September 2016 - Carnival Freedom to Caribbean - Western
Like a herd of African animals of your choice, if you enjoy following 2,500 of your best new friends, with no deviations, no customer service and no method of dealing with trip challenges or exceptions, you will love this cruise ship and cruise line. If by chance you want to deviate from the factory conveyor belt offerings like eating a nice meal in your room with your wife / husband / significant other; or you desire not to spend a good chunk of your trip standing in some customer service line waiting for something or someone; or you do not want to waste half of your trip attempting to get someone on the ship to actually answer their telephone; this cruise ship and cruise line is not for you.
We attempted to request and then purchase a nice romantic meal in our room since we brought some high end champagne onboard and just could not get it done. We were actually willing to pay someone a tip of $100 to make it happen and the crew of this ship and Carnival Cruise Line, are just not set up to provide anything but the bare basics of customer requests or customer service. Customer service is just something they talk about onboard or over the telephone; not something they can actually do. To add injury to insult; the cruise line is so separated from their customer base and their needs and so into making sure they keep any and all profits that when something goes very wrong on your cruise, like a bus breaking down on an execution and three busses of people now have to fit into two physical buses and you get to sit in the stairwell of your bus for 1.75 hrs on a moon cratered single lane dirt road; Carnival cruise line will not support you in any way shape or form. In fact, they will come right out and tell you that they have provided the service and will not refund any amount of the original cost. Buyer be very aware when dealing with this ship and cruise line.
Embarkation was perfect. 20 mins from the car into the ship although we may have had an advantage since we purchased a Grand Suite and therefore had faster access than some standing in long lines. There were in fact very long lines in Galveston; we are not sure how long it took people in those lines to get onto the ship and into their rooms.
Getting into Room
Getting into our room was also perfect. We were onboard at 12:30pm, eating a small lunch and were into our room by 1:45pm.
Getting our two bags was also perfect; one bag showing up before we arrived in out room at 1:45pm and the other about 2 hours after. They did remove a bottle of saline solution from my bag which was needed for medical purposes. They gave no notice as to why this was done and no card that the item was even removed from my bag. I very much needed this saline solution for important medical reasons. This turned out to be a huge waste of my vacation time going forward attempting to get Carnival to right this wrong. Getting them to replace this bottle of saline solution tuned into a 5+ hr ordeal and a waste of my vacation time. FYI, they charge $12.50 onboard for a miniature bottle of saline that would cost $3.00 at a Walgreens or CVS.
Food was average to better than average. The food at the buffets and restaurants we went to was always hot and mostly flavorful. The cake is all the same no matter what flavor you think it is. They must add some small flavoring at the end of the prep or baking cycle to make a cake chocolate cake or an orange cake but in the end, they all taste like sugar.
Maintenance on this ship is just awful. Our Grand Suite Cabin 7288 had various challenges in the room to include a small refrigerator that was not working. Since we brought some high end champagne with us on the cruise, we needed to get this fixed ASAP to chill the champagne. This turned into another 5-10+ hr ordeal as the staff on this ship and their management are just not set up to handle hiccups of any type and I do mean ANY type.
Calling for help or Support while on the ship
Getting help or support over the telephone was just downright embarrassing for Carnival Cruise Lines. It was so bad that I actually thought that it was a master design so that the staff did not have to actually deal with any problems their customers might have while on their cruise. Here is how the design works. You need to ask a question or get supported in some way. You pick up the telephone and call any number on the telephone and no one answers. You wait 10 mins; 20 mins; 30 mins; 40 mins and finally at 60 mins (No Joke) you just give up and go down stairs to try to find a human being to help you. When you do find someone, they either won’t help you or just can’t help you. They point you to the Customer Service desk and tell you to speak to someone at the customer service desk. You arrive at the customer service desk to find two to three carnival staff members working at the desk and a line of 20-30+ customers waiting to speak to someone. This happens each and every day of your cruise. I must say I am very embarrassed for Carnival Cruise Lines and the Carnival Freedom staff that any of their customer’s, not to mention the ones who pay $3,200 for a Grand Suite, have to spend so many hours standing in a line just to ask a question or get something fixed. Just awful customer service. Walmart customer service are several steps above Carnival if you can believe that.
