Carnival Victory Cruise Review by wburns: Buyer Beware
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Our cruise dates were Mon 8/18 through Sat 8/23 on the Carnival Victory. We were in cabins 8257 and 8351.
I'll start this review by stating that I am a very particular consumer. I am quick to point out when someone has done a great job - but I'm also quick to point out when someone has done a poor job - especially if the "poor job" was something that could have been easily done correctly.
The first issue we had was with our rooms. This was not necessarily Carnival's fault, but they did very little to assist us. We were originally told by our travel agent that our rooms were 3 doors apart. They were actually 27 rooms apart - the length of a football field. This would be very difficult with five kids.
When we called the travel agent from the docks, they assured us that they had contacted Carnival and everything would get worked out once we went to the Pursers office.
The very first thing we did once we got on the ship was to go to the Pursers More office. When I explained our issue about the kids and the rooms, the Purser said that "the ship was full, so there was nothing they could do".
We then decided it would be best to get off the ship, because whether the problem was with the travel agent or with Carnival, we didn't think the distance between the rooms would work. I asked the Purser what the procedures were. #1) They said that the cabin mix-up was not their fault, it was the travel agent's, so if there was any refund to be had, it wouldn't be coming from them. #2) They said that we were welcome to disembark the ship, but because we had already checked our luggage, there were no guarantees that they would be able to find our luggage before the ship left the port. They did say they would try - but if they couldn't find it, we would have to come back to NYC to retrieve our luggage when the ship returned.
At this point we felt like we were prisoners. There was no way to get what we paid for - and because we had turned over our luggage to Carnival - there wasn't even a way for us to get off the ship and try to salvage some of our lost vacation in NYC.
We decided to stay.
Now that I have had a week to think about this problem, I think it would have been very easy for the travel agent and/or Carnival to fix the problem - if they had only been willing to extend some effort. If I had been the travel agent, I would have contacted Carnival and asked them to offer a credit to the passengers on either side of our room (or at least close to us) and ask them to change rooms. There are not a whole lot of travelers that use two rooms, so more likely than not it wouldn't have made a difference to them.
If I was traveling with just four people (one room), and the cruise line offered me $500 or whatever it would take to move my room down the hall, I would have jumped on it. No one at Carnival or the travel agent bothered. My guess is that Carnival said "it's not our fault", and the travel agent didn't want to part with the funds themselves). At the very least - if they exhausted the possibility of moving another passenger and no one wanted to move - they could have offered us the $500. It would not have "fixed" things, but it definitely would have improved our experience as well as the tone of this review.
I am in a "customer service oriented" business, and in my business we are always looking for ways to "WOW" a customer. I mentioned at the onset that I am quick to recognize people that have done a good job. I am going to start with these recognitions first, simply because it is a much smaller list. There were many opportunities for a "WOW" moment on board the ship - but very few of them were capitalized on.
Once we decided that we could either stay on the ship or take our chances in NYC with no luggage, we went to our rooms.
1) The first cabin (8351) was fine. The second cabin (8257) reeked of cigarette smoke. I went down to the Pursers desk again and explained the situation. I told them that we had booked "non-smoking" rooms, and it was obvious that this room had been smoked in for quite some time. The Purser told me that Carnival doesn't have "non-smoking" rooms. She said that smoking is allowed in all rooms, although "some passengers use that right more than others". She said that she would send someone up with a machine to take the smell out.
After having the machine in our room for about 3 hours (during which we couldn't be in the room), the majority of the smell seemed to go away. I could still smell it, but it definitely was "better".
This story is in the "positive" section, because later that evening the Pursers office called to check on the smell. I told them that it was better, and I thanked them for the call. The Pursers office then said that they were going to send us a coupon for four free photographs on the ship.
This was an example of someone going above and beyond the standard "courtesy" call, and I was very appreciative of it. So - even though the room reeked of cigarette smoke, the fact that they corrected 90% of the problem and then offered a small token of compensation was very much appreciated.
