On the verge of another cruise
I have spent the past month researching my next cruise. This time around I am married and we have a baby. I found this site by accident quite frankly, but I have to admit, after reading most of these stories, my plans are now up in the air. I am wondering how many of these complaints are economy based?
I know a few things can be taken with a grain of salt. People lie, or at least stretch the truth. I also know companies that entertain 100's of thousands of people annually cannot be expected to be perfect. And it is reasonable for a person to expect a full refund in most cases. Granted the cruise lines are about profit. And if you read this completely, you will see my tips, tricks and hints to cruising at the bottom of this post.
Because of these facts, I felt I would throw in my three cents on this subject. So let me start by saying I am not an employee of Carnival and everything you will read is 100% true and of my honest opinion.
As I stated above, I came across this site while researching my family's first vacation. Mainly I was looking into the Carnival MasterCard to see if the point's are worth the trouble. And in my opinion, it's NOT. The biggest reason that lead me to this conclusion is: I simply cannot Google a single positive comment about the card, the issuing company, detail to exactly how many miles = a cruise. So I have decided risking the ole credit rating for a measly $50-$100 discount would be stupid on my part.
As for my cruising history. I sailed on the Jubilee back around 2003. I enjoyed the cruise a lot! It was exciting and there was plenty to do to keep me busy and happy. Everything was perfect, even my tiny bottom of the boat room. I cannot recall a single complaint from that cruise beyond having to pay $27 for a soda card. I will touch on this again later...
So atlas! My opinions, views and advice on cruising with Carnival!
The food was fantastic! The service was what you would expect, perfect! And on top of perfect, they are (excluding those you have to come in contact with) mostly out of sight. Yes, that includes cleaning your room 2 times a day and you never catching them in the act! I don't know how they do it either, but they pull it off!
What you will learn on the boat is that there are so many things going on at one time, you will find yourself trying to decide if you want to go to "this" or "that" because most of the events overlap. You will either chose to miss a few things, or catch the opening of one, and the closing of another. Don't get me wrong, this is a GOOD thing! It beats walking around a boat all day with nothing to do.
Now I did get sick the night of the Formal, just my luck. I was taking my motion sickness pills but I am a seasoned fisherman and I don't believe that was the cause. I think I just had a bug and it went away by morning. Nothing to blame on the cruise, food or anything beyond nature.
On this particular cruise, a 4 day out of Galveston going to Cozumel. I was a bit disappointed that the stay in Mexico was only 7 hours. We had time for 1 excursion, a bit of shopping and we had dinner at a local "cafe". (No, I was sick BEFORE we ate there, so don't ask).
Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about my trip. It was low budget, entertaining and I spent 4 days on a big boat in the middle of nowhere. :)
The Good, Bad and the Ugly
The ugliest part of of this trip was being sick. While it was short lived and I was back in action, it was miserable. Mainly because there was NOTHING onboard to be purchased or given for flu like symptoms. No common cold meds, NOTHING! Ended up bumming something off a neighbor who had cruised before. The Bad: The time in port is short and seems to work in warp speed. 7 hours seems like 3 and the desire to check your watch with every step you take seem to speed things along rather than to slow them. The Good: It was a great time and an experience I will never forget.
Now, my last cruise was 5/08 on Ecstasy out of Galveston. This is the cruise my Girlfriend (soon to be wife) decided to go on. Once again, the people were great, room service was marvelous and everything went off without a hitch. EXCEPT!!! The food service had slipped. BADLY. The 24 hour pizza place is open 23 hours. I understand they have to clean, but the pizza was hardly edible. Unlike my first cruise, the pizza was great! Not this time around. And not only did the pizza suck, but all the meals in general seemed lacking. I will add this one note, I ordered a BLT delivered to the room and I tell you they can make a BLT. It must have had a 1/2 pound of bacon on it. My arteries were hardening just looking at it. I actually had to take bacon off to eat it.
This was a 5 day cruise with a stop over in Cozumel and Progresso. Cozumel had come a long ways since I had visited 5 years earlier. Progresso was in about the same shape Cozumel was back in '03. Not that is a bad thing, we had a good time in Progresso, and did the city tour excursion and enjoyed it.
The Good, Bad and Ugly: The ugliest part of this trip was simply the food. Nothing more. The Bad: Granted we had an Ocean View room and the window was dirty (from sea water I assume) we still has some awesome views of the ocean. It wasn't a big deal, but for $100 person more, you might expect a clean window. I did call and ask them about it and they made a valid point they have a lot of windows to constantly clean. I can see the labor burden plus the potential for evasion of privacy. They did offer me a nice gift on my next cruise but I told them I wasn't complaining, just inquiring about it. The Good: It was a good cruise and we had a wonderful time! I learned a lot of secrets and details on this cruise that I wish I had known beforehand.
So with that out of the way, let's get to the part that counts! The tips, hints and tricks!
