05/29 - 06/04, 2002

EMBARKATION: We live about an hour’s drive from Charleston, so we left home around 10:00 am, drove about halfway & stopped at a Cracker Barrel for a bite to eat & to meet our friends and their 6 & 8 year old daughters. This was their first cruise since 1989 and their first ever on Carnival. We arrived in Charleston shortly after noon and drove to the Aquarium garage, where the customs and law enforcement were just setting up ~~ yippee, we were first  in line (well, one of the first). Since we had booked a GTY cabin, we didn’t have a cabin assignment to put on our TBA gray luggage tags and the CCL representatives weren’t there yet, so we had to stand around and wait while our friends went ahead and checked their luggage and held us a spot in line for the bus to the pier. Thanks to the Kelly Method, we sorta knew our cabin assignment, so after waiting about 30 minutes for some form of organization to take effect, we gave up & put the Kelly cabin assignment on our tags & turned in the luggage. We figured that, worst case scenario, we could go to that cabin to retrieve our luggage. Quite naturally, the CCL reps showed up shortly after that & I waited around for the two of them to get their bearings and then sheepishly asked for our cabin assignment………yippee, it was just like Kelly said!! So, off we skipped, carry ons in hand (complete with a starter pack of adult beverages) towards the “bus stop” outside of the garage, thankfully in an area shaded by trees. Around 2 pm or so, much to our pleasant surprise, the buses began loading ~ keep in mind that the docs said to embark at 6:00 pm!! We were now at the pier and handing over our docs & ID’s, getting the all-important Sign N Sail (aka Drink n Sink) cards and headed to our cabin! The embarkation photo shows us checking in at 3:07 pm - nearly 3 full hours before we were told to board………way to go Carnival, excellent move! BTW, we met our TA on the last night of the cruise & she asked us what cabin we had gotten. She said she didn’t have a thing to do with our getting that one ~ guess we need to thank the upgrade fairy or something lolol, but we were thrilled with it. More on that later on.. With the early embarkation, we felt like we got an extra cruise day!

THE CABIN: : Ohhhhh, what a cabin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had originally booked directly with CCL in January, 2002 in an 8A GTY and several weeks later switched it to our TA. Within the month, we changed to an 8D assigned and shortly after that to an 8D GTY, which was our plan all along. The CCL mega-ships aren’t allowed to fully book when going to Bermuda, so we figured that using a larger company TA and the fact that this was our 4th CCL cruise in less than 3 years….would have a pretty decent chance of an upgrade. We ended up in 6434 which is a 9A aft corner room, port side with a wraparound balcony…..that I paced off at approx. 50 feet…… length!!!!!!! Now, that’s a balcony!!!!!!! It had two of the lounge chairs with cushions, two upright chairs and 2 of those low-rider lounge chairs with a little table…….and we still had room to chase each other around on the balcony. TMI? The cabin itself actually had a foyer leading to ours and the folks next door to us……which helped alleviate any hallway noise…….gee, a cabin with a foyer…….didn’t we feel special? Inside the cabin were 2 closets, 3 drawers and 2 shelves in addition to the bedside table thingees. There were two twin beds that got pushed together right away. There was also a nice sofa and sofa table. In addition to the door to the balcony, we had two big picture windows which gave us a beautiful view of the wake while at sea. I don’t know the footage of the cabin, but suffice it to say, it’s considerably larger than a standard 8A. I would “guest-imate” it at about twice the walking space. Even the bathroom seemed bigger. It had the usual dish of samples of razors, body wash, tums, skittles & a few other things. With this cabin, we are spoiled for sure !

