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Triumph Turkey Day Cruise, it's late and it's long (14 pages)


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PRE CRUISE DAY (Nov. 18th) - Chaos during thanksgiving travel weekend and the Nov. weather in Buffalo, had flying into West Palm Beach Florida on the Friday before our cruise. The Best Western was a clean basic hotel for $71 all tax inc. We chose it for the nice pool, continental breakfast and airport transfer van for $15. The hotel also included a coffee machine and small fridge. Only down side was a lack of elevator for the second story (carrying all our cruise luggage at over 60 lbs. a bag up two flights was too much work for a vacation!)

GROUP- Six of us, four adults in our late 30’s two kids 11 and 12. This was the 5th cruised for Rob & I, third for Ben (12), second for Margaret (11) and the first for our friends. All were carnival cruises, 7 days except for the last one in May, the RCI Grandeur on a repo.

TRANSPORTATION- the Triumph sails out of Miami, finding transportation from West Palm to Miami for 6 people and the entire luggage was a hassle. We chose Infiniti Limo out of Miami. A 10 pax. Lincoln limo from WPB to the port of Miami was $224 including all taxes, tips etc. Two taxis minus tips would have been about $160. The ride takes 60 minutes and our driver Gary showed up on time, played tour guide with the sites and handled our entire luggage in and out of the limo. Our Fellow cruise critics booked them as well and were just as pleased. For the return ride from the port of Miami to West Palm airport was only an additional $20 to wait 45 minutes at the pier. The driver Gary called us, arriving an hour early of our pre-arranged pick up time and called our cell phone.

EMBARKATION (Nov. 19th) - We arrived at the port of Miami about 11:45 in the morning. There were approximately 200 people ahead of us, just beginning to be let in. The whole process after some bad directing from carnival was about 90 minutes. Now for anxious travelers, 90 minutes is a LONG time to just stand. Picture taking and cell phone use is not allowed and the infamous yellow chairs didn’t exist here, just standing. Inside, two lines will open up and a port assistant guides you into the full line, ignoring the empty one. Cross under the ropes and go directly to the empty line, which has its own line of port authority people waiting to check you in. I had read this advice before and ignored it, only to find the second filling line to be checked in at the same time, despite the port authority staff that said the initial line would be checked first!!!!!

Finally on board! We entered on deck 3, Lobby deck, into the atrium. Music was playing, staff available for directions handing out deck plans and fellow travelers already kicking off their vacations walking the ship and visiting bars. The lobby is gorgeous! Our room was ready for us, carnival capers and excursion list on the bed waiting. We dropped off the carry on luggage, grabbed the camera and headed out.

On to the Maitre d’, to change our assigned 8pm dinning back to early seating. We were told to come back twice, being given a different time for the head waiter to appear. (Check your capers, unlike us, it will tell you what time and which dinning room the Maitre d’ will be at). The assistant helped us and we compromised on 6:15, splitting up our group of 6 to tables 236 and 238. Being a holiday cruise there were 700 plus kids, so getting 6:15pm was a miracle. Flashing the gold card didn’t help, either did nicely reminding him that at least one of four carnival cruises it would be nice to have what we requested (we’ll have to shoot for #5).

Now outside to the Lido deck, the sky was overcast and had a chill but our best cruises began with rain so we started with the drink of the day “The fun ship special”. We had buffet lunch out on the lido deck and calypso music began playing. The band is on deck 10, overlooking the main pool, which is a great set up because you don’t have to scream to hear each other at the lido bar. The kids found the ice cream and we purchased their drink cards. There is a table set up across from the Continental bar on the lido deck to purchase the soda cards, the bar staff wasn’t selling them on day #1. Just like RCI, you can buy CCL soda glasses for $4.95 (in addition to the soda card price). The kids swam for a bit. It was nice to have the pool open for them. Many people were still in that embarkation line so we toured the ship and took some great shots in each room, getting familiar with the ship.

3:30, time to meet our fellow cruise critics in their aft balcony cabin, toasted a few to each other the aft cabin of course had a great view. On to the muster drill, very brief and organized, no cameras or drinks allowed. Sail away party began after 5pm, the Calypso music of “Tropic Sounds” set the party atmosphere as Matt Ross the cruise director called everyone up on decks to wave good bye and then we were MOVING! Great sites of the Florida coast and its’ houses and Miami looked beautiful at sunset in the wake of the ship. With a 5pm sail it was dark quickly but we had a beautiful sunset.

Camp Carnival counselers were everywhere reminding parents to sign the kids up tonight. Both kids decided NOT to sign up for camp carnival, can’t figure that one out because they’ve enjoyed kids camp before. So all I can say is that there were a ton of activities and I overheard many kids saying “I want to go to camp”.

Spa personal were giving demonstrations and free treatments to volunteers, Rob declined the free shave and brief facial. If you’re looking to volunteer for the demonstration, you’ll find the staff stationed on the inside elevators decks 9 and 10 and the atrium elevators decks 9 and 10.

