Carnival bashing? No, but a very different customer service experience!

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Forum' started by luvavacation, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. luvavacation

    luvavacation DIS Veteran

    Nov 23, 2006
    I have been on 8 Disney cruises, and will be embarking on my 5th Carnival cruise this November.

    I need a break for Thanksgiving, and so DH and I are taking our daughters, my brother, and my mom (she lives with me, has Alzheimer's Disease) for a short cruise to get us out of here and try to make some picture memories before my mom is too far gone.

    I have previously cruised with my mom on Disney, and it was great. Very helpful and accommodating in all respects, from customer service, to special needs, to on the ship.

    Carnival, not so much. I don't expect much from the cruise, it will be fine, we will be together, but I have cruised Carnival before and know it well enough not to experience what I do on Disney. However, their Special Needs/Customer Service department is wow, not helpful! I won't go into specifics, but the brick wall I am running into is really leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

    For all the complaints I may have about changes at DCL since our first cruise 2001, I will say, I have never had a problem with the staff or crew, shoreside or on ship. Can not say the same for Carnival.

    If I liked my brother more, I would have paid for Disney. ;) Oh, and the fact that the dates didn't work out well for going to and from college for my daughter, but whatever, this had better turn out to be a great cruise for my mom! :)
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  3. MTmomma

    MTmomma DIS Veteran

    Sep 2, 2010
    Honestly, I would not take an altzheimers patient, no matter how "with it" they seem, onto a cruise. (keep in mind, this coming from a person whose mother ran Altzheimers care facilities) No matter how newly diagnosed they are, they still have dementia, and traveling can be really stressful and confusing for them and can cause serious issues with "acting out."
    My mom has witnessed it happen with something as simple as changing the vehichle that you use to pick up the patient. I am sorry, I know you are angling for more family time, but a cruise isn't appropriate in my opinion (and my moms) for someone with Altzheimers, early stages or not.
  4. luvavacation

    luvavacation DIS Veteran

    Nov 23, 2006
    Thank you for the concern, MTmomma,:) but no worries, I have already had my mom cleared by all her doctors. She has traveled before, and she does still enjoy it. However, this will be her last trip, for I do recognize that she is declining and will be entering a different stage that will make travel more difficult for her.

    If only Alzheimer's progression was always textbook, but I am finding that it is not. For my mother, at least, travel is truly "good for the soul". This may not be true for all, but in our case, at this time, it is true.

    Just expressing frustration over the difference I am finding between Carnival's Special Needs department and DCL's. We are all cleared for travel, just trying to make things a bit easier and smoother, that's all. :)
  5. lilpooh108

    lilpooh108 DIS Veteran

    Apr 17, 2010

    On a serious note...what is lacking?

    My DD has allergies and has difficulty transitioning in certain situations, so to speak. What has Carnival done incorrectly?

    I'm curious since we've always wondered whether we should try another cruise line.

  6. 3Mickeys

    3Mickeys Mouseketeer

    Jul 24, 2010
    I'm sorry you are having problems with Carnival and the planning isn't going as easy as you had hoped. I hope you can sort things out.

    I agree that not all patients are the same. My dh's grandmother is 93 with dementia and our entire family still brings her to the beach every summer for a week. Every single child, grandchild and great grandchild of hers is there. We use a beach wheel chair and she swims with assistance in the waves every day. It isn't easy to get her there and some days are better than others, but she truly enjoys it and knows she is with people who love her.

    Good luck and enjoy your trip.
  7. Wadekind

    Wadekind DIS Veteran

    Mar 13, 2009
    What are you having issues with? It would may be helpful for others in a similar situation.
  8. luvavacation

    luvavacation DIS Veteran

    Nov 23, 2006
    lilpooh108, if you are up for it, it might be nice to try other cruise lines, just research ahead of time as to what to expect. And lots of people on this board have cruised other lines, too, so this might be a great place to start!

    A bit of info on us, for my family, we like doing activities together, don't care for the loss of money in gambling, and really like shows that don't cause giggles and pointing from the younger crowd (and some of the older crowd, too - seems a dancer with a thong can cause lots of snickering amongst some men, too! :p), so Disney is, and has been from the first time we sailed on them, our preferred cruise line. Plus, my daughters, though they are adults now, still love being called "Princess"! Ok, I might like it, too. :rolleyes1 Yet, sometimes we like other ports, or just want to do a sudden getaway, so we go on other lines, too.

    But to help you with expectations, and since Wadekind also ask, I will give a little bit of info. And really, it isn't any one thing that makes me feel that Carnival is lacking in customer service, just more the overall experience that I am having with the Special Needs department.

    First, it took 13 days after I initially contacted them before I decided to resend my inquiry (they take information through email, which I prefer, so I have a record). I have never had to wait 13 days with Disney, but figured Carnival is a bigger cruise line, so maybe they were just busy. But nothing after 13 days?

    I had an answer to my email resend in two days. Perhaps it helped that I chose some words that greatly expressed my displeasure over the long wait? Yet is was 15 days from the initial query until my answer.

