2.5

Carnival Cruise Line

Review Summary

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Pros

  • Three saltwater pools, four whirlpools, and a waterslide
  • Lively main pool area with two bars, live music, and nightly movies
  • Nearly all restaurants on board are included in rates
  • Delicious seafood shack and add-on steak options at dinner (fees)
  • Spacious (if dated) cabins with Direct TV 
  • Piano bar, sports bar, and martini bar, among other drinks venues
  • Popular casino with table games and slots (smoking allowed)
  • Sports area with basketball hoop, mini-golf, ping pong, and cornhole
  • Nonstop activities, from trivia and karaoke to comedy and seminars
  • Cloud 9 Spa with several treatments, salon, and huge gym
  • Free kids’ club and teens’ club, plus (for a fee) Dr. Seuss breakfasts
  • Free 24-hour room service (fee for extra menu options)

Cons

  • Older ship with signs of wear and tear, and dated decor
  • Lots of kids and no adult-only areas (pro for some)
  • Room service has below-par food and a limited menu
  • Very few for-fee specialty food options
  • Lido deck gets congested with lines during breakfast and lunch
  • Noisy hallways and sound between rooms
  • No Thalassotherapy pool in the spa

Bottom Line

First launched in 1999, the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph ran into some widely publicized trouble in 2013 thanks to an engine fire. The ship emerged after a short dry dock still looking dated and tired, and hanging on firmly as one of Carnival’s middle-of-the-line ships. The Triumph is still popular among large groups and first-time cruises looking for a short itinerary and affordable prices. However, serious and longtime cruisers may find fault in the service level, shortage of specialty restaurants, dated (though larger-than-average) staterooms, and repetitive entertainment options. Typical Carnival features like kids’ clubs and waterslides, a smoky casino, popular comedy club, and several included restaurants are on board, though there’s no Thalassotherapy pool at the spa, and the saltwater pools and whirlpools are often overrun with kids. Be prepared for a boisterous ship full of long lunch lines, friendly smiles, and well-behaved, active drinkers. 

What's Included (and What's Not)

A standout point for Triumph is that nearly all food is included. Passengers can grab food off the line at the Country Kitchen buffet, BlueIguana Cantina, Guy’s Burger Joint, and Chopsticks, plus order off the menu in the two main dining rooms. There’s also 24-hour access to free ice cream and pizza on the pool deck and a limited room service menu consisting of mostly sandwiches (an advantage over Norwegian ships, where room service typically incurs an extra fee). Included beverages encompass unlimited, self-serve tap water, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and Nestle iced tea and lemonade. Children’s programs (for ages 2 to 17), pool areas, the waterslide, and use of the fitness area (including the steam room and sauna) are also included. As on all Carnival ships, the nightly entertainment, from comedy shows and karaoke, to live theater productions and Dive-In movies, are also covered. 

However, unlike other Carnival ships, you won’t find many extra-fee dining options on the Triumph. The Chefs’ Table experience, Seafood Shack, optional steak and lobster upgrades on the main dining menus, and select room service items cost extra, as do drinks from the Coffee Bar and items at the Vienna Cafe

Alcohol, spa treatments, land excursions, and laundry are extra, as is internet access.

Triumph’s Wi-Fi plans are slightly cheaper than on other ships. We bought the mid-range value plan for $12 a day and found the internet reliable and faster than expected, though nonexistent in our stateroom. All plans are good for one device at a time, but you can log in and out of devices as needed. Premium (the fastest) plans are available for around $25 a day, and you get discounts if you buy any plan for the duration of the cruise. You can download and use Carnival’s HUB app for free to stay up to date on ship events and alerts. 