The taste of nations theme on the lido buffet was Italian. 6:15pm, now off to our first dinner in the London dinning room. The décor was whimsical from the new light blue and brown tiger stripe carpet to yellow banana style overhead lights. Our table for three was one for 2 with the leaf extension. It would comfortably seat 4, but the extension does drop down a good inch and I spilled my drink instantly hitting the right diagonal spot (I know how to make an entrance). Our waiter was IKuituk and assistant Manuel. It was clear that Manuel was fairly new, but quickly found a way to spoil our son Ben with hot chocolate and had our water and early coffee glasses kept full. Now dinning staff makes or breaks your dinning experience. They were both efficient, but a huge language barrier existed and clarifying our orders was common, their smiles forced and whenever the waiter would appear to check on us, the assistant would stand behind Ben and force a smile. They were odd and I never felt comfortable with them.

The “Welcome aboard show” was at 7and 9pm to meet Matt Ross the CD, the band and dancers. We skipped it and toured the ship instead.

Next to the Lobby bar, the Capitol bar where cocktail piano music was being played, we had a drink and mingled with fellow cruisers. The 6 story atrium bar was beautiful decorated in blue and gold lighting. The chairs looked like Recee cups with globes near your foot rest. Lit up globes were between each chair with wavy blue neon connecting them. Then we just went bar to bar, checking out the night life, kids went to the arcade and we tucked them in with a bunch of singles to order room service. We lasted until about 2:30am and then off to the room.

ROOM- #7349, a three person balcony room. The room was decorated in the usual mauve/pink tones. The new pillows and down blankets were there, simply decadent!. The two single beds were already pushed together for us and the upper bunk pulled down. The couch and table were placed under the bunk beds the long way against the bathroom and worked well there since the bunk was only turned down for the night and placed back flush with the wall in the am. There was extra space for all our things and the extra hangers I’d brought weren’t needed. There is a lower shelf for storage in the bathroom with the single sink mirror storage. Our HUGE suitcases easily fit under the bed. Ice waiting in the ice bucket. Our steward Anaal was quick and polite. The phone wasn’t working for a wake up call but we could call out. The standard chair, table and lounge chair were on the balcony. We stood outside on it for some time just enjoying the view and used the bungee cord to keep the door open at night to hear the ocean. FYI, the air conditioning is regulated and piped in from a central ceiling location. Ben froze the first night as the air conditioning competed with the balcony air. There is an extra down blanket and pillows in the cabinets. The TV viewing area has a ton of storage which we used for all of our electronics, the portable play station, computer, dvd’s, then beach and snorkel gear. Boxes of wine fit nicely on the shelf above the TV. Despite the rules, we smuggled two boxes of wine, one bottle of rum, one vodka and one whiskey bottle with a bunch of crystal light mixers (Rob is an Adkins guy so no fruit juices on the lido deck for mixers). If you give your steward a tip, he’ll stow your luggage for you and will also provide wine glasses. Our sail away wine gift from vacations to go was waiting, chilled on ice with two glasses waiting, along with a keepsake carnival corkscrew. If you need a corkscrew, just ask the steward, you don’t need to pack one.

SEA DAY (Nov. 20th) - The sky was overcast, and the pool turned into a wave pool and was closed down for a bit (which happened several times during the cruise). The hot tubs were full of people trying to enjoy the small bit of sun. We toured the shops; I spent too much time gazing at the tanzanite display and even had a brief look at the displays before the “official unveiling”. There were pricy yet beautiful pieces there. A blackjack tournament and champagne art auction were going on around noon. At one the Ice Carving Demo began. Then the hairy chest competition began on Lido deck, which was hilarious as always. The winner was too close to call and the last two contestants poured buckets of ice down each others swim trunks bellowing out their best Tarzan imitations… it was father against son! Drink of the day was “Riviera Delight”. Our friends went to the wine and cheese party at the California wine bar. Wines were only $3 a glass. No free sampling like wine tasting, but if you were unsure you’d like your selection, a small sample would be provided to you at the wine bar. Not true for Martini’s but over our week I had overheard a few people unhappy with their Martini selection and their glass was dumped and a second choice happily filled at no extra cost.

We went to the Oxford bar for tea time. Classic music being played, nice hoer durves but the fresh crepes that RCI had were missing here, a bit disappointed but it was wonderfully relaxing anyway.

Then it was time to get ready for our first formal night and photo’s. We sat for a few poses, then the captain’s cocktail party at 5pm in club Rio. The band was excellent and people began dancing on stage immediately. Free drinks and hoer drovers were flowing. After a quick introduction to the head staff it was time for dinner. Between us, we had lobster, salmon and steak. The waiter was pushing the lobster, which my husband enjoyed; more plates just appeared you never had to ask. Our friend had 4 lobster plates! Dessert now two days in a row was disappointing. We’d tried cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake, a mousse and apple pie. Not one slice was finished, the taste being bland, the presentation beautiful. If my triple dessert eating son doesn’t finish a slice of any dessert…. That says it all! The taste of nations theme on the Lido deck was Indian. We didn’t try it and there was always a nice variety of desserts being served

The main show was “Wonderful world show” which was attended by our friends. There was singing and dancing representing several countries in different languages. They enjoyed it very much. Rob and I spent time people watching on the promenade deck having a drink at the World’s Way bar listening to music from Joseph (bland mix of light country and soft rock). He is the same quality of the usual CCL casino bar performers and did take requests. We considered him average and we were able to enjoy the music anyway. The atmosphere was festive and fellow cruisers complemented each other in passing.

