Carnival Ignores Sewage Stench, Tells Passengers To Do The Same

Joseph’s four-day Carnival cruise was tainted by a sewage stench that steamed through his stateroom. Carnival’s only advice was to “shut the bathroom door and close the air vents,” an ineffective solution that forced Joseph and his girlfriend above deck. Now he wants Carnival to clean up their mess.

He writes:

Hello Consumerist, I have been a reader for the past few months maybe even over a year now. I have seen the horror stories and feared the same happening to me. I have seen the tips and saved. Now after a year I have something that has disgruntled me enough to write in.

Several months back I booked a cruise for my girlfriend’s college graduation that happened May 3rd. We saved and cut back for the last year knowing we would go on a cruise to Cozumel, what we got in actuality was a cruise down the sewers of New York.

The first day and night was great, not a displeasure in the world other than wishing that people would stop taking the buffet food to their plates and putting it back. The second day is when the occasional sewage smell would waft up into the hallway and room lasting maybe 30 seconds to a minute and happening randomly. Sometimes once an hour, sometimes five times an hour. Third day we noticed it towards the night again but it was much more pungent than it had been and made the call in to the information desk. Nothing was resolved, only suggestions and rudeness, most likely from others calling of the same smell throughout the deck. Fourth day was more of the same, with us trying to stay out on deck in the air as much as possible.

I can say it left a lasting taste in my mouth and scent in my nose. If consumerist could please point me to the right customer service contacts I would greatly appreciate it.

“I am saddened and dismayed that our first cruise would cause us to feel very negative about Carnival Cruise Lines, the ship Fascination and two of the crew members. I was very displeased with the resolution provided by the two crew members of the Carnival Fascination, cruising may 12th-16th 2008 from Miami, about a rather unpleasant sewage like odor throughout R deck and my state room. The information desk’s solution was to shut the bathroom door, close the air vents and call them if we experience the smell again. Two calls and 90 minutes later two crew members came to inspect, asked several questions but offered no more solutions or even apology for the inconvenience. In fact they are visibly annoyed at being called down and spent most of the time conversing between themselves in a language we could not understand. I found this to be exceptionally rude. The 2 crew members spent all of 5 minutes in the room before leaving and telling us to call again if we should smell something. I was suggested to try Carnival by my parents and my grandparents as a good starter cruise for young couples to enjoy with people of our age. I hate to say, that if I am asked I will tell others of our poor experience on the Carnival Fascination due to a minor situation that SHOULD HAVE been acknowledge, not ignored by the crew members.”

This letter is a good start, but you need to clearly state your expected resolution from Carnival. With this letter, you’re cruising for a discount on a future trip, but you may instead be interested in a partial refund. If Carnival doesn’t respond, track down their executive officers’ email addresses and loose the air purifying Executive Email Carpet Bomb.

(Photo: mre770)


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Carnival- The WalMart of cruising. Too bad they’re buying up all the other cruise lines and destroying them.

  2. cmdrsass says:

    I’ll never understand the cruising mindset. Stay in a tiny, cramped room, go where they tell you to go, eat when they tell you to eat, long periods of boredom, carefully controlled excursions. It seems more like prison than a vacation.

  3. baristabrawl says:

    But Carnival is the low-rent cruise company. Try a different cruise line like Princess (yes, I know it’s owned by Carnival) but it’s a step up.

    We had a great trip.

  4. baristabrawl says:

    @cmdrsass: I’ve talked to so many people who feel this way. I’m not sure who you’re cruising with, but this never happened to me. We ate whenever we wanted. I was almost never in my room except to sleep or change clothes. We did one shore excursion and the rest of the time we just wandered and explored.

    It was truly a vacation.

  5. dragonfire81 says:

    See, even cruise ship customer service is outsourced these days.

  6. skahead says:

    I had the same issue when I sailed on Fascination in 2004. Its deplorable that they have yet to fix it. I havnt had much luck with Princess, they also have food and ship issues. A big step up in the lower end price point is RCL. RCL premium line (similar to carnivals princess line) Celebrity provided the best cruise experience. I’ve yet to try NCL, but I head its not as great as Celebrity but a step above RCL and a leap above Carnival.

