Did Carnival do enough for these Destiny passengers?

gary yim / Shutterstock.com
gary yim / Shutterstock.com

Frank and Lucy Pirri are unhappy with their cruise on the Carnival Destiny, and they’re even more unhappy with how the cruise line responded to their complaint.

Sound familiar? Given Carnival’s recent Triumph troubles, it probably does.

But this wasn’t a short island-hopper with a bad ending. We’re talking 18 days in Europe, which was “poorly planned and poorly executed” from start to finish, says Frank Pirri.

How so? Let’s count the ways. (Warning: laundry list ahead.)

Condition of the ship was poor. The Destiny was “obviously not maintained” up to Carnival standards. “This became understandable when we discovered that the ship was on its way to dry dock — a fact that we were unaware of prior to booking,” says Pirri.

Attitude of the staff was irritating. With the exception of the Pirris’ cabin staff and their main dining room waiter, the staff was “not accommodating and, at times, totally indifferent.” Why? Pirri says morale was low after the staff learned they were to serve on board to Europe instead of leaving the ship in Florida.

The food was bad. It was “our number one disappointment,” he says. In the main dining room, the chef’s menu selections, food preparation and presentation “were simply not representative of Carnival quality,” says Pirri.

In a letter to Carnival, he outlined other disappointments, including some food shortages (been there, haven’t we?) lack of onboard entertainment, and bad odors in their cabin. In short, while this wasn’t a replay of the Triumph, it shared some characteristics of that ill-fated cruise.

Carnival’s response? A lengthy apology, which did not appear to be a form letter.

Your comments regarding the attitude of the staff, as well as the food, are of great concern to us.

We know that great food combined with excellent service is an important component of the cruise experience. We expect our staff to exemplify enthusiasm and make our guests feel pampered and special. Clearly, you were left feeling quite the opposite.

Once again, please accept our sincere apology for your overall disappointment in these areas.

Carnival offered the couple a 15 percent refund for three days of their cruise for the “inconveniences” they experienced.

That’s not enough for Pirri. He expects more from Carnival, and wants me to encourage the cruise line to do better.

That’s easier said than done. The long list of complaints Pirri sent to Carnival ranged from serious (poor ship conditions) to borderline frivolous (indifferent service). Also, while it’s clear that the Pirris were deeply disappointed with their European cruise, it’s not obvious how Carnival can fix it.

Pirri didn’t ask for a full refund; as far as I can tell, he didn’t ask for any specific compensation.

Maybe the fact that this was one of the Destiny’s final cruises is in Pirri’s favor. But maybe not. I’m not sure if my involvement will change Carnival’s answer, but I’m willing to consider getting involved.

Should I mediate Frank and Lucy Pirri's case?

View Results

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Update: I’m not going to bring this to Carnival. Upon reflection, I don’t think the cruise line is likely to change its decision.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • bill

    well, your got the wrong poll here

  • Raven_Altosk

    Dude, when you shop at Wal-Mart, you can’t expect Neiman Marcus service.
    Same goes for cruise lines.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Oops. I had a stray quote mark in the coding. All fixed now!

  • http://thestockhome.com/ Josh S

    Poll is still showing as “Should airlines charge change fees in order to fix a name?”

    Might need to find a few more stray quote marks?

  • bodega3

    Excellent Raven!

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Nothing to mediate here as nothing on the laundry list was atypical. If the OP went on a Carnival cruise for the food, he was setting himself up for disappointment which isn’t necessarily Carnival’s fault.

  • backprop

    It was not “representative of Carnival quality”? Thank your lucky stars! And move on. A partial refund in hard cash is way more than you should have expected.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Is it still showing it?

  • Boomer Traveler

    It shows “Should I mediate Frank and Lucy Pirri’s case?” for me

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    That’s the right one. Thanks.

  • Jayne Bailey Holland

    (Poll did not work for me) But I would not mediate. They should be thankful they got off this easy.I was on the HA Prinsendam on its way to dry dock, and it was one of the best cruises I ever took! I am still in contact with a few staff members from this cruise. 6 years later.

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    I really don’t know where to go with this one without sounding like I’m blaming the victim. Take your pick from “It sounds like OP didn’t choose a cruise company that met their vacation style” or “was it really that bad?”

    Unless the Pirris are in their 20s, I don’t think that Carnival was a good fit for them. Carnival is all about bottom basement cruising. It’s advertising is even all about $499 for a week! They don’t advertise on the experience (except for party atmosphere) because that’s not what they are about. @Raven said it best in his comment.

