I have never written a review before. I didn't really think I had a whole lot to add. My experiences on Carnival in the past have been largely positive and the things that didn't go right we didn't let bother us a whole lot. We mostly sail with friends and family and rely on ourselves to make the most of our cruising experiences. What happened on the Freedom, however, was so egregious and surreal that I had to speak up. Seriously, if it hadn't happened to me (my family), I would not believe it myself. So here goes...
Embarkation was a breeze. There were 9 of us sailing ages 40's to 7. We got on and got settled an enjoyed our sail away from our balcony. We were a bit disappointed that our balcony configuration did not allow us to open our balcony door between rooms as we had done in the past and was promised when we booked we could do again (safety issue)....but we didn't let it dampen the fun. Our first day at sea was lovely and we enjoyed the pool deck and watching all the seriously intoxicated people compete in the mixology contest. We did notice that this cruise seemed to have a different "vibe". There were a lot more roving packs of rowdy teenagers and angry guests, but we just tried to avoid them and do our own thing. We had two kids DD12 and DDF14 that went to Circle C the first night, but there didn't seem to be any adult supervision and there was no one monitoring the Wii tournament, so they left. The next night they tried to attend the Dodge Ball activity (stayed up until midnight to do it), but when they arrived at the Sports Cage they said there were about 20 kids throwing basketballs and each other and no adult supervision. They decided that was not going to end well and left. That was the last activity they attempted to attend. No biggie. They made their own fun in the arcade, playing ping pong and mini golf. At least for awhile.
Our second night, formal night, is where things went terribly wrong. After dinner and the show our older boys DS22 and DS19 wanted to stay in the lobby and dance and socialize. The rest of us were beat so we went back to the room. About 12:30 we got a phone call from security that our boys had been involved in a situation and we needed to come to the security office. My husband and I went immediately to find our DS22 crying hysterically, and our DS19 shaken and pale. DS22 had his leg propped up on his brother's lap and his knee was shredded and bleeding and his ankle was swollen. DS22 kept telling us that he had been beaten up, but every time he tried to talk the assistant head of security (AHS) yelled at him to "shut up". I was stunned. I asked what had happened. AHS said that the boys had been in a fight and that they had started it and that this was the result. Both boys kept trying to protest what we were being told but were continually told to shut up by security. I knew the event had happened in the lobby and asked to see the video. I was told there was none. I was actually later told by AHS that there are no camera's in the camera domes in the lobby and atrium areas. I'm not certain I believe that, but that is what I was told. My boys are not perfect and if provoked they will fight back so I was just kind of going with what security was telling me although it did seem out of character for them to pick a fight. Security sais they had talked to both parties and made their conclusion that DS22 started the fight. We asked about getting medical attention for DS22 and they took him down to medical with my husband. I remained in the security office with DS19 who continued to deny what we were being told by security. Every time DS19 would try and talk a security officer would start yelling. I tried speaking to AHS and get more details but he kept using pronouns "them" and "they" and I wasn't certain who had or was doing what. As I was trying to clarify he began yelling at me that he could not identify the other guests involved. I wasn't asking that, but I was intimidated and didn't dare ask any more questions. I decided I would like to go down to medical and see what was happening with DS22. As I left the security office with DS19 and made my way down to medical we were approached by a group of about 10 teenagers who immediately began talking to DS19 about how awful it was what had happened to DS22 and asking if they had caught the guys that did it to him. They used words like "sucker punch" and DS22 had never seen it coming. I asked these kids if they had seen what happened and they said they had and that DS22 and DS19 had NOT started the fight and had actually gone up the stairs and been trying to leave the area of the lobby and get away from the harassment of the attackers when DS22 was attacked from behind, his hands held behind his back, struck several times on the head and ribs, kicked and then tossed down a flight of stairs to land in in a heap in front of the library. DS19 had been ahead of him on the stairs and turned around when he heard the commotion but was unable to get to DS23 in time before the attackers fled. I was horrified to hear this because this was NOT AT ALL what security was telling me. I asked these kids if they had reported what they had seen to security. They told me that they tried but that security would not talk to them because they were minors.
