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