All drinks that fall outside of those listed above cost extra, including the bottled water in your stateroom ($3.75, first bottle free for returning cruisers). Carnival offers a Cheers! beverage package that enables passengers to drink up to 15 alcoholic or soft drinks per day (in a 24-hour period, the clock resets at 6 a.m.) for $54.95 per person, per day ($49.99 advance purchase). The catch is that everyone 21 and above staying in the same stateroom must also purchase the package in order to prevent sharing. This works out to roughly five cocktails per day to break even. Wine lovers have their own options with Triumph’s tiered wine packages, which include different numbers of bottles and varietals. Any bottles purchased in the main dining room can be corked and saved for later meals. For a non-alcoholic upgrade, there’s the Bottomless Bubbles package that covers unlimited soda and juice for $7.50 per adult and/or $4.95 per child, per day. The main dining rooms sometimes offer free milk to kids at dinnertime. 

Passengers are allowed to board the ship on embarkation day with up to 750 milliliters of unopened Champagne or wine in their carry-on luggage (no hard alcohol or beer permitted) and up to 12 cans of soda, juice, water, or other non-alcoholic beverage (no bottles). 

Gratuities are $12.95 per person, per day, per cabin ($13.95 for suites), and this is divided up between the housekeeping staff, the dining staff, and other service professionals on board. (Note that per-person gratuities apply to children, too, unless they are under the age of 2.) Additionally, 15 percent is automatically added to onboard drink purchases and beverage packages. If you want to adjust your gratuities upward or downward, you simply need to go to the Guest Services desk while on board and make the request. 

Note that Carnival may update its prices or policies at any time, so it’s a good idea to confirm extra fees before your sailing.

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Oyster Ship Review

Scene

3.0

Heavy on large groups and a favorite among first-time cruisers, fun is the main objective on this tired ship.

Interiors of this tired ship show their age somewhat, such as the World Hall Aft Atrium, which could stand some updates

Carnival Triumph is an old ship not shy of showing her age. While first-time cruisers may be willing to overlook her many blemishes (especially children overwhelmed by the numerous kids' activities, pools, and waterslides), cruise veterans often come out disappointed. The scuffed furniture, chipped metal decor, dated color palettes, and rusted exterior railings are echoed by a general vibe of resignation in the air, as if the ship and her crew are simply waiting for her to be permanently docked in retirement. 

Luckily, most cruisers on this ship aren’t looking for luxury. They want something affordable, quick, and convenient -- and for these passengers the Triumph delivers. The cruise’s price, departure port location, and Carnival’s famous family-friendly features were big draws for the people we spoke to on the cruise, while the repetitive nightly entertainment and high number of large groups were disappointing for others. In fact, this ship skews so heavily toward big groups (spotted by their matching shirts), that even a family of four we met said they felt like outsiders.

Whereas some Carnival ships (like the Breeze) tend to represent a good cross section of America, the Triumph is mostly full of Southerners who live within easy distance from New Orleans. Overall, the ship has a casual, kid-friendly environment, and on our sailing there wasn't an issue with heavy partying or drunken debauchery. The adult age range is wide, casting a net that stretches from late 20s to late 60s (with most passengers being between 30 and 40 years old). Kids tend to fall somewhere between 9 and 14 years old. 

Frozen drinks find their way into thirsty hands while passengers wait for their cabin assignments, and kids cram themselves into all available pools and hot tubs before the ship sets sail. There’s no adult-only pool, and many passengers tended to avoid both the pools and hot tubs on our cruise since they were always occupied by groups of kids. There are plenty of daily and nightly activities planned out -- live comedy and music, dancing, karaoke, games, and shows among them -- but we talked to several people who felt the activities lacked variety and were bored by the last day of the cruise. By demand or default, drinking is the main event on Triumph. Gambling at the casino is also high on the list. 

The smaller size and straightforward layout of the ship make it easy to learn how to navigate the 13 decks, even for kids. Major decks include the Lido Deck (Deck 9), where you’ll find pool areas at either end of the ship, three outdoor bars, all the casual food options, and a few staterooms; and the Promenade Deck (Deck 5), the main hub for bars and entertainment venues, including the casino. 

Triumph has a glamorous around-the-world theme brought to life via stage shows and tired and sometimes gaudy decor matching venue names like The Big Easy (oyster shells and piano keys abound), Hollywood Nightclub (adorned with Walk of Fame stars), and Oxford Bar (library themed). 