2) The second positive interaction came on my daughter's birthday. My daughter was turning 8 years old during the cruise, and we mentioned this to the cabin steward of 8351 (Wayne). When we returned from dinner that evening Wayne had made a small "Happy Birthday Catherine" sign that he placed on her bed, along with a flower and 4-5 "towel animals". It was an excellent display, and was appreciated much more so than it might have been, because of the disaster we had just been through at dinner (more on that in the "negatives"). Wayne really saved the day. This was an excellent example of a "WOW" moment.
3) The third positive interaction came on the last night of the cruise, when I took our 3 Â½ year old son up to "Camp Carnival" to return a cell phone they provide to parents. The counselor looked at our son and said "I don't think I saw you here all week". She was correct - our three-year-old son wanted nothing to do with Camp Carnival. I explained that he tried it for about 90 minutes the first day and didn't like it, so he never wanted to go back. I will explain the reasons why he didn't like it in the "negatives" section of this review. The camp carnival counselor "Eva" looked at my son and said "I'm sorry you didn't have a good time, perhaps this will cheer you up" and she gave him a Camp Carnival canvas backpack. The backpack was made of thin canvas and couldn't have cost more than $5 - but to our son it was like he hit the lottery. This was also a "WOW" moment, because she certainly didn't have to do it, but it made all the difference in the world for our Son. He didn't take it off for the rest of the evening.
4) The last positive interaction came on the morning of our disembarkment day, at breakfast in the main dinning room. I had enjoyed the "Eggs Benedict" offered in the dining room every morning we were on the boat. When we ordered on our last morning (6:45am because we had to get off the boat so early - the travel agent's fault which I will explain later) I mistakenly ordered waffles instead of the eggs. This was not the waiters fault at all, because everyone else at the table heard me say "waffles". I didn't mention anything to the waiter, and I proceeded to simply eat the bacon and hashbrowns. The waiter approached me and said "I see that you were a little surprised about the waffles". I told him that I had made a mistake, but that it wasn't a big deal, I would eat the waffles. The waiter never hesitated and said "no need to do that, hang on two minutes and I'll get you the eggs". His name was "George" from "Grenada". This was the final "WOW" moment. I was clearly in the wrong, as I did order the waffles, but George made an offer to replace them with no request on my part.
Now on to the negatives...
1) Even thought the room mix-up was the travel agent's fault. I wish that Carnival would have been more pro-active in trying to fix things. The fact that it "wasn't their fault" doesn't change the fact that I was still their customer.
2) Presenting a room that smelled so bad as 8257 really upset me. I was happy that once the problem was brought to their attention they took care of it - but I don't think that room should have been offered to customers in that state anyway.
3) The bathroom shower of 8257 was also bad. The grout in between quite a few tiles were stained brown or black. I'm sure cabin steward of 8257 was cleaning the shower - but something should be done about those stains. For a ship that is supposed to be relatively new, the stains in the shower tiles reminded me of a 1970's Motel Six.
4) Because our rooms were so far apart, we were placed in two different stations in the case of an emergency. While there is a low probability of problems at sea - we've all certainly seen the movie Titanic. I attempted to take all 8 of us to the same muster station, but we were turned away because our life vests had different letters or codes on them. I wasn't able to explain our situation with 3,000 passengers trying to get by us - so we separated. In the event of an actual emergency, this would have been a huge problem.
5) The Carnival Victory holds approximately 3,000 passengers and has 13 decks. I visited all of the decks at one point or another throughout the week. There was not a single handwashing station or "Purell" dispenser on that ship. Something I found quite comical was that on the back of all of the public bathroom doors there is a paper towel dispenser that says "please use a towel so you don't have to touch the bathroom door". Carnival is obviously aware of the statistic that 50% of bathroom users never wash their hands. They place a towel dispenser on the back of the door to get us out of the bathroom, but then we can proceed straight to the buffet line and grab the tongs.
