Be very cautious of booking embarkation from Miami if you are physically challenged. NCL is completely unprepared to accommodate in an expeditious and caring way for anyone who is challenged. There were 5 wheel chairs to accommodate approximately (by my count) 75-100 "guests" in need of wheel chairs for embarkation. It was no secret to the company that they were to be prepared to handle the situation. Their manifest is duly noted of "special needs" guests. I had to speak with 6 different individuals before any appropriate action was taken and that was only because I was in total "melt down" and was bellowing about the incompetence and uncaring non-chalant manner in which they were treating those guests in need of special accommodation. It was brutal!!! When my bellowing did produce results, my partner was placed in a wheel chair and we were whisked through security to registration like we were at the Indy 500. Upon arrival at the registration desk we were asked for our credit cards. Don't most couples generally travel using one card to cover their on board account? Oh, I forgot, we're two men traveling together. Then the security pictures were taken. I asked the registration personnel if my picture looked contemptuous. She responded "Yes. Why do you feel that way?" I went on to explain the humiliation which we had experienced by being ignored and how insulting it was to our intelligence for people to give lame excuses for non-performance,i.e, "You have to understand that the wheel chairs have to be cleared by Customs". I began crying and then she realized how serious the situation was. She then said "How did you get here? You belong in the VIP lounge for embarkation." She (Carmen Acevedo) was the heroine of the day and did NCL a magnificent CYA. Once she realized how serious the situation was, she abandoned her station and assured us that she would remain with us until we were ready to embark. She was absolutely terrific and a very compassionate human being!...and that she did!
Whatever is going on between NCL and the Port of Miami is very detrimental for the "guests".
Once we were given the "ok" for boarding, we were speedily pushed up the ramps. En route we saw a gentleman assisting his wife who was in a wheel chair. Her chair began to pitch forward and there were 2 crew members very nearby who did nothing to come to their assistance. If it hadn't been for other passengers preventing her from toppling out of her chair, she and several other people would have been seriously injured, the chair would have catapulted downward taking several other passengers with it. When I later addressed that issue I was told "You have to understand that our crew members are not able to assist until the passengers are on-board the ship. My question was and remains: "Where does compassion enter the equation?" Answer: IT DOESN'T!
Needless to say we were off to a good start. NOT.
We were taken to Cagney's for lunch and the staff was most attentive and caring. The luncheon was wonderful. Our concierge came by our table to apologize for the embarkation debacle. I accepted her apology but asked her to put herself in our position and to seriously consider how she, personally, would feel.
We were in suite 12530 which is SUPERB! Especially for the Panama Canal crossing. After arriving at our suite our butler introduced himself and assisted in helping us to settle in.
Once calmed down, I telephoned guest services (more appropriately known as a typo proved in the daily press "guess services". I lodged my complaint and was told that it would be forwarded to Miami Corporate. I asked to see a printed copy of what was going to be transmitted and was told that I couldn't see it because it was "an internal document". I reminded them "but they are MY statements and I want to make certain that the statements of facts are reported exactly as explained to you. Again the response was "micro chipped response" - "Sir, I've explained to you that it is now an internal document and we cannot reveal internal documents." ["Can't" or "Won't"?]
On day 1 I realized there was no stationary in the room. I requested some so that, among other things, I could write a formal complaint. (I received a mini note pad on day 5.) Stationary was forthcoming on Day 7. My formal complaints up to that date were written on the reverse of itinerary pages and forwarded through the concierge to "management". (It took 3 days for a hand written letter to make it up to management.)
During the evening of Day 1 we were strolling through Market Cafe between 10:30-10:45. I stopped and inquired of the Maitre d' of the Cafe where we could obtain ice cream. Ivan Volek is an imposing figure and has an attitude of arrogance and acerbic delivery of lines. "There is no ice cream at this hour!" My response - "Doesn't bode well for a 5 star hotel. Good night." Of course that got written up as did Ivan and, to his credit, he asked to apologize personally one evening while we were dining in La Cucina. (I had already had a one-on-one with the Restaurant Manager who assured me that the matter would be handled...and it was.)
Day 3: The cheery Captain's announcement: "There's been a slight mistake. There was an error in the calculation of time zones and instead of arriving in Roatan at 7:00 a.m., we'll be arriving at 9:00 a.m. My apologies and have a nice day. D**n! People had been up since before 5 a.m.
Day 4: Raining in port. Partner had wheel chair assistance to dockside and there we stood in the pouring down rain while at least 16 affiliated personnel stood opposite us covering themselves with umbrellas. I asked our attendant what to do and he instructed me to go back on board and get ponchos. (Now there's a bulb that needs to be changed). Seems to me that one would have thought to stop before disembarking to get ponchos rather than just rolling us off the ship and depositing us in a parking lot.(or-wouldn't it be nice for $.01 cost ponchos be supplied in rooms to guests?0 Anyway, drenched I arrived back onboard and they wanted to charge me $3.00 per poncho! The concierge saw me and said "Mr. P" Don't worry, you'll not have to pay for them you can still take your excursion." My response was "My partner has been left like a potted palm in pouring down rain in the middle of a parking lot. How in the world could one enjoy a shore excursion having been soaked to the bone?"
Guest Services called later in the day to see if we were back on board. They wanted know our birth dates and country of origin. I KID YOU NOT!!! I asked the caller to please remove their micro chip and put a real person on the line. I know, I'm not kind.
And don't forget "Mystery Theater Dinner". Spectacular chaos. The attendees were not informed properly. The reservations simply stated "Spinnaker". The reality was that we were all to assemble in that room and once teams were composed, we would be taken to Aqua for dinner. What a mess! Spinnaker was overbooked with shows back-to-back. Diners waiting in the corridors, pushing and shoving for seats in a packed house and no one was in charge. I went, along with several other guests, to Restaurant Services to get an explanation. The staff member at Restaurant Services didn't have a clue. She merely looked at the day roster and repeated what we all had read. We all tried to convince her that her information was incorrect but she insisted that she was right. I proceeded back to the lounge and encountered the concierge and gave her a "heads up...you're walking into utter chaos!" "Thanks, Mr.P."
Ok. If you've been brave enough and have read enough negativity, please know that the crew members, in general, are REMARKABLE!!!! They do everything within their power to make certain that you have an enjoyable time. Alas, management stands in the way and doesn't get the message and they wonder why NCL is in financial trouble?!
Debarkation in LA took SEVERAL hours. Oh, those poor folks who had early flights!
I don't know how the crew could have made accommodations for the arrival of guests for the overnight cruise.
But, believe it or not, we did have a good time due to the close relationships we built with crew and other guests.
Thanks for reading and I certainly hope this helps someone from falling unknowingly into Harms' Way.