I had a great time at the beginning and really enjoyed myself. I loved the atmosphere and the people--and the comedy shows were great. At the end, I was a little disappointed with myself and with cruising. Let me tell you why:
I discovered on this cruise that my excursions which I do through the cruise ship for safety purposes, are run strictly for profit, and not for what I really enjoy. I loved my last cruise, when I went to Cozumel. I did the Eco Tour with save the baby turtles. It changed my life. I came back seeing myself differently, and as if I could do something to help the world be a better place.
This time I realized--I am just a selfish American who wants the joy of cheap vacationing that feels like First Class. I want to enrich the world around me. That is what I do in my day to day life. Seriously. That is what I do. I love it. When I vacation--I want to do it too. I want to invest and learn about the world beyond me. I don't mind less entitlement and comforts for the benefit of being a part of something bigger.
On Belize I learned that the companies who have contracts with cruise ships are not local to Belize, and the people who are paid to run the excursions are underpaid and undervalued. I was constantly barraged to "tip"--and then I realized why--because the companies that I was doing business with are practicing something that has been made illegal where I live. Making someone work for less than minimum wage and "tips"; and what is worse--these tips are often divided among a number of people. so their survival depends on begging for tips. The money that I spent in Belize? It goes to companies outside of Belize. This is true in Honduras, Cozumel, Grand Caymen and probably all the other little Caribbean countries as well.
It is also true on board the ships of Carnival, and I suspect the other cruise lines as well. What is worse, that the promotional process is such that the people who work so hard to make cruises such a great experience, are not promoted or recognized for their work outside of tipping, unless a guest responds to a question on an online survey about them days after the cruise has ended. And the guests are 1) drunk most of the cruise, 2) not good with names that are foreign sounding and looking, 3) more than a little bit racist about people from Mexico, southeast Asia and the poorer Russian like countries. This is a terrible system. The poor dishwasher who sees no guests will never be promoted. And the ones who speak English and appear the most European/American or pass in the American/Western Culture are those who do not need to beg for tips to survive.
I felt like I was at an orphanage trying to decide which orphan I was save--and which I would sell into slavery.
This practice has to change. I want to be able to give immediate feedback about a crew or staff member that I interact with on board the ship when I have a great experience. Let me file my complaints by email a week later. You will be happier I guarantee it.
And lets talk about the tip thing. Whatever you are paying these folks, they need a raise. 2% and they would probably lick the toilet clean in each cabin. It is not a "tip" when it is forced on the customer. That is a fee. Call it a fee. Add it to the wage of the folks on board. If you want just tell us how many of their families they are feeding back home or which of their loved ones are being released from debtors prison or which younger sibling will not be sold into sexual slavery as a result of my fee. I will probably tip them more. But for God Sake, stop pretending like it is a tip. It is called paying someone a living wage because they deserve the dignity of being treated like a human being.
Don't even start with the argument that in their country having a job on a cruise ship that underpays them is a great job. That does not make it alright to not pay someone what they are worth, and make the profits that cruise lines make. Just don't go there. I looked into the their eyes while they sang the sad goodbye song at dinner time. I kept a list of people that I interacted with, and every white person who was from a western country and worked on the ship told me how they get promoted and how poorly they are paid. And most of the guests were aware of this as well.
And I ate STEAK in front of them. I slept in luxury accommodations. I did things for fun that were frivolous--not knowing that Danilo gets to visit his wife and children every 6 months---for like 20 years--and he is missing his right thumb!!! How do you hold 5 dinner plates and serve them will out dropping a single leaf of lettuce with only one thumb? Go to dinner and find out. I never ask because that would be rude--but he did it--EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. For **** pay and pitiful tips and room next the engine--which will be the first to take on water if the ship is going down.
Those people make YOUR business. PAY them what they deserve. Treat them like they are your family.
I am already booked for a cruise next January with Carnival, and another one is in the works--also with Carnival. Please make me proud to be your customer
4 out of 5
Embarking was a little nerve-racking this time. We were escorted onto the ship to customer service without our ship and sail cards to be told personally that our room had to have the carpet cleaned and so the carpet was a little damp and there was a "blower" in our room to dry it quickly. We were given complementary 4 free drinks to make up for the inconvenience. It was a little scary to be taken on board this way with NO explanation and with our passports in the hands of cruise line staff. We did the whole muster thing, and it was hot, that a woman passed out in our muster station area. There was a lot of excitement all in all.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
The main dinging rooms were wonderful. The food was amazing, and every night dinner was a new amazing experience. The buffets, were less exciting. There were not really in sync with our schedules, so we typically only at breakfast buffet, and then stuck with the pizza pirate place or the grill. We ordered a great deal of room service.
