BULLS IN A CHINA SHOP AKA THE NEIGHBORS IN THE NEXT CABIN

BULLS IN A CHINA SHOP AKA THE NEIGHBORS IN THE NEXT CABIN

Our life lessons did not come from school; they came from our home environment, to be exact, my grandmother’s house. We called her Nanny, and she was liked by everyone, never did we hear anyone dislike her for any reason. She was perfect in my eyes, but she was a tough task master. As far back as I can remember she expected us to be polite, and considerate of others.

The house rules were; you did not run around the house, you did not throw things or play loudly – you were quiet and considerate to the people in the house, and more important, you were polite to your guests, and the neighbors. We did not raise our voices in anger to each other, or anyone else for that matter. If you used the word “I” too many times in a conversation, you were corrected – to talk about yourself was bragging, you should inquire about others, politely answer questions put to you, and then promptly turn around the conversation to your guest.

You never slammed a door, made unnecessary noise, or spoke about private matters in public. You were polite to people you really found offensive long enough so that they could not tell you didn’t like them, you made a polite excuse, and you left. You were told to keep your opinion to yourself, and avoid contact with them in the future.

Hotels had the same rules only they expectation was higher; you were not allowed to speak loudly, and you removed your shoes, as not to bother people in an adjoining rooms, and above all, you did not slam doors. The whisper of a quiet click as the doors were carefully closed was all that was allowed – disturbing another traveler was the height of rude behavior.

Despite all these lessons, there was the most serious infraction; it was worse than using the “I” word too many times in a conversation, it was acting “like a bull in a china shop.” That comment meant you were not fit for public outings, traveling, going into shops, and above all, it was a serious character flaw which rendered you a nuisance, rather than a person fit to be around others.  We naturally thought that everyone in the world was taught these valuable lessons of life, and as we instilled these values in our children, we never realized that Nanny’s teachings were not given to everyone.

Cruise ships are mini cities and towns, and each cruise has a different mix of people from all over the world – some cruises have a nice hometown feel, and polite and considerate people; and some cruises do not. Besides very rude and selfish behavior, when we finally booked our first balcony cabin, we found out that often “the bull in the china shop,” was indeed in the cabin next to ours. After having enough exposure to some very inconsiderate neighbors, we stopped booking balcony cabins and started booking ocean view cabins instead. It took us away from slamming balcony doors, and toxic smoke coming from the balcony cabin next to ours. Along with the cigarette butts, found every morning on our balcony, as the cruise line restricted smoking inside the cabins, the only place for smokers to smoke was to go was out on their balcony during the night. After about 12 cruises in ocean view cabins, we had forgotten just how bad balcony cabins can be, until we found ourselves on the Carnival Legend on a back to back cruise in September 2013.

We started in a porthole cabin, moved to an ocean view, and then were given the opportunity to upgrade to a balcony cabin on deck 6 for both the 9/1 and the 9/13 cruise on the Legend in Northern Europe. They were both port intensive cruises and we felt would be nice to have a balcony again. It was after we boarded, and as we gazed out on the Port of Dover, that the first inkling of what was to come became apparent.

The loud slamming of the balcony door, made us jump; it was followed in quick succession with a second slamming of the door. It seemed our neighbors next to us, had decided that they could not enter and exit their balcony together. Two separate openings of the door, followed by wall shaking slams of the balcony door in quick succession meant they arrived on the balcony separately. It would be a sound that would disrupt our entire cruise, waking us several times a night, and forcing us to sleep in two separate increments during a 24 hour period. We would be able to sleep from about 7pm to midnight when they went out for the evening, and then again in the morning from around 11am to about 4pm when they were in port, or out of their cabin.

Right from the first day, they found it necessary to go out on the balcony separately, each slamming the door, followed by loud talking with each other on the balcony. They would scream at each other, one of them would then shove the chairs loudly around the balcony for some sort of dramatic effect, causing a noise like nails on a chalkboard. Then one of them would go back in the cabin alone, slamming the door, followed by the other one doing the same. Since they both seemed to smoke frequently, and they could smoke in smoking areas around the ship during the day and evening; at night, when they were in the cabin, smoking on the balcony was what they did – very often we would soon learn.

Within days we found out that they smoked on the balcony when they were in the cabin, and at night when they returned to their cabin at midnight, the ritual started again; jarring us from sleep. We know they didn’t sleep well, they were up smoking on their balcony every hour and a half during the night. Keeping with their routine of separate trips out to the balcony, we would be jarred awake as the first one went out to the balcony slamming to door, quickly followed by the second. We knew that 3 more times the balcony door would vibrate the walls of our cabin, broken only by the violent shoving of the aluminum chairs in the middle of the episode. We were then left to sleep for a short while, until the cuckoo clock neighbors returned; announcing another smoke break and those 90 minutes in the middle of the night had passed very quickly.

It was like clockwork, 24 hours a day. We napped when we could several times a day, never quite getting a night’s sleep, or even a good nap in the cabin unless they were busy somewhere else on the ship, or in port. We prayed that they were not on a back to back cruise like we were, and if they were, we prayed that they would not be in the same cabin.

