Hi, my name is Todd. My wife Rosemary, son Darren (8 yrs old) and I just returned from sailing on the Carnival Triumph January 10-18th. We sailed from Miami and visited Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. This was my wife's second cruise, but the first for my son and I. We also traveled with our best friends and their three children. Our friends were renewing their vows on the ship and we decided since we were there the first time, we might as well be there the second time. My wife and I also have 19-month-old triplets and our family said that we looked like we could use a break. So our family all pitched in and helped look after the babies and off we went. We decided to take our 8 year old because we had not spent a lot of quality time with him since the babies were born and our friends were taking their children.
We flew down to Fort Lauderdale on the Friday with Spirit Airlines from Detroit. This was much cheaper than booking the air with the cruise line. Our friends drove down and took our 8 year old with them. They picked us up at the airport and we just stayed at a hotel between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. On Saturday morning we got up early and headed off to the Port of Miami.
Port of Miami:
We had no problems finding the port, but it is going through a lot of construction right now and it was a little confusing getting to the right Terminal to drop off the luggage and find a place to park for the week. No a huge problem, but don't waste time driving around, just get out and ask someone.
As our friends we renewing their vows on board at 1:30pm, we were able to board the ship early. The wedding coordinator met us at 11:00am at the Terminal entranced and helped us get through the entire process. This probably saved us a bunch of waiting around in lines, but from what I could see and hear I would recommend using the new "Fun Pass" registration that Carnival has on the internet. This allows you to skip one line and probably some time. I would also recommend getting there early rather that later. We had no problems with security and we were in our cabin before 12:00pm (again this is much earlier than most people due to the wedding).
We had three cabins on the Empress Deck 7 (7343, 7347, and 7349). We had booked inside cabins but had received an upgrade a few weeks before sailing to all balcony cabins. This may have been because of the wedding, but it was a nice surprise. I was personally very surprised at how much space was in the cabin. There was plenty of room to unpack all of our things and we very organized in about half an hour. We had a king size bed and our son's bunk pulled down from the ceiling. We also had a leather couch and a table. The bathroom was a nice size and had plenty of space in the vanity cupboard for all of our things. The shower was more than big enough and the water pressure and temperature was great all week. The balcony was large enough for the three of us to sit out on and enjoy. I enjoyed having the balcony and the ability to go out there and see where we were or look out, but we did not spend a lot of time there. We may have spent more time if not for our son, who wanted to swim in the pool and use the waterslide. So we found our selves on deck most of the time. Our friends used their balcony more because their children were a little older and able to go around on their own.
Big..Big...Big. I was amazed at the ship itself..never having cruised before. Beautifully decorated and setup nicely. It is a little difficult to get used to how to get around, but if you remember that Deck 5 and 9 are the only two decks that you can really get from one end of the ship to the other you should be ok. I was a little worried about this ship because of the other reviews I read about. Yes the carpets have stains on them, but not a huge deal if you don't make it one. We did notice that some things weren't working all the time, but again I am not sure if this is a common things on ships this size. For example, the hot tubs in the spa area did not work for the first few days of the cruise, drink machines were often out of order, our light on our balcony never worked the entire cruise and our TV did not work very well (dark appearance and the remote). The water slide was also not opened if the weather was less than perfect.
Overall we had great service. Our dining room waiter was Radu from Romania and his assistant was Camelia also from Romania. They were awesome. They were one of the highlights of the trip and I already miss our daily interaction. Our room steward was a little bit of a let down. I had heard great things about the service you get on a cruise and we were a little disappointed from this area. He did the basics, but never really went out of his way to do anything extra. I had heard about the towel animals and was looking forward to this being a little surprise for my son. On the first night..no animals ..second night...nothing. So finally I asked him quietly that I had heard about them on the Internet and for the remaining nights there was one left in all 3 of our rooms. Our service on the ship was fine. We did notice that sometimes our son and the other children were not always given the same level of service as us. This was most notable in the pizza place and with room service.
The dining room was awesome. Great selection, ample portions and you could order as much as you wanted. Our waiter just asked that we order everything at the beginning. On the one formal night I had six lobster tails (my favourite) and they were twice as big as any that I have had before. The other dining venues were pretty good, the grill being one of our favourites, also the NY deli. The pizza was pretty good but not amazing. The biggest let down in the food area was the buffet. It was ok, but nothing to write home about. The gala buffet on Thursday night was the exception..go early though. We went to a midnight comedy show and then went to the buffet later and it was pretty picked over.