DRESS- always a hot topic! (know in advance that we’re every day jean wearing people, but on a cruise, I dress to the nines and change at least 3-5 times a day) ((this is not necessary, I’m simply stating how I dress, if you plan smartly, what you wear for dinner will carry into night life, I prefer to change)). Now being a high volume of families, we saw much less formal and “appropriate” (carnival guideline) dress. That being said, about 2/3 of the ship went formal based on the adults. About 1/4 of the dinning room was empty and few tables had people pushing the dress code. Several families in shorts and jeans were met by the maiter d’ and “chose” to dine elsewhere. I couldn’t hear the conversations so I can’t say that they were asked to leave. Several swanky men wore hats included in the formal wear. Those that went casual were predominately in the casino and up on lido deck but we noticed every style of dress entering the shows. Happily I never noticed anyone making nasty comments about those that didn’t choose to go formal and no one appeared uncomfortable that was casual. Some people changed after dinner, others stayed formal, many people were informal as the night progressed or changed into night club clothes. I wore a varying teal to aqua blue hand beaded strapless full length gown, Rob wore a black suite, white shirt and matching blue tie. This is on the high end of dressed and many people looked simply snazzy in less “formal attire”. For the females reading, I watch the designer stores, even checking consignment shops for sales and rotate my four formal gowns on each cruise, and it’s taken a few cruises to build up the choices, so don’t worry about not having the perfect cruise clothes, it takes awhile to gather the wardrobe. My gowns are my rare splurging on myself with a great sale and a seamstress.

Formal night was a very festive and glamorous night for those that choose to participate. If it’s not your thing, know that on the promenade deck (the main deck at night with all the goings on), ALL styles of clothes down to shorts and t-shirts were being worn, so if dressing up isn’t your thing, you’ll still be fine just not in main dinning. Please don’t feel pressured to dress up if it isn’t you and you’ll never wear the formal clothes again, save your $$ for shopping!!!! Can you say Tanzanite?

We changed around 10pm into night club clothes and went to the sing along piano bar, the “Big Easy”. What a blast! It was still early and several kids were here too enjoying themselves, trying to throw singles into the request bucket on the rotating piano. Nicholas was the piano player, the request list was pages long and wow could he play and have fun with the crowd! The décor was wall to ceiling black with shells everywhere. The room was lit fairy well, so those sitting in the back of the room were part of our sing along party. Other piano bars we’ve been to were so dark that if you didn’t have a seat along the piano you couldn’t even be seen to join in. Around 11pm, we were joined by Claude, the classical pianist that plays at the Atrium bar. He played “piano man” from Billy Joel and a few others that drew a packed crowd from those passing on the promenade. So stop by the Atrium Lobby bar and invite Claude for a drink at the piano bar, hopefully he’ll play a tune for you.

Our friends went to the Cognac and cigar night in the Oxford bar and thoroughly enjoyed the music, drinks and the stogie. Then we met up at the Venezia lounge for dancing with “Pure”. What a hoot this group was playing classics, four Orientals jamming to separate ways from Journey, Skyward, Led Zeppelin, they were excellent! We danced until our feet hurt. This group is a must see! It was well past 3am, we took a walk along deck at night, ate some pizza and off to bed (had to get up and save deck chairs:-P ).

SEA DAY / SAN JUAN (Nov. 21st) - The sun was shinning and the weather was gorgeous! Those other deck chair savers beat us and we found 4 chairs on deck 10 overlooking the main pool area. Breakfast at the outside buffet was quick and had an abbreviated version of the inside buffet choices. Having two outside buffets really cut down on the inside wait times! Food the same every morning; omelet line, fruit and yogurt, cold cereal, oatmeal and grits, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage links, ham and either pancakes or French toast. The pool was open and full all day (we never went to the back pool, so maybe it was less crowded there) We always hunker down at the main pool to watch the competitions and listen to the band, I’m sure it’s much quieter in the back pool if that’s what you’re looking for. Although the boat wasn’t rocking noticeably, the pool again was a massive wave pool. Being center of the ship, we though that VERY odd.

The survivor competition began around 1pm- go RED team! We all enjoyed a relaxing day at sea. Before you knew it, we were pulling into San Juan. A large amount of people were out on decks watching us dock. We pulled into pier 4, being the last ship in that day. Know that pier 4 is the furthest away from the city. You simply exit the ship and make a left, pass three other cruise line ships and pick any street and head north and west. Docked with us was RCI Navigator, a Celebrity ship and either the Explorer or Empress. We pulled in and cleared an hour early, the buffet was suddenly packed with 20 plus minute lines everywhere. I would have thought that a trend had developed by now that passengers hit the buffet to grab a quick bite before going off port and the burger and pizza places would have extra staff! One lone man was at the hamburger stand busting his but with some disgruntled passengers. The pizza line was even longer so hit the buffet early or you’ll wait almost 30 minutes for food.

