My wife and are planned and coordinated our fist cruise with Norwegian 2 years out. We will certainly not sail with NCL again. While Alaska was everything and even more than we had imagined....the service from NCL left more than a lot to be desired.
We did not know many things about the cruise, until about 6 months out. We objected to the $12 a day per person gratuity; and we were told by the NCL call center that is was mandatory; and my argument was that Gratuities are not gratuities if they become a fee to "augment your payroll". Basic math in rough figures of 2,200+ passengers at $12 a day, is: $26,400 daily...and let use, for the sake of argument, 15 days, such as my wife and I; equals $396,000 in untaxed gratuities over a two week period. I do not call that gratuities, but an augmentation to their payroll to prevent / reduce their (NCLs) obligation. Most importantly, gratuities are WILLINGLY PAID to those that deserve it...otherwise it becomes a fee. This is in ADDITION to the 18% automatically charged gratuities...imagine the numbers now since on the Non Shared service members share in the automatically charged gratuity fees.
Second issue was the Soda Package that was promised 2 years ago; then 18 months ago; up until 5 days before the cruise, we were told by NCL management on the phone that the Soda package was not included and we could have all the Coffee, Tea, fruit juices we wanted. I ask to speak to a supervisor, of which she stated that she would look into and call back - of which she never called back. When manager or anyone states they will call back, they should do something. Without her call back, we had nothing left to do, but drive up to Vancouver, where we stayed with a long time friend and prepared for embarkation.
Upon embarkation, the lady at the counter (once we got there)...did what she could to help on the above two issues, now three since we were unhappy with the lack of follow up with the NCL supervisor of the call center failing to return our call. TRUST ME...getting through to NCL, or to a human being on the phone is exceptionally painful, with extreme wait times.
We were told that the Customer Service rep on the ship would help us. The great and wonderful lady that tried to help us, did not know the quality of Customer Service rep we would have, as we had zero assistance; follow up; or courtesy. The lady from customer service rep we had was horrendous, rude, and so full of herself and her position, she was not helpful in the least. The lady, refused (and I do mean refused) to put us through to a supervisor, stating she had no superiors, no boss; and the final decisions rested with her. Now that really got my attention, for as a retired Special Forces Officer; and former VP of Opns with a large 6,200 multi national company, I sort of knew better...but yet she stood her ground and would not allow me to speak with anyone else. I finally got someone 48 hrs after I went to the front desk and filled out a comment card - as no one at he front desk would help us....once we got in touch with the Supervisor 48 hrs later, she readjusted our Soda Package (though we only drank 6 sodas the entire trip...it was about principle and attitude.
If was on day 4 when we were told that our Juices for room service was only for breakfast, and we would be charged $2.90 per small glass of juices after breakfast. What a pain. We were charge for 2 sodas, even though we had our Soda Package, as it "meant" fountain drinks only and not canned drinks; as that cans were charged against our room at $2.20 per can... Imagine that...
The overall attitude of customer service was terrible throughout, with the exception of our room steward, Elizabeth, who was simply outstanding. I cannot say enough about her...but she will be a loss to NCL when she retires this year, with over 25 years with NCL.
We finally got a degree of resolution from Niomi (sp), as the supervisor for the front desk, contacted us, and offered up a free dinner at the Stake House (Cagney's). She later send us a complimentary bottle of wine, of which Monica appreciated.
Cagney's was nothing special, as the food was cold when it got to our table, as was the bread. Though Monica and I were dressed...dress for her and coat and tie for me...we were seated in a far corner, and next to an individual that had no dress code, though there were many empty tables...- making it uncomfortable for both parties, us and them.
My wife and I both found the 7 Seas and 4 Seasons both, with better service, better food, and better environment. We found the buffet, adequate, but nothing special. Always over crowded...sightseers using the tables without eating...so, those with food had to sit outside or wait for a table...and one time we got ushered into the sports bar as an overflow...though the non eating sightseer's continued to occupy the tables.
