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itsasmallworld

Age: 56

Occupation:business

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Triumph

Sailing Date: 2008-12-14

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

With only one other cruise under my belt, I am really not qualified to compare this ship and cruise with similar choices in its class, but considering the ridiculously low cost of a most enjoyable seven-day vacation at a mere $1,770 for a family of three - I do have one comment. Who cares? We have never spent so little and received so much. The spacious enough room with a private balcony had every amenity, including loads of closet space and innumerable drawers and shelves to keep even a teenage daughter's mess out of sight. The unexpected presence of CNN in the room was highly appreciated. The private balcony with two deck chairs, and a million dollar view, gave the wife and I lots of opportunities to grab some quality time away from the hustle and bustle of the poolside decks. We were so tuned out that we never got around to discussing a couple of personal projects we had brought along. If spending a few hundred dollars more per person is not a problem, then I would strongly recommend a balcony stateroom even if you believe the popular notion that you won't spend much time in the room. Just leave the drape wide open at night have no peeping toms within a few hundred miles of your balcony - and wake up every day to the most gorgeous view nature has to offer us mortals. The Paris restaurant compared favorably, more often than not, with any fine dining restaurant in town, and if it missed the mark a few times, the solution was as simple as asking for a replacement that someone else at the table seemed to be enjoying. Try complaining about an overdone steak at your favorite fine dining establishment without raising the head waiter's eyebrow. The highly ambitious dishes, such as the Escargot Bourgogne and Baked Alaska, fell short of expectations. The more straightforward dishes, such as the Filet Mignon and Seafood Medley, did not disappoint. On the same subject, I would highly recommend the restaurant over the buffet even for breakfast, especially if you are a little fussy about your coffee. The double espresso paired brilliantly with eggs benedict in the morning and was a far more satisfying start to the day than the run-of-the-mill cup of joe served in the buffet. The musical shows, though not worthy of a purchased ticket had they been held in my home town, did provide a pleasant post-dinner diversion for an hour, which fortunately was the exact duration of these community-theater caliber affairs. The adult comedy show was gratuitously loaded with foul language without delivering the edginess and brilliance one expected in return. But hey, they were free, and gave us an excuse to hang out after dinner instead of turning in like the old fogeys we are in danger of becoming. The bars would have been fun, what with the sing-alongs, piano players and jazz, but all of them were smoker friendly. I wonder what sort of consumer research went into this decision of Carnival's. This is 2008! However, the lobby bar with the soaring atrium view was pleasant enough and smoke-free, and the bar with island music in the Casino, though technically not smoke-free, was fortunately placed right in the middle of a huge thoroughfare, the openness of which dissipated any foul smell from all the smoking in the Casino. The buffet! While not a contender for any culinary award, it was far better than the cafeteria food that some severe critics have labeled it. For instance, we were surprised that basic fried chicken, which typically does not do well sitting in a buffet steam tray, was quite juicy with none of its crispness lost to the buffet style service. The desserts in the buffet were far superior to the ones on the nightly menu in the restaurant and the mere process of selecting one, or three in my case, from an array of mouthwatering desserts a lot more fun than ordering from a printed page. The cheesecakes, even the low carb options, were absolutely rich and satisfying. The lines for the buffet were the only negative. Despite the December 14 sailing not being in the high season, and presumably the ship not being full as a result - it took at least 15 to 30 minutes to get through the line. The specialty counters, such as the New York deli, pizza or burgers, were faster. The main buffet stayed the same everyday but a sub-buffet, if I can call it that, offered a different nationality each day. The Indian cuisine day had samosas, which are like empanadas, that rivaled the best samosas in India. We should know. We are originally from India. The staff was competent but not as liberal with smiles and friendly comments as the ones we experienced on our other cruise with Royal Caribbean. But we don't expect too much personal closeness from an international staff. Having traveled all over the world, we have learned that the language and culture can often be the barriers to the type of bon homie one sees in America. The staff did their job and complied with all our requests without any attitude whatsoever, and that is superb service in our book. Why expect them to also put on a big show of friendliness? The shore excursions were not consistently good. The so-called guides and other vendors at Dunn's River Fall, the main attraction in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and one which almost all excursions include, were too loud and obnoxious. If you choose to walk the bazaars in Third World countries on a self-guided trip, you have made a conscious decision to sample the local culture and merrily deal with every pushy hawker pestering you to buy. However, as a cruise ship tourist signing up for a shore excursion, you are captive. You have placed yourself at the mercy of whatever the locals dish out. It is up to the local tourism authority to control some of the unnecessary aggressiveness found in Ocho Rios. Grand Cayman and Cozumel were much better examples of how tourists should be treated. In Cozumel, my wife and I, both serious cooks, took a Mexican cooking class that was most interesting. While a little dumbed down if you are good in the kitchen, it was still fun to cook a three-course Mexican lunch in a group setting and then eat what one had prepared. The free margaritas served while toiling away at the stove only added to the enjoyment. At $89 per person, it was not the cheapest excursion, but most of them fall in the $70 to $100 range anyway. The ship itself was well maintained, though the fake wood paneling in the Paris dining room looked dated. However, I did not notice any neglected corner on the ship that should have been fixed or cleaned, and I am not oblivious to such things. Nothing in the room looked worn out. If this is an old ship by cruise industry standards, I can't wait to go on one of the flashy new behemoths they have out now. When all is said and done, and each category analyzed - the room, food, entertainment, shore excursions, staff - would we recommend this cruise to our best friends? Yes! If your expectations are in line with what you are paying, after all, this is no Cunard or the Four Seasons, then you will be amazed at how much it offers you for the price. And probably the best thing it offers you is a totally unhurried, everything-taken-care-of vacation package that sure beats catching flights, renting hotel rooms and finding decent places to eat and reading all those guide books for some worthwhile sightseeing tours in town. Been there, and done a lot of that! This vacation was refreshingly different. Good job, Carnival.

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