Carnival Cruise Lines has banned my family for life after we refused to accept responsibility for damage to the edge of a dresser that was already present when we boarded. Our family, including a 4 year old were detained for 2 hours after the other passengers had disembarked. My family and I were on the Carnival Freedom boat from August 15th to August 23rd 2009.
This process was bizarre to say the least. The situation reminded me of a call to a technical help line where the rep does not know what to do if you have a problem thats not on the script. The staff only offered us two options, we either accepted responsibility for the damage or we were banned for life. They simply had no way of dealing with the third possibility, that we were innocent.
My wife visited the cabin to speak with the cleaner who made the accusation. He noticed an empty bottle of Bud Lite then accused us of using the edge of the dresser to open the bottles. She pointed out a few things to him, the Bud Lite was purchased on the boat where they remove the bottle tops before serving the beer, there were no removed bottle tops in the room and Bud Lite has twist off caps!
Despite this we still had the two choices, either accept responsibility for the damage or accept a life ban from Carnival.
As we had been detained against our will for 2 hours with 4 and 8 year old children and by this time there was no way we would ever be sailing Carnival again, we of course accepted the life ban.
We then had to sign a document which in no way reflected the situation. At no time were there any raised voices from either side, we just accepted the fact that they lacked the ability to do anything other than what was on their script. The document we signed looked like it was designed to cover every eventuality in a life ban. In other words, we were forced to sign the same document for refusing to accept blame for damage to the edge of a dresser in our cabin as we would have done if we had assaulted someone or caused a major security incident.
We explained to them that we have cruised six times in the last five years and this was our third cruise with Carnival, all without incident.
After we arrived home we found 2 photographs, one taken on the first day that clearly shows the damage already present. As it was a carnival boat, we put it down to wear and tear. However, with hindsight we should have treated the cabin like a rental car by documenting all scuff marks.
The second photo shows damage to another area of the dresser as of August 17th at 6:23PM. My son is dressing for the formal night which was on the 17th. It’s not a great photo of my son as his eyes are half open, he looks like he’s been at the wine! However, it shows the damage was already there and not done on the evening of the 22nd. I have attached another picture of the whole family taken at 6:52PM to show him in the same pants. Just in case Carnival dispute the picture evidence, the kids did not dress for the second formal night as they were signed in to the kids club at 6:00PM.
Carnival staff were insistent the damage was done on the evening of the 22nd. This represents the period between the last time the cabin was cleaned and when we vacated on the morning of the 23rd. As we were already out of the cabin by the time of the accusation, these photos are impossible to stage. Carnival could dispute the time stamp on the files, however my son dressing for the formal night should convince them that the damage was clearly already there.
We have complained to Carnival and will post their response here. We want to stress that everyone we spoke to at Carnival acted in a professional manner, there were no raised voices from either side. However, it seemed they did not have options outside of us admitting fault or them banning us for life.
All we want is for Carnival to apologize, we will not sue them and will donate any refund they may be gracious enough to offer to a children’s charity, we will also be happy for Carnival to make a donation to a charity of their choice should they wish to do so. We will post all follow up information here including the full details of the donation should there be a refund.
Click the link for a copy of the document confirming our life ban: Carnival life ban document.
UPDATE: Carnival Cruise Lines Apologize and lift the lifetime ban after St Pete Times run the story