  7. homerjay says:

    @baristabrawl: My in-laws go on 3-4 cruises a year and apparently Princess is nowhere near the cruise line they used to be since being bought by Carnival.

    @baristabrawl: I agree.

  8. Those who find the idea of cruising too confining should look into Norwegian’s Freestyling, which was really very fun.

  9. glorpy says:

    Waste problems on cruise ships tend to be difficult for the crew to fix at sea; the fix usually requires shutting downs large swaths of the sewage system to remove the offending materials (people are idiots and regularly ignore the warnings not to flush anything but toilet paper).

    It still sucks and they should have apologized – and tried to make it right. If you do go on a future cruise, escalate these issues. The buck stops at the Cruise Director who will usually bend over backwards to help. The maintenance crew is not hired for their English so expect to have problems dealing with them.

    @cmdrass: Food is available 24/7 with free room service in every room on most lines. The assigned dinner times on lines that have them are 3-4 hours long. And the savvy traveler bypasses those shore excursions and goes off on their own. It’s cheaper and more fun. The inside cabins tend to be larger than the oceanview/balcony ones, but they’re all laid out well.

  10. fjordtjie says:

    i am sorry your trip was so disgusting. it seems like there wasn’t anything else you could do, and that sucks.

  11. boomerang86 says:

    We were on our honeymoon cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, waiting to disembark in Aruba on the deck where the access pland is deployed. While in the staging area we noticed a clear liquid beginning to pour from the ceiling, followed by that telltale sewage smell. We pointed this out to the officer stationed there; he immediately called out on the portable radio he was carrying “Loo safety, we have a problem here!” and cordoned off the area with yellow tape barriers. Maybe the tanks were a little full from two days of 3000+ passengers and crew at sea.

    Occasionally the toilets wouldn’t flush on other cruises for a few minutes at a time, but that didn’t last long. They must have a LOT of blockages on cruise ships!

  12. @glorpy: I do tend to agree, I have difficulty seeing exactly how this could have been fixed (aren’t cruises usually booked up?), however, I do think it was handled badly. Every effort should have been made to make their trip otherwise exceptional, even if that meant free excursions, or massages in the spa, or something. They should have been refunded a portion of the trip’s expense, and they should have received a sincere apology. When will company’s realize that most people don’t want them to make the impossible happen? Most of us just want some respect and to be treated like the money we spend with a company means something.

  13. Err, companies. I am blushing.

  14. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    My wife and I have discussed taking a cruise. Can any savvy Cruisers provide me with websites that show brutally honest ( a la Consumerist) reviews and recommendations?

    Stories like this and others describing a floating ‘Old Country Buffet’ scare the hell out of me.

  15. joebloe says:
  16. scoobydoo says:

    @cmdrsass: Only people who have never been on a cruise think this way.

  17. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Spatula: I have friends who RAVE about Regent. They won’t cruise with anyone else — and they’ve tried them all.

  18. EricaKane says:

    The idea of going on a cruise repulses me.

  19. trk182 says:

    Sewage smell coming from a bathroom? Sure the g/f didn’t just take a huge dump and not want to admit to it being her that caused the stench?

  20. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    @TheSpatulaOfLove: Definitely check out…their reviews are great and their forums are awesome…

    Having been on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and cruising Carnival in July (which I expect to be mediocre, but the ports are really good); I would suggest Royal Caribbean. Regent is supposed to be awesome, but its a luxury cruise line which is much more expensive than the mainstream lines. Check out the smaller lines owned by the bigger lines, like Princess and Celebrity.

  21. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    I don’t understand why people are so against cruises. Its a great opportunity to see multiple countries in a few days, and have the freedom to do whatever you want (your biggest stressor is making sure you get back on the boat in time). You can sit in your room for a week doing nothing, you can lay on the pool deck, work out, hit the spa, go to the cigar lounge, gamble in the casino, go to the library, play cards in the game room, eat all day in the buffet, enjoy the ocean, etc…

    It’s one of my favorite types of vacations…

  22. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    @trk182: What are you, 12?

  23. e.varden says:

    Lost friend:

    Does anyone know what happened to Cruise-line Commentator Karen Segboer?