When I reached medical I tried to tell my husband what I had just heard, but the security guard kept interrupting and saying that was not what the other party (the attackers...who turned out to be a father age 47 and son age 25) had said. DH repoted to me that if we wanted to call the doctor to examine DS22 is would cost us $475. I am a nurse so I took a closer look at DS22's injuries. We were also traveling with our friends, one of whom is a doctor, so after assessing his injuries I just asked the nurse if I could get an ace bandage to wrap his foot and something to put ice in to reduce the swelling. She handed me a quart zip lock bag but told me I would have to bring him to see the doctor in the morning to get an ace bandage. Guess those are controlled substances on a boat. I asked security if I could take the boys back to their cabin but was told that I needed to return to the lobby. We went back to the lobby and sat on a couch in front of the shore excursion desk. At this point my DH asked DS19 to show him where and what had happened. There were still about 15 people(adults)in the lobby (going on 1:30 a.m.) and they all approached DH to tell him that they had witnessed what had happened and that our boys were in no way at fault. The other party had been harassing our boys on the dance floor and taunting them and bullying them and other teenagers because they (father/son attackers)perceived that their younger son/brother (14) was not being included in the dancing. One of the witnesses even had filmed on her Iphone the 25 year old attacker coming and getting in DS19's face and yelling at him. DS19 just blew him off and told him to mellow out and enjoy his vacation. Attacker25 retreated to the second floor and joined his father Attacker47 and began watching and calling out taunts to DS22 and DS19. Our boys were unaware they were under surveillance by these predators and were tired of putting up with the loud mouthed 14 year old son/brother who kept "bumping" into them and generally being a jerk. They just rolled their eyes and decided to head upstairs to floor 5 to head to the back of the ship and their cabin. The witnesses saw DS19 race up the stairs ahead of DS22 and right past the attackers. DS22 was slower going up the stairs and was attacked from behind after he passed them on the landing of the stairs by the father/son. One of the witnesses had gone to intervene, but it was over by then. When security showed up they hauled my boys into the security office and because of their age, automatically assumed they started it. Security had not spoken to any of these witnesses. Bless them, they had stayed around for almost 90 minutes waiting to talk to security...when they didn't have to. They could have just said "bummer" and went back to their cabins. But they stayed. Except security wasn't interested in talking to them. They had "concluded" the matter. They had apparently located the attacking party and had been told by them that when the boys came up the stairs that they assumed "they were coming to start sh#*, so we defended ourselves." Now I can look at it from an objective viewpoint and say to myself...your have two young boys 19 and 22 and then a "respectable father" 47 and dressed up 25 year old son...who would you likely believe. So I can see how security might jump to that conclusion. But here were 15 independent witnesses who said something else entirely occurred...don't you think security should listen to them...should watch their video? My DH went to AHS with the names and cabin numbers of each of these witnesses and asked why they had not been interviewed or allowed to give statements. He was told they had talked to both parties and they had made their conclusion. DH is an attorney and so he was struggling with the fact that the most reliable story usually comes from the independent witnesses and was confused that security didn't want to talk to them!!
I was pleading with security to let me get DS22 back to his cabin so he could elevate his foot and be examined by our doctor friend. Suddenly the three security officers "watching" DS22 got really tense and I heard a woman's voice say "Oh my god! You are not going to throw them off the boat? They are a menace! They attacked my son and husband!" I leaned back and could see AHS talking to a couple whose backs were to me. The man was dressed in a blue blazer exactly like the witnesses had described DS22's attacker. I was sick...and angry. But I thought justice would still be served and that if I was patient security would talk to the witnesses and everything would be alright. But it got worse. Knowing DS22 was in the lobby waiting...they had asked him to wait there....security allowed this couple to walk through the lobby and right past DS22. DS22 only saw him from the back as he passed by but he knew who it was and jumped up saying "that's the guy, that's the guy" The security officers were just waiting for his reaction and jumped on him as soon as he stood up. I never got a good look at the man because I was trying to calm DS22 down. How unprofessional security was in handling that.
Finally they let us take the boys back to the room and they went to bed. I kept thinking that Carnival would make this right. It says in my cruise contract that "Carnival reserves the right to disembark any passenger the interferes with safety, security, well being or enjoyment of another Carnival guest or crew member." But it just kept getting worse. I won't go into all the details since I don't have the time or space to recount the continuing downward spiral that our cruise vacation took. To hit the highlights...
