Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Carnival Triumph

 Carnival Triumph Review 5.21.2012

Just The Facts:

Ship:  Carnival Triumph
21 May-26 May, 2012
Captain:  Vittorio Marchi
Cruise Director:  Jeremy ‘Tex’ Mayes
Ports: Galveston, TX- Progreso, Mexico- Cozumel, Mexico
Weather:  Good all week

This was my 29th Carnival cruise, 71st overall, but the first time on the Carnival Triumph.  I booked only a week+ before departure as a quick get away and are joined by the DW (dear wife) and a couple of cruise friends.

Day Zero--Sunday--Travel
We are going a day early and meeting cruise friends at their home in Cypress/Houston area for dinner.  We got away about 2:00 pm and arrived about 5:45.  We had a great dinner and visit and then off to Alvin, Texas for the night with the cruise friends we are sailing with this week.

Day One--Monday--Embarkation

We awoke early and it’s great knowing that you are only 30+ miles from the  cruise terminal.  Great weather today.  I started the day with a wonderful breakfast buffet from Joe’s a famous local restaurant.  We left Alvin about 10:00 am and since we are early dropped our bags at the cruise terminal.  I  then drove over to EZ Cruise parking and walked back to the terminal.  A very simple process.  We then proceeded through VIP security and then to the VIP check-in area. We were processed and sent on our way...they actually had already started boarding the ship, that’s as early as I have ever known that to happen.  Upon entering the ship the security officer noticed a glitch on my sail & sign card.  It had my personal information, but didn’t have the name of the ship printed on the card, an unusual thing.   They called Guest Services and I had to wait until they arrived.  Soon Teja the Guest Services Supervisor arrived and at least I was able to get her to agree to allow me to wait in the lobby bar area until they straightened out ‘their’ error.  It was an interesting introduction for my first time on the ship, but I had time to view the very nice lobby area.  My first impressions were very good.  Both the DW and I like the decor of the ship very much.  The theme of the ship is ‘Cities of the World’  and the lobby has a relief of the world and world globes in the decor.  Very nice.   We knew that our friend Marusya, who we knew from the Carnival Magic, was now working in Guest Services on the Triumph and soon she came over and explained that they would need to make me a new S&S card, but they could not until later when the system opened.  It was really good seeing her and we did get to visit for awhile, but she is very busy with embarkation so we made plans to meet later.  We were now off to the Lido deck and the South Beach Buffet.  It was Italian food day in the buffet so I tried that and my traditional roast beef for lunch.  The food was just okay, but the dulce de leche cheesecake dessert was very good.  We then went down to deck 8 to see if our cabins were available.  Our friends have 8404 and we have 8420 both interiors.  There were only four cabins available when we booked and at least these cabins were aft in our favorite area just below the Lido deck buffet.  The 8404 is set up as a handicap so has a nice over sized toilet area.  The 8420 is a standard interior.  After dropping my bag I went down to see Marusya at Guest Services and got my new S&S card.  Then back up to the Lido deck for the Carnival traditional sail away drink, the FunShip Special.  When I walked by the Chinese deli there was no one in line so I tried a couple of dishes.  The chinese food was good, but I wish the Triumph had the Mongolian Grill now found on most Carnival ships.  I went back to the cabin to wait for our bags and for boat drill to begin when we received a telephone call from Teja.  Because of the mix up with my card and the fact I am the only Milestone on board she offered to upgrade us if we wished to an ocean view. I was under the impression that it was just an O/V cabin and considered not taking it, but decided that we would take it so Teja took us to the new cabin.  Wow! what a surprise when we discovered that it was an not an ocean view cabin, but an ocean view SUITE!  What a fantastic cabin.  The new cabin is deck seven forward on the starboard side.  It has a small marble entry, a king bed, couch, chair, oversize balcony, bar area, dressing area, jetted bath tub, two large closets, and nice decor (trim, flooring, table tops, etc.).  The new cabin was a great surprise!  It was now time for boat drill or the Safety Instruction as it’s now called.  We went to our new muster station and received our safety instructions.  It took about 20 minutes and was not too bad considering it was a warm day.  After safety drill we were now underway and our friends joined us for an impromptu sail away balcony party.   We have sailed from Galveston many times and usually see dolphins, but today was extra special.  As we approached the final buoys we could see lots and lots of dolphin swimming and waiting for the ship.  As the ship passed through this large pod of dolphin, they began riding the wake of the ship.  They were jumping 3-5 at a time and stretched from the ship as far wide as the wake would reach or several hundred yards. It was an absolutely amazing sight.  The cabin is located just a deck below and 100 feet behind the bridge so had a good view of the Captain waving to the harbor pilot as the pilot jumped onto the pilot boat picking him up below us to the aft.  So much happening at the final buoys to Galveston harbor and to think we probably would have missed all this if we had not received the new balcony cabin.  Amazing.  We had one bag delivered just before safety drill and we did find our other bag at the old cabin after sail away so all was now well with the move and we could unpack and settle in to our suite.  All is very well and what a beginning to the cruise.  After some rest and cabin time we went to the Welcome Show at 7:30pm in the Rome Lounge (theater).  It was hosted by Cruise Director Tex and featured the Triumph Singers and Dancers with a brief appearance by the two comedians.  It was now dinner time and we were assigned the London dining room.  We had a very unusually high table so moved to the next table for the night although it was a high traffic area.  We had a nice long visit from Vlad the (up close) magician who did several amazing tricks for us.  Dinner was just good.  I ordered the Civiche from the Didja section of the menu, the Pasta Pomodoro, and the Pork Tenderloin with the Black Forest Gateau for dessert.  DW ordered the Vegetarian pot pie that she had ordered and found to be good on other Carnival ships, but it was not up to par so she just had several of the macaroni and cheese side dish.  There was a full range of ship activities this evening including the comedians in the Punchliner Comedy Club, but we retired to the cabin for the evening.

