January 3, 2013

Why we won't do a Carnival Cruise again

We aren't Carnival Cruise people.

I’m going to explain why.

I’m writing this for a few reasons.
1. Its minimal entertainment value.  We have horrible luck when we travel.  Like, Home Alone style luck (But we never lose our luggage! *knock, knock*).  And I don't want to forget any of it.
2. I’m sending this to Carnival Cruise Lines.  They need to know why I didn't have a good time.  It’s not slander.  It’s true.
3. I’m hoping that Google Stats won’t fail me now.  If I can get people to hit on my blog while searching for “Carnival Cruises” and that means I can save someone like myself from this experience, I want to do it.  

Here’s the first lesson I learned on a cruise ship:
98% of the people on the ship were aboard for the “free” food.  1.99% were children.  That other .01% was us. 

Remember those scenes at the end of Wall-E?  Where they show the spaceship the humans flee to after they’ve destroyed Earth?  Where they lie in lounge chairs drinking big-gulp-style sodas?  And they can’t move themselves under their own muscle power because they are so physically large that such exertion is actually not possible?

That is what our cruise ship was like:  Vacation for people who don’t actually want to do anything.

Anyway, Lesson #2:
I now understand how it is possible for individuals to die/disappear/go missing/never be seen again after embarking on a cruise.
No one speaks English.  If you go to someone to ask for assistance, they give you a half answer.  Of which, you understand approximately half.

Let’s start at the beginning..
On Monday evening (Dec. 10th), Scott and I ate at the dining room.  Between the two of us, we sampled:  stuffed mushrooms, minestrone, pumpkin soup, rolls, lobster, shrimp, red fish, chocolate cake, and coffee.  It sounds quite gluttonous, but the portions were small. I won't be eating most of those foods again for a very long time. In fact, typing it makes the vomit come uppeth.

That night, I start feeling dizzy before bed.  I went to sleep at 11pm and Scott was still up, feeling okay, watching a t.v. show on his laptop.
Around 2am, he was up and he was sick.  I woke up then too, and my stomach was killing me.  We had a tour to do that morning and I, at least, was still in denial and thought I'd be better in a few hours.

At 7:45am, we were to report to the theater to be given our directions for the day.  We were to see the Mayan Ruins at Tulum, something we had really wanted to do.  After 20 minutes of hurry-up-and-wait in the Amber Palace, we decided it wasn’t happening.  Back to the room we went to think about what to do.  Our Tulum Ruins tickets ran $100 a piece and they don’t give refunds.  We wanted medicine and they didn’t supply Pepto-bismol, or even Tums on the ship.  (The souvenir shop had Tums, but that shop was only open from 7pm-11pm each night…no help now.)

We went back to sleep, after stopping at the bar to buy some ginger ale.
At 10am, I decided we needed to go to the infirmary.  I decided I’d walk down, see what I could find out, and then come back to the room.  I had my sneakers on, was ready to leave the stateroom, but I just felt horribly unsettled. 
And that’s when I threw up all over the bathroom.

Obviously, I tried to make it to the toilet, but the toilets are kinda small on cruise ships.  Therefore a lot of it went on the floor…on the shower curtain…on the wall…and all over my one and only pair of sneakers I’d brought on this trip.

Scott wanted to help, of course, but I wouldn’t let him, as sometimes the sight of vomit is enough to induce the reaction in others.  He more or less just laughed when he saw the mess I’d made.  He went out into the hall to find one of “our friends” (the foreign stewards who knew our names, but could barely speak/understand English). 

Eight towels and a bottle of Clorox later, Scott and I were on our way to the Infirmary.
This is perhaps the most important thing I will say in this message:  If you are on a cruise ship, do not go to the infirmary…unless a body part (an important one, like an arm) has been severed from your body.  And even then, if you can get the bleeding under control, it’s probably best to wait until you arrive back at your port of call.  DO NOT GO TO THE CARNIVAL CRUISE SHIP INFIRMARY.  I cannot emphasize that point enough. 

Once at the Infirmary, Dr. Andrea-something-or-other from Co-Loom-Bee-Ah, said that in accordance with the CDC, we had to stay on the boat.  Because it was obvious that we “had brought a contagious disease on board” and would need to “stay in stateroom”.  We said, “No, this happened after we ate in the dining room.  Period.  We were not sick beforehand and wouldn’t a contagious disease have affected others?”  She just shook her head and said, “No, no.”  As soon as we uttered "food poisoning", we were actually shushed.  Shushed!

Plus, wouldn’t an infectious disease with vomiting and diarrhea be accompanied by a fever???  Neither of us had a fever.

