My review of our 10/27 Cruise on the Carnival Spirit is written from the viewpoint of someone who is disabled - two different accidents affected the structure of my knee, necessitating the removal of the kneecap and ultimately requiring ... Read More
My review of our 10/27 Cruise on the Carnival Spirit is written from the viewpoint of someone who is disabled - two different accidents affected the structure of my knee, necessitating the removal of the kneecap and ultimately requiring two joint replacement surgeries. While I can walk, I can't go far, and I also can't stand or kneel for long periods. I use an electric scooter to get around, and it lets me live a fairly normal life. Best of all, I can travel without needing a lot of help from family and friends which is nice. I'm always aware of the looks I get from children and I often get them to try out my scooter's horn and talk with them about why I use it to get around not only to be friendly but also to relieve the fears so normal with children in this situation. My review is dedicated to one such young man who celebrated his birthday aboard the Spirit and who was always ready to talk with us and tell us about his day. Happy 7th Birthday again Dillon - we enjoyed meeting you - thanks for the ride!
It's also written for the Splendored Spirits, a group who's traveled together before and that we were lucky enough to meet through CruiseCritic's Meet & Mingle boards. When you see them onboard, it's hard to tell who's new and who's a veteran, but one of the best lessons you can learn from them is that what really matters when you cruise is the amount of fun you can have and what YOU can bring to the table as well. There were pre- and post-boarding get-togethers, a dinner for 25 +/- in the specialty restaurant, wines from "home" that were shared the first formal night (and you CAN fit a gazillion people into a cabin if you expand a bit into the hallway). There was a Bingo run, a Poker crawl (literally) and in between, you may have seen some well-decorated cabin doors. There was a simian stowaway named Spank who had a blow-up pal all dressed up. Of all the folks we've met cruising, they're the tops! The moral? Check out a meet and mingle group, even if the cruise line isn't paying. Hopefully, Spirits, you'll get to Italy to visit Tom and Wendy while they're there...and once my back gets back to normal, we'll catch up on the door decorating! Thanks for the great job you did with ours - we were able to earn quite a bit of extra cash running a 24-hour concierge service, and might even have rivaled Carnival's Aleksandar K - not hard to do! There may not be "Spirits" on your next cruise...but you never know!
San Diego: our daughter Wendy and her husband Tom lived in Vista, CA at the time of our cruise (they just moved to Italy for the next 3 years) and we fell in love with the area. We took two weeks for this trip, wanting to spend extra time with them. We were able to visit the big black Mouse in Anaheim, and also saw Celtic Thunder in concert there too; we were enthralled by the Pandas and the variety of unusual birds at the SD Zoo; and we spent a morning cruising around the SD Pier area - AMAZING! We followed it up with lunch at Filippo's Italian Market and Restaurant in Little Italy. INCREDIBLE! Wendy and I ate half our meals and took the rest home for Tom, who's well known for his prodigious appetite - even HE couldn't eat it all. (Absolutely the best meal we had, however was brunch at the Beach Break Cafe near Oceanside on Vista Way - try the Banana Crunch French Toast!) We were glad we got to see the Sea Lions on our tour of the pier, because a late sailing due to a medical emergency made it too dark once we actually left. Now down to business!
Embarkation: Be sure you turn in at the second entrance, away from the guys with bikes - they'll charge you $10 to drive one of you around the corner to the "real" porters, who'll charge you another $10! We arrived around 1:00 p.m. and someone directed us to the Accessible check-in and then we were on our own. The area wasn't well marked, but we managed.
Cabin: Last year (today to be exact!) our daughter got married on the Carnival Legend, a sister ship to the Spirit - read the review if you want. We knew that with an ADA cabin on Spirit, we'd have to park my scooter in the shower or climb over it all week long and there'd be no room for Wendy, so we picked a "regular" cabin, and guess what - we had to climb over my scooter all week long and had to move it again once Wendy climbed into the upper bunk. Our steward, Edgar, was pleasant, but only cleaned the cabin half of the time, although he left plenty of towels. Speaking of towels, he only had a 3-towel-animal repertoire and we missed some of our favorites. Getting into and out of the cabin is a challenge - while someone holds the door and you keep hands and elbows IN, you'll need to go fast to be able to clear the threshold; then stop fast so you don't hit whoever's holding the door. Same problem entering and exiting. Dear Carnival: people who need mobility devices aren't usually able to navigate around them easily; and they also need room to turn them around.
