I decided to try Norwegian Cruise Line Jade this year (2011)from Barcelona March 18th sailing to Morocco, Canary Islands, Maderia, Malaga, Spain and back to Barcelona. Embarking and disembarking was quick and easy, my cabin was comfortable and clean, cabin staff were all very nice and helpful, the entertainment was quite good for the 9 day cruise. Now I have gotten the plesant part of the cruise out of the way.
Service in the first 3 restaurants I visited was so bad, unfriendly waitstaff, no incentive to take care of you as a guest. I was asked one evening if I wanted a refil for my iced tea when the waiter came to the table, finally, to remove my dessert plate! I asked where were you 20 minutes ago when I wanted some more tea. When he was bringing my main course to the table, I saw him flick something off my plate with his finger, he did not skip a beat, the plate was promptly placed in front of me. In the buffet restaurant the first 2 days, the servers would not allow you to touch the utensils to help yourself, they will 'bark' at you to not touch anything as they will serve you, I did not take to this rebuke lightly, so did many other guests. I was so upset about the service I asked to have a meeting with the restaurant manager. She was very concerned about my complaints, there was a marked improvement by the next day.
Excursion days were something else, we were treated like cattle, hundreds of guests in one area trying to listen and hear where to go to get on their excursion bus. Some many people were complaining. To make you feel more like a commodity than a guest, there were crew members 'hawking' bottles of water at $4.50 each plus a 15% gratuity. It was a shameful display. As a matter of fact, throughout the cruise you are bombarded with the hard sell - for the shops, the specilaity restaurants, the various bars and lounges, you cannot relax at the pool without a server, at least every 15 minutes, asking if you wanted to purchase a cocktail. In your cabin were 2 bottles of water, one would think they were complimentary as there was no sign telling you they were not, if you opened a bottle, like I did because I had to take a pill, you will have a bill waiting for you for $5.25 plus a 15% gratuity. Naturally, I refused to pay that bill. We all bought our bottled water went we were in a port for a fraction of what the ship was charging.
A group of us went on a shore excursion in Agadir, Morocco. It was a hot day. The air on the bus was not working, the PA system was not working, the local guide could hardly speak any English, we could not understand what he was saying, a group of us wanted to return to the ship as this excursion was a waste of time. When we got back to the ship, I had a meeting with the Shore excursion Manager to complain and asked for a refund of the cost of the excursion. I think he was more interested in his commission check than the interests of the guests. He refunded 50% of the cost. I reminded him that NCL sold a product that did not live up to expectation and if he did not give me a 100% refund, I will be contacting the CEO of NCL. I asked him if NCL checked buses and local guides or even send a NCL representative, like other cruise lines, on these excursions for quality control. The next excursion I was on, guess what, a NCL rep was on that bus.
I met individuals from the US, Malta, Australia, Ireland, Holland and they were all a liitle 'put out' at the poor service, the way the cruise line was trying to get as much money out of you and the very tired look of the ship. I thought I was the only one who noticed that when you passed a crew member, even senior crew members, there was no friendly greeting or anything like that, the others all agreed with me, they felt the same way.
A number of us went to guest services the day before the cruise ended and requested that the $12.00 per day gratuity charged to our onboard account be removed. I personally tipped those individuals who I thought provided me with acceptable service.
I did send a letter to the CEO of NCL, Kevin Sheehan, letting him know that the cruise was not an enjoyable experience. I have yet to hear back from him.