By day 3 of the cruise, we were counting the days until the end of the cruise, and praying for more thoughtful neighbors in the cabin next to us. On day 8 of the 12 day cruise, and after 8 days of slamming balcony doors, and cabin neighbors from the bowels of hell; we built up the courage to inquire whether our steward knew if they were on a back to back cruise like we were. We were wondering if we would keep up the pace of short naps in place of a good night sleep for the entire 24 days on the Legend. His answer gave us the glimmer of hope that the next cruise would be better – they were not in that cabin the next cruise. We had only 4 more sleepless nights of slamming doors, and shoving chairs based on the smoking needs of our neighbors.

On September 12th, we returned from dinner to see the suitcases of our noisy neighbors placed outside their door. It was truly a night for celebration, our last night of disturbed sleep; we were sure that our next cabin neighbors could not be any worse. I couldn’t help myself, I just had to take a picture of their luggage, packed up and ready to carry them somewhere far away from us. We actually never saw them the entire 12 days; we have no idea what they even looked like. We were only exposed to the noise they made whenever they used their balcony.

The welcome sight of luggage in front of the cabin next to us.

The welcome sight of luggage in front of the cabin next to us.

You have to wonder, it is the middle of the night; you are on a ship with thousands of people. When you awaken, and need to use your balcony in the middle of the night to smoke, it is very quiet – the other passengers are asleep. As you open the balcony door, and hear the soft sounds of the sea passing by, and then let that balcony door slam – that jarring noise that can wake the dead, do you ever think that possibly that loud sound reverberating throughout the surrounding cabins might be bothering someone? Apparently it never dawned on our noisy neighbors.

September 13th arrived, the day we had been looking forward to – they would be gone, off into the world to invade the peace of other travelers. When we awoke on Sept 14th, we were surprised to see it was light outside; we had slept all night – no jarring intrusions. Our new neighbors did not have to use their balcony for several smoke breaks throughout the night, and therefore reminiscent to the first night your new baby sleeps throughout the night – we let out of sigh of relief – the bulls had left the china shop.

Gazing out from our balcony at the port of Dover - somewhere down there, our noisy neighbors were slamming doors somewhere far away from us.

Gazing out from our balcony at the port of Dover – somewhere down there, our noisy neighbors were slamming doors somewhere far away from us.

Copyright December 8, 2013  ~ Rita Alexandrea

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Filed under cruises, Carnival cruise lines, Carnival Ships, Carnival Legend

CARNIVAL ON BOARD GIFT SHOPS – ADVERTISING, ANNOUCEMENTS, AND RESTRICTIONS – ACCESS DENIED!

Carnival Legend gift shops - access denied

Carnival Legend gift shops – access denied

Carnival on board Gift shops – Advertising, announcements, and restrictions – access denied!

     Visit the gift shops on any Carnival ship, and purchase your souvenirs for friends and family back home. It seems simple enough, but like many things on Carnival ships; it is not that easy.

     As I put the final touches on a book about cruising Carnival from the point of view of a passenger, the Carnival Legend in the Baltics has given me a perfect example of how Carnival often misses the opportunity to sell things in their gift shops. Their policies often frustrate passengers willing to spend hundreds of dollars on board the ship.

     Can you imagine a store marketing a product with ads, commercials, and personal invitations to bring people into the store; and then refusing to show people what they are selling, and denying them the opportunity to purchase what they are paying thousands of dollars to market?  It certainly does not make sense,  and despite that, on the Carnival Legend in the Baltics – that is exactly what is happening.

     We have cruised 30 times since our first cruise in 2004, and we love cruising on Carnival ships.   The problem is, sometimes they do things which defy logic – sending customers wishing to make purchases away empty-handed is one of them.  This is most frequently seen on specialty cruises – the voyages where Carnival feels they can hold back the merchandise to create an air of exclusive opportunity when they visit ports only a few times.

     This Baltic cruise to Russia on the Carnival Legend gave me a perfect opportunity to document for my book on cruising Carnival, just what happens when you try to actually buy something they are trying to sell you on the ship. Since we have run into this before, I secured a backup plan for us to purchase Russian souvenirs if Carnival again refused to sell us things in their gift shop. Using the website provided to me while we were in Russia, I just placed an order online for the very Russian souvenirs for our family that I tried to buy in vain this morning from the Carnival gift shop.

     We have 6 children, and 8 grandchildren. Before the cruise, we set aside $1000 to buy each a nice souvenir from Russia. We took that $1000 down to the gift shop this morning, two days before the end of the cruise, and attempted to buy the gifts to bring home. The answer from the employee,  “no, nothing is available for purchase right now.” That was not the answer we expected; not only could we not buy them, they refused to even give us an idea of what was for sale. We had come at the wrong time – the Russian sale was last night and we missed it. Actually we did not miss it; they do these sales during things like dinner, and the shows. Therefore, if you wish to miss dinner or the show, you can make a purchase – otherwise; access denied!

     The Russian souvenirs are displayed nicely in the window of the gift show, with the sign that says – on sale today. These things have been displayed in the window from the moment we boarded the ship – unavailable for purchase until we reached our Russian stop. They even provided a countdown – 4 days, 3 days – a countdown to an opportunity to purchase these things on display in the window.

     We have seen this before on many Carnival ships, a certain time to start a sale that causes the pushing and shoving, mob mentality – a shopping frenzy. To us, that is an undesirable way to shop, and like many frequent cruisers, we know to avoid these gimmicks for our own safety, and go the next day when these things are readily available to buy.

