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Review of Triumph - August 28


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This was my 8th cruise but first on a Carnival ship – having previously sailed on RCI, Princess and HAL. I made all the arrangements for our group of 5, which included my sister, our 3 kids and myself. We were booked on the August 28th cruise to Eastern Caribbean.


Embarkation in Miami wasn’t too bad though the pier there is one of the worst. We didn’t start the check-in till past 12:30 at which time the lines were very long. When we reached the check-in there were 2 queues and I picked the shorter one – which turned out to be the one for folks who hadn’t done the sign-up online. I had, but it seemed faster to stay where I was then head back to the much longer line. I don’t like that Carnival doesn’t issue your Sail and Sign card when you check in and sends you to another queue to get that. By the time we got on-board it felt like we’d been through the wringer.


The ship looks in pretty good shape though one can see wear and tear on carpets, deck chairs and the pools. The atrium isn’t nearly as grand as on RCI and Princess but I didn’t expect that from Carnival. All in all, the décor isn’t as classy as the other cruise lines but it’s fine for what you pay.


With 3000 guests, the ship was very busy and line-ups were always long at the South Beach restaurant – which is the buffet. The worst lines were at the Coney Island Grill and they seemed to last all day – so I didn’t try that. Breakfast and lunch at the South Beach buffet was just OK – sort of what you’d expect at a mid-priced buffet restaurant. The porridge at breakfast is awful – lumpy and watery – but the fresh omelets are great. For lunch the Hong Kong grill turned out good meals with the shortest lines and the Pizzeria and NY deli is fine too. The best meals were at dinner in the dining room where the menu is varied and the food as good as RCI. The crème brulee was fabulous and the seafood selections are generally excellent. Each table gets 2 waiters and ours – Jean and Lubomir – were outstanding. They remembered that our youngest teen only ordered a hamburger and banana split every evening and brought that immediately. I had a few lunches and breakfast in the dining room but the breakfast hardly seems worth it as the menu is the same as the buffet and lunches were hit and miss.


I can’t speak for the younger kid’s program but teen activities were listed every day – most of which never seemed to take place. Our 2 teens (15 and 16) would show up at the appointed time but there was seldom anyone there to organize the activity so it didn’t happen. If Carnival announces a teen pool party, for example, they have to make sure a counselor is there to actually organize the party as teens won’t do it by themselves. Probably the worst aspect of the cruise was the hordes of uncontrolled kids roaming the ship. They took over the pools- jumping and splashing despite signs forbidding this. No crew was there to enforce any rules, however and it was left to guests to tell the kids to cut out the worst behavior. I saw ice-cream cones dropped in the pool, kids in the casino and adult comedy shows, in the disco well past midnight and one kid take his finger and run it all over the icing on an uncut cake at the lunch buffet. The cake was removed but I never saw a parent reprimand the behavior.


The shows were inferior to the other cruise ships with only the magician and the soul singer, Marcus Anthony being any good. The lounge bands were ok with the band in the Venezia lounge being outstanding. That band was one of the best I’ve heard on any cruise and had everyone up and dancing. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the pool band. It was WAY too loud and musically poor. It’s one reason I stayed away from that area and kept pretty much to the New World pool at the back of the ship. It’s quiet there and there’s no problem getting a deck chair. By now I can also live without another hairy chest, knobby knee, hairy legs etc. contest so I didn’t go to many of those.


My sister – the fitness fanatic – thought the gym was good though at least one intructor was not. He didn’t bother to show up for a class she’d signed up for (cost $10.00) and was fairly rude when she tracked him down.


Due to Hurricane Frances we didn’t do the Eastern Caribbean and ended up doing the Western route. I’d been to most of those ports of call but we did take a tour in Jamaica. My sister (a first time cruiser) felt the excursions were far too expensive and not good value for money. She did the horseback riding and I did the mountain biking. I thought the biking tour was OK though some of the group found it too strenuous and ended up riding the truck. Most of the ports are tourist traps however, as they know cruisers are sitting ducks. We overpay for cabs and all the items but unless you have the time and means to get away and shop were the locals do, there’s not much choice. My sister was especially upset in Cozumel as the cab prices are really high for the short distance they take you. I just accept it as part of the cost of the cruise.


We ended up staying on board an extra 2 days because the port of Miami was closed to traffic and it meant using the onboard phones and computers to notify airlines and families. These are expensive with charges adding up quickly.


I probably will go back to RCI or Princess for future cruises but it was interesting trying Carnival. What makes Carnival fun is the people sailing it, as they are an unpretentious crowd determined to have a good time. It’s not a bad cruise line, though they nickel and dime you – but then do most of the lines in the mid-priced categories. Carnival tries very hard to ensure passengers are having fun and the Cruise director – Mark Price – is a nice guy with a good sense of humour. My 15 year old niece developed a mad crush on him and is still pining. All 3 kids ended up liking the cruise though the youngest (age 12) didn’t participate much in the kids’s program.

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I have to agree about the kids and the lines. It didn't seem to matter what time you ate lunch, the lines were always long and the kids unruly (with a few exceptions). We ordered room service or went to the dining room for breakfast (sometimes both) and started eating lunch in the dining room to avoid the lines. I enjoyed Mark Price. This was his first week on board and he faced a ton of challenges. (BTW-his sister also works on a Carnival ship). I thought the changes were handled well and Carnival kept us well informed. I wish Carnival had made it more widely known that tips were not being added to the Sail and Sign for the extra two days. Carnival said they were going to compensate the tipped staff but they still came up on the short end of the deal. We did add two more days tips to our account. My opinions of Carnival can't be unbiased. Our embarkation was streamlined for us and we received some extra perks. We usually cruise RCCL but I have a vested interest in Carnival for now. As long as that vested interest remains on board, I'll sail again and often.

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