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Cruise Ship Review

Carnival Triumph - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

Editor's Note: Carnival Triumph emerged from a two-week dry-dock in September/October 2008. Additions to this middle-aged ship include a Carnival Seaside Theater and new "Circle C" facility for the 12-14's. Cabins were also renovated, with balconies added to 14 cabins (a nice addition, but a far cry from the 314 balconies Celebrity added to Century in 2006). New carpeting, wall coverings and tile work were also put in.

With four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, tons of bars, a giant casino and a daily schedule of activities that will make your head spin, the Triumph lives up to Carnival's "Fun Ships" motto with gusto. A passenger looking for a little peace and quiet could easily find themselves locked in their cabin ordering room service for the duration of the trip, but if you can (or care to) look past the crowded bars, loud music and long buffet lines, you can definitely relax on the Triumph. Head to the Oxford Lounge for your nightcap rather than the Hollywood Dance Club or sunbathe on the Spa Deck rather than on the crowded levels surrounding the main pool. I hope the female passenger who had so much fun late one evening that she left her underwear on the main staircase eventually found the, um, privacy she was looking for.

With all the drinking, partying and resulting debauchery that takes place, the biggest surprise is the number of families and the scope of the onboard children's program. Camp Carnival's activities for kids are as diverse as the adults' and run from early morning until late at night. Children's World, the main play area, has sand art, educational computer games and plenty of space for jumping and tumbling. I wasn't at all surprised when a little boy, maybe 4, told his parents who had come to check on him that yes, he was having a lot of fun and no, he was not helping the counselors clean up.

You have to appreciate the attempt of the Carnival Triumph to take you on a trip around the world, even if you're really just on a four-day, one-port cruise like I was. The ship's theme is the world's greatest vacation destinations, and with names like Club Monaco, The Big Easy and Hong Kong Noodle Co., there is real diversity on this ship -- in entertainment, in dining, among your fellow passengers and, of course, among the lovely crew members.

So when two of the Carnival dancers -- he from Moscow and she from Canada -- got engaged to be married in front of a crowd of Americans late one night in a New Orleans-themed piano bar and then were serenaded by a pianist from New Zealand among lots of cheers and hugs from strangers, I really wasn't surprised. That seems to be the idea on the Carnival Triumph -- to bring people together with good times and, at least in this case, love.

Dining

There are two main dining rooms on the Triumph -- the London and the Paris. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the Paris dining room while both are open for two dinner seatings each night (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Both are two levels and feature an open and airy floor plan that minimizes any crowded feeling once at your table. However, there were long lines and crowds around the entrance on the first night, prompting us to arrive at the dining room 10 minutes late on the subsequent evenings and allowing us to stroll right our seats and receive attention from our waitress immediately.

The dinner menu in the formal dining room was small, but there was enough of a variety to make choosing difficult. While lamb and turkey entrees were spot on, the much-touted lobster dinner (which was actually a lobster tail) was rubbery and disappointing. Though I didn't sample it, there was a "spa" menu at each dinner with entrees that reflected those on the main menu, with slight variations. There is a children's menu with chicken fingers, pasta, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that comes with a coloring book and crayons to keep kids occupied.

On the Lido deck, the South Beach Club serves up the breakfast and lunch buffets daily. You can also choose to have dinner there if you're in the mood for something more casual than what the dining room offers. Besides the typical cold salads and hot carving station fare, there are two more places to check out: The New York Deli and the Hong Kong Noodle Co. While the menu at both is limited, the food at the deli is more authentic (Reubens, overstuffed pastrami on rye, and bagels with cream cheese and lox) and therefore more delicious.

Hint: The New York Deli is wildly popular and each order is taken individually, often resulting in long lines. It has extended hours of operation though so you may want to check it out in the off-hours when the majority of the lunch crowd is elsewhere.

Other options include the Coney Island Grill that features hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries by the pool, and the 24-hour pizzeria that serves up your typical toppings but also offers a few gourmet selections and a Caesar salad. If your sweet tooth is acting up between meals, head to the Vienna Cafe where you can get a slice of cake or a gourmet coffee at an additional cost. A limited room service menu with salads and sandwiches is available free of charge 24 hours a day and the service was prompt. If you've partied a little too hard, you can hang your breakfast preferences on your door until 5 a.m. for delivery at the time of your choice.

Hint: If you enjoyed a particular wine during dinner and then decide you'd like another bottle delivered to your room, be sure to make a note of its name. The room service staff has no access to a wine list and is unable to help in any selection beyond red or white.

In keeping with the "fun" them, there is complimentary ice cream and frozen yogurt offered at various stations 24 hours a day.

Public Rooms

When you board the Triumph, you'll find yourself in the Capitol -- essentially the ship's lobby -- which, like the building for which it is named, features a soaring, gold-domed ceiling and a circular staircase rising seven stories. Here you'll find the Capitol Bar, and arranged around the open area on various decks the photo gallery, shops and shore excursions desk.

