Live From Voyager of the Seas: A Big but Not Easy Embarkation

November 14, 2011 | By | 12 Comments

Broadway shows run through dress rehearsals. New restaurants have “soft launches.” These run-throughs allow organizers to work out any kinks before their doors open to the public. What a bummer that the Port of New Orleans didn’t have the same luxury before Saturday’s departure of Royal Caribbean 137,308-ton, 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas.
Nothing — and we mean nothing — was easy in the Big Easy Saturday as passengers checking in to board the largest ship ever to homeport in New Orleans faced serious delays. Queues of nearly four hours at the city’s newly renovated Julia Street Terminal. Conflicting instructions from port staff. Lines that snaked into the street. Luggage delivery late into the night.
It was, says Cruise Critic member Thuman Vance, who has been on 25 cruises, her “absolute worst” embarkation experience. More than a dozen other frequent cruisers we talked to echoed the same sentiments.
As a result of the challenges, the ship departed New Orleans 2.5 hours late and some passengers didn’t receive their luggage until after 10 p.m.
“It was a perfect storm,” said Robert Jumonville, the port’s director of cruise and tourism. “We had a brand-new ship, [totally remodeled] terminal, new embarkation crew, new stevedoring crew. All that combined to slow down operations.” There were also mechanical issues (escalator malfunctions), and the wildly popular Helen Brett jewelry show, held at the adjacent convention center, snarled traffic on nearby streets. Disembarkation delays — Voyager was concluding a 12-night repositioning cruise — didn’t help either, and setbacks in getting the luggage off the ship had a carry-over effect.
“There were such great plans in place and great backup plans,” Royal Caribbean spokesman Harrison Liu said. “But it wasn’t to our level and expectations.”
Other factors also contributed to a frustrating day: The absence of cruise line representatives at the airport baggage claim directing passengers to buses for their ride to the ship. Forgotten transfers for a batch of international passengers who spent the night at a local Marriott. Travelers stuck sitting on buses for 30 minutes a mere 100 feet from the terminal entrance because there wasn’t enough room in the driveway for the buses to pull up.
Porters erroneously told some passengers to hand over even medium-sized luggage because it wouldn’t fit through the detectors at the security screening posts. At 5 p.m., when the ship was scheduled to leave the dock, at least 45 carts brimming with hundreds of pieces of luggage were still sitting on the dock. Some passengers reported needing to track down their luggage at bedtime because it hadn’t materialized yet.
Before Voyager, the largest ship to sail from New Orleans was the 102,000-ton, 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph. Chris Bonura, Communications Manager for the Port of New Orleans, said the embarkation quagmire stemmed mostly from first-day kinks — and not really the influx of passengers. “Can we use more space?” asked Jumonville. “Of course we can, but what we have is absolutely adequate.”
“We definitely learned where some of our needs still remain,” Liu said. “When the ship returns here on [November 19], guests will notice a huge difference.” Jumonville and Bonura concurred. “We have a big conference call with RCI to discuss the shortcomings, failures and successes, and get everything ironed out,” said Jumonville. “We apologize to passengers who were inconvenienced, and we’re working on fixing it,” added Bonura.
Find out what more than 700 Cruise Critic members think of Voyager of the Seas.
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    12 Responses to “Live From Voyager of the Seas: A Big but Not Easy Embarkation”

    1. Rose Marie Guidry
      November 14th, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

      I’ve sailed on The Voyager six times out of Galveston. Even when we left hours late because of a fog we always had easy boarding, received our luggage on time and never had a problem with traffic jams. Too bad The Mariner couldn’t have made New Orleans its home and just left The Voyager in Galveston.

      Even though I live 45 minutes closer to New Orleans I will sail out of Galveston anyday.

    2. - New Orleans News
      November 14th, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

      […] View original post here: Live From Voyager of The Seas: A Big but Not Easy Embarkation – Cruise Critic […]

    3. Kimberly
      November 14th, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

      Oh Lord! We are heading there next month for a week long cruise to the Western Carribbean. Please have all, or at least most of your issues resolved by then! I am not the unhappy customer you people want to deal with! When we spend that much money, we want it done right and on time!

    4. Valorie
      November 14th, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

      hurry up and wait……………. something I learned years and years ago… is part of cruising sometimes worse than others! Miami Cruise Port here I come in 13 days!!!!

    5. 78goldwing
      November 14th, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

      My worst embarkation experience was also in New Orleans (& the only cruise I’ve ever taken out of there) – 2004 on the Carnival Conquest. It was a disaster. We were on the Allure of the Seas last week (& the Oasis last October) – BEST EVER embarkation / debarkation! They have a fantastic terminal set-up.

    6. Sj25
      November 15th, 2011 @ 8:09 am

      I sure hope it is just a firt time round to get the kinks out…I am going in Jan sure hope by then will be better. Have never went out of New Orleans and was nervous about this port before I read this.

    7. Mary Lee
      November 16th, 2011 @ 11:01 am

      I have been out of New Orleans several times. The port is located right behind a convention center, so if there is something going there, the traffic can get rough getting to the port. My advice is to be patient, they are not going to leave without you if they know you are coming.

    8. Kim
      November 17th, 2011 @ 11:54 am

      Oh No! We are cruising on Voyagers of the Seas on Nov. 26th! Gosh, I pray they have all the kinks worked out by then. We are traveling with 2 anxious kids and a senior citizen. Any tips from this weeks cruisers on what to do and what not to do? Any info would be a great help!

    9. trudy
      November 20th, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

      Worst embarkation ever.. That’s what I wrote on my satisfaction survey at the end of my cruise. Got to the port at 11:15 took about 30 minute just to check in. No port representative knew where to go when you asked. Very few signs saying where to go. Never again will I sail on the first cruise returning to a port.

    10. dave
      November 20th, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

      Getting off VOS yesterday wasn’t much better. We arrived in port at 0600. The early departees were supposed to be off at 0700. Starting at 0700 announcements were made that the ship was still not cleared. We didn’t start unloading until 0740 then something happened with the bridge and they held us up a little longer. Between that and about 2000 idiots (the rest of the people were cool), it was a freaking cluster. Not much better than embarking. Some of the 2000 idiots contributed to that too. Take off the offense you want – I was blown away by sheepish morons on this boat. I was in the buffett line one morning and some jackass started going the opposite direction. Everyone else followed him!! So I am going the right way and he says “it’s going from this end, I don’t know why but it is” I said, “well it was going the correct way earlier”.

      Also, after the muster drill, people trying to get to the early seating were crowding the damn door to the dining room so we couldn’t get out. Some lady tried to walk against the flow trying to get in to the seating, I said “excuse me for being in your way”. Crazy people.

    11. Linda Morton
      November 20th, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

      It definitely was a terrible experience. We even had a very rude RCI employee check us in. And dave is right, disembarkation was not any better. People were getting violent over porters to get their luggage out to transportation. We were some of the last to get off the ship and it was crazy trying to get to the airport bus. But, hey, we were just some test cruise for RCI – they say this week’s cruise is the maiden voyage/inaugral cruise out of New Orleans for the Voyager. Our experiences will be totally ignored by RCI – the cruise didn’t exist in their books.

    12. PrincessPop
      November 21st, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

      I agree with Linda…this cruise felt like some experiment they were doing that failed. Our disembarkation was not bad but we had to ask to figure out where to find our bus. Don’t think I’ll be sailing from New Orleans again!

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