by Glenn & Donna Allen
December 2, 2000
We booked our trip through a Travel Agent in August of 1999 and waited such a long time for December 2000 to roll around so we could celebrate our 20th anniversary on this beautiful ship. Originally, we booked a category 8a on the ‘Upper' deck (6), but we were upgraded to category 8d on the ‘Lido' deck (9) after a few months. We enjoyed the convenience of being on the Lido so much that we'll probably book that deck from now on.
We left early in the morning from Newport News, Virginia, the day before we cruised so we could relax and be well rested the day we sailed. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale airport and took a Carnival transfer bus to the hotel in Miami. We stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay Hotel, which was purchased through Carnival as a pre-stay. The Sheraton is a nice hotel with a view of the Port of Miami outside our window. Carnival Representatives come to the hotel the day of sailing at about 9am to pre-register guests on the ship. This made it very convenient to get registered before arriving at the port. The line at the hotel to get registered was never very long, and very convenient. The bus to the port was to depart the hotel at 11:45, but we chose to take a taxi for about $8 plus tip.
Arriving at the port at about 11am, we saw quite a few sad faces standing around waiting to load onto buses. Their cruise was over, but deep down in our minds, we knew that we would be in the same situation a week later. We gave our luggage to the porters, and inside the terminal we went with our carry-on bags. There were already quite a few people standing in line to go through the x-ray machines and get registered. We had to wait in this line to get scanned, but since we had pre-registered at the hotel, we were able to bypass the next line and go on upstairs to the boarding area. We waited a short period until they were ready to start issuing the Sail and Sign cards. We got ours quickly and proceeded to the escalator to wait again. We were a little disappointed that our Sail and Sign cards showed ‘Early Sitting' (6:00 pm) for dinner, as we requested ‘Late Seating' (8:15 pm), but we would get that changed later. They let the wedding parties embark, and any others that had pre-arranged early boarding. At approximately 12:30, the gates opened and we were able to get on the ship. Our pictures were taken and on the gangway we went.
You board the ship on the 3rd deck, which opens into the Capitol Atrium. There was a trio playing piano, violin, and flute right behind the Capitol Bar. We quickly got our pocket-sized map of the ship and proceeded to the elevators to check out our cabin. The Atrium was decorated very nicely for the Holidays.
Arriving at the 9th deck, we quickly found our cabin and went inside. The cabin was very nice and had plenty of room for us. We explored our new home for the next week and checked out the balcony. The balcony made for a very nice touch. There was a chaise lounge, a chair, and a small table, all which came in handy throughout the week whenever we decided to order room service and enjoy the view. The bathroom was just large enough for two people and had plenty of room to hold our toiletries. The shower was large enough for two if you were so inclined to conserve a little water and double up ;o) We flushed the toilet and giggled about the sucking sound as it emptied. Enough of this, it was time to explore the rest of the ship, so we changed into our swimsuits and cover-ups and off we went.
We left our cabin and headed straight out to the Lido Deck to find the ‘Drink of the Day'. The first bar we found, we stopped at and met James, who we would start calling ‘Smiley'. He had a very big smile every time we would come to his bar throughout the week. We ordered our drinks, which came in nice plastic hurricane style glasses. The first one was expensive, but refills were very reasonable after that. Let's explore some more and head on down to the London Dining room to see if we can get our dinnertime changed to the late seating.
Arriving at the London dining room, we found a sign saying that ‘Late seating was at capacity'. We were a little bummed, but talking to the head waiter that greeted us, we found we could put our name on the waiting list to get changed. The Maitre'd was very cordial to us and explained that changes are made according to how early you booked the cruise. Since we booked at such an early date, he told us that it would be no problem to change, and we should find a card in our cabin later with the change on it, but if after having dinner tonight we found that our table mates were fine and we didn't want to change, just let him know after dinner so they wouldn't make the change. He said changes are made sometime late in the night and couldn't be changed again. It turned out that our table mates that night were all much older couples whom we didn't have much in common with and we would take our chances with the new seating the next night. We would find the next night that it turned out to be a very good move as our new tablemates were awesome. We were off to explore the ship some more.