When we traveled on the Disney Cruise line two years ago, not only did they REQUIRE everyone entering the dining room to use Purell, they actually had employees placing the buffet food on your plate. No customers were allowed to touch the tongs.
So....if there are 3,000 people on the boat, and even if 25% don't regularly wash their hands, but do regularly eat at the buffet, then there were 750 people using those salad tongs that you probably wish were not.
In addition to my concerns about the cleanliness of the shower, and the cleanliness of the buffet line tongs, I had two issues with the food itself. On one day when I took a serving of onion rings from the Lido deck grill, there was a nice big hair grilled into the onion ring. On another evening, in the main dining hall, there was what appeared to be an eyelash in my Caesar salad.
6) Our overall experience at dinner was terrible. On all of our previous cruises, the wait staff at dinner became an integral part of your day. Our waiter was simply a "dud". He didn't seem overly interested in any of his tables, never explained any of the menu choices, and he never even spoke to the kids. I believe his name was "Dariusz" from Poland. We were at the main dinner seating (6:00pm) at table 312.
On previous cruises the waiter knew your name by the second night - our waiter never addressed us by name.
Our first night at dinner no one on the wait staff asked if we would like anything to drink. This includes drinks for the kids or alcohol for the adults. I saw that a table adjacent to us (also his table) only had water, so I thought that perhaps that was the only option.
On our second night at dinner we saw that the table adjacent to us had soda, so we asked the waited if we could order some milk for the kids. He took the milk order - it arrived right after dinner - just before desert. Right before desert a different waiter came by and asked if we would like anything from the bar. We said that we would have - if he had come by earlier.
On our third night our waiter asked at the onset if the kids would like milk. This was a great step in the right direction. No one ever asked about drinks from the bar for the adults.
On our fourth night the waiter for the bar approached our table early, and we placed an order. The waited came back again half way though the meal and took another order.
On our fifth and final dinner night, again no waiter from the bar approached us.
Once we realized the kids could order milk (night two), the waited never asked if the kids would like a refill until the fourth night.
On the third night we asked if the kids could have a refill. The waited took their glasses and brought back a refill. Several minutes later one of our boys started gagging. He looked down in his glass and there were half-eaten grapes and stems at the bottom of his glass. As if this wasn't bad enough, our three-year-old then said "that's my glass".
When our youngest son was done with his grapes, he placed the stems in his empty glass. When our waited brought us the milk refills, he used the same glasses (mistake #1) and then he didn't even give the same glass back to the same children. All around the ship there are signs that state "if you are getting a refill, use a new glass". The waiter obviously didn't see that. At this point in time we all got up and simply left - before desert. If this was a "regular" restaurant, we never would have come back. On a cruise ship - we are a captive audience.
Even though we left half-way through the meal, the next evening the waiter never inquired as to if anything was wrong.
On one evening I asked if I could get some BEarnaise sauce with the Filet they were serving. The waited said he would check, and when he brought out the meal without the sauce he simply said he "checked, but none was available". The very next evening, one of the dishes included BEarnaise sauce. I am not so demanding that I would ever ask a chef to prepare a completely different dish than what is on the menu. For example, I've been on cruises before where guests have ordered something that was on the menu a few days earlier. All I asked for was BEarnaise sauce. They obviously had it, because it was served the very next night. Our waiter simply didn't extend the effort to accommodate us.
One of the standard deserts they had every night was a "melting cake" which is served hot with a liquid inside. On our last evening two of the "melting cakes" we were served were cold. I'm sure it was an honest mistake, as the plates are probably microwaved and these two were not. However, once we pointed it out to the waiter, he acted as though we were inconveniencing him by requesting a "hot" version of the desert. We cut into the middle of the cake and there was no liquid - it was almost as if it was still frozen.