We truly enjoyed our Steward, Elizabeth, as she came to our room, introduced herself, and "took ownership" of her clients. She was nothing short of outstanding and continually when the extra mile in taking care of us and our room. One of the shining stars of the whole NCL crew that worked hard to make our cruise truly pleasant. Elizabeth had 25 years with NCL, and she was retiring this year, and this may be her last cruise. What a wonderful lady, and the saving grace for us, every time we came back on board and we were greeted with her sincere smiles and hugs....what a lady.
The other high point of the cruise was the Spa and Spa manager. Each and every one of the spa personnel were truly outstanding and gave nothing but outstanding services...this was where we spent most of our money...for it was here we "felt" like we were paying for quality service each and every time...and we had not objection to the 18% auto gratuity...in fact we tipped in addition to that. Truly superb leadership and management by the Spa Manager. The whole team was motivated and created an environment that everyone felt welcome. The Spa and the Casino were the happiest places on the ship that we could find.
We were disappointed on some of the shore excursions...as we were told by numerous vendors in each town, that the cruise lines charges for advertisement, an exceptional $100,000 per 5 months, and an additional 15-18% of the sales...driving the prices up, ensuring the costs are passed on to the consumer. Many shops had sighs up that they were family owned and refused to be part of the Cruise Lines advertising and sales program...if was here we found much better service and prices. We made it a point to try to spend our money in the locally owned shops to support the locally owned businesses. We were not disappointed. We laughed over the story of one store manager where he had his sign posted about not supporting the cruise line "extortion" as he called it...and one of the Cruise line marketing came in, grabbed his sign and ran off....they later got their sign back, and an apology.
High pressure sales were common, and when my wife went in to collect her "collectibles" that were free, and we had already spent a semi large sum of money on several times...but the management on two stops of the "Miners" was exceptionally rude and turned away from my wife and left her standing there....when she stated honestly she was not there to buy but for the "collectable coins" that were advertised free in the ships advertisement. It was the employees that came up and apologized and finally give my wife what he came for. Very bad precedence. That helped reinforce the fact we wanted to shop at the locally owned vendors.
The buffet on the 11th deck was adequate, but the employees were basically going through the motions, and very few looked like they were happy to be there. One time in particular, the buffet was being set up, and once set up, one of the employees we preparing to raise the curtains so everyone that was waiting could begin...and was abruptly stopped by one of the senior cooks behind the counter, as they had 10 minutes or so left before they officially opened...SO...the employee stood there...and waited, while the hot food put out, continued to get cold...just so they could open on time vs that small window of opportunity that people could have gone through the line and gotten the hot food.
The overall attitude of the management team was that we were a commodity and not human beings...a lot of formality from training...but very little common sense and sincerity on how to take care of your people.
I listed to many other passengers and spoke to a few and they felt as strongly as I did and were greatly disappointed. Many veterans of many cruise ships told us that NCL was not the standard to judge cruise ships by...and many more recommended Celebrity Cruise Lines as one that really makes you feel as if you are appreciated.
The cruise itself was outstanding....Alaska was everything and more than I had imagined. The local people, once you found them, were warm, honest, sincere...and a true pleasure to be around. It was funny, as my wife and I noticed...when we were on our excursions...our whole attitude changed when we were going back to the ship...as we finally acknowledged we were not coming back to a happy place...we dreaded getting back on the ship with the attitudes we would encounter.
My wife and I are now planning our next cruise, with my Daughter, Son In Law, and two grandchildren...for Alaska...just so they can actually see the last frontier...the wildlife of Seals; Whales, Eagles, Glaciers, and more...but it will not be with NCL.
All of these ill feeling could have been resolved by simple things, such as:
1: Had the management from the call center returned our calls as promised;
2: Had the soda package been resolved (not about the $10 or $20 in sodas we would have spent or cost the company), but about the attitude of how it was / was not handled.
3: Had the customer service rep on board adequately passed up to her supervisor and not become confrontational.
Three things...at almost no cost to NCL would have potentially turned this whole cruise around for us...