The dress code for the dining rooms is meant to be casual but nice, with no swimsuits, T-shirts, shorts, or gym wear allowed, and most folks on our sailing followed complied, though the Triumph does tend to be more casual than other ships. Instead of the formal night found on some ships, the Triumph has "Cruise Elegant" evenings where passengers don dresses, collared shirts, and pants, though the rules (no jeans or shorts) are not strictly enforced. 

In 2013, the Triumph was dry docked for four months as it underwent repairs for an engine fire that left cruises stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without power for several days. After repairs and minor venue name changes (previous names are still somewhat visible in old signage on board), she is now considered the leader in the two-boat Triumph class of ships.

The only other Carnival ship that sails from New Orleans is the Dream, head of the Dream class, which hosts longer sailings to Mexico and the Caribbean lasting six to eight days. Much larger than the Triumph, the Dream -- launched in 2009 -- is Carnival’s third-largest ship, holds nearly 1,000 more passengers, and was updated during a quick dry dock in early 2017. Many of the same amenities and activities can be found on the Dream, plus welcomed extras that set it above the Triumph, like Bonsai sushi, a dedicated steak restaurant, a Guy Fieri barbecue spot, and an adult-only area, Thalassotherapy pool, cooler water park slide, and a few additional onboard activities. 

Cabins

3.0

Larger than usual Interior cabins, but with overall dated decor and visible wear and tear

The Ocean View Cabin could stand some upgrades: decor is reminiscent of the late ‘90s, and some wear and tear is visible

The Triumph’s cabins look dated thanks to salmon tones, gold metal accents, and dim, warm lighting -- a decor that feels like it predates even its late '90s launch. Our room had obvious wear and tear, while other cruisers we talked to saw peeling wallpaper, deep scratches on the walls, and had problems with plumbing. 

Telephones are also old, but, thankfully, small flat-screen TVs were installed in 2016. There are around 10 channels of Direct TV and a handful of cruise-specific channels that run on a loop. Built-in cabinets have plenty of room to store clothes, as do drawers near the desk. There are no minibars or coffeemakers in rooms, but water bottles (for a fee) are replenished when the room is serviced (passengers choose their preferred time of day for service), and you can order coffee and tea for free from room service. 

Bathrooms are roomier than expected in Interior cabins, and showers are a bit grimy (read: bring shower shoes), and feature pumps of very low quality shower gel and shampoo and wall-mounted tube hairdryers. The water level of our toilet was constantly changing, though the shower pressure and heat were never a problem. Towels are small and scratchy, and you can request bathrobes from your steward free of charge (as well as extra pillows and towels). 

Staterooms on the Triumph start out at a more spacious than average 185 square feet (140 square feet is typical on other ships), and come with little to no seating outside of the bed(s). Entry-level cabins start at the Interior category and move up to Ocean View, Balcony, Junior Suite, and Suite options. 

You can fit up to five in a basic Interior cabin thanks to pull-down bunks, but it would be uncomfortably cramped; connecting rooms are much more livable. A few of the Ocean View cabins have 220 square feet, while some of the Balcony cabins stop at 195 square feet. Though the actual room size of a Junior Suite is larger, balconies off the Balcony cabins can reach up to 75 square feet, nearly twice as large as the 35-square-foot extensions of the Junior Suite. Grand Suites not only get you the largest rooms and the largest balconies, they also snag extra perks like priority check-in and disembarkation, and a shower/tub combo. Some Suites have whirlpool tubs and some balconies are cove-style, giving passengers added privacy.

The lowest level rooms are noisy -- and even vibrate nonstop at times in the night -- so light sleepers may want to request a room on a higher deck. Also, note that the air-conditioning is controlled externally and it can get quite chilly or muggy, depending. 

