During the dates of 20-28 January 2012, I had a perfect experience aboard the Carnival Dream, for a 7-day Western Caribbean Cruise. Everything was spot-on, to include: dining, public rooms, the cabin, entertainment, value for money, and the service. I attempted to replicate this experience for my young-adult daughter’s college graduation present. I took leave from the Army and my daughter took leave from her new job. We traveled from the United States to Argentina to port. Our experience was traumatic, awful, perplexing, and cost approximately $10,000. If it was a great experience-awesome! However, I need to block out this terrible experience.
Four of approximately 3,000 passengers spoke English. My daughter and I were two of those four. The remaining passengers were from Argentina or Brazil. All onboard and excursion activities were in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Due to the low amount of English speaking passengers-no translators were available. We were ok in the beginning, as our strategy was to adapt and overcome.
Our assigned seat was at 7:45 p.m., at the New York New York restaurant. Our waiters were excellent, very kind, prompt, and personable. The food was good. The 9th deck Buffet La Paloma equaled a feeding trough. During peak hours, the following was served: focaccia, focaccia with tomato sauce, and finger sandwiches. I think they served in this manner trying to ration the lunchmeat and cheese because that was the main fare during all 3 meals and open-for business-times. Seating did not exist. Children and adults pushing, shoving, kids sitting on the food and beverage bars, tables never had an opportunity to be cleaned. The food trough was, “Survival of the Fittest.” My daughter and I sat on the stairs leading to the cabins twice-as there was no place to sit in the Paloma. The staff could not keep up.
This ship had 3 very small swimming pools and one water slide. All were saturated with mostly children and some adults. The same goes for the 3 hot-tubs. My daughter and I deemed them as cesspools. Children were running through the halls at all hours-screaming, blowing whistles…… There was no escape from screaming children.
We paid for a porthole room. Good space, however-the shower flooded the entire bathroom every time. Our stateroom attendant said, “If there are any problems, the toilets usually don’t flush.” However, he did an awesome job keeping up our room and providing towels so we could wipe up the floods.
It was limited because of the language barrier. I have never played so many games of cards in a short period of time in my life-in the cabin.
VALUE FOR MONEY:
The staff was trying so hard with what they had. Our New York New York guys were great, and so was the stateroom attendant. One Senior Guest Service Attendant was our English lifeline. She offered her phone number and was scheduled for availability for one hour twice a-day. She also ensured we got to the right place at the right time concerning our shore excursions.
At 7:00 p.m., the ship was scheduled to depart Montevideo, Uruguay. At 9:00 p.m., the passengers received an announcement that said, “Attention please, we are currently delayed from leaving the port because of weather. We will provide an update to you in approximately 3 hours.” That’s understandable. The next morning at 9:00 a.m. we were still there and had received no announcements. The stateroom staff went about their duties, but also did not know the update. When the announcements finally did occur, they were never in English. We tracked down our lifeline for updates. She told us, “You have to vacate your cabin at 2:00p.m., and the cruise line will assist in making new return arrangements for you at their expense.” While we waited, I tried to use my cruise card to access ship computers for internet so I could change our travel arrangements myself. The cards had been shut off. I was at the mercy of the ship. We were incarcerated.
My daughter and I hunkered down in a corner. The 3,000 passengers were corralled to New York New York and the 9th deck food hell. Some passengers were handicapped and could not maneuver the crowd. Both locations had overwhelmed the staff. I was able to bring back several plates from New York New York. The waitress tried to tell me, “You can’t bring food in here (our campsite) several times. I disregarded and shared the plates with those around us. The passengers were becoming riled. I got back in line to check with our English speaking lifeline (2 hours). She said, “The cruise is not liable because of weather. I will help you find new tickets to purchase.” That price would have been $5,000 again.
I said, “I am not paying for new tickets!” She told me to cut to the front of the other customer service line with approximately 300 irate passengers screaming and waving their arms. I said, “I can’t cut that line-they will kill me!” I need you to take me to the front!” She did. She took me to a computer and a phone behind the counter. I was able to change our tickets without extra charge.
Passengers had color-coded luggage tags that determined our order of disembarkation. The increments were supposed to begin departing at 8:30 p.m. Staging was in the theater. Now, passengers were beginning to riot and protest. One lady started this on the stage by chanting and screaming. Others were joining her and a petition was circulating the population. Staff and the 3 available security officers tried to intervene, but left. My daughter and I decided things were getting out of hand and we needed to find our lifeline. We found her with the other English speaking couple. She guided us to an alternate route that allowed us to depart with minimal confrontation. People were becoming physically aggressive. The last increment of passengers was scheduled to depart at 11:00 p.m.
The passengers and staff of this cruise knew we were supposed to disembark on time so that a new group of passengers could board. The dollar was the bottom line. The Costa Pacifica strategy: contain current passengers to allow preparation for next group of passengers to expedite a further money-making opportunity. There is a line between making money and treating people humanely. I have been a loyal customer as I shared my original positive experience with so many people. I am both bothered and concerned by my and my daughter’s awful experience. I don’t think I could trust another cruise again.
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