Saturday, December 12, 2015

Carnival Freedom Cruise Review

Carnival Freedom Cruise Review 

December 12, 2015

Just the Facts
Ship:  Carnival Freedom
Captain: Agostino Fazio
Cruise Director: Jase
Ports: Galveston, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay Jamaica, Galveston

This is my 5th cruise on the Carnival Freedom, 57th Carnival Cruise, and 108th cruise overall.  I am traveling solo and attending a Travel Agent and CLIA seminar during the cruise.

Day One—Saturday—December 12—Galveston Embarkation
Carnival Freedom Lobby
I am up during the night a lot as on the ranch we only have unlimited bandwidth from 2:00 am - 8:00 am so when I awoke at 3:30 I knew I was awake for the day.  I left earlier than norm at 5:30 am for my nonstop drive to Galveston.  I tried a new route taking Hwy 6 to US 290 as usual, but took the new Hwy 99 toll road south towards Sugarland where you pick up (oddly) Hwy 6 again all the way to the IH 45 bridge to Galveston.  A lot of traffic lights on the urban part of SH-6, but you completely bypass Houston.  It was different and about the same time-wise, but not sure I would do it again on a weekend when there is less traffic.  I arrived at EZ Cruise Parking by 10:15 am and was shuttled straight away to the Carnival Freedom pier.  They have implemented a new staggered arrival time for guests sailing from Galveston (we are the test subjects before this goes fleet wide) so there were new procedures.  First before you even get close to the entry doors your boarding documents are inspected by several different check points.  Before you even get near the entry doors lines are split between Priority and all other guests.  Once inside you have the security checkpoint where your bags are scanned.  Beyond that all guests (Priority used to have separate escalator here) are directed to the escalators up to level two where once again the Priority is directed to a new line and different area to check-in at the end of the long line of check-in agents.  This is actually where VIP’s used to check-in years ago before the VIFP program and lounge.  Once checked-in you can then relax in the VIFP Captain’s Lounge.  I considered myself early, but the lounge was very much full.  They did combine Diamonds, Platinums, FTTF, and Suite guests into the same waiting area. Not a bad experience at all and I was seated about 10:45 am. They boarded the Wedding party about 11:05 and they called for Diamond & Platinum about 11:15, of course others joined anyway, but they do check your card one last time before entering the gangway entry.  I was on board, among the very first about 11:22.  I’m giving exact times for this process as so many claim to be on board earlier.  This morning went very smooth and this was above average for normal boarding times.  Cabins are prepared early for Priority guest so I was able to drop my bags and meet my cabin steward.  Before too many guests boarded I went up to the Lido buffet area and the Mongolian Grill.  Always my first choice for lunch on embarkation day. I did sample the fish and Chicken Tenders...both great.  I did run into a new friend I had sailed with and was at my MDR table on a previous cruise in the Lounge and again in the Mongolian line so I had lunch with her group.  They have two rookies in her group so they will think boarding is super easy and the Lido not busy.  :-)  It is nice to have earned VIFP status.  After lunch I returned to my cabin to unpack and settle.  I rolled my travel duffle on with me so I have all my belongings…I hung my clothes, set up the fan, established an internet account, and converted the 220 plug behind the bed to 220/110 combo so that I can charge my laptop computer.  The Carnival FunTimes has changed since last month on the Triumph, it is now a trifold sheet so much narrower and perhaps taller.  I like it.  Boat drill was held about 4:00 pm, they do a very thorough job of it too.  I went to the Red Frog Pub for an informal gathering of folks from the Facebook page roll-call for this cruise after muster drill, interesting people it was a good roll call page. The ship has really been rocking since we cleared the harbor, much more than normal. I did experience strong southerly winds on the drive down so the seas are also pretty rough.  I returned to the cabin and prepared for the evening.  The Welcome Show was at 7:30 pm in the Victoriana Theater, but knowing I could watch it later on cabin TV I passed. I went first to the Alchemy Bar for my aperitifs. It was nice meeting the current Alchemy staff of Vera, Johanna, and Anca and meeting some old and new friends.  I have dinner in the Posh MDR and I’m seated with the TA group at table 327.  I prefer a table in the center, but it’s acceptable being next to the aft windows.  For dinner I ordered the Cream of Tomato Soup (very good), Jalapeno Poppers from the port menu (fair), the Sliced Pork loin (fair), and the Strawberry Parfit for dessert (good). After dinner I retired to the cabin to rest and be rocked to sleep by the high seas.

Day Two—Sunday—December 13th—Fun Day at Sea

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room
Very rocky seas overnight, but I slept very well.  I went to the Blue Iguana for a great Huevos Rancheros with two eggs…no line at all…it hasn’t been discovered yet.  I attended a Training Seminar for Travel Agents all morning in the International Lounge…it was really for newbies but I picked up some interesting minutiae such as:  “Out of 5 million bookings last year the Great Vacation Guarantee was only used 37 times”. Interesting and most of those were not because they didn’t enjoy the cruise, but primarily a domestic issue or problems at home.  The information about the new Fathom Social Activity cruises program was new.  went to get my first Guy’s Burger about 2:00 pm.  Unfortunately it was under cooked…disappointing when I see that since I am such a fan of them…no excuse since they have a very specific way to prepare them.  There was a short line at the Mongolian Grill so I changed to that…different veggies and meat from yesterday too.  It was good.  BTW-I learned today that the Mongolian Grill on the new Carnival Vista will be different…similar to La Cuchina Italiano lunches on several ships…you will have a checklist of available noodles, veggies, meats, sauces, and they will serve you at the table (think Carnival Sunshine layout with JiJi’s).  After lunch I took a walk around deck ten and it is still very windy although the seas have calmed compared to earlier. Cabin time and NFL football the rest of the afternoon.  I went to a private Cocktail Party for the TA group 6:30-7:30 in the Swingtime Bar on Deck 5 aft.  It was quite an affair with hot and cold Hors d'oeuvres, complementary cocktails, with lots of staff and servers in attendance.  I met the Food Manager and mentioned the Guy’s Burger earlier today.  Not a complaint, I just want them to get them as Guy Fieri intended (basically smashed & cooked). Art the bar tender was good and prepared for me a proper Cosmopolitan.  Still time for an aperitif at the Alchemy before dinner.  Friends had changed MDR’s and have a center table in the Posh with an extra seat so I changed to that table, also a couple from Scotland there so an interesting group.  This is the Captain’s Elegant Night and Dinner was good.  I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara and the Sea Bass entree with Crème Brûlée for dessert.  The table Magician also came by and performed for us.  At 10:15 I rushed to the production show  80’s Pop To The Max in the Victoriana theater.  I had a great seat on row three and really enjoyed the show. The set, music, and graphics are amazing.  The eight singers and dancers are good.  It was the first Playlist Production I have seen in a while and I really enjoyed it.  Back at the cabin the VIFP gift of a Journal was left as were some cookies I suspect from the food ops manager.  Thanks.

Day Three—Monday—December 14th—Cozumel
Who-za drivin' da Ship? / Captain Agostino Fazio
Smoother seas overnight and I slept very well.  We had a very early arrival in Cozumel at 7:00 am; however, I’m not keen on an early start for the day.  I watched us dock from the Television and used the internet from a comfortable bed.  About 8:30 I went upstairs to Lido to eat and repeated my Huevos Rancheros with two eggs breakfast from Blue Iguana.  As I was waiting for my fresh eggs to be fried (over-medium) Neelesh Santiago the Food Ops Manager came by to visit.  I thanked him for the cookies and I commented on how wonderful the Blue Iguana is for breakfast.  There are some lesser known eating gems on Carnival.  After finishing I noticed Heide, the CLIA lady, on deck.  We had a very nice long discussion about cruising, cruise lines, and the ‘olden’ days.  I didn’t get an early start hoping that it wouldn’t be so busy getting out for a taxi.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, it was too busy. We are docked with the Elation and at the new 3rd pier is the Valor.  There are too many guests trying to get through the long Dufrey building and into Puerto Maya proper.  The Mexican Government fruit inspectors are no help either…and why do people try to take food off the ship?  They do as there were dozens of large trash bags full of confiscated items when I went through.  It’s a 20-30 minute process just to get out and that’s if you know where your going.  They have to open the outside where the crew bypass the building.  I made it to the taxi stand and was soon in San Miguel and at Antonio’s Barber Shop about 10:30 ship time.  Martin wasn’t busy so I had my much needed haircut straight away.  Those that know my barber of nine years will be surprised to know he has cut his long black locks and sports almost a burr cut, very different.  I was off to Woody’s, my Cozumel HQ, to enjoy the breeze, view, and snacks.  Nelly and I discussed the memorial service we will be doing in February for a fellow Snoozemate we lost.  I really went back to the ship early considering, but we actually have an early sailing time of 3:00 pm.  Once back on board in the cabin I cooled off and ordered BLT’s from room service.  Room service BLT’s are a signature food item on Carnival and are always good.  I usually order two and then combine if necessary to make a nice proper sandwich…that was not needed on the Freedom…both were excellent with nice tomatoes, lettuce, and crisp bacon.  We had a brief rain before sail away a little late almost 3:30 pm.  I received a nice telephone call from Jace, the Cruise Director, who wanted to make sure all was well.  That is unique, never happened to me before so a nice surprise.  The private Diamond function was held at 5:15 in Scott's piano bar.  The Captain and senior officers attended and there was a room full of Diamond guests. They served very nice hot Hors d'oeuvres and to-order cocktails.  Since Johana from Alchemy was the bartender I  ordered Spicy Chipotle Pineapple martinis. They were great and on the Captain's tab, the best kind.  Thanks Carnival.  I had some time to get some candy from Cherry on Top and return to cabin before aperitifs at the Alchemy.  I had my usual Quick Fix.  My friends and I were the only ones at our table tonight, but Cozumel night always have fewer guests in the MDR.  Tonight I ordered the Baked Ziti and the grilled Pork Chop, both good.  A Flan for dessert.  I missed the production show 88 Keys after dinner simply because I didn’t check the Fun Times as they rarely have a production show on Cozumel night, but then again we are running the itinerary backward from the usual way it is run.  So it ended up being an early night for me…although there was entertainment all over the ship. 

