January 2015 - Carnival Sensation to Caribbean - Bahamas
As a huge fan of Carnival, and having sailed on their ships about 20 times beginning in 1984 we were excited to take our two kids on their own first cruise. It's the same itinerary I had travelled as a solo cruiser, and had taken my wife on as first timers, albeit on different ships. The booking experience was great and we booked two cabins so the boys and the girls had privacy and the best experience for the first time out. The boarding process was great, and unfortunately the boarding and disembarking were the best parts. Our cabins were clean, and always made up when we left, but we never met our cabin steward, have no clue who they were - we had one towel animal the whole trip and they changed the head once - when we would walk by other cabins, we could see some had them lined up on the counters and window ledges. The food was pretty good except for when we boarded, they were taking food from in front of people and putting it away - we had been travelling all day and simply wanted a bite, but no, it was 3, and no food. We'd signed up for Your Time dining, and didn't understand what it was, but we were able to relatively smoothly transition that to a late seating dinner. The waiters never really knew who we were and didn't really spend any time getting to know us either - I preferred lemonade with my dinner and had to go two floors up to the Lido Buffet to get it myself, twice - out of 3 dinners - I didn't get what I had ordered for my meal. It's my belief that the tipping system has affected the service, as tipping is basically mandatory and added to your Sign and Sail (Drink and Sink) account. This ship is tired, and pretty rough in areas, from dented fixtures to ripped and shaggy carpeting to some areas that are just plain tacky. We had also signed my son up for Camp Carnival, they never said boo to us, and he never attended anything with them - zero communication, or, they just didn't care - he'd looked foward to it and meeting some kids his age and was a bit bummed.
All that aside, we did our best to have fun, and I never said much to my kids about the service issues and the ship, why 'poison' them? The one thing they were amazed at was how many absolutely drunk people there were. (they are 10 and 14) and I told them that many people just want to get away, as the port is so close. When I was with them we saw people falling down, getting carried, walking around in a stupor and many variations of, and many times my daughter was asked by servers if she wanted drinks! (keep in mind she's 14...). For many, this was a booze cruise and more power to them, it is unfortunate when their actions taint our vacation - we have just as much right to be sober as they have to be drunk. But, this wasn't the worst thing.
We had photos taken at the spots and backdrops where the Pixels crew had set up. We dressed up for them, and invested a lot of intentional time. We haven't had family photos done, and thought, what a great time to do so. On the second evening my wife and myself we were looking at pics, and I was scrolling through pictures I'd taken on my phone to see if we'd taken better ones at the port and when we had just gotten off the ship. The Pixels guy said loudly, "no picture taking". We hadn't. He came up and demanded that we delete the pictures on my phone. I have literally hundreds, and I said no. The guy went off on how much time they spent and basically how bad we were to 'steal' photos. We hadn't - he then said he was going to destroy the photos we had picked up and were holding. I was so ticked, we simply left. The next night I went to see our pictures again, and could find none, and I do mean none. Went to the customer service desk and asked them who was the manager. Draguna contacted someone and told me 'the manager is unavailable', suggested I talk to 'the lady from Mexico' at the pixels booth upstairs. She said the man I had talked to the night before was Rahul and he WAS the photo manager and that she often had to deal with issues relating to him. She was nice, and we dug through pictures, and a notebook of ones they'd taken - finding some, but never the ones Rahul said he was destroying. We put all we could find in an envelope and she marked it with our cabin #. I asked my wife if she would go look at them after dinner, and she went, but Rahul was there, and told her ALL the pictures in the envelope were destroyed. When she found me, she was crying and upset. You can guess that I made a beeline for the desk only to be told Rahul was 'unavailable'. (they loved that word) I was then told no one was over him management wise. I thought this was ridiculous, and accepted that the photos were gone, but the longer I thought about it, the more it has frustrated me. What right is it of that manager to destroy my family's memories, especially keepsakes we wanted to own, and PAY for. At that point, I just wanted off the ship and to go enjoy the rest of our Florida vacation, which we did.
Come the next week - we called Carnival, and have talked to several people there. As of Feb 28th, we have recieved no response. Nothing. So, a month later, they can't be bothered with contacting us, or any form of contact at all. The last fellow (John) told me 6 to 8 weeks minimum for any contact, he also told me that HE takes pictures of the pictures when on his own Carnival cruise, and never knew you couldn't, which we hadn't but..... Bottom line: We relied on Carnival for our on-ship photo memories, and we have nothing. Zip, Zilch, nada, and because Rahul has an attitude, or something resembling that. Maybe cruising has changed drastically, but I absolutely refuse to spend my hard-earned money with a company that doesn't care, and doesn't communicate. Over the 31 years I've been cruising with them we always recommended to our friends, and employees that Carnival was a place to just go have fun. Maybe the Sensation is where they send employees to 'punish' or banish them, I don't really know - but just as a heads up- if you're looking for a place to drink or gamble away money? It's maybe a decent option. Fun Ship? Ahhh, mmmmaybe. If you want to have great family memories of good and positive things? Choose differently. As for me, it's a shame, but I will mark what should have been a fabulous and magical memory with my wife and kids as 4 days and three nights of misery - and certainly something less than fun. When it comes time for our next cruise, which will be soon it's very likely we will switch allegiance and choose a different line - and after 30 plus years of loyalty, it will be a choice we make regretfully and with heavy hearts.