I booked this cruise before ever having cruised before, although by the time we sailed a few months later I had spent over 4 weeks between two other cruises with two other companies. People warned me that I would not like Carnival in comparison with my 3 weeks on the NCL Star my Danube river cruise with Vantage. I tried, however, to keep an open mind, knowing for example, that a lot that was being said critically wouldn't relate to me.
I am disabled with a degenerative neurological disease. I have no reliable feeling to about my waist, typically. I also have periods when I cannot control the muscles in my legs and one arm. That said, I can usually walk "okay." I did inform Carnival when I made my reservation that I was disabled, would need wheelchair assistance, and requested an accessible stateroom. Furthermore, I informed them that I would be using a rolling walker during the cruise.
There were no handicapped accessible staterooms when I made our reservations. I checked a couple of times to see if any became available, but had no luck. Let me be clear, I am not judging Carnival for this. There were, to my mind, an extraordinary number of mobility impaired passengers on this sailing.
Where I, and the Department of Justice, do hold Carnival accountable is in pretty much every other piece of failure to reasonably accommodate. If all dining is in the aft of the ship, reasonable accommodation would indicate assigning staterooms towards the midship or rear if a person is mobility impaired yet moving under their own power. I was assigned to a forward cabin--and to the rear dining room. Hell, not just that, but to a table in the rear of the rear dining room. Let's make it better! A booth in the rear of the rear most dining room that, drumroll, please, we were first guided to by being lead first down, then up, sets of steps.
As it is, I didn't have my rolling walker, an airline lost it for me, instead. There was, however, no mistaking me for able-bodied. To balance, I walked with the aid of two long poles, or sticks. It is a good thing I didn't have my walker, but had the poles, though, as my walker would not have fit through my stateroom door. I believe the DOJ agreement, or order, did specifically address Carnival's lackadaisical approach to cabin assignments, seating assignments in the dining rooms, etc. I know that there is supposed to be on the ship an officer to monitor these concerns and complaints. Or, rather, I know that now. When I asked the first night about having to walk the length of the ship to eat, and the table placement, no such person was mentioned. For that matter, the existence of another dining room to which I could have been reassigned wasn't mentioned. As someone new to Carnival, I was unaware of it. I was told that I could walk back to the restaurant, speak to the maitre'd, and perhaps get my table switched. Certainly, no one at guest services offered to help me directly. I, the mobility impaired person was to walk down, wait, stand there balancing on my sticks, and wee if it would be possible. I was told that I should come back to guest services after San Juan, our third port on the 5th full day of the cruise to see about changing staterooms.
As it is, the seas were extremely rough for most of the cruise. Rough to the level of my being thrown from my bed repeatedly. Rough to the level of able-bodied people having a hard time negotiating walking about the ship. We had two sea days prior to our first port. On the first night, lounge chairs were being blown across the deck and into the pool. Most were stowed, I believe, for the duration of the cruise. No announcements were ever made over the PA system, or via the app they kept touting, or the printed "fun time," or whatever they called it, guide to say that pools were closed. An able-bodied vacationed might be annoyed by arriving at pool or slide to find out they were closed. Imagine how it is for a person for whom every step, every day, is painful. A person for whom every effort made translates into something else that they won't be able to do, so trying to go with my daughter so she can use the slide, to find that it is closed, meant I could NOT go with her to a movie. During the first four days of this cruise, every single thing I went to do on ship was closed with no warning, notice, or communication.
There was personal communication, however, when the cruise director herself called me to invite me to an LGBT event. I'm not LGBT, nor were my travel-mates, nor had we ever identified as such. Carnival cannot be bothered to reach out to a disabled person who has complained of access problems and being unsafe, but can, apparently, speculate that two women traveling together must be lesbians.
