We arrived 2 days early to spend some time in Galveston before our cruise on Monday. We left our car at the Holiday Inn Resort on the Seawall. **Big mistake.** (More about that later.) My husband and I have made this exact same cruise on ... Read More
We arrived 2 days early to spend some time in Galveston before our cruise on Monday. We left our car at the Holiday Inn Resort on the Seawall. **Big mistake.** (More about that later.) My husband and I have made this exact same cruise on the exact same date on the same ship (in the same room even!) for the last 3 years and everything had always worked out perfectly. This was my 8th cruise out of Galveston. Out of 11 cruises, I have NEVER had a bad one. But the last day of this one turned it into a day of "debarkation H E L L".
The Embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship in a matter of 30 minutes. My brother-in-law had recently come out of a cast and was unsteady so they provided us with a wheelchair and someone to push him onboard. Which we were very happy about because we worried about getting him up the ramps and onto the ship. Carnival went out of their way to assist us.
My sister and I had over packed with 3 garment bags, 4 large pull pieces of luggage and several carry ons. Our objective on this cruise was to get a big variety of formal pictures with our husbands because they are typical men and have to be "helped" into getting their pictures made at home. My sister and I decided that we would get enough "good" pictures to hand out to our kids and grandkids that dragging our husbands to a photography studio sitting would be unnecessary for at least 10 years! We spent more on pictures than our cruise cost, just to give you an idea of what I am talking about. This part of our plan worked perfectly.
Ecstacy is a grand ol' lady and we enjoy sailing her. I have been on her 5 times, my husband cruising with me 3 of those. She is smaller and easier to find your way around on her. The rooms are adequate and usually our room stewards are magnificent. This trip there was sort of a pallor or an odd "out of place feeling" that something just wasn't right about the crew/staff attitude. Some (but not all) just didn't seem happy. To me, that was unusual and different from previous cruises. Our room steward was nothing to brag about. Oh, she did keep the room clean and put a towel animal on the bad at night but other than that, she lacked something that I cannot put my finger on. I asked for a hairdryer and she acted like it put her out to bring me one. She never restocked our water (we drink a big water everyday) and we had to order it from room service. Maybe that's a new policy? At any rate, we didn't complain, we just didn't ask her for anything she wasn't willing to provide to us. My sister drank the Cokes in her room and those were not restocked either. Just weird from our previous experiences, I guess. Calling room service was ok and that is what we did, but we also tipped when they brought our order just like we tipped when they delivered our coffee in the morning. There were other odd things that were different. Nothing big, but just little things that made us wonder if Carnival's attitude had changed toward it's customers or was it just "our" steward. Later her bad attitude was not disguised at all and she was unapologetic for it.
Our cruise was wonderful. Progresso is a highlight for us. We enjoy seeing it change each year. We took the same tour as the past three years, to see the horse show and all our "old friends" there even though we really didn't know any of them personally, we felt as though we did. At Cozumel we did Mr. Sanchos and spent the day on the beach with a nice long massage and a wonderful lunch. The water was spectacular as always and pretty chilly when you first get in but warms up quickly or at least we did! The waiter there could teach our room steward a thing or two.
The return trip was smooth and uneventful. It seemed as though there were not as many shows as there was last year but all in all, it was a good trip until we reached Galveston where the port was closed due to fog. I realize that weather is beyond Carnival's ability to control. I have been on the sea running from a hurricane in 25 foot swells before. I have seen (but never had to use) the barf bags in the lobbies. I know that cruising is dependent on mother nature. The closed port and the dense fog were not Carnival's fault. They are guiltless over missed flights and disrupted plans both for those debarking and those embarking. But they are TOTALLY and COMPLETELY at fault for the decisions they made to get us into port and debark us at a heavy equipment loading dock to be bussed back to the terminal. I have never seen such incompetent, disorganized, unprofessional debarkation. To announce that 2500 people must carry off their own luggage, stand in what was nothing short of bedlam to fight and push and shove to get on a bus to be bussed to the terminal was beyond what can be described here. I am not talking "inconvenient". I am talking dangerous. We had people being trampled and ambulances were sent to assist. I saw a man in a wheelchair trying to maneuver thru the crowd and his back wheels ran over a man's feet and the man almost dumped the wheel chair over trying to get it off his foot. People were rude, mean and tired. Carnival had one young guy out there running all over the place but he was totally out of his depth with crowd control and organization. As I told you before, my sister and I over packed. My husband is a heart patient on meds and her husband was unsteady and needed wheelchair assistance which he didn't get even though the purser said one would be provided. We were told that our room steward would help us with our luggage. But she said she couldn't help and there was no one who could help us until we went back to the purser and our room steward had to be "ordered" to assist us as far as the gangway. After that, we were on our own as were 2500 other people. There were some porters to help get the luggage on the buses and we managed to tip one of them heavily to help us maneuver in the line with all our luggage. They had no carts so it was very difficult to move it. We stood in that for about 2 hours before finally getting a bus.
But that wasn't the end of it. The buses did not pull up in front of the terminal. They used the bus parking and the bus driver said it was not his job to unload our luggage. We managed to drag it all out there and somehow got it to the front of the bus where we found a porter with a cart, again over tipping heavily for assistance to get us from the bus parking over to the terminal. He unloaded us on the curb at 2:30 and that is where we sat until 6:10 that afternoon. The 3500 people from the Conquest and the 2500 people from the Ecstasy were on that curb at the terminal at the same time, along with another 3500 from the other ship that came in with us. And just the same number of people trying to get into the terminal. I have never seen anything like it. I know that Carnival was trying to cut it's losses by turning those ships around quickly. But I also know that their FIRST obligation was to the customers they already had, "us". They stagger the port days of ships for a reason.
We were stuck with no way to leave the port. The shuttle buses were all full, as were the taxis. We waited and waited for the Holiday Inn/San Luis Shuttle. When it finally showed up it had a limited number of seats available and thousands of people wanting to board it. That one time was the only time it came by the entire time we waited on the curb. My sister finally asked a stranger that had walked to get his car and came back to pick up his wife and luggage for a ride to the hotel where we had left our car. How dangerous and desperate was that? There were 10,000 people trying to get transportation away from that port on that day. THAT was Carnival's fault. Those on Ecstasy were treated as "second class" citizens when they allowed the Conquest to use our terminal and stuck us out in some unloading dock. No debarkation assistance whatsoever and no care for anyone's safety or well being. Those are just some of the charges resting squarely on Carnival that day.
The moral of this story, if there is one, NEVER park farther away from the port than you can walk to, or have the phone number of someone to call to pick you up other than a commercial operation. NEVER carry more luggage than you are able to physically manage by yourself even if you don't intend to carry it yourself. AND don't become spoiled by the excellent, above expectations service at the time of starting your trip and expect the same quality of service after your cruise is over. Read Less