My wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary on July 20th. To mark the occasion, we decided to do something neither of us has ever done: we purchased a 3 night cruise, on Carnival’s Sensation, to Nassau in the Bahamas. Since this was also the first time we’ve vacationed without the children in five years, we decided to splurge and book the nicest category of room on the ship.
Day 0, Nashville, Morning
On my way to work Wednesday, I received a call from someone with Carnival. They wondered if I would be interested in a complimentary upgrade to our suite. I explained that we already had the highest category of suite as far as I knew. The nice lady explained that, no, there were 2 penthouse suites that are reserved for the owners or other VIPs. These rooms are roughly 900 sq. ft. and contain a separate living room, dining area, walk in closet, etc. “And this is a complimentary upgrade?”, I asked. The Carnival representative assured me it was. Well of course I would like the upgrade! The Carnival rep told me our cabin number, either Suite 1 or Suite 2 would be assigned when we arrived. So far, it sounds like our cruise is going to be the experience of a lifetime. My wife and I were both thrilled.
Day 0, Nashville, Evening
That evening we completed all the remaining bits of paperwork. When it came time to indicate our cabin number on our luggage tags, I decided we should wait. We’d figure out where we were going when we got to the pier and write the correct cabin number on it then.
Day 1, Port Canaveral, Afternoon
After a nice short flight from Nashville, and a shorter bus ride from Orlando, we arrived at last in Port Canaveral. As this is apparently the last time we’d see our bags until we got to our room, we asked the porters for help in determining what to write on our luggage tags. We didn’t yet know what room we would be in, so leave it blank, or write our old cabin number on it? The word from the porters was that the old room number would be fine. It would make it’s way to our new room as if by magic.
In the terminal, we quickly found our way to the VIP check in and took care of the necessary paperwork. Here again I was concerned about the luggage. I told the people there that we had written our original cabin number on the tags and wondered would that be a problem. Oh, no, not a problem, they’ll make a change to the manifest and it will be up at our suite when you arrive most likely. She also added, “don’t worry, we do this for a living”. (This is called foreshadowing gentle reader). My concerns alleviated, we continued the boarding process.
The ship was incredible I thought, though some of the more seasoned cruisers we talked to mentioned that it was a bit small and a little older. Whatever, we were amazed. Then we saw our suite: It was huge. As we toured our room I just couldn’t believe how lucky we’d been to get such a room. Our anniversary was, so far, perfection. Of course our luggage wasn’t there, but we went to the bar on Lido deck to begin the party. The luggage would turn up later we assumed.
At the bar we ran into a couple of women we’d met earlier on the bus. They had changed clothes so their bag had come… interesting. No matter, we’d give ours a little more time. After all, they “do this for a living”.
Day 1, At Sea, Evening
No luggage in our cabin. Our concern is mounting. We call the pursers desk. No luck. Our steward is going to check our original suite and see if perhaps it was left outside that room. People with baggage not belonging to them are supposed to leave these bags outside their cabins. How people know this, I’m not sure. I saw nothing printed on any of the information supplied to us or any of the other passengers. An hour or so passes with no word from the steward, and so we call to check on the progress of the search. There was no luggage found outside our original room, however, there are some unclaimed bags near the purser’s counter and it’s suggested that we look there. Sadly, none of the bags are ours. I decided to have a talk with a purser to see how to proceed from here. Among the questions I ask is “What about the dinner, our clothes were in that suitcase. Will we be able to get an exemption regarding attire or…” before I can complete my sentence, the answer is simply “No”.
Later in the evening Susie and I both make another pass through the bags sitting outside the purser’s counter. Again no bags. Again we talk to a purser explaining the situation. This time, the purser asks for a description of the suitcase, which we provide along with a description of the contents. From what we can gather, all of the cabin stewards would be provided with a copy of this information with instruction to be on the lookout during room cleaning later that night or in the morning. It wasn’t really clear which. My wife explained that we had no other clothes than those on our backs and we also had none of the toiletries that were packed away in our luggage. In response we were offered a bag containing the following: 1 large t-shirt, 1 small child’s size t-shirt, 2 travel packs with toothbrushes, Q-tips, roll on deodorant, mouthwash, etc. The toothbrushes would have been great, sadly there was no toothpaste.
Tired from the search for the luggage and the apparent lack of sympathy from the crew, we decided to simply wait to see what the next day would bring. After a stop at the gift shop to pick up a few necessities such as toothpaste, we turned in early, hoping the situation would magically resolve itself in the morning.
Day 2, Nassau, Morning
The morning began with a peak at the cabin entryway in hopes that the luggage fairies had rescued our suitcase sometime during the evening. The Sensation did not seem to have any of these fairies on board however. So the plan was to check with the pursers, and if there was no news, to go into Nassau and try and find a change of clothes before we were to go to our first excursion.
After explaining the situation again to another purser, we were informed that reports from the stewards had not yet come in and to check back later. So, off we went to Nassau shopping not only for souvenirs, but a change of clothes for ourselves. That went… pretty good. I managed to find some decent swim trunks and a suitably tropical shirt. Susie didn’t fare quite so well but did manage a partial change of clothes.
