by Bill Noble
March 1, 2009
This was our 5th cruise overall and our first on the Carnival Triumph. Departure was Sunday from Miami, but we elected to arrive the day before. Coming from Indiana, this was a good decision as it relieved us from worrying about flight delays and ensured that we arrived for boarding refreshed and rested, and in our summer clothes. Not having been to Miami previously, we chose to take Carnival's pre-cruise package with a stay at the downtown JW Marriott. This was a bit pricey at $150 per person including transfers, but an excellent hotel in a very good location.
Boarding was tedious as expected with security checks and waiting in line for check-in. My wife and I were traveling with four other family members, two of whom had not previously sailed on Carnival. In order to get the past-guest discount for them, I made the bookings with me and one of the other couple under one booking, and my wife and the other half of the couple on a second booking. I was very upfront with the Carnival reservations folks about this, and they assured me in several calls that this was commonly done, and that all we needed to do was inform the agent at check-in that we wished to switch rooms which could be done simply and with no problems. The reality was quite different, and involved the services of a trainer, and then a manager at Carnival's Miami port check-in counter. In the end, it took about an hour to get our Sail & Sign cards, over and above the additional hour or so to get through security and wait in line. And after all of that, it wasn't until the middle of the week that we found that the folios had been incorrectly set up such that the onboard charges from our Sail & Sign cards for all four of us were being charged to my credit card! This was quite disappointing considering the assurances provided by Carnival's reservations folks, and something that I wouldn't do again. Once we finally got on board, things improved significantly.
About the Ship
I've read some reviews where folks have mentioned some difficulties finding their way around the ship as the configuration of the second levels of the London & Paris dining rooms prevent walking from the front to the back of the ship on deck 4. We did not find this a problem at all, making deck 5, the Promenade Deck, our main avenue of transit when not up on the Lido deck sunning, visiting, and reading. The casino was excellent, if not too kind to us this time around. I guess this was a payback of sorts from the $2,000 we won on our last cruise.
About the Handicapped Facilities
About the Dining
About the Entertainment
About the People
About the Itinerary
San Juan: Given our evening arrival time in San Juan and not being into the night club scene, we spent our time walking through the old city, enjoying the architecture, shopping, and sampling some of the local cuisine. The ship docks within comfortable walking distance of the old city, so no need for cabs or other transport.
St. Thomas/St. Johns: Being beaching and snorkeling types, we always make it a habit to head over to Trunk Bay on St. Johns whenever we port in St. Thomas. While you can purchase a $78/pp excursion to Trunk Bay, we prefer to go our own way and save some money in the process. Getting there is easy. Just grab a taxi at the pier to Red Hook (the ferry terminal) at a cost of $7.00 per person. From Red Hook a ferry will take you to Cruz Bay in St. Johns for another $6.00 or so. And from Cruz Bay, there are plenty of open taxis that will take you directly to Trunk Bay for another $6.00 or so. Once at Trunk Bay which is in a US National Park, you will need to pay a $4.00 part entrance fee. These costs are approximate but you can figure roughly $50.00 round-trip per person, with the benefit of being on your own schedule. There are showers and changing rooms at Trunk Bay, so no need to wear your sandy and wet swim suits all day, and you can also rent snorkel gear, beach chairs, lockers, etc. This is a great place to spend the day.
St. Maarten: We had been to St. Maarten on a prior cruise and had done a catamaran excursion to a private beach on that trip. This time, we elected to rent a car with plans to visit at least a couple of beaches that I had heard were excellent for sun, sand, and snorkeling. As it turned out, our first stop was at Dawn beach, and we never made it beyond that point. Dawn Beach is an absolutely beautiful strip of white sand with surf high enough to be fun, but not so high that you can't comfortably snorkel the reefs just a few yards off shore. As recommended from my internet research, we parked at Mr. Busby's Bar and Grill where we rented a couple of beach chairs equipped with a large umbrella which was very welcome as the sun was very strong. Unlike Trunk Bay, Dawn Beach is a "commercial" beach with lots of lounge chairs set out. A relatively short stretch of sand -- around a half-mile long -- this is not the sort of beach you will like if you want an isolated, solitary beach experience. On this day, we desired a bit of pampering, with food (excellent pizza from Mr. Busby's), drinks, and other fare available to be delivered directly to your spot on the beach at very reasonable costs. Chair rental from Mr. Busby's was $10.00 per person, although I have heard that if you get there early and order breakfast, they will let you use the chairs at no cost. If we had to do it over again, the only thing we'd change is our decision to rent a car, instead simply taking a taxi.
One of the couples we were traveling with elected to purchase an excursion for horseback riding through the surf. They were very disappointed. At a cost in excess of $100.00, their 3.5 hour excursion consisted of 90 minutes of riding, with the rest of the time spent hanging around at a beach that didn't have much going for it. They reported that the beach was so bad that a number of the guests arranged for their own taxis to get them back to the port rather than wait for the excursion's transportation.