We just can't believe how beautiful this ship is. We both thought that it was laid out very nicely. It was a little confusing the first day or two finding our way around, but we got over that soon enough. We went into all the public rooms and lounges to see what was going on. There wasn't very much happening yet, but we found the ‘Big Easy' piano bar, which we had heard was a lot of fun with Ed RRocks on the piano, and made a mental note to return for the 10:00 show that night. The Cruise Director was Matt Goodwin. He was pretty good, funny, and not too intrusive. The stories we had heard about announcements at all hours of the day and night just didn't happen on this cruise.
We explored some more and then kicked back on a lounge chair on the Lido deck for a while to sip another drink of the day and people watch. Shortly before 3:00, we went back to the cabin to get our lifejackets and proceeded to our muster station for the lifeboat drill. It was hot and stuffy standing around with the life jackets on, but it was necessary and didn't last but about 20 minutes. Thank God we never had to muster after that. Back to the cabin to drop off the life jackets and meet our Cabin Steward Mackenzie for the first time. Mackenzie was awesome all week with the way he kept our cabin made up and the towel animals were very creative. We would look forward to them every night of the week. The Cabin Stewards work very hard for the tips they receive from guests. It's my understanding that Carnival pays them very small wages and that tips make up the majority of their pay. We were very happy with the service Mackenzie provided and his envelope at the end of the week helped show our appreciation for him.
It was almost time for the ship to depart the port so out onto the Lido we went to stake out a spot for the departure. We mingled with other guests and watched as the Imagination left port ahead of us. We whooped and hollered at them on the count of three and they did the same to us as they passed. It was our turn to depart and we were underway. Miami showed us a beautiful sunset as we were leaving. We took lots of pictures which can be found in our photo album on our website at http://members.home.net/glennallen/photos.htm.
Time to get ready for dinner. We came back to the cabin and found our luggage had been delivered. Even though we had our luggage and should have gotten dressed up a little, we chose to just wear shorts and a nice shirt that night. It was no problem as most people didn't get their luggage until later and the cruise line knows that and expects people to dine the first night in their traveling clothes. Our tablemates were nice, but as I mentioned before, they were much older couples and we didn't have a lot in common, so we took the change in tables the next evening. After dinner we went to the casino for a little gaming. Didn't win anything, but we didn't spend much and left for the ‘Big Easy'. Ed RRocks definitely knows how to get a crowd going. We listened to a lot of great music and sang along with the crowd. The Big Easy is very unique in that it has oyster shells all over the walls and a round piano bar with fake piano keys all the way around it. Ed and the piano in the middle rotated slowly so you can get a great view of the entertainer all the time. Ed was a lot of fun and his tip jar reflected that. We stayed there the rest of the night and actually got pretty hammered. My wife, bless her soul, got me back to our cabin sometime in the middle of the night. We propped open the balcony door and had a nice warm breeze blowing in the cabin as we slept away the night.
The second day of the cruise, Sunday, was spent at sea on our way to Cozumel, Mexico. We went out on the Lido deck and staked out a pair of lounge chairs on the upper deck and enjoyed the music from the Calypso band ‘Eclipse'. The band was good all week and kept us very entertained. We met a nice couple from Charlotte, North Carolina whom we would see and mingle with the rest of the week. The day was spent mostly relaxing in the hot sun and catching rays. The drinks of the day were flowing nicely. This is what life is all about. We tried the water slide, which is a blast. It's very fast if you lift up your butt and ride your shoulder blades and feet all the way down. Warning to all, it is salt water so keep your mouth and nose closed when you get to the bottom. The line wasn't ever very long and moved quickly. We explored the ship some more, enjoyed the men's hairy chest contest, and then laid out in the sun a little longer, until it was time to start getting ready for our first formal dinner. We decided to go all out and I wore my tuxedo and Donna wore a nice formal black dress. We went down to the lower decks where there were quite a few area's setup to take professional photo's of everyone in their formal wear. We had a few taken and then they were on display the next day for purchase. Carnival tries to make the photo gallery as organized as possible by grouping the pictures and putting up signs telling you where and when the photo's were taken. We got a couple glasses of wine from the Capitol bar and went in to the dining room when it opened at 8:15 to find our new table. We were pleasantly surprised to meet our new tablemates and find we were seated at the largest table in the dining room at the center. We later found out that this was normally the Captains table, but we all had changed to the late seating and they seated us there. We never saw the Captain at dinner, but enjoyed the table nonetheless. At our table with us was a couple from Michigan, five single ladies traveling together