always timed it so if we were eating at either the buffet or the grill, we went at times later on during the scheduled buffet times. This made for a more enjoyable experience.

Be sure to take advantage of the dinner seatings. We went every night, and I'm thankful for it. If something is not on the menu, just ask, and they'll give it to you. One evening, my girlfriend wanted pasta but did not like the sauce being served, so she just asked for noodles and a marinera sauce. They gladly served this to her. One gentleman I spoke to had FOUR lobster tails one night. I, on the other hand, ordered the lobster tail and prime rib. As I mentioned, if you don't see it, just ask. And if you want more, they'll gladly give it to you.

The pizzaria and grill are good. Pizza at 2AM is always good, especially when chased with a late night icecream cone. In fact, the Pizza is very good at anytime of day. As are the Cheeseburgers from the grill. Food is never scarce, so pace yourself those first few days!

We tried to go to the late shows every night. Some nights we weren't interested. The adult comedians are definitely worth going to...as is the adult magician. But the night life is really really good. Because there was a large number of people aged 18-35, the night clubs were always great to visit late at night. Overall, there were a lot of younger people. Some of the +60 year olds I spoke to, indicated that by far, Carnival cruises attract the younger crowds. So if you're looking for something more laid back, you might want to consider a different cruiseline.

Overall, there were plenty of things to do if you wanted (art auctions, games, bingo, shows, contests, shopping, drinking, exercise, spa, deck parties, live music) at all hours of the day. Or you could choose to do nothing. And while there were plenty of kids, the ship is large enough that you don't really notice them, and Camp Carnival does a good job of taking care of them.

Ports
San Juan, PR

As we got there in the evening, we were really pressed for time. In fact, moving forward, Carnival should probably reconsider their port time of 5PM. We went to Senor Frogs (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), and partied there until we had to get back on the ship. Lots of drinking, dancing and fun. If this is your thing, you should definitely visit this bar/restaurant.

St. Thomas, St. Maarten
In my opinion, these two stops were essentially the same. The towns were littered with jewelry and souvenir shops. But as I mentioned, this is a vacation, and you have to let the little things go. It's nice to walk around and see the culture. We took a snorkle tour to Turtle Cove in St. Thomas. That was fun. We went to Orient Beach in St. Maarten...I highly recommend this beach (be careful because clothing is optional - not sure if this would be your thing). At Orient Beach, there is tons to do. Shop, eat, swim, lay out, drink, water sports - you name it. The cab fare over depends on how many people are in the car with you. Average is $7-12 pp. This drive also allows you to see the island (the real side of St. Maarten). Some of it is pretty. Some of it is not...much like a lot of other islands. On both islands, I definitely recommend that you visit the shopping areas just to get a feel for the vibe of the island.

Debarkation
This took long, and it was our own fault. Because our flight was at 3PM, we waited until 9:30 to debark, and we took our luggage. TIP: If you have a late flight, have them take your luggage. It's much easier!

Overall Impression
This was an amazing first time cruising experience. One thing that has to be noted: during this particular week, the seas WERE ROUGH. Even the experienced cruisers said that this was some of the roughest sailing they've experienced. It was rough enough that I had to take anti-nausea medication, and I normally don't get sea sick. It may have been just this week, I'm not sure. I don't think I'd ever sail the Eastern Caribbean again, for that fact alone. Although maybe earlier in the year, it would have been calmer. This is definitely something you should consider researching further. But, even with this "hiccup", this was truly a great vacation. Because I don't plan on cruising often, I'd probably try a different company, just for the experience, and for comparison's sake. But I highly recommend the Carnival Triumph for great food, dancing, enterntainment and fun.

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