We began planning this cruise 8 months out when our daughter and her Navy husband were transferred from Italy to Portsmouth when he became ill. We hadn't seen them for almost a year, so figured this would be a good chance to get together and to celebrate Christmas as well.
My SIL is a gourmet chef, so I tried to get tickets for the Chef's Table. I was told to request them thru John Heald and somehow, after getting no response to 3 emails, I wrote a final one somewhat tongue-in-cheek and asking if one had to sell their firstborn child in order to get a response. I did, but not from Heald. Several people sent me nasty replies accusing me of being crude and rude. Heald himself said he'd never heard from me. By the time I'd been flogged royally, I just figured the heck with SIL, we'd take him to the buffet! Ironically enough, my daughter posted a response to those kind folks who wanted me keel-hauled and SHE was offered reservations at the Chef's Table. By the Way, don't try to contact Carnival Corporate about any issues that you may have. They could care less and never make an error, nor do they care how inept or wonderful their employees are. BTW#2--I'm not saying anything negative about Mr. Heald other than I had trouble getting in touch with him about Chef's Table. That said, I had an email from someone from the restaurants that told me that he doesn't arrange that type of reservation. I truly hope that's not so, or many, many people who've said that they've gotten theirs thru him are going to be disappointed His physical being means nothing to me, nor does his manner of speech.
We left for our cruise on 12/3, intending to meet the kids in Atlanta and fly the last leg to SJU together. We got on the plan in Houston and when the pilot turned on the cabin power in order to leave, nothing happened...except he came back on and told us to get off and make other reservations, he didn't think this plane would be leaving today. I'm disabled, so we had to wait for my scooter to be brought up from the hold and by the time we deplaned, the lines were way down the hall! Someone yelled out that we should call Delta on our cells and I did. Unfortunately, the reservationist we got did not speak much English and kept telling me that Delta did not fly to San Juan! After about 30-35 minutes, they came back on the PA and told us to re-board, we were leaving. As we passed the desk, they told us we were on Flt. XYYZ out of ATL but we didn't have seats. All the while this was happening, the kids were in the air so they had no idea what was happening, so we had to send them a text telling them to just meet us at the hotel (forgetting that we had the reservation info!) We arrived in ATL about the same time as they left for SJU!
We checked in with the attendants as soon as they opened, but they could not provide us with bulkhead seating because it was by an exit. They put us in the next row, however. Once we boarded, I knew we were in trouble. The row we were in was not even as wide as a regular one (to keep the seats even.) I told the stewardess that my knee is partially fused and would not bend to acco-modate the seat and she said "then you'll have to get off this flight." Ironically enough, the seats across the aisle were not occupied by anyone who was disabled - there were two men sitting there using their computers. This was the last flight we could take and still make the cruise the next day, so I literally held my leg up and it was in the aisle (just where it had been, but I moved the bag it was sitting on. By the time we reached SJU, we were exhausted, but the kids met us and all was well.
That night we stayed at the El San Juan Resort and Casino and it was gorgeous! We had breakfast there the next morning and lazed about until it was time to check in with Carnival. We did (and stopped in at the Duty Free shops too!) After we put our luggage in the cabins, we left to explore Old San Juan, returning in time to meet our fellow Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle friends for SailAway. I was still in pain and stopped for Ibuprophen before we boarded. One comment about the cabins - we were on the Lido deck, and it was wonderful. I do not book handicapped cabins on Carnival because they are SMALLER than "regular" ones. Carnival's omage to the handicapped traveler is a shower that you can wheel/walk in. There's no room in the cabin for you to put your wheelchair or scooter...except in said shower! I've asked the wigs at Carnival to spend a day in a scooter to see just how accessible their ships are, but so far, nobody has done anything about it!
