Image: Apprentice Legend Cruise Press Conference
Thos Robinson  /  Getty Images
Donald Trump speaks at 'The Apprentice Legend Cruise' Press Conference on board Carnival's Legend Cruise Ship on Sept. 26, 2005 in New York City.
By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 5/14/2007 6:35:10 PM ET 2007-05-14T22:35:10

Jenn and David Ware, of Las Vegas, were looking forward to sailing to the Caribbean in their top-category suite aboard the Carnival Legend. The Wares are veteran cruisers — in fact, they take cruises every year — and they spent a lot of time poring over the ship's deck plans to find the perfect cabin. After consulting with their travel agent and with a Carnival Cruise Lines representative, they booked a "Category 11" suite. On paper and on Carnival's Web site, Cabin 4226 seemed ideal: It had a big balcony and was located near the back of the ship next to the largest suites, which meant more privacy. Or so the Wares thought.

Private oasis ... not!
Once they got on board, the Wares discovered their suite's balcony wasn't the secluded oasis promised in the brochure. "We get to our cabin, open the curtains, look out the window and see this stairwell right in front of our bedroom window," says Jenn Ware. The Wares were upset and immediately went to the purser's desk to see if they could move to another suite.
Unfortunately, the ship was sold out. The Wares learned that their balcony suite on the Main Deck was one of two on the ship that has stairs for the crew off the balcony. The other cabin, Cabin 4235, is directly opposite the Wares on the starboard side of the vessel. In fact, crew-access stairways like this can be found outside similar suites on all of Carnival's Spirit-class vessels: Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend and Carnival Miracle.

While still at the purser's desk, the Wares contacted their travel agent, who immediately contacted Carnival. The Carnival representative on the phone told the Wares' travel agent that the cabin did not have a stairwell. Clearly, the Wares were getting nowhere. Still upset, the Wares considered gathering their luggage and leaving the ship, but they decided to stay because they had spent so much time planning the vacation and were really looking forward to it.

When the Wares returned home, they again contacted Carnival about the problem. Carnival offered them a complimentary bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries for their next cruise. The Wares felt this wasn't enough.

"We are not asking for, nor are we expecting that the entire cost of the cruise be refunded to us," says Jenn Ware. But since they had booked a top-category suite at a hefty price, the Wares felt they were entitled to something more than a tasty treat. Moreover, the Wares say they were misled by the brochure and deck plans — as, indeed, were their travel agent and Carnival's own agents.

Carnival speaks
So, why wasn't the stairway depicted in Carnival's brochure and on its Web site? I contacted Carnival on the Wares' behalf to see what could be done. Carnival's guest relations department agreed to take another look at the Wares' file. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen says, "After reviewing the situation, guest relations has extended an onboard credit of $200 per person for the couple's upcoming cruise as a gesture of good will."

According to Gulliksen, guest relations also contacted the department in charge of producing Carnival's collateral materials and discussed the depictions of the aft-balcony staterooms on all Spirit-class vessels as they appear in Carnival's publicity materials. They are now in the process of working out a solution.

I commend Carnival for taking a proactive approach to this issue and for their gesture of good will toward the Wares.

Cruise clues: avoiding cabin surprises
Advertisements for vacation cruises are covered with appealing images of couples lounging on their private balconies, staring out at sparkling waters and clear, blue skies. The one thing that isn't all that clear are the deck plans. In fact, decoding deck plans isn't as simple as you might think.

The Wares and their travel agent did the right thing by going over the ship's deck plans and checking with the cruise line directly. Most of the time, this level of care will prevent cabin trouble, but not always. Here's what you need to do.

  • See exactly where your proposed cabin is located in relation to noisy common areas. Check not only on your own deck, but on the decks directly above and below.
  • Check for any unmarked white or gray spaces nearby; these often represent a housekeeping closet or room-service station that may house noisy carts and ice machines. Indeed, the Wares' deck plan had a telltale sign: Cabin 4226 is shown next to a large unmarked white area, which we now know to be an adjacent crew-access area with a stairwell entrance via their deck.
  • If you find problems with your cabin, deal with the issue as soon as possible.
    With the exception of the balcony problem, the Wares had a great cruise aboard the Carnival Legend. The couple is very happy with Carnival's goodwill gesture of a $400 cruise credit, and they are currently planning their next Carnival cruise for 2008. I wish them a bon voyage!

Sound off! Do you have a comment, an idea, a complaint or a problem for Anita to solve? Send her an e-mail and you might find yourself in her next column.

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