This is not so much a rip-off as a major dissatisfaction report.
My wife and I went on our first cruise on memorial day May 29th 2000. This was our first cruise, and our first vacation in 5 years, so we were very excited to go to Grand Cayman and Playa Del Carmen.
After a full day of traveling from Texas to Miami we were faced with a bus ride from the airport that dumped us out in front of the cruise terminal with almost 2600 other passengers who were all waiting to go through the check-in process and board the ship (this took over an hour and a half, luckily they confiscated our luggage outside the terminal).
We sailed aboard the Imagination which the brochures said has a passenger capacity of 1950 passengers. Like I said, there were 2600 or so on this cruise. People were crowded everywhere. We did not feel "pampered" like the commercials say. In fact, we hardly felt like we were noticed. The room was ok, no complaints, but we never saw the room steward until it was time for the gratuity!
We were on board for 5 days, and I must say I have never been subjected to such world-class money-grubbing before in my life. They were systematic about separating you from your funds. Three out of four of the "activities" aboard ship were geared toward making them more money including; bingo, art auction, slots tournaments, photographs, spa, etc.
The few activities that did not cost anything were informative briefings about the ports or seemed to be half-heartedly conducted by the crew. One of the assistant cruise directors was actually 20 minutes late for the snorkeling demonstration. Gratuity reccomendations were ridiculous. They suggested we should tip people we never even saw.
Over 1000 of the passengers on our cruise were with a single group (Minolta, North America). During the cruise a lot of clubs and ships areas were closed to most passengers because of Minolta's special meetings. It seems like the cruise director's staff spent most of their time catering to the Minolta group at the expense of the rest of the passengers.
Here is something I don't understand; the ship has three pools, but only one was open, why? The main pool was so packed on the sea days that you could not find a chase lounge or a towel, the pool was just a mass of bodies.
We submitted this same report to Carnival after we returned, but it is July and we haven't heard a reply from them yet, so I guess they don't care.
We may go on a cruise again someday, but you can bet it will not be a Carnival!