Loyal to Carnival?
We’ve been cruising for quite a few years, but the last few years have been different. We have definitely noticed that some things aren’t as enjoyable as they used to be. We mostly sail on Carnival and Royal Caribbean, so I can’t speak for any other cruise lines, but somehow some of the magic in cruising is gone with Carnival Cruise lines.
First Carnival Cruise
First time we cruised was on the Carnival Fantasy out of Charleston, SC quite a few years ago. It definitely was a wonderful cruise that started our cruise addiction. Our room steward was excellent, and made sure that he introduced himself, and did everything possible to make our cruise a delightful one. I still remember, his name was Petra. Every morning he was in the hallway waiting to freshen our room and see if we needed anything and were comfortable. He made sure we had our basket of complimentary samples in the bathroom. Then there were towel animals in the room every evening, along with mints on our turned down bed. We even had robes in the closet.
The waiters in the Main Dining Room were excellent, and they remembered our names by day two. The food was excellent also, and they still had lobster and steak nights. Then after dinner you could relax to a complimentary Cappuccino in the Main Dining Room.
The Lido Buffet had complimentary Bigelow flavored teabags for everyone to enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the Plantation Mint. And the entertainment was out of this world. I still remember the Beatles Review that took down the house, it was that good.
Plus, every single cruiser, no matter what their VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) status, was invited to the Captains Party with dancing and free unlimited drinks. And you could get free souvenir decks of playing cards at the Hospitality Desk if somehow you got bored.
And then the changes started
As we cruised and got more cruise points over the years we’d get more perks, such as a free mixed drink during the cruise. But already, by our second cruise a few years later, the Captain’s Party had been changed so that it was for Gold VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) status members only. Once we hit Gold did get to enjoy the Captain’s Party one more time before they took it away from Gold Status. And now it seems that the Captain’s Party is reserved only for the highest tier of the VIFP Club, the Diamond Tier, which you don’t hit till you’ve cruised a total of 200 days. Is it worth cruising 200 days to get a perk that was promised to us long ago, and then taken away from us?
Did we notice?
I’m not quite sure when I started noticing a change, and I’m sure that the higher ups at Carnival didn’t think cruisers would notice the changes, but we did. At first it was just them putting out inferior quality chocolate mints on the pillows. They just didn’t taste as good, they were waxy. I wouldn’t even eat them, and I love chocolate mints. Plus, the complimentary basket of free samples was gone. Next cruise there was no chocolate on the pillows at all. I wasn’t too upset because it didn’t taste that good anymore anyway.
Then we really started noticing major changes on a Carnival cruise that we took sometime in 2017. Our first clue was when we first saw our room steward and he asked us if we wanted room service in the morning OR in the afternoon. What? They had always cleaned the room in the morning and turned down the beds in the evening. It was expected. And then there were no robes in the closet and you had to pay extra for the Bigelow tea bags. The steward was harder to find when you did need something.
Then they started the “American Plan” in the dining room and the food wasn’t quite as good, plus, no more complimentary Cappuccino after dinner. We could still get Lobster, at least.
Our VIFP club perks had changed again too. Once again we were not eligible for the Captains Party with its free drinks and hors d’oeuvres, we got a complimentary bottle of water and a Carnival pin instead. And we even had to fight for the pin by calling Customer Service after the cruise because we never got it on the cruise, not that I was all that excited about a pin, but it was the principle of the thing. We still got a free mixed drink, but only after 5 pm on the last day of the sailing on 5+ day sailings. Great for that hangover on the drive home, right?
Overworked Stewards & Waiters
Then on the next sailing we noticed that the room stewards seemed horribly overworked with more cabins to take care of than usual. The last steward we had didn’t even bother learning our name or even smiling till the last day of the cruise. The waiters had more tables to tend, also. On our last trip on the Carnival Magic, our waiters didn’t bother calling us by name, I know that they were just too busy to take the time to learn them. The only employee that took the time to get to know us was one waiter in the Lido Buffet.
Oh, and the shows. A lot of the shows on Carnival are the same from ship to ship. If you sail on different ships, you expect to see different shows, but you don’t always. We finally stopped bothering going to some of them. On a few ships we would see a main show once in a while with a little more originality, but still the Welcome Aboard show was the same old same old on every ship, and they haven’t changed it in years.
And they no longer had the playing cards at the Hospitality Desk. Just little things here and there. Carnival Management probably figured no one would even notice, but we definitely noticed the changes and were not happy with them…enough that we started looking into the next cruise line in price, Royal Caribbean. What’s next? Maybe we’ll have to be a Platinum member to use the lifeboats?
What is my incentive to be loyal?
So, tell me, what is the incentive for me to stay with Carnival? We had been loyal Carnival customers because we felt that we needed to try and build up our VIFP club points to get more benefits. But as we built up benefits, they’d take them away. It seems to me that Carnival is so concerned with the bottom line, that it’s missing the fact that it’s getting old and stale. And in trying to build up their bottom line, they’re overworking their employees, which in turn, is frustrating their customers.
I love meeting the employees of a cruise line and getting to know them a bit. It’s great expanding your horizons by getting to know people of different countries. But when these poor employees are trying to clean so many cabins that they can’t even smile anymore, it’s time to look at the bottom line and think instead about basic human decency.
Plus, they are forgetting about the loyal customers who have gotten them where they are by taking away what the loyal customers have already earned in VIFP points, and then expecting the customer to remain loyal. In my opinion, it’s gotten so much easier to switch allegiance to another cruise line or two.
So, we’ve started sailing on Royal Caribbean as often as possible. No, they’re not perfect, but at least it’s variety in the shows and entertainment. Right now they are showing Andrew Lloyd Webber shows like Mama Mia and Cats, and the RC ships that we’ve been on are definitely larger and more of what I thought a cruise ship should be like in the first place.
We’ve sailed Freedom of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. We’re going to sail on Freedom again in April. We get no perks from them at this point with our Crown and Anchor Society card. They’d probably take them away anyway. We won’t expect anything, but the ships are so much better and there’s so much more to do. For us, they definitely have the WOW factor that Carnival has lost. They may not be The Fun Ship, but they are still a whole lot of fun.
We’ll still sail on Carnival
I’m not saying we’ll no longer sail on Carnival, because their prices are a bit better. But at least we now know what to expect of them, and what not to expect, the next time we cruise on one of her ships. So, I guess the answer to my title question, for me at least, is that there is absolutely no incentive to continue sailing with Carnival, except that at this point their prices are better. That may not last either though, we’ll see.