Food

3.0

Average food options and variety, plus a fantastic seafood specialty option (for a fee)

Popular onboard dining options include BlueIguana Cantina, which serves a burrito and taco bar for breakfast and lunch

Most food options on the Triumph are included in your cruise package, although they are all pretty average with the exception of some of the dishes in the main dining room and the for-fee Seafood Shack on the back side of the Lido Deck. Guy’s Burger Joint from Guy Fieri, where you can build your own burger, and BlueIguana Cantina’s breakfast and lunch burrito and taco bar (with a massive hot sauce bar) are very popular lunch picks and tend to be open longer than other options (and have epically long lines), especially on port day. On either side of the main buffet area are a few more dining stations: Country Kitchen, which serves up slightly above-mediocre comfort foods like roast turkey, salads, and pastas; Carnival Deli with grab-and-go sandwiches; and Chopsticks, an Asian noodle station. The ship’s only 24-hour restaurant, Pizza Pirate, is located opposite the New World Bar in the back of the ship.  

The main dining rooms are located on Decks 3 and 4 and serve three-course meals each night, which most cruisers take advantage of. Each menu includes set favorites as well as a different dishes from the night’s international theme (American, French, Mexican) that include well-known international options and “daring” dishes to try, like escargot. These menus also offer choice cuts of meat, like steak and pork chops, for a fee (though there is no dedicated specialty steakhouse, found on many other Carnival ships). There are two set dinner seatings, 6:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. We opted for the Your Time Dining, which allows passengers to dine anytime between 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.. We were always seated in the lower London dining room. Waits for YTD can vary depending on capacity and party size, but are usually less than 20 minutes. If you are cruising solo, you will usually be seated solo. 

The Paris dining room also serves a sit-down breakfast each morning from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and both dining rooms serve the highly anticipated Sea Day Brunch. On this special morning, guests can order fancier breakfast items like French toast, eggs Benedict, and even build-your-own Bloody Marys. There is also a Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham breakfast for children (for a small fee). During the last day at sea, the Country Kitchen buffet is transformed into a Chocolate Extravaganza and stocked with several chocolate-containing desserts, but the affair is short. 

Long lines on the Lido Deck are common and practically unavoidable during lunch service, while Pizza Pirate catches the late-night crowd. Swirl, the 24-hour frozen yogurt and ice cream station near the Seafood Shack, is also popular, though there are hardly ever lines. The crew members are surprisingly quick at clearing tables, but be prepared to share tables during peak times. Other spots to grab food include the pop-up evening tasting at Taste Table by the Club Monaco Casino Bar, where you can grab free tapas-style bites from a cart, and the Vienna Cafe, where you can snag gelato, cakes, chocolate covered strawberries, and other desserts. Room service is available 24/7 with many basic items for free, though some items such as wings cost extra. There’s also a Chef’s Table experience (for a fee) that gives guests a glimpse behind the kitchen doors and a taste of five courses specially prepared by the ship’s Executive Chef. 

Some vegetarian items are marked at the buffet and on the main dining room menus, but overall, it’s a guessing game. Having certain dietary restrictions is both a blessing and a curse on Triumph. The ship is able to cater for restrictions, like dairy, vegan, and gluten-free fairly well in the main dining room (our gluten-free writer did not get sick on board), but it comes at the cost of needing to order your food a night in advance. The casual restaurants and the buffet are trickier as no one seemed to know what was in what, and even the chef seemed to OK a few suspect dishes. Pizza Pirate has gluten-free crust and bakes these pizzas in separate ovens.

Drinks

4.0

Drinking is primary pastime, and many bars have cocktails at the ready.

The Big Easy Piano Bar serves drinks in a piano lounge space with live sing-alongs

As on most Carnival ships, there is no shortage of spots to grab a drink on the Triumph. Depending where you order, you can grab frozen drinks, personalized martinis, and even micheladas. During the day, unsurprisingly, the most popular bars are the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, both nestled on either side of the main pool. Bartenders were quick to serve drinks, making long waits a non-issue. Waiters also serve the pool loungers, so there’s no need to go to the bar. At night, popular spots include the craft cocktail-style Alchemy Bar, which has a more upscale and lounge-y vibe; the Club Monaco Casino Bar when the “dancing through the decades” live band performs; and late nights at the Hollywood Nightclub with DJIceCold. 

