Marco Polo Cruise Review by Louis Calden
This was touted as a very special event with many great surprise features, as it was the final voyage of a former (before NCL bought the line) great ship. Having been on the Marco Polo prior to and after the NCL takeover, I witnessed the accelerating deterioration of ambiance and quality. In summary, most of the passengers on this cruise were former enthusiastic Marco Polo repeaters. All had noticed the same deterioration of quality that I did. I spoke directly to about 50 of the 700+ passengers who were as convinced as I was that they would never again set foot on an NCL ship. There was not one among these experienced cruisers who did not believe that NCL management had an awful disregard for their customers and were only concerned with bilking them. I overheard many people saying this in addition to the ones that I directly spoke to. It started with the people at NCL who booked the flights. We were a party of six, 3 adults and 3 children. They initially booked us on separate flights and had the children flying alone. It took a concerted effort by our TA to straighten this out. Even so, it was poorly done. They scheduled us to fly from Lisbon (debarkation point) to Heathrow (sitting for 5 hours) then to Miami (another 5 hour layover) and then ultimately to Tampa. We arrived in Tampa at midnight. This despite available flights from Lisbon direct to the USA (Newark) which had direct flights to Tampa. During the voyage, they continually ran out of different kinds of food, starting with fruit, then vegetables and much more. Like many lines there was a high priced Internet service. Their router had bandwidth limitations, so if there were several simultaneous users, some would get cut off. This made it difficult and at times impossible to send lengthy attachments or photos. The Internet manager knew little about computers or data transmission and tried to cover up by giving nonsensical explanations. We lost Internet use for 4 days and the ship personnel tried to tell us that there was no satellite coverage at the Equator. Imagine if this fairy tale were true, we were sailing Northeast and no communication for 4 days. Just how wide do they believe the Equator to be? Their Internet service software was designed to keep everything slow, as it was full of time consuming steps such as; right after log on they had a screen which tried to sell you more time. You had to say "no" before you could get anywhere. The Pursers office had 4 people that interfaced with the passengers. Two were nasty, the other 2 tried to help but were limited by management. For example, early on many people including me received a curt note from the Purser threatening to cut off our charge privileges if we did not go to them immediately and sign a credit card slip. Since I had done so earlier I went to find out what the problem was. After a bit of harangue and snide remarks by the Pursers staff they finally admitted that there was a stack of signed credit card slips that they had not yet entered into the computer system. The Filipino restaurant staff were great. They maintained their humor, quality standards and human warmth, even though the too were victimized by NCL management. Many of the people had been with the ship for 15 or more years, and of those who were offered positions with NCL after this final voyage; were offered a step down in position and pay and on very poor routes. The Marco Polo was on a continuous trip around the world and NCL was placing them on ships that commuted from the US East coast to the Caribbean for very short cruises. In summary, NCL managed to convince us to NEVER go on another NCL ship. We all had the impression that all NCL was trying to do was to extract money from us. They continually tried to mislead us and told us outrageous excuses for poor service.
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