Day Four—Tuesday—December 15th—Grand Cayman
A few rolls early in the evening but relatively smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I  love
Even Santa loves the Alchemy Bar
channel 19 on the cabin TV…that’s the forward looking camera and they play my kind of music…light jazz and torch music.  They have made a change on it…in lieu of going black at night they now have beautiful cruise or island scene slides and continue the music.  Nice…especially if your in an interior as you can see the sunrise and ports as we arrive.  I have seen enough live arrivals from deck so using TV to determine status of arrivals, etc. is good. About 9:30 am I again went up to lido and the Blue Iguana.  There’s usually guests getting the breakfast burritos, but not in the other line, I don’t think guests understand the Huevos Rancheros.  The one man in front of me got three of the base tortillas, but never asked for eggs.  Mine were excellent again…two perfectly fried eggs for a proper Huevos Rancheros.  I do have them add guacamole on the tortilla before adding the eggs…then I top with extra cheese and pico de gallo from the salsa bar.  Perfect.  The weather is really nice today, not too warm, guests will enjoy the beach and the island.  I’m staying on board.  I watched a movie and did some work on the internet most of the day.  I did break for a walk around deck…beautiful day…and for a Guy’s Burger.  The burger was good & cooked properly so a very good lunch.  I went to the Alchemy early enough for two aperitifs and visited with new friends.  Dinner was good, I ordered the Broccoli Soup and two entrees: the breaded Fish Fillet  and the BBQ Ribs.  The ribs were very good.  I did walk about the ship for a bit before retiring.  Some of the entertainment was:  Hasbro, the Game Show, Karaoke, Bingo, Love & Marriage Show, and the usual live bands at the various bars and venues.

Day Five—Wednesday—December 16th—Montego Bay, Jamaica
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well, so much that I slept almost to 10:00 am.  Wow, and I
Red Frog Pub
wasn’t up late either.  We are docked at the industrial side of MoBay as the Carnival Dream is at the Cruise location.  All types of bells & whistles & alarms & announcements began after 10:00 for crew drills.  I was warned and knowing that this was a serious all crew drill that there would be no chance of brunch or food until it was over so no rush to the morning for me.  It was very interesting listening to Jace try to pronounce the names of missing crew members.  They primarily used their employee ID numbers.  It wasn’t long after the all clear that Darwin was knocking on the door to clean the stateroom so I headed up to Lido main.  It’s a hot day, but lot’s of friends staying on board so I had nice visits until food became again available.  I waited until after noon time for the Mongolian Grill to open.  It was good as always.  The desert station had an excellent Key-lime Cheese Cake too.  I did some online work and had a free day until  late afternoon when I went up to Lido aft to drink a coke.  It had cooled off and looks like a lot of guests are returning early.  I also exchanged my VIFP gift for the new small duffle bags that will be the next gift item.  May use the duffle, won’t use the Journal nor the five at home.  I again went to the Alchemy early for Aperitifs then to dinner.  To night I ordered the  Pumpkin Soup, Escargot, and the Short Ribs entree.  For dessert I ordered the two new selections to sample:  Chocolate Panna Cotta and Buttered Popcorn Pot De Creme.  The panda cotta was too much chocolate for me, but the Buttered Popcorn Pot De Creme is a winner.  Very different, try it if you get the chance.  After dinner I was going to go to the production show Getaway Island in the theater, but ended up in the Red Frog Pub to hear the two solo entertainers, Jon and Tyler.  I
considered a Fish Bowl, but had two Thirsty Frog beers of course!   Not out really late…back to the cabin by 12:30 for sleep.

Day Six—Thursday—December 17th—Fun Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept very well and late.  I had to rush to get to the Blue Iguana for
Christmas Display
breakfast before the 10:30 close. Again I had the great Huevos Rancheros with two fresh fried eggs. Very good. I spent some time in the Lobby and Lobby Bar this's actually the closest public space to my cabin.   Lots of activities held there during the day and of course the entertainers at night. Also a great place to people watch.  Not something I normally do when I have a far aft cabin.  I ordered BLT’s from room service for a late lunch today.  BTW-they have NEW room service menu’s…nice multi-page with color graphics.  They are some changes primarily the new service charge ($5 per) items including: Buffalo Wings, Philly Steak, and more.  The BLT’s and Rubin are still there and free.  It was to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs again this evening.  I had dinner with the Travel Agent group tonight and it was a nice dinner,  I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms, the Pasta e Fagioli Soup, and the Filet Mignon and Short Rib combination entree.  I did return to the Alchemy for a nightcap before retiring.  Observation:  I'm not really a gambler, but every time I have passed the casino on this has been packed.

Day Seven—Friday—December 18th—Fun Day at Sea
Sun King Steakhouse
Rocking and rolling seas overnight and today.  Up about 9:00 am so time to get to the Blue Iguana for my now usual breakfast.  There was a line this morning so it has been discovered and I’m earlier than normal.  A two fried eggs over medium Huevo Ranchero breakfast…excellent.  My preference is guacamole added to the pre-prepared soft taco base, then the fresh eggs, add cheese to top of hot eggs, then pico de gallo.  There are lots of condiments at the salsa bar for individual tastes.  The weather was cooler so not as many guests outdoors today, but there were plenty of activities inside today.  I purposely didn’t eat lunch today since I have plans for later.  I had an easy day with cabin time, walking about the deck, and just relaxing.  The Platinum/Diamond gathering was at 5:15 in the International Lounge. Always nice to meet the senior crew members.  I attended another cocktail party / reception at 6:30 in the Disco for the Travel Agent group.  I met my MDR friends at the Alchemy and we went to the Sun King Steakhouse located on deck 10 midship. A very nice restaurant. I ordered as a starter the Escargot Bourguignonne, Salad: Sliced Sun-Ripened Beef Steak Tomatoes with Gorgonzola Crumbles, Entree: Grilled Prime Cowboy Steak.  Sides: Yukon Gold Mash & Cremed Spinach.  For dessert I ordered the Caramelized Washington Apples.  All of it was very good especially the steak.  Certainly worth the upcharge.  I did have a nice conversation with the Captain while in the Steakhouse...he is a nice man.  After cocktails and a wonderful meal I retired for the evening.

Debarkation—Saturday—December 19th—Galveston, Texas
Seas were smoother as we approached the coast, I was awake by 6:00 am and began packing.  I went down to the Posh MDR for breakfast, my only time in the MDR for breakfast this cruise.  I ordered the Eggs Benedict and honestly they were not good…overcooked to the point of hard boiled so I left early enough to get to the designated Diamond debark staging area just after the 7:30 meet time.  Just moments after arriving the staff came and got the Diamond guests and since I was basically at the door…I was first off the ship.  Didn’t plan it that way, but I like it.  I was also first through U.S. Customs and out the door.  Since I was early I decided to walk to EZ Cruise as it would be faster than waiting for a shuttle.  I stopped for gas at Raceway as usual ($1.65 gal) and was off the island at 8:08 am.  Excellent debarkation.  Back at the ranch by 12:45…a quick and uneventful drive.

I had cabin 2269 an interior located on Main Deck (deck 2) near the forward elevators on starboard side.  I prefer an aft location but this was basically assigned to me. The cabin has a swipe type safe, twin/queen beds, refrigerator, three-section closet, four drawer cabinet, one electrical outlet on counter/dresser, Bottle Opener, Telephone, Medicine Cabinet, Small Table, Small Stool at Dresser, Chair, Robes (2), and flat screen TV, with the interactive features.   Magnetic walls so I can use my magnetic hooks on the ceiling, walls, or door.  My cabin steward Darwin was very good, the cabin was always clean and my mail/notices delivered.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

Both Main Dining Rooms are very nice especially the Posh Dining room located aft.  The Blue Iguana for burritos or breakfast and Guy’s Burgers are excellent. They also have a Mongolian Wok. The buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected desserts are good.  IMHO the MDR food is just adequate, but I had very nice table locations and the wait team was good. The Steak House was wonderful.  I love the Alchemy Bar and the Lobby bar is very nice.  Thirsty Frog beer is available in the Red Frog Pub and the Red Frog Rum bar, EA Sports bar, and Lobby bars.

