When Marilyn Sweeney bit into a serving of sweet potato casserole during her seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Valor she tasted something unusual. It was rubbery, with a faint mint flavor.
“I did not recognize it at first,” she says. “I thought it was food.”
It wasn’t. It was chewing gum. Used chewing gum.
Sweeney thought she was going to throw up. She bolted out of her seat and made a beeline to the ship’s store and bought antiseptic. She hardly ate for the rest of the journey.
“Months later it is still distressing to remember,” she says. “I have had many sleepless nights worrying if I might contract AIDS or some other disease due to this contamination. It is very distressing. I will never be able to take a cruise again after this incident, and it used to be a favorite way for me to vacation.”
Sweeney contacted Carnival in writing after her vacation, asking for compensation. It offered her a form apology and a 10 percent discount off a future cruise.
Not enough, she says. Here’s an excerpt from her appeal:
The thought of this still disgusts me and has reactivated my PTSD. I have had treatments for my stress since I arrived home. Instead of a relaxing vacation I needed treatment to relax from the stress that this incident caused me.
Everyone I have spoken with is disgusted by the thought of someone else’s chewing gum in my mouth. I am sure you reading this would be disgusted to discover you had somebody else’s used chewing gum in your mouth. Then there’s the thought of who did this gum belong to? Do they have any diseases?
Carnival has been terrible and did not even pay for the antiseptic rinse that I had to buy! Carnival has done nothing except offer me a 10 percent discount on a future cruise. I am never going to cruise again after this incident. I have not even been able to eat sweet potatoes anymore and they were one of my favorite dishes (the gum was in a sweet potato dish).
Instead of consideration on a future cruise I want to be refunded for the cost of the cruise that I took. I want to be reasonable and I want you to be reasonable, too. I had lots of expenses associated with this “vacation” including airfare and time taken off for a time that was supposed to be relaxing. Instead I needed to recover from it.
OK, that was a pretty emotional rebuttal. Here’s Carnival’s reply:
We regret that this matter was not reported onboard as this would have allowed for timely investigation and further follow up.
Despite our best efforts to address your concern, I’m sorry you remain dissatisfied. Please know that the issue you’ve raised has been carefully addressed by the executive team and reviewed thoroughly. At this point, I must advise you that we are unable to give this matter any further consideration.