The Washington Library is decorated quite tastefully with dark wood tables, large gold armchairs and red carpeting. Though small, it is a peaceful retreat with a large selection of board and table games available. You can also check out books but the hours are very limited -- there is only one worker on duty for one hour, two times each day.

The Oxford Lounge is a quiet reading and gathering spot by day and a laid-back cigar bar by night. It is dimly lit with large red leather armchairs, low tables, book-lined walls and plenty of ashtrays. Adjacent to the Oxford Lounge is the Internet Cafe. It is more like six monitors along the wall of a hallway with one desk on the opposite wall designated for wireless service (the only spot for wireless on the ship). The service is spotty and the manager is tricky to track down. On one particular day when the Internet went down, there were signs posted for several hours to keep checking back. When frustration set in, I tried the computers anyway to find they were functioning perfectly well, so I removed all the signs and left them on the desk of the manager (who was missing yet again).

Hint: If you need to keep in touch with family or friends on shore, this is the way to do it. Phone rates are $7 per minute to the United States and $9 per minute internationally. The cost of the internet is 75 cents per minute if you pay minute-by-minute, but decreases with the purchase of a variety of packages.

The World's Way Promenade on Deck 5 is where the action is, at least in the evening. It's here you'll find the Club Monaco casino and the adjacent Olympic Sports Bar which shows the major sporting events through an ESPN satellite feed and news in the off hours. The California Wine Bar is a small but lovely nook that does in fact serve a variety of wines but inexplicably showcases only large bottles of Grey Goose vodka behind the bar. The Big Easy piano bar is small but often very crowded -- in fact, we were unable to score seats until the last night of the cruise. This New Orleans-themed bar is decorated with oyster shells from floor to ceiling and features a recessed piano surrounded by a circular bar, a great spot for shouting your requests and singing along.

If you prefer dancing to singing, head to the Venezia Lounge. The cover band plays a great variety of familiar light tunes, and night after night the dance floor was crowded with couples of all ages. If your music or dance tastes are a little (or a lot) more high energy, head to the Hollywood Dance Club where hundreds of television monitors lines the walls from floor to ceiling. Here you'll find louder, more contemporary music and a younger crowd.

Also on the World's Way Promenade is the Vienna Cafe where, for a reasonable price you can purchase designer coffees and pastries. Underground Tokyo, the ship's arcade, is also here, and while it is cleverly decorated as a winding, narrow cave with games lining the walls, parents might be wary of its location -- right smack in the middle of the ship's mostly over-21 nightlife.

Cabins

I have to say I was impressed by the size of my balcony stateroom -- never did I feel crowded. There was a king bed plus a sofa that in my cabin was transformed into a single bed. The balcony was large enough for two chairs with room to spare. Inside the cabin, there was no coffee table, but a desk, long and narrow, running most of the length of one wall. There was ample closet space, but few drawers, though each closet did feature a shelf.

The decor inside the cabin was very plain and mostly muted peach in color. While the king bed had a lovely, fluffy duvet and plenty of pillows, the single bed had only a thin wool blanket and one pillow -- it resembled a Navy cot though much more comfortable. Our room was constantly being made up, however, and it seemed every time we left and then returned, someone had been there in our absence. Whether making up the beds, turning them down or just generally tidying up, the turn-down service each night was excellent. I anticipated returning to the room not only for the mint on my pillow but to see what creative towel animal would be sitting on the bed to greet me.

I was equally pleased with the size of the bathroom. There was ample counter space around the sink for makeup application as well as storage of products. Though there is a hair dryer in each bathroom, the one in my room seemed out of date and quite literally fell apart several times. If you need to dry your hair for any length of time like I do, you'll have to take several breaks as the hair dryer becomes so hot it can burn your hands. Bottom line: BYO.

One nice touch was the basket of products in the bathroom when we arrived -- razors, toothpaste, dental floss and soap. Depending on how many people are in your cabin, don't count on this to be your supply for the duration of the trip. There was only one sample of each product and the basket was not replenished. But when I discovered I had forgotten my toothpaste, I was certainly grateful to Carnival for saving me a trip to the gift shop. The shower wasn't large, but roomy enough and even had an area to store soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.

Entertainment

The majority of the big-ticket events on the Triumph take place in the three-deck-high Rome lounge. Once again reflective of the ship's overall theme, the Rome lounge pays homage to its namesake with stately arches and columns. There were two main shows on my sailing -- Wonderful World and Century Cafe. The Wonderful World show is an international journey through the dancing and music of different nations while Century Cafe is a fun and energetic retrospective of the 20th century with interesting costumes and set design. For main shows it is a good idea to get to the Rome Lounge early although there is ample seating, some of the views are blocked, particularly on the upper levels.