    The answer was pretty much a reiteration of what is in the Carnival FAQs online. I thought the Special Needs was to help with people that perhaps needed a bit of something extra? Nope, I guess not, they just send you the FAQs.

    For example, my mother only drinks one particular beverage. Carnival does not carry this beverage. Carnival's policy is 12 drinks in a carry on per person. I was told that since we have 6 people coming, we should each carry 12 of my mom's drink. Ok, I know that is policy. However, I also like something other than what Carnival offers onboard, and had planned to bring along something I liked. I suppose not anymore!

    I am willing to order something and have it sent to the ship, or to order from Carnival and have them tack on a fee, etc. I am not looking for special treatment for any of the other passengers, just some help in getting my mom's beverage onboard that she will drink during the cruise. But no, policy is policy.

    That is just one example. I was also told, regarding my mom's shrimp allergy, that there is no dietician onboard, but just let the waiter know. I have a neighbour that went on Carnival two years ago with food allergies, was told the same thing, and had a bad reaction to an item in the meal due to cross-contamination. So, I thought it best to let Carnival know, but I guess not. Luckily, mom only has a problem if she eats the shrimp, and I will order for her, but it would have been nice to let the dining team know, as this is what we have experienced with Disney. Oh well. This isn't DCL!

    Perhaps, if one is traveling with an ill child or gravely ill adult, Carnival's Special Needs department handles things differently. And yes, I do know this is a different cruise line, as I mentioned, I have cruised with them before. Guess I didn't realize that even the shoreside service experience was going to be so very different from my previous DCL experiences!

    The other items that I asked Carnival about vary, but you don't need me to go into the laundry list. :scared: Just thought I would let you know what you might encounter. And of course, everyone's experience is different, it is entirely possible I just got a really bad Special Needs Rep, so I wouldn't use my experience as a reason not to sail on Carnival. More just a "heads up" as to what the differences are that I have encountered! :)
  9. bumbershoot

    bumbershoot DIS Veteran

    Mar 5, 2007
    I just wanted to say thank you for this. Obviously the OP knows her mom and knows that it's not an issue for their family, but I had been gearing up to ask about taking someone with memory loss on a cruise, and reading your words has helped. My MIL has had a series of "mild" (ha!) strokes that have "only" (only, OMG, it doesn't feel like "only") messed with her memory. She's still fine physically (and I get that that's a good thing, but still). However, they can't figure out why they are happening. She's had 6 TIAs/mini-strokes/mild strokes (depends on who is saying it) since Labor Day Sunday. So the first layer of "should she still go on this planned cruise?" is the memory loss, and the second layer is if it happens again while on the cruise. :scared1:

    So I appreciate the bold words you used, even though they don't apply to the OP. They might very well apply to our situation!

    I bet there are plenty of people here who would like the list.
  10. DesertGal

    DesertGal Mouseketeer

    Jun 19, 2010

    You are so right. Alzheimer's progression definitely isn't textbook. My Dad recently passed away from it (well pneumonia related to it) many of his neurologists questioned his diagnosis and his decline was rapid. His autopsy revealed he was in the final and most severe stage!!!

    Enjoy your trip with your Mom

    Sent from my iPad using DISBoards
  11. CeCeGarrett

    CeCeGarrett Mouseketeer

    Jun 27, 2012
    Another odd bit of advice:

    As an old nurse... I want you to know that urinary health is a BIG deal when it comes to dementia and alzheimer's. As odd as this sounds, when a person with either, or just an elderly patient has a kidney, bladder or UT infection, their entire demeanor and cognitive abilities can drastically go downhill. Before you leave, make sure her doctors run labs to check for any urinary issues and keep her well hydrated on the trip.

    Enjoy your trip with your family and take as tons of photos. Keep a journal and have her write her experiences in it.. or have her dictate them to you. Enjoy your time and know that you are giving each person going a gift that many many people wish they had received. Time.
  12. bigjrfan88

    bigjrfan88 Mouseketeer

    Aug 15, 2011
    Which Carnival Cruise are you taking the week of Thanxgiving? We are gonna be on the Fascination out of Jacksonville.
  13. Sunseeker17

    Sunseeker17 Mouseketeer

    Jul 19, 2012
  14. lilpooh108

    lilpooh108 DIS Veteran

    Apr 17, 2010
    I'm late to reply to this thread, but DITTO on this great advice. My grandmother lived to be 98 and she was taken down, by all things, of a recurring UTI. She just couldn't fight it anymore and it make everything else go downhill. Definitely check this out before you go.

    And OP, thanks for the list about Carnival. I think we'll stick with DCL and may try Royal Caribbean one day for their large ships.

