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Safety and Health Issues on Carnival Panorama cruise to Mexican Riveria

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We sailed on Carnival's Panorama to the Mexican Riveria from Long Beach. My husband and I, both in our mid 70's, my son, his wife and their three kids, and my daughter-in-law's parents in their late 70's. I had pre-booked a wheelchair for my husband, who has heart, high blood pressure and is very unsteady on his feet and had written confirmation. The morning of embarkation, we took an early flight from Oakland to Long Beach and waited in the airport for hours. During that time, we were bombarded with emails from Carnival warning us NOT to show up early. Finally, our daughter-in-law said that all the others were on their way to the ship terminal, and we should meet them there. 

It took us a while to exit the terminal and figure out where we should be to get an Uber. Before we got in the Uber, we had a message from our daughter-in-law that they were stuck in traffic on the approach to the Long Beach ship terminal, which is owned and operated by Carnival. Our Uber driver immediately warned us that there was bad traffic, but he obviously knew the details of the pattern of that traffic and amazingly, we got to the port significantly before the rest of our group. When we asked about the wheelchair, we were told that none were available. (After the cruise, when I wrote a complaint letter to the office of the Carnival CEO, I got a letter explaining that wheelchairs were provided on a first-come/first served basis and that a reservation was no guarantee of availability! 

People were only being admitted to the terminal at their appointed time. We stood in the sun in line for well over an hour and our line didn't start moving until over twenty minutes after the time we were supposed to check-in. We didn't have any water, and none was available. My husband believes we were standing in the sun for over two hours. When we finally got into the huge domed terminal, we saw that most of the space was empty. I repeatedly asked Carnival representatives, why the waiting lines couldn't have been inside and was always told, "The Port authorities won't let us." (After I returned home, I contacted the Port of Long Beach and was told that was not true.) 

After I finally got my husband settled in our cabin, I went to Carnival Guest Services to complain about the horribly unsafe boarding procedure. A Guest Services Associate assured me that he would arrange a special disembarkation for us so that we did not suffer again. Twice during the cruise, I returned to guest services to reconfirm that my husband would be taken off the ship in a wheelchair because of the long distance he would have to walk. We were told that a staff member with a wheelchair would come to our cabin between 8:15 and 8:30, take us to the disembarkation deck in a service elevator and provided expedited disembarkation for our entire party of nine. 

On the morning of disembarkation, all nine of our group were waiting in our cabin, but the guy didn't show up with a wheelchair until about 8:40 and didn't know how to open it. Finally, he found an abandoned on in the corridor and led all of us to a mobbed passenger elevator, got us on one to the wrong deck and we got separated. It wasn't until we were off the ship that a wonderful member of the port staff, saw my husband struggling and expedited us through to where we could get an Uber to the airport. She warned us to take whatever ground transportation we saw first, because Uber drivers would not be honoring their assigned pick-ups because of the pandemonium at the terminal. 

During one of my visits to Guest Services on the ship, we were advised to walk a couple of blocks from the Carnival ship terminal to the Queen Mary and get a ride there. However, the lady from the port told us that was impossible. The Queen Mary was barricaded off in preparation for a rock concert. She took us to the spot where she said we could get ground transportation and immediately we were solicited by an Uber driver, who I later noticed canceled her ride and has us pay her directly by credit card. We felt incredibly lucky to get that ride even though it cost about three times what we paid to get to the ship. The other seven in our group waited for hours at the airport until my daughter-in-law's brother was able to battle his way through the mostly stopped traffic mess. 

By then our twelve-year-old granddaughter was feeling very sick. She turned out to have COVID and both her parents felt sick and tested positive as well. They didn't test our six and nine-year-old grandkids, because they weren't complaining of being sick. Our oldest granddaughter was vomiting and having horrendous headaches. Later, my daughter-in-law discovered online that there was a COVID outbreak on the ship. No one had said anything to us and passengers had open access with no sneeze guards to the soft-serve yogurt and ice cream (and the cones were sticking out to be grabbed). There was no enforcement of hand washing in the buffet areas. 

The Carnival Panorama has a very nice waterpark, ropes course and skyrider that the kids and their parents enjoyed for the two sea days down to Mexico. However, on the return sea day, the ropes course and the skyrider were closed and few people braved the cold and the wind to go in the water. 

We enjoyed family dinners in the Vista dining room, but the service for our group of nine was very erratic. The evening of the second formal dinner was especially bad. The waiter didn't bring the main course for my daughter-in-law's mother until I finally called across the dining room to a waiter I saw just standing. The meals were of wildly inconsistent volume and quality. The portions of prime rib were huge hanging off the plate, but those who request medium-rare got RAW. Those like me who ordered lobster, got a very small lobster tail, a few bits of broccoli and almost nothing else. My dinner was barely enough for a snack. On another prior evening, I had quizzed the waiter about the size of the entre smoked salmon and been assured it was plenty big for a main course. It most certainly wasn't - there were four small bits of smoked salmon and some lettuce. Fortunately, I scrounged some other food from those in our group who had overly large dinners. The waiters never asked if the meals were OK and we were frequently subjected to requests to congratulate the staff on their fine service, when it wasn't. 