Besides the shows, you'll also find lots of bingo and interactive audience events like the "In the Bag" and the "Not-so-Newlywed Game." The passenger talent show was quite enjoyable -- think the "American Idol" finals rather than the massive tryouts. If you love to be the center of attention, the Triumph gives you plenty of opportunities to shine. If you don't, you'll still have plenty of fun laughing at or cheering on your fellow passengers from the sidelines.

If you love live music, you can find it at literally any time of day on this ship. Besides the nightlife on the World's Way Promenade, you can relax to the tunes of a Calypso band poolside or read your book in the Oxford Lounge alongside a classical music quartet.

But it's not all martini sipping and jazz trios on the Triumph -- after all, this is a Carnival ship, and what would a Carnival ship be without a little, how shall I put it, less sophisticated entertainment? There is a late-night adults-only comedy show, karaoke competitions (this would be the time to drum up images of those early "American Idol" auditions) and of course, the hairy chest competition. The point is: No matter what tickles your fancy, you can be sure you'll find plenty to amuse you at any moment of the day on the Triumph.

Fitness and Recreation

There are a total of four pools on the Carnival Triumph, each with its own personality and purpose. The children's wading pool on Deck 12 near Children's World is often in use by the campers of Camp Carnival. Kids will also love the pool on Panorama Deck 10 -- the highlight is the 214-ft.-long twisting and turning water slide. If you're looking for a party scene, head straight to the Continent Pool (Lido Deck 9, midship) where there is often live music and deck chairs are arranged on levels that resemble stadium seating. For something equally as fun but a little more low-key, the New World Pool is a great alternative and it even has a retractable roof for the less than perfect days at sea. There are also seven whirlpools around the ship, and with the exception of the two located in the gym, are fun and very lively day and night.

In late 2008, Triumph will be getting the Seaside Theatre, an outdoor big-screen movie setup located poolside. Similar to sister line Princess' Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.) concept, passengers can enjoy concerts, news and sporting events during the day, and movies at night.

The gym is really quite outstanding -- there are at least one dozen treadmills and enough other cardio machines and weights to rival any hometown gym. One thing your local gym probably doesn't have though is the floor to ceiling windows so you can look at the beautiful ocean while you work off your buffet butt. There is also a selection of classes offered, but the trendiest and most popular (Pilates, yoga and spinning) are $10 per person. Even with the surcharge, the class I went to (yoga) was much too crowded -- and there were several no-shows on the attendance list. In addition to the gym, there is a jogging track on Deck 12 if you prefer your workouts in the fresh air.

I have to say that SpaCarnival was one of the only disappointing experiences on the ship. I made an appointment for a one-hour massage for the price of $110 (I didn't know at the time that I could save money by booking in port) even though I thought the price was high -- and I live in midtown Manhattan. The first problem was that the massage was not an hour, or even 50 minutes, which is standard. The whole experience -- from check-in to changing clothes to a consultation and filling out forms to then changing back into my clothes at the end -- was less than one hour total. This alone would have been problematic enough, but I was also in a room directly underneath one of the Camp Carnival play areas so it constantly sounded as if the ceiling was about to come crashing down. Not exactly relaxing. After I paid and tipped, I casually mentioned what had happened to the receptionist and suggested perhaps not booking people in that room while Camp Carnival is going on. Instead of being polite, the woman was so rude that I cancelled a scheduled facial. Later that day, my friend went to the spa for her massage and was told they had run out of robes. For $110 I really think you should get a robe.

However, Spa Carnival does have a kid's spa called Generation Y, which I didn't visit but got rave reviews from others on the ship. The treatments are similar to the standards but with a fun twist -- for example, the fabulous fruity or acne attack facials. Massages are shortened to 25 minutes for the kids and there are even parent-child treatments for a little side-by-side quality time.

Family

Besides the family spa options mentioned above, there is ample opportunity for kids and parents to spend as much or as little time together as they want. Children's World is the centerpiece of the onboard experience -- a 1,300-square-ft. play area with arts and crafts, sand art, educational computer games, and plenty of tumbling room. The super-friendly and cheerful staff members were certainly busy when I stopped in to check out the scene, but rest assured there is plenty of supervision. Camp Carnival is divided into four groups by age with age-appropriate activities for all from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. If you're looking to have some adult fun late into the evening, Camp Carnival also provides babysitting services from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. for a fee of $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional child in the same family. One thing that makes Carnival stand out is that they do not require your child to be potty trained to participate.

In the daily Carnival Capers newsletter, there were many opportunities for kids to have fun onboard. Talent shows, slumber parties, scavenger hunts, towel-animal folding, temporary tattoos and dance-offs for teens were all part of the daily fun. And despite the questionable location of the arcade, Underground Tokyo, it was packed with teens and pre-teens day and night having a great time.