     Therefore, at 9:15am this morning, when there is nothing really to do on the ship except getting your shopping done, we proceeded to the gift shop to purchase the Russian souvenirs in the window with a sign that said: on sale today. The problem is the money we have to spend is not good enough at 9:15am on the Carnival Legend. We ask the employee; could we actually see the Russian merchandise, or inquire about the prices so we could decide what we wanted – no, access denied.

     You cannot buy anything now; “unfortunately the sale was last night,” we are told. We questioned the sign that says available today, the answer; “we might make them available again today,” he says.

“What time?” I ask.

“We can’t give you that information,” he replies, as I confirm that they will not even entertain selling us anything.

     I proceed to guest services to inquire why I am denied access to make a purchase onboard. The lady at the counter agrees – that makes no sense at all. I assure her, not only does it not make sense; we have seen it happen many times on Carnival ships. She takes my diamond card, and proceeds to call the gift shop manager for clarification. Since we have run into the problem many times, I already know the answer.

     After a few minutes she returns, and tells me the answer that my prior experience on Carnival has already prepared me for – access denied, with an explanation that makes little business sense.

     “They will be available for purchase this evening somewhere between 6 pm and 10 pm, listen for the announcement,” she says.

     That becomes useless information on a ship where announcements are not even heard inside passenger cabins, a place people might be when they are dressing for dinner, or resting up for a night of fun activities. A two-hour steakhouse dinner, comedy club, and main shows, often preclude you from attending some buying appointment in the gift shop. Are those passengers to be denied the ability to purchase certain things in the gift shop?

     I consult the funtimes for the day when I return to my cabin to implicate my plan B, and notice the entry: Russian Merchandise Bazaar at 7:00pm. There it is; a scheduled sale that neither the person in the gift shop, nor the woman at guest services who called a gift shop supervisor on my behalf this morning, was able to tell me.

     This is a perfect example of the inconsistencies that Carnival is famous for. We often find that calling Carnival on the phone from home, 5 calls are made with your question, and that gives you 5 different answers. Take those answers, and write them down – do that over the course of 3 days, and pick the answer that you were told the most after talking to 15 different people at Carnival.

     The same thing happens on the ship – different people, and different answers.

     Since we only have 2 days left on the ship, and we will be at dinner at 7 pm while the Russian things are put up for sale, we will miss it. The good thing is; Carnival forgets that the internet has everything, and most stores worldwide have a website to purchase anything we need, and have it shipped to your home. If we had even been allowed to price the things we might have been able to buy on the ship in the next 24 hours, we might have had an idea of what the cost would be.

     Unfortunately for Carnival, they have discouraged us from spending our money in their gift shop at a convenient time. Instead we went to the Russian store website we wrote down knowing the Carnival gift shop restrictions of the past, and ordered all our souvenirs online. The children and grandchildren will receive them as they would have, the total including the express shipping and duty from Russia is $972.53 – we made our $1000 limit with a little more that $25 left over.

     The only downside is our Sign and Sale card is linked to our Carnival seamiles card, and we get double points for purchases on a Carnival. If we had been allowed to purchase our gifts on the Carnival ship we likely would have earned 2000 points on our gift shop purchase alone. Our bill for this cruise is $1000 less than it would have been, had we been able to shop when we wanted to on the ship.

     All is not lost; we used out Delta card and earned frequent flyer miles instead. I just don’t know how in the age of international shopping online, Carnival uses outdated marketing tactics to discourage people like us from making purchases from their gift shop while on board.  We can just log on from our cabin, bypass Carnival altogether, and purchase the same things without being told we have to miss dinner to battle the crowds instead of shopping at our leisure on vacation.

     The only loser is Carnival cruise lines, and the outsourced gift shop they run on their ships. The very people enticed by the exclusive nature they are trying to imply on the ship, are often the people without the resources to really make high-priced purchases. We were looking for convenience, not a sale price; therefore we made some Russian store owner happy with an expensive purchase for their benefit instead of Carnival.

copyright Rita Alexandrea~July 1, 2013

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Filed under Baltics, Carnival cruise lines, Carnival Legend, Carnival Ships, cruises, Uncategorized, Writing my books

HEAVEN DIDN’T NEED A HANDYMAN

It was almost cruise time, and we were very excited. Our cruise on the Liberty had just ended on March 10, and the inaugural voyage of the Carnival Breeze was right around the corner. We had never done an inaugural cruise before, they either didn’t sail at the right time for us, or we were already booked on another cruise when the inaugural was announced. This time we were lucky, we had prior commitments in Italy in May, and it looked like we would finish with those commitments by Memorial Day weekend. No need to twist my arm, Italy is our favorite country and Venice in particular is very special to us. The new Carnival ship would be launched on June 3, and it would be easy to stay in Venice and go on the cruise. We loved our cruise last year around Italy on the Magic, and we were anxious to repeat the great experience on the new Carnival Breeze.

By April 2012, we were enjoying pictures of our first great-grandchild born in February, and anticipating our  eighth grandchild, expected in June. In few short weeks we would be heading for Italy, and Fuzz was getting the house ready for the summer. Life was routine, uneventful, and  there were no problems on the horizon.