One last bit of comedy - on our last night we get an envelope and a letter in our state room explaining how it is customary to tip the Maitre D of the dining room. I have no problem tipping the maitre D - if the Maitre D had bothered to introduce himself or herself to us. On all of our other cruises, the Maitre D would stop by the table on the first or second night to introduce himself and ask if there are any problems. Had this been done, we could have mentioned some of our issues such as the slow (or non existent) beverage service.
There was portion of every dinner where the various waiters would sing and dance around the tables - our waiter never participated. If he was there when it was going on, he would stand off to the side - not even clapping. On at least a couple of the nights, he wasn't even there, he conveniently disappeared.
I understand that not everyone is a "people person", but if you're not, and you're going to be working on a cruise ship, you should work in the engine room where you won't have to interact with others.
7) The worst part of the dinning room experience came on our daughter's birthday. Our issue on this day concerns two different parts of Carnival - the dinning room and the Purser's office.
There are signs all over the ship advertising the ability to order a birthday or anniversary cake. The night before my daughter's birthday, I called the pursers desk and asked them if I could order one of the cakes. The purser said that the shop that typically takes the orders just closed, but that I could order one from the cafe that was open. This was about 10:30pm in the evening, so I asked if she could connect me to the cafe. She said she would try. She got back on the line and said that she called the cafe and that I would need to go down there to order it. I was already ready for bed, and because our rooms were so far apart I couldn't leave the kids, so I told her that it would be a big inconvenience to get dressed and walk down there. She said I would have to go down to the cafe because I would have to sign for the cake. I then asked her if I ordered room service, do I have to leave my room to sign for something and she said "of course not, you can sign when they deliver the food". "Exactly" I replied. I told her that it would be a big inconvenience for me to leave the room to sign for a cake and she said that there was nothing she could do.
This really upset me. The cakes are $7.95. I would think they would have erred on the side of customer service. Even if I stiffed them on the cake - they would be out $7.95. Instead, they are out all of our cruising dollars for the rest of our lives.
So - I didn't order the cake in the evening, I figured I would do it when we get to dinner the following day. I arrived at our table early, so I could talk with the waiter before my daughter got there. I told him it was her birthday and we would like to get the cake. He replied that the cakes have to be ordered 24 hours advance, but he would check to see if they had any extra.
As you can probably guess by now, he came back to the table and said there were "no extra cakes". Are you kidding me? They have a kitchen to feed 3,000 people, and no one can make a #$@% birthday cake? You can walk into any Kirby's, Red Robin, or Friendly's restaurant and they can whip up a cake in 15 minutes. As was the case with the rooms, the desert, the BEarnaise sauce, and the Pursers office issues - I doubt this was an issue of "it can't be done" - it was an issue of "I don't want to take the time to do it".
The waiter then said that he could get a candle and put it on whatever desert she ordered. Given that we were out of options - I said that would be fine. At the end of the meal, we order the desserts, and the desserts are delivered with no candle. My daughter was visibly upset, because from her point of view, she was still expecting a cake.
I should point out that there were at least 3-4 birthday cakes that were delivered to neighboring tables in the days leading up to her birthday. In each of those times, there were a crew or 5-6 waiters that were singing to the recipient.
In defense of the head waiter, it was his assistant that delivered the deserts, but still, I would expect them to communicate better.
Our waiter then brought over whatever desert he could find that he stuck the candle in, and then he sang happy birthday - alone. No big production, no chorus of 5-6 waiters, just him. What a let-down.
Fortunately, as I mentioned in the "positives", the cabin steward Wayne (8351) saved the day with his towel animals and card.
8) As a "kid friendly" ship I was astonished that they do not offer any "kid friendly" cups in the dinning room. Our first night after the waiter gave our three-year-old a huge glass goblet of water, which he preceded to spill all over the table, we asked our waiter if they had any cups with lids on them. He simply said no.
The next evening we asked if it would be possible to get one of the plastic glasses that they offered at breakfast (in the same dining room). He said he would check on it, and ultimately found a plastic cup.