3 out of 5
We tried to do the CLUE game. However, most of the clue opportunities were not available during times when early dining could participate. It was really frustrating to start and then not be able to participate. We did enjoy shopping, and bingo (largely against our will). We loved Punchliner Comedy.
I would recommend that the serenity deck be open later at night and into the very early morning. That was when things were settled down enough on the ship that swimming and relaxing on the pool would have been less chaotic and crowded, but every thing closed up by 12pm.
5 out of 5
We went to Punchliner Comedy EVERY Night we could. We loved all 4 of our comics.
I would like to suggest that Carnival discourage making fun of people with disabilities both physical or developmental/cognitive. The "retard" jokes are just mean. It's time to retire that party pleaser. Was I offended? No. It just wasn't funny, and those that did laugh really ought to be ashamed of themselves.
I did not travel with children.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Zeena @ Guest Services was really great. She was the first person we met on board, and was a contact person for all of the issues with our room. She was tirelessly patient and never seemed to not be available to help us work things out. I watched her handle another guest on board, a man, who was very upset about a situation and had clearly been drinking. She handled his complaints (screaming and yelling in her face) and threats ("someone is going over board") and very demonstrative body language with dignity and grace under fire. She handled the next guest like the angry man had just tipped her a million dollars.
Angelica--also at guest services: (I spent a lot of time at guest services) I watched her handle an angry guest (also intoxicated and screaming in her face). She handled that client's situation with ease, as if the person were totally rational and sober, and the guest walked away happy. The next guest got a huge smile and not a hint that Angelica had dealt with rough words or unkind treatment.
Our Dinner time Wait Staff was outstanding!!
Danilo was the master of the table, and by the end of the 2nd night, knew our names and anticipated what we would want to drink. By the end of the cruise, he could predict what we would want off the dessert menu. He was friendly and jovial. He must have been tired, but never showed an ounce of impatience or shadow of weariness.
Anina was a head server with Danilo. They worked well together! She anticipated what we needed throughout dinner before we knew we might need. Butter appeared as if by magic. Plates of food were served with a flourish--each one to the right person--even though she hadn't taken our order! She was a delight with a bright smile and welcoming air.
Igor was a waiter at our table. He was kind and made each of us feel as if he was there as our own individual waiter. He made jokes and winked and just made everyone at the table feel at ease.
Frederick was a waiter at our table as well--and his primary focus was beverage service and plate removal. He was so gentle, and almost shy. We just looked up and he was there filling glasses with wine or removing plates or clearing unused items out of the way.
The dinner time service staff was amazing. I felt like they were a part of my family by the time I left, and not seeing them every day was hard to let go of.
Donna was our room stewardess (more like goddess)!! She was amazing. There is nothing like coming back to a tidy room and a freshly made bed. She was wonderful. She knew my name, and I didn't know who she was. The moment I walked on to my deck and stood outside my room she greeted me by name. She was friendly and eager to help out. If I could have packed her in my suitcase and brought her home I think I would have. She is marvelous. She checked on us to make sure we were ok--even when she was at the other end of the ship. I swear she knew our voices.
Milos: A man of all salesmanship. KEEP HIM!! I originally noticed Milos in the dining room, he was selling the shot of the day. Then he sold me a bottle of water, then a drink in the mad hatter's ball room. Then another drink on the lido deck. After awhile it was just fun to find him and buy drinks from him in all the different places on the ship. He was a flirt, and made me feel cute and attractive--which was fun--because it was two seconds of flirt while I bought my drink and nothing more (I am married and older--it's nice to feel cute and attractive--but not be pursued or overly flirted). I think he liked the interchange as much as I did. I swear he could have sold me sunshine on the deck and I would have given him my sale and sign card!!