DINING: By the time we had transferred our booking, we had learned that some good friends of ours were on the same sailing, so we turned their booking # over to our TA to link us together for our dining assignment. When we got our S&S cards, we realized that we were assigned to Paris at the 5:45 pm seating & our friends were assigned to London at the 6:15 pm seating. But, no biggie. Before we sailed, I went to the London Dining Room and requested we be placed together, if possible at the 6:15 seating. Since embarkation day dining was open seating, this was taken care of before assigned seating began. Overnight on sail day, our new assignments were slid under our door ~ we were both assigned to London @ 6:15 pm and a glorious new table (#111, which was a rectangular table for 10 at a starboard side window). This was the best possible outcome & we were thrilled with our new assignment with a breathtaking view of sunsets! Our waiter, Radu from Romania and his assistant, Zita were easily the best waiters we’ve ever had. We had not previously been overly impressed with the “team dining” approach, but something  drastic seemed to be different, definitely for the better! They were both very friendly & efficient, but never intrusive. Radu learned the 2 girls’ names on the first night & made them feel oh-so-special at each meal! I can just see them now awaiting him to pour the ketchup smiley-face on their hamburgers! Of course, there were the nightly performances by the waiters & Radu’s definitely got rhythm!! Even the bar service at dinner was tremendously improved over previous cruises. As someone else has mentioned, we suspect there may well have been a management change over dining services on CCL. We found our meals also to be improved, with the most tender and delicious lobster ever!!! And oh that tomato bread & President’s butter…….yummmmmmmmm!

SHIP, SHOWS, WEATHER, ETC.: We found the seas to be extremely calm; didn’t even see white caps until the last two days & even then, a much improved ride across the Atlantic than we had last October to the Bahamas. The weather forecast had not been too promising, so I had armed us with Sea Bands, Bonine & even ginger ~ never used any of it! We were on Upper Deck, aft, so we did feel some vibration, especially on the return trip to Charleston, but never bothersome in the least. We were so impressed that we left a note for Captain Marino at the Purser’s Desk to express our appreciation. Upon arrival in Bermuda, they switched Captains, so I’m not sure if he received our note or not.

Since our friends had their 6 & 8 year old daughters with them, we spent the bulk of the days by the main pool (no problems getting a desired lounge chair by 10:00 am daily). The girls were happy as can be & the adults sipped on DOD’s and chatted with those around us. Several of us managed to get some sunburn on our shoulders, in spite of 25 spf block. Others have mentioned being cold on the ship, but I’m guessing our respective sunburns welcomed the cooler air because none of the 6 of us never needed a jacket or sweater! The 8 year old was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes within the last year & had recently gotten one of the pumps. This was a true convenience for her & the parents ~ especially when food is so plentiful & available around the clock!! Their Mom went to Camp Carnival on one of the seadays to see what activities were planned…….it was something like candle making, so she opted to take them back to the pool for another fun day in the sun. They were truly a joy to be around! The 6 year old had, unfortunately, seen Titanic so on sail day, she was frightened. By the next morning, all tears had transformed into huge smiles!

We made our obligatory deposit in the Casino on the first couple of days, but didn’t find the slots as friendly as in the past. No biggie, we simply made our contribution and moved on to something else!

We went to Corey’s bird show & enjoyed it and we also went to the passenger talent show on the last night, which was exceptionally good. Some of these folks had tremendous singing talent!! The “house band” on Lido deck was also quite good…..some reggae and some top 40 & some “beach music.” They were of Asian decent, so some songs sounded a little different……..I especially recall their rendition of “Lee-tle Surfer Girl.” Actually, it was quite charming & they did a good job of involving the audience.

There were a couple of occasional showers, but again nothing that changed any of our plans at sea. We were scheduled to arrive in Bermuda on Saturday at 7:00 am, but arrived Friday evening due to 2 medical emergencies. A rescue boat approached & took the two sick passengers into Bermuda while we circled the area until Saturday morning when we docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard on the west end. We met one
of them the next day, when she returned to the ship. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day that threatened rain most of the day. We opted to get the bus/ferry pass @ $11 per adult and $7 per child and rode the bus to Hamilton to shop. It was about a 45 minute ride through some beautiful scenery. Our bus driver pointed out many tourist spots along the way and took us on the ride of our lives….much like a ride at the State Fair. Bermuda does not permit tourists to rent cars, only mopeds. The roads are very narrow and winding. We had lunch at the Pickle n Onion on Front street, with a terrific table on their porch overlooking the water. There was a nice variety on the menu & everyone enjoyed their meal. They sold souvenir tee shirts & we regretted not getting them. Oh well, another lesson learned :-) We found souvenirs for everyone and headed to the ferry for a much quicker ride back to the Royal Naval Dockyard ~ it took approx. 15 minutes on the return trip. We had heard Bermuda was a bit pricey (jewelry, clothing & perfume) and found that to be true - but souvenirs are plentiful and reasonably priced. There is Bermuda’s answer to a 7-11 very near to where the ship docked & we stocked up on a few items & were even permitted to purchase a couple of wine coolers/beers and sit in the gazebo to consume them. It was a great place to “people-watch.” We got a late start on Sunday as we slept in, but awoke to a gorgeous day! It would have been a great day to go to the beach at Horseshoe Bay as we had planned, but since we didn’t get moving until around 10 and we had to be back onboard by 1:30 pm to set sail, we opted to shop in the Dockyard rather than try to rush a trip to the beach ~ besides our sunburns were telling us we really didn’t need to go to the beach that day! We returned to the ship around noon-ish & promptly found lounge chairs on Lido for the sail-away!