Reported to the ship's doctor the next morning to get an ace bandage for DS22's ankle and to have his hand examined which was now hurting. He had multiple scraps and bruises on his chest and back, legs and arms as well as a headache with vomiting. The doctor spent 5 minutes lecturing DS22 about drinking and fighting (really?) and then asked some very technical medical questions. Now since I am a nurse I understood what he was saying, but a lay person would not. The doctor was self-important and arrogant and did not seem inclined to rephrase his questions and so DS22 looked at me to interpret. I did so. Doctor got mad that I was interfering in his exam. DS22 was sitting in a chair in front of the doctors desk. DS22 recounted his multiple injuries and the "mechanism" by which he received those injuries and pulled up his shirt to show him all the bruising on his chest and abdomen. The doctor rolled his stool around the desk, poked at DS22 ankle for a minute and said "I don't think it's broken but if you really want an x-ray I guess we can do one." That was the extent of his exam. He did not ask DS22 to get on the exam table and check for abdominal or other potential internal injuries. He did not do a neurological exam even though DS22 reported hitting his head and vomiting. I was horrified!!! Now I'm a nurse and we were traveling with a doctor, but this ships doctor didn't know that! His exam (or lack thereof) was malpractice at its finest!! I declined the x-ray and asked to have the ankle and hand wrapped. The doctor came back into the room and handed DS22 two ace bandages! Yup. Didn't even wrap the injuries. Just handed him the bandages. No offer of crutches, or use of a wheelchair....nothing. And I got to pay $97 for that lovely experience. Both boys spent the day sleeping in their cabin.
Next on the cruise from hell...every time we left our cabin with the boys we noticed that we had a nice security escort. I asked them if the other party that attacked the boys had a security escort as well. I was assured that they did. That evening after the comedy show the boys went back to their cabin and I went to the front desk to get a printout on our sail and sign card. As I was leaving the lobby I ran into one of the witnesses from the previous night who inquired about the boys. She said that the other party was still being loud and obnoxious whenever she saw them. We thankfully had not. However, my luck had just run out. As I was visiting with this witness she all of a sudden looked over my shoulder and went very pale and started shaking. I asked her what was wrong and she indicated to me that the attacking party and family had just entered the lobby behind me. She then turned around and RAN away. I casually turned around acting like I was looking at the decor in the atrium and locked eyes with the 25 year old attacker who I did recognize from the video the witnesses had shown me. He was watching me and seemed to know who I was, although I don't know how, so I hurried and turned away. I then began taking pictures of the lobby as I wandered the other direction acting like I didn't know they were there. They began calling out to me, jeering me and saying things like my sons were losers and other names I can't put on these boards. And saying things like they were going to have all of us kicked off the ship. I still pretended I couldn't hear them and went over to the elevators and back to my room. If they were under security escort there was no one with them at that time. As I approached my room there was a security officer waiting by the boys cabin and I reported the incident to him. He wanted to know if I wanted to press charges. I told him yes. AHS then came to the scene and explained that it is Carnival's policy not to get involved when guest have altercations with each other. Their role is simply to diffuse the situation. But they do not take sides. Period. So even if someone beats the crap out of you and throws you down a flight of stairs and plenty of witnesses see them do it, unless a security officer sees it, or it is an assault on a crew member, Carnival will do nothing but give you the option to press charges.
Here's the kicker. If you want to press charges then you cannot leave the ship. Our next port of call was St. Thomas. I had arranged for a private tour for the 9 of us that left the dock at 8:30 a.m. I had paid $1,600 for this tour. If we wanted to press charges against these attackers we would have to stay on the ship until the St. Thomas police could come on board and interview us. AHS said that since there were 3 ships in port that day it would likely be late afternoon before they could get to us and that it would also impact our other ports of call and our departure out of Fort Lauderdale. Wow! Talk about disincentive to press charges! So because of the actions (and ongoing behavior) of other Carnival guests I would have to sacrifice the rest of my cruise to see that they were properly dealt with? The AHS confirmed that to be true. I got a bit emotional (okay I was crying) and asked him if that seemed fair. His reply "I don't care." Now I already knew he didn't care because of his actions...or rather inaction...but to hear him state it so boldly was a bit shocking. I could tell that some of the security officers were very uncomfortable with AHS's conduct and I don't want to paint everyone of them with the same brush, but ultimately it became clear that Carnival would do nothing about what had happened, and if I wanted to pursue it then it would cost me the ability to leave the ship. We spoke with the boys and they became enraged that nothing was going to be done and that someone could just get away with it. They no longer wanted to remain on the ship, because they did not want to chance running into these attackers again. With his injuries DS22 could not participate in any of our planned shore excursions. By this time we had determined that DS22's hand was likely broken and given our experience with the ships doctor we weren't going back to him. The boys were demoralized and begged to get off the ship in St. Thomas and we made arrangements for them to do so. I was going to go with them, but since it was my birthday cruise they wouldn't let me (yup, crying agin now). DS19 went home with DS22 to make sure he got home okay (he said he didn't want to be on the cruise without his wingman--still crying) and my sister met them at the airport to make sure DS22 got the medical attention he needed. Cost us $1,600 to fly them home. Another $2,600 in medical bills after they arrived.
