Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Valor
Sailing Date: May 14th,2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Valor Cruise Review
Carnival presented the worst travel experience my wife and I have had to date on both land and sea. While the crew was very helpful and attentive to our needs, the policies of the ship made the trip and Carnival undesirable for any future travel.
Specifically, on a ship the size of the Valor Carnival Cruise lines failed to provide even one single venue to sequester a non-smoking passenger from the general attitude that smoking was allowed in every location onboard the ship. The ship published a specific policy indicating that the port side of the ship was designated as non-smoking. This stated and acknowledged by the line, the enforcement of this written policy was never enforced. In fact, members of the ships compliment routinely came on the decks and openly smoked in areas in which it was clearly posted that smoking was prohibited. Furthermore, passengers also smoked wherever they had a desire to do so and did so without rebuke or a courteous suggestion by observing crew that this behavior was not allowed in the location of the infraction.
At one point I approached the purser to inquiry which side of the Lobby deck was the non smoking side after experiencing secondhand smoke on both the port and starboard sides of the decks within minutes of my approaching the purser. Her response to me was that Carnival did not enforce the non-smoking policy, but that the complaint would be discussed. For my trouble I received a complimentary bottle of champagne. Please note that the gift was without the substance of an apology since no concrete changes occurred during the remainder of the cruise.
Carnival lives in the 1970's with respect to their policies on smoking. Valor has a designated cigar bar and multiple smoking bars. It also has bars and other venues in which tables and seats at the bars are designated for non-smokes. However, these designated non-smoking seats and tables are in direct contact and proximity to the smoking seats and tables. Second hand smoke reeks at every location. To better understand the situation the Bronx Bar was not listed as a smoking venue in the ships publications. this said I went to the bar seeking a break from the smoking environments. To my dismay this bar too was a mixed smoking and non-smoking venue housed in a very small room lacking ventilation. Parenthetically, the non-smoking seats were closest to the door allowing a quick escape.
The layout of the distribution of specifically designated non-smoking areas was of interest. The cigar lounge and a open venue smoking bar were at the forward of the ship on a completely enclosed deck. The smoking casino was toward the aft followed by the ships shopping establishments. It was common place to see passengers who had lit their cigarettes in either the cigar lounge or the adjacent smoking bar walk through the non-smoking area on route to the casino. This despite clear postings labeling the intervening area as non-smoking. De Facto there was no non-smoking area. Furthermore, the crew did not at any time courteously or otherwise approach the smokers for smoking during their transit through the non-smoking areas here or elsewhere on the ship.
In assessing the problem, I note for consideration that the Captain held his first day at sea reception in the Cigar Lounge setting the expectations for the passengers and the crew.
Onboard there are specific locations where smoking is completely prohibited. this included the Ivanhoe Theater, the formal dining rooms and cafeteria on the Lido Deck. I experienced no smoking inside the cafeteria on the Lido Deck indoors. On the outside seating smoking occurred despite signs to the contrary on the port side of the deck. I cannot say the same for the theater or the formal dining rooms. Some passengers would enter the theater and complete their cigarettes without smoking a second. In the dining room were we sat for the late sitting a number of patrons on a daily basis elected to light up after desert was served and as people began to leave. By no means was dinner over at the point these people elected to enjoy a smoke with their coffee and desert. Again I must note that the crew did not approach any of these persons about the non-smoking rules.
To complete the explanation as to why non-smoking is so important in the formal dining room, theater and cafeteria one must understand that the rule or specific limitation with respect to smoking in these venues is not one of comfort or respect for the taste buds. Instead the rules for these locations reflects a concern for fire safety. Egress from these location is limited and chaos would result from an inadvertent fire.
My perspective is from that of a non-smoker and physician. I was on vacation and did not believe that it was my place to enforce the ships policies nor to enter into a confrontation with a fellow passenger over his or her smoking habits. We elected for a passive approach. If someone lit up next to us in a designated non-smoking area we used our feet to protect and walked away. Unfortunately, the discomfort was recognized when we found that no matter where we went to avoid the smoking no space onboard the Valor was smoke-free even if signs were posted restricting smoking in the specific location.
We endured the trip despite out discomfort and the failure of the ship's compliment to follow and enforce a stated policy which had it been enforced would have made our trip enjoyable. We by no means sought to deny smokers the opportunity to smoke within the limits of designated areas.
We did discuss the issue of unrestrained smoking with members of the crew and other passengers. All noted the problem and indicated that the solution would have to come from the endorsement of a solution originating with the Captain.
