June 23, 2001
First off let me give you some background on myself. I'm 18 years old from Detroit Michigan, and this was my second cruise. I cruised last April (4/00) also with Carnival on Ecstasy, and this trip was one that I had been planning for years beforehand. I haven't seen but a few reviews written by teenagers so I thought one would be welcome so others my age can get an idea of what ship to take. I was traveling with my uncle from Connecticut, so I was by myself most of the time; hopefully this gave me a unique point of view, as I was able to experience nearly every aspect of the ship. I'll try to divide this up into sections to make it easier for those people who like to skim.
Airport Transfers and Embarkation - My Flight from Detroit was relatively smooth, with the exception of the landing, which can be compared to a dump truck falling from the sky, but this is the fault of Northworst airlines, not Carnival. I waited for my baggage a little while but not long, and then headed down that gauntlet they make you walk to the busses. I hope one day they make it easier for people to get to the busses. Now, I'm not a weak or lazy guy, but even I had trouble lugging my stuff that far in the heat and humidity, I cant imagine how much worse it would be for a family or an elderly person. Right about the time we got to the loading area, the clouds opened up and it really started coming down. They pulled the busses right up underneath the overhang so no luggage or people got wet, but it still was a bummer driving to the port in this giant thunderstorm. This brings me to my first piece of advice: don't take the bus transfers. They're always crowded and they take forever. First the driver squeezes as many people as he can onto the bus (which in out case was an odyssey due to the fact that he couldn't count right) then he has to single handedly put all of the luggage on the bus, because we apparently aren't smart enough to do it ourselves.
Once we get to the port, he then has to unload it all (again by himself) while everybody has to wait on the bus. Transfers are roughly $25 a person each way and a taxi will only run you about $20 if you have 2 or 3 people in it. Take a taxi if you can, they're cheaper and much less hassle. Due to the rain we actually unloaded everything right inside the warehouse, but the porters still hassled everybody about paying them a dollar a bag, even though all they had to do was put the bags on a cart 10 feet from the bus. Make sure you pay them though, who knows what they do to your luggage if you don't. Embarkation itself was very smooth and efficient, we weren't in line more then 10 minutes, and the entire process took no more then 20 from when we got in line until we were on the ship.
Ship and Cabin - We were in a category 6A room, which is the kind with a window but no balcony. We stayed in cabin 1380, which was on the port side aft on deck 1. I was amazed at the amount of space we got in this room. Two beds and a couch (which converted into a third bed) spacious bathroom and plenty of storage space. Both my uncle and myself were able to completely unpack out stuff for the week, and stash out suitcases under the beds. The cabin was always kept clean and in order by our steward, and yes he made those neat little animals, but I had to hide them to keep him from disassembling them every night; I wanted to make a zoo. Although he never introduced himself, he was always there when we needed him for towels or when I locked myself out. The only negative aspect of this cabin was the noise. It was most noticeable in the bathroom. For some reason, there was a lot of movement in the bathroom, but very little in the cabin itself. There was also a loud, rhythmic banging noise that could be heard whenever the ship was in motion. There was also very little insulation between cabins, and even less between the cabins and the hallway. People knocking on doors down the hall sounded like people knocking on our door, and consequently I missed room service a few times thinking it was down the hall. Even with these problems, it was a huge cabin and I loved being able to put all of my stuff away for the week. The ship itself looked tired and old to me; had I not known better I would have guessed this ship to be 5-6 years old instead of a year and a half. Carpeting really stood out as being dingy and unclean. Elevators had a tendency to break on a off during the week, but they were always promptly repaired. It seemed to me that as the week wore on things started to stop working. One thing that I noticed the most was those little twinkle/fiber optic lights in the public rooms and the promenade. by Thursday, many of them weren't working anymore. A little thing that wouldn't bug most people, but I only noticed it because I have training in light design. It just added to the overall impression that Triumph is overworked and undermaintained. I never had a problem with chairs, except one day in the afternoon when the funnel shadowed the part of the deck I was at and I had to move, it wasn't had to snag a chair at any point during the day. Plenty of open space for people to just hang out and relax, I never felt like there was 3,400 other passengers onboard with me. Stability was good overall, but lots of vibration in the aft sections and lots of pitching and rolling in the forward sections. We had rough seas most of the time though, so I doubt this is typical of every cruise.
