Got off yesterday morning and after 6 hours total fly time, some flight delays, and driving 120 miles in fog and near freezing temperatures we made it home safe and sound. None of which was Carnival's fault
Overall, it was a "Normal" cruise which had a couple things go above our expectations and a couple below our expectations. We are perfectly happy with this, had a GREAT time, meet some great people from all over, and had some great experiences, and there were a couple of staff that really shined as well.
Shout out to "Sylvia" at the casino bar, "Doug" the guitar player in the Casino bar, and our steward "Novi"!
Actually, one more, spoke briefly with "Sparkles" who was our cruise director last week. We had made her aquaintance on a previous Carnival cruise. Great to see someone who's been around for a while and progressing though the Carnival ranks. I can only assume she loves working for Carnival, or she wouldn't be there. Lesley is very personable.
I think the one thing that really stands out about this cruise is that I was completely surprised that Thirsty Frog Red was available on the Spirit!
I assumed wrong that this beer would only be available on the Magic and the Breeze in the Thirsty Frog Pubs. I think this was a great move on Carnival's part. A 19oz Thirsty Frog is a little less than a 16oz regular bottle of beer. Now remember, this is a draft beer which explains part of the price, but again, a really good beer IMHO. Bud Light was also available on tap, for a few cents less than a bottle. Compliments to Carnival to making my cruise experience a little better, giving passengers a little more, in an economic time that warrants taking more and more away, or, increasing costs. The free coctails at the fun farewell party also still remains...Bonus. There were a few reductions in other areas. For some reason they all seem to escape me now, so, they must not have been that important to me
Met several people onboard, and several great disussions about Carnival's competition. In a nutshell, our views that Carnival is the cruise line for us remains intact, and we have no plans of trying any other line at this point.
Oddly enough, the majority of our discussions with fellow cruisers from other lines involved Royal Caribbean. And, oddly enough again the majority of THESE cruisers felt that Carnival was the better overal product. This data was only a 1/2 dozen couples and has no scientific merit, but, it's nice to talk to real people face to face about ship opinions and you geta better feel for who they are, and what they are looking for in a cruise.
There was one really bad experience that will stand out to me for years to come, but I think Carnival had little to no responsibility for it.
Listen up, because I think this story will REALLY blow your mind!
On the morning of disembarkation ALL Non-US citizens were required to meet in the lounge. We were required to be there by 6:30 AM. Another Canadian couple we met during the week said they had to be there at 6:45 am. I suspect there were "Groups" created to reduce waiting times for all non-US citizens. When we arrived, there were about 100 people already seated and waiting on the main floor area of the lounge, all on one side. I think my 100 estimate is generous. 1/4 of the main floor of the lounge was eventually filled, were were only about 5-6 rows from the back when we arrived at 6:30 am. My best guess that the people in the front rows were there around 6:00am!
Brief sidetrack, and this is where there MAY be a chance that Carnival is partly responsible for this. This is the first time we had ever gone through US customs, while physically still on the ship. Why? Is it because of limited resources at the tempory port of San Pedro? As Spirit is only temporarily using this port. Why? Repairs to the other port? I can only speculate on this. Carnival may not be to blame at all, and worse case scenerio it's likely justified, especially if it was for something like port repairs for example.
So, allow me to continue...
At 7:10 am, at least 12 US customs officers entered the lounge. At this point, I suspect the first people there had now been waiting for over an hour. WE had been waiting at this point for 40 minutes.
Carnival had assembled a total of 6 stations, numbered 1 thru 6 on the stage for checking people through customs. Remember, I said at least 12 had entered the lounge.
First, a few of them made their way to the complimentary juice and pastries on the opposite side of the lounge from the waiting, non-US citizens where they proceeded to have a snack for a few minutes. I am not sure if this was intended solely for customs staff, or guests when they were leaving. Dunno. When they were done their "Snack", THREE of them proceeded to the stage, took their seats and began to prepare to start checking people through. Now! Remember I said there was at least TWELVE customs officers in the lounge and SIX available stations to check people through. Is there anything wrong with my math at this point? The remaining NINE customs officiers stood in various places throughout the lounge doing nothing that I could see other than lean on the walls?!?! Maybe they were helping to keep the walls from falling down? Again, dunno.
So, we're ready to get started, great! Maybe I can get back to my stateroom and catch another hour or two of sleep as we are not getting off until after 9:30 am.
Nope, not ready to start. One customs officer took what appeared to be a napkin from the juice and pastry area, lay it accross his forearm and proceed on stage to one of his fellow customs officers and perform this mini "Act" of pretending to serve them. He then pretented to blow his nose in the napkin and toss it on the table in front of one of his fellow customs officers. WHAT THE $%#@ IS THIS?!?!?!
FINALLY! People begin to proceed across the stage to speak with the customs agents. At this point I don't know what to think, I am frustrated "To the max" with what I have seen up to this point. As my wife (common law) and I finally reach the stage, we over hear a conversation with another guest and a customs officer. It was basically nothing more than "Chit chat". I have nothing against the customs officers being polite, but please look at the number of people in the room and guestimate how long this procedure is going to take if you are having a "Chat" with a guest.
We finally reach the customs officer that served us. We handed over our declaration form and our passports. He barely looked at the form. Fair enough, these people probably know how to scan one of these forms and spot if something is out of order or wrong. No problem, plus I'm all about the speed at this point! He then proceeds to study our passports (Canadian, not that it matters) hold them close to his face, hold them far away from his face for about a total of a minute. I expected him to pull out one of those eye pieces they use to examine gem stones. He finally says, "Your last names are different, common law?" I say "Yes" and he stamps the declaration card and sends us on our way.
Now, let me get this straight! I had to be in the lounge at 6:30 am, wait over an hour before I actually spoke to a customs agent, while waiting, be "Entertained" by one customs officer do his "Waiter act", to be only asked if my wife and I were common law?!?! WHAT THE %$#@! To top it off, the number of officers on stage increased from 3 to 4 about 1/2 through our entire fiasco leaving now 8 officers to lean on, and hold up the walls.
If you can imagine my frustration, and YOU are a US citizen yourself, you should be even MORE upset than me. Bottom line! In the tough economic times we are living in, and no offence to our our US neighbors, I have made MANY great friends and met a lot of GREAT people from your country. However, I think very little of the US customs officers that were aboard the Carnival Spirit, in the lounge, on Sunday morning November 13th in San Pedro, California. You should be ambasadors to your country, not clowns with no time management skills. If THIS becomes the norm at the end of a cruise, THIS ALONE could be the factor that keeps me off a cruise ship!
Citizens of the United States? THIS is YOUR tax dollars hard at work?!?! Again, you should be more offended by this act than I was. I appologize if I have offended any of you, but I hope you appreciate having the knowledge of this particular situation.
My appologies for spelling and grammer. I'm still pretty tired after the long day yesterday but wanted to share this while it was still fresh in my mind.