1. Carnival tells cruisers they can expect their flights, when booked through their Air & Sea department, around 30-45 days prior to sailing. When it got to be 20 days before sailing and we had no flights, we called and were told it was 'busy' that time of year (they didn't know this would be the case?), but that we should have our flights soon.
Eleven days before the sail date, we called again. The Air and Sea rep told us they were 'working' on getting our flights, although said this "work" amounted to "waiting for the airlines." When we asked to speak to a supervisor, we were told none was available because the office was moving and 'everything is in boxes'.
When we finally got our flights a week before sailing, the connection was 25 minutes through JFK!! We called Air and Sea, who said it was a "totally legal connection" that they "use all the time" and that we "shouldn't worry about it". When I said that, on its face, it was an impossible connection, I was referred to the airline. The airline told us immediately it was an inappropriate connection, and our new flights were not much better- 40 minutes through Atlanta. When I called Air and Sea, they told me they had the new flights logged, and that I shouldn't worry that our on-line cruise info still listed the through-JFK flights.
When we complained about all this to the Air and Sea department, they acknowledged that they had dropped the ball and offered an apology letter, as well as sparkling wine and treats delivered to our three staterooms. A nice touch, but it hardly made up for the trouble that came next.
2. The morning of the sail date, we missed the connection in Atlanta due to what the airline described as a "weight and balance issue" delaying our plane in Portland, ME. Put by the airline into a 2hr long line to re-book (although it was clear we would not get to Miami that day), we started trying to get Carnival to make good on its word to people who have booked through Air & Sea: that they will help you if you get stranded. The Air and Sea staff more than once told us we were on our own because we changed our flights and should, according to their records, have been in JFK!! This was extremely maddening, but we eventually got them to understand the change of flights was not only the result of being referred to the airline by Air and Sea themselves, but also confirmed to them after the change. One employee hung up on us (later she apologized). It was not until the afternoon that a Carnival employee could be found who could rebook us to Grand Cayman to meet the ship. We were stuck in Atlanta overnight, but our luggage went on to Miami.
3. In Atlanta, with no luggage, we were told to save receipts for meals and incidentals and present them on the ship. While the ship did credit us for the meals and some cab fare, they did not reimburse us for the incidentals (socks, underwear and contact lens supplies). They told us we would need to submit those expenses to Carnival once we got home.
4. We arrived in Grand Cayman and my son's luggage was missing. Our hotel was not, as Carnival had promised, paid for. That would be another charge we would have to absorb, then apply to Carnival to have refunded. As our son was without clothing and the ship arrived the next morning, we had to buy him at least a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
5. Upon arriving home, our difficulties with Carnival really began. Although Carnival had promised to pay the hotel (the Hotel in Atlanta they managed to pay for in advance) and we submitted the receipts (three times now), we are still, a month later, waiting for this reimbursement. There were three rooms and the total expense- including the few dollars in phone calls to the taxi company, the pier and the airport about the lost luggage, comes to almost $800. At one point, Carnival's guest relations department told me Air and Sea had taken out the cost of those necessary calls and was recommending reimbursement of the hotel charge only. But then they said that was not a "real" number, and that the final number hadn't been decided.
6. We've not been paid for the incidentals, or the two pieces of clothing we bought for our son. We also have asked for a refund of our prepaid gratuity for the time we were not on the ship. Finally, we have submitted a list of a half dozen clothing items that were ruined by black grease oozing from a door in our children's stateroom. Housekeeping did clean the hinge and the ship staff did attempt to clean the items, but they are indelibly damaged.
7. We've called at least a half dozen times for a status on our claims, each time we have been told our file is "pending" and that Carnival will decide what to pay and send us a letter when they have decided. One Guest Relations employee told me resolution can take up to 8 months!! Yesterday, a guest relations employee told me there was NO timetable for resolution at all. I have now submitted this issue to the President of the cruise line, as the guest relations department has completely exhausted my goodwill. It bears repeating: CARNIVAL, EVEN BEFORE WE LEFT, ACKNOWLEDGED THE PROBLEM AND PROMISED TO PAY. We're not saying we don't expect them to look at our receipts, but anything longer than a couple weeks' delay is WAY TOO LONG.
8. Update: Carnival has issued a refund, but ONLY in the amount of the hotel bill MINUS THE PHONE CALLS. Apparently we were to magically come to understand how to get to the pier and to summon a taxi in the morning. And apparently Carnival feels they have the right to keep gratuity intended for ship personnel WHEN WE WERE NOT ON THE SHIP. This is PURE ROBBERY. And apparently their black grease that destroyed our clothes is our problem as well. I am sure Mr. Cahill, the president of the company, would go to work with black grease smeared across his dress shirt, as that is what he expects me to do.
9. Lesson Learned: while we saved some money booking with Carnival vs. its competition, they have more than gotten it out of us in wasted time and grief. We are now deluged with emails begging us to rebook on another Carnival cruise. Are they crazy?? We very much enjoyed our shipboard experience, but the "land" staff, with its incompetence, rudeness and foot-dragging, has COMPLETELY RUINED, our opinion of this company, to the point that I will NEVER knowingly give another dime to them, and have now booked with their competition. You get what you pay for- cruise with someone else!!