My husband and I are seasoned travelers but have only taken three cruises all with competitors (Carnival, Princess and Cunard) prior to booking this cruise. We were attracted to this cruise because of our desire to experience a transatlantic cruise, the specific itinerary and the fact that it debarked in New Orleans. Their “free style” sales pitch also seemed to resonate with our travel philosophy and so we booked our cruise in April, 2018. Unfortunately, our experiences both before and during this cruise made me question NCL's commitment to customer service.
* Technical problems associated with setting up 'My NCL account” Two phone calls and one hour later technical support was finally able to establish the online account..
* Purchased a 4 dining package through 'My NCL account”; set up all reservations the same day; mysteriously 3 of the 4 were auto deleted except the Cirque Dreams perhaps because I had to attach my credit card to complete this particular reservation. Was told I must have done something wrong and would have to rebook the other 3 on the ship even though I had a copy of the "Payment Statement" generated at the time I had made one of the Le Bistro reservations.
*Pre-purchased Thermal Spa passes which was one of the saving graces of our NCL cruise experience.
* Problems with having my NCL's Shareholder Benefit posting to "My NCL account”.requiring multiple email and followup calls before begin resolved.
During the cruise, I realized this is the attitude which permeates NCL's business model, no one is ever responsible for taking on an issue and ensuring that it is resolved; they simply dump it back on their guest.
We wanted to use the Group Chat functionality of their Mobile App so shortly after boarding I headed to the Internet Café area in the Atrium and stood in line to purchase. Niether the clerk nor the Manager could provide the cost of this product even though their website sited a one time flat fee of $9.95 per phone. Finally after an additional nearly 30 minutes wait the Manager confirmed that I was indeed correct. This was a nice feature which worked well.
* Long lines at complimentary dining options, ate at Taste and Savor for breakfast and lunch several times each time wait staff was incapable of providing ordered items without having to request multiple times before the correct food or drinks were served. Taste staff seemed to be even less capable than Savor staff. First breakfast eaten at Taste ordered Eggs Benedict which came with “complimentary” egg shells included!
* Tropicana food was consistent and wait staff was much better. The efficiency of the dining room was amazing and all staff there should be acknowledged.
* Compliments should also be given to Garden Café staff for quickly turning tables.
* Also hostess, “Abby” at Le Bistro was outstanding and very easy to work with; any request made of her was always accommodated and she always greeted us warmly anywhere she saw us on the ship.
* As others have noted during our crossing, the ship ran out of many food items, not to be considered luxury items.
Premium Beverage Package
* We selected the Premium Beverage Package and for the most part were pleased with this selection except for the very limited selection of wines which were offered with this option.
* Also, the wine list consisted of wines which were not even available on the cruise!
* Atrium seating is so limited to make it next to impossible to enjoy anything.
* To say the entertainment provided by Cruise Director, Vincent and his staff was “cheesy” is to be quite generous.
* The requirement to “reserve” seats at most “major” talent performances is also laughable. In order to get a good seat one must get in line one hour prior to a performance as there are really no “reserved seats” instead just a “reserved number of people”. That said, Burn the Floor and Million Dollar Quartet were very enjoyable performances.
* When I visited with the Guest Services’ staff about an issue I hoped could be resolved in Bermuda, I was told that we weren’t going to Bermuda on this cruise. I inquired if the itinerary had changed and was told “no, we were never scheduled to go to Bermuda.” I had to explain to the Guest Services agent that Royal Naval Dockyard was indeed located in the country of Bermuda just as stated in their itinerary.
*On day 10 of the cruise we missed our planned stop at Ponta Delgada due to weather. (Our Captain and his staff were extremely capable and took good care of the ship and all souls onboard.) When I inquired at Guest Services if the port fees would be reimbursed to us as a credit to our credit card or added as an onboard credit, I was advised they did not know if any reimbursement would be issued and it was something “headquarters” was looking into but we would be informed. At no time were we advised, but out of the blue sure enough two small non-refundable onboard credits appeared on our account without any explanation.
* The interactive TV account information overview and detailed statement are not well presented and confusing, I had to have a calculator in order to ascertain the correctness of the statement detail.
Lines, lines and more lines
* English Immigration officials: someone on the Hotel Manager’s staff decided all the guests would be called by Deck and would be corralled into the inside seating area of La Cucina to have our “face to face meeting with English Immigration”. While in line, many prior Latitude guests complained saying on previous cruises this was done in the main dining room which because of its size allowed guests to simply queue through the dining room with no standing endlessly in line.
* All aboard at Portland, England was a nightmare of standing in an endless line in the cold and rain outside the cruise terminal for over an hour.
* Our port stop at Great Stirrup Cay was a joke. First, Cruise Director, Vincent announced that guests had to book a tender reservation. Cruise Director Vincent said this reservation could be done on “your interactive TV”; in fact there was no ability to do so.
