My wife and I have just completed our fourth cruise on Norwegian, our second on the Gem out of New York City. While our nine-day cruise was basically a good value and a welcome winter get-away, NCL's policies have made us wonder whether we will ever sail with that line again.
While Holland America allows passengers to bring their own wine aboard, NCL x-rays your bags for "bootleg" alcohol, wine included. The reason is obvious - NCL wants passengers to pay $8 a glass for inferior vintage. My bag was held up on the first night and I was told to report to a specific room so it could be opened by security. My crime? Not smuggling weapons aboard but bringing two bottles of wine of my own selection. It was confiscated for the duration of the trip. Bad policy. After paying $2000 for the cruise, I was told I could buy the bottles back if I paid a $15 "corkage" fee for each one. No way to induce repeat customers.
The little extra gotchas are also irritating. If you drink the bottled water left in your stateroom, with no price or warning attached, you will be charged, like it or not. The contents of the mini-bar are not inventoried, nor is any price list included. Another up-charge for anyone foolish enough to open a container. Espresso with meals...another up-charge. Meals in the main dining rooms are listed as "complimentary," although I did pay for meals with my passage. The up-charge restaurants get a hard sell. Meanwhile the service, quantity, quality and menu selection in the "complimentary" dining rooms seems to be slipping from our previous NCL cruises. perhaps they will try to impose an extra charge for any meals taken in the dining room as opposed to the cafeteria. Our first night dinner was spoiled by indifferent service and bad food.
The "discretionary" tipping is really mandatory, as nowhere in the cruise documents is the procedure for disputing the charge if anyone so desire.
Passengers do not hesitate to share experiences with one another; most with whom we spoke on this cruise tell us the NCL experience does not compare favorably with Royal Caribbean or Princess.
A few other problems - insufficient deck chairs; the hunt for a chair is maddening. Passengers stake out their chairs with towels and make them unavailable for others even when not being used all day. Insufficient seating in some public rooms.
Little irritations, by themselves, tend to disappear if the overall cruise experience is a good one. In toto, however, the little irritations can cloud what should have been the great experience we paid for and hoped to enjoy.,