We were set to leave Tampa on a 7 day cruise on August 26. The ports were to be: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Issac was headed in the direction of Tampa and approximately 12 hours before we were to set sail we received notification that we would be embarking from Port Canaveral instead. This change was, of course, not the fault of Carnival and I do not hold the change in embarkation against them - it is what happened after the embarkation change that ruined my family's vacation.
First: We were instructed to go to the Port of Tampa where we would board shuttles to takes us on the approximately two and a half hour drive to Port Canaveral. Upon arriving at Port or Tampa we found complete chaos. Every Carnival employee had a different idea of how we were going to get through the process. We showed our boarding passes, but nothing was done to confirm passenger identities or check in. Instead, we were herded from one line to the next, where we waited in a room for an hour to be called to board the shuttles. However, the process broke down when Carnival employees stopped giving passengers group number assignments and it turned into a free-for-all where only the most pushy and rude passengers would board the buses quickly and those of us who followed directions were left wondering what was going on. Once finally on the bus it was a relatively painless ride for us, but we saw two other buses broken down along the highway on the way there (we later learned at least 150 passengers did not have their bags delivered to the ship and would be without their luggage for three days - more on why we had extra days at sea and no alternate port below). Once at Port Canaveral, more lines - and confusion, as our driver didn't know where to go. Finally on the ship we were relieved to have made it and felt our vacation could finally begin.
Second: The ship began to leave the Port and we were informed we would no longer be going to Belize and there would be no alternate port offered. Rather we would just spend a third full day at sea. I was rather distressed by this because I cruise not for the sea days but for the opportunity to visit various ports to explore potential future vacation destinations. When I called guest services and asked if we would be getting any sort of ship credit I was informed that we would receive "$9.46 per person - the tax we paid to port in Belize" - I pointed out that I had seen on Carnival's website that other Carnival ships that had been forced to alter their itineraries were given alternate ports AND on-baord credits. I was rudely told "I don't know what they do on other ships and if you have a problem you can call Miami" (Carnival's corporate HQ). I called Carnival corporate, and after a very expensive 20 minute call I was told "since your on the ship there is nothing we can do - go back to guest services." Essentially it appears Carnival waited until we were on the ship, with no alternative, to significantly alter our vacation with no attempt to rectify the disappointment and inconvenience.
Third: The two-and-a-half full days at sea were painful because the food was disgusting - absolutely disgusting - and there was ZERO variety - the same things served day after day. There were many other problems on the ship but I want to move on to the other port problem - because another serious inconvenience arose without any attempt to fix it.
Fourth: The night before we were to port in Roatan we received word we would be docking at a different port - miles away from the port we were scheduled to dock at. This was not good because we had arranged a private excursion to meet us at the scheduled dock. When I contacted guest services I was told "Had you booked your excursion through Carnival this wouldn't be a problem." As a side note - it was a different Carnival Ship - the Valor, that had taken our original spot in Roatan - that ship was lucky enough to be offered an alternate port instead of what we go -an additional day at sea and a partly credit that wouldn't even cover a single drink.
I could write pages about how terrible this cruise was, but I'd rather not relive the experience. Please avoid Carnival because the ships are filthy, the food is worse than a school cafeteria, the staff is condescending and unhelpful, and they will significantly alter your itinerary without making any attempt to make up for it.