My first cruise experience was definitely not what I expected. And believe me, I had very few expectations to begin with. The purpose of taking this cruise was for me and my husband to disconnect from the world and all of our distracting technology (which we did) and reconnect with each other (which we did). We wanted a relaxing period of chilling out, deep breaths of sea air while we watched the mass sea roll by. Sounds simple, right? Well, it wasn't. The problem with going on a cruise "getaway" is that you have to take 2,000 people with you.
So even though we only wanted 4 days of chill, I came onto the Carnival website and these forums and did some research as to what to expect. From the marketing videos, it looked like a peaceful, carefree trip with occasional, optional fun activities. Based on the comments from this forum, it would be the greatest experience, the food is great, and the staff goes out of their way to make you comfortable. I also researched the many means of entertainment available. I wasn't aiming for any entertainment, but I figured I should take advantage of some of the things I paid for. The only two things I was really interested in were the comedy club and the Hasbro Game Show.
We sailed out of Galveston on the Carnival Triumph last week, which was a couple of days after Labor Day. The check-in process was impressive. Security check, friendliness, and helpfulness inside the terminal was great. We stepped onto the ship at about 12:30. It was like being thrown into deep water without being taught how to swim. As soon as we got onto the ship, all the helpfulness stopped. No one told us where to go or what to do. We assumed that we should find our room, but one of the passengers said they weren't allowing anyone in the rooms yet. We managed to find a staff member and ask what was next. She just kind of shrugged. We asked if we could go find our room and she just shrugged and shook her head. Many people were slumped together in the main atrium, some already drinking at the bar, many looking bored. I remembered reading about the Lido deck (and that it was a casual environment), so we set out to find it. No help from the staff, but there were ship location maps at the elevators. On the 9th floor, we just stood there outside the elevators, trying to figure out where EXACTLY this casual deck was. Finally we followed some people and found an open pool area where about 500 people were already drunk, music was blaring, and a big crowed of chubby, bikini-clad girls were dancing in the pool. My husband and I don't drink, but we were pretty wild when we were that age, so we were okay with it. It definitely wasn't a family friendly environment, but fortunately there were very few kids on the ship.
At this time in Galveston, the temperature was in the high 90s with about 300 percent humidity. I had come on the ship in my jeans, T-shirt, and hiking shoes, which were sweltering. We couldn't go into our rooms to change so we just found a seat and sat there awkwardly feeling uncomfortable and totally out of our element. Then I set out to find us the unlimited soda cards so we could at least get a drink. I had to run around asking people and was finally pointed to a guy sitting at a table at the entrance of the deck. We bought two soda plans for $48 plus a couple of refillable cups. What we did NOT know was how inaccessible soda was. When I asked the guy where we can get soda, he said "From any of the bars." So it wasn't an all you can drink fountain drink. You have to go to the bar, ask for a diet coke, wait for the bartender to leave the bar and go somewhere else to find a can of coke, then tell him "no, I said diet" and have him go all the way back....etc. And in the end, he filled the cup with ice, opened a can of soda and poured about half in the cup. We were not allowed to have our own can of soda. This was the process for every time we wanted a drink. It turns out, tea and lemonade were available from fountains and much more accessible. So the soda card was a total waste. We had maybe 6 sodas between us the whole time. That's $8 a can! What a ripoff.
Well, no one ever told us that it's time to go into our rooms. We just got up and went. The housekeeping crew were all up and down the corridors, trying to get rooms set up. The luggage was also up and down the corridors. None of it was in anyone's room. At 4:00, we were called to a safety briefing where they packed everyone like sardines into a breezeway for like 20 minutes. Remember, it is 300 percent humidity and half of the passengers are drunk. When we finally got back to our room, our luggage still hadn't arrived. I was dying in my long pants and shoes.
We finally cast off from the port. My husband and I sat on our balcony to watch. The balcony chairs were uncomfortable. I could barely squeeze my hips between the arm chairs and when I did, my head came just high enough for the view to be blocked by the railing. So we stood and watched the water slide past.
Finally, we had what we'd come here for. Except that I suddenly smelled cigarette smoke. I thought this was a non-smoking ship. Apparently not, because the smell just got stronger. What's worse is that I got pegged in the head with something that turned out to be a cigarette butt someone threw from a deck above. Apparently the 6th deck is where objects thrown from the boat start to come back toward the ship. Then I started seeing chunks of bread dropping from above. People on the top decks decided to feed the seagulls. But not all the seagulls were quick enough, and the bread had to land somewhere, right? Yup, landed on my head. Lovely.
My husband and I, determined to find a peaceful place to watch the sea, went in search of one of the upper decks, someplace more open where I wouldn't smell cigarette or have things thrown at me. At one of the top decks, we enjoyed the view for a brief time before the smell of smoke wafted through the air again. We looked around and found lots of people smoking up there and throwing their butts in corners of the deck (Didn't this very ship just recently catch fire?). Frustrated, we stormed back down to our room. On the way, we met our steward, a young asian guy named Glorioso. He made the mistake of asking how we were were doing and I complained to him about all the cigarette smoke and being pelted in the head with objects from the upper decks. That was the point where I realized that he didn't understand English. All we managed from him was "Oh....nutting we can do bout dat." Thanks, bud.
As we cruised on, we found out that most of the crew did not speak English. They certainly did not "go out of their way" to make us comfortable. In fact, the crew looked miserable and seemed to be annoyed at the very sight of a passenger. Asking a question was like playing a game of charades and in the end, the passengers were always the ones who gave good answers.
