After experiencing her third and worst cruise ever, Napa Mom Cathy Gumina Odom takes on Carnival Cruise Line.
I’d love to say we came back from our Carnival cruise fat and happy. We can’t.
My husband planned our cruise starting about a year ago. We wanted to take the kids on a short cruise, not miss school, spend time together as a family without TV and the Internet.
Instead, we had the trip from Hell and blew $3,600 on a suite. I came back and did a little research about Carnival. Many passengers have complained online about Carnival’s service, food served at unsafe temperatures, and bouts of food poisoning.
How do I differ from the thousands of other complaints and blogs on the Internet? Here are my qualifications for food and hospitality critic:
My Dad, Tom Gumina, worked in the fish business all his life. They processed fish, cutting it up into smaller pieces, icing or freezing. Salmon was glazed in ice water and frozen, and we made some wonderful smoked salmon, lox style. We sold fish to restaurants, hotels, hospitals, grocery stores, all across the Bay Area, and even through a contract to Reno restaurants.
Dad taught me everything about the fish business. But he didn’t want me to follow him. He pushed me to go to college. His life goal was that I have a career, a family, work in the daylight, and cook my husband a home cooked meal for dinner.
Dad was a great cook. He learned from his family in the North Beach section San Francisco, near the Italian marble church Sts. Peter and Paul, 666 Filbert Street, (yes that is the correct number!) the focaccia bread of the Italian bakery Liguria (even Mario Batali has been there and added a recipe for it in his book) across from the delicious smells of tourist breakfast spot Mamma’s, on the corner of Filbert and Stockton. We’ve had family members own or run famous San Francisco restaurants and Fisherman’s Wharf icons Alioto’s, Tarantino’s, Castagnola’s and Capurro’s.
We know food and food safety.
Carnival Cruise Line? Where do I start? Horrid service. Sub-par quality of food.
New Year’s Eve was the first night on the ship. We spent the previous two nights in Long Beach, and arrived to the port near the Queen Mary for our exciting, fun-filled Carnival Cruise vacation at about 1:40PM.
Over three hours later, after losing a bag with our birth certificates, which the porters badly damaged, shearing off our ID, denting a black, Samsonite hard case, and mangling the handle beyond repair, we barely all made it onto the ship before it sailed.
My friend boarded, running interference with porters and baggage looking for the missing birth certificates. I called my Mom to run over to Sonoma to get my son’s birth certificate. We called the County of Napa Records office (very kind soul helped us)at 4:20PM to ask to pull our birth certificates, and that our friends would pick up and fax or email to Carnival’s office before 5PM so we could all set sail together.
Our assigned dinner seating was in Carnival’s Carnivale Room, late seating of 8:15PM.
Ham and meat called prime rib were dry, bland, tasteless. The Prime Rib served on New Year’s Eve? Thin. Baked or fried chicken? Dry, but safe for a source of protein when I ran out of beef jerky. Table rolls were attempted to be toasted, with a thin brown line about half the size of your right pinky finger. The “sushi bar” featured questionable product, of unknown species to me, daughter of a fishmonger, served warm or at room temperature, not on ice. Extra servings were stored on trays, in a cart, at room temperature on the Lido Deck. I did not see any attempt for refrigeration of sushi or cheese or sour cream served with baked potatoes. The baked potatoes resembled small, shriveled potatoes that I had accidentally left in my own oven for a week, about 4 inches by two by two, about the size of my left fist.
Dinner appetizers on the Carnivale Dining Room menu had a daily shrimp cocktail and a fried shrimp. Our table called that anemic fish bait. It didn’t even have a curve to the body of the shrimp – it appeared the size of a limp finger three inches length and maybe ½ inch in diameter. I’d only let the kids eat meat that was fried a deep brown. Cooking it in hot oil at 350-400 degrees should kill most bacteria.
We sat at a table for 12. Our fellow guests were Russian American, and also were disappointed in the dining experience. I did finally speak with the Maitre D’, Mustafa. I asked three waiters the first night and couldn’t find him after walking around the dining room. I fired our waitress, and we got a new server, who was
excellent and attentive. My husband attempted to order a glass of port with his
dessert. The order taker replied that they didn’t have it. We found out later that they just didn’t have it at that dining room, but it was on the ship. The drink order taker disappeared each night after our first drink and never reappeared. It took three tries to get our port delivered. Anything that could possibly go wrong, did.
Now, we’re not high class travelers living on Silverado Country Club in the Napa Valley. We live in a 1970’s rancher, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, which we bought in 2007, owe the bank, and we are fixing it up. My husband works in construction. I’ve worked in IT for 20 years, the last 5 commuting to Marin to work at a software company. I’m now retired.
We had excellent servers at the hot tub on the adult only Serenity area by Joel and Hanna. Joel even went and got food for us so we didn’t have to leave. I had a server during late night poker who did an excellent job bringing me fresh water
all night. My room porter was excellent, clean, no items missing. My son stayed
in the room during “Fun Day at Sea” and ordered 30 cookies from room service
and watched TV. The previous day, he snorkeled in the hot tub with 10 other
kids and saw bazoombas at the pool. I think he’s growing up.
My previous cruise ship experience?
- Sitmar Fairsky, Alaska, 1985. I have photos of me with drinks in bars, and at the midnight buffet with the chef, and at our table with our waiters in appropriate dinner wear.
- Royal Caribbean, November, 1993, with my groom Mike. Sailed to Catalina and Ensenada, Mexico.
- Carnival Inspiration, New Year’s Eve-Jan 4th, 2013, Catalina and Ensenada, Mexico. We saved up for a suite with windows. The previous one had thin walls on our honeymoon cruise.
My Dad, Tom Gumina, had a lot of sayings. I call them “Tommyisms.” Some are like Murphy’s Law. He took one of mine as a new favorite from my Spanish I class: “If the burro isn’t saddled, don’t take a trip”.
And our family? “Team Odom” is stronger after this trip. We did put aside our petty fights over iPhone cables and soap and pull it together. When a family member had stomach aches and diarrhea, I had medicine and bottled water and offered to take pulse, temperature and blood pressure. The kids finally learned that Mom’s cooking isn’t that bad.
When we got back, I even got a teenager to eat real authentic tacos from Carlos’ restaurant, Frida’s, here in Napa, instead of Taco Bell. Go team. My husband made me a cheese omelet, his first ever, when I got home. Verdict? Best damn one I’ve
Looking for a cruise vacation? I don’t recommend Carnival. I’d try out Disney Cruise Line. I think Walt knew a little about service with a smile.
- Carnival Cruise Lines, www.carnival.com
- Liguria Bakery, San Francisco http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/nativeson/article/Liguria-Bakery-in-North-Beach-makes-focaccia-2368406.php
- Mama’s, San Francisco, http://www.mamas-sf.com/about-us.html
- Paul Capurro, Capurro’s Restaurant, http://www.capurros.com/
- Frida’s Mexican Grill, Napa, http://www.fridasnapavalley.com/