I have just returned from my latest cruise on the Carnival Debacle. It said Carnival Breeze on the side of the ship, but debacle is better suited.
I had a back-to-back on the Breeze but had the first leg canceled due to dry dock. That happens. I contacted Carnival as to the vulnerability of the second leg and was assured that it was not in jeopardy, so I booked the Vista the week before. It would arrive the same day as the Breeze would be back in service in Galveston, Texas.
It’s a trip for us to get to Galveston, so I either needed to cancel the second leg or find something to replace the canceled cruise that arrived the same day as the Breeze. Having received assurance that all confounding factors had been considered and the Breeze would be available for the second leg, the Vista was an easy choice—more expensive but workable.
Then the flurry of emails, texts, and phone calls began. I was aboard the Vista and received none of them. I usually just get the social package and make sure everything is covered at home. Messenger works for emergencies, unless it’s a Carnival created emergency.
Eventually, I got a hotel room for the day I would be stranded ashore. Carnival was reimbursing expenses for changes in air travel, but not for billeting requirements created out of their change. Carnival knows how to complicate the simple, so that one had to go to Christine Duffy.
I am not encouraged that she will do right by this as she was rather cavalier when confronted with ongoing fraud by Carnival aboard their Half Moon Cay island. Back to the heart of this missive.
The 5-day cruise was now billed as a 4-day cruise and ended up being a shortened one at that. Instructions told Breeze cruisers to disregard their arrival times and come to the terminal between 3 and 5 pm on Sunday, 1 May 2022.
What usually is a 5-hour process would be reduced to 2 hours because someone in Miami just pencil whipped this instead of doing actual planning.
When a captain or cruise director is ignorant, someone up the line might just set them straight. When the corporate staff is ignorant, everyone will pay. A very senior vice president if not Christine Duffy herself had to sign off on this madness.
Why did it make a difference? Some stood in line for 3 or 4 hours to get aboard. Who thought that what took almost 5 hours in an organized system would be expedited to 2 hours by abandoning all organization?
Carnival did manage to get the Dream out of port a little early, but they informed each cruiser to arrive 30 minutes early. Why did Carnival not tell those boarding the Breeze to add 4 and one-half hours to their arrival time?
Were there 2 different coordinators? Was there no senior oversight? Was this a kindergarten project? Was Shaq in charge?
Had this been a single instance and just an arduous process to get aboard, most could take it in stride as another Carnival SNAFU; however, the fun had only begun.
This is what the Navy and Marine Corps call a shakedown cruise. A shakedown cruise is a short cruise of a couple weeks where the ship, its sailors, and embarked Marines work the bugs out. The ship returns to port and a few days later sets sail for a 6 month or longer deployment.
The Breeze was on a shakedown cruise.
· The theater sound system was down.
· One public toilet in a high traffic area had the door hung wrong and it would not close. How does this not get inspected?
· The Hub was down for half the cruise. When it works, it’s great. When it doesn’t, not all areas of the ship are ready to operate in degraded mode.
· People who needed to check account balances used the kiosks so much that they broke down.
· The Wi-Fi was down and the guest services folks tried to convince a line of 100 that never lessened that it was working because they had an email from IT that it was working. When the Diamond/Platinum line wraps around the atrium, be assured that passengers know what’s going on and won’t be fed a line. There should have been a ship-wide announcement and eventually a full refund instead of pretending everything was working.
· The Guest Services Desk Line was the most popular excursion of the cruise.
The list could go on, but it does not need to be recounted here. So, is this guy just a complainer? No, there is a possible silver lining here as there will likely be issues for all ships coming out of dry dock.
Why not offer a Shake Down Cruise for Diamond and Platinum members? It would be a significantly reduced charge for the cruise stating upfront that it was a shake-down cruise. Some stuff would still be worked out in the course of the cruise. Safety, meals, and port times would be as certain as possible, but hub and internet issues would get put to the test, as well as other things that somehow were overlooked before setting sail.
See the process for what it is and adjust accordingly. Don’t presume that everything works because the ship left dry dock. This is as naïve as thinking that no organization would make a 5-hour process into a 2-hour process.
Universal Studios has done this with some success. Admission was free to a select group but the new theme park was still working out bugs. If the ride or the special effects didn’t work right the first time, that was stated upfront.
A shakedown cruise offered for only Diamond and Platinum members would put the most experienced cruisers aboard and would set expectations that some things were still being worked out. Passengers would enjoy a less crowded ship and the crew would not have to support as many passengers.
Yes, revenue would be minimal, but the ship would be fully operational at the end of the cruise. At least the bugs would be worked out and all passenger expectations would be met.
Think about it! Risk launching the Carnival Debacle time and again or schedule a Shake Down Cruise at the end of each dry dock.
As a last note, the cruise director—Cookie—did a fantastic job to work with what he had. He could not overcome the corporate ineptitude thrust upon him, but he did his best to try. I love a man who does not back down from an impossible challenge. Well done to Cookie. The same attention to detail coupled with passion could have made the boarding process less of an ordeal.
Consider the concept of a Shakedown Cruise. It could be a win-win for your most loyal cruisers and for the corporate bottom line when the reviews going forward are fantastic.
Think win-win. Think Shakedown Cruise.