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Gary Danielson

Age: 62

Occupation:Customer Service Manager

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Triumph

Sailing Date: February 24th, 2007

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

We (Jo-Anne and Gary) are just back from our Carnival Triumph cruise to the Eastern Caribbean – February 24 – March 3, 2007. I spent the 6 months prior to our cruise reading reviews and forums and it is now payback time – I’m going to contribute a review. You might as well know before you read this that we thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this trip and I’m going to offer (what I think) are some really good tips.

The Triumph left on Saturday February 24 at 4:00. I don’t like worrying about connections etc. so we arranged to fly to Miami on Thursday the 22nd. We stayed at the Holiday Inn right at the Port of Miami. Great choice. The rooms were reasonable ($125 for Thursday, $160 for Friday) and were OK – nothing fancy but clean and adequate. The Bayside Mall is right across the street and is a great place. Lots of restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and a really nice place to visit.

Since we flew in on Thursday we had a full day Friday to sightsee and we went to South Beach. If you haven’t been to South Beach – it is well worth seeing. We took a cab from the Holiday Inn and I asked him to take us to the News Café. Cab ride was about $10. The News Café is one of the most popular spots on the beach – at 800 Ocean Drive. It has a live web cam ( and I used it for the month prior at least once a day to check the Miami weather – check how the patrons were dressed. We walked to Joe’s Stone Crab and had a wonderful lunch at this landmark restaurant. I’ve been told that the wait for a table in the evening is about 2 hours but there was no wait for lunch.

For dinner we went back to Bayside Mall and went to “The Knife” – an Argentinean Steakhouse. I really liked it because I’m a meat eater and this was like paradise – ribs, steak, chicken, pork, stuffed chicken, fish – take your choice and you can have as much of each as you want. It was a fixed price of $22.95 each. Thursday we had dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp and it was nice too! The Mall has a bandstand on the waterfront, there was a live band on Friday and we had a drink and sat outside on a beautiful Friday night and listened to them.

First Really Good Tip – arrive at least 1 day early, stay near the Port of Miami, and enjoy the Bayside Mall. (We stayed at the Holiday Inn but there are lots of hotels in the area). After all, this is a holiday and you want to relax and not worry about making connections. We arrived 2 days early, but you don’t have to do that, but do get in the day before. I should also add that there is a Liquor Store and a Walgreen drug store about 2 blocks from the Holiday Inn. We bought sunscreen and some toiletries at the drug store and 6 bottles of wine at the liquor store. (I’ll discuss issues pertaining to alcohol later).

On Saturday we got up and had a nice breakfast in the hotel. Then we went for a walk. But, at 10:20 I was getting pretty “antsy” so I said to Jo-Anne - “let’s go”. Carnival suggests a 1:00 PM boarding time but I’ve read on several forums that you can get on early if you try.

Second Really Good Tip – get to the ship early! We took a cab from the Holiday Inn at 10:30 and after the 5 minute ($7) ride we arrived at the port. A porter took our luggage (I tipped him $5 for 2 bags) and he pointed to the building where we should go next. There were about 40 people in line being processed. In about 15 minutes we were at the front and were processed. Then onto the next step – pick up your Fun Pass. The whole process was very organized and everything was ready for us. We then sat in a comfortable lounge for about 45 minutes. At 11:45 we were told we could board. At 12:00 Jo-Anne and I were on board, drink in hand, standing at the New York Deli getting a Pastrami on Rye for me, and a Rueben for Jo-Anne. No kidding – 12:00!!!

We got into our cabin around 2:00. I booked a balcony for the cruise – it was very nice and we enjoyed sitting on our balcony very much. Usually around 4:00 or so we would order some snacks from Room Service and have them with a glass or two of wine. And we really enjoyed leaving and arriving at ports from the balcony.