I forgot to mention earlier, but we found Megan Taylor from Canada in the Internet Café to be friendly and helpful. We bought one of the packaged minute plans and had no problems for both of us using it, at different times of course. It is located near the Cigar room under the Disco, so the odor is likely offensive to some, although it didn’t bother us.

As mentioned earlier, there were some minor cosmetic needs on the Triumph, but nothing that kept us from enjoying our best cruise ever! There were no maintenance needs in our cabin whatsoever……a/c worked great, all lighting operational, no bathroom issues. The way we figure it, those ships take quite a beating from the volume and type of passengers, so carpet stains, etc. , are fairly predictable. I should also mention that this was our second cruise on the Triumph and was, hands down, a 200% better trip than the first! I think it’s a safe bet that CCL has responded to some customer suggestions. Following our October, 2001, sailing on the Victory from Charleston to the Bahamas, we wrote a letter to CCL to say what a great trip we had and made a minor suggestion for improvements on embarkation procedures. We had received a letter for a “welcome back” gift on our next cruise, which we used on this cruise. It turned out to be 6 photo coupons for $15 each. As a bonus, they are good on other cruise ships and had no expiration date! We used 2 of them on this cruise, so we have 4 more for later. When we called to “order” the gift as instructed, the CCL rep asked me a couple of questions & the photo coupons were delivered to us at dinner on the second night (due to the change in dining rooms, it took her an extra day to find us, but again, didn’t affect us in the least). Oh, and yes…..embarkation was much improved this time.

THINGS I FORGOT TO MENTION EARLIER: Muster Drill: This was, easily, the quickest and least painful boat drill we’ve ever experienced. We were instructed to walk down 2 flights of stairs right outside of our cabin, the necessary information was given and we were on our merry way within 10 minutes!

CC Meeting: On the CC pre-cruise board, I had made suggestions for 2 different times to get together on board. The first was 11 pm on sail night at the Lido aft bar, but as it turned out, it was the only bar open on Lido & it was extremely crowded and we weren’t able to find a single CC member. The alternate meeting time @ 1 pm on the following day ended up being when the games were being played on Lido Deck, so that didn’t work out, either. Oh well, we tried! On the last night, our TA did find us in the dining room. I had seen her daughters throughout the cruise, but never saw an adult with them, so I just wasn’t sure if they were her I think I did spot Jamine, but never was able to get to her in time (across the atrium). More via email, Jamine.

Bermuda: There are actually 2 ferries to/from Hamilton. One is like a watercraft bus stop (makes many stops, we were told it takes approximately 45 minutes from the Royal Naval Dockyard to Hamilton). The other is the express route & goes directly between the Dockyard & Hamilton. The express boat was quick, clean, modern, comfortable with a/c in the lower deck, had restroom facilities & even a snack bar!
We didn’t take any of the excursions on this trip, but our balcony neighbors, who were accomplished divers, did take the Helmet Dive and raved on and on about how great it was. We had been thinking about doing that one, and won’t miss it at the next opportunity! As we were traveling with our friends and their 2 girls, moving about took a little longer than usual as each one of the group wanted to stop & make their various purchases. We only made it to Hamilton, which was a bustling and charming waterfront town with colorful and well kept buildings. Price negotiating that we have experienced Caribbean ports was non-existent in the shops we visited. Remember that this is a British port, and a very proper one at that. Short-shorts, halter tops & uncovered bathing suit tops are frowned upon in town ~ The ship even announced that Bermuda shorts (duh) were the preferred attire. We found an adequate supply of embroidered tee shirts (didn’t shrink in the wash, either), charms for charm bracelets, magnets, etc. For those interested, I even found Fresh Produce shorts, tops & cover-ups in one of the stores. One important fact to remember. On Sunday, when we shopped right at the Dockyard, the shops were overwhelmed with cruise passengers and there were long lines in each store. We were told that the local merchants had drastically underestimated how many passengers would be on the Triumph & had not staffed the shops accordingly. When we docked on Saturday morning, the dockhands on shore were anchoring the ropes down & overheard was one of them saying, “No, go farther, BIG SHIP!”
For those interested, we did have SunCom cell phone  service,  part of  AT&T,  in Bermuda.