SAN JUAN AT NIGHT- Having been to San Juan three times before, our group of 6 decided to tour on our own. Being at pier 4, you’re furthest away from the activities, but I’m remembering worst case scenario… we walked 6 or 7 blocks to la fountain. Because there were at least 4 ships in port, many shops were still open, night clubs and snazzy bistros were in full swing… from open air bars to secluded outside romantic patio bars. We looked at the vendor’s wares along the way, not seeing anything eye catching… took in the beautiful porch lined buildings, all painted differently. Had our obligatory stop at the Hard Rock café for pictures and a shirt. We headed further west away from the pier down these romantic streets, stopped in a few trinket stores then went to the Christopher Columbus statue. Next we headed down towards the fountain, our favorite site. The street was lined with old time lamp posts on both sides, a beautiful garden spot with several statues, but the closed gates prevented our entry. There was a secluded club to our right nestled under a tree line, whose center tree appeared hundreds of years old. The overhead trees were draped in gold lights and if we didn’t have the kids with us, I could have spent the rest our night there. Next to the fountain for some photo ops. Rob and I then took the kids back to the ship for s late night swim (plus they’ve both seen the sites before and were bored). Mark and Darlene went to a casino and had a drink back at the Hard Rock.

The ship was surprisingly empty and the kids had the pool to themselves. Rob and I met Amy and Brian at the Lido Bar and we quickly became cruise buddies. Tonight was the deck party at 11pm. A Fabulous display of desserts and Mexican food appeared out on the Lido deck, plus a table of cigars and cognacs. The party was slow to start with everyone getting back on board. Then music and…. The CONGA line! The lines were split into each team… red, white and blue… the winner went to the team that got the most people to join in (so if you were grabbed and found yourself suddenly in a conga line, that was me!) Then while the majority of people were gathered on deck, the dancing competition between teams began with the electric slide, several others until we ended in an exhausting; kick right leg, squat (scream out team color), come up kick left leg, squat (scream out team color)… until the temp kept increasing and we were dropping from exhaustion! What fun!!!! Red team won and we finished with the YMCA song! Plenty of blackmail pictures here. Amy and I were all over the cruise video, her waving the red flag and me dancing with her!

The deck party soon ended, we were already sailing to our next port. We toured the promenade bars again, spending a bit of time in the casino and casino bar. Again, it was pushing 3:30 again and we’ve got to get up early for the port. Amy, Brian and their kids decided to join us for our do-it-yourself coki beach excursion. Their son Bryson and Ben hit it off and had spent the night together in our room playing play-station, watching TV and playing cards.

ST. THOMAS (Nov. 22nd) - Now St. Thomas is my favorite port. Our phone was still not working and I was both so excited and worried I’d oversleep that I never slept. I watched the sun rise off the balcony at 4:45 am and went up on deck in my jammies and robe to have coffee and take pictures while everyone slept. We all met up on Lido deck for a quick buffet breakfast and waited for the call to exit the ship, none ever came (we blew 30 minutes waiting but so what). Our new group of 11 caught a van outside the pier for $9pp, a bit pricey but it was new and air conditioned and I was excited to get going so I didn’t haggle. ($7 is the going rate) About a 15 minute ride to Coki beach.

Coki- when you arrive at coki it’s a bit scraggly looking until you take a few steps and enter the beach. Then you’re looking at beautiful mountains in the distance, crystal clear water and clean sandy beaches. Coral world is off to your right (when facing the water). There is snorkeling to the left and right by the rocks. The water is generally calm as this is a bay type area but enough waves on the coral world side to give me some scrapes. The locals run the place and aside from some drink bantering you’re not hassled. Chairs and umbrella were the usual $5 each, you can rent snorkel equip for $5. Best pina colada, not made from the bottled mix. The water is so beautifully crystal clear that the best underwater shots I’ve taken were here (underwater camera case from cannon). Didn’t need the flash or need to shoot up towards the light. Simply incredible experience. Taxi pick up near coral world, so don’t let the taxi driver fool you into thinking you won’t get a cab. The wonderful locals told us we’d overpaid, we called the driver to renegotiate and have a stop at the overlook at magen s’ bay and drop the price a bit (you can do that with 10 taxis waiting for you to climb in). Now Magens is way overrated, unless you’ve been to sapphire and Coki (St. John’s is a bit more involved in transport which I why I don’t compare them). If you just do the over head stop for some pic’s you’ve seen the best of the bay). Rob took the kids back to the ship and Darlene and I did some shopping, buying the usual souvenirs at the usual prices. I was not in the mood for haggling so I didn’t touch the jewelry but many women were sporting new rings and bracelets, so the bargains must have been good. If you’re intoxicated, I mean klutzy like Darlene, know that if you break it you buy it! (She’s the proud owner of two shot glasses and a wooden ship that went in the trash).

Back on ship, ready for dinner. The drink of the day was “the Ultimate Suntan”. The taste of nations theme was Caribbean. There always seems to be one night on the cruise where nothing on the menu looks good, so I ordered the steak (filet) and told the waiter that I have a shrimp allergy, just bring anything for appetizer and salad. Sure enough, shrimp. I have no idea how our orders usually turned out ok. Just FYI, when you order the filet, you’ll have an extra 15 minute wait. It is just nice to know if you’re the type that is on a schedule. Well worth the time, the steak was mouthwatering, Manuel remembered Ben’s AI steak craving and had it ready for him, with a total of 3 cups of hot chocolate…. My kid was bouncing on the seat!

