Justa crusing: Vactioning with kids on a cruise : Part 110:26 PM
I was really excited yet nervous when we started talking about this vacation many months ago, It was to be a combination honeymoon/vacation/one year anniversary since my brain tumor surgery ( a few months early on the last one) . You all know, that I give you the good, the bad and the ugly about everything I write about so this will be at least a two if not three or more part series.
This part will talk about our Boarding experience, our Cabin experience as well as our dining experience. This will a series which may hep you chose your next vacation.
Originally we had planned our Carnival cruise for June 7-12th , 2014 but had to postpone for a few reasons such as a surgery I needed and the biggest factor, my Son could not get leave for that week from the Army. So we rescheduled for June 22-27, 2014. When I called to reschedule, they were nice enough to waive the change fee's with a letter from my Son's Sgt from his station in the Army. What was super exiting was that the nice lady on the phone told me that id I would go ahead and pay for my first stateroom in full ( We had 3 Staterooms reserved) that the price would remain the same as the original cruise. Obviously, thinking we were going be to saving a few hundred more dollars, we went ahead and did that.
Seeing that things were going to work out great at this point, I decided to purchase for $49.95 each room the Faster to the Fun so we could board the boat earlier and not have to stand around like everyone else. I was super stoked as this was all coming together nicely and the kids were so excited. However, when it was all said and done, without adding in the Faster to the Fun I had purchased, the final total was almost $900 more than we were told,and after calling back were told they could not honor what the original lady who booked the cruise told us. That seriously cut in to our budget of driving up the night before and staying in Charleston and flying Dustin in 1 day earlier so we could all get a good night's sleep in order to be refreshed and ready to have a fun filled first day on our cruise without being sleep deprived. So in the end we decided we would have to simply go the same day as the ship was to leave and fly Dustin in the same day as well for monetary purposes. I had ask to speak with a supervisor and was told none were available but one would call me, I called about 10 more times over the next 6 weeks never being able to speak with a supervisor and never getting a return call. However, we were determined not to let this ruin our cruise and simply budgeted less for our Island stops and driving up the day before. However, this left me thinking that Carnival's customer Service Phone lines were dishonest , disrespectful and obviously did not put the Customer first. I had sailed on Carnival a few times before so I knew the experience would be amazing for everyone.
We woke up at 3 am and left home at 4 am on the 22nd, meeting my son Dustin, at the airport in Charleston, SC at 10:30 and were parked and unloaded and inside the terminal before 11:30 am. With the purchase of Faster to the Fun, we were told we would be able to board the boat before everyone else other than the Diamond and Platinum Members. We go right in and were directed to the line for the Faster to the fun, and had checked-in online so all we really had left to do was show our documents for Identification and finish setting up our Sail and Sign accounts and get our cards. This took about 20 minutes for 8 people, not bad timing and were told we could board the boat but that our rooms would not be ready until 1:30 pm ( Previously we had been told with the purchase of Faster to the Fun our rooms would be ready upon arrival on the boat) Still, no worries, they had a nice buffet set up and we were all ready to eat , what we didn't expect was that the line to even get on the boat was long..and took about 25 more minutes...and not one person in the 20-25 families in front of us had spent the extra money and purchased faster to the Fun, yet they were able to load the boat when we were and many were able to go right to their rooms. Quite upsetting but decided I would address that later as we were all tired from the long drive, hungry and the kids were over the moon excited to get on the boat they had been talking about this trip non stop since we told them at Christmas.
The boat was packed when we got there but we found a table on the Lido deck in the Air conditioned Dining Room and filled our plates with the awesome food they had laid out for everyone. The kids were hungry but even more excited to explore the boat. We had chosen to sail out of Charleston, SC on the Carnival Fantasy as the boat looked wonderful, it was close enough we could drive to port and had exciting things my kids could do, we knew it would be a great vacation and one where the kids could eat when they wanted as much as they wanted without it costing us a fortune.
So now we are on the boat and finally in our rooms and needed to make a few changes as when we arrived on the boat we found out the rooms were not set up with the correct people so the keys would not work for the rooms they were in, easy enough to change. We ask for the Cabin Steward to release the bunks so the kids could decide on the beds they wanted and get unpacked and situated. The Cabin steward refused to release one of the beds because the rooms had not been changed in the system yet to reflect the change in who was in the right room. So off I go back to guest services ( previously known as the Pursuers Desk ) to see why the changes were not showing even though new cards had been printed. Eventually we got that worked out and once we were able to get a Cabin steward to come up and release the Bed for Cassidy we were set.
The Steward for the room Chris & I were in was amazing. He took great care of us. He changed the twin beds to a king, and to my surprise he even filled our cooler bag daily with ice and placed our cokes we had on the table inside the cooler bag every morning and evening so that we always had cold Soda in our room, and when our cooler bag decided to leak a little after the 2nd day, he placed it in the bath tub so that the carpets would not get wet. Each day he replaced our pool towels with fresh ones and the bath robe with a clean one. Personally, I could not have ask for a better Cabin Steward, as he went above and beyond for us and I was duly impressed.
