Cruise Critic contributor Andrea Bennett was in St. Maarten Thursday when she learned about the grounding of Carnival Dream — stuck in port after mechanical issues cut short its Caribbean cruise — from tweets and Facebook posts. Passengers are being flown home by Carnival, and the next sailing, scheduled to leave Saturday from Port Canaveral, has been canceled. Some initial media reports painted a picture of overflowing toilets and power outages akin to what happened last month in the Gulf of Mexico on the fire-disabled Carnival Triumph.
When Bennett realized that her own ship — Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas — was docked so close to Dream she could see into its cabins, she hustled down the gangway to talk to as many Dream passengers as she could to find out what really is going on onboard the disabled ship.
Passenger Cheryl Cruise from Glen Allen, Va., found out this morning from a CNN newscast on her cabin TV that Dream was grounded in port in St. Maarten due to a malfunction of the ship’s emergency diesel generator. Her daughter, Rio Cruise-Ross, said that despite two short electrical outages — when the ship’s crew was testing the generator and cut power — and an hour without running toilets last night, conditions on the ship haven’t been the nightmare reported on outlets such as CNN.
Alex Lacamu and his family of eight, from Houston, said that hysterical passengers had been tweeting from aboard the ship about overflowing toilets, but that they hadn’t seen any evidence of the problem. “It most likely happened after people had the bad judgment to keep using the public toilets after they told us they wouldn’t be working for about an hour,” he said. Other families said they had heard — but not seen — that a few public toilets were backed up, but had quickly been cleaned.
When asked about the toilet situation, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen had this to say to Cruise Critic: “We have had multiple conversations with the ship’s management team. Based on the ship’s service logs and extensive physical monitoring of all public areas, including restrooms, throughout the night, we can confirm that only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom. Aside from that there have been no reports of issues on board with overflowing toilets or sewage. The toilet system had periodic interruptions yesterday evening and was fully restored at approximately 12:30 a.m. Thursday.”
The prevailing mood, said Elif Fitts, traveling with her family of four from Tampa, is “great.” The cruise line is providing free water taxi transport to and from port in St. Maarten, and passengers can stay out as late as they like. Most passengers were happy with the perks that came with being stuck. One family produced a letter from Carnival stating that all passengers will get a refund of what they paid for three days of the trip and a 50 percent discount on a two- to seven-night Carnival cruise in the future.
According to the passengers, Carnival has asked for all their flight information, since the staff has told them they are coordinating charter flights to take them directly back to Orlando, possibly as soon as Friday, to connect with their flights back home. Cruise-Ross said that her friend onboard had specifically chosen a cruise departing from Orlando because she was afraid of flying, and Port Canaveral — Carnival Dream’s departure and arrival port — was within driving distance of her home. “Some people don’t have passports on the cruise, so they have to take charters,” Cruise-Ross said, “and that’s really what is aggravating some people — not the conditions onboard.” So far, passengers still don’t know when they’ll be flying out, but most said they’re just trying to take advantage of what may be their last full vacation day.
Ronald Williams and Donald Walker, traveling from Tampa with their wives on a church couples’ retreat, said that the news reports have been exaggerated. “Things happen that are beyond your control,” Williams said. “And hey, it’s better than being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no plumbing [like last month's incident aboard Carnival Triumph].”
All the ship’s activities and shows are going on as scheduled, the casino is open, and the Fitts family said that the ship is providing free Wi-Fi and telephone for travelers who need to call folks back home.
“You’re always going to get complainers,” Fitts said. “But the worst thing we’ve encountered so far is that they ran out of chocolate milk at breakfast this morning.”
Read more about Carnival Dream and other cruise industry happenings on our Cruise News page.
Don’t miss a thing: Get your own Lido Deck subscription.