The Setup – Although veterans of many cruises, we had never had the “Drive Port” experience. Just throwing everything but the dog into the SUV – bypassing the hassle and บาคาร่า inconvenience of airports, airlines and transfers – seemed like a good idea. From Memphis the logical choice was Carnival’s Triumph sailing to the Eastern Caribbean out of New Orleans. (7 days-July 24 to 31)
Embarkation – Docs we printed out online indicated boarding was from 12:30p to 2:30p with ship sailing at 4:00pm. So, we got in line for pier-side unloading and parking at 12:20p. Once parked and out of the SUV we stood in line for about 45 minutes – outdoors – in 95 degree mid-summer New Orleans heat and humidity. (What logistical genius arranged for that little bit of torture?) From parking to boarding the ship took a total of 80 minutes – during which long lines with many switch backs were the norm.
We were told at the parking/unloading point that, yes, we could schlep our own bags aboard if so inclined. But, just before entering the blessedly air conditioned terminal building, we were singled out from the herd by Colonel Klink and told that three of our bags were oversized and must be checked. He pointed to a little airline type “carry-on-bags-must-fit-in-here-or-we-stab-your-mother” warning sign with size testing receptacle, the volume of which was just big enough to hold a medium sized lunch box. I’m thinking, “they have overhead bins on cruise ships now? So why wasn’t that sign positioned back at the unloading point?”
Accommodations – Once on board we were directed to our ocean view cabins on Deck One. The cabins were very spacious and quite comfortable – larger than on most ships – something for which Carnival is noted. Our decision not to splurge on balcony cabins was justified. Overall ambiance of the ship seemed spacious.
Our room steward was Jorge from Peru – a very gracious man who seemed eager to please – as did most of the staff.
Waiting in our cabins were bon voyage gifts from the Hotel Manager and our local Business Development Manager, fruit baskets, wine, etc. They were greatly appreciated and quickly consumed.
Departure – Noticing at 5pm that the gangway had been retracted but we had not yet sailed, an announcement by the captain explained that due to weather – tropical depression Bonnie – and heavy traffic at the river’s mouth, sailing would be delayed until 3am Sunday morning. But, we were reassured that the ship would still reach ports on time. And it did.
Dining – Even though we had officially requested a large table for eight or more, we were seated in a booth for four. The booth was comfortable and cozy, but this was still a disappointment for us – we cruise to meet people. The maitre ‘d was apologetic and said he’d try to remedy the situation, but did not. Understandably, most people want tables reserved for just their group of family and friends, especially during the summer months when traveling with kids. My theory? They probably originally had us booked for a large table… then they saw me tripping and stumbling my way up the gangway sporting a lime green Vampires Suck! tank top with “Bite Me” tattooed over my jugular. I’m sure they decided then and there that it was best to isolate us from the other diners.
The food ranged from average to very, very good. The biggest improvement to Carnival’s food service is in the presentation. Main dining room offerings were stylish and gourmet in appearance. However, in actual taste most dishes were about a half star short of deserving of that sobriquet. Some exceptions: the Chilled Avocado Soup, Mongolian Steak Salad, New Zealand Lamb Chops and the Chocolate Souffle were to die for.
Fish dishes, while well spiced and elegantly presented, were consistently served dry and overcooked. Thinking that it might be due to only frozen supplies being available rather than fresh, I embarked on a test. When the security guard at the Atlantis Aquarium was looking the other way I scooped up a rare Triggerfish… smuggled it back in my camera case… gave it to ship’s chef fifteen minutes before dinner. Yep, served dry and overcooked.
Just when I was about to give up on the Over-Cooked Fish issue, a ray of hope appeared. There on deck five… just around the corner from the casino… the Sushi Cart! But even here the delicacies are tweaked for southern tastes. The Chicken Fried Tuna’Cado Rolls were fabulous!