    I’d appreciate info.

  24. u1itn0w2day says:

    These ” modern ” cruise ships are so modern that they are nothing but floating boxes,closed boxes at that.If I’m taking a cruise I want to experience the ocean other wise why not just stay at a luxary resort hotel.

    A cruise or vacation is about the experience,how can you have a good experience if it STINKS-literally.How can Carnival sell the experience if they don’t have a good ventilation system.Bad ordors are NOT part of the experience.

    And as closed in as these ships are there seems to be plenty of passangers gone missing or ‘fallen’ overboard with little or no repercussions.

  25. Rusted says:

    What a waste. Climb on plane, while having fun with TSA. Then climb on ship, having more fun with TSA. Steam or diesel to nowhere, come on back, more with TSA and flying back home and spending much money.

  26. u1itn0w2day says:

    Rusted;good point-there’s alot more to a cruise than the ship itself.Some cruises leave you at a hotel the day before and after a cruise as part of your vacation so if you want to go out you must deal with car rental as well.That’s why they have to go out of their way to execute.Sometimes with the TSA it’s seems like you’re loosing the freedoms you’re trying to preserve and enjoy.

  27. ninabi says:

    Smelled sewage? Hey, Carnival is improving! We got to SEE sewage on our last (and final) Carnival cruise. Smelly, drippy brown water from a hallway ceiling into a big gray trash can placed just so.

    Toilet geysers. Foul mouthed teens smoking in cramped carpeted corridors who mocked and cursed harried workers. Drunken louts pushing and shoving about the pool deck.

    No. Couldn’t pay me to repeat the experience.

  28. rolla says:

    royal carribean all the way

  29. trk182 says:

    @TheRealAbsurdist: Stranger danger Stranger danger, no I’m not 12 look for dates elsewhere flaming perv.

  30. Yurei says:

    I’ve only ever been on a “cruise” once, and it was not your typical vacation cruise line so to speak. My grandmother and I went on a 2 week trip in ’05 to the Galapagos and Peru with Linblad Expeditions. One week spent in each location, and the Galapagos one was done obviously on a cruise ship, of sorts. These are more educationally geared trips then “fun” ones, taken by older people generally where you’re there to sight see and learn and not just sip drinks with little umbrellas.

    Anyway, a month before our trip was supposed to start we got a call from Linblad- the AC on our ship was broken while the ship was still in dry dock and they were scrambling to fix it. This caused them to have to swap the two weeks of our trip around. Originally we were supposed to do Galapagos and then Peru, but due to the ship problems they flipped it around at the last minute. They really came through and we had no further problems in regards to that. They gave us numerous apologies and vouchers for the ‘inconvenience’- like, $500 per person towards a future trip. Ok, so we were cool with that and went to Peru and then Galapagos. Our first few hours on the boat, we noticed several very strong chemical smells in our room. The ship had just been in dry dock after all, so it had probably just been cleaned thoroughly. My grandmother and I both suffer from severe allergies, so having to smell bleach and other such strong smells for a week would have been terrible for us. We talked to the staff about seeing if there was any way they could fix the issue. They quickly offered to find us another room since there were a few vacancies.

    It turned out one of the vacancies was one of the ‘better’ rooms on the ship, ie 1 king sized bed in a large room as opposed to a tiny little cabin with 2 twin sized beds. Plus it had a fold out couch on one wall. So essentially we were upgraded for free. Now granted, the room wasn’t in use before because the pull out bed was broken and they felt they didn’t want to use it as such unless they had to. But we didn’t care, and our only real issue with the room was the suspicious puke line stain on the carpet in front of the bathroom door. Which again, staff responded to immediately and sent someone down to try scrubbing it out. No such luck, but hey, they tried.

    Overall the service was extremely good and I feel that they bent over backwards for us to do what they could to improve the trip any way possible. Every cruise line should really be this accommodating insomuch as possible. I really hope you can have a word with Carnival and get some resolution on this, and I wholly recommend Lindblad Expeditions to anyone who wants to take a trip with a bit of adventure in it.