I will start with the soda car. Since I hear it is now up to $40 per cruise, her is how to beat the price. You are allowed 2 drinks per trip with the card. You can also share the card since the employees rarely have time to do anything more than look at it. So if you have a party of 4 or more, pass that puppy around! And share the cost of it. ALSO note, Carnival will NOT tell you this but you are allowed to take a 12 pack of sodas on board at embarkation!
You are also allowed a case of bottle water! You have to put it in a suitcase, but who cares! it's nice to have bottle water in Mexico. not because the water is bad. Matter of fact, most of the tourist towns now have water treatment plants. But the peace of mind given to those who worry, bottle water is priceless. And in our case, we use it to mix baby formula.
Another net trick is to get to the terminal EARLY!!! If you depart at 4pm, they usually open the doors at noon, be there at 11, if the cruise is a sellout they open the doors early. Just don't expect luggage to be there when you get there.
Something else I found useful, once you are back home, they prefer you stay in your cabin and wait to be called. This is OK, you can catch an extra hour of sleep if you have a long drive ahead of you. BUT if you head down to the galley an hour before disembarking, you can get in the front of the line and to hell with all that waiting. This is great if you have a tight airline schedule.
Things to get used to on a Carnival Cruise. Cozumel. Almost every single cruise goes to Cozumel. So if you plan to cruise a lot, remember, they shut everything down when in port. If you are bored with Cozumel, stay aboard and SLEEP! Read a book, do something, do nothing!
Carnival provides soap and shampoo in the showers (as well as razors if you need an extra, just ask and they'll get you a couple), this is great if want to smell like you work in a hospital! I suggest bringing travel sizes of everything. Shampoo, toothpaste, old tooth brush, travel deodorant, soap ( I use the stuff I steal from hotels). The reason I use the travel sizes and the old brush is because I can just toss everything when I am done. No need to bring that mess home.
LESS IS MORE! At the beginning of your cruise they make you feel like you are on vacation. They help you with this and that, here and there. You can park and a bus will take you and luggage to the terminal. What they fail to mention is after the cruise, you have to carry all your baggage through the terminal to the buses that take you back to your car. A far cry better than the old days when we dropped people and luggage at the terminal and then drove 1/2 mile to park only to have to hike back to the terminal!! But none the less, do NOT expect any help with luggage AFTER the cruise.
Why do laundry on a cruise? Because it allows you to pack light! Read above for more details!! Plus it gives you something to do while you are in Cozumel for the 3rd time and not interested in going to port. Stay back, relax, do laundry and take some personal time.
The is a safe in the rooms. This is good and bad! It is good in the sense you can lock things away from other passengers, but don't confuse this for safety from the staff. Also, note that there is a lip on the bottom where the safe door closes. You can run your fingers in this crack. I suggest you do it. I found a. 5 carat diamond pendant some poor soul lost. And if you drag your jewelry out, you too could lose something of value.
My 2 cents on passports. Take them! The passport card is nifty, but if you lose it you are toast! Keep your passports in the safe and carry your passport card. If you lose the card you have a back-up. You cannot fly with a passport card, its for auto and cruise travel only. So if an emergency arises and you don't have your Passport Book, chances are you not going to get anywhere fast. Also, on this note, EVERYONE is now required to have a passport, not just adults. if they are old enough to breathe they are old enough for a passport. If you have kids, get theirs now! And get the pass port card as well. And go ahead and get a state id card. TX has no minimum age and I don't believe there is too much positive ID when you are not in your home country.
You should also note that Mexican hospitals DO NOT accept US Insurance. At least not as of my last sail date. They are cash money, you can't pay they don't work. Research foreign travel insurance polices before you cruise. Carnival offers one with restrictions. Something is better than nothing.
Pre-Payment. Don't pay in full. Do anything you can to pay as little as you can. Meaning DO NOT pay the tip in advance. If something goes wrong and you don't cruise, they get tipped for doing nothing. And getting your money back is about as likely as... well. It's not. Pay the deposit only then pay the rest. if something come sup last minute, bail out and keep more than half you money. Always put your cruise on a credit card. You might have something to fight back with if you use credit card, or even better some credit cards off trip protection.
You can Google trip insurance and find a bunch of companies willing to write cheap insurance. I found one that covers the three of us on our trip for $110. And that is 80% of paid up amount. Not too shabby.
And my last piece of advice.
Rooms. If you got the money to spend, by all means get the suite! Its spacious, you get VIP check in and a few other little treats. If you can't afford the suit, the balcony is nice so is the Ocean View. If those are out of your budget too, remember this. All you need is a place to sleep. So the smallest place is good enough far as I am concerned. You still get to do the same stuff as those in the fancy over priced rooms!
My BIGGEST complaint with the cruise lines: Infants don't travel for free. I have to pay $200 for my 6 month old to travel with us. Now, this would not be a big deal IF they provided diapers, formula and such. They don't even offer daycare during the day, just baby sitting after 10pm and it's cost an extra $6 an hour! Makes one wonder why you have to pay the $200 and whether I am interested in the cruise all together.
Hope this helps someone.