from New Jersey and a pair of French Canadian sisters. We had a wonderful time with all of these people throughout the week and were so happy that we had our time changed. The food in the dining room was fantastic. Yes, there were a few minor problems with the way a piece of meat was cooked or with something being ordered that wasn't just right, but all it took was mentioning it to our waiter, Armando, and all was taken care of. Armando was adequate as a waiter, but there was definitely room for improvement in his actions. His assistant, Humberto, was awesome. He didn't speak very much English, but he was a treat. Humberto always had a smile on his face and would bend over backwards to make sure that the plates were cleared and your glass was always full. After that night, he remembered who usually wanted coffee with their dessert, as well as other little things that you wanted. The wait staff sang for us tonight. It was very entertaining. After dinner we went to a couple of the lounges and enjoyed the entertainment. We went to the late sitting show, Wonderful World, which was great. The dancers and singers are very talented and the show was first class. We stayed for the ‘R' rated midnight comedy show featuring George Solano. He was a very funny man. He had a heckler start on him early in the show, but he held nothing back and the heckler was put to shame. Then Jennifer from Arkansas (definitely had too many drinks that night) started on him and he made us all laugh, very hard, at her expense. This was not a show for children or those who are easily offended. Back in the cabin we found the first of our towel animals, a swan that Mackenzie would surprise us with. Another peaceful night sleeping with the balcony door opened.
The third day of the cruise, Monday, we awoke to land on the horizon. Though it was still a little dark, we could see lights on the shore. We ordered some coffee from room service as we approached Playa Del Carmen. We went out onto the Lido deck to get breakfast from the buffet and watched as the tenders took guests to shore. At this point we still hadn't booked a tour so we went down to the Purser's desk and booked the ‘Fiesta Party Boat'. We were a little late in deciding which tour we wanted to take, but it was never a problem and we didn't get turned away from any tour due to it being booked up. After pulling in to the port of Cozumel, we went down to debark and meet the party boat on the pier. We found the group waiting for the triple-decker party boat and watched as this ‘party machine' pulled up. There were balloons all over it and very colorful. We could see already that this was going to be fun. We boarded the party boat and staked out a space on the deck to put our gear and started the party. The bar was open and the rum punch and margaritas were flowing. They also had fruit punch, but hey, I wasn't driving so rum punch it is. The punch was good, but I tried a margarita next and I thought they tasted better. The bartenders were great and kept you as full of drinks as you wanted to be. The boat had a band onboard playing party music and the crowd was dancing and singing and having a great time. The crew got everyone into the party mood by playing games, dancing, and even a conga line. It was a lot of fun. Our pair of tickets showed numbers 109 and 110, so I know there were at least that many people onboard, but it wasn't crowded at all. The probably could hold a couple hundred people onboard. We went to Playa Sol beach where there was snorkeling, volleyball, a zoo, shops, bars, and restaurants. The bartenders from the party boat brought the punch and margaritas out and setup at the entrance to the pier for anyone that wanted to drink while there. We snorkeled out to the large inflatable ‘Iceberg' that floated out in the water. You could climb it and jump off into the water if you wanted. We just snorkeled around it and checked out all the fish. It was beautiful. The water was so clear and you could see all the way to the bottom, which was probably about 15-20 feet deep. After swimming back to shore, we relaxed in the sun, drank margaritas, and watched the volleyball games until it was time to depart for the ship. There were more party games and music on the way back. They even had a piñata filled with treats for the children to break. We were sad to have to get off the party boat at the dock, but it was well worth the price. We had a blast and it looked like everyone else did too. The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping in San Miguel. We took a taxi in to town and walked around the shops. Of course, no visit to San Miguel is complete without a stop in at Carlos'n Charlie's. Music, drinks, and food were plentiful. The shooters here were an experience not to be missed. The girls selling the shooters make it a lot of fun. We enjoyed a few drinks and continued shopping until later in the evening when we took a taxi back to the pier and mingled in the shops there for a while. The duty free shops at the pier have some really good deals. We boarded the ship and got ready for dinner in the dining room. After dinner we watched people stumbling in from town. It was a lot of fun watching some of the people who had a little too much to drink as they danced and sang their way onto the ship. We partied some more on the Lido deck as tonight was the ‘deck party' with the Philippine band ‘The Highlights'. They were awesome playing 60's, 70's, and 80's tunes. It got very windy out that night and we both went inside to put on long pants and a jacket. There was a lot of dancing and partying well into the night as we left Cozumel.
