Occupation:Information Technology - Computers
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Jubilee
Sailing Date: November 25th, 2002
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was the first cruise for my family and I. In attempting to do my homework prior to the cruise I read many reviews of the ship and cruises aboard the ship. There were mixed reviews. I decided to be open minded and give the boat and crew the benefit of the doubt. Now having returned from the trip it is painfully evident to me that I made a mistake. My family and I are very disappointed at having saved for two years, (This meant passing up other vacations), and having the experience that we did. Note I did say we were first time cruisers and that I did attempt to do my home work, I obviously did not do my home work well enough and I had high expectations for how we would be treated on the boat. During the cruise I adjusted my expectations, yet I still feel great disappointment.
In Galveston Port we were well treated by Security, Luggage handlers and the staff inside the area where everything was checked before boarding the ship.
As we walked across the entry way into the ship things changed immediately.
I was accosted by an individual with drinks on a tray asking me if I would like a drink. No "Welcome Aboard" just 'Here have a drink'. My homework told me that I should not take one because there is a charge associated with these drinks. We walked into a small lobby area and pretty much had to figure things out for ourselves. There was a sullen faced lady who would point out the direction to your cabin, if you asked her. We finally made it to our cabin; a small inside room on the "Upper Deck". We took and inside room because we were told "You won't spend much time in your cabin", (Ha).
After unpacking we spent a little time looking at the excursion list for our two ports of call. We were told that you need to sign up early for the excursions. The ship was full, thus we felt we needed to hurry to be sure that we got the snorkeling tour for our boys who had never been snorkeling before. This is where we ran into the wonderful people who ran the Excursion desk. I understand that they must get asked thousands of questions a trip and that a large part of those questions are repeat questions. However, like us, a lot of people are new to cruising. Their responses to my inquiries were less than helpful, I had to drag information out of them and they were very condescending. I was glad to get that experience over with. We spent the rest of the day getting the lay of the ship. Our Dinner time was set for 8:15. My family is pretty much an "early" family. We are up at 6:00 to 7:00 in the morning, eat dinner about 6:30 in the evening and in bed by 10:30. I am not sure how the seating schedule is decided upon, all I know is that I was never asked. When I went to inquire about changing I was greeted with a sign stating that the boat was full and that changes could not be accommodated. We felt stuck. This really upset our natural time tables. Now lest you think I am a negative person let me say that one of the highlights of the trip was the family that we were seated with. We had a great time together at dinner and in passing on the ship. However I feel that this was more luck that any attempt on the part of the Cruise line to match us up. Our table was at the Very back of the boat, Table 202. Our table shook, (not just vibrate), and the Emergency Exit door behind us rattled the entire time we sat and ate each night. As long as we are talking about the dining experience, the food was good and it was served by two delightful gentlemen (Edwin & Rolando) from the Philippines. These guys went out of their way to make our experience an enjoyable one and made a special effort to involve my teenagers in the experience. These guys more than earned their tips. The constant pressure and reminders concerning tips are a topic for later discussion. My children got to experience new things in the food department, not the least of which were Sushi, Caviar & Escargot.
The Jubilee is one of Carnivals "Fun" Ships. If you call drinking, smoking and gambling fun, then this would have been the cruise for you. I had been told that they were part of the cruise, but I did not understand how big a part they played in all the "FUN". My family and I do not and did not take part in this fun, except in the case of all the second hand smoke that we had to breathe as we made our way through the main areas of the ship. You could not get away from all the smoke. The "small" video game arcade on the ship was placed right next to the casino. Your kids are not only exposed to the lure of all the bright lights in the casino but also were exposed to all the second hand smoke. Not only were the games overpriced only half of them worked. As long as I am on the subject of teenagers. I will say that this is not a cruise for teenagers. My children had nothing to do except play shuffle board and table tennis. Neither of these activities were supervised by staff members. My teenagers would sometimes wait for more than an hour to get on one of the table tennis tables because of the unsupervised 8 - 12 year olds that would tie up the table for forever. This could have been supervised and handled differently. Don't buy into the marketing of all the stuff to do for teenagers, it is just not true. Yes they did have a couple of recurring teenage activities, in of all places, the disco. The kids just sat and talked and listened to music. Now don't get me wrong I know kids like to hang out, (I have 12 years of experience working with youth), however there was ample opportunity to engage the teens in activities that would be fun and cool at the same time. There was no real effort made to involve them in anything. Other than that they were left to run around the ship in packs. An idle mind is the Devil's workshop. Activities for the family were pretty much non existent. The ones that my family did attend were badly planned, scantly staffed and rushed. Taking line dancing as an example. Held in the OZ Disco on a dance floor made for less than 50. About 100 people attended, we were late getting started due to being moved twice because the ship was not prepared to handle the 500 kids on the cruise and you could not hear the music from the $29.00 portable CD player that the instructor used. People were stepping all over each other. No attempt was made to rectify the bad situation nor were any apologies made. Another way that people on the boat passed away the time was sun bathing. Living in Texas sunbathing is a pretty common thing to see, however you can image shock at finding out, after I got on the boat, that the top deck was for adults only because it was a "tops optional" sunbathing area. Definitely not something for my teenagers. As for other activities during the cruise, we spent a lot of time napping in our room.