The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly.  The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious.  Favorites this cruise were my MDR wait team, Alchemy Bar team; and overall Crew in general.  They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The Ship Officers were fantastic…they really seem to enjoy working as a team and are very friendly.

Diamond Guests Cocktail Party with Captain & Senior Officers
Private Cocktail Parties
Alchemy Bar and bartenders.
Carnival Freedom Crew members

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Carnival Triumph Journeys B2B Cruise Review

Carnival Triumph Journey's  B2B Cruise Review

10/24/2015 & 11/2/2015

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Triumph
Captain:  Alessandro Iemmi
Cruise Director:  Kirk Benning
Ports: Galveston—Grand Cayman—Aruba—Bonaire—Grenada—Martinique—St. Maarten—San Juan—St.Thomas—St.Kitts—St. Maarten—Antigua—Grand Turk—Half Moon Cay—Galveston

 This is a B2B cruise…my 55th and 56th Carnival cruises, the 10th and 11th time on the Carnival Triumph, and 106th and 107th cruises overall. The first cruise is 11 days and the second is 10 days…doing both portions makes it basically a long Round Trip from/to Galveston. I am cruising solo, but have several friends on both cruises.  This cruise is being promoted as a Carnival Journeys Cruise, a longer cruise with extra functions and activities.

Friday / Travel / October 24th, 2015 / Day 0
Kay's Driver
It was a very late decision to leave a day early due to heavy rains forecast for Texas and the Gulf coast.  There is a slow moving storm front with a lot of rain and the remnants of Hurricane Patricia that hit the west coast of Mexico converging in Texas.  I left the ranch about 1:00 pm and hit rain before getting out of the county with the heaviest around Waco (by end of day, the  ranch had 6+ inches and Waco 10+ inches of rain).  Driving leisurely I stopped at the Dixie Cafe in Hearne, TX for a very nice Chicken Fried Steak then again drove leisurely through intermittent showers until I hit the traffic of Houston. The 610 loop being especially congested.  At least the rain then held off until I made it to the LaQuinta @ Hobby airport about 6:30 pm. I was lucky as I-45 between Dallas and Houston had been closed due to high water over the highway.  After checking into the hotel I took advantage of the high speed internet to update my laptop and iPhone operating systems as well as all my app’s and system upgrades...something I can not do on the Satellite at the ranch because of bandwidth restrictions.  So overall a good productive travel day considering the weather and I’m glad I made the decision to do so.  ADDED--Discovered that guests coming to Galveston for the Sunday sailing of the Carnival Magic had it much worse...there were a lot of roads flooded in Galveston.  The Magic itself came in late on Sunday and then had to stay overnight in port...we were fortunate to get away before the bulk of the rain...always good to prepare ahead when possible.

Saturday / Embarkation / October 24th, 2015 / Day 1
Journeys Banner in lobby area
I had the very good LQ waffle for breakfast and met friends I am taking to the pier this morning.  I’m actually in the ‘farm truck’ and we have a light rain so we covered all our luggage in plastic and were off to Galveston about 9:30 am to beat the heavy rain about to arrive. I dropped the friends and my large duffle off at Terminal Two about 10:30 and I drove over to EZ Cruise Parking to park and was shuttled back over to the ship soon afterward.  Terminal Two is the smaller terminal, but the Carnival Freedom is docked at Terminal One which is the norm every other Saturday.  Perhaps they should have considered switching simply because they knew there were over 1000 Priority guests to load the Triumph and there are NO real priority areas in T2.  Of course it was a mess when I arrived back, I got checked in fairly easily, but boarding didn’t start early and the terminal was over packed with guests waiting to board. It was an unusual occurrence...1-they are doing construction in Terminal Two to add more guest space before the arrival of the Liberty of the Seas 2-there were over a thousand with Priority boarding including 108 Diamonds and 798 Platinums and 3-the rain scare brought many more guests to the pier early. Considering the circumstances I thought it went fair. The Diamonds were the very first to board...I could not get to the front until the people in front of me realized that they were not going to get in and moved a bit to allow actual Diamonds through. Then they boarded the Platinum, Suites, and FTTF. The guests who arrived after 1:30 pm were able to walk right on...first to arrive is not always the best.  I went direct to my cabin to drop my backpack and carry-on bag and refresh.  I was very hot from the humidity and packed terminal and needed to cool off soon.  I carry a bathing suit in my carry-on so I went to the covered aft lido pool area.  First I got a great pizza (first one they made that day) and the enjoyed the cool refreshing water.  It was great.  Then I hit the hot tub to soak my poor knees and the difficult embarkation was no longer a thought!.  Soon I began seeing more and more friends so we had an impromptu welcome party and I did enjoy a few Fun Ship Specials  (thanks ML).  It was approaching time for Safety Drill so I returned to my cabin.  No bags as yet, but I unpacked my toiletries, computer, etc. from backpack and my quite full carry-on bag.  Safety/Boat Drill was about 4:30 but I knew we were far from sail away…also still no bags. I am glad I carry my one pair of dress pants and two shirts in my carry-on for emergencies.  I was able to get ready for dinner meet friends as we began our late sail away.  My large bag was finally delivered about 7:15 as I was leaving for the Alchemy Bar for an Aperitif.  The lead Alchemist is Tijana whom I have enjoyed in the past in the Alchemy (she began preparing my drink before I ordered)…Natalya is the other Alchemist and Kitty the server.  I am a big fan of the Alchemy Bar…always fun.  Dinner is at 8:15 pm, I arranged to get table 545 in the center of the Paris Dining Room (MDR), a nice table with my friends in a good location. This is my FIRST experience with the new American Table. I will reserve judgment for a few days, but I do not like that we do not have tablecloths.  You have bread, butter, and water already on the table along with an unusual multi-purpose bread plate.  The menu is different, and anything different is a good thing, the unique feature being a special ‘port’ menu that will feature food & drink from the local port of call.  For dinner tonight I ordered: the Jalapino Poppers, the Sweet & Sour Shrimp, the sliced Pork Steak entree, and the Tirimisu for dessert.  After dinner was multiple choices of activities including:  Party Music with Music Power, Latin Music with Latin Sugar, Piano Bar with Berry, High Seas Karaoke, and more.  After a busier day than my usual day one I retired to the cabin after dinner to settle in and enjoy the rocking and rolling that the high seas are providing and sleep well.