    If it was really that bad, why didn’t the OP use the Carnival Vacation Guarantee? Quoting from their website:

    We’re so confident you’ll enjoy your Carnival cruise vacation, we guarantee it. Carnival is the only cruise line to offer the Vacation Guarantee*. Simply book your cruise vacation and sail away on a “Fun Ship.” If you are not completely satisfied with your cruise vacation experience, all you need to do is notify us before arrival at the first port of call and you must debark at your ship’s first non-U.S. port of call. Carnival will refund the unused portion of your cruise fare and pay your flight back.

    None of the items on the OP’s laundry list were things that would have taken time to find. Poor ship condition, crew indifference and food quality would have all been evident within hours of embarking. Why not just get off and spend your refund doing Europe your way?

    Finally, if the OP can’t tell you what will make them happy, how do you mediate in any substantial way?

    I’d take a pass Chris

  • Bettina

    I do believe that the offer from Carnival is sufficient and should be accepted. While some parts – not well maintained – are troubling, the letter has not noted what kind of proof was sent in to carnival for specifics, i.e. photographs etc. Unless there is specific proof, I do believe that the offer from carnival is fine.

  • NoraG

    They were offered an actual refund, not a credit. I think that in this case, Carnival is being reasonable.

  • Blackadar

    For what it’s worth, a cruise that’s ending it’s tour and going into dry dock is likely to be exceptionally poor. Most of the staff’s contracts end at the same time and so their incentive to perform well is greatly diminished. This goes down the line from the cooks to the waiters to the cleaning staff – in my experience most folks who have a contract ending just don’t perform at the same level as they do when their contracts are new or being renewed. Also, a ship going into dry dock is also likely to be in poor condition, otherwise it wouldn’t be taken off-line. Between those two factors my guess is that the OP had a very poor experience, one that is likely far worse than a normal Carnaval cruise.

  • Steven Scholnick

    15% refund. He should take it and run. I am shocked that Carnival offer that. There is absolutely nothing to mediate here.

  • BillCCC

    They received more than enough. All I see is a laundry list of complaints with no actual examples of problems.

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    @blackadar:disqus That’s interesting. I talked with a number of the staff members on our last cruise and that cruise line (not Carnival) keeps them on during any dry docks (to provide manual labor) and doesn’t tell them until they get ready to leave the ship if their contract has been renewed. According to the staff, its to keep what you’re talking about from occurring.

  • cjr001

    According to Wikipedia, the ship is currently in drydock to add new backup generator systems – as this ship is a sister ship to the Triumph, that’s probably a really good idea. Although, the ship will be renamed, which is curious.

    In the end, you sailed on Carnival; you got exactly what you paid for. So I voted no.

  • Michael

    Look, it’s Carnival, what you expect is of course my first thought, then 3 things occurred to me. The ship is coming out of service to dry dock so obviously it needs work so this should have been divulged at booking. How do they know the staff was “drafted” into working the European cruise when they thought they were ending in Florida? Could it be this was told to them by some of the staff? It would explain the service, but of course it IS Carnival so what exactly is the benchmark here? Lastly the offer of a 15% refund would sound fair if it was off the entire cruise. Why would Carnival say OK we’ll give you a 15% refund off of 3 days, but not the rest? Are they saying the cruise only sucked for 3 days, but was fine the other 15?

  • Bill___A

    I know that Chris has said many times that when you come up with a “laundry list” that it gets ignored. It has also been my experience than when something is screwed up badly, it is usually a lot of things screwed up.

    When you go on a cruise, it is not like you are in a hotel and can move to another one.

  • Rob S.

    My view is they should vote with their wallets and NOT cruise with Carnival again……there are wonderful cruise lines out there that cost more but offer great service. A lesson for all of us — ask where the ship is going after this cruise…..I never would have thought of that……I have friends that cruise when ships are being repositioned– for example from the Caribbean to Europe in the spring……..and they get huge discounts and practically travel for free………but they also know everything may not be perfect……

  • eileen

    I think they have some valid complaints, but none rising to the “Give me my money back” level. She got a legitimate response and an offer to try to make it up to them at a cheaper rate. I would not expect further.

  • ChBot

    15%, but only for 3 days out of 18 => equates to a 2,5% refund !!!