The kid menus are four-five pages long, and include all sorts of nice puzzles and word searches and coloring items to keep the kids busy during the long wait. You would think that 4-5 pages of activities would keep the kids busy right? Wrong. There are no crayons or pencils offered with the menu. We asked the waiter on the second evening if he had any pens or crayons and he said no. Of course, he had a pen to take our order with.
9) In the "positives" section I mentioned Eva at Camp Carnival. The reason our three-year-old didn't want to participate in any of the activities, is that parents are not "allowed" to accompany their children into the Camp Carnival room. We have to leave them at a "counter area" and then the counselors take them into the room. I certainly understand the securities issues they must face, but at the same time, how easy is it to convince a three-year-old that "it will be okay - just walk into this room with a stranger and have a good time".
On the Disney cruise, we were allowed to accompany our children into the various clubs, give them some reassurance, and then leave. This was not an option on the Carnival ship.
10) This is a minor point, but the overall layout of the Victory is terrible. There are literally some places on the ship that you "can't get there from here". For most of the dining rooms and some lounges, you could be on the right floor, but not able to reach your destination without having to have to walk up one or two floors, cross over, and then walk down again to get to your destination.
11) Despite the ability for kids to participate in "club" activities, there were a large number of unsupervised children roaming the ship. These unsupervised children caused problems ranging from mild (10 kids on the elevators pressing all of the buttons), to medium (kids throwing ice into the hot tubs), to major (a pair of teenagers in the pool, with what looked to be a 15 year old girl sitting on her boyfriends lap and making out all afternoon).
I understand that parents need to take responsibility for their children, and our children are far from perfect, but if parents are not courteous enough (or smart enough) to pay attention to their kids, then I think Carnival should have had some employees near the pool or the elevators to prevent these issues.
12) As a "family" cruise, I was surprised and/or shocked at a few different items.
A) The dEcor of the dining room is all mermaids. Unfortunately, not Ariel from the little mermaid (with a bikini top), or even Daryl Hannah in Splash (with long blond hair covering her chest). The mermaids in the dining room are all lifesize bronze sculptures (one per table) complete with full size breasts and nipples right at the end of the table.
B) During the first night, the Victory Dancers danced the entire show in tiny g-string thongs. I am far from a prude, and in fact, I'm typically a fan of women dancing in g-strings, but not when I'm sitting with five children, including 10, 11, and 13 year old boys.
C) The magician/comedian, while never "swearing" used the work "frickin" at least two dozen times, and did have at least 5-6 comments containing heavy sexual innuendo.
Again, I am not a prude, and I am very supportive of all free speech initiatives. However, there are two shows per evening. One show at 8:30pm and another at 10:30pm. The 8:30pm show is for families with kids that had the early dinner seating. The trip would have been much more enjoyable if the 8:30pm shows were tweaked more for families. For example, in Las Vegas, all of the "early" shows are kid friendly, and the "late" shows are when the skimpy outfits or topless dancers come out.
13) One day my 10 year old son slipped near the pool area (deck 10 or 11) and his knee started bleeding quite a bit. We asked around the pool, and no one had any band aids. The help around the pool told us to go to the infirmary (deck zero). After we make our way all the way down to the bottom of the ship, there is an employee outside of the infirmary that said the infirmary was closed. We asked about the band aids, and they suggested that we go to the information desk (the Pursers desk). I'm sure it would have been too much of an effort for the employee to call someone or to open the infirmary themselves for a band aid. We went up to the Pursers desk on the third floor. They looked around and finally found a band aid. #1) Why wouldn't they keep a basic first aid kit at the pool? #2) Why didn't the employee at the pool know the infirmary's hours and save us the time of walking all the way down there?