The fourth day, Tuesday, was another ‘Fun Day at Sea'. We didn't get out on deck early enough to get a pair of deck chairs, so we had one and just kept an eye out for two chairs together to open up. We waited a long time but we eventually managed to find some. We relaxed all day and tried our hand at the slot tournaments in the casino. We played some bingo for a chance at some money. No luck there either. Food was abundant around the ship and we ate pizza, sandwiches, burgers, Chinese food, and anything else we could find. We went to the Purser's desk and booked the Stingray City tour for our next day in Grand Cayman. We went to some more lounges, had drinks, danced and then went to the Rome Lounge for the next ‘R' rated midnight comedy show featuring Maurice Jovan. He wasn't as funny as the first comedian, but he was good anyway. He also wasn't as rough on some of the audience as was the other comedian. I noticed Jennifer from Arkansas sat up in the balcony and kept quiet tonight ;o)
The fifth day, Wednesday, we arrived in Grand Cayman. The pier isn't big enough for ships to park so we had tenders taking us to shore. The weather wasn't so good today as there were a lot of clouds and wind. Many tours were cancelled, including our Stingray City tour. We were very disappointed about it, but we weren't going to let it get us down. We decided to just book one of the Island Highlight tours later in the day, so we stood in the line to make the change. Though the line was kind of long, it moved quickly and within about 20 minutes we were on our way to the tender to go ashore. We shopped in the area around the port and then got on the bus for our highlight tour later. The bus took us to see many of the sights around the island and was very informative. We went to the ‘Conch House', seven-mile beach, the Tortuga Rum cake factory, the Cayman Turtle Farm, and Hell. The whole tour was just ‘OK' in our minds. Though we booked this cruise wanting to go to Grand Cayman, it wasn't what we thought it would be and would be hard pressed to return. But we will return someday just so we can do the Stingray City tour. The line was very long getting back on the tender and we knew the ship would be late leaving the island. We assumed since so many tours were cancelled this morning that there were just a lot of people to get back on the ship late. That, and there were two other mega-ships in port that day. Dinner and dancing were the order for the rest of the night.
The sixth day, Thursday, we arrived in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Even though we have heard horror stories about Jamaica and being hounded to buy drugs and such, we found that this was our favorite stop of all the ports of call. We took the ‘Cool Runnings' tri-maran boat to Dunn's River Falls. The trip up the falls was really fun. We enjoyed it a lot. We were able to get a lot of good pictures going up the falls. Even though the water was cold at first, you got used to it once you got in. This tour was only mildly tough. There were people ranging in age from very young to very old climbing the falls, and I would recommend this one as a ‘must see' place while in Jamaica. After arriving back at the ship, we went into town to do a little shopping. We got some really good deals here. I would say we got our best deals shopping in Jamaica. My daughter wanted a blue sundress from the islands and we found a very nice one here and haggled the price down to $6 from $20. After picking up some Blue Mountain coffee, Rum, and some other things, we were ready to head back to the ship when we met Glenn, the cab driver. Whether his name was really Glenn or if he just heard my wife call out my name, we'll never know, but he asked if we had tried the ‘Red Stripe' beer or some ‘Jamaican Jerk', which we hadn't but wanted to. We had just under an hour to be back to the ship, but we let him take us to the Jerk Center where we bought him a Red Stripe and ourselves some Jerked Pork and a couple of Red Stripes. Glenn waited for us and then took us up the mountain to a shack on the side of the road where we checked out the man's woodcarvings and the local vegetation. It was a trip to remember forever. Glenn got us back to the ship with about 15 minutes to spare. Although we were a little apprehensive about going up the mountain with him, all turned out well and we had a smokin' good time ;o). From the ship, we went up to our cabin to check out the view. At the first two ports, our cabin was facing the pier, but in Jamaica we had the backside view of the ocean. It was one of the most beautiful sights we had ever witnessed. We could look both sides and see the Jamaican coastline and then out to the sea. There was a little shoal out in the water that provided a view that was awesome as the waves rolled up onto it. It was definitely spectacular. I just wish we could have stayed in Jamaica longer. Sometime in the future, we will return to Jamaica for a land vacation to stay a week or two. It was now time to depart and get ready for our second and final formal night dinner. Tonight I wore my white dinner jacket with my tuxedo and Donna had another long black formal dress. We looked like James Bond and Pussy Galore. We decided to have the Black and White Glamour Shots taken tonight and they were, by far, the best pictures taken all week. We bought the 8x10, which has been scanned and printed on the high quality printer, and are now ready for framing to give to family for Christmas. Everyone at dinner looked so nice tonight. The ‘Midnight Gala Buffet' was tonight and it opened for picture taking at 11:15, and then opened for eating at 12:30. We were so drained we never made it to the buffet. We got some pizza and called room service for chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and milk before retiring.
