Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Honeymoon from Hell

Ok, so maybe that's an exaggeration. It wasn't 100% bad, just maybe around 81%. I want to start with a disclaimer. I do not blame the weather on Carnival. In fact, I don't even blame the closed ports on Carnival. What I (and apparently, 2800 guests according to their facebook, which may be an exaggeration) am upset about, is the fact that our captain decided to stick with the original itinerary, despite evidence that five other Carnival cruise ships changed theirs to reflect the weather threats of Matthew and Nicole. In fact, some changed routes the day before Nicole hit Jamaica. So congrats to you, lucky cruisers! You missed out on all the crazy adventure.

 Things started out great. We boarded the ship bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, looking forward to a week of relaxation and easy. Buh-bye stress! (ha, yeah right!)

We immediately got the special of the day (which, as you may know, is pricey like all the drinks. Being a first time cruiser I thought alcohol would at least be reasonable. Boy, was I wrong!) and made it to the top deck. Caribbean here we come!

Wait, what? What is this? Oh, this is Montego Bay, the port that supposedly was closed days before we even made it there. Well, that's what the peeps were saying on the ship, I can't find any articles online. Rumors were flying like crazy, and the Captain chose not to inform us of all the details. Now, don't get me wrong. I am GLAD we didn't land in these ports. The weather was horrible. We had limited updates via our tv in the cabin, and we stayed mostly around 8-12' swells, and even got as close to 20' waves pounding the ship. Winds were upwards of 40 mph. Seasick bags were all over the ship, and people were stumbling all over the place. The pools were losing water left and right (literally!) The ship was a-rockin', but not in a good way. So, staff scrambled to whip up another fun day at sea (this would make day #4). I'm sorry, but there are only so many days I can withstand trivia games and bean bag tosses. We managed to entertain ourselves, but guys, I am not exaggerating when I say the sea was kickin'. I was terrified, making myself take long naps so I wouldn't have to worry about it.

Fast forward to Thursday. We make it to Grand Cayman, but it's way too rough for the tender boats to offload us from the ship. In fact, that port had been closed for days prior, a fact confirmed by our cruise director. So why even show up to tease us? We just watched land sail by again.

Wait, what is this? Is that LAND I see?! Why, yes! We FINALLY made port in Cozumel on Friday. That's 6 long days in wretched seas, my friends. We managed to make the best of it, getting about 8 hours in port. We packed in all our shopping, stopped by a local beach to swim (it even had free wifi, sweet!) and ate some seriously tasty food.

This is where things get hairy. Yes, we made it to Cozumel. Unfortunately, the Carnival Valor was docked as well. Sounds like their Captain was a genius! Instead of sailing straight for a crazy almost-tropical storm, terrifying all your cruise patrons, he took them to alternate routes such as Belize and Honduras. Why, what a great idea, smart captain man! We were LIVID when we found all this out. And then I got home to read that not only the Valor re-routed, the Triumph, Liberty, Freedom, Inspiration and Elation ALSO rerouted! Grrrrrrr!

So yes, people, I understand that as a first-time cruiser, I made a mistake and booked during the end of hurricane season. Being a land-lubber all my life, I never realized I had to take that into consideration. My only concern was that it left the day after the wedding. BAD MOVE, SAND DOLLAR!

What gets me, is that:

1) Why sail directly for a port you KNOW is closed, or will be closed? Obviously the captain has access to superior weather equipment. So he knew it was coming, and instead of doing like the other ships, and avoiding it, he ran straight into it. And trust me guys, it was major scary. The boat rocked and shuddered and creaked like nobody's business. People ran into walls, railings, and each other unpredictably. Tons got seasick, and I would have hated to be a child on that boat.

2) If other ships in your cruise line are rerouting, why not join the club? Yes, missing ports sucks. A "Fun Day at Sea" is really not all that fun. You have a few games to choose from, but the spa is outrageously expensive ($200 for a 1-hr massage, which was more than the excursion cost for BOTH of us), and repeating games eight times gets old fast. We played Pictionary and bean-bag toss twice each, then it was tired. Dance shows were canceled, as was the magic show, because we couldn't pick up the musician at the first two ports. I'm mega pissed that the captain made such a horrible decision. Why not start the trip backward, starting in Cozumel, and see how the seas shape up? I'm sure people would have been much happier to have 3 days on land, whether it was in the same place or not. And from what I heard from the other lucky cruisers, Belize and Honduras was awesome. What's your excuse for bypassing those and putting us through hell?

3) A 20% discount on a future cruise is laughable. Guys, we sat next to a bride sobbing because she had planned to get married in Jamaica. So we overheard her plans to reschedule to the Grand Caymans. I can only imagine how much worse she felt when that was canceled too :( The customer service reps were unhelpful, and I guess I understand why the ship crew was. Yet when I filed a complaint online, I got no response. Not a "thank you for your feedback", nothing. The phone rep basically told me I was SOL ($#!@ Outta Luck) because of the Itinerary Change Clause we agreed to when we booked. Yes, the captain has a right to change plans due to weather conditions and safety reasons. I just wish he was mentally capable of making those decisions beforehand so we could still enjoy our experience.

Final decision: I will never cruise Carnival again. I don't care if the weather wasn't their fault, the captain's decisions were. I totally wish we were on the Valor. Or any of the other boats who rerouted. The silver lining was that the Mister and I got to spend a lot of good snuggle time in bed, and watched a ton of movies (alone time is pretty rare, where he's practically a celebrity in his hometown). Reality Check: We could have done this for way cheaper at home, and hanky-panky was left at a minimum because of how horrible we both felt from the waves. And just so you know, we really hold Honeymoon Hanky-Panky in high regard, so that should be a testament of how cruddy conditions were. I've never been so glad to get home from a vacation in my life!

Anybody else have a less-than-stellar honeymoon? Any suggestions on where our Honeymoon Do-Over should be?

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