First of all, let me tell you a little bit about me. I was a first time cruiser and was traveling with my husband and our 13 month old. Frankly, I am not really into cruises and because we have a baby, we were pretty weary of going on one. But, it was a big family reunion trip, so we thought, what the heck, we would give it a try. Overall, we thought the cruise experience was okay. However, NCL's customer service really stank.
In the beginning, there were a lot of little things that bugged me.
1. We needed an iron but they could not get us one because they were all loaned out.
2. We needed a room service menu because we didn't have one in our cabin (other cabins had them), but, they couldn't get us one because they don't have any extras. I just don't understand why they didn't keep extra room service menus.
3. Certain ones of the housekeeping staff didn't like to get out of the way when we passed them in the narrow hallways, making it difficult for us to get to our room sometimes, especially with a stroller or child carrier. This happened numerous times.
4. The reception desk never answered the phones.
I think these are little annoyances that I could have let go if I didn't have the two really bad experiences below.
Here's what really ticked me off. We had been at sea for three days. On the fourth day, we stopped in Puerto Rico. We were dying to get off the ship especially since there is not much to do for families with very young children. The plan was to have our son take his morning nap and then disembark. It was very important for our son to take his nap because otherwise he would be cranky the entire time and we would need to come back to the ship early so he can nap again. So what happens about 30 minutes into his nap? Extremely loud drilling coming through the floor. I found out from our maid that they're doing maintenance on the floor below us (we were on the 9th floor, the floor below us is where the life boats are hung). To make a long story short, I complained three times about the noise but the issue was never addressed. During one of the complaints, the receptionist argued with me about my request. Needless to say, I was shocked. Isn't the customer always right? As if that wasn't enough, they had the gall to call us in our room two whole days later and asked if the noise was still going on!!! I was amazed that they think we would have lived with the noise for three days and didn't complain about it the last two days.
Another issue we had was with a bartender, who was extremely slow at getting the drinks, then completely skipped me. When I piped up and complained to him. He just ignored me. My husband and I were shocked. My husband then pipes in - the guy ignores him too! Then, when he had finished whatever he was doing, he motions toward me to ask me what drinks I wanted. He never even said a word to me, not to mention apologize for skipping me and then ignoring our comments. NCL - I guess most cruises do this - imposes a mandatory 15% tip on drinks. This is so stupid because I totally would not have given this guy any tip at all. He was lucky I didn't walk off with the drinks unpaid, I was so temped to do so!
I don't think I sound unreasonable in any of the instances above. In fact, during our cruise, we heard many similar stories of their lack of customer service skills. I think it just boils down to the fact that they just don't get it. You know, being nice to people when they're not asking for anything extra is different from being able to provide good customer service. Good service providers should be able to handle ANY customer demands EVEN IF they sound unreasonable. I kept hearing that NCL is one of the better cruises so I expected a lot more. I was so disappointed by the customer service that I don't think I will ever sail NCL again if I ever go on another cruise and I would highly recommend to my friends and family that they DO NOT sail with NCL.
That said, I do have to say that most of the bad experiences above were with the concierges/receptionists. We did receive some good service. Our maid was super hard working. It seemed like she was working 16 hours a day. The restaurant staff was very friendly and helpful. Those people totally deserve the $10 per person per day mandatory gratuity they charge to your room.
Some other thoughts-
No Charge Restaurant: We mostly went to the free restaurants. The Raffles buffet is okay - nothing to write home about. Don't eat any of the desserts, they were flavorless and some even tasted like card board. Stick to ice cream and cookies (which were delicious). The other two free restaurants - Windows and the Garden - have identical menus everyday. They really do try to make the food more gourmet in those restaurants. However, I think in the end, it just tastes like fancy cafeteria food. My steak was overcooked, even though I ordered medium rare. My husband's salmon fillet was chewy (yuck!). My husband ordered duck breast another night, again it was overcooked. Another problem is that they have to bring the cooked food from the kitchen area in covered platters. When you get your food, anything that was supposed to be crispy was soggy. Also, I think the covers trap in extra heat so the food ends up overcooked.
Cover Charge Restaurant: We only went to one place - Teppanyaki. It was the one date night we had when my in-laws babysat for us. This place was actually really good. It wasn't much of a show, but the food was delicious!
Cabin: We stayed in a cabin with a balcony. It was essential for traveling with a baby who has to nap twice a day and has a bedtime of 7:30 every night. We would put our son down to sleep and then step out to the balcony for sunsets and drinks. The only complaint I have here is that there was no refrigerators in the cabins, even though the NCL website promises one in each. Otherwise, it was fine. Small, but if you unpacked and picked up after yourselves, it's fine.
Entertainment: Could not comment on this because our son prevented us from doing very much. We did spend a lot of time in the kiddie pool. They also put some toys in a conference room that wasn't being used for the younger kids to play in.
To sum it up, if you are single, don't really care about customer service and have no special requests, NCL may be fine. But if you are expecting more and or traveling with young children, I would recommend sailing with another cruise line.