Anytime Dining: We waited in line for 25 minutes the first night, just to get a timer to tell us when to return (in 30 minutes). Luckily my husband hadn't taken his pre-meal insulin! They had issues with my scooter so my husband ended up parking it outside the restaurant each night. We had only 2 types of bread, both white, one stale. Portions were adequate, but the menu's insipid and the meats were tough. Each night, one item would drop down into the "also ran" section. Desserts were a disappointment as well. They now offer Chocolate Melting Cake every night - and often it's the only decent selection. I had it 3 times for lack of anything better - first it was cooked so well there was no "melting." Next, it was okay, but barely warm. Last, it was done on top but just barely and the whole thing was melted. There was often way too much time between courses...or just the opposite. You never knew what to expect.
We'd enjoyed watching a group on the floor below - they had the cutest little girl with them. Most nights she was beautifully behaved, but one night you could tell she was going to lose it and just after the salads, she did. Rather than let her scream and irritate others, her mom went to take her back to their cabin and asked if one of the others would bring her entrEe to her afterwards. Both the waiter and Maitre 'd had a problem with that and refused to accommodate them. THEY created the scene, not the diners! Dear Carnival: no one wants to hear kids screaming while they're eating; and if a parent is considerate enough to take them out, by all means GIVE THEM DINNER AND LET THEM GO!! Also give them extra points for being considerate travelers.
Non-Dining-Room Eating: as one who is seated much of the time, it gets frustrating when I can't see or reach utensils or food. Most of the time, we eat in shifts so that we all get food that's either hot or cold. Carnival employees in these areas were gracious enough to take a tray back to a table; but it's not fair to ask them to go thru the food lines and help me fill my tray. It'd be so nice to be able to see and to do it myself. How hard is it to keep oatmeal hot?
ADA Issues and Shore Excursions: In case you don't know, ADA, means Americans with Disabilities Act; and it means that those of us who can't get around have the right to have exceptions and accommodations made so that we can enjoy the same things "normal" folks do. In fact, NCL just lost a major court battle over this. We had time constraints for this cruise and it was just about the only one that we could do, but I was really disgusted to see that NOT ONE shore excursion was ADA accessible, nor did any of the Carnival staff offer to assist me in getting my scooter over the hump in the gangway. We checked on a few private tours but decided just to visit the dock area shops. Aboard the ship, there were countless places where you couldn't see, reach, or maneuver. For example: I like doing the daily puzzles - but they're placed on top of a grand piano surrounded by club chairs. I can't get to them in my scooter, so I have to either get them myself or find someone to help. Same with photos, shops, etc. Dear Carnival: have a Guest Services rep use a scooter all day - not just for a short spell, but all day. You'll see what I mean. It's another area where Princess and RCL excel and Carnival sinks to the bottom of the sea.
Acapulco: Again, I had trouble with the gangway and nobody was there to help - in fact, I got yelled at for letting space grow between me and the person ahead. Dear Carnival: I did it so that if I needed to stop, I wouldn't run into them!!! I can't say how aggravated this made me. Once we got out of the building, there were scores of people and tour guides trying to get us to take tours, buy stuff, and "hey lady-ing" to the point where they were grabbing my leg and it got scary. We went back to the ship, same issues gangway wise.
T'a and Ixtapa: were even worse. We waited over an hour after people began to tender before my daughter and I left. We weren't even off the lift before a female Carnival rep snarled, "if you can't carry that thing down 10-steps, you can't get off the ship." It wasn't friendly, it was curt and when we tried ask about the logistics of doing it, she said it again, but louder. Wendy went ashore and I went to the Purser's Desk and spoke with Aleksandar Kovacevic where I expressed my disappointment over their compliance with the ADA issues: there wasn't one single shore excursion accessible to those of us with scooters - and if you needed a wheelchair here, you were out of luck. I told him that I was disappointed that there were no ADA Accessible shore excursions, and described my experience moments earlier. His response was to offer me a wheelchair and tell me that there were also 10 stairs at the other end that I would have to navigate, something I couldn't do. That was when he told me he'd provide me with the names and addresses of Carnival people working with ADA issues - and admitted he had no knowledge whatsoever about the NCL case. Two days later, I stopped to see about the names he'd promised. The purser on duty checked the computer and told me that his report read: "I told the passenger that she could have the use of one of our wheelchairs and that settled the matter." I asked again for the letter and got it the next night. No more shore trips for me! Dear Carnival: Don't want disabled passengers? Say so! Oops...you can't do that, can you?