Day 2, Nassau, Afternoon
Back on the ship, I changed into my new clothes (the luggage fairies persisted in their absence) and headed down to the purser’s desk for another update. This time I was told the steward reports would take a long time to filter in. There wouldn’t be any news for hours. And if the reports came back negative, then what, we asked. Apparently, if the steward search turned up nothing, then a flyer would be sent to everyone’s cabin the next morning with a description of the luggage and a request for its return.
Off we went to our shore excursion where Shaun, the dolphin, consoled us with a hug.
Day 2, Nassau, Evening
Back from our excursion, and another trip to the purser’s desk. This time we found a purser that had pity on us. I wish desperately I could remember her name, all I can recall is that she was from Canada. After explaining our situation (we were getting quite practiced at explaining our story, not only to the many pursers but guests as well) Ms. Canada offered us her apologies repeatedly, not only that, but she offered us the services of the formal wear rental facilities free of charge so we could dine at the formal dinner that evening.
After picking up the formal wear, we picked up a few more items in the ship’s gift shop and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at dinner. Afterwards we took the opportunity to wash our own clothes in one of the ship’s laundromats.
Day 3, At Sea, Morning
No luggage. At this point we’d pretty much given up on seeing our luggage again. We’d resigned ourselves to having to spend five or six hundred dollars replacing the suitcase and it’s contents. We didn’t bother ourselves with a check of the pursers desk instead trying to focus on enjoying our last full day on the ship. We chatted with several other passengers, asking whether or not they had seen the flyer promised by the pursers yesterday. No one had seen any mention of it.
Day 3, At Sea, Afternoon
After receiving our comment cards, I decided to take another walk down to the pursers desk where I explained we were ready to fill out our comment cards and wanted to know what the status of the luggage search was before we left our comments. I also mentioned that no one we had spoken to had received any sort of flyer regarding our loss. No explanation was given regarding this supposed flyer. Instead the purser explained that a document had been written and sent to our room giving us a $150 credit to our Sign & Sail account, as well as a discount on a future cruise. It was also explained that we would receive priority debarkation in the morning so we would be able to look through all the luggage in hopes that it would turn up back at the pier somehow. Of course the $150 didn’t even cover the amount we spent on replacement items purchased in Nassau and on the ship, but neither of us really felt like arguing the point. When we arrived at our room, there was no sign of this letter. I was reassured after a call back down to the purser’s desk that it would be there shortly.
Day 3, At Sea, Evening
We’d gone out and enjoyed the casino before heading back to the cabin. Still no letter. These people can’t get a letter delivered to the room, it’s no wonder they couldn’t get a suitcase delivered. I called the cabin steward. They knew nothing of any letter. A call to the purser resulted in being told to talk to the cabin steward as they were responsible for delivering this letter. At this point the whole thing was becoming rather amusing. I explained that the steward knew nothing about it, and was assured that they would get to the bottom of it and the letter would arrive shortly. And so we went to dinner.
Guess what wasn’t in our room after dinner. This time I decided to visit the purser’s desk again in person. The purser explained our room charges indicating the $150 credit… yes, but what about this letter!? It took awhile for them to realize that the letter had not yet made it to our room, but before I left I was assured it was now in the room.
So I’m reading the letter which offers an apology, explains the $150 credit, explains that we are being offered “a percentage discount” on our next cruise (I assume they forgot to insert a number there, or perhaps we will get 1% off), and also indicates that we should attach the enclosed VIP tags to our carry on luggage before leaving in the morning. There are no VIP tags in the envelope. Downstairs I go to find out about these tags. Instead I am told where to meet for early departure. Yes, but what about the VIP tags that are mentioned? “Weren’t they in the envelope?” they ask. Nope. So I get our tags and head back to the cabin. Comment cards completed (I ran out of room on the cards) we headed to bed.
Day 4, At Sea, Midnight
Our phone rings and it’s our cabin steward. Our luggage is sitting outside the door to our room! The luggage fairies had arrived! It was apparently found in our original cabin. The guests in that cabin apparently didn’t know what to do with it and kept it in the room the entire time. It’s a tearful reunion, but short lived, we only have enough time to quickly remove a change of clothes before reluctantly setting it back outside the door so the porters can take it down to holding in preparation for debarkation tomorrow.
Day 4, Port Canaveral, Morning
Just to be sure, I called the purser’s desk to ask what time we should plan on leaving as we had found our luggage. Of course, they had no idea it had been found.
It was an anxious time spent in line waiting to claim our baggage at the terminal and provided one more scare. We did not locate our suitcase on the first pass through our section. After further instruction it was discovered that that section included an alcove wherein sat out suitcase.
There is so much more I could write, but this post has been plenty long enough and all’s well that ends well, but I can’t say I would feel good about choosing Carnival again. I feel like they are well equipped to handle the usual problems that occur doing their cruises, but they were unwilling or unable to handle an unusual situation it seems. This was a simple problem with a lost bag, but what if it were something more serious such as a problem with the ship?
Despite Carnival’s best efforts at destroying our vacation, we still managed to have a pretty good time. Of course I think if we were to cruise again, we might give another line the opportunity to earn our business.