Then the unthinkable happened. Without warning, or any prior medical problems, Fuzz went from cleaning the garage to fighting for his life in an ICU. Suddenly our life was on hold, and I was being asked  how I felt about  no CPR orders, and if organ donation was something I would consider for my husband.  A massive blood clot had passed through his heart and was now in his lungs, partially blocking the main arteries to both lungs. One day blurred into the next, as he spent days in ICU. Complications set in, and he was rushed to a bigger medical center 3 hours away. Vascular surgery and clot busting followed in what became and endless nightmare. Our daughter’s wedding day came, and we waited in the hospital for pictures of the big wedding we were missing. Our son stepped up to walk his sister down the aisle. We were very lucky, and Fuzz recovered enough to go home, only to hemorrhage again due to blood thinners.  Rushed back to the hospital, Fuzz spent another week battling the complications; and it appeared our upcoming trip to Italy might not be possible.

Soon  our prayers were answered, and Fuzz made steady progress. He was determined that our trip to Italy would still happen, and he set out to recover his strength in a few short weeks. He had cheated the grim reaper, and he beat the odds, and our trip to Italy was back on the calendar.

Fuzz has some wonderful attributes, but things like cars, plumbing, and electrical work are not talents he possesses, and he is the first to admit it. He does however give it his best effort, and from that comes some very amusing  stories.  Thankfully, I now get a chance to write one of our amusing family stories, rather than his obituary.

Fuzz hates electrical work, he readily admits he knows little about it, and efforts to improve his skills over the years, have not been very successful.  For years we had a switch in the hall that was a 3 way switch to turn the hall light on, from separate locations. One of the switches by the front door  always got stuck halfway, and then would suddenly snap on or off after quite a delay. He always commented, “that switch in the hall is breaking, I am going to have to change that soon.”

Despite being broken, it actually worked for many years. One night Fuzz came up to bed and told me; “it happened, the switch just broke completely so the hall light doesn’t work.” He explained he would take the afternoon off 3 days later so he could spend a few hours fixing the switch, and taking the time to do it right.

The afternoon came and he assembled a small chair to lay out all the tools. Of course, I was needed there to help, someone has to hand the tools over, and hold the screws. Fuzz really hates electrical work, so he is already sweating and nervous. He carefully took the switch out to see what he would need. He confirmed that he needed a switch, so he got in the car and went to Walmart. He came home with the switch, and carefully installed it. He turned it on, and behold, it didn’t work. He inspected the other switch and decided that maybe the other switch needed to be replaced as well. He got back in the car and he made a second trip to Walmart.  He returned, installed the switch, and it still didn’t work.  He shook his head and slowly glanced at the ceiling. He decided that we have lived in the house for 30 years, and it is probably the fixture in the ceiling  that was to blame. The third trip to Walmart, yielded a new fixture for the ceiling. As he stood on a small ladder, sweat appeared on his brow as he carefully replaced the fixture. He handed me the old one, stopping to take the light bulb out, and put it the new fixture in the ceiling. He climbed down, turned on the switch, and it didn’t work.

Then I asked a simple question:

“Is that light bulb good?” I asked.

“Yes, of course, it was working fine until the switch broke.”

You really have to love my handyman husband.  An entire afternoon for the project, 3 trips to Walmart, 2 new switches, 1 ceiling light fixture, and if I had found this problem three days earlier, all I would have done was to change the light bulb.

We are now days from our wonderful cruise, and every minute we both stop to think how lucky we are to be together on another cruise. This one will be very special, the cruise that gave us and chance to reflect on how lucky we are to be still together enjoying each other. We feel blessed that God decided he really didn’t need a handyman after all.

Copyright  May 24, 2012      Rita Alexandrea

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Filed under Carnival Breeze, Carnival cruise lines, Carnival Ships, cruises, Europe

CARNIVAL PLAYERS CLUB – our final chapter

Fool me once, shame on you – Fool me twice, shame on me…

Our last cruise on the Carnival Destiny was not good in the casino. Besides being delegated to “poor relative status” with the Players Club, we also lost quite a bit of money playing games there. Since we maintained our faith in the Players Club, despite the disaster with our club entitlements, we continued to play in the casino on the second leg of the back to back on the Destiny. By doing that, we passed the threshold for club entitlements on our next cruise.

Fast forward to our cruise on the Valor, a mere three weeks later, where we had high hopes that our treatment on the Destiny was an isolated incident. As I have done before, I called the Carnival Players Club to inquire about our Players Club gifts. As I explained the problems I had encountered on the Destiny, the apologies and promises spewed my way. “There will be no further problems,” the man said, and he informed me that this was not how the Players Club operated or treated their guests. Gullible as I am, I accepted this, responded with the proper customary etiquette, and then answered his questions regarding my upcoming cruise on the Valor. We were to get the “deluxe Bon Voyage package,” which we had always received up until the last cruise, and $100. The gifts would be in our stateroom upon arrival, and I was to see the casino host for the $100. The promises sounded familiar, and I tried not to dwell on what happened to me on the Destiny. Creeping into my consciousness, were prior complaints of similar problems I had heard from other cruisers, who now boycott the casino on Carnival ships, for the same reasons. Before hanging up, I requested that the man, who identified himself as Michael Bayona, Lead Carnival VIP coordinator, send me an email confirming our conversation. On the Destiny, I was told if I possessed such an email, there would be no problem, in other words, the fault was mine for not getting it in writing.