    As an aside, the ships are generally only like 100 or so people, so they’re small amounts of people and mostly all adults- I was 18 at the time, there was like a 10 year old boy and an infant on the cruise so you don’t have nearly the obnoxiousness you might find on more commercial cruises. There’s also no pool, spa etc on these ships- they focus on what you can do off the boat with their naturalists.

  31. bohemian says:

    Carnival has owned Cunard for a long time now. But so far I have not heard these kind of nightmare stories there. Maybe Cunard does a better job since it is much more expensive and geared toward a different customer base?

  32. Martha.Jones says:

    @TheSpatulaOfLove: I’ve been on a couple cruises with Celebrity and I would absolutely recommend them for excellence service (and the food is pretty awesome too.)

  33. nikalseyn says:

    I don’t understand—why are you and an unmarried female staying in the same room unsupervised? What? Morals? What are they?
    Second, why would anyone travel to Mexico? What a dive!
    Thirdly, all experienced cruisers know enough not to travel with Carnival—terrible service, dumb as a box of rocks personnel, and with rather rude and unseemly behaviour.

  34. benh57 says:

    I can’t tell if nikalseyn is joking with the morals comment…

  35. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Thanks to all the experienced Cruisers for the weblinks and tips!

    Sorry to others for drawing the conversation slightly off-topic.

  36. dazzlezak says:

    3 words,

    DISPUTE the Charge!

    With your CC card company of course.

    good luck.

  37. ViperBorg says:

    @dazzlezak: That’ll wake them up.

  38. SlappySquirrel says:

    @benh57: He’s joking.


  39. darkryd says:

    …or avoid taking cruises altogether and just pick one caribbean destination and stay there longer!

  40. TampaShooters says:

    I have been cruising for along time, Getting ready for my next right now. Don’t let the “This one is better, than that one” fool you. I have seen problems on cheap lines, and I have seen just as many on the “Better” lines.. It happens, A city that floats is not that easy to just pull over and fix something, or change the oil.

    I like cruising because of the vacation aspect. I vacation on land too, but with a cruise, I don’t have to think about anything. No fighting traffic, no figuring out what to eat, or where to visit next… I can relax on a ship.

  41. Geekybiker says:

    I wonder if the people who are hating on cruises have actually ever taken one? If you’re a savvy traveler, its a fantastic deal. You only unpack once and get to see a ton of places. Most of them don’t have alot to do past a day trip in any case. For the most part they are clean and have good food. Its easy to avoid the pitfalls.

    Yah stuff like this occasionally happens, but I hear about similar stories at land based resorts as well. Hey we had some big issues with sandals when we were there and that’s pretty top of the line.

  42. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I have been planning to bare boat charter a sail boat. I think that is way I need to keep it.

  43. chiieddy says:

    Of all the cruises I’ve been on, Carnival has been the worst still owned by the same parent company (or in business). Mainly due to the crowd, than due to the line itself. I don’t go on vacation to listen to teenagers blowing boat horns in the hallways at 1 am.

    Anyhow, my favorite, like many here has been RCL. I might even go on Celebrity again now that RCL owns them. My previous bad experience with them was under different ownership. I’ve also been on the Big Red Boat, which we’ve seen as cargo ships occasionally down in the Caribbean.

    NCL is nice, but I do like the seated dinners which you don’t get so much there. Cruising the Hawai’ian islands was probably the best way for us to see Hawai’i on our honeymoon.

  44. Orv says:

    @cmdrsass: And you might get Norwalk virus for your trouble, too. No thanks.

  45. milk says:

    My family and I were on the Carnival Conquest in February for a week and occasionally had the same issued for the last few days. I just ignored it. I did hang out in my room a lot because I’m just antisocial like that, but we had a balcony room with the door open all the time. It was only strongly noticeable in the bathroom anyway.

    Everyone we encountered was great. By the end of the week we were all in love with our waiter, and on the last night he brought me a recipe for one of their deserts I always ordered.

  46. SwampAssJ says:

    Was told I would be getting a letter in 1-2 weeks after they review my case. Depending on that it might be time for the EECB. I am going to start collecting their emails until then.

    Phone rep that I just got in contact with was very friendly, apologetic and annoyed as I was with the crews actions.