Though most kids will be thrilled with the 24-hour free ice cream and juice available, you can also purchase a "Fountain Fun Card" on weeklong itineraries for $22.95 that gives passengers under 21 unlimited soft drinks. Depending on how much soda your child drinks or is allowed to drink, you can check out this option and see if it works for your family.

Fellow Passengers

Carnival attracts such a variety of people; it is hard to pinpoint exactly what you should expect. So, what you should expect is a lot of diversity in age, ethnic background and personalities. There were several large family groups onboard identified by their matching T-shirts celebrating everything from birthdays and anniversaries to reunions. There were also a significant number of disabled passengers on this particular sailing, perhaps a testament to Carnival's ability to accommodate people regardless of physical limitations.

Dress Code

On the one formal night, guests wore everything from tuxedos and evening gowns to sport coats and cocktail dresses. If the men in your party pack a dark suit and the women a long dress or pantsuit, everyone will be comfortable. The rest of the time, the dress was casual -- mostly shorts, jeans and bathing suits.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $10 per person, per day, broken down to $5.50 to the headwaiter/waiter, $1 to the assistant waiter/cooks and $3.50 to the cabin steward; the amount is automatically added to your shipboard account but can be adjusted in either direction at the purser's desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to extend thanks to the maitre d'. A gratuity is not included in the room service delivery, so you may want to tip then too.

--by Genevieve S. BrownEditor's Note: Carnival Triumph, which relocated in November 2009, now calls New Orleans home and sails Bahamas and Western Caribbean itineraries of varying lengths.

With four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, tons of bars, a giant casino and a daily schedule of activities that will make your head spin, the Triumph lives up to Carnival's "Fun Ships" motto with gusto. A passenger looking for a little peace and quiet could easily find themselves locked in their cabin ordering room service for the duration of the trip, but if you can (or care to) look past the crowded bars, loud music and long buffet lines, you can definitely relax on the Triumph. Head to the Oxford Lounge for your nightcap rather than the Hollywood Dance Club or sunbathe on the Spa Deck rather than on the crowded levels surrounding the main pool. I hope the female passenger who had so much fun late one evening that she left her underwear on the main staircase eventually found the, um, privacy she was looking for.

With all the drinking, partying and resulting debauchery that takes place, the biggest surprise is the number of families and the scope of the onboard children's program. Camp Carnival's activities for kids are as diverse as the adults' and run from early morning until late at night. Children's World, the main play area, has sand art, educational computer games and plenty of space for jumping and tumbling. I wasn't at all surprised when a little boy, maybe 4, told his parents who had come to check on him that yes, he was having a lot of fun and no, he was not helping the counselors clean up.

You have to appreciate the attempt of the Carnival Triumph to take you on a trip around the world, even if you're really just on a four-day, one-port cruise like I was. The ship's theme is the world's greatest vacation destinations, and with names like Club Monaco, The Big Easy and Hong Kong Noodle Co., there is real diversity on this ship -- in entertainment, in dining, among your fellow passengers and, of course, among the lovely crew members.

So when two of the Carnival dancers -- he from Moscow and she from Canada -- got engaged to be married in front of a crowd of Americans late one night in a New Orleans-themed piano bar and then were serenaded by a pianist from New Zealand among lots of cheers and hugs from strangers, I really wasn't surprised. That seems to be the idea on the Carnival Triumph -- to bring people together with good times and, at least in this case, love.Editor's Note: Carnival Triumph emerged from a two-week dry-dock in September/October 2008. Additions to this middle-aged ship include a Carnival Seaside Theater and new "Circle C" facility for the 12-14's. Cabins were also renovated, with balconies added to 14 cabins (a nice addition, but a far cry from the 314 balconies Celebrity added to Century in 2006). New carpeting, wall coverings and tile work were also put in.

With four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, tons of bars, a giant casino and a daily schedule of activities that will make your head spin, the Triumph lives up to Carnival's "Fun Ships" motto with gusto. A passenger looking for a little peace and quiet could easily find themselves locked in their cabin ordering room service for the duration of the trip, but if you can (or care to) look past the crowded bars, loud music and long buffet lines, you can definitely relax on the Triumph. Head to the Oxford Lounge for your nightcap rather than the Hollywood Dance Club or sunbathe on the Spa Deck rather than on the crowded levels surrounding the main pool. I hope the female passenger who had so much fun late one evening that she left her underwear on the main staircase eventually found the, um, privacy she was looking for.

With all the drinking, partying and resulting debauchery that takes place, the biggest surprise is the number of families and the scope of the onboard children's program. Camp Carnival's activities for kids are as diverse as the adults' and run from early morning until late at night. Children's World, the main play area, has sand art, educational computer games and plenty of space for jumping and tumbling. I wasn't at all surprised when a little boy, maybe 4, told his parents who had come to check on him that yes, he was having a lot of fun and no, he was not helping the counselors clean up.