Sunday / Fun day at Sea / October 25th / Day 2
Dancing Waiters in the Paris MDR
Rolling seas overnight and I had a very good nights sleep. Very overcast as we haven’t cleared the weather.  I was off to the Paris dining room (MDR) for breakfast about 9:30 am for the Sea Day Brunch and there was not a long line. I had a nice table location and friendly table guests most from Galveston. I ordered the Fruit Plate and Steak & Eggs, with side of bacon and all was good.  By the time I returned to the cabin Dann my cabin Steward had already prepped the cabin.  I purchased the internet package available ($90) for the cruise this morning so I caught top on some news and football scores.  I just relaxed most of the day, they delivered Chocolate snacks about noon, they have to start early to get 1000 delivered.  They also delivered the case of water I had ordered through online gift department.  I did go up to Lido deck and happened to run into Captain Allesandro, we visited for a bit, it may be hard to do so afterward with all the Diamonds on board.  I had an always great Guy’s burger for a late lunch (2:00ish) and soft serve ice creme for dessert then time for a short nap.  The weather has now cleared enough this afternoon to pick up satellite so I watched the Dallas Cowboys game on the cabin TV.  The production show Wonderful World was scheduled for tonight, but the seas are still a bit rough so that has been delayed.  They had a double bill of Comedy in the Rome Lounge featuring Nery Saenz and Kim Harrison.  I have previously seen both, but sill enjoyed the show…Kim being my favorite.  After the show there was time for a Quick Fix at the Alchemy Bar, most of my friends were already there.  Tonight is the Captains Elegant night dinner so they had tablecloths on the tables in the Paris dining room.  I like...they also poured the water and served the bread, more traditional.  For dinner I ordered the Italian Wedding Soup, the Spaghetti Carbonara, the Sea Bass fish entree, and a Fruit Plate for dessert.  All good.  After dinner I did a short walkabout then retired early to the cabin. The Platinum/Diamond gift was delivered tonight: a Carnival Journal with Pen.  Ice chest filled and the A/V guys came by while at dinner and checked my TV as I had requested as well. A good sea day and just enough rolling left to be rocked to sleep again tonight.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / Oct 26th / Day 3
'Crew Connections' presentation
Somewhat rolling seas overnight but much better than previous and I had a very nice sleep. We have also sailed beyond the bad weather and we have a beautiful sunshine day.  I went up to Lido aft about 9:00 am for a nice western omelette and people were already grabbing loungers for the day and using the hot tubs.  I noticed when I was in the pool on day one that they now have a maximum capacity in that aft pool of 14. Seems very low, I’m curious to see how that works out as we go forward.  I met the group about 11:45 in the lobby as today is the Diamond Luncheon served in the London MDR.  There are 108 or so Diamonds and with guests there were probably 150+ served a very nice lunch.  Kirk was the MC and introduced the Captain.  I was really pleased and surprised to see my friend Slovinka who boarded when we did on Saturday as the new Housekeeping Manager. There were several other officers as well.  There was a Special Menu with a choice between three appetizers and two entrees.  I ordered the fancy Heirloom Tomato & Beet Root salad and the Grilled NY Strip Steak. Other options were: Cornish Game Hen or Butternut Pumpkin Bisque and Grilled Maine Lobster Tail.  The dessert was a very nice Tropical Flan with Coconut Marshmello, Coconut Milk Ice Creme & Shaved Coconut.  All very good.  We were served a glass of champagne upon entry and or a cocktail if desired from bar servers.  Our wait staff was excellent.  One of the Journey features are a series of ‘Crew Connections’ a Question and Answer session with various Officers and Staff on our sea days.  Today at 2:00 pm was the Hotel Department’s Q&A. It was good to see Mark Demme the Hotel Director as well as the GSM, Bar Manager, Food Manager, and Housekeeping Manager.  Some interesting questions were:  1. What’s the most interesting thing a guest has left behind in their cabin? Our lovely friend Slovinka was too embarrassed to say, but Kirk explained it quite well (yes I’m going to leave that answer hanging).  2. What are the lengths of employee contracts for various employee jobs?  3. What is the possibility of CCL Corporation’s various cruise lines honoring others loyalty status?  The answer to that was: yes there are discussions about making that happen. Another interesting fact was that they use/serve 10X more Chicken than any other meat. It was interesting, I’ll try to attend the next one featuring the Entertainment Department on the next sea day.  Guests were enjoying he weather on the outer decks, but it was cabin time and a nap for the rest of the afternoon for me. Some friends attended the production show Wonderful World scheduled for tonight at 7:00 pm for late setting dinner guests.  It is my favorite of the productions shows on the Carnival Triumph and features the Triumph dancers and singers and highlights music from around the world. There were songs or dances from: France, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Africa, Spain and more. It is a fantastic show with full cast of singers and dancers and full LIVE orchestra. The Can-Can is my favorite dance and Con Te Parte my favorite song.  However I went early to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs and it was busy.  Always a fun crowd.  Dinner in the Paris MDR was good.  I ordered the Caribbean Pepper Pot soup, the Baked Ziti, and the Veal Parmesan.  We had Creme Brûlée for desert.  I didn’t care for the Veal Parm, Ziti was different in a creme sauce with lot’s of cheese.  After dinner I stopped by the Alchemy Bar for a night cap.  Natalya makes a nice Deal Closer.  It wasn’t busy, a few younger couples with ‘Cheers’ cards.  I have noticed that generally the guests are older on this cruise…not as much activity in the swimming pools or late at night as one would see on a seven day cruise.

Tuesday / Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands / October 27th / Day 4
Triumph at anchor off Grand Cayman and Tender Process 
Calmer seas over night and the weather is again very nice today.  I was up about 7:00 am and had some internet time early as it’s much faster when not as many people trying to use it all at once.  They began calling for tenders early and it seemed to go well.  There are so many VIFP’s with priority tendering that they just had them go to the theater and they just sent them on next available tenders.  Here in Grand Cayman I have: Swam with the Dolphins several times, Snorkeled, been to Rum Point numerous times, stayed at 7-Mile Beach, visited the Turtle Farm, had cocktails at Margaritaville  & other local spots, and been to Hell and back.  So as I did last month I am staying on board and will take advantage of the ship facilities.  I went up to the omelette station on Lido aft and had a nice breakfast about 9:45 am and by the time I had finished they had already gone to open tendering so that confirmed my observation that a lot of guests are doing the same as I and staying on board.  This used to be the place to buy liquor, but with the new Carnival rules about having to pick up your purchases on debark day…it’s not worth the hassle.  Not worth the hassle buying on board either.  I went to Lido aft and had a long dip in the pool and short sit in the hot tub before lunch.  There is not a Mongolian Grill, but the Asian Kitchen does a fair job so that was my lunch selection.  I enjoyed the view and sea breeze for a while before nap time.  The Diamond and Platinum party was at 4:30 today in the Rome Lounge.  With 1000 eligible it really packed the theater.  It was more like the old ‘past guest’ parties when most of the ship would attend.  You couldn’t order specially drinks, but they offered champagne, wine, beer, and a vodka/lemonade cocktail.  They had Hors d’oeuvres including Sushi.  Kirk did a good job as host and they played the new Carnival film.  It makes me appreciate the small intimate parties.  I actually left early and went to the Alchemy Bar for a cocktail.  I went to the cabin to change for dinner then back to Alchemy…I’m amazed at how busy it has been for aperitifs before dinner.  Dinner was good.  I ordered the Stuffed Chicken Breast, and from the Port-of-Call selections: the Grilled Beef Skewers and Fish Fillet with Plantains.  I retired to the cabin to catch the end of the World Series game after dinner, but all the usual entertainment was happening as well as the featured Viva Variety Show in Rome Lounge and SuperStar live in Club Rio Lounge.

Wednesday / Throwback day at Sea / October 28th / Day 5
Ice Scuplture @ Gala Midnight Buffet
Calm seas and beautiful weather.  We turned our clocks forward one hour last night.  I slept well and with losing the hour seems everyone was going for breakfast at the same time this morning.  My ‘secret’ omelet station was even very busy.  I went to the Blue Iguana and had a great Breakfast Burrito and Huevos Rancheros.  Today is “Throwback Day at Sea” with an actual Carnival Capers being delivered (as well as a Fun Times) and a lot of 1980’s events scheduled including: 80’s Trivia, 80’s Music Party, Horse Racing, Formal Captains Cocktail Party, 80’s movies: E.T. and Ghost Busters, and a Midnight Gala Buffet. A beautiful day and a lot of people in loungers and in the pool.  I’m relaxing today as we will have a long succession of almost continuous (10 of 11) port days coming up. They have two photo stations set up on Lido doing 80’s era photographs in cool/hip costumes and much of the ‘canned’ music is era as well.  Definitely a different feel on ship today.  I did have a nice visit with old friends at the Lobby Bar, had a great Guy’s burger for lunch, and purchased some candy from ‘Cherry on Top’ so a sweet day.  I went to the 7:00 pm Throwback Captains Party in the Rome Lounge.  The Ship Orchestra was great, a real advantage to sailing the Triumph.  The room was not nearly as packed as the VIFP party and IMHO was much better.  They served the same Hors d’oeuvres as they served in the 1980’s:  Meatballs, mini Quiches, Pigs-in-a Blanket, & Shrimp.  I had a couple of vintage Whiskey Sours as well.  The food and drink were plentiful, very impressive party.  I went to the Alchemy until time for dinner, but still had a whiskey-sour so no aperitif this evening.  The formal dinner menu was also from the 1980’s in size and content…I ordered: The Italian Wedding Soup, Tossed Green Salad, Spaghetti Carbonara, and Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin entree.  Other options were: Broiled Lobster Tail, Stuffed Pork Loin, Broiled Salmon, and more.  For dessert I had Key Lime Pie and Baked Alaska.  The Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin was excellent and should be added back to the current menus.  After dinner I had time to see the last few innings of the World Series on TV then it was time for photo session of the Midnight Gala Buffett set up on Lido deck.  A very interesting Throwback day at sea and I’ll get to enjoy one next cruise as well.  FUN!

Thursday / Aruba / October 29th / Day 6
Aruba Tour Bus
Fair seas overnight.  I woke in middle of the night and did some work online.  I’m used to this on the ranch as we only have unlimited bandwidth between 2:00 am and 8:00 am.  The internet is much faster on the ship at those times as well.  After a busy day yesterday and the night work I slept late.  I was up just before we arrived in Aruba at our scheduled 10:00 am schedule.  I have been to Aruba several times of late and not in a real hurry to leave the ship. We are docked next to the QuestionMark of the Seas in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba.  I had two great Huevos Rancheros from the Blue Iguana this morning for breakfast…very good.  It is a hot day, as it has been on all my trips to Aruba, and there were guest already in the pool this morning.  I just relaxed in the cabin until Dann knocked on the door to clean about 12:30 pm.  That was my incentive to get going and at least get off the ship.  As it turned out my timing was perfect as I walked out the terminal a guide who does the local tours on the open buses said one more and they could straight away.  I had been here four times, but never seen the desert interior so deal.  For $20 I got the same tour the ship was selling for $50…they had an air conditioned bus, but I bet I was cooler since I didn’t have to wait and there were only 14 pax and we all had large open windows. First stop was Ayo-Casibari Rock Formations, a natural area with huge boulders and cactus.  I did climb to the top of the formation and had a view of the ships in the distance and of the largest mountain just to our west.  I thought I had earned a few Balashi beers at the nice facility across the road.  A good local beer. We drove through some nice residential areas and then we were off to the wild south side shore and the Alto Vista Chapel for a nice view.  Here I got a coconut from a local farmer with some ($3) nice Rum Palmera, the rum made on the island, good with the coconut milk.  Next stop was the California lighthouse named for a ship that had sunk here years ago.  A great view from the northeast tip of the island.  Then we drove through the beach and resort area passing Palm Beach and the famous Eagle beach area.  Here you had an option to be dropped at the beach (he picked you up two hours later) or return to the ship.  The tour was a deal and I am glad I did it, but once done I’d not do it again.  I was back on board about 4:30 so went to the cabin to fix a big coke and up to Lido for a Guy’s burger. I rested from my tour and climb and cleaned up for the evening going to the Alchemy for aperitifs about 7:00 pm.  As a solo it’s always nice to know some of the gang will always be there.  Dinner in the MDR was good, I ordered the Braised Short Ribs, and from the port selections: Schleps Y Camerones en Platano (scallops & shrimp) and Antillean Style Grilled Chicken (marinated with fresh pineapple juice) with Rhubarb Pie for dessert.  I retired after dinner, we have an early meet for our excursion in the morning.

