Ahhh…the cruise. Where you can leave your worries behind, and enjoy visiting new places without the usual cares associated with traveling abroad. At least that’s what you’d think. Well if you are traveling with Carnival, think again. My recent cruise to Mexico, turned into a cruise to hell. Thanks to the uncaring, thoughtless actions (well maybe not so thoughtless. We’ll get into that later) of the Carnival Cruise Lines.
I’m an attorney in Los Angeles and my trip started out as a gift to a few of my clients, who I invited to join me on a leisurely cruise to Mexico aboard the Carnival cruise ship Paradise. Ms. DeLeon, Mr.Del Rio and Ms. Lopez were the members of my group. We boarded the ship around 2:00PM. At 5:00PM Ms. DeLeon and Mr. Del Rio had not had their baggage delivered to their staterooms. Inquiring at the information desk we were told to check back around 7:00 or 8:00PM. We returned to find a long line which from my brief experience, I can only assume is the norm. We noticed two suitcases sitting in the corner near the information office, unattended. Upon closer examination, we realized these were the errant bags we had been waiting on. Unbelievably, the name and correct room number were visibly marked on the bags that were sitting out where anyone could have grabbed them. Our first glimpse of Carnival Cruises cavalier, irresponsible, and uncaring way in which this company conducts itself. Little did we know then, that soon things would go from bad to worse…
Not being an experienced cruise ship traveler, we did not buy any land excursions when we booked the trip, having been told we could book them onboard. Upon arrival in Ensenada we went to the area on the ship, where the excursions were being booked, only to find a very long slow moving line. As our on shore time was limited, (The ship was set to sail at 5:30) we decided to disembark and play it by ear. There on the parking area adjacent to the ship and the pier (an area who‘s access is controlled by Carnival, but more on that later), we saw a bus belonging to Dumas Tours, one of the tour operators used by Carnival, and upon inquiring were told we could book a horse back riding excursion directly through the tour company. We agreed, boarded the bus, purchased tickets for the horseback and Bufadora tour, Had we waited in line to book aboard ship, we would in all likelihood, still have been waiting in line at the activity desk.
We were joined by some fellow passengers who had also chosen to not waste half the day and had booked with Dunas Tours We no sooner had gotten on our horses when the guide, a fellow named Arturo announced he had to go somewhere else, and left us, saying he would return to pick us up. About ten minutes into the ride there was a commotion behind me and turning I saw one of my client, Ms. Lopez laying on the sand motionless. She was unresponsive and in obvious great pain. We would later learn she had a broken pelvis. A man and two women rushed over from the beach to help. One lady ran to her house and called 911.
Police not an ambulance arrived and called the red cross. The rest of the people returned to the bus after we asked them to have Arturo come to the beach. No one showed up and Mr. Del Rio had to go find them. An hour later Arturo showed up with Roberto the driver. They contacted the tour company and were told to take the other passengers to where another bus could pick them up to continue with the tour. They said they would come back shortly, but at that point I wasn’t exactly ready to hold my breath till their return
Finally the Red Cross ambulance showed up and things went from bad to worse to worst. Ms Lopez was immobilized and strapped to a gurney and was put in the ambulance. Our guide showed up about then and agreed to take Ms. De Leon and Mr. Del Rio, and followed the ambulance to the hospital. I chose to ride with my friend in the ambulance.
En route to the hospital the driver announced he had contacted the Paradise and was told to take her to the ship, rather than the hospital. Ten minutes later the driver got another call from the ship saying to take her to the hospital. A few minutes later another call saying to bring her to the ship! I asked the driver if there was another ambulance at the ship but he didn’t answer, and then we arrived at the dock, and were confronted by a security guard who REFUSED TO ALLOW US ONTO THE PIER! Now about this area we were being refused entry into. That area was the one (remember back at the beginning of this) where we initially boarded the tour bus? Good, hold that thought. We’ll get back to that soon.
The ambulance driver got out and argued back and forth with this security guard, even telling him the ship were the ones who told him to bring her there. The security guard still refused to let us pass. After what seemed like an eternity (in actuality about 30 minutes or so), I finally had to beg the driver to just take us to urgent care. Instead of urgent care we were driven to the Red Cross office. And they were totally unequipped to deal with Ms. Lopez’s injury. I had to tip/bribe the driver to please take us to the hospital. To add insult to injury (literally), I had to assure them I had money to pay.
Finally having arrived at the emergency room I asked the hospital staff to call the ship so I could ask them to wait, or at least send our belongings to the hospital. The staff refused to call the ship. I then had to leave my friend and get a cab back to the ship to get both our belongings, passports, and money. Not speaking Spanish I was lucky to get a cabbie who spoke a little English and he took me to the ship.
At 5:00 I arrived back at the ship and rushed to our rooms to pack our things. I called and asked to speak to the Captain. I was refused! I asked for their assistance to help me get back to the hospital to be with my friend. Not only did they refuse, they denied having any knowledge of an injured passenger, and were not responsible for not allowing her back on the ship. The information desk would not even provide me with the name of the head ship officer nor a phone number to call.
Even though I later was told the ship had capable personnel and even an x-ray machine on board, the truth of the matter was blatantly obvious. Carnival did not want to deal with possibly returning to port, or calling a life-flight helicopter if Ms. Lopez took a turn for the worse.
You remember that parking lot on the pier we were refused entry into? That parking area is controlled by Carnival, so the Dunas Tour shuttle had to have their permission to enter that area. Why else were we refused access to the pier area? The Security Guard wasn’t acting on his own behalf to refuse us. This creates the appearance of the buses as being associated with the Carnival Cruise line. But as the fine print on the ticket says, they are not responsible for injuries from any tour not purchased aboard ship or booked in advance with the Company. What that fine print doesn’t say, is don’t expect the minimal amount of compassion due you, if for no other reason than that you are a fellow human being, injured in a strange country, your only life line home the cruise ship, that fails to acknowledge your need and would just as soon cast you off, leaving you stuck in a strange land. There was no life preserver offered. Although if it had been, I have a sneaky suspicion it would have most likely been made of lead.
I was stuck in Ensenada for two and a half days. Two and a half days of sheer hell. Without speaking the language I had to somehow make arrangements to transport Ms. Lopez back to California. After 5 months she is still in horrible pain and unable to return to work, needing a cane to get around. Her injuries will be healing for some time.
As for Carnival, they have so far refused to reimburse us for the cruise tickets, or my out of pocket expenses I accrued staying with my friend. They have refused my requests for any information on the Dunas Shuttle. In fact they have not even so much as offered an apology. Their attitude is as callous, and reprehensible, as their crew was uncaring and unwilling to step up and act with just a modicum of compassion. So if you want to take a cruise, pay more booking your shore tours through the ship or your travel agency. An if your cruise is to Mexico, bring your Spanish-English Dictionary, and whatever you do, don’t do it with Carnival.
THIS JUST IN! It seems Carnival lost another couple passengers this week. An elderly couple “apparently” committed suicide by jumping off the same ship (The Paradise) from their room balcony. It got me wondering. All those passengers missing mid cruise “apparently” lost at sea. Fallen overboard? Maybe stalked by a serial killer among the crew and murdered and tossed overboard? My experience begs the question. Is it possible they were killed ashore while not on an authorized excursion? From this experience I wonder if they (Carnival) would have known we were not aboard when they sailed, if I hadn’t gone back for our things, and made such a fuss?