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Cruise complaints few, Carnival says

While some passengers complained about food and service aboard Carnival Cruise Lines Inc.'s Sensation, the cruise line said it hasn't received an "unusual" number of complaints about the huge ship since it began sailing from Tampa in mid-December.

Some of Sensation's 2,200 passengers leaving at the Port of Tampa on Sunday complained the ship ran out of some foods. Others complained the food was bad overall, and many thought it took too long to get off the ship and get through customs.

Carnival's customer service center wasn't flooded with complaints, said Jennifer de la Cruz, spokeswoman for Miami's Carnival Corp, parent of Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America.

On average, 98 percent of Carnival cruise passengers are satisfied with their cruises, company surveys show. That means nearly every cruise will create some unhappy customers, she said.

Sensation spent 12 days in Mobile, Ala., for servicing before sailing to Tampa. It previously sailed from Miami. Sensation's crew wasn't changed, but "any time you change the itinerary of a ship, things aren't going to run as smoothly," de la Cruz said.

Carnival said its food gets high marks from industry critics and continues to improve. Though all-you-can-eat food is often the highlight of cruising, industry research shows that passengers rate service from the crew as the biggest factor for enjoying a cruise. "Food is a very subjective thing," de la Cruz said.

Some passengers said Sensation, which takes seven-day cruises to the western Caribbean and New Orleans, ran out of food staples such as milk. Carnival's chefs said that one dining area of the ship ran out of half-pint milk cartons, but that they were replaced with larger ones. "The ship never actually ran out of milk," de la Cruz said.

In a survey this year of more than 1,000 travel agents, Carnival ranked 11th of 14 large cruise lines overall, according to the Cruise Line International Association in New York.

Carnival, enjoying its best year ever financially, saw its stock reach a 52-week high Thursday at $48.50. It closed at $48.

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