That evening we discovered that the 14 year old boy that belonged to the attacker family began stalking my DD12. She and her friend had gone to the arcade to play and he was there and followed them to the ice cream machine, he was saying that he got her brothers kicked off the boat and other rude and inappropriate things to her. She and her friend didn't want to go back to the cabin because they didn't want this boy to know where they were. They found us adults in the comedy club and reported what had happened. From that point on we rarely left our cabin while on the ship. We would occasionally go play cards at the table outside the arcade so the DD12 and her friend could play. The 14 year old boy was there, being loud and obnoxious and was harassing some females in the disco (this was during the day) by trying to climb under the tables and take pictures up their dresses while another teenager distacted them with conversation. They confronted this boy taking pictures, but he denied it and got really loud and physical with them. These guests turned out to be teachers and were afraid that this boy would post inappropriate pictures of them on the web and they could lose their jobs. They asked us if we had seen him sneaking into the disco...we had and told them so. They told us they were going to go report it to security and we gave them our names and cabin number to serve as witnesses, but we were never contacted.
Witnessed more violence in the comedy club at the family friendly show when a drunk old man picked up and tossed a 6 year old because he thought she was trying to take his wife's seat. Little girl's mom went all mama bear!! Yup. Again, security did nothing.
We had several meetings with AHS and with the head of security who promised us a copy of their report. But then declined to actually give it to us. They told us we would have to petition the head office for it. We spoke with the head of customer service, who seemed concerned and listened to our grievances, but ultimately her response was "I guess we need to do more customer service training with security." Hmmm...ya think?
I've spent the last week that we've been home trying to contact someone at the corporate office who can give me a copy of the security report. The final verdict today was 1) Hire an attorney in Florida and sue us to get it. 2) Contact the FBI. Yup. Those are my options. They did tell me I could press charges against the people who attacked my sons, but I don't know who they are or where they live. I can't even get a redacted copy of the report. I know that there is crime on cruise ships. I'm not stupid... but perhaps I was naive. I assumed that if a crime was committed on a cruise ship that it would be dealt with according to my passenger contract. But with Carnival at least that is not the case. Their position is: Passenger on passenger altercation...they difuse the situation but DO NOT TAKE SIDES. If you want to press charges when they get to a U.S. port then you can. So if you have a couple of sea days back to back and someone assults you...or heaven forbid kills you or a family member (had DS22 landed wrong at the foot of those stairs he could well have broken his neck and be dead!!), Carnival won't do anything about it. So that's the painful lesson I learned on this cruise. And Carnival's horrific treatment of me and my family after it occurred is what will keep me from ever sailing Carnival again. I can put up with most anything on a cruise ship and still find a way to have fun....and all of our time spend off the boat was amazing!! But I have a hard time stomaching what happened on this cruise and just saying "Oh well, no big deal". Because my safety and my family's safety isn't something I can shrug off. Is that how it is on other cruise lines? I don't know. Maybe. But to have a senior Carnival security officer look me in the face as I am crying and pleading with him for help and hear him say "I don't care." There's just no coming back from that. Is it just that ship. Maybe. But I got essentially the same response from the head office. So, I write this as a warning to others, who may have been naive like I was. You can do your best to keep you and yours safe and do the right thing, but another guest still has the power to take all that away...and no matter what witnesses say really happened Carnival will not take sides or enforce the cruise contract to help protect your safety. To me that's a deal breaker. For those who still choose to cruise Carnival....HAVE FUN!! I really mean that. I have met some wonderful and amazing passengers who are really truely good people and have the best intentions. Some of those witnesses who came forward for the boys have inquired since our return about their well-being. I choose to focus on those and try and put this incident behind me. But I wanted to share so that others might be a bit wiser going forward. Update: DS22 had a broken pinky finger, torn tendon in the ankle and a concussion, along with his bruises and scrapes. He is doing much better now. He will not require surgery at this time. We are grateful for all the prayers offered by those who knew of his situation and reached out to us.
As a side note all the ports were FABULOUS!! We would return to any and all of them any day....just probably not on a Carnival boat....and definitely not on the Freedom.