Recently my wife and I decided to book a 7-day cruise aboard NCL's Spirit from New Orleans to Costa Maya, Belize, Roatan, and Cozumel. Well as luck would have it the cruise departure was delayed by 2 days. Now after arriving home and taking a week or so to sort out my feeling and thoughts I am now prepared to review the trip.
Booking the cruise out of New Orleans was the most logical for us as we were given a substantial discount by Harrah's Casino due to their player's card program. For us the NCL cruise was cheaper in price for a suite than other cruise lines window rooms this coupled with 6 free nights at the Astor Place on Bourbon and Canal made this a clear cut winner in our book.
Upon booking our cruise, the cruise specialist was helpful and friendly. She answered all my questions quickly and professionally. I had researched the cruise a little before speaking with her about booking, and asked about drink packages and shore excursions. She booked the drink packages at the same time as the reservations and even offered to have a birthday cake delivered to our room for my wife during the cruise. My wife and I were excited!
Later that evening my wife and I decided to book our shore excursions online through the NCL site. The site seemed easy enough and descriptions ample to allow for booking exciting activities during the port visits. The next day after booking my shore excursions I received a phone call from a gentleman at NCL explaining to me I needed to pay for my shore excursions or they would not allow me to board the ship if my balance was not taken care of before the sailing date. After verifying he was an actual employee and not some scammer I advised him I would check with my bank to see if it was a problem on my end. Upon checking with my bank I was told the computer flagged my account as a possible duplicate charge since my wife and I were doing the same activities the totals charged were the same. After clearing that up I called NCL and advised them of what happened with my bank. This time the lady I spoke with was very understanding and explained this had happened many times before.
Arriving in New Orleans, we checked in on 8-28 and planned our fun week of sightseeing and shopping. 9-3 our emergency contacts and we received a message concerning our sailing departure date. We closely monitored NCL's home page and the Facebook page for updates. Over the course of the next few days when calling into the NCL home office in Miami we received very little information or options about our trip. One such phone call upon asking what was NCL going to do to rectify the loss of the 2 days I was told by a NCL representative guess a 5-day cruise is better than nothing since you didn't buy the travel insurance. Well folks most of the travel insurance I see only covers added expense of rooms and meals or travel related expenses. I was fortunate not to have incurred any additional room expense due to my casino host at Harrah's. On the Facebook NCL page, I posted a comment about the rudeness and lack of help I was getting from NCL's office thinking perhaps someone from the company who is charged with monitoring the page would clarify or address the situation. I was dead wrong. Apparently, the people who monitor the page are even ruder than the person I had spoken with on the phone earlier. They addressed rude comments to others and me who had anything remotely negative to say about the situation. My simple question once word tricked down that we were to be given onboard ship credit for the 2 days missed and any shore excursions, if we did not use all the onboard credit would it be refunded to our source of payment.
Tuesday 9-6 boarding day finally. My wife and I decided to try to make the best of our shortened cruise with NCL. As expected check in was crowded due to most people having arrived a few days before but everything flowed smoothly for the most part. Once on board the ship we made our way to our room and noticed we did not have the stickers or refillable drinking cups, which come with prepaid drink package. We went down to the guest services desk and were told they could not see anywhere in the system where we had purchased the package. I pulled up the email conformation on my phone, which was from their office and was told they needed it printed out that I could have just made that up on my phone. After being accused of making up a $50 drink, package bogus email on NCL letterhead from the same representative I booked the whole cruise with I called my booking representative and asked for assistance. She emailed me and the cruise services an additional email on company letterhead stating the package had been prepaid for all persons in the party. The cruise service desk upon my return stated they could not find that email. I asked them to call the representative directly at their office and speak with her to confirm it. Finally, someone agreed to do this. An onboard service desk rep called and received confirmation that I was telling the truth and my documents were valid. I was then shocked when I was told I would have to agree to purchase another set of drink packages until they could find and print the email, this by the person who just got off the phone with the booking agent at NCL Miami.
Finally the ship has set sail, the rooms were comfortable and decent sized for a ship. Our cabin persons were very nice and kept everything neat and fresh in our room. We ate usually in the dining rooms or Le Bistro for supper and only used the buffet for snacks during the day. The wait staff was friendly although a little too zealous at times with the washy washy spray.
Costa Maya we went ashore with the plan to rent a golf cart and drive to the village to shop, eat and relax on the beach. This went off without a problem and allowed for lots of fun. It was also a lot cheaper than the paid shore excursions. Golf cart bartered down to $40 for all day, lunch and a few drinks on the beach $20 and shopping is a lot cheaper than right at the dock of course.
Cozumel we rented a Jeep to drive around the island on our own for $49 plus $17 unlimited gas. We made a nice drive around the island looking at the Mayan Ruins $7 entry fee finally stopped at a beach resort where for $50 per person we had a private cabana unlimited food and drinks plus snorkeling, swim up pool bar, jet skis, secured parking and storage lockers. There are many resorts like this offering a wide range of activities and prices.
On the day at sea I decided to check on my onboard credit, missed shore excursions, and drink card situation. The drink cards situation was rectified other than the fact I was not given credit back for the 2 days missed. The drink package is a per day charge so therefore I should have been credited 2 for each person but that didn't happen. Missed shore excursions, somewhere it was decided to credit the original form of payment instead of shipboard credit so as of this writing I have requested everyday via phone to be refunded my shore excursion charges. I have finally been given a request number after a week of calling and the promise it should show up within 60 business days. This from the same company who called me quickly to demand I pay them for the same shore excursion because my bankcard was protecting me from what the computer detected as potential fraud. Therefore, at the end of the cruise NCL charged my credit card $103 for my onboard charges while owing me over $200 for shore excursions and drink package days.
Now my take on how NCL should have handled the situation. First I cannot blame them for the weather, however if sailing during hurricane season is so risky why do they not have a better back up plan in place? I felt passengers should have been given the option to move their cruise dates to a different location or time while paying any additional cost if they so choose to take that option. In addition, if passengers elected to follow through with the shortened 5-day cruise more than just 2 days' worth of fees should have been credited since other cruise lines were offering the same cruise we ended up with at a much lower fare. Lastly I did enjoy my 2 days onshore but I feel my trip was incomplete without the other 2 ports therefore I believe NCL should consider offering a large discount either price or onboard credit to entice passengers who missed out on those 2 ports if they wished to return on the same cruise within a set time frame. Lastly, I had a representative from NCL call me last week wanting to know if I was ready to book another 7-day cruise with them. They seemed a little perplexed when I stated I was still waiting on my first 7-day cruise myself. At this time I cannot highly recommend NCL as a cruise choice for customer service and satisfaction, I can simply state once onboard other than my drink package problem everyone was kind, courteous, and helpful. I feel the shipboard staff overall go over and beyond what their duties are, while others with the company are certainly more concerned with the bottom line profit loss statement. My question is this, has anyone from NCL thought about how much the 2000 people aboard Spirit for that sailing who have spoken negatively to the handling of the situation cost them overall? Short-term gain long-term loss, enough said!