As a family, our kids were so excited to take their first cruise. We were scheduled to leave Sunday, February 11, 2018.
Paul and I have taken several cruises prior to having kids, but we have also taken Bella on a Carvinal cruise when she was 2 years old.
We are Carnival gold members and typically look forward to cruising annually with extended family.
Beginning With A Day of Disappointment
Bella was extremely excited to describe to the boys all the fun there is to be had while on a cruise. She described, in elaborate detail, the amazing waterslides, the fun excursions, and all the chocolates to be had on a daily basis.
On Sunday, we woke at 3:30 AM to board a 5:50 AM flight to Houston to board a Carnival cruise ship which was scheduled to depart at the port in Galveston at 4:00 PM.
Unbeknownst to me, the day of disappointment began when I mistakenly entered the airport as our pickup location instead of our home when I initially requested an Uber.
Uber was canceled and I immediately scheduled another that got us to the Philadelphia airport within 45 minutes of our expected departure. This was beginning of a string of problems to come.
The United Airlines person was extremely kind and politely informed us that it would be too late to board our flight and rescheduled us for another. I began to notice a disturbing trend at this point.
The new flight had a layover in Chicago but was scheduled to get us into Houston at 1:30 PM leaving us plenty of time to get to the Galveston port well before the 4:00 PM departure time.
Chicago was blanketed with snow causing us to land at George Bush International Airport (IAH) at 2:30 PM. Add another 30 minutes to that arrival time after taxing to the gate, waiting to deboard the plane, and grabbing the luggage.
It takes approximately an hour and ten minutes traveling from IAH to the Galveston port. My sister and brother-in-law, who generously volunteered to pick us up from IAH, keep texting me saying “don’t worry we still have enough time.”
The first time I began to worry was after landing and receiving those texts.
My parents, who live outside of Houston and also book the same cruise, decided not to go directly to the port. Instead, they opted to tag along with my sister and brother-in-law to pick us up from IAH.
After picking us up, my brother-in-law drove extremely fast to get us to the port knowing that time was tight. During the commute, a Carnival employee called me inquiring as to whether we had still planned on taking the cruise. I replied “yes” and explained that the bad weather in Chicago caused our flight to be delayed.
Seemingly not impressed with my explanation, the employee asked how far we were from the port because the doors to board the ship would be closing at 3:30 PM.
A total of three more requests for our location were received from the same employee for the remainder of our commute giving us false hope that Carnival would NOT close the doors until we had arrived.
She also noted, after each request, that this information was being forwarded to her boss who was stationed near the entrance door boarding the ship.
When we finally arrived at 3:31 PM, I called the employee only to hear “I’m so sorry but the doors are closed.”
Fight or Cry
Stunned, I sat in the car not knowing whether I should fight someone or cry when a port authority person approached us asking if he could help.
We explained our situation and he pointed to a man who could help us near the entrance of the ship. This man was obviously the boss of the employee who called me numerous times.
This man seemed to be shocked once we arrived reminding him that we had been on the phone with his employee providing our location status throughout the commute.
He too apologized but also told us that the doors were closed. We were given a card telling us to call customer service to learn of our options (this cruise was booked through a third-party agent, therefore, the Carnival customer service agent could not provide me with information…It would take another blog post to explain this part).
Kids’ Faces Full of Disappointment
As a provider and protector, I will never put my family in this predicament again. No parent wants to see their kids disappointed and to feel that they have let their kids down.
Instead of being filled with joy, Bella was in tears. Our kids waited and fantasized nearly an entire year about this cruise. We woke early and flew over 1500 miles only to be turned down.
Paul immediately googled flights to Cozumel (the next port) with the cheapest flights being $500 per person. I shut that down quickly and opted to spend the week with my sister’s family in Austin.
Carnival received a nasty tweet from me expressing my severe disappointment once we arrived in Austin. It wasn’t until after I had received several sympathetic tweets from others did Carnival tweet back requesting proof sent to them via email of our flight delay.
United Airlines provided me with the flight delay information the next day which I immediately sent to Carnival with a note emphatically stating we would not accept a credit for another Carnival cruise.
As I write this post, I have yet to hear back from Carnival. Two valuable lessons were learned from this entire situation:
- Book a flight arriving the day before the cruise is to depart, and
- Never use Carnival!!!!!!