Would I Cruise on Carnival Now?

| Tuesday, 20 Aug. 2013
Carnival Breeze changed the line for the bettter.

We ask experienced cruisers if they would sail on Carnival Cruise Line now.

There has been much speculation in the travel community about Carnival Cruise Line since two recent incidents of ships losing power to vital functions on board.

I have actually heard people saying that Carnival management was "obviously" remiss in keeping its ships properly maintained to the point where these unfortunate mishaps could have been avoided. In fact, there is nothing "obvious" about what happened - even to the experts, or else it would have been avoided. We have no idea if even the best mechanical engineers in the world could have predicted and prevented these failures. Mechanical failures happen and they are very often completely unpredictable. I often wonder why people say "obviously" when they what they are saying is pure speculation.

The Cruise Business

Cruise ships are even more complicated pieces of machinery than cars, they are ships and hotels put together. When something goes wrong on any ship, you may have the people to fix it, but you can't just drive a few blocks to pick up a spare part. First of all, ships are not built from "off the shelf" parts, and second; ships are out to sea in faraway places most of the time. In the long run, ship maintenance requires time to get the ship to a qualified facility and then you often have to take the ship out of service for a very long time. In other words, servicing a cruise ship is not a casual choice; it takes lots of strategic planning.

Most ships are nearly solidly booked several months in advance, so no matter when you schedule unplanned maintenance you are going to ruin someone's vacation. But anytime you can give people more advanced warning that their cruise must be cancelled they have a much better opportunity to reschedule flights, hotels and tours. Therefore, if a ship is displaying possible problems, the company must assess very carefully; "will it make it to the next scheduled maintenance?" and if not, "when will it be in a location where we can get the problem fixed with a minimum of downtime?" Finally they have to weigh whether the ship can provide cruises until the next schedule maintenance - or else they have to choose to ruin the plans of thousands of people for an unscheduled maintenance.

"Why not just scheduled regular maintenance every year?" You are probably thinking. The answer is that they do have regular maintenance going on ships all the time, but that ships are so complicated no matter what you do you unforeseen problems will still occur, and some of those problems requires drastic measures. Such were the problems experienced by Carnival.

Carnival's Ships

Let's be honest about Carnival as a cruise line. It is the most successful cruise line in history. Why? The line delivers what it promises and does not pretend to be anything else. Carnival owns the slogan "The Fun Ships." Carnival does not fill its brochures with the words "luxury" or "pampering." The line promises a fun cruise for you and your family.

I do not mean to imply that Carnival is the "party cruise line" for "spring breakers" however, although they will admit there was may have been a time when they deserved that reputation - 30 years ago. But today Carnival delivers a surprisingly good and satisfying cruise for the prices it charges, especially for food and service. The line takes pride in offering a variety of food included in the price of the cruise, with fewer specialty restaurants with hefty service charges. The crewmembers on Carnival ships are more outgoing and engaging than almost any other cruise line. The waiters sing, the youth coordinators are childlike and fun (not stoic and matronly) and the ships feature more comedy shows than any other line.

Carnival cruise prices are generally the best bargains out there right now. This is largely because they are having a hard time attracting the people who used to comprise about 40% of their audience - first-time cruisers. Unfortunately, non-cruise experienced people are the ones most likely to believe the suggestions that there is something "wrong" with Carnival as a cruise line.

So the question arises - would an experienced cruiser recommend taking a Carnival cruise right now? Let's hear the opinions of some of these experienced cruise people:

So - let's hear the opinions of some far more experienced cruise people:

My Opinion

Is there anything wrong with Carnival cruise ships? Absolutely not in my opinion or experience. Compared to trains, planes and automobiles the entire cruise industry had an absolutely stellar record for decades as being the safest and most reliable vacation possible. Admittedly, the Concordia accident in Italy was a tragedy, and it showed us that cruise lines are fallible. But why was the ship not adequately prepared? Why did the crew seem confused?

Because such accidents were so extremely rare in the cruise business - and still are. That does not excuse what happened or make it any less tragic, but it does give us some perspective. 60 people died on a train accident in France just last month because the conductor fell asleep at the wheel. That incident was in the news cycle for only about 24 hours, yet it had twice the number of fatalities that Concordia suffered - an incident which still has not left the news cycle completely.

What Others Say about Carnival

Here are some comments from our forums from experienced cruisers about taking Carnival now:

Aerogirl wrote: "We have cruised Carnival three times with our fourth coming up in December and for the most part have had only positive experiences. … I think Carnival gives you a great bang for your buck and am not too sure if every higher priced line is really worth the cost when it comes down to it."

Rirruto wrote "Been cruising since 1999 and my last cruise on Carnival Liberty this past March might have been my best one yet. My upcoming cruise, also on the Liberty, is the cheapest 7-day cruise I've ever had. All the bad press has not changed my opinion about the company at all."

Mike M said: "Would I cruise on Carnival now? The best way to say it is - Heck yes, in a heartbeat!!! I've enjoyed all of my Carnival cruises and we've cruised Carnival three times in the last year alone. Have they cut back? In some ways, yes. In other ways, no. They have more variety of dining options and I do like the [recent] dining and entertainment upgrades.

I personally think the Carnival Breeze is a beautiful ship and though the passenger space ratio is lower I never felt crowded like I did on Norwegian Epic. All cruise lines have made cutbacks in food and personalized service. There are more pre-made products used in the dining and buffet areas, the wait staff has more tables and the cabin stewards have more cabins. It's an industry trend.

Overall: Carnival is still the best bang for the cruising buck and I enjoy them more than most other lines."

Read all of the comments on the topic "Would I take a Carnival Cruise Now?"

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