It's also worth mentioning that the last time I threw up was about 5 years ago and that was because I mixed beer and liquor. Throwing up is not something that I do regularly or something that just happens.  Dumb Dr. Andrea.

We would be sequestered to our cabin. Dr. Andrea said that it was a 24-hour-period of quarantine and when the time was up, we could do what we wanted.  We said that we had an 8am tour tomorrow that began within the next 24 hours.  She said we would be refunded for today’s tour at Tulum ($200) and she would write the paperwork to say that we’d be cleared at 7am the next day, so we could attend our tour in Belize. (Good to know they follow their own rules, right?)

But first, Gary, a nurse from some English-speaking country (who was slightly easier to understand), needed to treat us.
He said he would give us a shot of Phenergan.  I asked if there was a pill.  He said the initial dose needed to be given in shot form.  We were at the point where we’d do anything to feel better, so we said yes to the shot.  (We signed no consent and asked for no information at this point, a true sign of how sick we were. I never would've taken that medicine had I known the side effects. It put me to sleep for a day and a half!)

Scott went first.  It was a shot in the behind.  *sigh*  Scott about keeled over.  He did not take it well.  Scott is a man who is not afraid of needles, knows how to give himself an IV, and donates blood regularly.  But this shot put him on his knees.  I was next.  It stung.  It hurt, but no worse than that strep shot I’d gotten a year ago.

 Scott lay in the hospital bed, shivering, while Gary went to take care of paperwork.  Scott said he was going to throw up but couldn’t even stand up on his own.  Every time I’d try to go get help, he’d grab my hand and pull me back.  (Later, he told me this was because he thought he was going to die and wanted me by his side. Awesome.)

As I covered him with a blanket, I stared out the porthole at Cozumel thinking, “So this is how it ends.  Universe, you are cruel, indeed.” 

Eventually, I went out to talk to Gary about our follow-up.  In the middle of our conversation, I had to go throw up again (this gets better and better).
We were given anti-nausea medicine and instructions to come back the next morning.

We spent the rest of the day in bed, sleeping off the Phenergan, and watching Breaking Bad on Scott’s laptop.  PRAISE THE LORD for Breaking Bad.  I wouldn’t have made it without the distraction. 
For days afterward, Scott had numbness and pain from the shot he got.  My only side effect was (aside from the fact that I slept for about 18 hours) pain in my joints.  My whole body, especially my hips, ached and ached. 
Tuesday was definitely an awful day.

On Wednesday morning, I awoke at 6am, took a shower, and said, “Okay we need to be cleared by the Infirmary or we’re not allowed to leave the boat”.  Scott didn’t believe me, until I showed him the scribble Gary had written down for us the day before.  The infirmary didn’t open until 8am.  Our tour disembarked at 8am.  Wtf, right?  How was this going to work? 

Leaving Scott to sleep for a bit longer, I went to Guest Services (where they were not very serviceable to me, a guest).  The guy behind the counter (I know not of his name, but think he was from Spain) was not hospitable.  I asked nicely, “My husband and I were sick yesterday.  We need to be cleared by the infirmary before we can leave the ship today.  The infirmary doesn’t open until 8, but our tour starts at 8.  Can we see a doctor earlier than 8?”

He answered with, “Yes. You must go to infirmary. We are not doctors here”, gesturing around Guest Services. 
Uh yeah, Paolo, I got that.  Trust me, I did not mistake you for a doctor.  Asshat.  Thanks for not answering my question at all.

I left.
At 7:50, Scott and I stood outside the Infirmary door (Keep in mind that our cabin was on Deck 10 and all this business was on Deck 1. I'm too impatient for elevators.  We walked a lot of steps.)  A cleaning person, coming out, held the door open for us and in we went.  Win.

Now we got to talk to Jeffrey.  I think he was from Taiwan.  I could be wrong though (I understand this makes me come off as the most racist person around. I swear I'm not.  We were more or less treated like dumb, ignorant Americans during this whole ordeal, so yeah, you can call me racist any day of the week.)

Jeffrey said, “Are you feeling better?  If so, you are free to go at 10am.”
Us:  She said 7.
Him: It says 10.
Us:  She said 7.
Him: Hold on, hold on.  I’ll change it. (long pause as he clicks around a computer screen)…Okay, you’re good to go. (Again, good to know they follow their own rules.)

We go back to the theater to await further instructions. 
30 minutes later…
Then, as we wait in the enormous security line to leave the boat, board the ferry, and go ashore in Belize….the security guard (also a non-English-understander) swipes Scott’s card and it gives off an annoyingly large buzzing sound different from the pings we’d be hearing for everyone else.  Scott was not allowed to leave the boat.  He was not cleared to do so.  Our friend Jeffrey apparently hadn’t done the right clickety-click actions on the computer, therefore we were still “quarantined” with the “illness” we had “brought” onto the ship. 

