by Henry Audet
May 19, 2002
Last year my wife and I decided we wanted to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary by taking a cruise as we had done on our 20th anniversary. On that cruise we met 2 other couples, from Texas, who became our very good friends. As they had helped us celebrate on our previous cruise we asked them if they would like to accompany us and help celebrate our anniversary once again, they jumped at the chance. Two other friends of ours, a husband and his wife from Canada, who had never cruised before asked if they could join us also as they had heard about the wonderful time we had on our previous cruises and we of course said "Yes".
We had previously been on Caribbean cruises and visited several of the islands plus vacationed at some "all inclusives" on other islands so we searched the internet/brochures to see what itineraries the cruise lines had to offer. The Destiny offered several ports of call which we had never visited such as Barbados. Martinique and Aruba, so we decided to go on the Destiny.
On Sunday May 19th my wife and I, along with the couple from Canada, flew from Toronto via Philadelphia to San Juan. Upon our arrival in San Juan we, along with other people on the flight, went to the first baggage carousel we came upon. There were no signs indicating which flight it was for or any Carnival representative to help us. The carpeting was water soaked and smelled of mildew. We just stood around waiting for our luggage along with the other people. After a period of time I overheard someone saying our bags were actually coming in at another carousel. Once we located the correct carousel we noticed several Carnival representatives. After retrieving our luggage we lined up with the other people who had been on our flight and were going on the cruise.
After standing in line for between 15 to 30 minutes, the representatives finally made their way to where we were standing in line and informed us we didn't belong in this line as we were Canadians and all we had to do was take our luggage outside and board the bus to the cruise terminal. At NO time were there any indications of any kind such as signs/announcements as to what "Non US Residents" should do.
Once at the terminal, we were directed twice into lines which were not meant for us. There were no signs to indicate where "Non US Residents" should go. It would seem Carnival Cruise Lines does not get many people on their cruises who are Canadians.
Once in our cabin I was pleased to see there was a safe for our valuables but it could not be locked so I called Information and they said someone would be there shortly to fix it. This gave us time to look around the cabin. The walls were dirty and dented, the bathroom sink was chipped and there were cracked tiles in the shower floor. After about half an hour one of the crew appeared and attempted to fix it with no success. I was told I would have to call Room Service in order to have someone else come to and try to fix it. We elected to do this later as we were expecting our friends from Texas to arrive and we wanted to do some exploring.
While reading the newsletter regarding our first port of call we noticed, in order to board the ship after going ashore, a photo id would be required along with our "Sail & Sign" card. Luckily my wife and I had brought along our drivers license. As it turned out, the photo id was never asked for.
Early the next day I wanted to book a scuba diving excursion in Aruba so I left my wife on the Lido deck and went to the Information Desk. After approximately 30 minutes of standing in line I was told I would have to go to the Excursion Desk on the other side of the lobby which I did. The gentleman seated there advised me it was closed and would be open between 7:00 and 9:00 PM but I could book excursions through the ship's "Fun Vision" system. As I didn't want to miss out on the excursion I went up to our cabin to reserve it. After numerous problems with the system such as no video, computer error messages, etc. I was able to book it on the 8th try.
Starting the 3rd evening, the Captain's Night, until the last night
of the cruise it was virtually impossible to use any of the staircases
in the "Flagship Hall" during the evening, due to ship's
photographers posing passengers on the stairways.
On the Wednesday morning while enroute from Barbados to Aruba, one of the islands we had never visited, the ship lost power at approximately 7:35 AM for approximately 7½ hours. During that time and as a matter of fact, other than the last night aboard ship, the Captain never made any announcements. On our previous cruises the Captain made at least 1 announcement per day even if it was only to give an update as to the ship's position. It was over an hour before the emergency lighting was activated. This did not bother us as we had an outside cabin on one of the upper decks but I'm sure the people with inside or lower cabins were not too happy about being "left in the dark".
As there wasn't much to do, we spent quite a bit of time out on one of the decks in the shade ( 3rd deck ). I had to use the washroom and rather than returning to my cabin, which would have required walking up 5 flights of non air-conditioned stairs I chose to use one of the public washrooms on the Lobby Deck only to find both the urinal and toilet overflowing which had covered most of the floor.
Once repairs had been completed and we were underway, the Cruise Director simply made an announcement our next port of call would be St. Lucia, an island which we had visited before. No explanation or apology was given as to the change in itinerary. I was informed by the Information Desk, after standing in line for over 30 minutes again, that my account would be credited for the previously booked scuba diving in Aruba but they had no information regarding what excursions would be available in St. Lucia.
As a gesture of "Good Will" everyone received a $50.00 credit to their shipboard account plus one of the bars would be free for an hour to compensate for the inconvenience. It was impossible to get close to the bar to obtain a free drink at the one bar where the free drinks were being offered. This was totally ridiculous.
Later in the evening we found out there a list of excursions available for St. Lucia. Everyone in the group decided to sign up for the snorkeling including myself as there was no scuba diving being offered. I was concerned about someone in our group missing out on this but was assured by the crewmember who was in charge of the forms that there would not be a problem. At the end of the evening when we returned to our cabins, each one of us had a note that the snorkeling had been sold out.
During the cruise it was virtually impossible to use the pools due to the crowding. This also applied to the hot tubs with regards to children even though they were posted "Restricted to 18 years of age and over" and no one enforced it.
The last day of the cruise I attended the meeting regarding what had to be done prior to leaving the ship on our return to San Juan. The meeting was conducted by the Cruise Director. We, "Non US Residents", were told we would have to wait until our deck number was called before reporting to a specific location to have our passports returned and to clear US Customs and Immigration. On several occasions we had been given incorrect information by a crewmember so we learned to ask the same question to 2 or 3 other staff and then accept the answer which was given more often. I wanted to make sure we had to wait until our deck was called so after the meeting I asked 3 other crewmembers about waiting and all of them said "No, don't wait. Report at 6:00 AM."
To me, the $50 credit and 1 hour free bar was a feeble attempt to make up for the inconvenience and is almost laughable.
It will be a long long time before we even think about taking another Carnival cruise. Our friends from Canada, who had never sailed before, have been turned off cruising completely. I doubt if they will ever go again. I am almost embarrassed to have recommended this cruise to them.
In closing I would have to say it wasn't quite the 25th wedding
anniversary celebration my wife and I had planned. About the only
saving graces were our waiter, cabin steward and the food! It was
definitely not worth the money we paid for the cruise let alone
the time spent planning/making arrangements, new clothes, long distance
phone calls, vet bills for boarding our dog, limousine to and from
the airport etc. It took approx. 5 weeks to get a response to a
letter I wrote to the President which included a certificate giving
us a WHOPPING 10% discount on our next (as if there will ever be
one) Carnival Cruise. I have been in contact with other people who
were on the same cruise and they received a 2 for 1 deal on their
next cruise plus substantial shipboard credits.