Carnival Cruise Line - Can Service and Entertainment Get Any Worse?
MIAMI, ILLINOIS -- Just two weeks ago, I went on the Carnival Inspiration 4D Baja Mexico cruise spanning Thanksgiving with my parents and my grand-aunt. Our experience was sub-par due to an amalgamation of reasons, and I sent this review to the Carnival executive office for future improvement, but received no response for the entire week, so have no choice but to start seeking other venues to voice my dissatisfaction.
This was our family's first time on Carnival Cruises, but we have been on your sister company Princess to Alaska and Royal Caribbean to the Bahamas, so have experience to contrast against. Traveling is one of my life passions and I do so fairly extensively (about 3 times internationally a year) and hope to sustain a recent tradition of cruising annually since my mother has especially loved cruise experiences.
For a Thanksgiving cruise that came at a premium for (and I even booked a suite for my parents - we were in V25 & M219), I expected all the services promised to us delivered, but they were not. One of my parent's key fascinations with cruises stems from the variety of nightly productions and comedy shows on board, and on this specific cruise, the Fiesta Latina show was cancelled Tuesday night with nothing to replace it, and then again Wednesday night, with "Showtime" to replace it. Unfortunately, that same "Showtime" was repeated Thursday night, leaving no real value-add.
This was a key letdown for us because in our minds, the 4 value foundations of a cruise are the floating hotel, the food, the service, the entertainment, and that last two were significantly lacking. We were never told what these "circumstances beyond our control was" and I feel that a great company has a contingency plan especially on such a big holiday cruise. Even having 2 separate, less glamorous shows instead of one cancelled and another repeat would have been a huge boon, and we had never experienced such low quality on Royal or Princess.
My next 2 issues deal with safety & hygiene on-board the ship. First, I recognize that Carnival is a family-oriented cruise, but better emphasis needs to be placed on parents to take care of the children or more attentiveness from staff members need be exercised. My aunt of age 77 was knocked over by 2 youngsters on the Lido deck the first day. Fortunately, she was fine, but had she suffered an injury, Carnival would have a potential general liability claim on their hands. I am an actuary in an insurance company, so I know this risk is simply too significant to ignore. Next, I noticed that virtually nobody on Carnival uses the hand sanitizer before meals. When we were on Royal & especially Princess, there was only 1 entrance to the buffet lines, always with a staff member there to request customers to use the sanitizer. Perhaps this is why Carnival is often on the news concerning norovirus outbreaks, as recently as May of this year. The fix in adopting models that have worked on other sister lines should not be onerous, so I strongly encourage this change on Carnival.
Service in some areas need improvement, and 3 small illustrations can highlight this well. First, when I was in line at the Fun Shops, I overheard a lady asking one of the staff members about their work schedules and environment, and she immediately groused about how they got no time off between cruises, how she worked 7 days a week with low pay, that as soon as one group disembarked, another boarded. Corporations have to maximize profit, but they can also do so in a way that their employees do not feel unsatisfied, and it was disconcerting to hear such an experience as a customer.
My time at the craps table in the Monte Carlo Casino was unsettling as well, because the young lady working my side was most inexperienced, and I caught her twice distributing incorrect winnings to me, and fear that I may have missed more. I recognize that being a craps dealer is not easy and I probably make more complex bets than many people, but the training needs to improve and again, I did not experience this at all on Royal or Princess. Finally, and perhaps this is due to over-heightened expectations, I expected a suite booking to come with more amenities. For examples, in other lines, VIP access comes with access to private clubs, private pools (which would've been tremendous given the number of kids in the Lido ones), fresh flowers, and more attentive service, but all my parents received were priority embarkation and de-embarkation, 35 more square footage of space, and a 30 square foot balcony for nearly double the price. I simply cannot find a compelling reason for clients to book in a Carnival suite, which is ironic because the high-end market when treated properly tends to be most high-margin as well, so a few extra courtesies could go a long way.
I want to highlight the positives as well on the cruise, so that Carnival can continue to improve its strengths. The mini golf facilities and waterworks available are great for kids and grown ups alike, since even my parents enjoyed trying the variety of entertainment on board. Food is wonderfully crafted, although the soups were consistently too salty. Our rooms were well-serviced and the dining staff top-notch in professionalism and courtesy. The many lounges, bars, galleries provided the multifarious environments we had come to expect on cruises. Shore excursions went smoothly and we enjoyed a fun time on them.
So, what is the consequence of all this? Well, we will not be using Carnival's services again and unless Carnival addresses this issue for us, will try to let the world know of our experience so that future customers know what to avoid.