There are also live performances at Venezia Bar, stand-up comedy at Club Rio, nightly karaoke at Oxford Lounge, and the Big Easy Piano Bar, a sing-along spot that was frequently closed. The Sky Sports Bar by the casino is the best place for a typical beer-bar vibe, and it has several large screens tuned into the current games on ESPN, as well as a large ticker for sports scores. Apart from this, the Triumph doesn’t have much of a beer scene, but most folks don’t seem to mind. The World’s Bar is at the back of the ship serving the second pool area, and is usually pretty quiet and slow. 

If you’re looking for non-alcoholic drinks, the Vienna Cafe serves milkshakes and coffee drinks, and the Coffee Bar inside the Comfort Kitchen buffet can make lattes. Drink specials are offered each day at the pool bars and at all bars on the first day.

All beverages apart from water, iced tea, lemonade, standard hot coffee and tea, and occasionally milk, are an additional fee. Passengers looking to regularly indulge in drinks outside of these should consider a beverage package. See the What's Included (And What's Not) section for more info.

Lots of options -- from seminars and karaoke to comedy shows and theater -- though it can get stale.

Various live performances take place onboard, though they can get stale with time

One look at the FunTimes newsletter, and it’s obvious that there are a plethora of things to do every hour while you are on board the Triumph. The problem is, as we and several other cruisers we spoke to found out, they tend to stay the same for the entire duration of the cruise. By the end of the cruise several folks were bored with the entertainment and counting down the time until we docked. 

The first day of the cruise, planned activities mostly center around getting to know your ship and the products and services available onboard. The spa hosts a tour and raffle, the gym tests your posture, many of the shops have big sales, there are meet and greets, and ship venues hold different informational seminars. (Just in case you miss something, it’s good to know that seminars and ship game shows are taped and re-aired on your cabin TV’s cruise channels.) Guests are also introduced to the ship’s nightly karaoke, comedy (from one of the two sailing comedians), and bingo games. 

Triumph’s typical daytime activities include group-led exercise classes (for a fee), two games of Bingo in the Rome Lounge, a variety of seminars, trivia games, interactive board game competitions for prizes, and casino tournaments. Art auctions, Fun Shop giveaways and specials, and various sports challenges, like the Free Throw Challenge and Bocce Ball Tournament take place each day, while favorites like the Very Hairy Chest Competition, Dr. Seuss Character Parade, and (for a fee) the Build-A-Bear party, are one time only deals. Overall, there is greater variety in the daytime activities than the nighttime entertainment. Many activities are geared toward encouraging passengers to spend more money on services and products. 

In the evening, guests can take their pick of live music venues, standup comedy at the Punchliner Comedy Club in Club Rio Lounge, table games and slots at the Casino, karaoke at the Oxford Lounge, Bingo in the Rome Lounge, or dancing to pop songs in the Hollywood Nightclub. There are also mediocre Vegas-style shows three of the five nights in the Rome Lounge, though they tend to be sparsely attended. 

While there are several things happening each night, the performers, songs, and schedules stay the same throughout the whole cruise, creating a feeling of repetition. Still, musicians and DJs tend to stick to songs that the general public can dance and sing to, the comedy club was packed throughout the cruise (fair warning: the 18-and-older shows can get pretty crude; there are also PG-rated shows for families), and the repetitive schedule allows people to be flexible with their nightly schedules without missing out on something. Every night there are two family-friendly movies projected on a screen above the main pool, plus free popcorn. 

