by Tony McAree
January 3, 2004
To whom it may concern,
My wife and I recently cruised on the Carnival Triumph. Or cruise departed Miami 01/03/04 and returned 01/10/04. I have to say that this was probably the single most disappointing cruise, or vacation, of our lives. There are many reasons for this. Each individual reason may seem minor to you, but I assure you they were not, and the cumulative effect was massive.
I should start by saying that the reason we chose this ship was that friends of ours were married aboard. The ceremony was very nice, as was the small reception afterward. I would also like to tell you that there were a few shining stars on this vessel, and I would hope that they will be commended for their hard work and attention. In case it is necessary, our stateroom was #1005 and we had the late seating in the Paris dining room. In the dining room, Desi was wonderful. She was very friendly happy, caring and very attentive. We had a friend with special dietary needs, and she was treated wonderfully. We met Desi at our reception seating and she was fantastic from our first meeting to our last meal. Still in the dining room, our lead server Ana was equally great. She was never negative and always tried her best to keep everyone happy, even when dealing with adversity. As a matter of fact, on the last formal seating the newlywed couple found it necessary to leave the dining room since they were not feeling well. There was nobody available to deliver dinner to them, so Ana herself sprinted to the 9th deck to deliver them dinner without missing a beat. None of her other tables were neglected and she was back so fast I would doubt most even noticed. To us that was going above and beyond, and I know the other couple felt that way as well. I hope you are aware that these two individuals are a great asset to your dining staff
The next example of excellence would be our cabin steward Iryl. I believe her last name is Oliva. She was always there, no matter the time, to greet us with a happy face and a warm greeting. Our room never failed to be clean and kept up, and I have to say that the animals were a nice surprise and very well done. She was very accommodating and very unobtrusive as well. She was very alert and intuitive of our needs and we were very appreciative of her.
I wish I could say the same of the rest of our trip, but I cannot. I hardly know where to begin. We decided to arrive the night prior to sailing and stayed at a horrible hotel, The Airport Regency. I would be sure you do not recommend them to your guests. We were bussed to the port and set up outside of the baggage area and given very little direction from there. We had to drag all of our luggage with no assistance. Again there was no direction. We were set to embark at 10:30 for the ceremony, but had no idea where to go. Embarkation was fairly trouble free, but only because we had early boarding privileges. We had others traveling with us who were not so fortunate.
When we finally boarded the ship, we found our first major disappointment. The Triumph was probably beautiful on her first voyage. Sadly, she has seen her time and not been afforded any recent work. She was dirty! The carpets on many decks, but most noticeably on the 10th deck were stained and filthy. When we arrived I initially though it was that they were freshly steam cleaned. This was not the case, as they never changed. Many of the walls and carpets were in the same disrepair. We tried to shower before the ceremony and were treated to a deluge of water that filled the entire bathroom floor with 1-2 inches of water that receded very very slowly. I initially though it because we were in port, but the situation repeated itself throughout the cruise. It is not very pleasant preparing for dinner in a flood of water, I assure you.
Our first meal on the ship (at the reception), was very good. It was both flavorful and well presented. The coffee was fresh and the wedding cake was very good as well. This was not to be the case for our voyage. This is the first cruise that I can actually say that the food was terrible! The variety was fair, but the quality and presentation was abhorrent. The soups were horrid and served cold. They were salty and tasted terrible. The salads were sparse. The appetizers were meager. The entrees were usually bland and presented poorly, as well as generally being overdone, underdone, and cold. The coffee was piteous, and the desserts were generally inedible. The highlight was actually the breads. Your baker is great with breads, but terrible with desserts! As I said, Desi and Ana tried their best to make it tolerable. The kitchen staff decided to be counterproductive. One other thing really struck me as bordering on insulting. We did not see our Maitre D ( I believe Dario) for the duration of the cruise. Although I am aware of the responsibility that entails, I also feel strongly that any Maitre D worth his salt walks the dining room and sees to his guests needs. This was bad in my view, but the insulting part was on the final night having the audacity to be collecting gratuities was beyond reproach. Why would I possibly want to tip someone I never met, nor whose presence was ever obvious to me?