You have to appreciate the attempt of the Carnival Triumph to take you on a trip around the world, even if you're really just on a four-day, one-port cruise like I was. The ship's theme is the world's greatest vacation destinations, and with names like Club Monaco, The Big Easy and Hong Kong Noodle Co., there is real diversity on this ship -- in entertainment, in dining, among your fellow passengers and, of course, among the lovely crew members.

So when two of the Carnival dancers -- he from Moscow and she from Canada -- got engaged to be married in front of a crowd of Americans late one night in a New Orleans-themed piano bar and then were serenaded by a pianist from New Zealand among lots of cheers and hugs from strangers, I really wasn't surprised. That seems to be the idea on the Carnival Triumph -- to bring people together with good times and, at least in this case, love.Editor's Note: Carnival Triumph, which relocated in November 2009, now calls New Orleans home and sails Bahamas and Western Caribbean itineraries of varying lengths.

With four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, tons of bars, a giant casino and a daily schedule of activities that will make your head spin, the Triumph lives up to Carnival's "Fun Ships" motto with gusto. A passenger looking for a little peace and quiet could easily find themselves locked in their cabin ordering room service for the duration of the trip, but if you can (or care to) look past the crowded bars, loud music and long buffet lines, you can definitely relax on the Triumph. Head to the Oxford Lounge for your nightcap rather than the Hollywood Dance Club or sunbathe on the Spa Deck rather than on the crowded levels surrounding the main pool. I hope the female passenger who had so much fun late one evening that she left her underwear on the main staircase eventually found the, um, privacy she was looking for.

With all the drinking, partying and resulting debauchery that takes place, the biggest surprise is the number of families and the scope of the onboard children's program. Camp Carnival's activities for kids are as diverse as the adults' and run from early morning until late at night. Children's World, the main play area, has sand art, educational computer games and plenty of space for jumping and tumbling. I wasn't at all surprised when a little boy, maybe 4, told his parents who had come to check on him that yes, he was having a lot of fun and no, he was not helping the counselors clean up.

You have to appreciate the attempt of the Carnival Triumph to take you on a trip around the world, even if you're really just on a four-day, one-port cruise like I was. The ship's theme is the world's greatest vacation destinations, and with names like Club Monaco, The Big Easy and Hong Kong Noodle Co., there is real diversity on this ship -- in entertainment, in dining, among your fellow passengers and, of course, among the lovely crew members.

So when two of the Carnival dancers -- he from Moscow and she from Canada -- got engaged to be married in front of a crowd of Americans late one night in a New Orleans-themed piano bar and then were serenaded by a pianist from New Zealand among lots of cheers and hugs from strangers, I really wasn't surprised. That seems to be the idea on the Carnival Triumph -- to bring people together with good times and, at least in this case, love.

Dining

There are two main dining rooms on the Triumph -- the London and the Paris. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the Paris dining room while both are open for two dinner seatings each night (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Both are two levels and feature an open and airy floor plan that minimizes any crowded feeling once at your table. However, there were long lines and crowds around the entrance on the first night, prompting us to arrive at the dining room 10 minutes late on the subsequent evenings and allowing us to stroll right our seats and receive attention from our waitress immediately.

The dinner menu in the formal dining room was small, but there was enough of a variety to make choosing difficult. While lamb and turkey entrees were spot on, the much-touted lobster dinner (which was actually a lobster tail) was rubbery and disappointing. Though I didn't sample it, there was a "spa" menu at each dinner with entrees that reflected those on the main menu, with slight variations. There is a children's menu with chicken fingers, pasta, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that comes with a coloring book and crayons to keep kids occupied.

On the Lido deck, the South Beach Club serves up the breakfast and lunch buffets daily. You can also choose to have dinner there if you're in the mood for something more casual than what the dining room offers. Besides the typical cold salads and hot carving station fare, there are two more places to check out: The New York Deli and the Hong Kong Noodle Co. While the menu at both is limited, the food at the deli is more authentic (Reubens, overstuffed pastrami on rye, and bagels with cream cheese and lox) and therefore more delicious.

Hint: The New York Deli is wildly popular and each order is taken individually, often resulting in long lines. It has extended hours of operation though so you may want to check it out in the off-hours when the majority of the lunch crowd is elsewhere.

Other options include the Coney Island Grill that features hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries by the pool, and the 24-hour pizzeria that serves up your typical toppings but also offers a few gourmet selections and a Caesar salad. If your sweet tooth is acting up between meals, head to the Vienna Cafe where you can get a slice of cake or a gourmet coffee at an additional cost. A limited room service menu with salads and sandwiches is available free of charge 24 hours a day and the service was prompt. If you've partied a little too hard, you can hang your breakfast preferences on your door until 5 a.m. for delivery at the time of your choice.

