January 1, 2005
My family and I just returned from a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph. Before booking this cruise, we looked at the various reviews available on the Internet. Those reviews usually were of one extreme or another – people either liked the ship and the cruise or hated it. Our experience was somewhere in the middle.
The Triumph is a large ship with lots of people aboard. It is geared toward a younger crowd, which pleased our teenagers just fine. There are plenty of activities available during the day, and the staff made every effort to keep us posted on those activities – which included contests, dances, shows, exercise classes, talent shows and of course excursions. With more than 3,000 people on board, it can get crowded in places. On the days at sea when the weather was wonderful, it was hard to find an empty deck chair.
We had read in some reviews that the ship was in need of repair, but we found the Triumph to be in good shape. There was ongoing maintenance during our trip. Our ocean-view stateroom was relatively large. (My wife, who has now traveled on three cruises, says it is the largest stateroom she has seen.) Similar to others' experiences, we did notice a smell of urine or sewage upon entering our stateroom. We never did figure out why.
On a previous cruise, our departure was a big deal. The cruise director encouraged everyone to be out on deck for the sail-away, where music played and we threw confetti. On this cruise, we were participating in our muster station drill when we departed. It was very uneventful and not an impressive way to begin the cruise.
We had read the Triumph had great food. We disagree. The food was good -- it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. The steak was always tough and chewy. My wife and daughter took one bite of fish and immediately asked for another selection. The lobster was very good. The desserts were good. The food on the Lido deck was also good but not great. I was impressed with the sandwiches from the NY Deli, but the consistent long lines gave me a reason to look elsewhere. (Carnival needs to add more help in the NY Deli.) There was a place for hamburgers, which were good, and a 24-hour pizzeria. My teenagers found the pizza to be very good.
The Las Vegas shows were very good. The singers and dancers were very talented. The magician was also impressive. My teenagers suggest they should offer some movies for the younger crowd, in addition to the constant teen dances that were available. They also suggest an expanded sports bar featuring more football games during football season.
San Juan was not impressive. It was dark during our short stay in the city. The cruise director did everything possible to suggest not taking any shore excursions in San Juan. He even offered a show at the Rome Lounge while we were in port. St. Thomas and St. Maarten were much more impressive. Check out the Magen's Beach tour in St. Thomas and the Island Explorer tour or the Divi Beach tour in St. Maarten. We enjoyed them all. Magen's Beach is beautiful, and kids (of all ages) will love it. I have never seen water so clear before.
The TV screen in your cabin allows you to monitor your account balance (Sail and Sign Account). This was a useful tool for us to monitor our teenagers' spending on the ship.
A note about debarkation: There is an option available, but not well-publicized, for persons with an early flight out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale. You can get VIP tags for your luggage from the Purser's Desk. Put your luggage outside your cabin the night before, and go to the Rome Lounge at 9 am. You will be permitted to disembark after those who carry their own luggage, but before the general call for debarkation. Your luggage will be waiting for you at the VIP portion of the terminal. It worked very well for us.
In summary, we had a good time, and our teenagers (this was their first cruise) said they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wanted to do it again. The Triumph is geared toward a younger crowd and a large population. If you have teenagers accompanying you and you want to keep them entertained, and if you want to get by as cheaply as possible, this cruise is for you. If you are interested in a refined, classy cruise with an older crowd and fine features about the ship, this cruise is not for you.