Moving out of the dining room and on to the rest of the dining on the ship, my experience was equally as bad. The buffets were tasteless and canned. The variety was unnoticeable. The attendants were disinterested. The bus staff did a fine job of removal. Unfortunately I noticed they disposed of many full plates. The presentation of the buffets was sorely lacking and far less grand then expected, and the Grande midnight buffet was a horror in people moving and uninspiring to say the least. The grill did a fine job with hamburgers and hotdogs and such and the deli was adequate. The pizzeria was fine, but I noticed an understandable lack of "right out of the oven" freshness.
Let me move from dining. After dinner I prefer a few things. I love a good port wine, a strong fresh cup of coffee and a cigar. I salute your sommelier for his choice of Dow's 20 yr. old port, as it was continually wonderful. Coffee in all dining rooms was terrible and at the buffet it was weak and tasteless. I was happy to see there was a coffee bar and spent a great deal of time there. My opinion is that it should be 24 hours, but it seems you have experienced a hard enough time keeping it adequately staffed during it's current operating times. You have one good employee there, and only one. Her name was Petra. everyone else there had no idea of what they were doing and had attitudes to boot. It got to the point where we would leave if Petra was not there instead of paying for terrible coffee based drinks. I also think it is a mistake that you have to pay extra just to have a good cup of coffee or espresso. I think a couple of dollars per person on the price of the cruise would not affect you in the least and it would add tremendously to the cruise. As to my last vice, we went to the Oxford bar one night for a Port and cigar and some Jazz. The jazz trio was terrible as well. The jazz played by the larger band in the casino far surpassed them. They were so bad that it actually drove us from the lounge. I would think that was the last thing you would want. I think that the Oxford bar itself was underused and I'm sure it's gross is well under that of the Piano bar and other lounges.
A very disappointing part of our vacation was the shore excursions. We had signed up for 3 of them. In San Juan we tried the evening horseback ride. It was cancelled for some unknown reason. We were credited the money and had a mundane time in San Juan. There is very little to do in a seedy part of Puerto Rico at night. We felt unsafe and unguided to say the least! In St Thomas we signed up for the Mini Boats and snorkeling. We were taken out in a downpour and led back to the dock in 10 minutes with apologies and told we would be credited for 1/2 of the price. After much arguing at the excursion desk my party was credited the full amount. I am not sure of the others on the excursion. We then tried the "Rhino boats" in St Marten. The rhino tour was terrible and not worth half of the cost of $89pp. You are led out to a horrible beach where snorkeling visibility is nil. I mean less than 2 feet. We were told to leave all of our belongings including wallets and money, towels and sunblock at the dock. By the way, no smoking as well. I think those of us who smoke should have been warned that this was a non smoking tour. The fact that it turned out to be about 1 1/2 hours was also misrepresented.
The entertainment was adequate enough in the Rome Lounge. It was not fantastic, but it was moderate. The band in the casino was very good and had a nice variety and sounded great. The Piano bar in the Big Easy lounge was jammed full of people and you could not find standing room. People seemed very happy and he seemed to be doing a tremendous job. You may consider moving that to the crypt of the Oxford Lounge. The in room entertainment was sorely lacking. The television did not give a great variety. With the satellites that are available I would think it would have been much better. The movies on demand was on par with most hotels, but a bit dated. The free movies were of no great variety and I would suggest you change the guide to ship time instead of military time.
I have to say I have a tremendous problem with the phone system. While on the cruise I had a death in the family. Two different people tried to call us to let us know and were left on hold for in excess of 15 minutes. Had we have gotten the calls we could have made arrangements to fly home for the services. We did not find out until Friday evening when we had a cellular signal again. We were deeply hurt by this and felt we had insulted some close friends and family members although it was out of our control. This is not an experience I would care to see anyone else deal with and I strongly advise that someone look into it.
The last grand debacle is called disembarkation. There seems to be no logic and no order. I would think that by now Carnival should be very proficient people movers. It seems I am mistaken. Moving to the customs area was more difficult than going through customs itself. We almost missed our 12:30 flight and we know of people who did miss flights due to this process. It was a cattle call with no rhyme or reason. We considered carrying our own luggage on the advice of some crew, and found that those who did were mixed in with us. We were glad we chose against it as we would have been exhausted and annoyed.
I think I have given you an fair description of our cruise. It was a horrendous experience! I have every intention of letting my clients and friends know of our experience as well as giving my opinion on as many cruise sites as I can find with ratings. Carnival is not the cruise line I expected it to be. I sincerely hope you take my comments and act on them. I hope I can somehow help others avoid having a vacation ruined as completely as ours was. It is my earnest hope that your guest relations is better than this cruise turned out to be.