Titus: Another waiter in the Mad Hatter's Ballroom. I loved Titus--because he actually wanted to sell drinks! He kept track of where he had been when he went around the room, and came back to where he left off. He stopped back with me, when my glass was empty!! Even during the show. Because the ballroom was so full, it was hard to get drinks in there...and he was super sweet when I had had too many alcoholic beverages, and was in need of water to sober up a little. He just keep bringing it to me throughout the show; and never acted like he was put out. I really felt like he enjoyed his job, and that he cared about what I was feeling, and wanted me to have a good time--even if that meant that he was serving water--and he wasn't bringing me a bill to sign--and so I wasn't "tipping" in the typical way.
3 out of 5
The ship was clean. And felt well maintained. The staff worked tirelessly to keep things clean and looking nice. There were a few things that were not so great: The casino stinks--it stinks up the whole ship. It is the designated smoking area on the ship, and it smells horrible. The design makes it so centrally located that the stink travels up and down the halls and down the stair wells. If there was actually a fire on board, I don't know if anyone would know--because of the stink of cigarettes. There are areas that you cannot access on the ship very well without walking through the casino. I don't want to smell like a cigarette ashtray--it's nasty. It cannot be healthy for the staff of the ship to work in such a confined smoky area. It makes the place feel dingy and unattractive. There needs to be better ventilation or air purification around smoking on board.
There was clearly a water problem on board the ship. Our room had a leak of some kind that was attributed to the air conditioning system. The hallway outside our room was soaked, and there were well metered spots down the hallway that were wet from dripping pipes, that looked to be related to the fire sprinkler systems. I heard about this on multiple decks, and our room was not the only one with a leak. Our room smelled musty.
Cabin / Stateroom
2 out of 5
Size and comfort and general cleanliness of the room seemed to be ok. The wet carpet was an issue. First and foremost--there was a blower in our room for the first 8 hours or so of being on board. Our room was basically not available to us because of how loud the blower was. It was so loud that we couldn't hear each other unless we yelled. The carpet dried eventually, but the room smelled a little musty, and my travel companion had congestion and a runny nose while we were in the cabin--it disappeared when we were not in the cabin. We were compensated with drinks and the steak house dinner choices one night at dinner. Getting actual information about what was the source of the water was not possible. I was concerned that the previous guest had been ill or vomited in the room (which happens) but was not given a good answer about what happened. Then I was told it was air conditioning condensation, then I saw water dripping out of pipes in the hall way ceiling. Then I smelled sewage in the hallway between the door and the bathroom right were the wet carpet was. Having a clear answer would have gone a long way to reassure me about the nature of the leak. People get sick on cruise ships. I want to know if I am at a higher risk because the last cruiser had the flu and departed that morning, or if there is a potential for Legionnaire's Disease (black lung disease) in the water coming out of the air conditioner. I especially want to know if the carpet I am standing on in my bare feet was covered in raw sewage less than 3 hours ago or if the fire sprinkler system is not working on the ship--preferably before we leave the dock. I have already paid--it is my choice to forgo the trip if I determine that the risks are not to my liking and I would prefer to disembark. I am not an unreasonable person. I just want the information I need to make an informed decision. When I am not getting clear answers it causes me to wonder what is being hidden from me and why.
The most important part of the Miracle are the people are on it. With out the folks that make it sail and run smoothly it's just a boat. It is the staff and crew who make it a Miracle. Treat them like that.
Also--bring a cheap bathmat for the shower. It will keep you from slipping and breaking your neck.
Yes. I road the big sky lift to the beach and sat in a clamshell. I snorkeled, had tiny fish eat the dead skin off my feet, and saw an iguana hiding under a tree.
The snorkeling is not so great. You need to go out past the swimming area over by the big walk out dock, way out by where the water starts getting deep. The water is cloudy, and the reef is very damaged from pollution. There are fish to see, and some coral, sponges and what not that appear to be re-growing. See it while you can. The island is going to be much smaller as climate change continues.
I did a cave tubing excursion. I loved the excursion. I learned a lot about Belize, and the cave was amazing. Totally do the excursion.
What I was sad to learn is that most of the excursions and the tourism that happens on Belize really doesn't go to the people on the island. It largely goes to companies in Jamaica. The people who live there and run the excursions are not the ones benefitting from our business. I was not aware of this. I would prefer to go on excursions that are by and for the actual people who live on the island. I want the folks who live there to benefit from my tourism. I want to buy products, eat food, and do activities that teach me about their culture, country and people. When I leave Belize or any other country I visit--I want to leave as friends--welcome to return--with the understanding that I am invested in who they are--not just in getting cheap vacation deals.
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