The seventh and last day, Friday, we woke early and went out to the Lido deck to ensure we had choice of lounge chairs for the day. We scouted out a good site, lay down in the morning sun for a while and then went to the breakfast buffet line to eat. After breakfast we laid out in the sun some more. It was very hot and little to no cloud cover for the entire morning, until around noon when clouds started to roll in. Even so, it was still quite warm and was a perfect day. Carlo, the Assistant Cruise Director came on deck to start the last of the deck/pool games. I saw people all week winning the little 24-carat solid gold plastic trophies of the ship, and I wanted one, so I volunteered as one of the men for the game. Little did I know that I would be stuffing my shorts full of fruit to win one of those little 24-carat solid gold plastic trophies. He tossed a whole bunch of fruit into the pool and one by one the contestants had to jump in and had until the count of 15 to stuff as much fruit as possible into their bathing suits for points. I won for the men with two pineapples and numerous oranges, apples and pears. Who'd a thunk I could gather 340 points worth of fruit in there. Everyone that participated won a 24-carat solid gold plastic trophy and the female winner and me won a bottle of champagne, which we brought home and will enjoy on New Years Eve. Dinner was very nice tonight, but it was sad that we were seeing our tablemates for the last time. We all exchanged email addresses and will keep in touch in the future. We handed out our tip envelopes tonight to Armando and Humberto. Humberto got a little extra from us for his effort. We never saw the Head Waiter or Maitre'd when we were leaving, but I came back the next morning and left their envelopes on at the hostess stand for them. We prepaid our tips so the envelopes for them had the tip coupons marked specifically for them. I'm sure they found them when they came on duty. We had to have our luggage in the hall ready for pick up by midnight so we got them all together and made sure we had something to wear the next day with us, set our bags out in the hallway, and they were gone within about 10 minutes. We were back in the ‘Big Easy' piano bar for one last night with Ed RRocks. He mentioned something about his last show, but I wasn't clear if that was his last show this cruise or if he was actually leaving the ship. For future cruisers sake, let's hope he is still on the ship. He was a very good entertainer.
Saturday morning we awoke to Miami on the horizon. It was a sad day for everyone. We had to be in the Oxford bar by 9:15 this morning so we had a leisurely breakfast on the Lido deck and said goodbye to Mackenzie then went to the Oxford Lounge to wait. We were escorted by one of the Assistant Cruise Directors around 9:45 to disembark. We went through the gangway and into the large warehouse that housed our luggage. It didn't take very long to find our bags and get through customs. Within minutes, we were in a cab heading back to the Sheraton for our post stay night. Miami is a beautiful city, but we weren't very happy about being there now considering the circumstances.
Our flight home left Fort Lauderdale at 6:00 am the next day, so our transfer to the airport was picking us up at 3:30 in the morning. Way early, but when you use the transfers, you are at their mercy and schedule. We had a quiet dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and got to bed pretty early. The flight home was uneventful, and we were home by 10:00 am.
Overall I would rate this cruise a very good value. The Triumph is beautiful and there were always people on deck cleaning and painting and doing anything they could to make this ship as nice as it is. The drinks were adequate as far as liquor strength goes, and the price isn't any more than you would pay for a drink in a bar back home. The food was great all week. The dining room food, while not 5 stars, was very good and presented nicely. Food in the alternative dining areas was really good also. Great Pizza! Entertainment was good if not great. We didn't go to all the shows, but what we saw was good. The magic show and the adult comedy shows were very entertaining. The Galley tour was good. It's really interesting to see how they feed all 3029 passengers that were onboard. Embarkation and debarkation went well, though it was a little bit of a hassle, it was reasonably smooth.
I'm sure there is more that I want to touch on, but this is all I can remember for now. If you have any questions at all that you'd like answered, feel free to email us.