Could it happen again, despite the previous article I had written on the subject? Did the 300 plus responses I had to the article claiming identical problems with the Players Club, have any significance? Would I walk on the Valor, and in fact, be met with the same “poor relative status” as before? I wanted to believe that it was an isolated incident that would not be repeated; unfortunately my trust was a little premature. When we boarded the Carnival Valor, we did notice that the Bon Voyage package was not in our cabin. By nightfall, we knew that it would not be delivered, and like the Destiny, we were being forgotten. I wasn’t ready to find out that the promises I had been given by the Players Club, were in fact, empty promises. My mind wondered back to all those other people, the ones who had told me horror stories before the Destiny, and the 300 comments telling me never to trust the Players Club, that I received after writing the last article 3 weeks ago. I decided that the truth could wait until tomorrow, it was a 6 day cruise; why not feel special one more night before the enviable slap in the face of “poor relative status.”

I finally mustered up the courage to go down to the casino, figuring all will be well, and I could spend the evening being entertained in the casino. All was not well, and ironically the casino hosts I talked to, both studied at the “appease the guest, school of casino hosting,” the same school attended by the hosts on the Destiny. The same conversation, “don’t worry, all is well, I will send off and email and it will all be fixed by tomorrow,” occurred in this casino as well. While my name was on the “all important list,” what I was to receive was not listed. This time, I had the solution, the email confirmation sent to me by the Lead Carnival VIP coordinator, certainly that would fix everything, right? On the Destiny, it was my fault that I did not have this important proof; I had been told this would have immediately solved the problem. Well, the email didn’t immediately solve the problem on the Valor, as both casino hosts assured me that “all is well, and everything will be fine, but we still needed to send an email to the Players Club for confirmation.” I was then asked if I wanted a free drink, no thank you, spending the evening playing in the casino as I had planned, suddenly was not appealing.

So, let’s see, this is a vacation, and I am constantly told on the ship that I should relax and have fun, leave my worries at home. Why then, have I spent time on 2 different ships, not even 3 weeks apart, debating whether I am a valued guest on the ship or not? Obviously, I am not very valued in the casino, certainly I do not feel welcome enough that I would want to spend one more cent gambling there anymore. While Carnival cruises are overall wonderful vacations, they are teaching me that they really do not want me spending money on their casino.

It is becoming a “three strikes, you’re out,” issue for me.

Let’s recap:

Strike 1 - On the Carnival Magic transatlantic cruise, seat saving in the casino for friends left machines sit vacant while the people using the machines were elsewhere. The “in the bathroom” excuse meant that the casino employees sided with the seat savers and we walked out of the casino on day 4 of a 16 day cruise after the slot machines we wanted to play sat vacant, while their friends saved them. We never went back to the casino on the Magic, despite having earned 1500 points and free drinks for the rest of the cruise if we were in the casino.

Strike 2 - The Carnival Destiny back to back had me debating the gifts we were promised for 4 of the 5 days on the first cruise, finally allotting me the $75 promised after 4 frustrating days. Viewing this as an isolated event, I did use the casino extensively on the second 4 day part of our back to back cruise on the Destiny.

Strike 3 - The Carnival Valor, where again, the promised gifts never arrived and the $100 promised is now in limbo, awaiting emails. On the Destiny, we found out that the Players Club didn’t answer “important emails” for days at a time. It really seems like this will be the final chapter for us in the future in any casino on a Carnival ship. A nice relaxing time aboard a Carnival Fun Ship should never include the unfulfilled promises that are definitely occurring with their Carnival Players Club. Once upon a time, we spent very little in the casino; we knew nothing of the perks awarded to people who gambled for hours in the casino. It seems to me, that the more money, and time we spend in the casinos on Carnival ships, the more empty promises we are given. If I didn’t gamble enough to be given casino perks, I would never spend another frustrating day, or days in some cases, waiting for “royal” emails that would validate the promises I had been given.

I absolutely hate conflict in my life, especially on vacation, and the last 3 cruises we have been on, all have involved poor treatment in the casino. Three strikes and you’re out……someone really smart must have said that, and chances are, they were a former member of the Carnival Players Club at sea. For me, the Carnival Valor is the final chapter. I shall retain my “poor relative status” on Carnival ships forever, and never again will I have to spend another frustrating day being patted on the head by casino hosts and told; “all will be well, I just have to send an email….check back tomorrow”

Copyright  February 27, 2012      Rita Alexandrea

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Filed under Carnival cruise lines, Carnival Destiny, CARNIVAL PLAYERS CLUB, Carnival Ships, Carnival Valor, casino

CARNIVAL PLAYERS CLUB AND POOR RELATIVE STATUS

If you cruise Carnival or any of the other cruise lines, it is likely that you are familiar with the Players Club at sea. The Players Club administers the casinos on Carnival ships and well as other cruise lines and some land based casinos as well.  Like the Spa services onboard the cruise ships, they are actually run by an outside company with casino interests in several venues.  Since we cruise very often and like to spend time in the casino on the ships, we are automatically enrolled in the Players Club at sea. That’s right; put your sign and sail card in the machine, play the game, and “presto” you are the newest member of the Players Club. Gone are the days of paper buckets filled with coins, dirty hands, scooping out piles of winning coins, and standing by while an employee fills the coin cache so you can watch you winnings come flying out the coin chute below. Now all is done from the convenience of your Sign & Sail account, making it much easier to add money to a slot machine and gamble it away.

Like everyone else, we understand the “entertainment” value of the casino, and the fact that the entire mission of the casino is to remove money from your pocket and add it to theirs. Yes, there are occasional winnings to keep you dreaming about the forthcoming windfall with your name on it, but for the most part, you are paying money to be entertained. With your “Player’s Bank” connected to your Sign and Sail card, it is now much easier to spend a little more than you intended to every time you set foot in the casino.