Tips: Tips were automatically placed on your Sign n Sail card on the first day, but those who preferred to have them removed & pay in person had no problem doing so

Etc: We noticed that this cruise had an older group of passengers than we have normally experienced. Also, there didn’t seem to be as many children onboard, but there were plenty for our friends’ girls to pal around with at the pool. Ship security was prevalent & doing a good job. In fact, Manuel, who stood guard at the main pool & did a fine job of maintaining (friendly) order throughout the week, was presented a Sheriff’s Dept. lapel pin & key chain and made an “honorary deputy” by the men folk in our group. It was obvious that this was very special to Manuel as he tracked us down the following day to plead for a copy of the photo (done deal, Manuel!)
Our cabin steward, Chiaya K, did a fine job throughout the week. On disembarkation day, he went way over and beyond the call of duty & his kindness not only saved the day, but also earned him an additional $20 tip (on top of his “extra” tip we had already given him). We had thought that the luggage needed to be placed in the hallways by 2:00 am. We put it out around 1 am, but when we awoke @ 7 am, it was still there. I called the Purser’s Desk and was politely informed it should have been out by midnight. With “Bagzilla” and his siblings in tow, you can imagine that Hubby was not a happy camper. About an hour later, we had gotten dressed & were headed to Lido, but noticed the luggage was gone! Hubby found Chaiya & asked if he happened to know where it went. Chiaya had seen it and took it down for us. Our Hero!!

Our friends’ cabin: They had booked an 8A GTY about a month before we did and were upgraded to 8D & had their cabin assignment about 2 weeks prior to sailing (even their docs had their cabin assignment). They had Lido Deck 9274 and were absolutely thrilled. It had “bunk beds” for the girls, a queen for the adults, the balcony and was in a terrific location for their needs. Most of their time was spent at the main pool on Lido, so the girls could come and go from their cabin very easily! I believe they could easily become frequent cruisers now and their Mom made the comment that this is the first vacation they had taken where she truly felt she was on vacation……didn’t have to cook, clean, do laundry or grocery shop, plan meals, etc.

DISEMBARKATION: This was easily the “not fun” part. While we hated to see our wonderful cruise end, we were fortunate not to have to be concerned with making flights as we only had a one hour drive to our driveway……..there were many unhappy folks as disembarkation went slower than we’ve seen thus far. The first deck was called fairly quickly, but it moved wayyyyyy slower after that. We were off the ship around 11 and our friends’ tag color never did get called, so they came off the ship in the last grouping ~ about 30 minutes after us. They said Corey was at the end of their group and when their group was off, said, “Okay, let’s go.” We heard that the ship was supposed to be underway to Norfolk by 11 am, but never heard exactly what the delay entailed. I’m sure some folks were highly upset by this, but we all just sat around and chatted about this cruise experience on Lido Deck while we waited. The girls explored the ship for one last time. The luggage search was the usual “sea” of black luggage, but we luckily found our bags very easily ~ 3 of them were even standing together & the straggler wasn’t far away. We then re-boarded the bus to return to the Aquarium garage to retrieve our car.
This cruise was different for us in several ways. Not only was there an older group, but only going to one port on a 6 day cruise was somewhat different. Not bad, just different. Our next cruise is already booked, so it’s helping to alleviate some of the post-cruise blues! Please feel free to post or email any questions you may have. As long as this is, I’m sure I left out information you may want