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Just off the Triumph-- Not really a review, more a collection of thoughts

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My partner and I just returned from a 4 day cruise to Cozumel on Carnival Triumph today. What follows is less of a “review” and more of a “collection of thoughts” from us. We’re not big photo takers, but others have posted enough pictures that there really isn’t much we could add, anyway. And while the comments may seem on the critical side, they aren’t intended to be – we enjoyed the cruise very much. Others have already written glowingly of the redo of the ship, so rather than repeat the praise, we’ll try to offer a little more detail about some things that worked for us and some things that didn’t.


At the Galveston Terminal:

Parking can be tricky. We had a reservation at a garage that was reported to be just across the street. It was across (and slightly down) the street, but because the terminal is set so far back from the street, it would have been a long walk hauling luggage (across a major street). Instead, my partner dropped me off and let a porter take our checked luggage, and then she walked back to the terminal. (There was no shuttle from this parking garage.)


The terminal itself is a pretty bare bones and threadbare, but easy to maneuver. We had purchased Faster to the Fun (FTTF) so we were directed into a shorter screening line.


We also had booked a suite, so we were eventually (after one mistaken direction) sent to the VIP lounge to await boarding with the diamond and platinum guests. Check in for the cruise was in the lounge and there was no wait. The lounge itself was no big deal (not luxurious at all) but it was a place to sit and have some water or lemonade while we waited to board.

We timed things just right – we sat for less than 5 minutes in the lounge before we were called to board with the diamond and platinum guests, around 11:00 am.


Arriving on the ship:

Our first impression was that the ship interior looks nice, in an old-style Carnival way. Don’t think Carnival Breeze or Sunshine – think lots of brass and neon, sort of old-school Vegas.


Upon boarding, we were directed to the main lobby where Carnival staff were directing people to the restaurants on the Lido deck that were open for lunch. Because we purchased FTTF (not because we had a suite), we should have been told we could go directly to our room. Instead, the Carnival staff member told us rooms wouldn’t be ready until 12:30-1:00 pm. We repeated, “But we’re Faster to the Fun” – and she looked at us blankly, like she’d never heard of it. Finally, we said “never mind” and headed for our deck (Deck 7). Sure enough, there was a sign on the doors leading to the cabin hallways saying that diamond, platinum and FTTF guests were welcome to come on in and go to their rooms. So we did. Score one for civil disobedience!


We checked out our Grand Suite (more about that in a minute) and then went to the Lido Deck (Deck 9) to grab lunch. The South Beach Buffet was open as well as Guy’s Burgers and Blue Iguana Cantina. We ate at Guy’s – our thoughts on the new food offerings are coming up.


Luggage arrived quickly – at least my suitcase did. Two hours later, my partner’s suitcase showed up. You guessed it --- she had a note inside that a “prohibited item” had been “confiscated.” The item? A brand new, still in the package power strip. In fact, power strips are not necessarily prohibited – from the Carnival web site: “Electrical devices such as fans, power strips, multi plug box outlets/adaptors, and extension cords will be removed if determined to pose a hazard and returned the last day of the cruise prior to debark.” So just a word of advice – whoever is doing the luggage searching on Triumph right now is taking a hard line on these items. In retrospect, we should have put the power strip in carry on luggage. I suspect we would have gotten it on board with no problem. Oh well. No big deal. We elected to let Carnival keep the power strip and did not visit the “Naughty Room” to retrieve it.


Because Triumph is a smaller ship, we could feel her move more than we have the last couple of ships we’ve been on, and we especially felt her move the last night coming back to Galveston. It didn’t bother us – in fact, my partner said she really liked it because it let her know she was on a ship.


The Grand Suite – Cabin 7-306:

Many folks on CruiseCritic feel a suite is not worth the dollars because they don’t stay in their rooms other than to sleep a few hours. My partner and I do like to spend some quiet time in the room, so the cost is worth it for us. Your mileage may vary.


The room included a king sized bed; a sectional sofa (that converted to a pull out bed); a bar with cabinets and a refrigerator; a built in dresser by the bed; a large dressing area with a sink, lighted mirror and vanity stool; a bathroom with another sink, a toilet, and a standard sized jacuzzi tub and shower; 2 closets; and lots of storage space. The balcony had 3 chairs and 2 small tables – no lounger. It would have been nice to have a lounger instead of the third chair—there was plenty of room for it.


The room was clean and functional and comfortable. It had new carpet, drapes, bedding and a flat screen TV. The furniture and cabinetry were not new.