Now that I have added the disclaimer of why we are no different than anyone else who loses money in the casino, we can honestly put in perspective why we are given “free gifts” and incentives to keep us coming back.  We are frequently invited to lose more money whenever we cruise on a Carnival ship.  It all starts with contacting the Players Club about 2 weeks prior to your next cruise. You listen to the menu and chose the option to speak with a live person. You will be promptly told that “your call in important to us, all the operators are assisting other customers and please stay on the line on for the next available operator, or call back later.”  After being told that a few times at 2-3 minute intervals, you wonder how different it would be if my call was “not important to them.” Finally, it is your turn and you give them your name, birth date and the booking number of your next cruise, and you are promptly put on hold again to listen to the music while you wait.  Since the cashless system has come into play, all the money you put into slot machines, which ones you played, how long you played, and what you won or lost is all there in the computer for evaluation of you net value to the Players Club. Alas, the operator comes back on and tells you what your value to them actually is.  Your value to them is in the form of “Bon Voyage packages.” For us, these consist of free large bottles of water, fruit baskets, drink and photo coupons and money added to your Players Club account by the casino host.  There are additional gifts I have been told, but we have never lost enough money to get anything more than the aforementioned gifts.  This process has always gone smoothly for us, despite some horror stories we have heard from other passengers about promises not kept by the casino host once they are on the ship.  Until our cruise on the Carnival Destiny, we have always been treated well and received the “free gifts”, which amount to; some bottled water, free drink coupons, a $15 photo coupon and a fruit basket costing hundreds of dollars, depending on how you chose to look at it.

As we boarded the Carnival Destiny for our 5 day and 4 day back to back cruises, we had been told by the Players club that we would be receiving the “deluxe Bon Voyage Package” in our cabin, one for the 5 day cruise and one for the 4 day cruise. In addition to that, I was eligible for $75 credit on my Players Club account from the casino host on the first leg of the back to back cruise only.  On the phone, they made sure I understood that the $75.00 was a “one time only” gift to be given at the beginning of the first leg of the cruise.  All I would have to do was to go see the casino host when the casino opened after the ship set sail.

Simple, what could possibly go wrong? Well, this is how we went from being Platinum cruisers with Carnival and valued members of the Carnival Players Club, to being treated like anonymous “grifters’, trying to pull a scam on the casino. We suddenly became the “poor relatives”, and like we had been told by other passengers in the past, all does not go well with the Players Club and its members on occasion.

SATURDAY – The first thing we noticed when we boarded the ship and went to our cabin, was that the “free gifts” from Players Club that were usually in our cabin, were not there. At the time, we just figured that they were still delivering the gifts to the cabins and ours had just not arrived yet. After we set sail and went to our early seating dinner at 6pm, we returned to our cabin to find that nothing from the Players Club had arrived. Since we had to see the casino host for the $75, we decided to inquire when we saw the casino host. We went and asked at the casino cage and the woman at the desk consulted the list of all “important players” and notified us that we were not on the “list”. We then asked to see the casino host who came out and informed us that this sometimes happens, and it was a matter of just emailing the Players Club to clear up the omission. We were told that the Players Club, “promptly emails back”, and that she was “going right now” to generate the email. We were also told to check back in the morning.

SUNDAY – (24 hours after boarding) A day at sea and the casino was open from early morning. I participated in the slot tournament in the afternoon and checked with the casino host who was running the slot tournament about the status of my inquiry. She recognized me and told me she just emailed them “this morning” (not last night), but because it was a weekend, it was possible that I would not have an answer until Monday morning. I was assured all would be cleared up shortly.

MONDAY – (48 hours after boarding) Today was Ocho Rios and we stayed on the ship. There were no messages for us from the Players Club all day. In the evening, we went to the casino and played a few hours after dinner. Afterwards, since I had heard nothing, I again inquired at the casino cage. I was told that the casino host was there but she was not answering her page and could I come back later. I instead told her I would wait, as it was already after 9pm. Another host arrived, a man this time, and I explained my problem and what had transpired so far. While I was talking to him, the lady arrived and they both spoke to me. I was told “not to worry”, and again the excuse of “embarkation day being a weekend” was offered. I brought up the fact that today was now Monday evening, and I was told that they get many emails and it would take time for them to get to mine.  I was assured they would send notification to my cabin as soon as they heard.

TUESDAY – (72 hours after boarding) Today, we are in Grand Cayman, and we stayed onboard so I could write. Still there has been no word from the casino, and our “poor relative, not valued player” status remains. Tonight we went to the casino to inquire again, since no one actually communicates with us otherwise. Tomorrow is the last day of the cruise, and the casino host has basically mumbled something about getting us a bottle of wine to have with dinner tomorrow, and “maybe some strawberries in our cabin.” It is all they can do, we are told.

So basically we have gone from appreciated Carnival Players club patrons to pesty passengers, a roll we do not like. Finally, after giving up on the entire venture, we got a call from “Anthony” at 9:45 pm at night, telling us he managed to authorize at least our $75 Players club credit and he is working on our package for the second leg of our cruise.  The authorization apparently came from a senior host on another ship, and not the Players Club itself which seems to have completely neglected to read the emails being sent from the ship.