Friday / Bonaire / October 30th / Day 7
Triumph docked in Kralendijk, Bonaire
Smooth seas overnight and I was up early this morning for an excursion.  I had a nice breakfast from the Lido buffet and watched us sail into Kralendijk the principal town of Bonaire.  I met folks in the lobby about 8:00 to walk down to the excursion met point at the Divi Resort Hotel about a 10-15 minute walk.  It’s a nice and clean small town and the resort is very nice.  They offered us water or juice after our walk, but soon we were loading up for our adventure. Woodwind Guided Snorkel Tours is our excursion operator and there were 21 guests on their nice catamaran.  We sailed over to Klein Bonaire a protected island located just opposite Kralendijk.  They have a very efficient crew of guides, Captain, Photographer & deck hand.  I had two Cerveza Zulia the national beer of Venezuela as they outfitted us on the way to Klein Bonaire.  We snorkeled two stops along the reef and they were basically the same, more fish and coral at first, but large adult Sea Turtles at the second.  It was fantastic and I was in the smallest group with only five of us.  We saw lots of large colorful Parrotfish, Butterfly fish, Blue Tang, large Jacks, a few Barracuda,  and even rarer ones such as Trunk Fish, large French Angelfish, Yellow Masked Angel Fish, and more. (photos) Also a large variety of coral: Staghorn coral, Elk coral, Brain coral, Pillar coral, even some Fans. (more photos) I had another Cerveza Zulia and they fed us a very welcomed plate of a unique dish with noodles, two meats (99% sure it was goat), plantains, scallions, cucumber, sliced egg roll, and more items…very different and good.  We sailed alongside the Triumph as we returned to dock, photos were available from the photographer and we paid ($65-they take credit cards) for our great morning excursion.  I changed into walking shoes and walked back to the ship stopping to take some photos along the way.  Of the ABC islands, Bonaire may be my has a small town/country feel.  BTW (by-the-way) the official currency in Bonaire is the US Dollar.  After arriving back since I ate on the excursion I just went back to the cabin for a shower and a much needed nap.  It was great.  We sailed away on time at 5:00 pm.  Dann brought my laundry around and I have always said there are two things that the Triumph does better than any other Carnival ship: debarkation and laundry.  Thanks laundry team.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for an aperitif then to the Paris MDR for dinner.  Tonight I ordered the Borscht with Diced Duck, Shrimp Cocktail, Blackened Catfish, and the port menu entree: Carni Stoba Funchi (Braised Beef Stew and Root Vegetables on Creamy Grits with Fried Okra)  A Sponge Cake and Cheesecake for dessert.  All the usual ship activities tonight with new comedians on board, but after a tough day for me I retired and watched the World Series on cabin TV.

Saturday / Fun day at Sea / October 31st Halloween / Day 8
Scary Cheesecake
Smooth seas overnight although some rolling this morning.  Dann brought Laundry again this morning that I had only left at dinner turn down service last night...unbelievably good service.  The group is meeting for Brunch so I’m having a relaxing morning.  I saw a lot of flying fish this morning and heard guests say dolphins as well. I see guests decoration their doors so may have to check those out today.  We met at the Paris MDR for the final Sea Day brunch at 10:00 am.  The guys looked good in the red shirts.  I ordered Steak & Eggs with side of bacon and used my VIFP voucher for a ‘Bloody Mary’.  They already have some of the larger Halloween decorations up on Promenade deck for tonight's activities.  I went to Cherry on Top for some candy and enjoyed some NCAA football this afternoon.  Perfect day for Carnival room service since I'm following two football games.  Two BLT's are perfect as usual, really a long time signature item.  They were delivered within 15 minutes too. The feature entertainment tonight is The Big Easy.  At Alchemy time I went up to lido to watch all the guests dressed in their Halloween costumes, certainly more dressed for Halloween than didn’t.  I wore my ‘Dia de la Muerte’ or ‘Day of the Dead’ Hawaiian shirt, but I wear it a lot Halloween or not.  Some good costumes were ‘Lucy & Ethel from the Candy Shop’, T-Birds & Pink Ladies from Grease, and my favorite: Live Ken & Barbies in a plastic box.  It was the final Elegant Night, but guests wore costumes to dinner.  Tonight I ordered:  Pasta E Fagioli, Stuffed Mushrooms (no longer while stuffed mushrooms), and the Dual of Filet Mignon and Short Rib entree.  For dessert we had a selection of special Halloween themed desserts.  At 11:00 a parade of Halloween costumes was held in the theater with prizes for many.  First prize went to a ghost bride & groom.

Sunday / Grenada / November 1st / Day 9
Smooth seas overnight.  I ordered a light breakfast from room service to serve as my wake up call this morning as I have an early excursion.  The ship docked on time and was cleared just before the scheduled arrival of 8:00 am.  The excursion group met at 8:15 am this morning in the Triumph lobby for our Grenada Sunsation Tour.  The 16 of us met our driver Glenn at the Grenada port facility at 8:45 and we were off for our Grenada Adventure.  We drove along the island’s picturesque west coast heading north.  Grenada is a very tropical volcanic island with steep mountains rising from the sea, so the views were wonderful. Our first stop was Concord Waterfall.  It was a nice waterfall in a pretty area, we did have one huckleberry decide to swim.  I also had my first Caribe beer brewed on the island.  We were soon on our way to the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station. We had a tour of the facility…they were not working on a Sunday…but got a good idea of how Nutmeg was washed, dried, aired, and bagged.  It seemed like every tour bus on the island came at the same time, how these drivers maneuver on the narrow roads is amazing.  All along our way today our driver would stop and get various spices growing in the wild and bring them to the bus for us to guess the type.  The variety of lush green growth on the island is amazing and that is outside the rain forest.  We made our way up to the Grand Etang National Park & Crater Lake.  Here they have tropical displays and gardens.  I enjoyed the local entertainers while drinking a Caribe.  The variety of banyan trees, ferns, bamboo, spice trees, huge Royal Palms, banana trees, and tropical plants, tropical flowers and more just can not be described…you must see it.  Our final stop was Fort Fredrick overlooking the city of St. George, the old harbor, and new cruise ship pier beyond.  It was a great tour and doing it with friends was even better.  We arrived back about 2:30 and they have a nice indoor shopping area at the pier, but I headed back to the ship for a Guy’s burger.  They did have a guest chef from the island to do a demonstration as a part of the Journey program.  It was R&R and NFL football in the cabin until time for aperitifs at the Alchemy Bar. I do enjoy the Quick Fix at Alchemy.  Dinner was good, a lot of guests absent in MDR tonight.  Tonight I ordered the Grenada Port suggested appetizer & entree and a nice Tenderloin from the Grill selections.  Peach Pie ala mode for dessert.  After dinner I retired to watch final game of the World Series and sleep.

