Number of Cruises: 11
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Triumph
Sailing Date: November 18th, 2006
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Choosing the right ship and itinerary for
a 14-person family vacation can become an ordeal! In my mind, with such diverse
ages in our group,17-85, a 5-day cruise would be just the right amount of time.
However, the 7-day cruise on the Triumph was the best deal out there, all things
considered - so, here we go! Everyone booking a cruise needs to be aware that
there are many incentives available; past-guest rates, military discounts, etc.
I booked directly with Carnival through vacation planner, Damien Smart. Damien
gladly took the extra time to arrange our bookings so everyone would receive
some type of discounted rate - pairing those with military or past guest status
with those first timers in our group. What made it more difficult is that not
all reservations were made at the same time. The whole process went down without
a hitch and we were on our way to Miami!
We have always had great experiences flying into Ft. Lauderdale, and then taking a taxi to port of Miami. With numerous people, it is cheaper and eliminates another "waiting process" over the shuttle buses that are available.
Boarding was an easy process and the lined moved at a reasonable pace. There were a few more added "checkpoints" in the boarding line than previous cruises serving no purpose other than to regulate certain areas from over crowding. After boarding, we had to visit the Purser's Desk and "re-do" our room assignments to whom was actually with who which was easily accommodated by the staff. Well worth the savings we acquired by the complicated reservation shuffling!
Now to the cabins! Ours was 6385, a balcony stateroom mid-ship. All was in great order there and Javier the steward called us by name before we put the card in the door. He knew everyone in our group and where they were located, even the ones outside of his "jurisdiction." He was pleasant and attentive the entire trip and had perfected the art of towel animals!
We were assigned to the Paris Dining Room, Upper Level with Ludwila, from Russia, and Edjuardo, from the Phillippines. They were sincere, pleasant, and interacted with our group just as they were our family! The food was good and the service was outstanding! Ok, maybe the filet or prime rib wasn't always perfect for everyone but I cannot make this happen when grilling for just 4 at home, much less 3000 at sea! Desserts were tasty, especially the chocolate melting cake. I personally love the traditional assigned dining because it allows the staff to put a personal touch on your experience, which I missed when trying anytime dining on other lines. I won't bore anyone with further dinner reviews for all were pleasant.
Although the buffets are loaded with popular breakfast items, everyone should at least try breakfast in the dining room, most especially the eggs benedict!
The pizzeria always came in handy just when you needed it. It would be nice if they would make more of the popular selections up ahead of time rather than each pizza to order. Adjacent to the pizzeria was the grill, which had delicious burgers, fries, steak and chicken sandwiches. The buffet always had a nice selection and carving station, with quick moving lines. I tell people the main reason I love Carnival is because they have actual ketchup, mustard, and even A-1 bottles on the tables in the buffet areas! Sure beats those tacky cups and plastic pouches!
Having traveled on both other Destiny-class ships before, the Triumph's deck plan was already familiar to me. I encouraged everyone to first find the best route to the dining room, then the pool, the atrium, and then the casino and everything else would fall into place, which it did for no one ever got lost very long!
The demographics of a Thanksgiving cruise can be all over the board and this one was. All ages from all nationalities were present in full force. Family cruises seem to be getting more popular every year and this cruise was proof.
The days at sea are a great time to explore the ship and take advantage of its numerous offerings. There truly is something for everyone. Something was missing on this ship, this cruise...there was no band on the pool deck - ever. We later learned that the band was on holiday vacation and no replacement was available. No big deal because everything else was in full swing to make up for it.
The casino staff on the Triumph is the friendliest I have encountered, even though they managed to keep all of my winnings! If you frequent the casino, be sure and join the ocean players club for extra perks.
I've never been too big on cruise ship productions, but was very impressed with the talent and shows on Triumph. They were easy to follow, very enjoyable and consisted of some really complicated sets and set-changes. Even the comedians were actually funny and the illusion show was incredible. The "Legends" show, featuring actual guests in various roles, is much better than the previous talent shows.
On future ships, Carnival needs to put more emphasis on their pools and pool decks, which can be hard to navigate at times. The miniature golf course was in great condition and actually fun to play! The waterslide is awesome and really fast. By the third time I figured out exactly when to hold my breath before splashing into the trough at the end.
First port was the Port of San Juan, with the ship arriving in the evening just before dark. There is enough time for visiting Old San Juan if you hurry. Although we didn't have an excursion in San Juan, many recommend the Barcardi tour, which we haven't tried yet. All in all, I would prefer skipping San Juan for Half Moon Cay, or for allowing more time in St Maarten or St Thomas. The ship simply isn't in San Juan at the right time to do this stop justice.
In St. Thomas, the first thing to do is tour the island after getting off the ship and we recommend Henry's Island Tours. The port personnel all know Henry so just ask when you go thru the turn-styles. Henry is a native of the island and served our country in Vietnam. We have used him numerous times and always enjoy his flexible touring. Banana daquiris are plentiful at the various stops.
St. Maarten can really be fun to explore on your own. Cars are easy to rent just to the right of the port pier. Always negotiate and let the different companies there compete back and forth. Don't bother with reservations because there are always more cars, jeeps, and vans. There are many interesting areas of the island, although I personally think Marigot is overrated. I would rather spend the extra time in Phillipsburg. We had lunch at a great place near Oyster Pond called Captain Marvin's. At the restaurant/marina, for restaurant guests there is a pool with transparent sides and waterfall overlooking the restaurant table area. Grouper sandwiches are great here! After lunch, might as well make the ceremonial stop at Orient Beach where "what shouldn't be - IS and what should-be - ISN'T! On the far left of the beach is Bikini Beach, whose 2-man band was playing great oldies! They did not charge for loungers, or using the bathroom as long as you bought something there, or looked like you were.
OK, its time to get back to Miami. The new "self-assist" disembarking was a total nightmare. Rather than going by floors as called, the whole ship went at one time and no enforcement provisions were made. I understand that is not the usual case but next time, we'll just book a return flight after 1:00 and be the last ones to leisurely get off the ship!
The Destiny class ships are among the most stable ships we have traveled on and Triumph was no exception! The Eastern Caribbean can get pretty rough and these ships handle the seas well, with mid-ship to aft cabins ride being noticeably smoother when rough.
Whether it is your first cruise, second, or more, you can count on the Triumph to give you a great experience at a great price!