We tried to explain to the guard what the problem was.  He said we needed the paperwork from the infirmary for him to allow us off the boat.  I stormed off, Scott followed, and everyone in line looked at us like we were members of Al Qaeda.  This particularly bothered Scott, seeing as how he is a Captain in the U.S. Army and devotes his life to his country. 

I swung open the door to the infirmary, and started banging my hand on the counter to get someone’s attention.  There were several people in the waiting room behind us.  I almost, almost, told them all to go back to their rooms:  “The infirmary experience is not worth your time!  Unless you are really dying (or missing a limb) you shall recover!” 
This time, Jeffrey printed us some paperwork.  I said, “Why didn’t you do this the first time?”.  He just stared at me.
Back in the security line (bless the hearts of those people who let us skip them, as we had a tour to catch), we thrusted our paperwork at the guard.  He nodded and let us pass.  HE DIDN’T EVEN READ IT.  We’re pretty sure he didn’t possess the ability to read English anyway.  

We spent the next few days (Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman) feeling sub-par, but we eventually got better.  By the time the cruise was over, we felt back to normal, but definitely a little ripped off. I never would've gone to the Infirmary had I known they'd treat us with such a drug and not listen to anything we had to say.

I guess the point of my story (complaint?) is that we were treated like we didn't know what was wrong with us.  I had never been sick like this.  Ever.  For both of us to be sick in the same way?  For the same amount of time? After eating at the same restaurant?  You do the math.  It's not difficult to detect that this was food poisoning.

Don't mind the extra "the" in my captioning.  Mrs. Darhower needs to learn to proofread.
Also, I really didn't appreciate the way no one spoke English properly.  It's really hard to communicate needs to a person who doesn't understand the manner in which you are speaking.  I would think that an American cruise line would be able to help out their American customers a little better than this.  Had we gone to Europe or to a foreign resort, we would've expected this.  But we assumed we'd be under the care of Americans the entire time.  That's definitely not the case, and I'd urge you to look into your cruise line further if you plan to cruise in the future.

Has anyone had a similar experience?  I hate to think that we're the only ones who always have a rough time when traveling.  


  1. The slow, seething rage that built up as I read this was actually pretty epic. I hope the folks at Carnival take this to heart. The way you guys were treated by that staff is inexcusable. I've always been weary of cruises, this pretty much seals the deal!

  2. Oh my gosh. That all sounds so awful! I've never been on a cruise before, but now I will definitely not be going on a Carnival. I just can't understand how NO ONE spoke English! (And thanks for entertaining me for my first half hour of work.)

  3. WOW!! What an absolutely awful experience. I'm so sorry that you had to deal with all that. Sadly, you aren't the first person that I have heard bad things from about carnival cruise.

  4. What a freaking nightmare! 'm glad you're both feeling better. The fact that this "Dr" accused you of bringing the illness on board is absurd. I hope Carnival takes note of this.

  5. Ugh, what an awful experience!!!! I know three different people (couples) who have been on cruises and absolutely LOVED them, I'll have to ask them if they were Carnival or something else...

  6. How horrible! The first thing I thought when I read about your symptoms was "that's got to be food poisoning." Carnival was obviously trying to cover themselves and not take responsibility for their actions. Than you for doing other people a service and letting us know about your experience. I'm sorry that your vacation did not go as planned though!

  7. What a bunch of douche bags!! I can't believe they treated you guys like that. Okay this comes off as racist too but I don't care either. My number one pet peeve is putting people in a US customer service industry who can not clearly speak English... Seriously?!?!

    I hope the Carnival people take you seriously. I will never travel on one of their cruises that is for sure. I am doing Disney Cruises lol.

  8. This is AWFUL. We shared a shuttle in September with someone who had just disembarked from a Carnival cruise, and they had horror stories too.

    I will never ever sail with Carnival. That was quite OBVIOUSLY food poisoning.

  9. You are not the only person I know who had a bad Carnival experience. I have a few friends who go on cruises frequently and none of them like Carnival. They prefer Royal Caribbean. I'm definitely keeping that in mind for when I finally go on a cruise (it's on my bucket list).

  10. I've been reading your blog for a while now and I know how you've been anxiously waiting for Scott to return home. I was excited for you and your vacation until read the part where it said "Carnival". I myself will never cruise for many of the reasons you have listed in your experience and the fact that the Poseidon Adventure had a big impact on formulating my opinion of cruises. I have heard horror stories and most of them involved food poisoning. I had hoped your experience would be different since you've both deserved some quality time together. I'm sorry you were victims of that cruise line as well.
    The audacity of them to imply you brought illness to the ship. I've always said I'd rather visit Ethiopia than take a cruise and your adventure helps to make my case.
    Take care now and eat some of that cookie butter. It brings a smile to my face.