Monday / Martinique / November 2nd / Day 10
Saint-Pierre, Martinique with Mt. Pelee
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I ordered room service again as a wake up call as I was meeting an excursion at 8:00 am.  I did get a light breakfast as we were docking in Fort-de-France.  My first visit to the island so a geography lesson:  Martinique a rugged Caribbean island that’s part of the Lesser Antilles and an overseas region of France, reflects a distinctive blend of French and West Indian cultures. Its largest town, Fort-de-France, features steep hills and narrow streets. Island native Joséphine de Beauharnais, was the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Bottom line:  A very French island and we even needed to pay for our excursion in Euros. A friend had arranged to rent two catamarans from Kata Mambo Catamaran for a full day excursion. I was with a group of new and old friends on the smaller of the two cats (18 people) as we were on our way about 9:00 am.  We sailed north out of the harbor along the west coast.  We really enjoyed the fish fruit we were offered along the way.  The weather was overcast and we did have some intermittent rain during the day.  We sailed to Saint-Pierre, Martinique a beautiful village perhaps more well known from the Mt. Peele volcano eruption in 1902.  There was a fresh market, but most shops were closed for All Saints Day.  I found a nice local bar and enjoyed a few Bière Lorraine while visiting with a few locals (en Francais) and viewing the Caribbean through the doorway.  After out time in Saint-Pierre we had swimming time off a black sand beach while the cook prepared lunch.  We had a very nice salad with lettuce, avocado, jicama, corn, and a homemade lemon oil dressing.  We had a choice of chicken or fresh fish, I actually had both and they were very good.  The chicken was fried in a slightly spicy sauce (perhaps jerk) and fish broiled with lemon.  It was served a nice saffron rice. It was great.  We began sailing back and most enjoyed the rum available.  Due to us sailing around rain showers earlier we were really pushing our time getting back.  We missed the 3:30 recommended time and really pushed the 4:00 pm sail away.  Our group was the last to arrive back. The local band was marching away as we boarded. We sailed just a few minutes later.  I was really tired after the all-day excursion and went direct to the cabin for some rest and sleep.  I actually missed aperitifs and dinner tonight, but I obviously needed the rest.  I ordered some BLT’s about 9:00 pm, watched some TV, and worked on blog the rest of the evening.  A fun and interesting day.

Tuesday / St. Maarten / November 3rd / Day 11
Actually a bit of rolling seas overnight…good for sleeping though.  I left an order for room service for juice and fruit and to use as a wake up call as we have another excursion today, but I actually went down to the Paris Dining room to get a nice breakfast.  I had my first Eggs Benedict with sides of bacon and hash browns this morning. It was good. We docked during breakfast and there are four ships in port today so I’m glad we are doing a somewhat private excursion.   I met our excursion group at 9:20 and we walked over to the water taxi pier to board our boat.  Easy.  We booked with Airport Adventure SXM and the boat is a large multi level craft with ramps to enter and exit the water. They even have a floating patio.  Basically it’s a 30-40 minute cruise to Moho Bay where they anchor next to the flight path to the airport then return.  It has long been an interesting attraction to see the planes land at waters edge and this is a unique way to observe it from the water side.  They spend almost 2 hours anchored and they have lot’s of water floats or snorkel gear to play with in the beautiful water.  They have a large bar and grill on board and the crew waits on you hand & foot.    I had a fresh fish sandwich and drank a few Caribe beers.  A fun excursion and it’s easy for guests since it docks next to the ships as they do.  I was back to the Triumph by 3:00 pm and had a Reuben sandwich and diet coke before relaxing in the cabin. After a wee nap...I went up to Alchemy Bar early to say farewells to those leaving and for aperitifs.  Then our final dinner for this cruise.  Tonight I ordered the Caprese Salad, Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Breast, and Coq Au Vin.  For dessert Cherry Pie ala mode.  After dinner I had a Deal Closer at Alchemy.  Speaking to one of the dancers,  I was reminded that one of the unique shows, A Kiss Good Night, a burlesque type show was at 11:00 pm this evening.

Wednesday / San Juan, Puerto Rico / November 4th / Day 1 & 12 overall
El Yunque National Forest
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well especially knowing I didn’t have to pack and leave.  We were already docked in San Juan when I woke about 6:00 am.  I had time for a nice full breakfast of Eggs Benedict + in the Paris dining room this morning.  They began calling self assist early and it seemed debarkation was going smoothly.  I went off about 8:15 am to meet a private tour I had arranged with Louie's VIP Tours to the El Yunque National Forest. He picked me up at the cruise terminal then picked up a few hotel guests and we were off to El Yunque.  The tour was great and Louie was a very personable and knowledgeable guide.  Our first stop was the visitor center were we saw the exhibits and viewed the informational film.  Then a stop at the beautiful La Coca Falls followed by a stop at the Yocatu Tower.  Then it was the big trek of the day: a two mile hike along the La Mina Trail through the rain forest. Amazing. The La Mina waterfall is about half way…you can play in the waterfall pool and that was refreshing.  I can’t believe I did it and yes I did the waterfall. It was tough on my old body, but I survived.  We stopped for food in the park then returned to San Juan.  Louie dropped me at the cruise terminal about 3:30 pm.  I entered the Staff/In-Transit gate and showed my In-Transit card and old Sail & sign card and was on my way to check in.  I accomplished my goal…there was no lines and I was personally escorted all the way to the proper desk to pick up my new Sail & sign card.  EASY.  I was moving rather slow by this time and made it as far as the Alchemy Bar where a Remedy cocktail helped.  Thanks Tijana for opening up a few minutes early for me.  There was a little time for rest and clean up once back at the cabin.  Then it was time to meet friends who boarded today at the Alchemy Bar for an aperitif.  Dinner was open seating and we were assigned a table upstairs in Paris MDR on deck 4 (used elevator) in back.  Not a bad table with a view of the lights of San Juan.  The wait staff did a good job…nice to observe a new wait team different than what we have had for 12 days.  I ordered the appetizer & entree from the San Juan port menu and the Breaded Shrimp entree as well.  Apple pie and Fruit Plate for dessert.  Boat Drill is scheduled for 9:30, very much later than normal, but we do have a late sail away time of 10:00 pm.

Thursday / St. Thomas USVI / November 5th / Day 2 & 13
View from Paradise Point - St. Thomas
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  We arrived early (hour+) in St. Thomas and would have been perfect for an excursion to St. John, but I’m still a little sore from the 2 mile hike yesterday so today will be something easy.  I had a very nice breakfast in the MDR, Eggs Benedict + of course.  Just a casual morning then some Pizza before heading off the ship about 12:30 pm.  I’ve been to St, Thomas many times in the past thirty years, but had never taken the Skyride to Paradise Point.  Perfect day to do so since I didn’t want to do a big excursion and it’s just a ten minute+ walk from the pier.  The ticket is $21 RT and only takes a few minutes to arrive at the observation levels.  There is a nice bar and restaurant as well as some gift shops.  Lots of viewing areas and the VIEW is spectacular.  It was a near perfect day.  The signature drink is a Bailey’s Bushwacker the semi official drink of the Virgin Islands.  I enjoyed the view, the breeze, and the bar for several hours.  A pleasant way to spend the afternoon.  I returned to the ship about 3:30 and had a Guy’s burger.  Sail away was about 5:00 and friends met and we had a nice sail away balcony party as we left the harbor.  The Liberty of the Seas repositioning from NYC to Galveston was docked next to us today and we soon caught and passed her…always pretty to see a big beautiful lighted cruise ship in the early evening. Especially one headed to my home port in Texas. At the Alchemy I had a cocktail recommended to me by the crew-bar bartender while at Paradise Point. It was good.  We had our regular table assignments in the Paris dining room tonight with the same waiters.  They brought the cheese plates, special butter, and my bread knife that they did for us on the previous cruise.  Thanks wait team.  We did have a surprise when Senvile our waiter on two cruises on the Sunshine came by to say hello.  He had just boarded the ship today (mid-cruise) and the Triumph will be lucky to have him, he is one of the best Senior Head Waiters in the fleet.  Dinner was good, I ordered the Spring Rolls, Veal Parmesan, Baked Tilapia, and the Flan for dessert.  The Welcome Show was tonight as well as all the other ship board entertainment.  Some friends went to casino, some to listen to one of the bands, but I retired for the evening after getting in a little internet time.

Friday / St. Kitts, West Indies / November 6th / Day 3 & 14
Basseterre, St. Kitts
Smooth seas overnight with just a few light rain showers and I slept very well.  We were docking about 8:30 am when I went down to the Paris MDR for breakfast.  I had Melon, Fried Eggs, Ham, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Toast...very good.  After breakfast I visited with ‘the boys’ on Lido aft.  When I was here last in St. Kitts on a longer port call I had visited: the Caribelle Batik Studio, Brimstone Hill National Park, and the ShipWreck Bar.  Today will be a simple tour of the town of Basseterre, one of the oldest cities in the Eastern Caribbean.  I saw the port area with the usual cruise type shops (visitors…please get beyond this area and visit the old town), the Museum and local sites ending up in Independence Square.  Here is the best restaurant in town: the Ballahoo Restaurant located on the upper level of a colonial style building and overlooking the square.  Great people watching location as I had a table overlooking the hustle and bustle.  I enjoyed three nice Caribe beers (5.4%) then a nice light lunch: the St.Kitts green salad with local lettuce, tomatoes, red & green peppers, cucumbers, and add-on grilled chicken.  The dressing was the local tropical vinaigrette (other choice was mango) and it was wonderful. I started back to the ship about 2:00ish and it was clouding up and there was a brief shower earlier, so my timing was good.  There was a notice in the cabin that we are changing port arrival days due to weather and I’m afraid we may have a tropical storm before long.  Also in the cabin was my B2B gift: a fruit basket and bottle of champagne…very nice since they had a record number of B2B guests.  Attended another sail away from aft suite balcony…it was great since the Carnival Liberty docked next to us backed away first.  There was several ship horn salutes and the guests on both ship shouting and waving to each other.  Tonight is our first Elegant night of this cruise and we met for Aperitifs at the Alchemy as usual.  Captain Allesandro came by to visit some guests and made a point to speak to me and my friends…I appreciate that very much...he's a great guy.  I remember when there were few Diamonds or just myself and we would meet there for a few cocktails in lieu of a party. Great Fun. Slavinka the Housekeeping Manager also came by and I had to have my photo taken with her…prefer photo with her than with Capt. Yummy.  Slavinka is the most attractive officer in the fleet IMHO, she is certainly on fleek.  The humorous part was I could see Nataliya waving a knife (pretending she was  jealous) behind the bar…very funny...she is so sweet and funny as well.  Elegant Dinner was good, I ordered the Creme of Mushroom Soup, the Spaghetti Carbonara, and the Red Snapper Fish entree.  Creme Brûlée was the popular desert.  Because of scheduling changes my favorite Carnival production show Wonderful World was at 10:15 pm for late seating guests.  I had a great seat center 2nd row.  Wonderful World features the Triumph dancers and singers and highlights music from around the world. There were songs or dances from: France, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Africa, China, Russia, Spain and more. It is a fantastic show with full cast of singers and dancers and full LIVE orchestra. The Can-Can is my favorite dance and Con Te Parte my favorite song.  I also like the Bangkok and London Chimney sweep routines.  Still lots of late activity and I saw friends in the casino, but it was time for me to retire.