14) We had the unfortunate occurrence of my sister-in-law needing to visit the infirmary. Without disclosing the nature of the visit, let me say that the doctor's bed side manner was terrible. She had a very difficult time understanding him, and ultimately needed to have my wife go in the exam room with her, because she was crying so much at what the doctor was saying. The end result was the Doctor saying we can't help you on the ship, so you'll need to go to the hospital when we reach port.
The next day the infirmary called and said that they made arrangements for her to go to the hospital, but that she needed to be down at the infirmary by 9:00am because a car was coming to get her. We arrived at 9:00am - but they transport they arranged to take her to the hospital didn't arrive until close to 11:00am. We kept asking - can't we just take a cab - and they said no.
Fortunately, despite having to waste a day at the hospital - everything turned out okay with my sister-in-law.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for another passenger in the infirmary at the same time. I could hear his story to the nurse, and I thought it would be appropriate to pass it along. This gentleman had been in the infirmary earlier in the day, and was given a prescription that couldn't be filled on the ship. He got off the boat in Canada, took the prescription to the local pharmacy, and in his words "the pharmacy laughed at him". The prescription he received from the ship wasn't signed by the doctor, and didn't have a Canadian narcotics number on it. The passenger said that the pharmacy told him that even if the doctor did sign it, there was nothing on the prescription form that stated the doctor was even licensed to write prescriptions in Canada.
When I was in the infirmary, one of the rooms was marked "crew waiting room". There were no other chairs in the room I was in, so I sat down in the crew waiting room. Let me state that there wasn't a door on the room, it was just an open room with chairs in it that said "crew waiting". Rather than stand in the hallway while I wanted for my sister-in-law, I sat in the crew waiting room.
I realize that I wasn't supposed to see all of the material in the crew waiting room, but having seen it, it definitely influenced my opinion of what goes on when the passengers aren't looking!
The walls were covered with posters about all of the various contraceptive devices available to crew members, all of the various STDs they could possible catch from each other, and who to contact on the boat to get their "morning after" abortion pill. There was also a five gallon container of condoms on the table, as well as two baskets of pills wrapped in plain brown wrappers. One of the baskets was titled "Power Pills" and one was titled "Super Power Pills". The "Super Power Pills" was empty. I was able to make out some of the ingredients in the packages. They appeared to be some sort of vitamin based "speed".
I understand the reasons for all of these items - but if they don't want passengers in the crew's waiting room, they should put a door on it and provide chairs for the passengers who need to wait.
15) I think one of the main reasons for the sub-par service from our waiter was that I learned on the last day of the cruise that the $10 per person, per day, gratuity that Carnival charges to your room is "pooled" for all of the waiters and housekeeping staff. We had $80 per day of gratuities charged, $400 for the week, and it was all going into one big pool. I think this is a disservice to both the passengers and the employees. If they are doing an exceptional job - they should be rewarded by getting the tips directly. If they are not getting tipped, or at a lower amount, perhaps that would give them a clue that they are in the wrong line of work.
16) When I learned of the pool tipping, Carnival said that if you would like to adjust the amount of the tips charged to your account, you could. On our last evening I went to the Pursers desk, and asked if they could give me a print out of all of the charges to my account. They said that they could not - I could only review the charges on my television in the room. I explained that we had two rooms, and the charges for our second room didn't appear on our television. The Purser then said she would put all of the charges on one room, and that I could then go back up stairs to review the charges. I politely explained that if there was a problem, I didn't want to have to come back downstairs and stand in line again. She then proceeded to read to me all of the various charges, versus printing out a copy. Fortunately, the charges were correct.
I then told her that I wanted to adjust where the automatic $400 gratuity was going. Carnival has it set up so that your wait staff gets $5.50 per person per day, the cabin stewards get $3.50 per day, and the other staff gets $1 per day. I told her that I wanted to reverse the amounts that the wait staff and cabin staff received. I thought this was fair, because on average the cabin staff did a much better job than the waiter.
The Purser said she could take care of it. I should note that she never asked "why" we wanted to make a change, she simply said "okay".
