26 Magic 2012
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Late Night Dancing on the Magic

Written by Rick Archer
October 2012

Our group of 180 passengers returned from a very successful trip this past Sunday.  Naturally a lot of people have been curious to know how the Late Night dancing issue was resolved.

In the week before our SSQQ Travel group’s departure on the Carnival Magic, I sent out two newsletter articles detailing the problems Marla was having getting Carnival to give us permission to continue our tradition of Late Night dancing. 

If you would like to review this story, please visit
Storm Clouds over the Magic.

As it turned out, our group was permitted to dance until 1:30 am every night of the trip.  Indeed, the Late Night dancing was a bigger hit on this trip than ever before. 

We had large crowds of people dancing every night.  Sometimes we had as many as 80 people participating.  The pictures should give you a pretty good idea that we had a terrific time. 

Storm Clouds Threaten the Trip

If you recall my previous article, Marla spent EIGHT MONTHS trying to get Carnival to give us permission to dance late at night.  This seemed like a no-brainer request considering that the entire ship is deserted at this hour and that Carnival had allowed us to do so for the previous five years.  

Instead, they continued to insist that our only choice was to dance on a room covered with carpet. 

The utter absurdity of being told to go dance on a carpet when there were four perfectly good dance floors not in use at the time was an insult to our intelligence.  I will never forget the guy who wrote “many people have danced on the carpet and had a wonderful time!!”

In the week leading up to the cruise, several women within our group tried themselves without success to talk some sense into Carnival.  I am sure these ladies were just as shocked as Marla was that Carnival refused to budge an inch.

This ongoing drama was more than Marla and I could take.  As we drove down to Galveston on the day of the trip, I was so tense I was ready to explode.  I was almost certain we were going to run into serious problems with Carnival.

As it turned out, we had no problems at all.  So what happened?

I can tell you what happened, but I am not sure what happened.  How’s that for enlightenment?  

Our group was scheduled to have a free cocktail dance party in the Vibe Disco at 6 pm on the first night of our trip. Marla and I got there early to set up our music equipment.  

All groups as large as ours are assigned an onboard representative.  I am not sure what I can say about our representative without getting her in trouble, but basically this woman solved our problem without any hassle whatsoever

I never said a word to her other than to ask where the power outlet was. 

During the party – a very successful party I might add – Marla told this woman there was something she needed to speak with her about.  The woman nodded, so they went over into a corner.

Marla asked the woman if she knew about the decision not to allow us to dance late night. The woman nodded and said that she knew all about it.

The woman said Late Night dancing would be permitted in the Ocean Plaza that night after the band quit playing.  The woman said the Hotel Director did not need to know and that we wouldn’t be bothered. 

Naturally Marla was shocked.  She had asked for the Ocean Plaza many times before. 

As it turned out, the following night Ocean Plaza was busy with karaoke, so we moved into the Lobby downstairs.  We stayed there for the rest of the trip and had a ball. 

Carnival’s biggest objection to letting us dance was our music.  First of all, they were worried that we would have loud rap music playing.  Second, they were worried that our music would be too loud and it would awaken guests sleeping in cabins nearby.

So they monitored our activities throughout the trip.  One night Marla looked up and saw three officers in white staring at our dancing from an upper level.  One of them got on their walkie talkie.  Marla had that sinking feeling.

Within a minute, our representative showed up to talk to them.  Marla was sure we were in trouble.  However, nothing happened. 

Marla concluded they were just checking to see if we had permission or not.  Who knows what our representative said??  But whatever she said, they left us alone.

I saw ship’s officers watching us on two occasions myself.  They definitely knew we were there.  One night one of the officers even asked us to turn down the music. 

So how loud was our music?   I actually took the time to study the issue. 

The Lobby is on Level 3.  It has no ceiling.  If you look up, you can see all the way up to Level 10, the top of the ship.

The way the ship is designed, you can hear the music all the way up to Level 10 if you go to the railing and look down below.  But up above, the music disappears once you take a step back from the railing.  Levels 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 were all safe from noise.

The only areas that might be affected by our music would be the levels closest to Level 3.   However, since there are no cabins on Level 3, Level 4, or Level 5 (just shops), the only possible set of cabins that might be affected were on Level 2 below us.  So the first night we set up in the Lobby, I went downstairs.  To my surprise, I could hear the music in the elevator area.  However, the moment I took a step into either long hallway, the music disappeared.

For good measure, I asked two people who were not in their cabins to comment.  Both people said they could not hear the music.  I concluded we would have to do something ridiculous to pose a realistic problem with our noise level.

As it turned out, our Late Night dancing was popular not just with us, but with all the guests.  We were joined by outsiders who wanted to dance with us practically every night.  I was amused by three elderly ladies from Brownwood who did line dances to our music over in the corner practically every night.  They were very sweet. 

We did so much dancing that I ended up teaching someone every night of the week. If someone struggled while I danced with them, I would ask if they wanted some help.  Every single person I asked accepted my help on the spot.

I helped one woman learn to count West Coast Swing.  I showed another woman how to Night Club.  I showed a third woman where she needed to do a triple step to make the timing work.  I taught a woman how to Twostep.  I taught a woman how to Polka.  I taught a woman how to dance East Coast Swing.  I showed two woman the basics of West Coast Swing and a third woman how to Salsa. 

I was happy to help.  These people were so enthusiastic about how much fun the different types of dancing were, I would do anything to make it easier for them to participate.  It was a very gratifying experience for me, but a little bittersweet at the same time because it reminded me how much I miss teaching dance on a regular basis.