Hint: If you enjoyed a particular wine during dinner and then decide you'd like another bottle delivered to your room, be sure to make a note of its name. The room service staff has no access to a wine list and is unable to help in any selection beyond red or white.

In keeping with the "fun" theme, there is complimentary ice cream and frozen yogurt offered at various stations 24 hours a day.

Also available on all of Carnival's ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $10 per person, per day, broken down to $5.50 to the headwaiter/waiter, $1 to the assistant waiter/cooks and $3.50 to the cabin steward; the amount is automatically added to your shipboard account but can be adjusted in either direction at the purser's desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to extend thanks to the maitre d'. A gratuity is not included in the room service delivery, so you may want to tip then too.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to extend thanks to the maitre d'.With four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, tons of bars, a giant casino and a daily schedule of activities that will make your head spin, the 102,000-ton, 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph, which debuted in 1999, lives up to Carnival's "Fun Ships" motto with gusto. A passenger looking for a little peace and quiet could easily find themselves locked in their cabin ordering room service for the duration of the trip, but if you can (or care to) look past the crowded bars, loud music and long buffet lines, you can definitely relax on the Triumph. Head to the Oxford Lounge for your nightcap rather than the Hollywood Dance Club or sunbathe on the Spa Deck rather than on the crowded levels surrounding the main pool.

All that adult-friendly fervor is balanced by a large number of families attracted to the ship's (and the line's) excellent children's program. Camp Carnival's activities for kids are as diverse as the adults' and run from early morning until late at night. Children's World, the main play area, has sand art, educational computer games and plenty of space for jumping and tumbling.

You have to appreciate the attempt of the Carnival Triumph to take you on a trip around the world, even if you're really just on a four-night, one-port cruise. The ship's theme is the world's greatest vacation destinations, and with names like Club Monaco, The Big Easy and Hong Kong Noodle Co., there is real diversity on this ship -- in entertainment, in dining, among your fellow passengers and, of course, among the lovely crewmembers.

So when two of the Carnival dancers -- he from Moscow and she from Canada -- got engaged to be married in front of a crowd of Americans late one night in a New Orleans-themed piano bar and then were serenaded by a pianist from New Zealand among a lot of cheers and hugs from strangers, it's no surprise. That seems to be the idea on the Carnival Triumph -- to bring people together with good times and, at least in this case, love.

Dining

There are two main dining rooms on Triumph -- the London and the Paris. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the Paris dining room while both are open for two dinner seatings each night (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Passengers also have the option to sign up for My Time Dining, Carnival's flex-dining program. You can make reservations or show up anytime between 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. (Note: One of the restaurants has a designated My Time section.) Both the London and the Paris have two levels and feature an open and airy floor plan that minimizes any crowded feeling once at your table. However, there may be long lines and crowds around the entrance on the first night, consider arriving at the dining room 10 minutes late to stroll right to your seats and receive attention from your server immediately.

The dinner menu in the formal dining room is limited, but there is enough of a variety to make choosing difficult. Choices are broken down into starters (blue cheese salad, gazpacho, fried shrimp), mains (linguini with sausage, oven roasted turkey, petit filet) and choices "from our comfort kitchen" (beef brisket, shrimp & fries). Vegetarians always have a dedicated main (tofu steak) and healthy options are designated as such with a little heart. Desserts, including the notorious chocolate melting cake, finish off the meal.

Hint: The New York Deli is popular and each order is taken individually, often resulting in long lines. It has extended hours of operation, though, so you may want to check it out in the off-hours when the majority of the lunch crowd is elsewhere.

Other options include the Coney Island Grill that features hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries by the pool, and the 24-hour pizzeria that serves up your typical toppings but also offers a few gourmet selections (goat cheese and mushroom) and a Caesar salad. If your sweet tooth is acting up between meals, head to the Vienna Cafe where you can get a slice of cake or a gourmet coffee at an additional cost. A room service menu with salads and sandwiches is available free of charge 24 hours a day and the service is usually prompt. If you've partied a little too hard, you can hang your breakfast preferences on your door until 5 a.m. for delivery at the time of your choice.

Hint: If you enjoyed a particular wine during dinner and then decide you'd like another bottle delivered to your room, be sure to make a note of its name. The room service staff has no access to a wine list and is unable to help in any selection beyond red or white.

In keeping with the "fun" theme, there is complimentary ice cream and frozen yogurt offered at various stations 24 hours a day.

Also available on all of Carnival's ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.

Public Rooms

When you board Triumph, you'll find yourself in the Capitol -- the ship's signature, Carnival-style atrium -- which, like the building for which it is named, features a soaring, gold-domed ceiling and a circular staircase rising seven stories. Here you'll find the Capitol Bar, and arranged around the open area on various decks the photo gallery, shops and shore excursions desk.

