Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by rosapink
- Sail Date: February 2016
- Destination: Canary Islands
- Cabin Type: Balcony
We were a group of 4, both husbands have Parkinsons, one uses a rollator(walking frame on wheels) and the other is wheelchair bound. My husband and I have been on many cruises, usually about 2 per year,but it was the first cruise our friends had ever taken so I wanted to make sure it would be a good experience.
I made many enquiries before booking the cruise to ensure that it would be suitable.
We had enjoyed a cruise on Jade some years ago, the only problem being the queue for dinner so I was pleased that we were able to make table reservations beforehand to avoid this problem. Buffet service is very difficult for us so I asked if a waiter service restaurant (complimentary) would be available every lunch time, and was told YES.
Mobility in the mornings is very limited for people with Parkinsons so it was good that complimentary room service was available for breakfast.The all inclusive arrangement sounded an excellent option and it was a great advantage to be allocated accessible state rooms. So we were all looking forward to a relaxing holiday in comfortably adapted cabins, enjoying fine dining and trying various cocktails in one of the many bars.
How different was the reality.
1)Firstly the state rooms; they were well adapted and spacious, but no table to eat on and only 1 chair. How were we ( or anyone with mobility issues ) supposed to eat this complimentary breakfast? We asked our room steward but he looked dubious and, knowing the limited powers of room stewards, I rang Tamara in Guest services and indeed an extra chair and suitable table eventually appeared.
But that should be standard in an accessible room.
2)The bars; on the first evening we found seats in The Maltings and enjoyed a cocktail before dinner. But we subsequently realised that was because people were still embarking/unpacking. Apart from that evening we were never able to find 4 seats together, especially negotiating a wheelchair and rollator between the packed seating arrangements. So our friends gave up trying to join us in a bar before or after dinner. My husband and I managed a few times to get seats in Atrium and Bliss, but such a long way from our cabin and certainly not the relaxing quality time with friends.
-waiter service restaurants were NOT open on Port days, contrary to what we had been told. Twice the comparative calm of a buffet in Moderno was available but mostly we had to face the rugby scrum of the Garden Cafe. Yes there were helpful staff who tried to find us a quiet table, and we eventually discovered that there were waiters to fetch drinks for us, but it was far from the elegant lunch experience we had anticipated.
-We decided to stay on board at the first port ( Tunisia)to enjoy a less crowded ship.What we failed to realise was that the ship itself closed down. We found comfortable seats in Shakers only to find that it was closed... as were all the other bars!
The only place open was the Garden Cafe and Snacks, what a disappointment! We thought about ordering room service for lunch but that would have incurred charges and, more important, our little table was too small for us all to eat together.
-We decided to get off at Lanzarote so checked with Excursion desk the arrangements for accessing the town. We were told that wheelchair accessible shuttle buses would be available for $15 per person. So we got ready to go ashore, found the correct elevators and gangway with great difficulty, and waited for the shuttle. But it was NOT wheel chair accessible .... except that the chair could have been put in the luggage hold if our friend could have climbed onto the bus . But he cannot walk. So we had to get back on board the ship and endure the Garden Cafe again.
-We were told the same story at Las Palmas, but again no wheelchair access bus. This time I managed to find a Port official who spoke sufficient English to understand our problem. He was kind enough to call a large taxi who was able to convey us all + chair to town centre.
4) On Deck; again difficult to find seats. We liked the back deck and by accident discovered a disabled lift between decks 15/16/17 BUT it wasn't working.
We tried it a few days later and it worked but the cafe/bar was closed. My husband and I tried again when it was open BUT GOT STUCK IN THE LIFT. We were there for 15 mins and were so shaken by the experience we didn't feel like staying there or trying it again.
5) Dinner with Officer; we were all very pleased to receive this invitation and looked forward to discussing life on board from an "insider". We arrived promptly but rather surprised that we all had to wait in a line for quite some time. Our "officer" was in fact a cosmetic consultant from the Spa, a charming lady but not quite what we had expected. The other young couple at our table spoke little/no English so conversation was laboured. The bistro type chairs were very small, hard and uncomfortable. If those are normal chairs for Spiegel Tent I'm glad we didn't book dinner there. So another slightly disappointing evening, BUT the food and service was excellent.
6) Illness; the final blow was falling ill. I contracted a respiratory infection for which I saw the Doctor on March 3 and spent the rest of the cruise feeling very unwell. Luckily my husband was not affected but our friends came down with a stomach upset on March 4 so just kept to their cabin and drank boiled water.
-The disabled elevator for decks 15/16/17 didn't work.
-There are no instructions to operate the doors in Disabled Restrooms. One evening my husband needed to go to the toilet before the Burn the Floor show and we couldn't get out!We couldn't work out the correct sequence of pressing buttons and panic set in. We eventually got out but weren't allowed to go to the show. We booked for another night but that was the night I was ill so we never managed to see this wonderful show.
-The aft lifts did not go to Deck 5 so to access Taste or Atrium we had to go to deck 7 walk the length of the ship to forwd lifts go down to deck 5 and walk all the way back to aft. Then repeat the process to return.
-There were no clear instructions on which lifts to use to reach the gangway in Port.
This is most frustrating when you are pushing wheelchair/ rollator.
-There were designated Disabled seats in Garden Cafe but these were always full
In conclusion the ship is badly designed AND land based staff do not give the correct information and/or are insufficiently knowledgeable.
The public lounge and bar areas are woefully inadequate to cope with the volume of people. We were so disappointed not to be able to listen to the music in the Cavern, or acts in Headliners but we could never get in. We had to avoid Deck 6 as it presented such a problem to get through the whole area.
We felt that as disabled passengers, we were discriminated from participating in much that the ship had to offer and from enjoying the package we had paid for.
We had been looking forward to experiencing all the bars and eating areas so publicised in the Ship's information but most were either closed or overcrowded.
I have only once before been ill on a cruise and that was when we docked at Istanbul and it could have been something I ate ashore. There were a great many people suffering from illness on this cruise and I am convinced it is due to overcrowding, too many people breathing the same air and spreading infection.
BUT it was not all bad!
I would like to say that the food and service in Manhatton and Taste were excellent.
Our room steward Renato was a gem.
The shows we did manage to see were first rate.
I have sent this full report to NCL in the hope that they can make some improvements to make the cruise experience less fraught for future disabled passengers.
I will let you know if we get any reaction
250,000+ people have entered their email