Back in the late 90's we booked a cruise on the Carnival mid-sized ship - The Tropicale. It was an older ship but still going strong. This would be our second cruise - the first cruise was on a beautiful ship called the Royal Majesty and was not a Carnival ship - a slightly larger ship than the Tropicale.
A few months before we were to take our cruise on the Tropicale, the ship was in the middle of the ocean when one of her engines caught fire. It crippled the ship and the ship was right in the path of a tropical storm that was headed towards the ship. Long story short, the ship got back to port and all cruises up to ours were cancelled. We were assured that the ship would be in tip top shape mechanically and clean and ready to set sail. We were a bit concerned and hesitant but decided not to cancel our vacation on the ship.
When we got ready to board the ship, we noticed that it was a tired looking beat up ship that looked like it had been through World War III. I was actually afraid to get on it. Again, we were assured that all was well. We noticed soot on the stacks which we were told was normal. Once we got on the ship, we noticed a bad odor, booze bottles and beer bottles and glasses and garbage in the hallways and in some of the cabins that we walked pass on the way to our cabin. We had requested a cabin with windows. When we got to our room, the room was flithy - beds not made, windows were so full of soot on the outside that we couldn't see out of them, empty beer bottles all over the floor and two large half dollar sized black spiders taking up residence in the shower - and I won't even go into details about what the toilet looked like! We ran out of the cabin and headed for the exit but the ship was already leaving and it was too late to disembark. Most passengers were beside themselves with fear and disgust. It appears that no one ever cleaned up the ship after the fire. Even the employees/crew had no idea that the ship was in such bad condition.
We went to get a meal and were assured our cabin would be ready for us when we returned - it was and we settled in - still could not see out of the windows. I didn't sleep well during the cruise.
Numerous times the ship's engines broke down and when we did get into the ports, we were too late to go on any of the excursions we had signed up on and paid for in advance.
Several passengers including our friends and us met in the theatre to discuss what we could do and planned a mutuny (ha ha). Prior to this and at our last port stop, my husband and our friends went shopping and I stood out in the hot sun waiting to get to use a phone booth that had a long line of people waiting to use it. I finally reached the booth and called a television station in Florida - I had remembered their phone number from a billboard I saw from the taxi on the way from the airport to the ship's dock. When I called the station, I gave them a quick review of what was happening and they were desperately trying to locate a reporter who could speak with me. I told them I could not wait on the phone as many people were waiting to use the phone and I was baking in the sun. They asked if I would call them from the ship from my cabin phone when I got back to the ship and I told them I would only if they would pay the charges of $9/minute. They agreed. Upon getting back to the ship, it turns out the TV station actually had left three messages for me with the purser. I called them and filled them in on what was going on. They talked about it on the local news in Florida that evening; the St. Petersburg Times had an article about my call and what was going on (our friend's family lived there and kept the articles for us), and even Channel 12 here in Milwaukee had something on it. The station did reimburse me - just like they promised.
When we returned from the cruise, a reporter was waiting to interview me and my husband. It turns out he once worked for Channel 12! Again, we were in and on the news. Of course, the people who were interviewed after us said all was fine - since we were given free booze during the cruise to keep us happy. I asked the couple if they had ever been on another cruise to compare and they said no.
Carnival offered to give us 1/2 off a future cruise and we actually demanded our money back as we had no intensions on ever taking another Carnival cruise. I believe we ended up getting 1/2 of our money back.
And one more thing that came to mind while we were on the cruise. We were sitting on an upper deck watching people swimming in the pool (the pool was finally cleaned and filled 2 days into the cruise) and a young boy went down the slide into the pool - when he got out of the pool, his bright green swimming trunks were black from the soot on the slide - which was never cleaned.
Well - that's my story. We have and will go on other cruises again but NEVER, EVER with Carnival.