We were ready for this cruise to end, and after having a final breakfast with the Splendored Spirits we returned to our cabin and gathered our things. We found the area where we were to report, and were sent to the "regular" lines We made it off the ship, but not before we got bitten AGAIN... It appears that Carnival has a new program whereby you can save time and carry your own baggage off the ship. To do this, it states clearly that you must carry your bags down the ramps saving the elevators for those who need them. Although there were Carnival Agents monitoring the elevators, it took us almost an hour to get one because of all the able-bodied people using them to get their luggage downstairs. My daughter went on ahead to get our bags and found them quickly; but it cost us extra since the porter had to wait so long for us.
Lest We Forget: We can't say enough great things about the Captain on the Spirit. He was great about letting passengers know when we encountered whales, dolphins and other creatures of the deep. He's also the first captain we've encountered who doesn't hide away on the bridge. Very often we'd see him walking along and he'd always stop to talk with a passenger. Our daughter Wendy, mentioned that she and Tom were being transferred to Italy shortly and he took the time to ask where they'd be and tell her a bit about it and about the area he was from.
Then we have Jen, infamous cruise director. The first time I heard her voice on the Spirit, I told Ed and Wendy that we knew her - she'd been the cruise director last year on the Legend and shortly afterwards, we saw her walking along and I asked if it were so - she said she certainly was and recalled that Wendy's husband was in the Navy! Speaking normally, she was fine, but on the PA's aboard ship, her voice is like nails on a chalkboard - Dear Carnival...please fix the PA. It doesn't come across clearly and it'd be so much easier if we could hear announcements in our cabins instead of having to dash over the scooter the to the door only to get the last 3 words!
If you're a traveler who doesn't set off the scanners at airports, feel free to stop reading here. If you've heard about all the issues with the government's new pat-down program, you may want to read on: I should've known something was up when the Houston TSA Agent began talking about new guidelines - I have a titanium knee. My experience, had it been anywhere but there, would have qualified as assault or sexual harassment at the least. While some form of enhanced scanning may be needed for safety reasons; having an unknown person's hands feeling up my legs and cupping my groin, then pulling out the waistband of my pants and peeking in before going under, between, and around my breasts was beyond acceptable. At one point, I asked if they would prefer it if I just dropped my drawers! The "best" part of the experience was that because of my agitation, they never even checked my scooter! If you need an additional pat down, be sure you ask for privacy - although frosted glass isn't all that private - particularly when a man comes in with a question mid-feel. Yep, it happened! When I requested a complaint form, a supervisor was quick to assure me that they used gloves and that things are going to get worse as the John Pistole, the new screening czar implements additional changes, i.e. the scatter machines. On our return from San Diego, they used the scatter machine and all they had to do was pat down my knee - fine with me! I know that safety is critical these days, but this was just way too intrusive for my taste.
Now you have it. Will we cruise again? Yes, but probably not with Carnival. We've had too many problems in the past to turn the other cheek yet again (not even stipulating "which cheek!") Will we fly again? Not unless there's no other option. If you're disabled and encounter this type of thing with Carnival - please, do as I did and write a review...then send it to Carnival as well! I am, with thanks to Alex once again! If you want, feel free to contact me on Facebook. I'll be glad to hear from you.
Now that you've memorized all this info, I'm sure you wonder whether we had a good time or not. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. As experienced cruisers, we've learned what to get upset about and what to let go, but my input can hopefully help you to have a better trip and perhaps Carnival to do a better job. In truth, we're just glad that we didn't leave the 7th...now THAT was a cruise to write home about! Read Less