Our cabin was nicer than I expected (Inside on Upper Deck). Roy Rios was our cabin steward. A very warm and engaging individual who went out of his way to speak to us and to ask if we needed anything. He is another person who earned their tip. I'm going to hit the tips before I'm done. There was plenty of room to store everything we had brought and bought. The beds were comfortable. The adjoining rooms were not too noisy although we did hear others at times. Roy kept it in tip top shape all during the trip.
Lets talk about our Ports of call: Calica (Playa del Carmen) and Cozumel. Calica is literally a parking lot. No seriously, when you get there you walk out on to a dirt & rock parking lot where busses for the individual
excursions are waiting along with a car rental business and taxi's. I was told what to expect in Calica after I asked what there was to do there. I was told that you stay on the boat, you take an excursion or you pay $10 (US) for a taxi ride into Playa del Carmen. I thought docking in the middle of no where was strange until I found out that the Cruise line makes a significant amount of money off of the excursions. They probably get a cut of the rentals and taxi business also. Just another way to make money.
Playa del Carmen was a great place to shop. We had a great time talking and dealing with the local people in the shopping area. We were a bit disappointed though when we went to take my teenage boys to the beach. We found out that "Playa del Carmen" in English means "Beach of topless women".
We spot checked over a mile of beach and could not find an area where there were not topless women. This place gave new meaning to the "One piece bathing suit". My guys had really wanted to go to the beach but could not..
This is something I missed while doing my homework. Cozumel was nice. We went snorkeling and spent time in the shopping areas, again enjoying the banter with the local population. We came back with some really nice souvenirs
Now lets talk about "Tips". Yes I did my homework, Yes I was aware that tips were expected and Yes I was prepared to pay the appropriate tips. However there were a few things that bothered me. First; After being on the boat 4 days I was informed that "appropriate tips" had been charged to my "Sail & Sign" card as a convenience to me. I did not authorize this, I had the cash in my pocket to tip people with and it took 10 minutes of paperwork with a dis-interested distracted Purser to get the charges reversed. Second; every where I turned there were reminders about who and how much to tip. If it wasn't on the documents they slid under the door, it was on the ships intercom system or they were announcing it before they ended their shows in the Atlantis Show Room. I would be embarrassed to be so obvious. I was even asked to tip the Maitre d'? I never saw him, he never did anything directly related to earning a tip, my wife tipped him anyway. Third; the guys I planned on tipping: Dining room wait staff and my room steward, both already named above, more than earned their tips. My problem was with those who did not stand to receive a tip. They were unfriendly, rude and disassociated with the passengers. A couple of examples were listed above. On other occasions; my boys were completely ignored when making a request to the person manning the pizzeria, attempts to be friendly with members of the Funnel Cafe wait staff were met with scowls and grunts and a there was a general feeling of being a bother to the staff.
You know what was really funny? When I got off the boat there were two ladies in the station, (I assume they were employed by the Port of Galveston), who smiled and told us that they hoped that we had a good trip and to have a safe drive home. I had to stop and asked them "Where have you been all week?"
I have tried to be very honest in my review. I take full credit for not doing my homework well and yes there were some positive aspects to the trip, however they were far outweighed by the negatives. Being a first time cruiser maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe if I had gone on another cruise line it would be different. All I know is that Carnival "Jubilee" has a long way to go in the area of customer service.
I hope that this review will open your eyes to what to expect on the Jubilee and will open the eyes of the folks at Carnival to some possible areas of improvement.