I’ve seen several threads about “smuggling liquor on board”. We phoned Carnival several weeks before departure and ordered 2 bottles of rum (1 liter) to be in our room on arrival. Cost was $40 apiece. It was more than you would pay in a liquor store but it saved a lot on the ship. We also brought 6 bottles of wine with us – Carnival says that a “reasonable” amount of wine is OK. I thought that was reasonable. I felt that we followed the rules and I preferred that to outright smuggling. Each to his own though.

We both felt the ship was kept very clean – spotless even. Tables were always cleared immediately and there were always empty tables available on the Lido Deck. Food everywhere was excellent. Had Prime Rib on 2 separate nights and it was delicious. Jo-Anne ordered all the seafood and thought it to be delicious – especially the lobster – which Cyrus made sure she had 2 of. We ate every evening dinner in the Paris Dining Room. Our head waiter Cyrus was absolutely wonderful. His assistant, Zoran, was our favorite – very funny, and just a delight. Drink service on the Lido Deck was excellent and very attentive.

On different occasions we had the lunch buffet on the Lido Deck with a fish dish to die for, Pastrami and Reuben sandwiches from the NY Deli, Pizza and cheeseburgers. All were good. I like my food, expected it to be good and was not disappointed.

People still “reserve” deck chairs early and keep them all day. I guess you just have to deal with that. I decided I couldn’t beat them, so I did it too for the last couple of days.

Our stops were at San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Martin. As we got in at 5:00 and left at 12:00 Jo-Anne and I didn’t get off the ship at San Juan. In hindsight we both agree we should have got off and at least had a walk around the old town. We talked to some people who did and they enjoyed it. In St. Thomas we went on the Catamaran Champagne Sail away. Sailed across to St. John – Trunk’s Bay. Lovely excursion. We snorkeled at St. John’s and then enjoyed champagne, cheeses, breads, and fresh fruit on the way back. I would highly recommend this excursion – but book early, (we booked through the Carnival site a week before departure).

At St. Martin we simply got off the ship and took a taxi to Orient Beach. Orient beach is divided into separate sites – largely by the color of beach chairs and umbrellas. We went to Bikini Beach because a friend who has been there before recommended it. Orient Beach is several miles long and there about 10 different sites. One just flows into the other. Be warned that part of Orient Beach is nude. We walked through it (kept our clothes on) but no one seemed bothered. Quite the experience. All in all Orient Beach is a very beautiful spot. I highly recommend you go there. And, don’t worry about getting there or getting back – there are taxis everywhere and you won’t have any problems. We paid $7 each to get there and $7 each to return.

Third Really Good Tip – if you go to St. Martin go to Orient Beach. And do it on your own. And here is a Bonus Tip – go to Bikini Beach and have lunch in the lovely little restaurant there. Orient Beach is on the French side of the island and they love good food. Jo-Anne and I had lunch there and it may have been one of the best meals all trip. I had a mixed stir fry consisting of scallops, shrimp, chicken, pork, and some wonderful vegetables in a sauce “to die for”. Jo-Anne had a salad filled with fruit, seafood, and vegetables and she loved it.

Now, back to the ship. I thought the shows were good. I particularly enjoyed the Legends Show” on the last night. Early in the cruise people were invited to audition for roles like Elvis, Elton John, Cher, etc. Then, once chosen they rehearsed with the ship’s live band. They performed on Friday night and it was a great show. Our cruise director was Paul and he also did a great job.

Getting off the ship was relatively easy. We had an early flight and were allowed to leave with the first group. You have to “self assist” – carry your own luggage – to do this. If you don’t do that, keep in mind that there are 3000 people who have to get off so don’t get impatient.

All in all we had a great trip. Neither Jo-Anne nor I had any complaints. Carnival did a good job and the staff on the Triumph were nothing short of wonderful. I have read some pretty negative reviews on some of the forums but I certainly didn’t experience anything negative. And, I’m not naïve, I think my expectations are pretty much the same as most other people’s. Maybe Carnival reads the reviews and corrects things that are mentioned. I’d cruise again and I’d cruise Carnival again and I’d choose the Triumph again.

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