There were a number of electrical outlets in the suite – except by the bed, where you might want one to plug in an iPad or iPhone for reading or to set an alarm. Oh well.


There’s been some talk about the new Carnival mattresses. It was fine, but nothing to get excited about, at least to me. If I had to describe it, I would say it was on the firm side.


Our cabin steward did a good job—not the best service I’ve ever received in my life, but just fine. We choose to tip him an additional $5 per day (in addition to whatever tiny cut he gets from the standard gratuity). We left the additional gratuity each morning with a note for anything special we needed, like extra ice.


And a note to the person who stole the flamingo door decoration off of our door on Saturday night – Really? Seriously? You had to steal a door decoration?? It only cost me a dollar, but what a disappointment to confirm there were really cheap, class-less people on board. Hope you enjoyed it.


Food on board:

Overall, I felt the food had improved from the last time I sailed with Carnival (about 7 years ago) or RCI (about 5 years ago).


We choose Your Time Dining (YTD). It generally worked well, although we never could predict when the YTD dining room would be busy. (The London Dining Room was the assigned room.) We typically never had to wait long for a private table, though.


Service was acceptable in YTD, not outstanding but fine. The food was also fine – not great cuisine, but perfectly acceptable. The one exception was the iced tea. Ugh. Made from a mix. Carnival, let me tell you something. Many of your guests on Triumph are Texans. Texans know their iced tea. What you served us was not iced tea, it was nasty brown water. Just say no to iced tea mix.


We also ate at Guy’s Burgers several times. The burgers were a cut above what you might expect to get, and it was nice to be able to add the toppings you wanted, including salsa from Blue Iguana Cantina. The lettuce, however, was universally awful. Limp, pale, shredded iceberg. It was the only other really awful thing I had on the ship, in addition to the undrinkable iced tea.


We ate both breakfast and lunch at Blue Iguana Cantina. Breakfast was very good, with made to order egg tacos and burritos. But – but – there was no BACON for the breakfast tacos or burritos! Ham, yes. Sausage, yes. But no bacon?!?! Not to be denied our bacon, we just went into the South Beach Buffet and got bacon to add to our breakfast taco/burrito. Seriously, Carnival – give in. Put some bacon at the Blue Iguana for breakfast. The salsa bar was excellent.


As others have noted, there are no fine dining specialty restaurants on board. We choose to eat at the Chef’s Table, which is a tasting menu offered one night for a $75 upcharge. The dinner was served in the Library, and the chef was present to explain each dish. The meal was around 10 courses and wine is included. I’ve eaten many tasting menus at a number of fine restaurants. This one was solidly in the middle, and I enjoyed it.


The Chef’s Table is limited to 12 guests and we were given a galley tour by the head chef and a demonstration on how to make the famous chocolate melting cake. I found the tour extremely interesting and it really brought home the enormous effort it takes to feed the ship. I could have done without the chef’s rather sexist comments about how women are the ones who know how to cook at home but that he never hires a woman for his kitchen because they aren’t strong enough to do the job. But that’s my Western Europe/United States cultural upbringing responding, so I just chalked it up to culture clash and let it go. We were given a copy of the menu and a photo of the group, signed by the chef. All in all, I’d recommend the Chef’s Table experience on Triumph, especially since there are so few dining options.


My partner and I ordered room service twice – once for breakfast and once for a snack. The breakfast offerings are truly bare bones continental breakfasts (small pastries, cereal, coffee, juice). The snack (veggie sticks and ranch dressing) was never even delivered. This was the only outright service failure we experienced.


We had a drink at the new Alchemy Bar at sail away. I had the pineapple chipotle martini, which was excellent. Alchemy serves only martinis and martini-like drinks – no beer, wine, daiquiris, etc. Thanks to an odd Texas law that all the ingredients served in drinks while the ship was in Texas waters had to be sourced from Texas, there were a few drinks the bartenders couldn’t make until we were in international waters (for example, anything with maraschino cherry juice), but they were willing and able to adapt most of the drink recipes. I really liked Alchemy – it was a classy, adult venue with great beverages.


We also bought the Bottomless Bubbles package. To use it, you had to order your soft drinks from the bar waiter in YTD or in the Main Dining Room. That sometimes meant a long wait. Also, soft drinks were only available from bars and while there usually was a bar nearby, if you were eating in the South Beach Buffet, it could be a bit of an inconvenience to make your way through the crowds to a bar. Overall, though, it was worth it for us.


