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Chester McSweeny

Age: 37

Occupation:Delivery Man

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Triumph

Sailing Date: April 1st, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Okay, here goes……another one of my long, overly detailed reviews:
We sailed on the Carnival Triumph out of Miami on April 1st . Boarding was fast. I STRONGLY advise you carry on your luggage yourself. It makes a world of difference when you disembark. Famous motto: bring half the clothes and twice the money.

The boat was nice but very glitzy. The crowd was definitely blue collar except for the college kids on spring break. Still, everyone we met was extremely friendly and polite. There was also an extraordinary kindness bestowed on us by a passenger who found my gold watch and turned it in to lost and found! Thank you again! I will ‘pay it forward’.

We had a balcony stateroom that we booked 7 months in advance. I booked the lowest listed rate for a balcony and they put us on the 9th level with a spectacular view of everything. We will never go back to an ‘outside’ stateroom. The balcony is the ONLY way to go. Our quarters felt very roomy and all the plastic laminates looked new (every finish or fixture was either plastic or aluminum). The mattress was a dream and linens were first rate. White terry-cloth robes and fluffy white towels were a nice touch. Everything was clean and the bathroom looked newly renovated. The room was cleaned twice a day and the little towel animals at bedtime were too, too fun.

Beware! There are no clocks in the staterooms and figuring out the wake-up call system was a chore. Also, every time you turn on the TV you will be tuned to a screen of black and white static and a very LOUD static noise. There is no way around this and I woke my husband up a number of times just trying to tune in the morning news.

The food and presentation in the main dining room was fine. The fillet minon and lobster were very wonderful but I have no idea how they can pass off a shoulder roast for ‘chateaubriand’. Thankfully, there was no problem ordering a different entrée and we thoroughly enjoyed our wait staff. Room service was another story. Portion size was miniscule and we quickly learned that ordering multiple portions ON THE SAME PLATE was the best way to go.

We stopped at Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. If you are a scuba diver you can’t miss the Chikin Ha Cenote cavern dive in Cozumel...but only on a sunny day. I have been diving for 20 years, all over the world and this was amazing! Ocho Rios canopy tour was a bit lame and even though I am in top physical condition the downhill hiking was very rough on my knees and calves. We booked our excursions through Carnival over the internet about a month in advance. This turned out to be a good idea even though they up-charge about 20%. I was not able to take one of our planned trips and Carnival refunded my money. Kudos’! But it’s no problem booking your own excursions when you go ashore since there are independent agents everywhere who are eager to help you. Just make absolutely sure you will get back to the boat in time for sailing. Pay attention to the time changes from ship to shore.

We did not take part in any shipboard activities preferring to read on deck. I was VERY disappointed that our 16 yo son could not find a friend among the hundreds of [shy] teenagers on board. If the teen club had organized more games throughout the day to get everyone mingling I know he would have had a much better time. As it stands now, he has refused to go on any more cruises.

We only saw one show (the Vegas style ‘around the world’ extravaganza) which was extremely well done. I heard the other shows were very good. I will book the early dinner seating for our next cruise. The late show started at 10:30p, and at our age we can’t seem to stay up that late anymore.

Be warned! The art auctions are a joke. Save your money and buy it on Ebay. It’s all the same stuff for half the price. NO KIDDING! The jewelry store again is way overpriced. Shop through Ebay or online for the best value. The absolute BEST value on the ship was the photographers. We had stunning individual black and white portraits done of the whole family for $20 each. And we only paid for the ones we liked.

The last thing I need to warn you about is the unseen ‘extra charges’. Internet access is NOT free if you bring your own laptop with wireless card. The brochure is much too vague concerning this fact. .75 cents a minute! If you lose your beach towel they will charge you $22. You are automatically charged $140 per person for tips to the wait staff and steward. If you feel this is extreme, you have to go to the bursars desk to have this charge removed from you account…..and endure a disgusted look from the desk clerk and a very embarrassing line of questions as to why. Our two sons ate in the main dining room twice! $280 is a little extreme for a tip for two meals! We left $70 in our sons' stateroom for the room steward since their room didn't look much different after they cleaned than it did before.

I have cruised on Holland America and Disney. Both were nicer ships and Holland had MUCH better food. But I found Carnival (at least this newer ship) to be a good value for the money. I would definitely go with the cheaper cruise line if it means upgrading to a balcony. Just be sure you know in advance what to expect.

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