We tried the sports bar for a second time. No sports, only CSI on. Not a single sports stat (which could easily be printed from one of the on line computers), not even golf or fly fishing. Really cool over decorated bar with no purpose to the sports theme because there was no sports period. The bartender didn’t even want to discuss sports. UGH! I had to look at pictures to remember, yep hit all the clubs and a bit of dancing. The evening show was “new wave magic starring Kevin & Caruso” the kids didn’t want to see it. Made my obligatory donation in the slots as my buddy cleaned house in blackjack. Off to bed at 3am.

ST. MAARTEN (Nov. 23rd) - Having never been to St. Maarten, we were leery about a do-it-yourselfer. So we booked the Divi beach excursion for these reasons- it had a reputable resort that we researched and spoke with, had a pool for the kids who were sick of salt water pools) and a lunch buffet with 2 drink coupons included as well as transportation. There was another beach break (with all you can drink rum) but the name of the each was negated. We found that the beach was another 15 minutes away, lacking some of the amenities, so we were happy. Be warned, the free drinks were rum punch and coke but fine for us. The pool overlooks the beach on a second story overlook, a breathtaking view…. The kids were pruny they had so much fun in the water. The facility, Divi beaches (they have several in the Caribbean you can check their web site for pics) was clean and beautiful. Cruise passengers were separated from the guests, but second rate service did not exist. Bar service was slow and pricey $8.25 for a pina colada! The water was beautiful but more open to the Caribbean seas than Coki beach. So there were more waves and the water murkier. Underwater shots were impossible, and the only rock formation by the Jet Ski rental showed no fish to photograph anyway. Jet Ski’s were $40 for ½ hour. A fair price for us, but we never felt like skiing this excursion. The buffet was basic, but alright for the overall price… cold salad, noodle salad, slaw, bean salad, 3 short ribs (which were terrible) and two small chicken pieces. Hey, this would have cost a small fortune on a do it yourself. FYI, if you think you can get a better deal, you can e-mail the DIVI resort and they will respond with the buffet price. We booked while waiting for their response and never followed up. Be warned though, there were over 4 ships in port that day and the excursion did book up and close. Our new friends Amy and Brian, tried to book this and join us and it was sold out, then they tried just catching a taxi to join us and NO taxi would take them to divi unless they had a package because the taxis knew it was booked?!? Seems illogical, except there is a gated entrance where the ships “taxi’s” needed to clear, for just FYI (they somehow know). Had an excellent time. Haggled a bit wit Diamonds international and Omni but the opal and tanzanite prices were more than I had in mind, I’d rather cruise again so I headed back to the ship.

The taste of nations theme was Greek. We had our invite for the Carnival Past Guests tonight at either 5pm or 7:15pm. For the life of me now I don’t know why we missed it, but we had missed pulling into St. Maarten and I think I was torn between pictures of us pulling away and watching the sunset or the party. So I have a ton of sunset pictures, not one of the islands. The worst part about leaving this port was that it was our last. I’d already conjured up images of calling the boss to get one more week off and do a back to back on the western route, Luckily we had Ben with us and he couldn’t miss and additional 5 days of school or I’d be knee deep in it with my bar bill and my boss by now. I HATE heading NORTH!

Dinner was not memorable (and I don’t mean to keep sounding negative, the food was fine), okay, the wait staff was memorable; tonight they decided to “talk us up”. The waiter IKuituk stood two steps from our table, facing us, interjecting a question every few moments (one large table never showed and the table of 5 behind us (Manny, Helen and kids hi!) always ran late. So gabby me starts talking, he misunderstands and mumbles to himself ummmmm (like the zombie on scoobie doo…uuummmmm) so he doesn’t continue and I yap with Ben and Rob. Two minutes later we’re interrupted… “so how long to fly home?” Holy freak of nature….”uuummnmn” (but don’t forget the scoobie moan). He had no worldly idea what we were saying, God love ‘em for trying, but any good wait staff know to chat you up when there at the table and then leave you to enjoy each others company.

Played some cards with Ben again in the Oxford bar and waited for tonight’s show to start “Dai Andrews and Anthony Acosta” Dai is a sword sallower and Ben is a sword lover. Acosta gave a pg 13 comedy show which was very funny, he was also slotted for the R rated comedy that night. Now Dai, pronounced “die”, did some very cheesy jokes and goofing around so you never knew when he was serious “okay folks this sword is so long that when I stretch my body the tip of it will brush the base of my stomach… to help me, everyone chant my name in encouragement”…. “Dai”, “Dai”, “Dai”, Ben almost peed his pants. Then for the end all and be all of sword swallowing, the 90 degree angle (which ya have to think if this is for real, his but sure wouldn’t be on a carnival ship on a Thanksgiving sail, but I’m a skeptic, Ben simply LOVED it and Dai Andrews was a ton of laughs.