We purchased mineral water direct from Carnival Cruise before we left on our trip. The water was in our room when we arrived at 1:45pm on day-1. The first night we wanted to open up a bottle and have a drink. Searching high and low; everywhere in the cabin; we were unable to locate a bottle opener. Once again on the phone for 1hr plus and then downstairs again yet for another hour attempting to find out how we should open up our water. We were actually told by the Carnival staff… Wait for it…. Wait for it… that they do not include bottle openers in their cabins and that if we wanted to open our water we could call housekeeping or room service and they would send someone up to the cabin to open the water. I asked them how that would happen since no one every answers their telephone. I also asked them why they sell water on their web site that none of their customer would be able to open. I got a perplexed puzzled look from a group of Carnival staff members but no answers. When this occurred I then knew the type of company I was cruising with and just gave up. Imagine purchasing water from the cruise line and then not being able to open it up once onboard. I ended up paying a bar tender $25 for his opener for the remainder of the cruise. Carnival staff did absolutely nothing to correct the problem.
We purchased the Croydon Plantation excursion directly from Carnival. The Croydon Plantation staff must have messed up on the total count of people who elected to take this trip because there was a mad rush to hire a third bus on the fly to accommodate all of the people. As lady luck would have it, we ended up on the third bus. The trip started 1.25 hrs later than the scheduled time because they just could not transport all of the people they had without another bus. Keep this in mind when reading the rest of the story. After the plantation, which was actually fun, we started back to the ship and no less than 4 mins after departing the plantation, that third bus…. the one we were on… well it over heated and broke down in the middle of a small stream that crosses over the single lane road, which has moon like craters every 10 - 15 feet. After about 30 mins, we got the privilege of walking into the stream to help push the bus out of the water and into someone’s driveway which was up a muddy dirt hill. Heavy bus up a muddy dirt hill - Nice. Remember that as you read forward. Now we have a mass of people from three buses trying to fit into two physical busses. No attempt to request another bus or additional transportation. I got the hard floor of the stairwell of the bus and believe you – me, this road is 1.45+ hrs back to the ship with potholes the size of small VW beetles. This was a back breaking trip to be sure as we were sitting on the hard floor of the stairwell with no AC because the bus was so over loaded they did not want this bus to overheat. Not wanting to stand in yet another 2-3 hr long line at cruise ship customer service desk when we did get back to the ship, I elected to wait to contact Carnival Cruise Line to request some type of refund for this excursion. When I was back home, I contact Carnival and they researched the event and came back to me about 4 hours later and stated that they felt they had provided the excursion as described on their web site and that they would not be offering any type of refund; not even a 10% discount for the trauma on our backs. This should tell you about the company you are dealing with. They simply want your money; they charge you for breathing air on the ship and when they or their excursion partners cannot perform what they should be doing and what you have paid for; they won’t even make a gesture to refund some portion of your money. Take this excursion at your own risk. You may not make it back to the ship on time!
The Freedom crew and Carnival Cruise Line… not sure which is the case, are simply unable to accommodate any type of basic request or special request that goes against their conveyor belt type customer service mentality. My wife and I wanted to enjoy a nice meal in our room with our high end champagne that we brought onboard. At each point we were told they could not do it. Then we started offering to pay an extra $100 tip to get it done. Nope, no can do. Then we were told by the steak restaurant who charge an extra $35 a plate that we could come into their restaurant and eat our salad and vegetables then they could send the steaks with us back to our cabin. I ask them if they were serious and if this was a candid camera type moment and the cruise director, who was very funny, was going to show us on the big screen the next day. Nope… They were dead serious.
Benefits for purchasing a Suite
None. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Bupkiss. Zippo.
Unless you actually want a suite which we did, don’t waste your money on a suite thinking you are going to get some better treatment or customer service. You’re not. Not even if you attempt to pay extra for it.
Since our cruise has completed we have had several e-mails regarding discounts for our next cruise with Carnival. Um….It is our opinion that Carnival Cruise is not actually a refined cruise line but rather an expensive floating public bus service. Do yourself a big favor. Save your vacation; save your money; mitigate vacation challenges and just fly to your destination or take a more refined cruise line.
Many of you have read my balanced reviews of various hotels in the Mexican Riviera and I believe I am pretty neutral and open minded in my positions. That said, I have many other things I could share with you about our experience on our cruise to you “the readers” however it is just far easier for me to just say; “Carnival Cruise Lines is nothing short of a joke. Purchase tickets on their ships at your own risk, not for the money or value you might or might not receive but rather for the wasted vacation time you just lost. Vacation days are just too hard to come by to gamble them away with Carnival Cruise Lines or the Carnival Freedom.”