It has literally taken me a year to write this blog post, because I have been so traumatized. This last year’s vacation was a disaster. I realize people have different experiences and opinions when they go on vacations, and yes, I’m going to be a Debbie Downer here, but we had a terrible time on our Carnival cruise this past summer.
Why?!? You might question. Yes, I’ve read the forums and I know there are DIE HARD Carnival Cruise line fans. People who go as far to comment “those who had a bad time were looking to have a bad time (because, you know, we all want to drop hundreds of dollars to have a terrible time on vacation!) But yes, we had a horrific experience on this cruise line and I’m going to share it with all of you. (No, we did not get stuck on the boat with no power or working bathrooms. At least that didn’t happen.)
My friends and I have a track record of going on vacation and having stories to laugh about later. Two years ago my friend fell into a drainage system in Myrtle Beach and yet, that vacation was not as miserable as being trapped on this dated, dirty boat with poor service and sub par dining.
Boarding the Ship
The trip started with standing in a long line in Florida humid weather with all our luggage. After this, I understood the value of early boarding and early baggage checks. We should have invested in that, but no one tells you these things. (Oh, I visited the forums AFTER the nightmare stay on the boat.) Hot, sweaty, a screaming toddler, an eye-rolling tween, and one lemonade stand with no cups began our “Fascinating” journey to the Bahamas.
I hate to sound like a Princess here, but we are used to Disney service. While we were standing in the sweltering heat in the never ending line, I kept thinking, where’s the cool mist? If you’ve been to Disney, you know what I’m talking about. Those long lines are made tolerable by cool misting fans and diversions for the kids. Carnival fell very short in this category.
The Muster Station
Fast forward several hours to the muster station. A storm was rolling into the Jacksonville port as everyone was escorted to look at the life raft. I had a toddler in a running stroller so I wasn’t herded to the deck in the pouring rain and LIGHTENING. However, my twelve year old was. She was separated from me. Yes, I had others I knew on the boat, but the staff didn’t know that. We are in separate cabins and did not mention to any of the booking agents we were all in a group. So yes, they separated my tween from me. Why didn’t they just give her a key and a kite on the way to the deck. Icing on the cake.
Child Safety & Child Care
Carnival obviously isn’t too astute on child safety. Another complaint I had about this trip was the child care, that I utilized for a grand total of one hour the entire cruise, because the staff proved to me within the first 45 minutes they were unconcerned about compliance with parental wishes.
Prior to going on this trip I registered my children for the child care. There was an option to not allow your twelve year old to sign out themselves. I DID NOT WANT mine to be able to sign herself out of childcare, and apparently clicking “no” on the form online doesn’t cut it. A big boat, who knows who might be on there right? I’m big on keeping my kids safe from predators, for those I need to spell this out for. My daughters child care area was on a different deck than my son. However, 45 minutes after I dropped my kids off in child care, I get a call from the room my son was in. My daughter was there. She had SIGNED HERSELF OUT and found her brother The staff allowed her to do that, against my wishes.
The Customer Service
Believe me, I complained about these safety issues to Carnival customer service after the trip. Literally, three hours after I got off the boat. We had a long drive home. Why not. The thing is though, Carnival doesn’t care. They couldn’t BELIEVE that their staff had made such safety breeches. Basically calling myself and another friend who called and complained liars. (And really, how can you dispute when they can look up the time we were given the safety speeches at our muster station and view weather logs?) No one ever called back as promised “within five days.” A friend who was on the trip with us filed a formal complaint with the maritime commissioner, but yet again, no communication back. We are simply quarters in the slots. We fed the cruise line money, they got our funds, and couldn’t care less about the shoddy service or concerns about safety they receive.
In addition, we practically had to beg for clean towels in our rooms every day. The pool on the ship was gross and water smelled bad (human soup- but I guess when the pool is as big as a bathroom and 100 people are trying to “swim” in it, you might have a problem.) I also had to hunt down my own high chair in the formal dining room, nearly every night. I think I had a sign on my forehead that said “make me do all the work just like I do at home.”
This is my only recourse, venting on the blog about the horrid time I had, the waste of my week vacation, and the money spent on this joke of a cruise. Next time, it will be a Disney cruise, or any cruise line other than Carnival. Never again.
I will say, though, the only two good things on this trip were the smoked salmon bagels at the deli that is in the buffet dining room and the hot chocolate. After I discovered both these things, they were practically the only foods I ate the rest of the trip (the kids too.)
Needless to say, back to Disney it is next year for the big vacation. Cruises have put such a bad taste in my mouth, I just don’t think I could do it again!
How can you avoid making this kind of vacation mistake?
1. Do your homework. Look at online forums, consumer report websites, and consider who is complaining and why. Sometimes, it might just be an establishment’s competition leaving poor reviews. Consider every source.
2. Use a travel agent. I now use a travel agent I trust very much with my travel affairs, and none of the trips she has booked for me have ended poorly.
3. Talk to friends who have vacationed where you want to go, friends without financial interest in your destination of choice.
4. If all above fails, make the most of it. Very least, the experience will be something you can laugh about for years to come!