A crowded Beach Pool, a fun Waterworks area, and the quieter Tides Pool

The main pool stays packed with kids and other guests, which may make some travelers grumpy

The Carnival Triumph has three pools; all small, all saltwater, and all usually taken over by kids -- the same goes for its four whirlpools. For such a kid-heavy ship, the lack of any adult-only space can leave some passengers grumpy. However, while the Sun Pool in the main area is the most popular, the ship’s second, quieter New World Pool and two hot tubs will sometimes be nearly empty or at least kid-free. Both pools are on the Lido Deck (Deck 9). 

The Lido Deck is popping during sea days thanks to the Sun Pool, and busy RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar. It's also crowded up one flight of stairs on Deck 10, where the Twister waterslide finishes its descent right next to the small Universe Pool. The ship’s kids’ clubs are located on the upper decks (Deck 13 and Deck 14) of the main pool area, along with a basketball hoop, mini-golf course, bocce court, cornhole set up, and entrance to the waterslide (children must be 42 inches tall). Blue mesh loungers are lined up, side by side in rows along decks 9, 10, and 11, as well as along the perimeter of the Panorama Deck (Deck 10), facing out to sea. 

Regardless of how packed it is, the pool area manages to stay friendly and fun, no matter what time of day or night. 

Big spa with worn rooms, impressive gym, and steam room -- but no Thalassotherapy pool

The impressive fitness center includes tons of contemporary cardio and weight machines, as well as free weights and space for yoga and Pilates

Carnival Triumph’s spa is big, but basic. Located on Deck 11, it has fantastic views from the top of the ship. Passengers can take their pick of medi-spa treatments like acupuncture and Botox, treatments that reduce cellulite, massages, facials and beauty treatments using Elemis products, and even ZSPA treatments for teens, ages 12 to 17. There are also daily spa specials in the FunTimes brochure. The salon is large and central with an upscale vibe, and features haircuts, color, styling, and nail treatments like pedicures. The actual spa treatment rooms are small, slightly chilly, and, like the rest of the ship, have visible wear and tear. Therapists go through their obligatory upsell speeches that are easy enough to turn down. Changing rooms are also a bit worn. 

Unlike several updated and newer Carnival ships, the Triumph does not have a Thalassotherapy pool, but there’s a huge 20-person steam room and equally large dry sauna. (By comparison, Carnival Dream has both a Thalassotherapy pool and a Serenity Adults-Only Retreat.) Triumph passengers don’t need a spa appointment to use the steam room, sauna, or gym. The gym is surprisingly impressive and modern with tons of contemporary cardio and weight machines, plus free weights, mats, and exercise balls. Group classes, like yoga and Pilates, and personal training are available but cost extra. The gym is definitely the most well-kept and up-to-date area on the ship, probably because it doesn’t see much traffic. 

Family

4.0

Mostly empty kids’ clubs, plus late-night babysitting services and family-friendly entertainment

The Underground Tokyo Arcade, located in a rough cemented “cave” corner provides arcade and claw games to entertain kids

Like most of the Carnival line, Triumph is popular for its family-friendly features that span from different kids’ clubs, to kid-specific activities, to family-friendly entertainment. However, the kids’ clubs, and more so even the teens' club, seemed fairly empty for the number of children on the ship. While Camp Ocean's younger kids could be spotted inside the Hollywood Nightclub having fun with planned activities like games and crafts, most days, kids over 8 years old seemed to be creating their own friendships and activities in the main pool area. We spoke to a 12-year-old girl who said that the organized activities in Circle “C” were heavily geared toward boys and primarily consisted of playing video games. The 24-hour Tokyo Arcade on the Promenade Deck is full of interactive arcade and claw games with high stakes prizes like gaming systems, but is set in a rough cemented “cave” corner. 

Camp Ocean is for ages 2 to 11, with further age division groups from 2 to 5, 6 to 8, and 9 to 11. Pre-teens have a supervised area called Circle “C,” and teenagers can participate in the nightclub-like Club O2. Older kids can come and go as they please, but kids ages 2 to 11 have to be signed in and out. There’s also a late-night, group babysitting program (for a fee) that runs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., for kids ages 6 months to 11 years. Staff will change diapers (not always the case on other ships). 

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