Day Two--Tuesday--at Sea
Paris Dining Room
Great weather today and the gulf is very calm. I had a great nights sleep, nothing like the gentile rocking of the ship to make one sleep well. DW prefers simple room service breakfast, but I met our friends for a very nice breakfast in the Paris dining room. The assistant Matre’D Alexandra remembered me from breakfasts on the Ecstasy.  I had my usual first morning on a ship breakfast of Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Hash Browns, Melon, Pastry, and Leche Caliente.  It was all very good.  This morning we explored the ship and visited all the public rooms.  We really like the decor and style.  I believe the Triumph is second only to the Conquest in style and decor of the Carnival ships we have sailed.  If you could add a Red Frog Pub and Mongolian Grill this ship would be ideal.  I found Scott, the FCC rep, and purchased three Future Cruise Certificates. I had used my last available one on this cruise.  We saw our friends and had some cocktails at the Capital (Lobby) Bar.  The Red Frog beer dispenser is not working...not good, but Elizabeth got some for us from deck 5.  I entered the slot tournament, but didn’t make the big board.   We had lunch on the Lido deck buffet, it was American food day.  I had fried chicken, yankee pot roast,   cole slaw, and Virginia baked ham from the carving station.  The food was better today.   The key lime pie was just okay, not tart or even really lime flavored IMHO.  After cocktails and a late lunch it was nap time in the cabin.  I enjoyed the afternoon cabin time in the suite.  We went to the 7:30 comedy show in Punchliner’s to see Chas Elstner.  He was very funny and this was a new routine from previous shows I have seen.  Tonight we moved to the Paris Dining room for dinner.  We have a nice 8-top table in the center of the nice dining room.  This is elegant night and dinner was very good.  I ordered the Pumpkin Soup, White Stuffed Mushrooms, Shrimp Cocktail, Prime Rib with Baked Potato, with Bitter & Blanc and Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  A good dinner tonight and I thought the Prime Rib was very good.  After dinner we attended the late production show The Big Easy in the Theater.  It featured almost every popular song or music with a New Orleans theme or subject.  The productions singers were very good and the dancers and costumes were wonderful.  I really enjoyed the show better than any show I saw on the Carnival Magic.  A wonderful FUN day on the Carnival Triumph.