As she started to make the adjustment, she confessed that she made an error, and took all of the gratuities off of the bill. She asked if she could put it back on in a lump sum, versus cabin-by-cabin. I said that would be fine. She pressed some buttons, printed out a receipt, and said I was all set. The receipt was for $350 (versus the correct amount of $400).
Despite all of the issues we had on this boat, I didn't want to short-change the staff. I told her that the gratuities should have been $400 and not $350. She insisted that $350 was correct. When I explained again that $50 x 8 is $400 and not $350, she told me that there were only 7 people in my party. I explained again that we did indeed have 8 people. She caught on and said she would fix it.
The next morning the "final printout" was slipped under our door, and she didn't fix it. The total gratuities were still $350.
We took the extra money and put it in an envelope for Wayne, the cabin steward from 8351 who helped with my Daughter's birthday. I should point out that Wayne was the only employee on the entire ship that addressed us by name.
In retrospect, I should have requested that 100% of the automatic gratuity be removed from our account, and then we could have given cash to those employees who were deserving of the tips.
17) I attended the disembarkment meeting where the cruise director, Malcolm, talked to all of the passengers about the Carnival Survey.
He explained that it is difficult to keep the moral of the employees up while they were at sea (I assumed this is what all of the free condoms were for), and that the results of the survey questionnaire is how the employees are judged.
He then said, and I'm paraphrasing, that we should check all of the boxes as "exceeded expectations". He said that if we only check "met expectations" that the employees only get 50% credit for that answer. The only way they get 100% credit is if "exceeded expectations" was checked. He never addressed what happens if we checked "needs improvement".
He went on to say that we shouldn't check "not applicable", even if we didn't use a service, because if we didn't use a service, we should still assume that it exceeded our expectations.
He then said how important it was for us to complete the survey as "exceeded expectations" because out of 3,000 passengers, only about 700 would complete the survey and it was important for the crew to get good marks to keep their morale up.
I much rather would have preferred that Malcolm explain to us the importance of getting people to fill out the survey, rather than telling us how to complete the survey.
Despite ratio of positives to negatives in this review, most of the categories for the survey "met my expectations". There were a handful I checked as "need improvement" such as our waiter, the drink service in the main dining room, the pursers desk etc. There were no categories in this entire cruise that "exceeded expectations".
18) Finally, just as we had gotten used to the inconvenience of having the distance between our rooms the same as opposite ends of a football stadium, we were reminded again of what a predicament the travel agent had put us in. We had planned to stay on the ship in the morning we arrived back in NYC, because we were driving and didn't have a flight to catch. The evening before, Carnival provided us luggage tags to use. Because our rooms were on opposite ends of the ship, our disembarkment zones were completely separate. There is no way this could have worked with 5 kids.
The only solution was for us to use the "self assist" option which means we had to be ready to get off the ship at 7:15am, and we couldn't use any help from the ship to move our bags. We had to do everything ourselves.
The self assist process wasn't that bad, but it was bad that it wasn't a choice, it was thrust upon us due to the screw up between the travel agent and Carnival Cruise Lines.
There is one more item I should put in the "positive" column, which is all of the waiters during breakfast. In addition to George from Grenada who helped us out on the last day, all of the breakfast waiters were quite friendly and helpful - every day. They were very engaging with the children and were very open to answering questions about the ship, ports, etc. I just wish we could have had a different waiter for dinner.
In closing, we did have a good time, but it wasn't because of Carnival or our travel agent, it was because it was nice to get away for a week as a family. It is doubtful that we would ever take a cruise again with Carnival, and we will re-think our 15 year relationship with our local travel agency as well.
From a pricing perspective, we were attracted to Carnival because we could drive to the port in NYC. $5,500 for five days was certainly reasonable. Now that we know the type of service a lower-cost carrier provides, we will most likely stick with Disney or Celebrity in the future.
I hope this review has been helpful. If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to contact me at
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