We did not plan on much here except shopping and maybe going to the beach. We went shopping in the morning and the weather was not great. Overcast and a little rain here and there. We took two taxis downtown for $6 each...on the way back we found a van taxi that took all of us back to the pier for $10. We went back to the ship for lunch and decided to just stay on board until dinner. After dinner we put the kids in the cabin with a movie and the four of us went off to the little shopping village just off the pier. My wife and I went into the Tanzanite International shop and were looking at a bracelet. Very nice..when we asked how much.the lady said $5,000 US. This was way more than we wanted to spend, so we tried very hard to leave, but they are very persistent. By the time we left the price was $2000 US..so my advice is to bargain like made.
This was an awesome port of call. Weather was perfect. We decided to book a private tour with Stingray City Charters. I had read about this company from other reviews before traveling and was not disappointed. We booked about a month before we left for Miami over the Internet and saved some money. We took the 3-hour tour, which included 2 snorkeling stops and the stingray city stop. We were picked up right where they told us to meet and we were driven in a van to the boat. It was a good size boat and there were only 20 of us on board. The snorkeling stops were unbelievable..we saw big fish, little fish, moray eels, stingrays, and all kinds of other underwater life. The captain was very helpful and took his time with everyone. Stingray City is just as cool as everyone says. We were in thigh high water with hundreds of these things. Our captain showed us how to pick them up and we got to take pictures. My son was a little nervous at first but quickly realized that there was nothing to be scared of. Definitely not to be missed. Then we were bused back to Georgetown and we went shopping and called back home to check on the babies. The cost of the tour was $31 US for adults and $20 US for our son. This tour from the cruise ship would have been easily $100 US per person.
This is a beautiful island and wonderful people. Again we did some research over the internet before leaving and ended up booking a private tour operator that other people had a great experience with. His name was Dennis Mullings and we were pretty happy with the way our tour went. His price was $30 US per person for the entire day. We met him right at the pier and he took all eight of us in his van (a little tight but not too bad). First he took us to Fern gully and the rainforest where he explained to all of us about the plants and wildlife of Jamaica. This was very interesting and the kids enjoyed it. He took us for a drive up into the mountains and showed us some of the poorer areas, schools and some awesome views. Then we went to Dunn's River Falls and this was included in our tour price. The normal cost to get to this is around $10-$12 US, so that makes our tour price only approx. $20 US. Dennis has his own tour guide and he took the eight of us up the falls on our own tour, not in the long line of 40 plus people going up the side of the falls. This was an amazing experience and one that I would recommend to everyone. He took his time and helped the kids whenever they needed it. One tip here is that we asked Dennis if we needed anything except our bathing suits and water shoes once we were in the park and he said no. Then when we got to the top the guide mentioned this is were we would tip him...not that he didn't deserve it, but would have been nice if Dennis mentioned this and we would have actually taken money in with us. A little embarrassing and could have been avoided. Then Dennis took us downtown to go shopping. Another tip here is that they are a little pushy, but don't buy in the first store..look around..we found many items cheaper the more stores we visited. Then he took us back up into the mountains to see how the rich foreigners were living. Then we went to a private beach for a picnic. We had ordered room service the night before and packed a lunch. This was the perfect spot for a picnic and a little swim before heading back to the ship. The only real problem on this tour was what happened next. When we were packing up the van, Dennis came over to me and mentioned that we needed to pay the man for using the beach and washrooms. I had asked Dennis to take us to a public beach and he never said anything about paying for this stop. When we drove up, the two guys were sitting around doing nothing. Then once they saw us they were up racking the beach and trying to look busy. This ended up costing us about $28 US for half an hour. We were really upset with the cost, but more with the fact that we felt a little taken advantage of. I guess this was a little lesson to ask specific questions. Other than that little problem Dennis was great I was honest with him about this little incident.
No real problems here. We are Canadian and had to go to Club Rio at 6:45 for immigration. My recommendation for all non-US citizens would be to either be really early for this process..like 6:00am for wait until 8:30 or 9:00am. We waited in there for an hour or so and could have easily walked in at he end and done the same thing.
Great vacation for what we spent. We really needed a break and that's what we got, plus some unforgetable memories.