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@Eve Thanks for this thorough review. I feel so bad you had to endure such transport issues while cruising on Carnival Panorama and what a shame it was that your family got sick while cruising! Most of that cruise sounded like a big headache. It sounds like the ship was lovely, but it wasn't what you expected in terms of service. I would say the size inconsistency of the meals isn't as troublesome at the quality of the meals. It does seem like the MDR food quality was lacking in your opinion. As an experienced cruiser, I would say that no ship would/should announce an illness onboard. Unless it become majority are sick onboard it can cause fear in the guests. After this experience, would you choose to cruise with the line again or would you choose to try another line? Possibly a smaller, slower-paced, higher-end cruise line would suit your interests better! 

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@Eve from your post it doesn't state if you have cruised before and from the sound of it you have not been to long beach previously.

I have cruised on 15 of the CCL cruise ships and some of those ive cruised multiple times.  With that said I have some solid experience with CCL and have cruised many times out of Long Beach.

I'm sorry to hear about the troubles you experienced on embarkation regarding wheel chair.  I must admit I'm a bit surprised as at the Port of Long beach CCL has a lot of staff on location walking around to assist people and even a separate office for guest assistance near the line up areas. I have used them a couple of time for clarification in past. Additionally I have seen many wheel chairs available as well. I'm not sure what the disconnect was for your day but it's not been my experience. I wish it would have been a better experience for you.

As for the line up process, I've been on both side of non priority and vip priority boarding. I will say the dom does have limited seating and isnt the largest area compared to other ports. For non vip priority boarding yes sometimes delays happen for your time slot to enter the Dom for processing paperwork, in the past I've been delayed 30-45 minutes ... it happens sometimes at all ports for various reasons. Since reaching vip priority delays no longer happen and promptly go inside.

I have sailed on the Panorama and it's a very large ship and in fact has two separate  dinning rooms to accommodate the large number of guests. I hear your concerns for lack of attention by wait staff in the dinning room, I am curious if you addressed this with the Maître d’ or the officer in charge of the restaurant??? In the past I have addressed similar or requested different table, in all cases they didn't hesitate to address the situation and in fact did it very graciously....they want the cruise guest to have a enjoyable and memorable dinning experience. As for food quantity you are allowed to order multiple appetizers and 2 main courses at no charge. Example you could have ordered two lobster dishes or one lobster main and one other of your choice free. Did you let your wait staff that you would like an additional meal or different choice? On occasion I order something and I don't like it and simply asked my waiter to bring me something different and they promptly accomate the request. I will admit that ive seen a decline in the MDR staff attention after covid, which is a bit disappointing and unfortunate., but I've also experienced exceptional service too. I have found when the staff is near the end of their contract thwy are tired. I try to keep in mind that they work 6 days a week 12+ hours a day.

as for your group getting covid im sorry to hear this. I am pretty much in the know and have not heard anything regarding panorama having an outbreak but i could have missed it. It is possible that your group could have been exposed prior to sailing as acording to the cdc from expose to symptoms are typically 7 to 14 days. I will say that while on a ship a person touches a thousand different items a thousand times in a sailing. For me frequent hand sanitizer use is common to try and avoid catching anything along with distancing. I feel it's my responsibility to look after myself and to be proactive. CCL is very good about having hand sanitizer stations all over the place.

I do wish you had a better experience and hope your family is doing better.

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@EveThis was a super thorough review! It's unfortunate most of you cruise had so many challenges and upsetting moments. I wish you could have had smoother sailing. Carnival Cruise Lines is known to be pretty good at keeping high standards and ensuring guests health and safety onboard. Unfortunately, it doesn't sounds like CCL held up to its standards this time around. Carnival Panorama can't do much when it comes to those catching viruses onboard. It's almost inevitable. Getting a virus onboard a ship does happen, particularly amongst the little ones. They pass things on so quickly! 

@euroguy I appreciate your insight here. You have cruised on Carnival Panorama in the past and enjoyed your cruise. I know you typically have wonderful cruises with Carnival so it's refreshing to read your experience. You can always ask for a meal replacement in the MDR as you mentioned. As someone who didn't enjoy the food onboard, it would have been important to notify the management in the MDR to see if they could better accommodate your needs. One thing for sure it that CCL's MDR has many food options! If one wasn't for you, you could always go for another one! I agree that the contracting of the virus very well could have been before you got on the cruise unfortunately. 

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