I need to do something about that situation, but that’s another story for another time

Flip Flop

So what made Carnival change its mind?????   Everything I say is guesswork.

For starters, there were two Hotel Directors.

The first Hotel Director was the one who kept saying no for eight months.  However, just days before our trip was to begin, Marla noticed there was a new Hotel Director on board the ship.  The Grinch was gone.  However, when several ladies attempted to email Carnival executives to ask them to relent, they got nowhere.

This last-minute refusal to bend really had Marla and I convinced they weren’t going to budge for anything.  If I were a betting man, I would have placed my money on “No dancing”. 

But to my surprise, right from the start, the representative on board the ship gave us permission to dance without any fuss.  What gives??

Now this is just conjecture, but I don’t think the people aboard the Magic really cared if we danced or not.  What they did not want to do was give us permission in writing

As the Penn State-Sandusky story made clear, anything you say in an email can come back to bite you.

I believe there is some sort of corporate policy in effect here against letting people dance or play music in public areas. 

So they didn’t really mind letting us dance just as long as they didn’t have to give written permission.  That meant someone had to stick their neck out to verbally give us permission dance. 

So who stuck their neck out?

Was it our representative?   I doubt it. 

What I think happened is that our representative was told to go check us out at the Cocktail Party.  If we passed muster, then she had the authority to green light us. 

I doubt she acted on her own.  I doubt that any person would actually give us permission to dance behind the Hotel Director’s back.  This woman could get fired for that.  So I believe the representative said what she said (“Hotel Director does not need to know”) to protect the new Hotel Director. 

In other words, I am guessing the Hotel Director decided to let us dance if we checked out, but he didn’t want his fingerprints to show.  Mind you, that is strictly my guess. 

Of course Marla and I were thrilled at this good news.  Our group was excited as well.  Lots of people danced way into the night.  Friendships were renewed, romances were kindled.  It was all good. 

But I wasn’t happy.  I carried a sense of deep sadness with me throughout the trip. 

Carnival is Slipping

I have to tell you something – until this trip, I liked Carnival.  I had grown accustomed to their Conquest ship.  I was perfectly happy returning to the ship each year for five years.  The Magic had even better facilities.  Had the people in Miami even whispered over the phone that this was all an act to avoid giving email permission, we would have never left this company.

Armed with the knowledge that Marla had pulled the plug on Carnival and switched to Royal Caribbean even before the trip started, I could not help but obsess on the destructive corporate culture that had led to this bone-headed situation.

All they had to do to keep our business was show the same respect they had for the previous five years.  Instead Carnival practically shoved us out the door.  This Late Night dancing issue was just the tip of the iceberg.  As Marla can explain better, there are all sorts of things wrong with this organization.  She has seen many disturbing changes. 

I doubt our group will return to Carnival any time soon.  I think people are going to be so pleased with the Royal Caribbean Mariner (April 2013) that any sadness over switching away from Carnival will dissipate quickly.

When we docked in Nassau, there were five cruise ships.  Four of them belonged to Carnival.  It was impressive to see all those giant monster ships lined up side by side.

And yet it was depressing to see just how powerful this company was and realize it might be so vulnerable if they don’t get their act together.

Thanks to events like Costa Concordia and the Carnival Splendor incidents, in the court of public opinion, Carnival is getting hammered on many fronts. 

I can’t help but wonder if all these mysterious changes in attitude and policy are related to a beleaguered organization scared to death that its profits are continuing to plummet.

The repeated failure to communicate properly cost this company our $175,000 business account.  Even more painful is the thought that our money and loyalty will walk right over to Royal Caribbean. 

In football terminology, that is like a Red Zone interception that gets run back for a touchdown to create a 14-point turnaround. 

Maybe Carnival is so big and powerful it can afford to make mistakes like that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their insensitive corporate culture is creating similar problems for other travel agents as well. 

Even Fun Fun Fun Carnival can’t keep filling up ships if it keeps treating its customers the way it treated Marla.

It is bizarre to see such a magnificent company shoot itself in the foot like it did with us.  If just one person with common sense had stood up for us, we would have never left this cruise line.

The entire story of the communication breakdown made so little sense that I actually felt sorry for Carnival throughout the entire trip. 

What makes this story really strange is that on the last night of the trip, we had a very incident that by coincidence was also created by a failure to communicate. 

As anyone who has read my stories know, I am deeply superstitious when it comes to coincidences.   In my mind, surely there has to be a lesson here. 


The Showdown in the Spotlight Lounge

There was a bitter confrontation that took place at Midnight in the Spotlight Lounge on the final night of the trip. The date was Saturday, October 20th, and the time was 11:59 pm.

I am sorry to say I was one of the participants.   I regret that the incident spoiled an otherwise perfect trip for the entire group. 

There were approximately 50 people in the room when the attack began, but I am the only person who knows my side of the story.  Even Marla had no idea what was going on until I explained it to her later that night.

Most people were either sitting down across the floor or still out on the dance floor when the feathers started to fly.  Only a handful of people were close enough to see the argument, but even they had no idea why I was being attacked. 

As one woman told me, the sight was so bizarre that she assumed it had to be a joke.  Surely we were just playing.

However, as the intensity rose, people saw two men arguing vehemently face to face, chest to chest.   At this point, people were shocked at the intensity.

Since no one had any idea what caused this altercation, people were left with a highly ambiguous situation that was wide open for interpretation. 

During the ensuing argument, this man threatened to hurt my wife’s business any way he possibly could.  As a result of his threats, I now feel I have no choice but to take the issue public and present my side of the story.   

I think I have a valid reason to set the record straight.

The Long Version - Showdown in the Spotlight Lounge

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