The Washington Library is decorated quite tastefully with dark wood tables, large gold armchairs and red carpeting. Though small, it is a peaceful retreat with a large selection of board and table games available. You can also check out books but the hours are very limited -- there is only one worker on duty for one hour, two times each day.

The Oxford Lounge is a quiet reading and gathering spot by day and a laid-back cigar bar by night. It is dimly lit with large red leather armchairs, low tables, book-lined walls and plenty of ashtrays. Adjacent to the Oxford Lounge is the Internet Cafe. It is more like six monitors along the wall of a hallway. There isn't always a manager nearby, however, to assist. Wi-Fi is available shipwide. The service may, at times, be spotty.

Hint: If you need to keep in touch with family or friends on shore, this is the way to do it. Phone rates are $7 per minute to the United States and $9 per minute internationally. The cost of the internet is 75 cents per minute if you pay minute-by-minute, but decreases with the purchase of a variety of packages that can bring the cost down to 42 cents a minute.

Cabins

Carnival Triumph features five main cabin categories -- insides, outsides, balconies, mini-suites and suites -- but there is some variation within each grouping. For instance, there are inside cabins featuring upper-lower bed configurations, side-by-side twins that can be converted to a King and those featuring a view of a walkway.

Inside, outside and balcony cabins typically feature 185 square feet of interior space, with balconies ranging from 35 to 75 square feet depending on category. (There are also a few decks of 220-square-foot oceanview cabins, including 1001, 1002, 1003 and 1004, and categories PT, 6A, 6B and 6C. Additionally, category 8F balconies, located on near the spa on Deck 11, feature 195 square feet of interior space. In other words, there's some variation, so it pays to read Carnival Triumph cabin reviews.) Even the smaller balconies have room for a table and two chairs. While Triumph's public spaces, restaurants and bars are designed to wow the passenger, cabin decor throughout tends toward plain with mostly muted colors. Non-suite accommodations feature TV's (not flat-screen), safes, bathrobes, desks, hair dryers (not very powerful -- BYO), a couple closets and a few nooks and cubbies to store miscellany. Some cabins feature upper-lower configurations, but the vast majority have side-by-side twins that can be converted into a King. Depending on cabin, third and fourth passengers can be accommodated on pull-out couches or pull-down beds.

Standard bathrooms feature ample counter space around the sink for makeup application as well as storage of products. The shower isn't large, but roomy enough and even has an area to store soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.

One nice touch is the basket of products in the bathroom when you arrive -- a Carnival signature -- which may include brand-name razors, toothpaste, dental floss and soap.

Passengers looking for a little more room should consider booking a Junior Suite (275 square feet with 35-square-foot balcony), Ocean Suite (275 square feet with 65-square-foot balcony) or Grand Suite (345 square foot with 85-square-foot balcony). Besides the space and bathrooms with shower-tub combos, suite passengers get a few perks, like priority embarkation/debarkation.

Self-service laundry facilities are located on a number of cabin decks ($3 per wash or dry).

Entertainment

The majority of the big-ticket events on Triumph take place in the three-deck-high Rome lounge. Once again reflective of the ship's overall theme, the Rome lounge pays homage to its namesake with stately arches and columns. The main shows are Wonderful World, Big Easy and Kevin & Caruso Magic Show. The Wonderful World show is an international journey through the dancing and music of different nations while Big Easy celebrates its namesake with interesting costumes and set design, and the magic show is large-scale fun. For main shows it is a good idea to get to the Rome Lounge early. Although there is ample seating, some of the views are blocked, particularly on the upper levels.

The show lounge also hosts, at various times, lots of bingo and interactive audience events like the "In the Bag" and the "Not-so-Newlywed Game." The passenger talent show is quite enjoyable -- think the "American Idol" finals rather than the massive tryouts.

When the curtain's down, the World's Way Promenade on Deck 5 is where the evening action takes place. It's here you'll find the Club Monaco casino and the adjacent Olympic Sports Bar which shows the major sporting events through an ESPN satellite feed and news in the off hours. The California Wine Bar is a small but lovely nook that does in fact serve a variety of wines but inexplicably showcases only large bottles of Grey Goose vodka behind the bar. The Big Easy piano bar is small but often very crowded. This New Orleans-themed bar is decorated with oyster shells from floor to ceiling and features a recessed piano surrounded by a circular bar, a great spot for shouting your requests and singing along. (Underground Tokyo, the ship's arcade, is also on the WWP, and while it is cleverly decorated as a winding, narrow cave with games lining the walls, parents might be wary of its location -- right smack in the middle of the ship's mostly over-21 nightlife.)

If you prefer dancing to singing, head to the Venezia Lounge. The cover band plays a variety of familiar light tunes, and night after night the dance floor is likely to be crowded with couples of all ages. If your music or dance tastes are a little (or a lot) more high energy, head to the Hollywood Dance Club where hundreds of television monitors lines the walls from floor to ceiling. Here you'll find louder, more contemporary music and a younger crowd.

