March 20, 2005
I am saddened that I am forced to write this letter of complaint about my recent, and what will be my last, cruise with Carnival. I am a frequent cruiser, this being my fourth in two years, and I now know that Carnival simply cannot compare with other cruise lines in its quest for comfort and competition.
To begin, Carnival associates were supposed to meet us at the airport, Miami International, upon the arrival of our plane. They did, but informed us we would have to sit around for 1.5 hours before we left for the dock. When we asked what we could do with our luggage, the woman responded, "Just keep it with you." We wanted to load it on the bus and get something to eat in the airport, but the associate said she was not responsible for our luggage. So, we waited around until our bus came so we can board. Little did we know, "Waiting around" would become a theme of our vacation.
Embarkation was relatively smooth; in fact, it was the better of the prior two Carnival trips I have taken. Though we were rudely hassled for tips by baggage men at the port of Miami, we were herded into the port just to wait in a hot, long, sweaty line with people cutting in front of us and no security. We waited in this line for 1 hour until we finally moved.to another line.
When we first booked through Carnival on your "One Day Sale," we were told we would get an Oceanview Guarantee, and that we would most likely get a balcony room. The sales associate suggested we be "nice" to the woman assigning us the room, and we'd get it. This did not work. In fact, no one had a smile on their face.
Our baggage came at 8pm that night, standard for cruise lines. Our neighbors had their baggage lost, later told by the pursuer's desk that it was most likely because they didn't tip the baggage handlers at the port of Miami. Is this the way Carnival operates? I understand these workers do not work for Carnival, but wouldn't Carnival want to ensure the happiness of its customers by providing an incentive to these people so customers could stop being hassled and consequently lose our baggage?
Our room was nice - though not a balcony room. The bed was not split, as we had requested, so we had to make three phone calls before someone came to split them. Our steward was friendly, though generally not around. Our lifeboat/lifejacket drill was efficient, though everyone had to stay around through all of the languages, which wasted about 30 minutes.
The dining room was a highlight of our trip. "Marketa" was our busgirl and "Ariel" was our waiter in the Atlantic dining room. They were just so pleasant and friendly and never let our water glasses drop below a certain level! They wanted us to be happy and made pleasant recommendations for the evening meals. The food, however, was just fair. It tasted mass produced, rarely hot, and often tough. Steak was chewy, lobster tasted "fishy," and the soups were oversalted. The deserts, too, did not taste fresh and were generally unimpressive. The evening shows by the staff were fun. There were "return cruisers" parties, but we were not provided with an invitation either, so we missed that, too.
The entertainment was absolutely awful. The female dancers were okay; the male dancers looked like they were pulled right off the wait staff. Uncoordinated, fumbling, and completely out of sync, they were a mess. The "Braxston Hicks" band was good and warming. Comedians were okay, and the adult only, midnight shows (which were FULL of kids under 18) were really funny. Lots of people were complaining about the teen presence at this time. You should lock all doors and allow entrance only through two or three manned doors where ID's are checked.
Which leads us to our cruise director, Dana. I've now been on five cruises, and Dana is surely the WORST cruise director ever. Dana was unfriendly in person, cold, and completely fake. A good cruise director relates to everyone, and Dana was a complete unreliable mess. He made comments throughout the trip like, "So the kids run around the halls at night. It's their vacation too. We can't patrol the halls." Are you kidding me?? You cater to the parents of the kids, NOT the children. You should be absolutely responsible for patrolling the halls after kids who knock on random doors early in the morning. Their was NO supervision for children, and Dana should be held responsible. Also, Dana was all about pushing the shops on board, but gave little information about the ports. When he did, of course, it was only to sell the shops at the port (that he is getting a cut from). He was later referred to as "Douchebag Dana" by many passengers on the boat!
The ports were fine. San Juan is boring. St. Marteen is beautiful (we went to Orient Beach - gorgeous), and St. Thomas is beautiful too. I've learned my lesson NOT to book excursions through the cruise line; they're frequently overcrowded and overpriced. So, in St. Marteen, my roommate and I hopped a cab (6 bucks!) and went on a beautiful ride to Orient beach, a locals beach. For another 10 bucks we sat on the beach ALL day with an umbrella and chairs. Just heaven. In St. Thomas, I had booked a private excursion independent of Carnival (as I have done before) with a local who takes people snorkeling. This was an all day excursion that beat the price and the crowds of Carnival trips. When we got to the port, we missed our private excursion. Why? Because the time is an hour different! NO ONE on the boat mentioned the time change. Furious, we went to the pursuer's desk and asked, "Is there a time difference here?" Both ladies shrugged their shoulders and admitted they didn't know! Finally someone said there was, and I lost it. How can you not tell 3000 people about a time change? Her response was, "This way everyone stays on boat time and will return promptly. If we told them about the time change, we'd be fielding 1000 phone calls with confused passengers." I responded that THIS IS YOUR JOB! What if someone asked a local what time it was? They'd miss their boat back! It is the sole responsibility of Carnival for making it clear that though the time is different on the island, we are to stay on BOAT TIME. We understand, now, that it is a money-making scheme to keep people from booking excursions other than Carnival's. It is dirty business and we are no longer buying it. You made us miss a private excursion to snorkel, the main reason we were on the boat. Thank you, Carnival.
Our St. Thomas trip ruined, we returned to the boat for mediocre food and a LOUSY midnight buffet. Another thing is the lines - they're horrible. Waiting in a buffet line on the Victory is awful! You can wait a loooong time for very mediocre food, which is sad and a rip-off. Drinks were weak and overpriced. Everything was gimmick.
Immigration was the worst. Having to get up between the hours of 5:30-8:30am to get approval, we decided to beat the crowds and get up at 5:30. Many others on board did too, but the immigration officials did not arrive until 6:15. Needless to say, we were VERY unhappy.
Debarkation was a walking nightmare. We opted for the self-checkout, as did seemingly everyone else on the boat. It was slow and disorderly. People were moody and there was no assistance for older people and/or kids.
A very poor cruise.
At least we now know that Celebrity, Princess, and Royal Caribbean are more dependable.