Just another word about the bacon situation. As some others have noted, Carnival has taken control of the bacon --- you cannot serve yourself, but have to ask a server in the buffet line to serve you. The servers can be…. stingy….to say the least. But stand your ground – don’t move – and to keep the line moving, they’ll break and give you a few extra slices. (Yes, bacon is that important to us. LOL)


And now, a final word… about the chocolate melting cake. I know many Carnival cruisers adore it. I’m just not one of them – too sweet and unrelentingly chocolate for me. I much prefer the bitter and blanc, but that’s just me. If you like it, it’s there for you every night on Triumph.



Cozumel was the only port on this cruise, and we elected to not do any excursions but simply do a little shopping.


The ship docked at Puerta Maya, which is essentially a shopping area built by the cruise lines. You can’t get into the area without (in this case) a Sail and Sign card.


There was the usual crush getting off the ship. We went down to debark right at 9:00 am, and while it was crowded, we got off the ship quickly. Once off, we walked down the concrete pier alongside the ship, through the DuFre Shop and into the outdoor shopping village. (If you were doing a Carnival excursion, the tour guides met you just beyond the DuFre Shop in the shopping area.) Triumph was the only ship docked in Cozumel that day, so it wasn’t crowded. (In winter, there can be as many as 5 ships in Puerta Maya.)


The shopping area has the usual Caribbean jewelry stores (like Diamond International) plus Los Cincos Soles (vanilla and various Mexican made souvenirs), Cariloha (bamboo sheets and clothing), a Ron Jon surf shop, various t-shirt shops and a couple of restaurants. Perhaps most importantly, the Puerta Maya shopping area has clean bathrooms.


A quick word on Diamonds International: expect a hard sell, especially if Triumph is the only ship in port. Some of the jewelry wasn’t of particularly high quality; some was. If you’re going to shop there, be sure to read some of the on line reviews about the experiences (good and bad) others have had.


Again, since Triumph was the only ship in port, I found nearly every store I went into was willing to come down on the price if I was buying something significant or a number of smaller items. Cariloha was a notable exception to this.


Going back through the DuFre Shop is like running a gauntlet – every 3 feet someone asks if you want perfume, liquor, cigarettes, etc. Here’s a tip for saving a little money: when you go into the store from the shopping area entrance (on your way back to the ship), buy something small – a magnet, magazine, whatever. I bought a magnet and they gave me a coupon for $5 off a $50 purchase. I took that coupon 10 feet down the store and purchased some perfume I had my eye on (and that I had just priced in a store in Houston the week before). The DuFre price was a little less than retail in the U.S., I got $5 off and didn’t pay sales tax. I figure I saved $12-15. And when I bought the perfume, I was given another $5 off coupon which I could have used immediately to buy liquor, more perfume, etc.


We reboarded the ship at about 2:00 pm with no wait at all. Deadline to board was 3:30 pm and by 3:00 pm, there was a very long line of people standing in the blazing hot sun waiting to be processed on board the ship.


Others points regarding the Triumph:


The Spa-- It was pricey for the first couple of days. On port day and the last at sea day, there were a number of specials with significant price reductions, so wait until then if you want a spa treatment. My partner, who is a massage therapist, had a massage that she said was pretty good. But she was very put off by the hard sell at the end to buy the spa’s VERY expensive Elemis products.


The pools-- We didn’t use the pools, but both were small as you would expect on a smaller, older ship like Triumph. No Serenity area as others have reported.


The on board shops -- I’m a sucker for on board shops and almost always buy something. Not on Triumph. I was really disappointed in the quality and quantity of merchandise. Move along, there’s nothing to see in the Triumph shops.


Was FTTF worth it?-- For us, yes. It was worth the $50 to just be able to go to our suite as soon as we got on board and dump our carry on luggage, freshen up, etc. On a Triumph 4-day cruise, that’s really the major perk you get. You decide if it’s worth it for you.


On being a LGBT couple on a Carnival ship: If a discussion of being gay offends you, please just skip this section.


Overall, it wasn’t a huge issue for us, although occasionally it became a little tiring being the “Rainbow Ambassadors” all the time. (“No, I don’t have a husband, this is my partner. Yes, my partner. Yes, we’re a couple.”) All of the Carnival staff were courteous and seemed to have no problem with us. In fact, we were celebrating our 7th anniversary, and the dining room wait staff did the same song and dance (including urging us to "kissy kissy") that they did for any other couple celebrating. One time a Carnival staff member asked me where my husband was so I smiled and pointed to my partner and said, “She’s my husband, so to speak” – and the staff member apologized profusely to me for her assumption. (It wasn’t that big a deal to me.) Overall, the other passengers seemed generally okay with us as well. We got fewer looks than we did on RCI 5 years ago, when we were treated pretty badly by other guests on the ship. The times, they are a-changin’….



