TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS – Day 2 of 7 – Crossing the Pacific

Thursday, September 4th – A Letter of Complaint to Carnival Cruise Lines

We love cruising with Carnival and have had wonderful experiences with you over and over again,  I can’t tell you how much we’ve looked forward to this “cruise of a lifetime” to the South Pacific Islands.

The journey has been smooth and delightful, the crew is solicitous, the dining room staff most attentive (the best ever!), the cabin steward exceptional, and the atmosphere exactly what we hoped it would be. Except in the Library.

I have two complaints, one serious to me and another very serious for Carnival.

First, the one that impacted me directly. I’m a writer and I find cruising to be an extremely beneficial place to work. I always find a nice quiet little nook to settle in each day for the duration of my battery. One suggestion I would love to see enacted is more outlets for PDAs and other electronic devices to charge.

Since outlets are so few throughout the ship, I tend to hang out in the Library where I can plug in and continue working, but not on this trip – it’s been disastrous. Which leads me to the second, much more serious issue that Carnival has not handled well.

The infamous ETA.

Australia requires a visa for entry into the country and since the Carnival Legend terminates in Sydney, I cannot understand why CCL  would even let us aboard without the required visa.

Then again, yes I can. It’s called really, really bad publicity (and money) to deny so many Platinum and Diamond passengers. The CCL answer? Let them on … and then let them figure out what to do.

Now, Platinum and Diamond Carnival cruisers have been going to foreign ports for a long time. That so many of them to run afoul of the visa requirements tells me Carnival made a boo-boo. Let me list some of the ways:

  • My husband and I are seasoned travelers, and yet we also missed the visa requirement. Shame on us for not doing our homework, but hey, Carnival, you send a relentless barrage of emails about shore tours, and other buy this-buy that items. Why not a reminder about the visa requirement? In BIG BOLD letters?
  • We did all our check-in online. Hey, Carnival, why not have someone check-off the required information? You sure didn’t waste time letting us know we failed to provide a credit card number.
  • On the day of embarkation is the first we learned of the visa requirement — from the nice lady who processed us our onboarding, “Don’t worry,” she said. “You’re Platinum. Carnival will take care of everything for you.” That’s when she took our passports, gave us a receipt, and sent us on our happy way.
  • Two days into the sailing, the rumbling began. Some of the passengers, not content with the “Carnival will take care of everything” platitude, started asking questions. At the Guest Services desk these passengers were directed to the library (which also serves as the Internet Cafe) and the Australia website. That’s where the next problem came out. A potentially BIG problem.
  • Australian VisaThe crowds in the library increased by the hour and tolerance decreased. Passengers who had no intention of purchasing an internet package now bought one to access the Australian website … except no one pointed out the free website section offered by Carnival … and which included access to the Australian visa. Poor connectivity (likely due to bad weather) and inexperienced computer users contributed to the rising anger. Internet connections timed out, purchased minutes were siphoned away while waiting to connect, and frustrations grew – all very loud in what should be a fairly quiet library.
  • Passengers in the library tried helping each other since  they got little to no help from the Carnival attendants assigned there. Some of this peer assistance was helpful, mostly though, it was the blind leading the blind, trial and error, and a lot of hope.

Our visa “problem” turned out to be a minor glitch, one we worked through easily because my honey has tech savvy and figured it out. Some of the older, not-so-literate passengers, though, fought the battle for days. One gentleman had brought no credit card with him. He’d loaded his Sail & Sign account ahead of time, to avoid running up charges over what he’d budgeted. Since the Australian visa application requires a credit card, he’s now fighting with the Carnival purser’s office to get his credit card number from them – and they don’t want to release it. Others had to go back to the Purser’s office to get copies of their Passports turned in at boarding. (Can’t believe people don’t keep copies of these things!)

CCL Pacific CruiseI’m sorry Carnival, but this issue is so wrong in so many way. YOU have fostered the “we’ll take care of you” philosophy for years. The free laundry service is nice, the complimentary chocolates are nice, the relaxed boarding (which didn’t happen on this cruise) is usually nice, the discounts for milestone cruises is very nice. In fact, all the perks you offer for your loyal and experienced cruisers is great —  but when we needed you most, you went missing in action. We deserve better. Shame on you.

Solutions: (1) The Internet Cafe and Library are not compatible. Separate them. (2) Add more 110 volt outlets throughout the ship for passengers to recharge their electronic devices. (3) Make sure your passengers know ahead of time what is required for entry into one your scheduled ports — especially if the final destination is Australia who requires a Visa. (4) Don’t wait until your passengers become disgruntled to the point where you look bad. Step in and control the situation up front. YOU are the one who sets our expectations. YOU should manage them. AND live up to them. (5) You KNEW the internet coverage would be spotty at best. Shut the darn thing down so people don’t waste their precious internet minutes watching the cursor spin … and spin … and spin.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I have to admit that other than being annoyed with the raucous distractions in the library most mornings (an unnecessary annoyance), we’re loving this time on the ocean.

Hello Lovely Readers! Please leave a remark or two.