The Steward for the boys room also did a pretty decent job when you consider he was dealing with Dustin & two teenage boys who can easily make huge mess with nothing but clothing. I would not say he went above and beyond as our Steward did, as a few days he did not make the beds up in the mornings like ours and Mom & the girls rooms were and only once during the 5 day cruise did he make those cute little towel animals that we all looked forward too . So I would say he received a B- in that room. He received the standard amount of tip that carnival recommended for each person per night per room.
Mom & The Girls had a female room steward while she was super nice, she did not do anything special or change the towels out each day for the pool or the bathrobes but she did make the beds, clean the trashcans and bathrooms and make the girls a different little towel creation each night. I was a bit thrown off when I went to to her at the end of the cruise when she said they only made $34 per month from Carnival and that they made money through tips and she seemed offended with the very generous tip I gave her and continued for 5 minutes to explain to me how hard they worked for the tips they made. The recommended amount to tip your Cabin Steward was $3.81 per person per day and our tip was more than that amount, and she went on to ask if my Mom planned to tip her anymore and I explained that we were doing the tipping for all of our rooms and that I had tipped her more than she would have received had we have simply did the automatic deduction from our account for gratuities. That night for turn down service, my girls and Mom did not get the cute little towel creation in the room and the nice personality changed after that for the last 16 hours of our cruise. I do not regret tipping what I did, but I did find it rather off putting that I gave her a tip larger than she would have received otherwise and she chose to be offended.
The rooms were a little more spacious than I was expecting, but not quiet as nice as the other previous Carnival ships I had sailed on a few times before.
Carnival also offers 24 hour room service, and other than a small breakfast tag to hang on your door ( one per room and we had to go to guest services to ask for more) there was no menu for room service and when I called to ask they simply said we could order Pizza, Deli Sandwiches or whatever was served that day. So if we had not attend Dinner that night, we would have no idea what was offered to us through room service as when we called to inquire what our options were, the only thing we were told was Pizza, Sandwiches, a dessert mixture and a surprise plate from that evenings meal or lunch if we chose to have room service at lunch) So basically we only took advantage of the morning cold Breakfast options and morning coffee & juice which you hang on your door the night before. On day 4, I called room service at 5 am to order Coffee and muffins because we had no tags and at 7 am still did not have it, and when I called back they had forgotten our order, so I simply cancelled it and we proceeded to the dining room for our morning breakfast. This was the only day we ate Breakfast in the formal dining room. The options in the dining room were exactly the same as the breakfast on deck minus the fact you could get eggs benedict in the dining room and could not on deck, so it was easier & faster just to eat on deck while watching the amazing Ocean as we ate and the kids could go back for more if they wanted and I could drink as much coffee as I needed to get my day started.
We did eat in the dining room every night at Dinner, as that was a time we chose that we would all be together and catch up on the fun we had that day and our server Santiago was simply amazing. He impressed us all in every way possible and even recognized Meagan's disability right off the bat and encouraged her to order for herself each time and the kids all tried the didya starter each night which was a highlight for them to eat Shark, alligator, Sushi and many other things they normally would have passed up but found they really liked. Our waiter went above and beyond any of our expectations, even catering to my picky eating habits. We enjoyed the nightly shows they put on for the diners in the dining room such as singing, dancing, and over all fun. The kids say the dining room experience for Dinner was one great highlight of their cruise. Needless to say, Our waiter received a tip much greater than was recommended by Carnival because he worked hard for it and if I were to take another carnival cruise, I could very well seek out a cruise based on where our Waiter is at the moment.
The food served on the Lido deck was also nice. You had the Wok side, where you could chose different things, the American side where you could get burgers, fries, hotdogs and all American foods we all crave. Inside on the lido deck they also had 2 lines with different foods each day as well as a small salad bar, dessert bar, drink station and also a Pizza Place and Deli at the back where you could choose what you wanted. Most days the dessert bar was out of this world and if you could not find a dessert you wanted, they had Ice Cream 24/7 in two places on the ship. All Coffee, tea, lemonade, Apple and Orange juice as well as Milk & water were free. You did have to pay for any Soda or Alcohol which we were already aware of. I think personally, they should simply add a Soda machine to the options for the free drinks and make it so only alcohol or bottled drinks would be an additional charge.
My only complaint about the food really is that the lines are very long no matter which option you choose from the deck experience to the dining room experience and many days the Dessert bar was removed well before Lunch/Dinner was over. I did notice that they would re-purpose the food from day to day to reflect the leftovers, which I think in some cases such as the chicken and veggies, should not be done and could have posed a health hazard. Therefore we each tried to choose food we knew had not been served before as something else just to eliminate the possibility of improper food storage/leftover health issues. Overall, I would say the food would get a B rating and maybe they could mix it up a bit as the foods served were the exact food that was served on my last cruise 8 years ago. The set up was exactly the same as the previous Boats from Carnival I had sailed on, but sub-par to our previous cruises with Carnival.
When we originally began researching cruises, I found great deals on a few other Cruise lines, some even better than Carnival, but decided to go with Carnival because of my previous experiences had all been great and impressed me. Although I have so much more to write about, a lot of good, great, bad, and sub par about this cruise, I will leave my final recommendations until the end of my series.
I will say overall My kids had a lot of fun, but were disappointed in a lot of the things that it shows on the website that was not offered on the ship as promised.