I was aware from first entering our stateroom that it was kind of dingy. One of the first things I noticed, other than the horrific lighting, was a 6-8" stain on a bolster on the sofa. I remember being surprised as that is such an easy item to swap out. Similarly, I was aware of extensive staining on the carpeting. I didn't think too much about that, though. The one big ship I had been on, the NCL Star in October/November, had just been refurbished a year or so before, and the other cruise was on a brand new and rather luxurious river boat. (Marble bathrooms, fully enclosed glass showers, L'Occitane toiletries.) I was puzzled by some other things, though, like the fact that our bathmat was wet. I speculated that the way the shower drained caused it.That night, I noticed a piece of trash (maybe a snack bag?) that wasn't ours on the floor in the corner by my bedside table. I didn't freak out, if anything I an sympathetic to how hard the stewards have to work to turn over so many rooms so quickly. I was grateful that ours had been ready when we boarded, even if imperfectly so.
The steward, I have learned, can make or break one's cruise experience. Ours was broken when it was already going to be challenged.
We were four in our cabin. I was treating a friend who had lost her dad to cancer and her marriage to her husband's alcoholism and violence in the past year. Her son and my daughter are close in age and enjoy a lot of the same activities. Yes, It was crowded.
We asked our steward to please put up the bunk each day and restore the couch. He balked at doing the couch, saying it was "too much work." He agreed, however, to stow the bunk and I filed the couch thing in my mind as probably cruise line policy. He did pick up the trash from that corner by my bed. He did not stow the bunk. Ever. Both my friend and my daughter hit their heads on it repeatedly through the cruise. The bathmat remained rolled up and wet by the shower, which is just kind of gross.
The next day, I made a point of moving the wet bathmat to the other side of the bathroom in a pile with a couple of soiled towels. When the room was made up it was there again, wet and rolled up. I can't say why, but my sense of it was that it was the same wet, used, bathmat.
An aside here: I'm on chemotherapy. I have no b cells and therefore very little ability to fight infection. A splinter can put me on IV medications. A UTI can be life-threatening. I also can't feel my feet. A wet bathmat in a wet, hot, environment for days is a bacterial breeding ground. I was already in danger of injuries stepping up and over the bathroom threshold, something I didn't know about when accepting a non accessible cabin.
I think it was the fourth day of the cruise that I took every single towel--clean or dirty, and heaped them on the floor with the wet bathmat. I did not want him to be able to ignore this clear request. I returned to find the bathmat even wetter than before. I literally wrung it out and hung it on the clothesline as it could not absorb any more water. The same day, I fell again at the bathroom door, this time landing on my hands and knees in the space by the closets. That is how I found out that what I thought was a light colored stain was actually crunchy soiling of the carpet. It had been there since before our arrival, and had never been cleaned.
When my friend and the kids returned from ziplining, I mentioned the bath mat. We tried to think of a reason why it could be purposeful. I mentioned the crunchy soiling and my daughter chimes in and says, "yeah, and there's one of those blood thingies on the floor that has been here the whole time, too." My friend had just noticed it that day, but speculated that the floor hadn't been vacuumed the whole time we had been on the ship. She'd never noticed vacuum tracks. I'm low vision, particularly when tired or stressed, but could recognize a used diabetic test strip and basically tried not to freak out. The next day was San Juan, the day we had been told it was likely we could change rooms; it would be better, soon.
Umm. No. There weren't any rooms. I was, however, for the first time offered the closer dining room for our dining assignments. With two dinners to go, I declined. The dining service team had been the only part of the cruise ship experience that had been positive and I didn't want the kids to lose that. Furthermore, if buffet service and fixings bars are off limits due to contagions for an immuno-supressed person, the Monet room was pretty much my only choice for breakfast/brunch, anyway. I'll not here, though it relates to disability access, that I can't carry a tray safely. I tried sitting up at the handi-capped assistance available tables twice. I was never offered any assistance. So much for lemonade available all day. It isn't if you can't use your hands to carry the cup.