For some ungodly reason, we stayed up again until 3am. Parents, please know that how ever much you think you know your child, at some point in your cruise they will find the deadbolt, turn it closed and not be awoken by your incessant ringing of your telephone! If you forget this, you may find your inebriated self up past your allotted parent time traipsing to the purser’s office only to have them ask you…. “Did you try knocking on the door?” Now I know at this point we appeared as if we couldn’t find the right door to begin with but the security guard who met us at the room, was also well trained to ask “Did you try the door?” Nope, never thought of knocking…. We’re just still up at 3:45 am checking your response time… good job! Then he tries the key, looking for further proof that we’re just drunken idiots (at close to 4am, we can’t get in our own room, you don’t need any more proof). Finally he pulls out the key and in we go. Yes alright already we were the people at 3am taking picture with the funnel, every flotation device and our buddy was climbing behind every bar playing with the mixer buttons (like security somehow didn’t notice us before!) Busted, but the deadbolt WAS locked.

TURKEY DAY AT SEA (Nov 24th) - Being the deck chair savers that we are, I forgo sleep and at 7:30am head out there to get the “good” spot. 6 chairs of prime real estate. (BY now there are 11 of us, I’m a chair saver, not a chair hog). We all piled in within the next 30 minutes, had the buffet breakfast and hoped the rain would clear. I was determined to join in the deck competion and get my newbie cruising friends with me. Sure enough I was quick enough to get us picked and not smart enough to know for what. 3 groups 1 man in each group 3 women. It was paint the man competition. Poor Mark, he was painted from his hair, to finger tips to toes. The other two teams barely had any paint on their guys…. With quite a bit of audience help we WON!!!!! My very first 24 carat plastic ship on a stick! Then they did a limbo contest for adults and one for the kids. Weather remained iffy, checked on pictures which all looked beautiful and finally bought some souvenirs.

On the Lido deck are fun ship temporary tattoos. Mark and Margaret got them. They look airbrushed and didn’t hold up to the water and the 7 days like stated but they did look great initially. A black jack tournament went on from noon – 3pm only $20 to enter, the golf shop had a putting contest. Forgot to mention each day at 2pm there was a jewelry give away in the shops, you had to be present to win.

At 2pm we joined the crazy line dancing lessons in the Club Rio Lounge. One of the carnival dancers taught it and the adults went (kids stayed swimming). Even my non dancing husband had the best time to the “Tush Push”. We’ve done dance classes with CCL before and this was the best time we’ve had. It really gives you a new appreciation for the dancers who can keep moving in precision with the ship moving against them. Then there was game show mania in the Rome lounge that we missed, being hot and dehydrated from dancing… we needed the drink of the day, the “Yellow Bird”. Also going on was another tea time in the Oxford lounge, but we missed it unfortunately catching a drink at the World’s way bar. Met the kids and friends back on the lido deck for some spotty sun until it was time to get ready for the last formal night. Spent some time on our balcony, having a glass of wine and enjoying the Caribbean sea. Now we’re smokers, don’t smoke in the room because of Ben, but our next cabin mates were overheard saying our smoke traveled over to them. , I realized that it can affect those near you on balconies. (sorry!).

At 5:30 music started in the Lobby bar (classical style) and photographers were set up everywhere with short wait times. I may be biased, but CCL pictures are the best professional ones we’ve ever come across. Our RCI cruise had the worst pic’s and we didn’t buy any. Here, I could have bought over 20 and we posed for more than usual because we had been so happy with the posted pic’s so far. So if you’ve never cruised, spend a few minutes and pose for some shots, say you want a different arrangement of people or whatever. You’ve never obligated to buy, there is no pressures when you view you’re photo’s and they even had a holiday Christmas card setting.

We found it unusual that on the second formal, it was the most formal (more gowns and suits). Many people I’d spoke with said they were relaxing earlier in the cruise and wanted to dress at least one night. So if this helps you plan your dress, this cruise was the exception of our experience, the second being more formal.

The taste of nations theme on the Lido deck was French.

At 7pm, there was a Martini special in the Oxford bar. In addition from 7-8pm there was a Martini Mania I the Hollywood Disco as they make your favorite Martini recipe. We missed it due to pictures unfortunately.

After dinner we hit the karaoke. Our friend Darlene (wearing the shimmering blue dress) blew the place away. Damn she was good. The karaoke was jam packed full and Dave from England a blast of fun. We sat near our cruise critic friends, hey Mike and “Ceile, Bernie, Mercie, Jim, Lisa, kids and crew! We tried to sing our 12 days of cruising but surprisingly our number never showed up (thank God) Next onto the casino We watched a woman hit the wheel of fortune make several spins with some good payouts, and it all went back in! Our group of 11 had sporadic winnings. Mark is excellent at black jack. I dropped $100 in slots and was up and down, playing about two hours. Now a negative in our night, the dealer at Marks table took immediate offence to his winnings and had started mocking him and making derogatory comments towards him!!! Apparently, the group at that table minus him had been sloshing winnings back and forth from the dealer to the players for over an hour. Mark came in and was up $120 off an initial $5 bet. The dealer bought a round of drinks for every player at the table with the exception of Mark and said to the waitress, NOT him !!!! Now my easy going friend was certainly offended and found the casino manager, complained, and griped… groaned and was generally ticked and offended for hours. He’s not a professional, but does go to Atlantic City and Vegas on occasion and kept reiterating that it was beyond offensive for a dealer to do that. So our casino donations stopped there and we happily let the casino manager be aware of this. His response was to provide Mark with that free drink. A fair response, but it doesn’t take away the taste of bad service and being snubbed by staff. This being their first cruise, he was beyond taken aback at the staff behavior, but we got a few drinks in him and all was forgotten!