Respectfully, the problem did not end with our disembarkation. We completed our survey forms and found that everything was positive. In light of our dissatisfaction with the cruise the questionnaire left or provided no means to evaluate policy onboard the ship. Rather the questionnaire focused on the courtesy provided by individual members of the ship's complement. After discussion my negative feelings with my wife, colleagues, friends, those with whom we traveled and our travel agent I was urged to contact Carnival in Miami, Florida. This contact only provided greater dismay about the trip and Carnival's attitude with respect to their smoking policies in general on all of their ships.
The Consumer Representative greatly upset me by the indignity of her answers to my concerns. To begin with she stated to me that Carnival runs a fleet of smoking ships and that it was my personal responsibility to have known this before booking passage. This despite their publications indicating specific smoking restrictions onboard. The Consumer representative went further to insult my sensibilities as a traveler and customer when she stated that I should have gotten off the ship at the first stop where I would have received the balance of my fare and been free to make whatever arrangements I desired for myself and my wife. I found this suggestion incredulous. I had booked a 7 day cruise returning to port in Florida where I had booked a hotel and subsequent flight. This not withstanding exercising this option would have increased the cost of the trip enormously, caused great hardship and disrupted our travel plans likely with disastrous consequences. It is well to note that this suggestion also came a week after we concluded our sojourn with Carnival.
In this same discussion, the Consumer Representative defined the target clientele sought by Carnival. It was very clear that I did not fall within the bell curve of their clientele. She stated that Carnival seeks a clientele profile defined by smokers and persons with limited travel budgets. They recognized that their target clientele were no likely to travel on higher priced lines and did not seek the traditional formality of ocean travel. Noting that formal dinner nights suggested casual attire at minimum and although discouraging shorts and tee shirts the discouragement was minimal if at all. Interestingly, we sat at two formal dinners at a well dressed table noting that the Captain and his executive staff did not attend much less preside over the festivities.
I admit to being unsettled following this discussion so an hour or so later I again called the Cruise Line to further clarify my complaint about the cruise. I explicitly told the representative as I had told the previous representative that I sought no compensation. I simply wanted those operating the cruise line to be aware of my observations. Specifically, Carnival was living in the 1970's with 1970 policies that were long ago abandoned. Separate smoking and non-smoking tables or seating within the same confines was well-known not to provide satisfactory results. So to the arrangement subjected non-smokers to copious amounts of secondhand smoke. I noted too, that on a ship of this size no effort was made to create or provide non-smoke accommodations to passengers. People routinely smoked in the hallways and in their rooms with the doors open. I made the second representative aware that persons with whom I spoke objected to smoking on adjacent balconies. I indicated that a better means of providing separate smoking and non-smoking areas was important. I suggested that at least one of the multiple bars should be designated as a non-smoking location. The representative was polite in discussing my concerns and ended telling me that Carnival is a smoking cruise line and that it is well-known that the limitations on smoking are never enforced. I should have known this because it was my responsibility to research the cruise line beyond what they publish. They stated that our travel agent was culpable for failing to tell us that Carnival does not enforce its policy on smoking.
I certainly was less than satisfied with the responses from the two Carnival representatives. I have taken the matter up with my travel agent and expect an answer and my complaint to be registered via appropriate channels.
Wanting to make people aware of the facts that I had not been aware of I searched the internet and found www.cruisecritic.com where I posted a similar discussion topic to this posting. In reading responses, I was taken back by the overwhelming negativity toward any suggestion that smoking was a problem. I read the posting which contained a few comments from persons with similar experiences and views on Carnival's enforcement of their smoking policy. It seemed at first that the comments represented a hit or miss problem depending on the ship traveled. Then I noted that one consistently negative poster made a specific comment related to my discussions with the two Carnival representative. The comment was so specific as to identify the poster as a Carnival employee. I elected not to respond further. The following day when I went back to look at the string of postings I noted that our access to the message boards was denied without reason and forever. The placard read:
You have been banned for the following reason:
Date the ban will be lifted: Never
I can only surmise that Carnival Cruise Lines does not like criticism which reflects a view contrary to that which they post. The placard posted without explanation or e-mail explanation says something sad about www.cruisecritics.com.
In any case this was our "last time on Carnival" and it is for the best since we and they were uncomfortable meeting either's expectations. this note is as a warning to those who might contemplate traveling with Carnival. If you do not smoke ask first for a non-smoking accommodation and for a written explanation of the smoking policy as it relates to the ship on which you plan to travel. Carnival is a "buyer beware" organization so as consumers we need to be aware of Carnival webore setting foot on their ships. They are not forgiving or accommodating even if it is to comport with their only stated policy. Just be very careful because no matter what you spend a vacation can be ruined when you find that you have no place to go on the confines of a ship at sea.
I am truly sorry for this very negative review about Carnival. I wish I would have enjoyed the trip or at least Carnival would have lent an understanding ear to just listen to my concerns. Remember, I have asked for absolutely no compensation from Carnival.