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Carnival’s Triumph is big on fun, relaxed attitude

By Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein
Published: Nov/Dec 2000

People who like people are going to love Carnival Cruise Lines’ sleek Triumph. The ship, introduced last year, accommodates more than 2,700 passengers representing all ages, races and nationalities. They have, however, one thing in common–they’re lost.

Newly boarded passengers wandered around with glassy eyes concentrating on indispensable, pocket-size maps trying to find their way to wherever.

Carnival built a deluxe ship for affordable cruising (about $100 on average, per day) while keeping the relaxed "Fun Ship" attitude. Come uncover all the treasures that wait. Just don’t lose the map.

Worldly pleasures in public rooms

In building a worldly ship, it made sense for architect Joe Farcus to use the world for a theme.

“The world was my palette, so to speak,” Farcus said. “I tried to select cities which best typified the function of the namesake space, and I believe the result is a world tour of sorts for the Carnival Triumph’s many guests.”

Begin a world tour at The Capitol, a nine-story atrium featuring a lobby bar with a bandstand. A suspended gold-leaf globe sculpture is bathed in sunlight that’s filtered through a glass skydome. It’s a perfect entrance to Carnival’s world.

Eighteen bars and lounges, mostly located on Promenade Deck, continue the worldly theme. Instead of Carnaval in Rio, do Club Rio on Carnival and experience that festival atmosphere. Wander into Venezia, designed to resemble an Italian piazza. It’s like being in St. Mark’s Square for music and libations without the pesky pigeons. Feeling British? Quaff an ale in the Oxford Bar. Gamble the night away at the Club Monaco Casino.

Find American-style entertainment at the Hollywood Dance Club, the California Wine Bar and The Big Easy Bar, where guests enjoy New Orleans’ jazz and oysters. Pick the Olympic Bar to enjoy game memorabilia amidst marble columns.

The glory that is the Rome Lounge

Las Vegas meets the splendor of the Roman Empire in the three-deck-high Rome Lounge for fast-paced productions. Various shows entertained the most sophisticated audiences.

But Carnival’s real triumph was cruise director John Heald. This one-time British broker owns the gift of laughter. Throughout the week, Heald joked with an affable passenger named Bubba, making him the cruise celebrity. For his efforts, Bubba and his wife received lavish gifts from the ship and 15 minutes of fame.

Hotel manager Stefan Christoffersson said Heald doesn’t prescreen subjects. "He just seems to know who to pick out of the crowd. He’s been elected outstanding cruise director in the industry many times," Christoffersson said.

Dine in London or Paris

The world theme made its way into the two main dining areas. Depending on table assignment, passengers enjoyed gourmet meals in the London or Paris dining room. Both two-level spaces felt intimate. Art nouveau décor under glowing Venetian glass chandeliers set the stage for elegant dining. First-class touches and skilled servers accented the presentation of wonderful meals.

For special dietary concerns, selections included healthy Nautica Spa Fare, vegetarian dishes and children’s menus.

Passengers too exhausted from touring or watersports could visit the Florida-casual South Beach Club on Lido Deck. A portion of the area, the Seaview Bistro, served nightly buffet choices that included steaks, grilled salmon, pastas and more. Informal buffet breakfasts and lunches also were served there.

Order pastrami sandwiches for lunch at the New York Deli or made-to-order stir-fry dishes at Hong Kong Noodle Factory. Munch hot dogs and hamburgers at The Grille.

Cabin comforts

Sometimes, I think people who design hotel rooms and staterooms have never stayed in one. Triumph’s cabins were obviously designed by people who cruise.

“Our staterooms are larger than most other cruise lines,” Chrisstoffersson said. “Very well-proportioned. More like a nice hotel room. A suite look. When you’re in the cabin you don’t have to sit on the bed. You have a sofa and side chair.”

Stewards turn down beds, placing mints on pillows and whimsical towel animals on the beds. The ship newsletter is left in the room to inform passengers of the coming day’s events and tours.

Do everything or nothing

Nautica Spa activities began the morning with a mile walk around the jogging track and continued with aerobics and toning classes. Passengers pampered themselves with facials and massages.

Golfers practiced their swings with the pro in a netted driving range. The pro booked golf excursions to upscale courses in every port.

Other onboard activities included dance lessons, cards, games, concerts, art auctions and lectures. Shoppers scoured the mini-mall on Promenade Deck. Each day brought a new array of shopping bargains.

Children got together at Camp Carnival, the line’s youth program. Most activities took place at Children’s World, an enclosed 1,300-square-foot play area. Arts and crafts and computer games kept them engrossed. The outdoor play area and children’s pool also were popular with youngsters. A new nighttime turn-down service gives children chocolate-chip cookies and poems on their pillows.

There is also onboard baby-sitting and programs for teens. Carnival expects to serve a record 250,000 children in 2000.

Exciting ports

Triumph alternates eastern and western Caribbean itineraries every Saturday from Miami. We took the western voyage, which sailed to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios.

Passengers who selected the featured tour of the cruise, “Mayan Ruins of Tulum,” departed by tender to Playa del Carmen and were whisked by coach down the spectacular coast to the walled city of Tulum. The centuries-old city, one of the most important Mayan Ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, consists of nearly 60 structures located on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

In Heald’s passenger briefing about Cozumel, he mentioned fabulous jewelry buys, and warned against drinking local water (including ice cubes) and margaritas.

“Their margaritas are the size of gold fish tanks and made with 158 proof tequila. Half of your face will go numb,” he said.

Grand Grand Cayman

Most passengers we talked to agreed that quaint, prosperous Grand Cayman was the favorite port.

Heald advised not to book a tour to go to the beach. “Get into a taxi for $4 per person. Ask them to take you to Seven Mile Beach,” he said. For snorkelers, he suggested renting equipment and snorkeling free-of-charge at Eden Roc, which is within walking distance of where the ship’s tender docked.

The most exciting tour included the opportunity to swim with stingrays, visit a turtle farm and stop at the city of Hell to send postcards. The stingrays suck food right out of the swimmers’ hands. Michigan residents David Van Dyne and his wife, Lisa loved the experience.

We submerged 80 feet below the water’s surface in an Atlantis Submarine to watch divers swim with exotic sea creatures in a spectacular underwater landscape of coral formations. After enjoying conch chowder and spicy jerk chicken at the beachfront Paradise Café, we headed to Richard’s Gallery for exquisite, signed pieces of black coral jewelry.

Ocho Rios

The most adventurous tours took passengers by party boat, bicycle or jeep to Dunn’s River Falls where cool mountain waters plunged 600 feet before streaming under the roadway to mingle with the turquoise Caribbean. Participants climbed the falls or swam in the swirling oceanside eddies.

Other activities included shopping. Bargain hunters save as much as 60 percent on watches. The Taj Mahal Shopping Center was an easy walk from where we docked. Lively craft markets added a native touch.

Everything about their first cruise pleased the Van Dynes.

“We felt like we could always find something to do at our own pace aboard the ship,” David Van Dyne said, adding the value of a cruise is surprising.

Triumph gives you a floating world teeming with fun, adventure and throngs of happy people.

Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

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