Also NCL logistics staff decided to allow the "Sun" to also dock the same day and time. There were 2 tenders to transport the nearly 6400 guests from these two ships! By the time we arrived at 1 p.m. on the island all we could do was run to the buffet line before it closed it at 2 p.m. then scramble to the edge of the island and grab a lounge chair to catch a few rays of sun before we had to make our way back to re-board a tender.
* Our last port stop, Miami: We had gotten wind that nearly 200 Florida residents decided they were going to debark in Miami instead of proceeding to New Orleans. In fact the number ended up being even greater. As this was our first U.S. port entrance, everyone crew and guest had to present themselves to CBP staff. In the Hotel Manager’s infinite wisdom, guests were only allowed to present themselves when their deck was called. We did not clear Immigration until 11 a.m. with an all aboard time of 1:30 p.m. The ship agent and the Hotel Manager should have met with the CBP chief to establish a better way to accomplish the task. Because the all aboard time in Miami was 1:30 p.m. we returned to the terminal at 12:45 p.m. only to stand in line outside in the terminal in excess of a half hour in the heat.
Once inside the terminal we learned that the last of the guests had not been processed by CBP until after 1 p.m. but boarding had still not been announced. There was no communication with the guests who were sitting and standing everywhere including on the floor and the stairs we were simply handed a boarding group number. When it was time to board, the first ones called were Haven guests followed by Platinum and Platinum Plus guests. The roar of disgust from those holding Group 1, 2, etc. was the result of a total lack of communication. This discontent could have been averted had there been announcements giving an update on when boarding was anticipated and the order of boarding had been shared with the guests. We entered the ship after 1:30 p.m. and of course, lunch service was already completed by that time; no matter that not all guests were aboard.
And now to the nightmare of debarking in New Orleans. There was a total lack of understanding of the type of resources needed to handle the disembarking of nearly 4000 guests and all their luggage from a 19 day transatlantic fall cruise. The number of porters, the number of taxi drivers, and the number of buses needed was totally underestimated. The anger of the debarking guests was not only palatable but also vocal. Two and a half hours after we were to vacate our staterooms, we finally made our way out of the terminal to a taxi, but this “swift” exit was only because we had paid a porter who led us to the front of the taxi line. Our last cruise impression was of a madhouse of travel weary folks schlepping through the terminal with their luggage.
Such a shame because this cruise could have been such a great experience.
As you can see there were things which I had problems with but we enjoyed the “free style” flexibility and many like-minded guests who convinced us that this was not indicative of their former NCL experiences. So therefore, we booked another transatlantic cruise (not anytime soon) but on the April 11, 2021 San Juan to Barcelona again, the itinerary was an important element of this choice. We were also told that the weather is generally better on spring TA crossings, fingers crossed.
Ports and Shore Excursions
Copenhagen: stayed at Absalon Hotel for 3 nights; great hotel in a superb location; purchased the Copehagen Card good value used for Hop On/Hop Off bus, canal cruise tour, entrance to Tivoli and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Great food at Frk. Barners Kælder, Paté Paté, Restaurant Kronborg and Cafe Gammeltorv for smørrebrød, the Danish open faced sandwiches.
Rotterdam: walked across the Erasmusbrug bridge. There is a Waterbus stop next to the Spido boat tours at the bottom of the Erasmus Bridge. Took the Waterbus to Kinderdijk, a World Heritage site with 19 windmills dating from the 18th century. Took the Cruiser boat tour of the canal then walked along the canal and visited one of the windmills.
Southampton: met extended family and spent day in medieval city of Winchester.
Le Harve: took the shuttle from port to city center and caught the Bee Le Harve Honfleur Tour. The old harbor is lined with 16th- to 18th-century townhouses. Nearby is 15th-century St. Catherine's Church, a vaulted timber structure erected by shipbuilders.
Portland: took shuttle to Weymouth where we picked up a lorry (taxi) for the day - would highly recommend lorry driver Barney. He can be reached at 07740360090. He took us to the highlights along the Jurassic coast. Spectacular sights.
Cobh: Took taxi to Jameson Distillery Midleton for tour and whiskey tasting. Fun and enjoyable Reception staff called for a taxi for our return to ship.
Miami: took a taxi to HistoryMiami Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate. Nice museum suggested by the CBP officer due to the fact we only had 2 hours to explore Miami.
* Prior to boarding the ship, I had requested an “egg crate” foam mattress pad be added to the bed in our stateroom. Upon arrival on the ship I checked and nothing extra had been added to our bedding. It took a third request before I was able to have a foam mattress pad added. This cured my sore back problem for the remainder of the cruise. Vishal was an excellent room steward who provided tireless, friendly service.
* The “balcony” we paid for is surely someone’s idea of laughable as it is minuscule and nothing like any of NCL's competitors’ balconies.
*Bathroom and stateroom storage were above average.