Mark and Darlene went to the midnight buffet, the ice sculpting, carvings and presentations were beautiful. There was ice sculptings of a turkey, the carnival ship and wild horse, simply beautiful from their pictures. After a walk through and viewing, everything is fair game for sampling. We hit the disco, did a bit of the electric slide and everything else under the sun. By 3am we were beyond exhausted again and hit the sack.

LAST DAY, (NOV. 25TH) SEA DAY- We sat out on deck and it was overcast and cool. We played a dice game with the kids called left right center (never played Euchre as we planned.) Had dinner (can you tell our cruise isn’t planned around food? Sorry, but we didn’t write down the menu, or have a memorable dinner to write about. Not meaning this in any tone of complaining, it was adequate. Kids spent time in our room with friends playing video games and ordering room service we closed every bar, just hanging out, talking to all the great people we’d met… not wanting it to end.

UGH, (NOV. 26TH) DISEMBARK- Now cruise 5, you’d think we knew what we were doing… NOPE! Per past reviews the self disembark, where YOU carry ALL your LUGGAGE, did not sound good to us with our newbie, over packing cruising buddies. So we decided to wait out the self disembark and wait for colors, knowing that arriving in port at 8am, clearing customs quickly, we’d be ok for a 10:30 Limo pick up. Well there are no more color decks being called. After the self disembark… which is an unorganized free for all, we waited, and waited…. Then we received a call from Gary, our Limo driver… he was here an hour early!!!! Not charged to us, but we quickly tried to get off and to the airport to just relax there. Lines, Lines…. LINES!!! Plan your bags carefully if you’re not first off the ship… you’ll carry for two steps, stop and wait…. For 90 plus minutes. Down the port corridor, down the escalator, through the queing, then a GREAT customs officer started singing Christmas tunes and getting everyone chanting about the cruise… thank you!!! We had the usual busy exhaustingly fun vacation, needed to rest at home and just stood in line forever!!!!!. Now to be fair, we’ve never sailed out of the port of Miami before, previous ports, with the exception of San Juan, we grabbed our luggage with a porter, he handed over the customs claim, we never made eye contact or spoke with a customs official, just kept walking FAST and through! Here we had to wait, stop and answer questions. How much liquor? How much cigarettes? How much in spending?. Well I didn’t shop at all and had less than $100….. He said 7 nights and only $100?? (ok, I lied about having 5 cartons of smokes). Rob said…. “I’ve got 3 kids, I can’t afford more than $100 in shopping….. “ok sir thank you go ahead”.

Now it took a bit to find our driver Gary who we’re on cell phone with, but it worked out in the end, simply miscommunication, not his fault at all, the porter brought us to the wrong wait area. A great relaxing limo ride back, full of water and cokes, which we desperately needed and onto the airport for a non eventful plane ride back to a solid foot of snow, with everyone wearing sandles and the winter jackets in the car….stunk!


- Cruise director and his assistants made the most of cloudy days on deck and we had fun

- Limited bingo and art auction announcements

- Great bar staff everywhere with prompt service, knowing your drinks

- Entertainment(and we missed a bunch) was superb, beyond CCL usual

- Obviously new décor where the ship simply sparkled

- New pillows and down blanket bedding

- Activity list, which we wore out, or wore us out while we still missed 50% of it.

- Meeting a great group of people here on cruise critics ahead of time

- Our one CCL excursion was everything promised and then some “little divi beach break”

- Leaving Buffalo “winter” and catching some sun.

- Great shows

- Daily noon updates from the captin

- Excellent photos and quick check out lines

- The shops had VERY knowlegable staff who will spend as much time with you as you need.

- Burgers, yep they are still delicious

- Having filet Mignon for an alternative dinning choice

- Room service for the kids, a true highlight in my son’s vacation

- The new club O2 and game room are incredible

- The whole cruising experience with great day and night life…. A FUN ship!


-Not getting dinner as requested, 7 months out with 3 CCL previous cruises

-Having to separate our party at dinner to eat at a reasonable hour for the kids

-Having very odd, limited speaking dinner wait staff (but they did do their best)

-The stabilizers or something is wrong in the design, that without a storm or high seas, the pool was closed quite often due to the created “waves” splashing the kids out of the pool in a dangerous scenario.

-Major welding work being done in the main lido deck pool on a sea day which closed the pool until 1pm, one week after dry dock.

-our cabin phone not producing wake up calls, our fault, we didn’t complain.

