December 21, 2008
We booked our cruise very last minute (2 weeks before sailing) and took advantage of some very advantageous rates and credit card miles to make it affordable. We booked 2 inside cabins -- Guarantee. We ended up being category 4E, as our two teenaged sons were traveling with us. Given that there were more than 3500 passengers on this holiday sailing, it went without saying that the embarkation was more than a bit of a madhouse, but to Carnival's credit, it really did go as smoothly as could be expected.
When we got to our cabin, it seemed warmer than expected. We have taken in excess of 15 cruises, so we really do have an idea of what is "acceptable" in terms of air conditioning in the cabins. My wife underwent cancer surgery this past summer and combining that with her medications, she is very sensitive to heat and this obviously made our situation less than desirable. When I mentioned our concern to our cabin steward, he called engineering and shortly thereafter, a fellow in an orange jumpsuit appeared with gauges, tools, etc. and informed us that our cabin temperature (at maximum cooling) was 74-75 degrees. He took off the grille covering the vent and made some adjustments, advising us that he had opened the duct as wide as possible and that the cabin would definitely cool down. Going to sleep later that night, it was clear that it had not appreciably changed, and my wife had a very uncomfortable night.
The next morning, on the advice of our very accommodating cabin steward, I went to Guest Services and registered the same complaint, only to be told that the last temperature reading they took was 73 degrees and that was "within the range of acceptability" as determined by Carnival. When I complained further, he agreed to send the technician again. When the same guy appeared in our cabin, he made it quite clear that he was not happy to be there, and did nothing that we could account for. That night, same situation -- a very restless night for my wife and now, it seemed as if it had actually gotten warmer. Tuesday morning, I composed a scathing letter to Guest Services and brought it down in person, again being told that my latest temperature reading, 74 degrees, was "within the range of acceptability" (I guess the range got broader overnight!). It was clear to me that I was being stonewalled and that the staff cared little about this problem. I then asked to see the manager, who had been given my letter. After waiting a few minutes, I was accompanied into the manager's office and had the good fortune of meeting Jason, the manager, who was both understanding and proactive. He had read the letter and reviewed our file and fully understood our issues and said that one way or another, he would resolve them, either by getting our cabin to a more acceptable temperature or moving us, as there had been a few "no-shows" due to the bad weather in the Midwest and East Coast.
We all then went up for breakfast, and shortly after, Jason and his assistant approached us (he had apparently hunted us down!) to say that they had a cabin available right down the corridor from our current one and asked us to join them to inspect it. He opened the door to a balcony suite and it was cool enough to store meat!!!!!! So, not only were the temperature issues addressed, we had also received a significant upgrade (parenthetically, this was our 4th Carnival cruise). Suffice it to say that the rest of the cruise was far more comfortable and again, Jason was a true gem.
We also had a less than stellar experience in the dining room our first couple of nights. To be blunt, while the food was very good, the service was abysmal. While it was clear that the "full house" made logistics a bit more challenging than normal sailings, we seldom saw our waiter, who had a large number of tables, and almost never saw the assistant waiter. Wine was brought to the table and left there, unopened, and one night, my wife and I were brought our main courses at the same time that our sons were brought salads. On the second night, dinner took more than two hours! We approached Pablo, the matre'd, who could tell (just by the lateness of the hour), that my complaints were justified, and immediately reassigned us to another table for the balance of the cruise, and it was like day and night -- certainly among the best service we have ever had on a cruise (thanks to Melvin and Ricardo along with Paul, the assistant matre'd).
On our third night, we went to Scarlet's Steak House and had an absolutely wonderful dinner, superb in every way. The $30 per person surcharge is a true bargain -- the entrees alone would be more than $30 in any upscale restaurant, and the experience is a definite "must" for any wine and food afficionados.
Let me categorically state that we are not "complainers." We travel quite a lot and generally try to understand the parameters of what we should expect, whether it is a hotel or a cruise. I cannot ever remember having these kinds of problems on any of our previous cruises, and what began as a very negative experience changed with the help of two supervisory people who really cared about our happiness and Carnival should feel extraordinarily lucky to have people like Jason and Pablo as employees. As noted in the title of this review, they truly did make "lemonade from lemons!"