  11. HOW DOES A CRUISE SHIP NOT HAVE OTC STOMACH MEDICATION?! That was the first thing that hit me as being so obviously necessary, shouldn’t they automatically put it on your pillow each night or something? I’ve never had any desire to go on a cruise, and this definitely does not make it sound any more appealing. I feel so bad for you guys, it sucks to be sick any time, especially away from home, especially quarantined on a boat! I hope Carnival takes your experience seriously.

  12. We have never been on a cruise. We briefly thought about doing one for our honeymoon, but changed our minds. I feel so bad for you guys about what happened. In your letter, did you say this was a post-deployment trip? I would think that should help your case some. I have heard people say great things about the Disney cruises

  13. That is absolutely awful! It makes no sense to me that a cruise line (and an American one, at that) does not have personnel who speak English fluently....I'm so sorry your vacation didn't go as planned. But you'll have to forgive me, I actually laughed out loud at your telling of the story. It just sounds like something that would happen to Scott and I, too, and I would've probably handled it the same way!

  14. Oh my goodness ... that was most definitely food poisoning. Had they just owned up to it and had decent OTC meds for you, maybe your outcome would have been different!

  15. Thank you for this! I've sworn to never go on a cruise and this helps my case!

  16. Oh Kristin. How horrible!!!! I'd never cruise anyway (motion-sickness) but this makes me think twice regardless!

  17. What an awful experience!! I don't know that I could ever go on a cruise. If I ever do, it will not be Carnival!

  18. I hope you don't give up on cruises because they can be so much fun. I have only been on one cruise and it was with Royal Caribbean. There was a huge group of us (17 I think) and none of us ever got sick on the boat! So that is good. I have never heard good things about Carnival. If you do it again, I would go with Royal or another line like Norwegian. You might pay more but hopefully it will be a much much better experience. I am sorry it was such a downer and that they treated you like cattle. Terrible!

  19. that is terrible!! what a nightmare! i'm so sorry your vacation was spent sick and dealing with that!!!!!!

  20. what a nightmare! Someone was telling me the exact same story just this week about a Carnival cruise! That sucks. J and I have always said we'll never go on a cruise- I think we'd feel trapped after awhile.

  21. I was wondering what happened on your cruise. OMG what an awful ordeal. I have zero desire to go on a cruise now.

  22. Oh sweet geez. I can't believe your trip was this terrible. It's times like these I wish we were IRL friends and you could text me the horrid experiences at the time they occurred. So I could text you some sarcastic remark back and, hopefully, improve your misery.
    Especially since I'm so behind on reading blog posts.
    Did Carnival respond yet?

  23. Oh man. You poor people. That sounds awful. Angel and I have considered the idea of maybe going on a cruise at some point...I would lean toward a Disney cruise but I really don't know that much about cruises. Traveling overseas so much has really taught me to be careful about what I eat...and occasionally I've subsisted for a week or so on rice and watermelon or similar simple foods. And I guess if we ever do venture on a cruise, our other languages will come in handy.

  24. You truly had an awful experience. I am an experienced cruiser. I have had some less than par days but my great days far outweigh the bad. Holland Amerca cruises are my favorite. They have better service!

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  28. Here is a simple approach to attending any illness. Do blood work!!! Unfortunately, the AMA and/or hospitals refuse to implement a basic panel of blood work for 95% of of all medical visits. What does this mean? Your condition will be determined by guess work versus scientific and medical facts; case in point. The danger? A system which promotes and may cause an epidemic or prolongs unnecessary suffering (case in point) because it does not known what its dealing with.

    We can also look at it this way. Patient goes to doctor with upset stomach. Doctor does no blood work and prefers to guess what the issue is. Decides to prescribes exlax. Problem? The patient already has diahrrea.

    When you apply a failed strategy across the board you can only expect failed results across the board. Moral, always insist on blood work or any other medical evidence and remove guess work.

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    i was on a carnival cruise a few years ago and was trying to eat one mexican hamburger, suntanning and williams poached pear on a thursday night; threw up all night. #not fun
    stayed in the room until i could go to the infirmary
    nurse said your lips are chapped and gave vaseline chapstick.
    "i feel your frustration"
    it started right after chichen itza.
    lets not make it a trend!
    i know that a recent carnival cruise scuffle and other incidents involving this particular cruise line is covering up their dirty secrets.
    #it is time to expose all of the secrets!

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