Saturday / Antigua / November 7th / Day 4 & 15
St. Johns Cathedral - Antigua
A bit of Rock & Roll several times overnight…makes for good sleeping though.  It is a cloudy day in paradise, but only occasional light sprinkles.  I tried to get some Huevos Rancheros from Blue Iguana, but the line was too long…so much for tipping folks to where the best breakfast on ship is located.  The ‘secret’ omelet station opens at 8:30 and I was first there so a nice Western omelet for me with bacon and fruit.  I visited with guests and friends on lido aft until leaving the ship.  Today will be same plan as yesterday for me.  I did a great tour of the island including English Harbor and Nelson’s Dockyards so I’m doing my own town of St. John tour today.  I recommend my friends visit Nelson Dockyards…hope they enjoy it.  The Triumph is docked at Heritage Quay and it has the same tourist bars and shops as most cruise piers.  There is a very nice area called Redcliffe Quay (think yachts) where the boutiques and nicer shopping is located.  Take a hard right immediate after going through the security gate onto a floating walkway…it will take you there.  (It’s a bit hard to see as all signage and the momentum of walking strait into Heritage Quay makes it difficult to initially spot).  Once you go through either Quay you’ll be in the old town of St. John.  The local Museum of Antigua and Barbuda and St. John Cathedral are both easily found and worth a casual visit.  I found a specialty item I was shopping for in a shop in old town away from tourist area without a problem. I was hoping for a nice local place for food, but the better ones are at resorts here on Antigua and I will not eat at a touristy chain so I returned to the ship for a late lunch.  I was quite surprised at how busy it was on board perhaps weather scared many guests from venturing too far out today.  I had a Guy's burger and ice creme for lunch.  The rest of the afternoon was cabin time and watching some NCAA football.  I missed sail away today as I was taking a ‘hard nap’ (best of cruise). I went to the Alchemy Bar for my aperitif and then to dinner.  I had the appetizer from the Port selections and two entrees: the Tenderloin and the BBQ Spare Ribs.  I skipped dessert to go to the cabin and try to get the OU football game.  I can follow it on the internet.  Friends were going to the movies, casino, and other venues.

Sunday / St. Maarten / November 8th / Day 5 & 16
Pier Area - St. Maarten
A little motion in the ocean that makes sleeping nice. Similar weather as previuos two days, but not as cloudy. We were docked at the pier before I went to breakfast in the Paris MDR this morning. I had my favorites: Melon, Eggs Benedict, bacon, etc. and it was enjoyable.  I’m in no hurry to debark as I have no plans having been here last week. When Dann came by to clean the cabin I did go to the port area.  Readers know I’m not keen on cruise port areas…I believe in experiencing the real word, but there are exceptions such as Costa Maya, Mahogany Bay, or here where there is no real town just outside the gates.  We are the only ship docked and It was the ‘tween time when everyone was away and had not returned yet so It was not busy and looked at some items I would normally was past.  I did have a Mango & rum smoothie at a bar, but the best was the Guavaberry colada from a specialty shop.  It consists of the local Guava liquor, coco lopez, pineapple juice, blended with a touch of local vanilla.  Good.  I saw good friends on their first trip here who had toured the island and they had a nice day.  Good and the weather is now perfect.  I returned to the ship and went to Chopsticks, the Asian Kitchen, for a late lunch.  Good selection today (menu changes daily) and it was good. Time for a very short nap before going to the Alchemy Bar.  Always nice to see friends there.  As we sat for dinner an announcement was made about a medical emergency will require us to call at St. Thomas late this evening.  You can tell we have increased speed.  Dinner was good, I ordered the Pork Tenderloin from the Port menu and Escargot and Short Ribs from the regular menu.  The American Table menus have been interesting.  I skipped desert and headed to cabin to watch the Dallas Cowboy game.  I really didn’t need to order dessert as they had delivered some very unique Petit Fours to the cabin earlier.

Monday / Throwback Fun day at Sea / November 9th / Day 6 & 17
A little bit of rolling seas overnight and this morning.  I believe we are back on course and schedule since our unplanned call at St. Thomas last night.  I slept late as the game went very late last night too. I’m having bananas from the fruit basket until brunch with friends later.  Today is the Throwback Sea Day, a part of the Journeys extras.  We have a Carnival Capers (the old cabin newsletter they used in the 1980’s) in addition to our Fun Times.  Some throwback activities include: Horse Racing, Ping Pong Bathing Suit Challenge, Knobby Knees Competition, 1980’s Trivia, 1980’s Dance classes, 1980’s movies, Captains Cocktail Party, and of course the Midnight Buffet. I watched Kirk’s morning show this morning while doing my Monday morning updates on the internet.  This is the first sea day of this cruise and I met friends for the Sea Day Brunch @ 11:00 am in the Paris MDR. I ordered the Steak & Eggs + and it was good.  In addition to the ships activities friends had organized a Slot Pull in the casino and Cabin Crawls.  Beautiful day so guests are enjoying the first sea day both inside and out today. I ordered room service BLT’s this afternoon…always good and delivered promptly.  We met early at the Alchemy for a pre cocktail party about 6:00 pm as the Captains Throwback Party was at 7:00 pm for late setting guests. The Triumph Orchestra played some great music. The Captain introduced the senior staff and they wore their 1980’s uniforms as well. The 1980’s Hors d’oeuvres were again served:  Meatballs, mini Quiches, Pigs-in-a Blanket, & Shrimp.  I had several vintage Whisky Sours as well.  The food and drink were very plentiful, again a very impressive party.  We went back to the Alchemy until time for dinner, but decided to skip the MDR this evening and enjoy some cocktails and visiting.  Intention was to make the midnight buffet, but I fell an hour+ short of making that goal..

Tuesday / Grand Turk / November 10th / Day 7 & 18
Following our Alchemy Party the night before I slept a little late this morning and have no clue if the seas were rocking…I know I slept very well.  I went up to Lido deck and had a nice Western omelet for breakfast about 9:45.  We are the only ship docked at Grand Turk this morning. I left the ship about 10:30 and was in the water very soon afterward.  I floated/swam/bounced in the water from just past Margaritaville all the way to Jack’s Shack.  Took a while but the water was so nice and much cooler than walking the beach.  Some friends had a table and other joined as well so it was fun.  Topher was doing his thing, he has to be the luckiest beach dog on earth with new people to play with every day.  I enjoyed several Turk’s Head beers.  We actually took a taxi back about 1:30 as we have an early sail away.  Straight to Lido for a Guy’s burger then to the cabin to wash off sand in the shower.  Time for a brief nap before the VIFP party at 4:45 in the Theater.  Much much better party from previous cruise…they split the VIFP’s into two groups so it wasn’t overcrowded.  They served very nice Sushi, BBQ Sliders, and cocktails (much more actually).  Captain Allesandro even donned a Cowboy hat. A much more enjoyable party.  Some cabin time until time for the Alchemy Bar aperitif and visiting new and old friends.  We had a full table for dinner, I ordered the Seafood Medley Soup, Pork Tenderloin, Sea Bass,  and Peach Pie for dessert.  I've given the American Table a fair chance and I think I'm NOT a fan.  A change of some kind was needed, but not having a tablecloth diminishes the atmosphere IMHO. After dinner it was casino night for some friends and some were doing the movies again.  There are lots of fun things to do on a cruise ship evening: Comedy Club, Piano Bar, Bingo, Shows, et al...

