I have been on previous repositioning Epic cruises. My cousin traveled with me and she has been on 9 repositioning Epic cruises at this same time of year. It seemed like a sure thing....BUT surprise! This cruise was a nightmare from start to finish!
Embarkation was a nightmare. We are both disabled and the embarkation staff didn't know what to do with us. Then my cousin was asking for a wheelchair and she waited 3 hours for one. People were still boarding the ship during the lifeboat drill. Epic tried to blame this mess on the immigration staff, but they were the ones responsible for getting wheelchairs and helping disabled passengers through the line and they were non existent! The cruise only went downhill from there.
As a disabled cruiser, I have always found NCL accommodating and helpful. Not this time! Hallways were exceptionally cluttered and impossible to navigate. Elevators were packed (with only 8 total elevators and 4000 passengers). Staff from those in the theater to excursions knew nothing and treated us rudely. There are many examples of this...while waiting for our excursion in the theater, one poor lady was begging for a chair and in pain. A crew member herded us in the corner and no one helped her, despite my efforts on her behalf! They never gave us instructions and we all finally left the ship on our own, found our way through the terminal and to the buses, no help from NCL at all! Our first excursion was a bus to the "city" for sightseeing and shopping. It ended on a 4 lane highway, a mile from the cathedral and no shops in sight. I returned to the ship via a different bus and had to retrieve my own walker from under the bus! Second excursion was no better. No one at all to help disabled people at entrance to theater, and we went on our own to find bus again. This is after battling elevators for 20 minutes. The tour was labeled activity level 1, minimal activity. Actually it involved a brisk 45 min.walking tour over a mile and included steps. With other passengers helping on steps, I managed, but my cousin had to sit and wait for us. The one good part was the shore excursion manager, Catalina...she refunded the first trip and half of the second, then personally looked out for us at the buses for the remainder of the trip. She was having quite the time training her new staff!
Shows in the theater on deck 6 had a roped off seating area marked disabled for us. But no staff to move the rope and heavy stand. Our first show in the theater a crew member berated an elderly couple and said they couldn't sit there because they weren't in a wheelchair...they were very clearly unable to navigate steps! The rest of the trip crew stayed away, and healthy young people (not part of a disabled person's party) took over the area! Finally, I booked an excursion and asked the crew member if I was allowed to use my walker, showing him that the tour description said no wheelchairs due to space limitations. He glibly said sure that should be fine, but days later I got a call from the manager that I couldn't go on the tour. Totally disorganized, and with the exception on the wonderful manager, uncaring!
The ship was filled to capacity and was as noisy as a school cafeteria in the atrium and dining areas. I couldn't attend many functions that didn't require reservations, despite early arrivals...just no space anywhere. It was like being a sardine in a can with screeching dolphins! Supposedly the ship was not filling up and since it was their first debarkation in Puerto Rico, they pushed deals there. 3200 Puerto Ricans came onboard, packing us to capacity. Most were large groups of celebrating families and friends, raising the noise level to intolerable levels. Let me tell you, I tolerate a lot of noise, as a former elementary teacher, but this was unreal!! I tried 3 times before I could squeeze into the cavern club for their Beatle group. Packed to the brim, even then. The entertainment for such a long cruise was pretty good, I will say. Different musicians, hypnotist, comedy, magic, etc. Nice variety. The standards were Priscilla and Burn the Floor. Those required tickets ahead of time. The first Priscilla was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Speaking of mechanical problems, the midship escalator was broken the first few days, which only added to the crowded elevators!
Many crew were new to the ship and confused. Service was spotty everywhere, even in specialty restaurants. Food was inconsistent, not cooked to order, cold, someone else's order, you name it! Not what you'd expect for all of the extra fees. Oh, speaking of food, I had to order room service on my first night! I couldn't get in an elevator despite 45 min. of trying. They didn't charge me the service charge for the order, but it was a disappointment for my first night onboard.
Communication was poor. NCL seems to only care about making money at this point. Phones flashed messages with ads for purchasing trip credits, attending functions, shopping, money, money, money! I felt it was an invasion of privacy. The ship announcements by the captain were difficult to understand due to his accent and impossible to hear from the dining room or atrium due to noise levels. On our last night we were delayed in port with police boats at our bow and stern for 6 hours! No announcements were made and passengers got quite concerned.
Now for the medical situation...a letter was issued at embarkation saying that the norovirus had been present on the last cruise and they were disinfecting the ship. If anyone wanted to cancel their cruise, they would receive credit for a future cruise. OK, here is the issue...I was not told of this notice, only reading it after boarding the ship. Plus, I had traveled overnight for many hours, flying to Barcelona. Still, I might have elected to not travel if I had known before boarding. I definitely would have not gone if they had been courteous enough to notify me before I left home. With a serious heart problem and upcoming surgery it would have not been worth the risk. Naturally, they didn't tell us a day before because they would lose money! Now it gets interesting...onboard there were many sick passengers, some with norovirus, some with upper respiratory issues. Coughing was heard all over the ship. I was afraid to breathe!
Norovirus patients were confined to cabins and given free medical care, not the others. My cousin was perfectly healthy upon arrival, but a week into the cruise she fell victim to the respiratory illness. Her trip to the sickbay netted her a bill of $2500, which was even more for her in Canadian dollars. Sure, she has insurance, but this bill had to be paid before disembarking and now she has to go through the insurance headache. AND the dr. visit didn't help. She was wheezing and having difficulty breathing the rest of the time. Getting a wheelchair to disembark was only available by traveling to the cavern club and began a 8 am, but her bus left at 7:45. Front desk replied, That's our policy. Sheesh! Some compassion, NCL! I hope you appreciate all the money passengers spent on medical care this trip!
Debarkation in Puerto Rico was a disaster. 3 large ships in port, and no room in the terminal. After part of the first group headed for early flight departures had disembarked, they halted all disembarkation for 3 hours. It ended with free alcohol on deck 5 to compensate. Just what they needed with everyone packed on that deck, shoulder to shoulder, sprawled all over the floor, waiting to get to deck 4 to get off the ship. Drunk passengers should help that situation a lot...way to go NCL! I stayed on deck 15 with the patient, quiet few!
Overall, if this is the new normal for NCL I will part ways with them gladly. Cruising has always been a joy, but I was never so glad to be back on land and at home. I did send NCL a poor review and asked for management to respond to me. We will see. My cousin had already booked the same cruise for next year, but says now she will cancel. It is such a shame. Cruising NCL at one time was a delight. Now I guess only the Haven passengers can expect a good cruise. Before you say anything, my hubby and I were in the Haven twice and loved it, but also have had many other wonderful cruises on lower decks! I am not a grumpy passenger and have never posted a poor review. Shame on you, NCL for this horrendous trip!
Cabin carpet very worn and holes throughout. Refurbishment soon? Wonderful large covered balcony, only issue, smokers on balcony next door, cough, cough. Comfy bed after steward, Borgy, added extra padding...thank you, Borgy! Nice location to watch port departures and arrivals, sunrises and see pilot boats. Far from the elevators, but you need to walk off your food anyway lol!
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