-My personal biggest gripe is the sports bar that is only for décor, with no sports stats, paper, internet updates, or sports shows; CSI on in a sports bar with Monday night football and hockey playing??? Let’s rethink this concept… décor is NOT what a sports fan needs! Bring me the stats!... so easy and free with the internet, I understand the broadcast restrictions… but the internet can be used to post scores at least!

- With a new chef I’d at least expect some desserts that would tempt me to forgo my diet and sample if not order more (on previous cruises we selected two desserts each and shared)….. not a single dessert was finished by us, that’s three people taking samples… this is HUGE coming from a dessert loving son and two people that could care less and have NO expectations! Yuck is all I can say. The food was NOT carnival standards, edible without complaint but non mentionable! And know that we are NOT high dinning 5 * people.

- The burgers, god they are great, but there is only one poor person who mans the line and the wait… generally >15 minutes on non peak times, over 30 minutes when they’re busy. I felt very bad for this guy and even tipped him. It’s hard to enjoy a cruise at moments when the staff is overworked to the point that it affects the customers despite their best performance.

- The brief note on the casino staff, treating my best buddy badly.

-Not previously mentioned but each am the coffee machines would “go down” and only one coffee maker on the whole ship worked (not assuming you’re n the dinning room for breakfast). There were some water pressure line problems which never were fixed on our cruise and resulted in a 20 plus minute walk to all the coffee machines to find the only one working, but busy brewing so no coffee to be had at peak times. Again, this only lasted briefly though.

- Over 20 plus minutes for a calzone or special order from the pizzarea which only had two options of 6 showing available without a 20 minute wait time.

-Aside from the bar staff, the level of SERVICE in general was much lower than previous cruises I mean simply things like a smile and eye contact… the basics.

-Dinner in the port of San Juan. Well you pull up at 4:30 pm. Not that many people chose to utilize the dinning room and miss the port. It’s already 4:30 pm, it’s a bit obvious that people will want to grab a bite to eat before heading out to port. The quickest way is the buffet, burgers and pizza. This itinerary is NOT new. It should be obvious that the burger and pizza lines taking over 30 minutes this night need additional staffing (and yes we’ve added this to our comment card).

In summary, we LOVED our cruise, have two more addicted cruising buddies who’ll hopefully remain part of cruise critics. We had many SERVICE type issues, but know that we were only the second cruise post dry dock with a new crew. So the kinks should be worked out soon. I would sail the triumph again, after we’ve seen more of the Caribbean itinerary that’s on our list. My post is not intended to sway some from cruising her, she’s simply beautiful and our “problems” know that this is cruise 5 for us and we’ve become a bit more particular and we’ve started to “notice” areas that need work. This in no way means that our cruise was not a wonderful vacation in any means. My purpose is to be objective so that you future cruisers know what to expect. We have sent a “complaint” form to rectify the sports bar and help the dinning wait staff know that having fun and lightening up is ok.

We have an Elation cruise booked in 9/06 and just can’t wait to sail CCL again. If you’ve taken the time to read all 14 pages, I thank you for allowing me to share this great vacation with you and I hope I’ve helped add more info to you’re pre cruising searching. You can always E-mail me if I’ve missed something. Give me a few days to respond.

Carnival Cruising Addicts

Rob and Carol


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Carol - Wish I could go with you!!!! I am looking for a cruise in early 2007, possibly a B2B. I just get too depressed getting off the ship after one week and instead of a cruise in 2006, we will wait until 2007..sooo far away:( (Dave says "its ONLY 13 months away"!!) I had a hard enough time waiting 9 months for our Triumph cruise.

Luckily we will be in Bahamas in February for 6 nights at an AI and I can visit the ships in port. Dave and I will be getting married on Cable Beach on Valentines day!!


Did you watch football in the sport bar the first day at sea on Sunday? Dave was in there most of the afternoon watching football and met some great people in there. They only had the Miami-Bills game on, but he was able to get updates on his Giants.


I think he went in on Monday night also and they had hockey on instead of football. I guess sometimes they just cannot get the channels???

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Great review! Sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving!


One thing, the stablizers did work which was why you couldn't figure out why the pool turned into the wave pool. You could see it in the pool but could not feel the ship rolling.


Are you going to post photos!

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Great review! Sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving!


One thing, the stablizers did work which was why you couldn't figure out why the pool turned into the wave pool. You could see it in the pool but could not feel the ship rolling.


Are you going to post photos!


ooohhh, hm. didn't feel any movement at all, only cruise I didn't have a dizzy head....interesting! thanks.


It was a great way to spend thanksgiving, but the holidays hit WAY too fast after we returned home.


Now I've got a ton of pics, but the slowest internet connection. I'm trying to get dh Rob into downloading the pics at his work. keep an eye out next week if interested!

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Great review!!! The BF and I are definitely looking forward to getting out of Ithaca cold and onto a ship for NYE! I'm looking forward to your pics....


(On that note, any night you would recommend going to the Glory's alternative restuarant as I hear the menus should be the same?)

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Thanks for the great reveiw, and yes I did read the whole thing! We are also from WNY and will be sailing the Triumph 1/7/06. I can really use a break from the snow & cold even though today was 40 and rain, not really the kind of weather you want on Christmas.

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