  • ChBot

    A 2.5% refund is still better than a credit, but not what I would call reasonable

  • ssheldo

    We did a cruise-tour in Alaska on HAL. This was with our adult son who was recovering from a lengthy disability. I won’t go into the problems with his ‘couch’ to sleep on, the dismal entertainment, etc. but the land portion was terrible. Poorly planned and executed. Compared to our previous experience with Princess, it was a huge disappointment. We wrote a letter of complaint and each received $250 toward a future cruise (10% of our cost). We used ours on a short HAL cruise and will never sail with them again. I agree that one must ‘vote with their pocketbook’ and voice complaints on forums like these to hopefully force the particular vendor to improve their services.

  • backprop

    I don’t think it’s 15% OF three days…it’s 15% of the entire cruise, which is approximately three days’ worth.

  • backprop

    As I noted above, it’s pretty clear that it’s 15% of the entire cruise, not 15% of only a portion.

  • MortarMagnet

    You know, I’ve never been on a cruise. I’ve always wanted to, but work and free time have always conspired against me. Reading all of these cruise disasters on travel blogs and seeing them on the news has quickly cured me of any desire to try it any time soon. I was eyeballing a cruise that started in Hong Kong, went throughout SE Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, down around the horn of Africa (presumably giving the Somalia area a miss) and finally winding up in Calais and then Dover. Supposedly a 62-day cruise. The cruise of a lifetime. After reading and seeing what I have, it will just be a fantasy, I think. Too much time for too many things to go wrong. No cruises for me until this starts to straighten out a bit, I think.

  • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net/ John Frenaye

    I say no. But what did they do during the 18 days they were on board to rectify the situation? Anything? Or just let it fester for three weeks?

  • bodega3

    If you have never been on a cruise, I wouldn’t advise starting with a 62 day cruise. Start with a short one to see how you like it and move up from there. I have sold cruises for many decades, been on several and know that they can be enjoyable, good accommodations, service. Do note the rule of thumb, the longer the cruise, the older the passenger. This isn’t a negative, just noting what you will find and adjust you thoughts to what you expect in onboard activites based on age.
    I have sold cruises for several decades and have had great success in wonderful criuse vacations for clients.

  • bodega3

    Then there are people who won’t go on any cruise line but HAL. We all have different expectations and we can certainly notifiy the cruise line of our disappointment, but as someone who reads reviews, I take many with a grain of salt, as what one person hates, another enjoys.

  • mszabo

    I was wondering about that as well. Certainly the post words it as ChBot states, but offering to refund 15% of 3 days seems just strange.

    On the other hand an actual cash refund of 15% for the entire trip, instead of a voucher, seems like one of the best cruise resolutions I have seen posted on this site (excluding cruises where there wasn’t raw sewage in the hallways).

  • SoBeSparky

    Just who determined what Carnival’s standard and quality are? Frank and Lucy cite this baseline and then say this cruise failed to meet it. Can you imagine a complaint such as, “Delta Airlines flight crew and standards of quality were not met on my flight?” Huh?

    This vague baseline creates a weak foundation for any complaint. Strange odors. Bad food. Running out of items! OMG.

    While this column mocks form-letter replies every week, this seems to be a form-letter complaint. It too should be mocked. Any disappointments noted to the management during the cruise? Of course not. Only afterwards when the Pirri’s feel they should get something big as compensation.

    If I am eating bad food anywhere anytime, I complain immediately to management (not supervisory) personnel. Walk away and then a week or two later tell them the food was bad? Oh come on.

  • Randy Culpepper

    The whole Walmart/Carnival comparison aside, he doesn’t cite anything specific:

    -The Destiny was “obviously not maintained” up to Carnival standards.

    -The chef’s menu selections, food preparation and presentation “were simply not representative of Carnival quality.”

    -The staff was “not accommodating and, at times, totally indifferent.”

    These vague complaints don’t tell me anything. How, specifically, was the ship obviously not maintained? What exactly was wrong with the food? What did the staff do that was not accommodating?

  • Dutchess

    They keep repeating “Carnival Quality” this is like saying “Walmart elegance”. When you chose your cruise line based on price, you get what you pay for. You can’t expect Motel 6 pricing to yield Four Seasons luxury.

    None of this sounds like a legitimate complaint. It sounds like people who expected a luxury cruising experience on the Walmart of cruise lines.