Wednesday / Half Moon Cay, Bahamas / November 11th / Day 8 & 19
Half Moon Cay & Carnival Triumph
Calm seas overnight and I slept very well and a bit late, but we turned our clocks back one hour last night so all is well.  I enjoyed two wonderful Huevo Rancheros from the Blue Iguana for breakfast this morning. We were docked about 9:00 am at Holland America/Carnival Corporations private island Half Moon Cay.  I was first here about 33 years ago when it was owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines and have visited a few times since.  I had cabin time after breakfast then went up to deck 10 to hear the horn blast in tribute to the veterans on board at 11:00 am.  the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  As I was waiting Captain Alessandro came by and we had a great discussion about our relatives in WWII and the history of HMC…a very nice man.  They did replace the Journey banner in the Lobby with an American Flag today...a nice gesture. I met friends at 11:30 and we boarded a tender to HMC.  The island has beautiful white sand and a perfect beach. One of the top 3 beaches I have ever visited.  Friends invited me to their private cabana they had rented. (photo from cabana earlier in morning)  A cabana will spoil you…refrigerator, fans, beach toys, ice, soda, Chips & Guacamole dip, fruit & vege trays, shower on deck, table & chairs, loungers, and more.  Glad I brought along a few bottles of champagne to contribute.  I hit the water right away as it was getting quit warm.  After a swim I had the jerk chicken and salads that were available in the food area.  It was a very enjoyable day.  We returned about 4:00 with 4:15 being the last scheduled tender so fairly late.  In the shower ASAP to wash the sand off and clean up.  I think I did well...Ronn should be pleased, but it will be a tough night for Cabin stewards. There was a very nice program for the Veterans in the Theater at 5:00...a popular event.  After a second shower it was aperitif time in the Alchemy Bar. Always fun and interesting.  Dinner was good, I ordered a Squash Soup, Chicken Fried Steak (if your from Texas don’t bother to order) and from the Port Menu: Conch Fritters, and Pepper Steak.  Bitter & Blanc for dessert.

Thursday / Fun day at Sea / November 12th / Day 9 & 20
Alchemy Bar - Nataliya, Kitty, Tijana 
Smooth seas overnight as we sailed through the Bahamas and we’re very near south Florida early this morning.  We turned our clocks back again one hour so we are now on home port of Galveston time.  It was only the second sea day brunch day and lines were very long early so I had a western omelet + on Lido deck aft.  I had a relaxing morning and had some internet time until lunch.  Today was the Captains Diamond function and it was again a luncheon in the London MDR.  The menu was excellent with a choice of three appetizers, two entrees, and dessert.  I had the Filet Mignon and it was excellent.  I may have been craving a proper steak from home and this was one of the best on a ship, better than steak house quality.  Neither the Captain nor Kirk could attend as there is another medical emergency, but Elvis, the senior Maitre’D did a great job as MC.  It was a nice event...thank you Carnival Triumph. They offered a Diamond Galley tour today @ 2:00 and friends attended the Tea they present on each sea day @ 3:00 pm.  I was at the Alchemy for aperitifs a little early…we do have a great group of regulars…so fun.  dinner was very good tonight, I ordered both soups and the Beef Filet/Short Rib combo entree.  I had the Key Lime Parfait and Grand Mariner Soufflé  for dessert.  Friends went to the movies, casino, and to listen to music after dinner.  It's cabin time for me as we enter the Gulf of Mexico and prepare for our final day tomorrow, I hope the big blue alligator towel animal doesn't eat me this evening.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / November 13th / Day 10 & 21
'So Long' Partner
Smooth seas overnight in the Gulf and I slept very well. With the social media option (as well as others) and word of mouth it does take long for news to spread on the ship,  This morning the buzz is all about the male dancer who fell into the orchestra pit during the production show last night. does happen.  Both dancer and orchestra are fine and show continued following a delay. I went to the final Sea Day Brunch this morning and had a full breakfast:  Fruit Plate, Eggs over easy, Bacon, Ham, Hash Browns, Corned Beef Hash, Tomato Juice and Milk.  Very good.  I had cabin time and filled out my customs forms the rest of the morning.  It occurred to me a few day ago that I had never had a Lido Buffet lunch the entire cruise.  The primary reason is that it has been a very port intensive cruise with few sea days. I did do the buffet today and it was good.  I had small salad, fish, chicken, mashed potatoes, and roast beef from carving station.  Ice creme for dessert.  It has gotten much cooler as we are near midway into the Gulf of Mexico, we may not make 80° today.  They moved the St. Jude walk into the lobby and basically had a line dance.   My knee is hurting so I am taking it easy the rest of the day.  I did make a trip to GS (guest services) to review some items on my portfolio.  There was a laundry charge that was removed and I was concerned about not receiving the Diamond Luncheon photos.  We'll see on those...I always say it's at 50/50 chance on getting them.  Final evening at the Alchemy Bar so good-bye's to old and new friends.  It has been a great group of regular guests.  Tijana is absolutely amazing as the lead Alchemist and I've enjoyed my repartee with Nataliya for 21 days.  Everyone attended final dinner and we had a good table.  I ordered two soups again: the Seafood and Pepper Pot and two entree: the Pork Loin and the Cornmeal Crusted Chicken.  I skipped dessert and the farewell "All our Bags are Packed" song in order to pack.  I almost always do Self-Debark taking my bags off with me, but I'm not this time as I have two bags (and my knee) so I have to have the bag tagged and outside the cabin by 11:00 pm.  I got it out and also made a late query about the photo.

Saturday  /  Galveston, Texas - Debarkation  /  November 14th
We had rocky seas overnight going into Galveston.  I was up early to finish packing my smaller bag and prepare for debarkation, I don't have to be quite as early since I'm not doing the 'Self' option.  Under my door was the final bill and 'lo and behold' the photos. Yea. Time for my final Eggs Benedict+ breakfast in the MDR.  They announced a delay in debarkation due to yet another medical evacuation.  This is the way we started with a medical before leaving the pier in Galveston and the 13th of the 21 day cruise.  Unusual.  I had No.1 tags and we left towards the end of Self Assist, I was at my car about 10:10.  Filled up with gas at the Galveston Raceway ($1.78) and was off the island about 10:30.  Uneventful drive north and was at the ranch about 2:30pm.

I had cabin 8397 an interior located on deck 8 next to the aft elevators on starboard side.  I prefer this aft location just below the buffet and have actually had this cabin on several previous cruises.  The cabin has a swipe type safe, twin/queen beds, three-section closet,  two electrical outlets on counter/dresser, Bottle Opener, Telephone mounted on wall, Small Table, Small Stool at Dresser, Medicine Cabinet, Kleenex dispenser, and Hair dryer in toilet, and small flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is no refrigerator (OK by me I bring a cooler) nor couch. The cabin is great for me as a solo, but not so much for two as the configuration is unusual in this end cabin.  I always ask to move the bed to a different wall so that I can see the TV.  My cabin steward, Ronn was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Both Main Dining Rooms are very nice especially the Paris Dining room.  The Blue Iguana for Burritos/Huevo Rancheros and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected desserts are good.  The MDR food is IMHO adequate to good, but I had a very nice table location, good fellow guests, and the waiters, Goram, Antonio, and Sonny were good.  No Mongolian Grill, but they have Chopsticks, an Asian specialty spot.  Love the Alchemy Bar and the Lobby bar is very nice.  Thirsty Frog beer is available in the Red Frog Rum bar, EA Sports bar, and Lobby bar.  If guests want the full entertainment experience, then the Triumph may be the ship for you.  They have an 8 member ship orchestra, 10+ production dancers, and two excellent feature singers.  Also very good Comedians, cover bands and solo performers.

Crew / Guests
The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious.  Favorites this cruise were Ronn the cabin steward, my MDR wait team, Alchemy Bar team; and overall Crew in general. Elvis the Maitre’D was especially helpful in our table selection. The Ship Officers were fantastic…they really seem to enjoy working as a team and are very friendly.  The guests were older on average. We did experience a high number of medical evacuations, the first before we even left the dock in Galveston.  The second half was very busy with 1-2 medicals in each port and two special calls in St. Thomas and Key West for medical emergencies.  There were over 109/107 Diamonds, 900/600 Platinums, and 1100 B2B guests.  Very high numbers, but this was a special cruise. I did get motivated to get in better shape: 1-my aching knees & 2-I’ve never seen so many huge people on a cruise.  There were too many scooters on this cruise.  I believe I prefer well behaved children to inconsiderate scooter drivers.  All in all most guests were great.  The regulars (guests) at the Alchemy were very friendly and that was fun.  I did get to see many old and NEW cruise friends.


Bonaire: private snorkel excursion
Grenada: the island itself and our private tour
Half Moon Cay
Yunque Rainforest adventure in Puerto Rico
Alchemy Bar: Guests and Alchemists
Carnival Triumph Crew members
Journeys’ Throwback Sea Days

Thanks to Zydecocruiser & Dave, Kay, Darlene for letting me use photos
for a great photo review of first cruise: 
 Click Here!

Note: I enjoyed doing the "Live" blog...the new internet packages on Carnival now make it possible to do.  I will think about how to do it on FB as many on the cruise wished to follow, but were only on the 'Social' internet package option