Day Three--Wednesday—Progreso, Mexico

Le Saint Bonnet
Beautiful weather in Progreso this morning. I joined our friends for a MDR breakfast in the Paris dining room.  We again had a great picture window table and the waiter remembered my Leche Caliente.  I had three fried eggs with bacon, etc. and it was all very good.  We (just the two of us) decided to go into town about 10:00 am.  We took the shuttle into Progreso and went to our favorite Progreso ‘hangout’ Le Saint Bonnet, a restaurant on the waterfront.  There was a great breeze off the water so it was very nice.  We had some diet coke and water to cool off from the trip over then some very good guacamole and salsa.  It’s a great people watching spot as you can see the tourists and the vendors passing by on the sidewalk.  Eventually everyone will pass by and you can do your shopping without leaving your table.  The fact that they have internet access via wifi is a great bonus and I did bring my laptop to catch up with the outside world.  We enjoyed some nice lime frozen margarita’s, the ocean breeze, live mariachi music, and did some shopping.  We got a great large basket similar to the previous trip to Progreso, some large shells for the pool, and DW got another nice handmade top. After the drinks we needed to eat so we requested and they made a special vegetarian plate for us with cucumber & jicama strips and cheese quesadillas. It was very good and we had a fine afternoon at Saint Bonnet.  As usual we took a taxi back to the terminal ($8), then bought some Talavera cocktail glasses at a gift shop before boarding the ship.  It was a warm day so a shower and nap was just the thing for me.  I probably could have slept through the night, but I hate to miss dinner.  Tonight I ordered: a Green Salad, the Jerk Pork, Shrimp & Fries from the comfort food section, and Tiramisu for desert.  Tonights production show was Showcase of the Stars a guest talent show, but a well rehearsed production.  After the long port day we were happy to return to the cabin and rest.

Day Four--Thursday—Cozumel, Mexico

New Pool at Paradise Beach
I had a great nights sleep and went outside early to see the Triumph enter the straights of Cozumel.  We seem to be the only ship arriving today.  I went to the MDR for a nice Eggs Benedict breakfast and then we met our friends at 8:30 am to leave the ship for the day.  We took a taxi ($13) to Paradise Beach ($2 pp chair fees).  It was our first time here since they built the new swimming pool.  It is beautiful.  We found a table and loungers between the beach and the swimming pool and settled in for the morning.  We ordered some diet cokes (they are much better in Mexico) and water fro  our waiter.  The Caribbean water was very nice and I had a nice swim.  DW was in the pool so I spent some time in the very large pool too.  The pool water was warmer than the sea and was very enjoyable.  Since the Triumph is the only ship in port it was not busy at all.  We wanted to go into San Miguel to eat so we went took a taxi to town ($20) and went to Wet Wendy’s.  We ordered two of their famous Mango Margaritas.  They are excellent.  We also ordered lunch, we had the Vegetarian Quesadillos and Chili Relleno and our friends had the special Lobster Tacos.  We did see Klara and Chad, the owners before we left.  They are very nice and we like catching up with all their experiences on the island.  They are constructing very nice new toilets at Wet Wendy’s, that will be a big physical improvement.  The food & drink are already very good and the new toilets will be great asset.  After eating we went to see our friend Nelly who owns a couple of gift stores in town.  She is now the owner of Woody’s, the sports bar, located between her shop and the 7-11 on the corner of the main square.  She has added very nice tables and chairs and has a very nice sidewalk dining area.  This is now a great people watching place or a spot husbands can have a cerveza while the ladies shop the downtown area.  Nelly gave us a tour and they have a nice large air conditioned indoor dining area and very nice toilets.  Two very important things to look for in Cozumel.  They also have Wifi.  Great job Nelly!  The only downside to our port call to Cozumel is that the ship has a 3:00 pm scheduled departure time.  That’s much too early.  We returned to the ship and cleaned up before sail away actually at 3:50.   It was cabin time until we met our friends in the Oxford Lounge before dinner.  The Oxford Lounge is a very nice room with a British Library decor.  Dinner tonight was good.  I ordered the Lobster Bisque, Pasta, Chateaubriand, and Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert.  The production show was New Wave Magic with Anders.  At midnight they also had A Kiss Goodnight, a wonderful burlesque style adult show.