The food was TERRIBLE, like Golden Coral terrible. And finding something open was always a challenge. Sometimes I wanted lunch at 11:30. But no, they block off the buffet until lunch is served at 12. We didn't even find the dining room until day 3. The food was okay, but service was awful. A guy came by with bread, but instead of leaving a basket of bread like a normal restaurant, he gave us each one small piece and ran off. No butter. We ordered soda with our meal, hoping we could get our money's worth out of our bottomless bubbles card. But we couldn't seem to get a refill. Every time we asked, the nonEnglishSpeaking staff member would mumble something and point off into the distance. When we got dessert, I ordered a decaffeinated coffee. The guy mumbled "coffee?" and ran off. He came back with the pot and was about to pour when I said, "This is decaffeinated?" He said "Oh! You want decaf?" He poured the decaf, which I finished before the dessert arrived. I didn't get a coffee refill.
The coffee bar on Lido deck was NEVER open. I spent an entire afternoon searching for the second coffee bar that was supposed to be somewhere on the ship. Turns out, you had to go through the Casino to get there. But the Casino was a smoking area, and you could barely walk through the 5th deck at all without a respirator. I did manage to hold my breath long enough to make it to the coffee bar. The girl there was just like the rest of the staff, unfriendly and acting like I was just another stupid passenger. I brought my husband down the next day, but it was closed.
The excursion we planned was Passion Island by Catamaran. The cruise director pitched this as the best excursion ever. And she promised everyone that the weather was expected to be beautiful. Well, no sooner did we step off the pier than the sky burst open and a thunderstorm flattened everyone. I have to say that the people in Cozumel were EXCEPTIONALLY friendly and helpful. One guy opened his Tequila bar, even though it was only 9am, so that the silly American's didn't have to stand out in the rain. The bar and restaurant across the path did the same and even served lunch, even though it was still 9am. Our excursion, it turned out, was canceled. That beautiful blue sea and white sand and all you can eat and drink were just not to be that day. Everyone who planned Passion Island was refunded. We ended up shopping and we ate at the Three Amigos Restaurant -- Which I HIGHLY recommend. The owner was great. He was courteous, friendly, and the food was terrific. We did some shopping at Cozumel and ended up going back to the ship early. Unfortunately, excursion day was when the staff finally got a day off. So nothing was opened, no one was serving, no one was helpful.
We returned to our room that night, both of our backs aching from walking and carrying backpacks (for the beach trip that never happened). My husband lay down on the bed for his back, and I went into the bathroom to freshen up. Then I heard the lock in the door click and apparently our steward had burst in. My husband, whose back was killing him, was lying there on the bed and tried to get up.
Glorioso said "Oh! You here? You have dinner and back? You go back out?"
Husband: No, we're here for the night. (confused as to why the guy just walked in)
G: Oh. I make towel monkey for you.
Husband: No thanks. We already have a towel monkey.
G: Oh. No?
Husband: No, we're good.
Glorioso leaves. My husband goes out on the balcony. I come out of the bathroom to find Glorioso standing in the middle of my room hovering over my bed! My husband was not in the room (good thing I didn't come out naked!)
Me: What are you doing in my room?
Glorioso: I make towel monkey for you.
Me: We don't need a towel monkey. We already have one.
Glorioso: No? You like towel monkey?
Me: Yes, the towel monkey is nice. We don't need another.
Glorioso: No? Oh. How bout elepent?
Me: No, we don't need an elephant. Where is my husband?
(At this point, I peer around Glorioso to see my husband's horrified face peering through the balcony window.)
Glorioso: No towel animal?
Me: No, we're good.
Glorioso: I bring elepent tomorrow.
Me: You do that.
Glorioso: You want chocolate?
He digs into his pocket and hands me two squares of chocolate and then finally leaves. The next day, we returned to our room in the afternoon to find Glorioso standing once again in the middle of the room hovered over our bed. He turns to see us, grins widely and steps aside to reveal a freshly folded towel "elepent." Okay, so I know I should be annoyed that this stranger keeps walking into our room. But at this point of the trip Glorioso had the most entertainment value.
The life sized Hasbro games that I looked forward to did not exist. We went to the service desk to ask about them and the girl had no idea what we were talking about. Just today I looked at the Carnival website again and found that if you expand the description, it says that it's limited to certain ships. Okay, I accept that, but I still expect the crew aboard the ship to at least KNOW what it is. People who work for Carnival should know all about Carnival. Otherwise, how can we trust that we are in good, knowledgeable hands.
Also, those renovations that they advertised on the site....I'm not sure what they renovated, but the staterooms were not updated, water never seemed to drain properly, and the only thing new was the rum bar. The most important renovation was supposed to be the backup generators. Well, guess what? They were installing the generator as we sailed! So all those people who sailed in July and August, thinking there were backup generators were fooled. They started to install them in September.
Okay, so those were my adventures. I was totally not impressed. The WORST part of this trip for me was the cigarette smoke. The neighbors on either side of my room were chain smokers and their smoke always became trapped in my balcony section. Sometimes I tried to wait it out, thinking that they'd finish their cigarettes and leave. But no, they smoked nonstop and it was always me who ended up leaving. I think this is terrible. I wasn't able to be comfortable in my own balcony and could not get any help for it. No one was willing to enforce the smoking policy. No one thought to put the smokers on one side and nonsmokers on another. Like I said, no one was interested in passengers' comfort once we were on board.
Overall, it obviously was not the greatest first cruise experience. I don't know if I just picked the wrong ship or if I misunderstood all the hype. All these people who go on multiple cruises and praise about them either haven't tried the Triumph or they were party-bound. The cruise was perfect for partiers. We are definitely not partiers. I would like to try another cruise sometime, but I will probably not do another Carnival cruise.