I did request that if we could not be moved, that our stateroom please be cleaned. I had, and still have, some questions as to what the corporate standards are. The deck manager came that night and cleared up the medical waste. He assigned another steward to our room. He seemed to be saying that not only should the bunk have been stowed, but the sofa also made up as we had requested. The housekeeping officer, Mona Lisa, came the next day and the next. She was the first person to use the language "filthy." Our stateroom was filthy. She said, furthermore, that it wasn't a matter of our needing to report, or request, that things be cleaned differently, or more thoroughly, that it was obviously filthy. She, not I, also referred to our cruise as having been "ruined."
I had, to that point, been struggling. By nature, I am a positive person. The three ports we went to were great fun. The food had been surprisingly good, even if there isn't much variety (and there was the one meal I had to send back for undercooked fish and potatoes.) The weather made my trying to walk about the ship extremely difficult and sometimes downright dangerous, but, while tiring me, if it hadn't been pointless walking I would have mostly been okay with it. I'm handicapped, but not dead, and my nature is to do the very most I can do, not the least. Use it or lose it, and all that. She was right though. The cabin was filthy. It was dangerous. If a diabetic was testing his blood and losing track of the strips, who is to say all the syringes made it to a sharps container? Maybe the vacuuming that wasn't happening might have picked up a needle. The counter's surface wasn't wiped in all of our days with the original steward, why should we think there couldn't be bloody residue there, too?
It took a 45 minute deep clean the night after I complained (and the only time I was able to leave the cabin after breakfast that day, as my condition was deteriorating, and then a 3+ hour cleaning the next morning to get the cabin to the standard it apparently should have been in the day we boarded. Truthfully, we couldn't gave even fully known how dirty it was prior to that. We didn't know how it was supposed to look. Just like we didn't know that the sofa should have been restored when we asked, or that the bathmats weren't supposed to be wet.
The kids were not comfortable within the program space for their age as it reeked of cigarette smoke.
Multiple games in the regular arcade were broken.
The slide was always closed when the kids tried to go.
The pools were mostly closed. Announcements were never made of these closings. Throughout the cruise, a large percentage of lounge chairs were stowed away for safety.
Support through guest services was poor, especially with regards to access/disability issues, but also extending to only providing a corporate contact after the weekend, i.e. when those offices would be closed. Dining room service was excellent. Those we dealt with in housekeeping after complaining were excellent, but one has to wonder about the lack of oversight. If our cabin was visibly filthy to the housekeeping officer's eye, why had it escaped detection? Furthermore, she checked the previous occupant's record, and there was no mention of diabetes. How long had the medical waste been there??? How long would it have remained, on the floor, three feet from the trash, had we not complained?
Having pursued this through corporate, I can assure you that they say they take my concerns very seriously. So seriously that, if I ever book with Carnival again (as if!) they'll give me a gift.
Our sailing may have been exceptional for its weather perhaps necessitating closings, and our specific experience for a steward who it became clear had no interest in doing his job on even the most basic level, but what was consistent throughout, and what really damns the company for me, is the poor communication.
a) if a disabled passenger is unable to book an accessible cabin, the cruiseline should communicate specific obstacles there may be to accessibility, i.e. the bathroom threshold, or the door and passageways width vis a vis a mobility aid.
b) if a mobility impaired passenger is being assigned a cabin, there should at least be an information exchange about distances to features on the ship and priority given to lessening those challenges.
c) if a disabled passenger appears at guest services with issues related to access on the ship there should be outreach from those tasked with maintaining ADA compliance.
d) outreach in general is desirable when conditions are exceptional on board.
e) closures of facilities and cancelation of activities should be communicated.
f) mobility disabled passengers should be assigned dining rooms and tables with consideration of access.
g) Nobody should be cold-called for LGBT events, if they aren't being cold-called for any other, and most specifically if they aren't even being responded to regarding serious issues of safety.
In my experience, Carnival blew it. Big time. Read Less