I guess in this day of instant communications, and complete tracking of everything I do in the casino, I would think that they would also answer emails from the ship pertaining to omission complaints from the guests they hope to keep gambling in their casinos.  After this back to back on the Destiny, I am anxious to see how this works on our future cruises.  Hopefully, publicizing our own plight with the Players Club will somehow spare another guest “poor relative status” in a Carnival ship casino.

 

Copyright  January 31, 2012      Rita Alexandrea

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Filed under Carnival cruise lines, Carnival Destiny, CARNIVAL PLAYERS CLUB, Carnival Ships, casino, cruises

Desperate plea from a sinking ship….

Over the years, message boards have often existed for the sole reason of selling us something.  Be it a site for owners of RV’s, boats, ATV’s, sporting equipment, houses, condos or vacation homes, the forum is there for you to exchange ideas with unknown salesmen infiltrating the group, and posing as just another human on the other end of a keyboard.  Cruise message boards have been no different, but with the popularity of family cruising, the cruise message board has become a cut throat business. Existing freely for many years under the guise of  a group of people who all like to cruise, free enterprise and social media have made it easier to do research into a message board’s true intension and loyalties.  No one minds some revenue to the person who maintains the message board interface and makes sure it functions properly, they are providing a service that is time consuming and should be compensated. They also keep the site from becomes clogged with people looking to exploit their good fortune in finding a place where there are more potential customers with every post.  The line is crossed when they feel they are so big that they can control everyone who posts on the site and mold them into robot posters who do their selling for them.

Like the sovereign nations of history, there is always the problem of the people who have minds of their own, and start to question what they are getting in exchange for their tax money.  How different was the historical French revolution from the people who question what their online presence is helping to promote? When I visit a website, and post a comment or message on their site, who is benefiting from my patronage?  Anyone who joins facebook, plays their games, “likes” another page representing a product, or service and pulls their friends into the fold, is supporting facebook.  We all understand that, and facebook does give you ability to join and support pages that do send you to outside sites. In other words, they are smart enough to realize that by  “allowing” you the freedom to leave “their” site without retribution, they give the illusion that they “share well with others”. We all know this, like much of the etiquette we have to use in our society when we really do not feel so gracious, people are more likely to seek out your company if they know things will maintain a pleasant course, regardless of the topic discussed. Facebook has this policy down to a science, and that is what has made it so popular.  In the past, many of the cruise message boards have allowed people to link to their facebook pages and pictures, and set up facebook chats that they can’t provide to their members.  An extension of the cruise message board roll calls, has over the last couple of years, also spawned a corresponding facebook page. This allowed people to use both, and better get to know their fellow cruisers. Since people rarely use their real name on message boards, the facebook link gave you the ability to get to know each other and to friend each other in the facebook format.  This way you could friend people with similar interests other than cruising, and you could discuss those things on facebook, without posting them on a cruise message board that saves your posts forever and refuses to ever remove them. Anyone can read public message boards, and your relatives bout with cancer that you felt you needed to vent about with one or two of your cruise friends, now has public worldwide distribution.  We have all been on roll calls where, as time passes, and people become closer, topics stray from cruising. Facebook has alleviated some of this, as these private discussions can now be shared through facebook. This has stopped pages of posts to weed through on the message board of family illness, pets, children’s report cards, and parenting advice.  In other words, the two roll calls complimented each other and allowed both to grow.  Like allied nations, they give up some of their hold on their people, to share resources and support each other in time of crisis. People with the ability to visit other places and relocate, often come home anyway. What happened to the nations too afraid to expose their people to a possibly better or different culture?  What happened to the nations that isolated themselves throughout history and kept complete control of their people? Look back in history and you will find that the people found a way to escape, except due to the retribution, they rejected their nation and never went home.

History repeats itself and I can’t think that the heavy handed warning that appeared on a cruise message board today will have its desired effect. Carefully worded as to disguise the true threatening nature of this notice, the dictators who tried to seize and seduce  nations, come to my mind.

We love Facebook just as much as you do, but effective immediately we will no longer allow the promotion of Facebook groups created for specific cruise line sailings on our ROLL CALLs.

Without going into too much detail, we feel this is in the best interest of members who enjoy participating on ********** ROLL CALLS.

If you currently have any Facebook groups listed in your online signature, please remove them.

Finally, thank you for your anticipated cooperation.

History has proven that demise gets more imminent when isolation policies are established, this has been true of nations throughout history. I’d like to share the thoughts that occured as I read this notice this morning.

We love Facebook ….we are losing a lot of revenue, and we are being pressured by our advertisers


 …just as much as you do, but effective immediately we will no longer allow the promotion of Facebook groups created for specific cruise line sailings on our ROLL CALLs.…our site is unable to compete with Facebook due to people going there for the ability to communicate free from censorship, to chat in real time and actually use links to enhance their cruise planning that we cannot stealthy control, as to direct people ONLY to OUR sponsored sites

Without going into too much detail, …..boring you with the facts you would need to realize that this message board is really an ad agency for our sponsors

we feel this is in the best interest of members who enjoy participating on ********** ROLL CALLS..and might not realize that Facebook interface is far more useful in cruise planning

If you currently have any Facebook groups listed in your online signature, please remove them….or we will remove them for you, as there is no individual opinions allowed here, unless you put OUR opinions in your own words and post them for OUR benefit in your signature…

Finally, thank you for your anticipated cooperation.…because if you do NOT cooperate we will sanction you, suspend you, ban you,AND TAKE YOUR FIRST BORN CHILD!!