  • cjr001

    Agreed. Even though it would indeed be the trip of a lifetime, trying to make a 62-day cruise your first cruising experience is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Our first cruise was a simple, 3-day Caribbean cruise which stopped at Nassau. It gave us a chance to find out if we would have issues with sea sickness; we’d been on boats heading out into open water, but cruise ships are a different beast.

    It also meant that if we hated the experience in general, it would be a short-lived one.

  • Heidita

    I went on a Carnival cruise years ago and found the cruise line to be on the “cheap.” Food, plastic glasses etc. I decided to pay the extra money and go on Princess or Royal Carribean.

  • ChBot

    If your calculation is correct (but it’s not how I read Chris article), then it’s a great resolution, and they should be happy with it. But I doubt that it’s the case, hence their unhapiness with the resolution !

  • ChBot

    It’s pretty clear that it’s not well written and could be edited by Chris if your assumption is correct !

  • ChBot

    I think you’re not fair to the OP and therefore undermining his case in the poll ! Yes they made the mistake of the laundry list, but it seems that they were repeat customers of Carnival and knew what to expect. And still didn’t get it !!!…

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That was the line that hit me, too. Carnival has never been known for great quality. That either means this was simply horrific or they had unrealistic expectations of what “Carnival quality” really means.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The renaming is rather weird, particularly given the Destiny is the lead ship for her class, but the refit is about far more than adding the backup generators. They’re putting $155 million into redoing most of the ship. They’re adding nearly 200 new cabins, reconfiguring the layout, etc.

    That actually lends some credence to the OP’s complaints, because Carnival had little reason to spend money making sure the ship was pristine directly prior to a total renovation. I bet they gave up on upkeep entirely.

  • bodega3

    If they had sailed with Carnival before, they should have mentioned it. Repeat customers are very important to the cruise lines.

  • vipalpinetours

    Chris please don’t take on this case! You have much more bigger ones to tackle! This is not a valid option. Im sure these clients got a great value for the destiny compared to any other European sailing. A good travel agent would have told them when the ship was last refurbished but they should be happy with what they received.

  • vipalpinetours


  • jersey919

    We’ve all had instances where our expectations

  • jersey919

    sounds liek they are trying to get something for nothing — rule #1 of complaining is be specific in your complaint and more specific in what you want. I’d say tey were very lucky to get a 15% refund based on their rather vague complaints.

  • Lindabator

    they planned the name change over a year ago – not unusual for cruise lines when refitting

  • Lindabator

    I would suggest a shorter cruise your first time, and speak with a cruise expert. I take the time to match the needs of my guests to the proper cruise line, and once that is met, the rest falls in line quite well – and I have my favorites for my own tastes, and am not recommending them for everyone, as no one line os for everyone – just as one hotel chain or airline isn’t. :)

  • Lindabator

    Agreed! Which is why a good agent REALLY takes the time to meet the client with their perfect fit, based on THEIR expectations, needs, etc.

  • Lindabator

    I think they meant 15% off, which would be the 3 days of the cruise.

  • ChBot

    Quotes like “The Destiny was “obviously not maintained” up to Carnival standards” and “the chef’s menu selections, food preparation and presentation “were simply not representative of Carnival quality” make me think they had sailed on the company before.
    We can all think what we want of Carnival, but they seemed happy enough with it in the past and this cruise did not meet their expectations, which I don’t read like they were on the wrong airline.
    Therefore, I voted yes for Chris to mediate (but that is based on the 2,5% refund, which could be clarified by Chris !

  • ChBot

    Considering the rather small cabin sizes in cruise ships, where do you find the place to add 200 new ones ???!!!

  • judyserienagy

    Whiners. If you want a decent cruise, don’t book the cheapest one you find.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    How do you know you won’t get seasick?
    I was so seasick crossing the North Atlantic that I was hoping for a tidal wave to wash me overboard and put me out my misery…or at least some sort of quick death.

  • sunshipballoons

    Frivolous complaint –> don’t believe non-frivolous complaints.

  • Louise

    What did they expect? TLC because they’re big spenders? It’s CARNIVAL, stupid!

  • MortarMagnet

    Well, I have a pretty strong constitution. I was a paratrooper a long time ago in a former life. The closest I’ve come to boating was the casino boat that leaves from the Melbourne Florida area. The water wasn’t very choppy, so it didn’t bother me much. I’ve also ridden the ferry from Calais to Dover several times and that was a hell-ride, but I really don’t think either of these things would count as cruises in the traditional sense.