Other evening entertainment comes by ways of adults-only comedy show and karaoke competitions (this would be the time to drum up images of those early "American Idol" auditions.

On sunny sea days, the pool deck is the place to be. Passengers can determine which passenger's chest is hairiest, listen to a Calypso band, play trivia or take part in some classic deck games.

Fitness and Recreation

Carnival Triumph has four pools, each with its own personality and purpose. The children's wading pool on Deck 12 near Children's World is often in use by the campers of Camp Carnival. Kids will also love the pool on Panorama Deck 10 -- the highlight is the 214-foot-long twisting and turning water slide. If you're looking for a party scene, head straight to the Continent Pool (Lido Deck 9, midship) where there is often live music and deck chairs are arranged on levels that resemble stadium seating. For something equally as fun but a little more low-key, the New World Pool is a great alternative and it even has a retractable roof for the less than perfect days at sea. There are also seven whirlpools around the ship, and with the exception of the two located in the gym, are fun and very lively day and night.

Triumph also features the Seaside Theatre, an outdoor jumbo-tron located poolside. Similar to sister line Princess' Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.) concept, passengers can enjoy concerts, news and sporting events during the day, and movies at night.

The gym is really quite outstanding -- there are at least one dozen treadmills and enough other cardio machines and weights to rival any hometown gym. One thing your local gym probably doesn't have though is the floor to ceiling windows so you can look at the beautiful ocean while you work off your buffet butt. There is also a selection of classes offered -- the trendiest and most popular (Pilates, yoga and spinning) are $10 per person. Even with the surcharge, some classes can be much too crowded. In addition to the gym, there is a jogging track on Deck 12 if you prefer your workouts in the fresh air.

Take care when booking an appointment at SpaCarnival. On land, industry standard for a one-hour massage ($110 at SpaCarnival, although you can save money by booking in port) is about 50 minutes. At SpaCarnival, the whole experience -- from check-in to changing clothes to a consultation and filling out forms to then changing back into your clothes at the end -- can be less than one hour total. This alone would is problematic enough, but add to it a room directly underneath one of the Camp Carnival play areas so it constantly sounds as if the ceiling is about to come crashing down, it's not exactly relaxing. Less than polite response to complaints and such inconveniences as running out of robes add to the disappointment of the spa experience.

However, Spa Carnival does have a kid's spa called Generation Y, which has received rave reviews from passengers. The treatments are similar to the standards but with a fun twist -- for example, the fabulous fruity or acne attack facials. Massages are shortened to 25 minutes for the kids and there are even parent-child treatments for a little side-by-side quality time.

Family

Besides the family spa options mentioned above, there is ample opportunity for kids and parents to spend as much or as little time together as they want. Children's World is the centerpiece of the onboard experience -- a 1,300-square-foot play area with arts and crafts, sand art, educational computer games, and plenty of tumbling room. The super-friendly and cheerful staff members are certainly busy, but rest assured there is plenty of supervision. Camp Carnival is divided into four groups by age with age-appropriate activities for all from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. If you're looking to have some adult fun late into the evening, Camp Carnival also provides babysitting services from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. for a fee of $6.75 per hour. One thing that makes Carnival stand out is that they do not require your child to be potty trained to participate.

In the daily Carnival Capers newsletter, there are many opportunities for kids to have fun onboard. Talent shows, slumber parties, scavenger hunts, towel-animal folding, temporary tattoos and dance-offs for teens are all part of the daily fun. And despite the questionable location of the arcade, Underground Tokyo, it is usually packed with teens and pre-teens day and night having a great time.

Though most kids will be thrilled with the 24-hour free ice cream and juice available, you can also purchase a "Bottomless Bubbles" card for $4.50 per day that gives passengers under 21 unlimited soft drinks. Depending on how much soda your child drinks, or is allowed to drink, you can check out this option and see if it works for your family. Adults can also purchase a card for $6 per day.

Fellow Passengers

Carnival attracts such a variety of people; it is hard to pinpoint exactly what you should expect. So, what you should expect is a lot of diversity in age, ethnic background and personalities. It's not uncommon to spy several large family groups onboard identified by their matching T-shirts celebrating everything from birthdays and anniversaries to reunions. There may also be a number of disabled passengers on any particular sailing, perhaps a testament to Carnival's ability to accommodate people regardless of physical limitations.

Dress Code

On the one formal night held per cruise (Carnival calls it "Cruise Elegant"), passengers wear everything from tuxedos and evening gowns to sport coats and cocktail dresses. If the men in your party pack a dark suit and the women a long dress or pantsuit, everyone will be comfortable. The rest of the time, the dress is casual -- mostly shorts, jeans and bathing suits.

Gratuity

Carnival automatically adds $11.50 per person, per day to shipboard accounts. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.

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