Day Five--Friday—at Sea

Another great night at sea, very smooth sailing.  I had the usual MDR breakfast in the Paris dining room then some cabin time.  We spent the morning on the aft Lido deck.  Too bad the aft pools are no longer adult only.  It really makes it difficult to get swim time when kids are filling the pool even though they have designated pools for themselves.  We ate in the MDR for lunch for the first time.  It was good.  I ordered the Neptune Salad, Pepper Steak, and a Fruit mousse.  I had a walk around the ship and did some afternoon packing and balcony time before attending a Q&A session with Tex, the cruise director, in the Big Easy lounge.  The Big Easy is the piano bar and is uniquely decorated with clam shells a very interesting room.  We were able to purchase liquor and return it to our cabin at 7:00 pm so I made our purchase so that we could get our packing finalized.  We again met our friends in the Oxford Lounge before dinner.  Tonight was just an okay dinner, I ordered the Green Salad, Onion Soup (good), the Meat Loaf from the comfort foods, and the Veal Parmesian.  For dessert I had the Baked Alaska and a Fruit Platter.  Vlad, the magician came by for the final time to show us more tricks, he came by most every night and we enjoyed his talent this cruise.  The production show tonight was Wonderful World.  For late dining the show was before dinner so we actually missed it while packing, an excuse to return to the Triumph.  After dinner we retired to the cabin.

Day Six--Saturday—Debarkation--Galveston, Texas

I was up early and in the MDR at 7:00 am for my final wonderful breakfast of the cruise.  After a quick breakfast we were off to the London dining room for early self-debarkation.  We were called about 8:05 and were off the ship in just minutes.  We walked over to EZ Cruise parking and were on our way.  We crossed the bridge and were off the island by 8:30 am.  (Galveston gasoline was $3.49)

The Carnival Triumph is a Triumph class ship 890 feet long and 101,509 gross tons.  Larger than the Fantasy class ships and a bit smaller than the Conquest class. It is a very nice ship and the theme is Cities of the World with each public room representing a specific city or location.  The lobby areas have a multi-color world relief display using LED lights and panels. Our sailing was very full, probably 120% capacity or 3500 passengers.  I’ve sailed the Conquest with much fewer, but it didn’t seem overly crowded except at the pools. There was a lot that I just didn’t have time to see and do such as: bingo, the piano entertainer, tea time, the Spa, the many trivia contests, etc., but I certainly had plenty to keep me busy.  The Triumph seemed a little worn, but my last three cruises were on the brand new Carnival Magic so a 13+ year old ship is different.

We had cabin 7233 a category OS Oceanview Suite on the starboard side  of deck 7.   The cabin has a king bed, two sets of closets, card swipe safe, flat screen TV, refrigerator, hair dryer, ship’s clock, couch, chair, dressing table & area, mirrored bar, marble entry, oversize balcony, jetted tub, and premium decor.   It was our first full suite and we really enjoyed it.  Mr. Arnold, our cabin steward, did a great job maintaining the cabin for us and keeping us in ice.

All of our MDR waiters were very good and we were glad we moved from the London to the Paris dining room.  We just prefer the aft MDR and it is usually the better of the two.  I really thought the crew overall were very good.  I was called by name most of the time.   Arnold, our Cabin Steward was fantastic.  Teja and Marusya from Guest Services were wonderful.  Alexandra made sure I always had a nice table for breakfast, Tex did a great job as CD. The bar servers were nice especially Elizabeth who was the keeper of the Thirsty Frog Ale working both in the Capital (lobby) and Olympic Sports Bar, another interesting public room. 

We of course had the new Carnival Menus.  There is an ‘Every Day’ section and a ‘Specials of the Day’ section.  Also a ‘Didja’ selection of an unusual item and a ‘Comfort Food’ selection of a traditional item.  Our dining room was the Paris Dining Room located aft on decks 3 & 4.  We had an eight top table on the lower level.  The food was very hit & miss, some items were great and many were very weak.  Breakfasts, both MDR & buffet were much better than the MDR dinners-IMHO. Overall I thought that the breads were very good and that the desserts were not comparable to other Carnival ships. The cookies were always good and the salads were wonderful.  DW reports that the Vegetarian selections were not well prepared. There are several ice crème and yogurt machines on Lido deck.  I think the best food of the week was my daily breakfast in the Paris dining room and my two room service sandwiches.

There was NO Fun Farewell party. There were no cherries in the ‘whiskey sours’ that the bar servers push during the past guest party. 

Needs Improvement
Consistency in MDR food.  Port time in Cozumel...2:30 pm is too early for a return...with the new ships coming to Galveston guests will (and should) book the ships with the better port times.

Cruise Highlights
Actually I think it was the crew of the ship.  They were all very nice and tried very hard to please.  Second would be the show: The Big Easy, and of course we enjoyed our cabin upgrade.

Another FUN Cruise on a FUN ship!!