  • MortarMagnet

    Easy now, I think I’d be one of those older passengers, lol, but thank you for your advice.

  • MortarMagnet

    Thanks for the advice, Linda.

  • cjr001

    I’ve cruised on both of Disney’s older ships, and the cabins are small, as they really are with most cabins on any cruise ship. Yet, somehow, they’ve made them even smaller on the two new ships (which I have yet to cruise on).

    So, I’m not sure we really want to know. That said, they’re still better than what you get for a seat on an airplane. :)

  • flutiefan

    waiting on the update!

  • bodega3

    There is no negative in addressing age of passengers, just a rule of thumb that needs to be considered as food and activities can often be based on this. We are all getting older…we hope! I had very active 80-90 year old parents who found HAL boring, so you should research your cruise very carefully especially for that long of a trip.

  • bodega3

    I grew up on a boat and on my first cruise, if they could have flown a helicopter out to the ship the first night, I would have left the cruise. It was awful. I had never been seasick until that cruise. I have taken many cruises since, but your first cruise on a luxury liner should be shorter to test yourself IMHO and see how you pace your self with activites, drinking and eating. We have lots of 3-4 day cruises to try this out and work things out. 62 days at sea and not liking it would be an expensive experiment.

  • BobChi

    This is all vague generalities and subjective. I would need to see a lot more specific detail before I would get interested in this case.


    My wife & I were also on this cruise (our 15th with a variety of cruise lines including Princess, HAL, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean). We were aware that the ship was going into dry dock and that some changes would be taking place during the cruise. However we did not think that the attitude of the staff that we encountered was unpleasant (although we certainly saw some rudeness from passengers to staff). Meals were not great but OK but I’ve noticed a decline in the choices and quality across all lines that I’ve sampled from year to year. I felt that we got a very good deal on an 18 day cruise and we’re satisfied.

  • JenniferFinger

    Well, Carnival offered an apology and a 15% refund. Given that the Pirris didn’t ask for anything else, I don’t see what you can do for them-especially since they were not specific about the problems they had. “Not up to standards”? How so? What were they expecting?

    I think you made the right decision to leave this one alone.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I was wondering the same thing, but from the article I found it sounds like they’re actually adding onto the ship and making some of the upper decks larger. It sounds like an incredibly ambitious project, and on a ship that was just built in the mid-90s and was something like the largest cruise ship by tonnage at that time.

  • mszabo

    This seems like that facebook fad where everyone was asking what is “1 + 1 + 1 -1 + 1 + 1 * 0”. Perfectly obvious answer to most people just that half of those people were obviously wrong. Chris’s post does clearly indicate a 2.5% total refund as written. What I assumed is Carnival took the complainants laundry list and gave them 15% off for each day where some incident occured. Crappy service when boarding the boat thats 15% from the first day, Crappy Lobster Bisque that’s 15% off the day that was served etc. Based on the stingy nature of cruise lines in general that seemed plausible.

  • Daddydo

    Any ASTA travel agent would know that most ships that about to go into dry dock are the worse cruises to take. The Destiny was not only going into dry dock, but was also being totally retro-fitted to be re-named the Sunshine. Only cheap skates and fools would book this cruise. Pirri never disclosed whether or not he booked his own cruise or used a specialist, or called the brilliant reservation service, where the agents go thru extensive hard sell training. Do not cry foul, when you do not investigate the product!

  • frostysnowman

    How old is the Destiny? I’ve got an aunt in the cruise business who says the first thing you should do when considering a cruise is to find out the age of the ship. If the ship is very old, it should most likely be avoided regardless of the itinerary. It’s one way for the passenger to watch out for his/herself. I think what Carnival offered was fair. I also think the OP (and everyone else) should not travel on Carnival again.

  • http://www.JourneysBySteve.com/ Steve Cousino

    The Carnival Destiny was scheduled for the drydock refit for quite some time to add on Carnival’s enhancements, including more balcony staterooms, waterpark features, new dining venues (such as Guy’s Burgers and the Blue Iguana Catina), as well as re-doing the staterooms. Why they were renaming the ship, I don’t know – I like the name Destiny better than Sunshine, but what do *I* know. The additional refit for the backup generator systems was a response to the Triumph incident, and caused Carnival to extend the drydock period forcing the cancellation of at least the first two sailings out of drydock, and that was a whole ‘nother mess, let me tell ya….

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA
    http://www.JourneysBySteve.com | http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com