    About dementia---in my prior line of work I was fortunate enough to work with a dementia expert (literally, a court qualified expert). He would agree. You can't tell the stage of dementia just by the person's abilities. Just be more careful than you'd think, especially when the comfort of the normal environment has been taken away.
  15. keishashadow

    keishashadow <font color=red>Proud Redhead<br><font color=green

    Dec 30, 2004
    OP since you've previously enjoyed 5 CCL cruises, you must enjoy them;)and know what to expect...they certainly aren't DCL but we've found them to be 2-1/2 times less expensive and they have interesting itineraries.

    Others have stated their concerns re Alzheimers and travel issues along with likelihood of strange surroundings exacerbating confusion, etc. and nobody's experience ever seems to be the's a horrible affliction:(. It appears that you are the primary caregiver so it's your call, good luck but you cannot realistically expect any cruiseline to offer extraordinary medical/assisted living type activities, it'll all be on you to ensure her well-being and enjoyment factor.

    I do suggest:

    * bringing an executed copy of durable (or at least a health) POA along.

    * TI with pre-existing clause for your mother to cover potential medical issues.

    Did you book CCL reservation direct? If thru a TA or CCL PVP give them a call and let them know your frustration, perhaps they can help things along.

    John Held is CCL's go-to guy (sr cruise director), has a blog where he answers questions

    you can also find him on FB where you may contact him as to your concerns/requests for whatever accommodations you're requesting.
  16. mdsoccermom

    mdsoccermom DIS Veteran

    Jun 20, 2010
    Did you book with a TA? If so, she should be able to call the medical/guest access department for you.

    If not, the number for guest access (used to be special needs) is 800-438-6744 ext. 70025. Try giving them a call.
  17. SweetMissy

    SweetMissy DIS Veteran

    Feb 18, 2006
    I also want to comment. I'm a nurse and there's something that's called "sundown syndrome", see it quite a bit among the elderly....even elderly who don't have dementia. I work nights, and have had patients who are perfectly normal at the beginning of my shift but by 3am, you'd think they came from a nursing home with full blown Alzheimers. It's an interesting phenomenon. Not saying this will happen to the OP mom, as it can happen to any elder....just wanted to add something. I really hope you all have a great vacation, despite your moms illness and despite your experience so far with Carnival!
  18. luvavacation

    luvavacation DIS Veteran

    Nov 23, 2006
    Sorry, I was away from the board and didn't realize there were more posts! :)

    Really, no worries for health. I am my mom's caregiver, she lives with me, I know her health. She has great doctors that partner with me in the care of my mother. I realize not everyone is so fortunate, but I am thankful to have medical care for my mother that is very thorough and recognizes that I do have some capability in making decisions. Yup, very thankful!

    I also happen to be a travel agent, and my agency books many clients with Carnival. I do not however, therefore I did not have any experience with their Special Needs department before this trip. Other agents have had mixed dealings with them. In my agency at least, no one has had mixed dealings with DCL (other's experience may vary).

    Oddly enough, when I mentioned to Special Needs that I was also a travel agent (I did not mention it initially because I don't believe a travel agent should be treated differently than a regular customer), I was then told to just bring a doctor's note regarding my mother's liquid and dietary needs, and my other concerns were also answered then. Really, this could have been said in the initial discourse, instead of the experience I did have, but whatever.

    And just for information, I am not paying a TA rate, in case there was the thought that this might influence the communication between me and Carnival. I am paying full fare. I never book any cruise on a TA rate, as I do not wish to have the possibility of being bumped for a full-rate passenger. Plus, I like picking my room way too much! :)

    Keishashadow, I do have all those papers already in the folder. I just checked to be sure! Thanks for the reminder, it helps to have peace of mind to know that I am all set for anything!

    Yes, it is true that Carnival's prices are less than Disney's, and I do go on Carnival for the ports and quick getaways (whereas with DCL, I plan ahead and book early for best price). Yet, I don't believe that prices should influence how customer service or a Special Needs department treats its customers. That was my gripe with Carnival. I know others have had negative dealings with DCL, and I am sorry, but in my experience (and I have booked many DCL cruises for myself and my clients), there is a difference with shoreside service. My experience only, of course!

    John Heald's blog is rather interesting. I am sure he is much too busy to even deal with my issues, and honestly, sometimes when people love a particular experience so very much, they have a hard time seeing anything negative about it (i.e., sometimes it is hard for a DCL fan to accept fault with DCL:scared:). He is a funny guy though, and he has a great view of life! My brother did desire to write to John Heald though, so who knows, maybe something does come up. He swears he didn't write, but it doesn't matter. I have the doctor's note now! :thumbsup2
  19. SnipsNSnails

    SnipsNSnails DIS Veteran

    Jan 22, 2011
    I'm glad that you finally got some of the issues resolved.

    Only you know what your mom is capable of at this time. My grandfather has dementia and my parents and grandma took him on an Alaska cruise in May 2011 and we all did a week at WDW in Sept. 2011. We did those trips because we knew that he could still handle it at the time and we wanted to make those memories while we were still able to do so. He did very well on both trips. Now a year later, both trips would be impossible.

    I hope your trip goes smoothly and that you make lots of valuable memories with your mom.

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