Change is inevitable, but you can believe one thing: when it happens, you’ll hear about it. Carnival Cruise Lines has made a few changes over the past few months – not all bad – but some that got a lot of people up in arms.
Here are seven of the changes.
1. Staggered Check-In Time
One of the changes Carnival made last fall was the introduction of staggered check-in times at Galveston, Miami, and New Orleans. While checking into your cruise online prior to embarkation, you are asked to select a 30-minute window to check-in, e.g., 10:30-11:00, 11:00-11:30, etc. If you try to check in earlier than your designated time, you will be turned away and asked to wait for your time window. While this certainly helps the flow of traffic at the port on embarkation day, it can be problematic if you are sailing in a group and cannot board together. Because you can choose the time slot yourself while checking in online, this can usually be avoided if planned ahead of time, but it still happens. It also creates a problem for people who may be flying in to the port the day-of or checking out of a nearby hotel early and have to wait around with luggage until their designated time. On the other hand, it also hurts Carnival’s Faster To The Fun! (FTTF) program, in which cruisers pay $50 per cabin to board early. If you can get the earliest check-in time available, you can board the ship just 10-15 minutes behind the early boarding groups, essentially negating the purpose of buying FTTF.
2. Bottled Water Goes Up
Just this past week, Carnival increased the price of a 12-pack of bottled water from $2.99 to $3.99. Some people were up in arms over just $1, but if you’ve ever been to something like a professional sporting event and paid $6 for one bottle of water, you’ll realize this is still a small price to pay for an entire pack. Many cruisers still bring their own reusable water bottles and are unaffected by the change, but the anger over this charge seems to stem from cruisers still being bitter over Carnival’s announcement last year that cruisers could no longer bring their own bottled water onboard, since too many people were using the opportunity to sneak alcohol on.
3. CHEERS! Package
Carnival also changed its CHEERS! beverage package – but for the better. The program now includes drinks up to a $50 value (used to be $10) as well as specialty coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, juices, coconut water, gatorade, etc. This change is a bonus for cruisers who usually purchase the CHEERS! package and a big incentive for anyone who’s been on the fence about it. The other change is that the pre-purchase price is $49.95 per person per day but increases to $54.95 once you’re on the ship, so it’s better to book early. Keep in mind that sailings out of Galveston, Mobile, and New York do not offer the program until the second day due to state laws.
Lastly, Carnival did not change the part of the policy in which if you buy the CHEERS! program every adult in your cabin must also purchase it. That is not the case on other lines like Royal Caribbean, who sell their packages individually.
4. Stateroom Turndown
Options On four of its ships, Carnival began testing a new cabin services program in which cruisers indicate on cards placed in their staterooms how and when they want their room made up. Guests can opt for only a refresher in the morning, only turndown at night, if they want extra robes or towels, etc. Like many of the other changes, Carnival cruisers were outraged at the new policy, insisting they wanted to continue having their cabin serviced twice a day. The solution? If you don’t fill out the card, you still get the same, traditional, twice-a-day service. So really, there was no change other than cruisers now being able to further customize their cabin services – if they wish.
5. Fleetwide Room Service Fee
This is a bit of a misnomer, as Carnival’s traditional room service menu is still available at no charge. Carnival simply expanded its menu to include new items like chicken wings, fried shrimp, cobb salad, and chicken quesadillas. However, the prices are reasonable, with the most expensive item being the shrimp at $6, and – again – the traditional menu is still available free of charge. Carnival has yet to join Royal Caribbean or Norwegian in adding a late-night service charge for room service.
6. No More Lobster
Last September, Carnival announced that it would no longer be serving lobster in the main dining room on sailings of five nights or shorter. Many cruisers were deeply divided over this change, with some shrugging it off and others ready to start a riot. The former group seemed to not mind the change and welcomed the new dishes Carnival introduced in place of the lobster, including broiled sea scallops with risotto, blue crab ravioli in a lobster cream sauce, Japanese sea bass, jumbo shrimp with marinara, and roasted duck. Those upset about the change railed on Carnival, with some vowing to boycott sailing with them. However, the lobster is still served on 6+ night sailings, and on shorter cruises it’s still available on elegant nights for a surcharge of $20.
7. New Internet Plan Options
Another change made last summer was to the Internet packages offered. In a program that has since been rolled out fleetwide, Carnival offers a social media package for $5 per day for access to apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. For $16 per day you can have [mostly] full access to the Internet to surf the web. Finally, for full access plus streaming services like Skype and Netflix, the charge is $25 per day. The social media package has been a hit for people cruising in groups, as the reasonable $5 per day price means families can keep in contact throughout their cruise through messaging via social media apps. Walkie-talkies will soon be a thing of the past!
What changes are you most excited about or hate to see?