We had two options: (1) we could manage all of our own luggage and be in the very first group off of the ship (called Self Assist); (2) we could check luggage and because we were FTTF, we would be in Group 1 to be allowed to debark after the Self Assist people. (In contrast, our suite would only have gotten us into Group 3 – we know, because we received 2 letters and 2 sets of luggage tags.) We decided to check luggage. According to the letter we received, we were to be out of our cabin around 8:30 am and should wait in the Rome Lounge until our group was called to proceed to the gangway to debark.


The ship was cleared into the port early, so the cruise director began calling decks for Self Assist. As you might expect, people who were ready to go got in line to debark whether their deck had been called or not. Although announcements were made asking people not to do that, I suspect the people who “jumped the queue” so to speak got away with it and got off the ship earlier than they would have by following the rules.


My partner and I went to the Rome Lounge to wait. There were not very many people there. We waited in the Rome Lounge for about 40 minutes, until all of the decks had been called for Self Assist. Then the cruise director came into the Lounge and told all of us we could get in line to debark. I have no idea if we were all Group 1 folks or not, but at least we were getting off of the ship relatively early. The process wasn’t great (there was a fair amount of jockeying for position to line up), but all in all, it didn’t take long.


Then we were in the Galveston Cruise Terminal, waiting to clear immigration and customs. I’m not sure why, but Galveston just can’t seem to get this process right. It hadn’t improved much (if any) from the last time I came through the terminal 7 years ago. Not enough immigration/customs agents to handle the onslaught of people. No clear lines for non-US citizens (who take longer to process through). And a truly miserable, concrete floored warehouse with at best mediocre air conditioning/ventilation that you have to stand in and wait… and wait… and wait. (A big tip of the hat to the porters who work the terminal. It is well worth the tip to have them assist with the baggage in that place.) There has got to be a better way to handle this part of the process. It really is a disappointing way to end a cruise.


Would I cruise Carnival again?

Tentatively, yes, although possibly not Triumph, or at least, not Triumph in the summer. Because school was out, there were lots of children on board – unfortunately, most of whom were being allowed to run wild up and down the halls, and screaming as they ran up and down the stairs. There also seemed to be a number of people on board of all ages who were there solely to see how much alcohol they could drink in a 4 day period. Honestly, I don’t object to adult beverages, and I suppose I would rather these folks get drunk on a ship than on land where they might get in a car and hurt someone. But the sheer scale of the drunkenness at times was a little off-putting.


Having said all of that, my partner and I did have a good time. I hope with RCI going out of Galveston more often in 2014 and NCL going out of Houston, Carnival will consider offering more options (newer ships) year around out of Galveston.


I’ll probably never be a diamond or platinum cruiser on Carnival because there are other lines I want to experience (Celebrity, Crystal, etc.). But Carnival provides a solid and convenient cruise experience for now, especially for a short cruise out of Galveston.

Edited by Midnight Blue
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I thought that if you were in a suite that you would get automatically priority boarding.


Yes, with a suite you get priority boarding. You do NOT get to go directly to your room -- that requires FTTF. If we had only had the suite, we would have gotten priority boarding but would not have been able to go directly to our room upon boarding. If we had only had FTTF, we would have boarded later (just after the group we boarded with) but would have been able to go directly to our room.


Bottom line, it takes both the suite and FTTF (or having diamond or platinum status) to get all the boarding perks. It's definitely confusing.

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Thanks for the write up. We've been on the Triumph three times in the past, and we look forward to seeing the new areas in September.


What night was the Chef's Table on your four day cruise?



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Great review. From other reviews I've read it seems like there's always at least one crew member who doesn't know what FTTF is. I plan on just going straight to my cabin and not even bother asking.


It's a shame that the bacon embargo seems to have extended to the Blue Iguana. Please tell me they at least have chorizo. I always get either bacon or chorizo on my breakfast tacos.


I'm also not a fan of the WCMC. IMO, it was "OK" but not the alpha and omega of desserts like some make it out to be.


I've been lucky so far on the two times I've disembarked in Galveston. Went smooth and quick both times. Hopefully my luck will hold for November.


Congratulations on your anniversary and thanks for posting :)

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The whole bacon thing is funny!

We're just off the Splendor a few days ago and they even have HAM police now!

Yes, the ham was right next to the bacon and the bacon police also served the ham. One little half slice. But you could ask for more and they didn't hesitate to hand out as much as you wanted.