Questions/comments can be sent to me at community@*********.com….BUT THEY WILL NOT BE ANSWERED OR RESPONDED TO AND YOU WILL BE BANNED FOR QUESTIONING THE WISDOM OF THE BOARD MANAGEMENT

This gives me a choice, as it really says I must choose where to place my loyalty, and indirectly, my tax money. Let’s see, should I chose the site that “allows me” to mention another site and is not threatened by me discussing sites other than their own, or should I chose the site that threatens me for even mentioning that other sites are available to enhance my vacation?  Let me think back to history and decide which nation of the past I would have wanted to live in.  Do I want freedom and democracy, or do I want dictators with severe consequences for even wondering if there are places to live that would more fit my needs?

The proclamation has been made and I am being told I can no longer use both sites for my cruise planning. They are forcing their will on the people and with poorly veiled threats, forcing you to edit out any evidence that there might be any other roll call in existence. It is the online version of standing in front of the executioner with one last chance to save you neck by signing an alliance and loyalty to the King of the Kingdom. In the past, many people thought that freedom was worth losing their life over.  In honor of those very people, I have made my personal choice.  That is why facebook is so popular, and their cruise roll calls so much better.

copyright December 10, 2011     Rita Alexandrea

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Filed under Carnival Ships, Cruise message boards, online bullies, Uncategorized, Writing my books

In search of Capndinghy

With two “guideline reminders”, plus one more today, signed All the best three times, I found myself wandering around cyberspace looking for Capndinghy’s (boy it’s a big ocean) Magic TA review.  It seems I have plenty of company, as cyber versions of ourselves search in vain for the talented Capndinghy’s review.

Notice of the post’s removal is front and center on another guideline reminder of mine.  I believe I barely escaped suspension for mentioning it again on the thread that now boasts many “Where is Capndinghy?” messages.  All we knew was that he was suspended by overzealous message board hosts on a message board that gets less popular as the week progresses. Actually that is not true, as people arrive for the purpose of enjoying more of his whimsical review, they find it stalled in suspension mode as Capndinghy serves out his 7 day suspension.  The views of that thread have increased into the thousands since the Capn was suspended. There are even some posts telling of his suspension that actually remain. Over the last 2 days, many people received NastyGrams from saying just that, but I suppose you can’t suspend everyone if you want to have a message board left, after all, you have banished the Man in the Funny Hats, and suspended the increasing popular Capndinghy. Those very same hosts depend on their message board sponsored groups for free travel for themselves on Carnival ships, as well as the fact that it  owned by a very large travel company.  As they suspend more people, and send out NastyGrams that make people think twice about continuing on their a site, they might want to clean house themselves.

My user page is  literally starting to seem like the principal’s office in grade school. The NastyGrams remain forever, making a site that is supposed to be a happy place for looking forward to your cruise vacation, much less inviting. We are adults, we have been told, slapped, punished and wished “All the best” for the alleged infractions, why do I have to look at them every time I use the site?  The truth is, I don’t have to look at them ever again if I leave the site and seek out another site to do my cruise planning.

The suspended Capndighy AKA Chuck

Capndinghy AKA King Chuck of the Guttersnipes AKA Chuck Carmichael, retired airline pilot for American Airlines, is doing just that.  It didn’t take long to find his continued review, reproduced in its entirety on a family run cruise message board.  Armed with my new user name and password, in seconds I was there enjoying Capndinghys (boy it’s a big ocean) review. Settling in comfortably on a new cruise message board, are the disciplined, suspended and banished members of the old “big brother” message board. The nice part is the format is very similar, and the learning curve hardly noticeable. It will be nice to open up my user page and not be punched in the face by the demerits sitting there forever and a day. I won’t have to wade through pages of message board host’s group cruises, looking for the actual conversations about cruising by the real members of the board, who are barred from including their cruise roll calls on the main page.  Sometimes it is nice though, I have to admit I purposely check the list of message board host cruises to make sure we stay clear of those particular cruises. They are the main reason we will never go on a John Heald bloggers cruise in the future. As I have said before, not all bloggers are created equal, and groups within the bloggers group itself, completely overshadow individual cruisers, making it a very disappointing cruise if your purpose was the cruise with John Heald.  We find our enjoyment is much better when he is a CD on a cruise and not completely engulfed by groups that surround him and prevent other bloggers from participating. So I suppose, that message board will still be of some value as a way to  avoid cruising with message board host groups that are recognized quickly by their narcissistic, entitlement behavior on the ship.

So now I am faced with my very first post on the new message board where I have found the popular Capndinghy. As I look at my new user page, devoid of demerits, it is hard to find the words that really convey my feelings regarding a new site to plan our cruises.  After much thought, I came up with this:

CT Junior

Join Date: Nov 2011

Location: New York
Cruises Completed: 20-24
Fav. Cruise Line:
Carnival

Posts: 1

Status: Online
Default

Enjoying the review and the “surroundings”. My first post……….I’m HOME!!!! Rita
So where is this new message board where Capndinghy has made himself at home to continue his review without attack?
Here it is…..shh, don’t tell anybody…

http://www.cruisingtalk.com/index.php?referrerid=15834

copyright December 2, 2011      Rita Alexandrea

4 Comments

Filed under Carnival Magic, Carnival Ships, Cruise message boards, online bullies, TA, Uncategorized