Monday was our stop in St. Thomas and when I woke, I could barely move, so I decided to stay behind, hoping a day's rest would solve my problem. I did go out to the Serenity area and sat in the whirlpool for a bit. I also checked with the Infirmary onboard and when I heard how much it would cost just to see the Dr. (when I knew it was sciatica), I just said no thanks. My DH, daughter and SIL visited the island on their own and checked to see if they could find any muscle relaxers, but no luck. The next day was at sea and I stayed in bed to see if it would help, but did get up for Formal Night, although it hurt.
Our table was in the corner just where the doors to the kitchen opened. The noise was such that we couldn't even hear each other, but we tried. When dinner came, I'd ordered Beef Stroganoff. It was curdled and I barely made it to the rest room when I vomited into the napkin. That was enough and I headed back to my bed! My SIL spoke with our waiter and then the Maitre 'd about my dinner - which was definitely curdled. The waiter said nothing but got the Maitre 'd, who went to speak with the chef and came back and told us that nothing was wrong with the Beef Stroganoff (which was still sitting at my place!!!) We also request a change of seating, which was done without trouble.
By Wednesday morning, I literally could not walk - and that lasted the entire trip. Luckily, I had pain meds that, while they wouldn't help the sciatica, would let me rest easier. When the time came to debark, I was in really bad shape and didn't know if I'd be able to get off the ship, but with enough meds in me, I made it, but can't tell you how!!
Everyone else in our party did enjoy the cruise. We had only one more problem and that was on the Sea Day. We had reserved the Tamiami Sail tour in Barbados, and returned the tickets since it was obvious that I wouldn't be able to manage it. Although we did this well within the time for cancellation, the agent there gave us a hard time. In addition, she kept calling us "you guys" although we kept asking her not to! She said that we were doing this in order to take a different tour and got increasingly nasty. We finally asked for her supervisor, who came out and accused us of the same thing. She even said that she had the means of making sure that both of us didn't leave the ship! I was so upset that I left in tears and happened to meet my daughter en route. When she heard what happened, she went back there and raised all kinds of cain! Turns out that they had already refunded our money and they apologized to her!
We used Spencer Ambrose (or they did) in St. Lucia and did Grey's Island Excursion in St. Kitts and were pleased with the value for the money. They also toured St. Martin on their own as we'd been there several times.
Our cabin stewards were very nice and knew I was having problems so they worked around them. I was really grateful, especially when they let us stay in our cabin until the last minute on debarkation day. Getting off the ship was simple (at least I thought so, but as I said, I was drugged!!
We stayed at the El Conquistador Hotel that night. We've begun flying in and out a day early/late just makes things easier. You don't have to race around that last day and fight the crowds at the airport too. This way, we got up and had a leisurely breakfast, then drove around for a bit before stopping at the airport.
Will we cruise again - definitely! How do we like the Southern Caribbean? A lot! This was our 5th cruise to that area. My time wasn't much fun, but I guess if you have to be flat on your back in bed, the Southern Caribbean is a good choice! Will we sail on Carnival again? No - and I don't say this to "beat up" on them. We've sailed on Princess and RCCL and just have a better time on those ships than we have on Carnival. That said, our daughter got married on a Carnival cruise ship and it was lovely. We're just looking for more in a cruise line - and definitely for a line that does a better job with their disabled cruisers! If I tell someone my meal is curdled, I don't expect them to come back the next two nights and argue about it - especially when nobody but us sampled the meal in question! On other ships, if something isn't to your taste, they'll gladly bring you something else! I'd definitely encourage you to participate in a Meet and Mingle group, no matter what John Heald says about Cruise Critic! We've met some lovely people on ours and are looking forward to the next one too.
If anyone had questions about this review, you're welcome to contact me at "firstname.lastname@example.org" - especially if you have questions about disability cruising!
By the way, the MRI showed that I not only ruptured a disc but also had developed an abscess adjacent to it. I've been on IV Meds three times a day and will hopefully have back surgery in a month or so once the abscess has totally healed. Have another scan on Monday to see how it's doing...