I guess by next summer's cruise they will be handing out the sausage too! LOL

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Great review - finally a like minded person that prefers the bitter and blanc over the Warm chocolate melting cake.


I am on this cruise in a few weeks and in my experience the smaller ships tend to be booze cruises and less classy people.

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What night was the Chef's Table on your four day cruise?




It was on Saturday night (ship left Galveston on Thursday). This was also the day we were in Cozumel. Not the best timing, but I understand there's not much choice on such a short cruise.

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It's a shame that the bacon embargo seems to have extended to the Blue Iguana. Please tell me they at least have chorizo. I always get either bacon or chorizo on my breakfast tacos.



Congratulations on your anniversary and thanks for posting :)



You have nothing to fear-- chorizo was available. Enjoy!


And thanks for the good wishes!

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It was on Saturday night (ship left Galveston on Thursday). This was also the day we were in Cozumel. Not the best timing, but I understand there's not much choice on such a short cruise.


Where did they have the Chef's table at? How did everyone dress? I have decided to do this solo I am also wondering if I would be out of place by myself. Thanks

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Since you scoped out the perfume did you happen to notice if they had any Chanel? I am almost out but if I can get it cheaper on the cruise I will wait. Thanks and I really enjoyed your concise and informative review. :D

Edited by dec0803
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Nice review, thanks.


I'll never understand the drinking thing. It was bad enough in college, but it amazes me how many grown people find it necessary to consume as much alcohol as possible. I also don't care to cruise with lots of children on board. We're doing a Baltic cruise later this month. I thought with the length and the itinerary there wouldn't be many children, but there's a surprising number of teens just in our roll call alone. I'm expecting them to be well behaved, though. We'll see.


Anyway, I'm glad you had a nice time and that you'll have some other options available to you in the future.

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And a note to the person who stole the flamingo door decoration off of our door on Saturday night – Really? Seriously? You had to steal a door decoration?? It only cost me a dollar, but what a disappointment to confirm there were really cheap, class-less people on board. Hope you enjoyed it.



Just returned from this same cruise....I noticed the flamingo on the door while walking to our room (7430 aft balcony)...LOL'd with the post it notes about "hope you enjoy it"....probably one of the teens on board that snagged it.

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Thank you for taking time to write a thoughtful and informative review. My bf and I will be taking the CARNIVAL TRIUMPH t the end of this month (July 29 sailing).


We have just an Ocean Suite, so I believe we will receive VIP check in. We have not purchased the FTTF option. I have been debating on this. My booking indicates I am now Platinum (I did not think I had reached that status...yet....but perhaps from the Grandfather stance for past cruises I am....if I get the perks fine, if not, no big deal. I will find out when they issue my S&S card.


I am a foodie, so I have booked the Chef's Dinner for us (already received email confirmation). I have done this on all of my cruises and look forward to the experience.


I was also pleased to read your comments on the bottomless bubbles and The Alchemy Bar. Bf and I are in a "classic cocktail" kick currently, so I anticipate spending some time there.


Again, thank you for your comments. Oh, and congratulations on you anniversary! Bf and I are just approaching our 6 mod! Hope to have the future you two have.:D

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Thanks for the nice review. It's always good to get multiple perspectives. I have a couple questions if you don't mind. You mentioned you were on the ship by 11:00AM (outstanding by the way), what time did you arrive at the port? You also mentioned you parked at a lot across from the terminal, do you mind telling us what company you parked with? We're debating our parking options and keep hearing how great Galveston Park n Cruise is so close you can walk to the ships.


Glad to hear FTTF was worth it for you. We have already purchased our FTTF and am excited we may be on the ship that early.



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Thanks for the nice review. It's always good to get multiple perspectives. I have a couple questions if you don't mind. You mentioned you were on the ship by 11:00AM (outstanding by the way), what time did you arrive at the port? You also mentioned you parked at a lot across from the terminal, do you mind telling us what company you parked with? We're debating our parking options and keep hearing how great Galveston Park n Cruise is so close you can walk to the ships.


Glad to hear FTTF was worth it for you. We have already purchased our FTTF and am excited we may be on the ship that early.




regarding parking : We have used Galveston Park n Cruise exclusively and love it. We have it booked for the 4th time when we sail out in 18 days! It is directly across the street from the terminal. Yes, you will have to cross the road. There is a crosswalk at the red light and people DO let you cross. I've never had an issue. It is a trek with luggage, as the parking lot is quite expansive, but has never been strenuous for us. We are late 30's with two teenagers. They offer covered parking and there is no waiting for a shuttle bus. :D

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