Our previous cruising experience involved P&O, Olympus and Celebrity so this was our first exposure to the "freestyle" format. Both my wife and I are quite gregarious so we often chose to dine with other passengers and for us, this was a culturally enriching experience.
This cruise was what I would describe as an "adventure" as opposed to a cruise that focused on relaxation. The ports we visited were excellent from the perspective of anyone who has an interest in the geography and culture of this part of South America. We were fortunate in being able to go ashore at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands as the two previous cruises were unable to do so due to inclement weather and heavy seas. We also enjoyed our stops at Ushuaia, Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt. We participated in organized land tours at Puerto Madryn (to visit a large penguin rookery) Ushuaia and Puerto Montt. These land excursions were well organized and the guides friendly and knowledgeable. These tours were, however, overpriced in the opinion of vitually everyone with whom we communicated.
If you have had any experience with cruising and have any business acumen, you will quickly realize that the "hustle" is on at almost every turn. Almost every activity directed toward the passengers is designed to motivate them to spend more money. This is, of course not unique to NCL but rather a characteristic that has engulfed the entire cruise industry during the past decade.
The food was good and the dining room staff well trained, friendly and extremely courteous. The evening entertaiment program was generally quite good. There was only one act that we considered to be of questionable quality.
The ship's Master, Rune Myre, was a delightful asset to the entire experience. We were surprised to learn that he and his family live about 65 miles from where we live on Vancouver Island.
Several passengers with whom we shared a meal had cruised with NCL previously. The consensus of the majority of these folks was that the quality of NCL service had declined over the past decade.
Rumors were rife throughout the ship that NCL would abandon this itinerary next year. The reasons suggested were unpredictable weather and that NCL was losing money. If economics is the root cause the person(s) responsibe for the company's marketing program could use a lesson in basic economic theory. Clearly they don't understand such concepts as elasticity of demand and price sensitivity. The prices charged for alcoholic beverages can only be described as OUTRAGEOUS. This phenomenon was apparent by observing the small number of people ordering drinks during the traditional "happy hour," during dinner and at the evening floorshows. Seven dollars(U.S.) for a single drink is absurd. One evening at dinner my wife ordered a glass of wine. The price? ($9.20) A full litre of fairly good wine can be purchased in a Buenos Aires or Santiago supermarket for half that amount. This price gouging was obviously unacceptable to hundreds of passengers and reflects badly on the cruise lines' corporate image. It is interesting to note that the duty free store on board the ship is not operated by NCL but rather by a company called Dufry that leases space from NCL. At this store a 40 ounce bottle of Beefeater gin can be purchased for $17.00. Imagine the price NCL could purchase this same bottle for as a high volume purchaser. One can readily discern that by charging $7 per drink the company's mark-up can only be described as obscene.
NCL needs to change some of its policies if it wishes to remain competitive in the cruise ship market. As for this particular voyage, this itinerary provides an opportunity to see some outstanding physical geography and an interesting cultural landscape.
Barry Mayhew, Ph.D email: firstname.lastname@example.org