Food - Excellent, simply excellent. It always bugs me hearing people say they can get better food at some 4 star restaurant on land. Duh. Your average 4 star restaurant doesn't have to feed 3,400 hundred people in the space of a few hours. Food in the dining room was very good, and the speed of out wait staff was excellent, if not personable. Assistant waiter was wonderful, always accessible, while our headwaiter always rushed us and never seemed to be around. We had early seating (5:45) in the Paris dining room, and one thing that I must comment on is the vibration in this room. Always noticeable, even towards the end of the week when you'd think you'd be used to it. Leaving St. Thomas one night when the ship was maneuvering was exceptionally rough. The food itself is beautifully presented, although the portions are a bit small. You can, however, order several entrees if you are still hungry. Desserts were a tad disappointing, and they can't flame the baked Alaska anymore due to some new regulation. Overall, my experience in the dining room was great, and the performances by the waiters were really well done and fun to watch. They perform every night expect Monday (on an eastern itinerary at least) so bring your cameras. Room service needs improvement, I was on hold for a long time when I called and it took a long time for my food to arrive. They only offer cold dishes from room service, so if you want hot stuff, head up to the lido deck. The food at the South Beach Club was good, and it was especially convenient for breakfast and lunch. The midnight buffet was allright, some of the food had been under the heat lamps for a while but not long enough to make it taste bad. Ice cream and Pizza was always available by the New World Pool, but the ice cream would run out due to the kids pulling the levers just for fun. They could use some toppings like sprinkles or chocolate though. Pizza was excellent; a huge selection to choose from and even if they had to make one from scratch for you, it would only take 10 or 15 minutes. I didn't try the Hong Kong Noodle Company, but the NY Deli was fantastic. Even when the line was long I wasn't made to wait more the 5 minutes or so. Food was excellent overall and I never had a dish I didn't enjoy the entire week.
Ports/Activities - With the exception of St. Thomas, the ports on this itinerary were disappointing. I have read that San Juan is crowded and boring, and I found this to be true. I did, however, enjoy the bioluminescence bay kayak tour. It was really neat seeing all those little glowing things in the water, but unless you really enjoy kayaking then the bus ride might be too much for you. St. Thomas was the exception to the rule. It was absolutely beautiful. I did the historical tour and it was a good combination of scenery and history, I was able to get some really good pictures. Shopping was also good, although not the experience I was expecting. They (referring to the Carnival people) make it seem like you can buy jewelry and electronics for a few dollars, but in reality its still pretty expensive. Far less then the states of course, but not the rock bottom give always they make you think are there. St Croix was also only average, as there wasn't much to do. My uncle did the diving tour there, and he said all they did was float around in the area by the pier. I did the St. Croix island tour, which took me to the Cruzan Rum Distillery and a old sugar cane plantation, and it wasn't anything special. It was interesting and informative, but nothing out of the ordinary. We also stopped to shop in Christansted, which seemed to me like a tropical version of my hometown in Michigan; lots of 'quaint' little shops and things. Activities aboard ship were great; there was always something to do. Cruise director John Heald was absolutely the best. He made us laugh all week, and even though the things that happened during the shows weren't unique to our cruise, it was still absolutely hilarious seeing John tackled and kicked around the stage during the bedtime story. If you ever sail with John, DO NOT miss the bedtime story. You will never see anything funnier in your life I guarantee it! The featured shows were also very good, although they were extremely loud. There must have been some reason why the sound guy had all his levels maxed out, but the volume level was unnecessarily high, and I saw some people leaving because they couldn't take it. The Captain was very visible throughout the week, something different from my Ecstasy cruise, when he was nowhere to be seen. Pursers' staff was very helpful and friendly, as was the bartenders at the various bars onboard the ship. Photographers were especially nice to work with, and the photos all turned out great. Bands and musicians were also very good, especially the 'Highlights' band.
Overall, I had a great time on this cruise, I would recommend it to anybody that likes to party and have a good time. If you want impeccable service and less kids then its not for you, but Carnival truly does have the fun.StgeKng