The handling of the above cruise by NCL and the treatment of the passengers was wholly abysmal.
This was not caused by one or two issues but a series of poor decisions, communication failures, and what can not be explained away by anything but corporate greed.
This all started with the news that the Corona Virus was impacting travel to Southeast Asia. Many airlines and cruise companies were allowing passengers to cancel or make changes without penalty due to the concerns raised by the virus. NCL was a glaring exception. Guests who made similar requests to NCL prior to the cruise were advised that there would be no refund or credit if we were to cancel.
NCL did send an email stating that no passengers who visited China in the previous 30 days would be allowed to board and would receive a full refund. A second email advised that passengers who transited through Hong Kong and certain other cities in the last 15 days would not be allowed to board.
The miscommunications started before we even left. Some received an email the date of departure advising us of an itinerary change before we made it to the terminal, but many did not find out until checking-in and some not even at check-in. The email that I received stated that we would no longer disembark in Hong Kong and instead, we would be journeying back to Singapore. Further that due to the change of the extended trip back to Singapore, we would no longer be docking in Halong Bay (Hanoi). As two of the main destinations which led vacationers to choose this cruise it was a major change. NCL offered to reimburse “reasonable charges for airfare changes, a 10% refund of the price of the cruise and 25% off a future cruise as compensation. Again, we were advised that that was the only option, we could not cancel. Reluctantly we scrambled at the last minute to contact our airline, changed our departure home from Hong Kong to Singapore (at a cost of over $600 per ticket) and boarded the boat, my friends and I included. We also had to cancel private tours we had arranged in Hong Kong and Hanoi, as well as our hotel rooms in Hong Kong.
Despite the warning in the February 5th email that passengers who transited through Hong Kong would not be allowed to board, walking through security and going through the boarding process, I found it interesting that my passport was never checked nor was I asked if I transited through the prohibited cities . Another lapse on NCL’s part.
Our first day was at sea. During that day NCL made several announcements asking passengers who transited through Hong Kong or one of the other prohibited cities to come to Guest Relations. Later the announcements were extended to also include crew members who so transited. Query: If on the day of departure you notified us that such passengers would not be allowed on board, how were they now on board? In hindsight I realize that those visa checks were now happening, after the fact.
Upon arriving at our first port, Laem Chabang, all was fine. My friends and I had hired a taxi and stayed overnight in Bangkok. However, on return we learned, that over 100 passengers were detained on exiting the ship, and taken to a holding room. They were advised that Vietnam would not allow the ship to call at its ports if any of the passengers or crew had transited through Hong Kong or the other prohibited cities. They were given the option to stay, in which case the ship would not stop in Vietnam, or “voluntarily” leave and receive a full refund. They had no choice but to leave. Needless to say the ship was abuzz with concern and rumors. Unsettling is the least severe way to describe the feelings at that point. Not a way to spend our vacation.
The next day we had a day at sea before heading to Saigon. During that day the Captain announced, without explanation, that the order of the ports in Vietnam were being reversed. Instead of stopping the next day in Saigon (the closest port) we would instead sail to Da Nang (the furthest remaining port after the cancellation of Hong Kong and Hanoi). Again no explanation. Again those of us with private tours in the three ports, had to scramble via email and WhatsApp to change the tours. Why did I have to spend so much time on my vacation making changes to plans that I booked months ago? Not the way I wanted to spend my time on board. Once again this decision would prove to be another error on NCL’s part. If Vietnam was not going to let the ship dock, why go to the furthest port instead of the closest one? The only possible answer is that NCL knew that there would be problems with docking in Vietnam, in which case we should have been given the option to get off in Bangkok and get a full refund. NCL’s decision to proceed in this manner and without communication of the situation can only be seen as corporate greed: keep us on board, don’t give us any options, keep our money.
Yet we awaited our vacation in Vietnam. After all this was an 11 day Vietnam cruise and we would at least see three of the 4 Vietnam ports promised. The night before we were advised that we would dock at 7:00am and we were given exit cards for Vietnam.
Waking up on the day of our first Vietnam port, Chan May, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise but no land in sight. It was 6:30 and we were to dock at 7:00am...where was the land. Something was not right. I scrambled to the TV channel which displayed the boats navigation details to see the boat had completely turned around; we were heading South and we were south of Da Nang. NCL should have effectively communicated what was happening. I called our concierge (who seemed to know everything) but was told that the Captain had not advised them of anything. Clearly a lie as the Concierge was not at the preferred disembarkment area at the predetermined time. Instead, 7 am (our docking time) quickly passed, next the tour meeting times passed, still no land in sight. It took until 10 am for the Captain to come on the intercom and read a legal-department approved message; verbatim from the document we later received describing that Vietnam closed their ports to cruise ships. We would no longer be stopping in any of those 4 planned ports. Our compensation: NCL would reimburse “reasonable charges for airfare changes, a 10% refund of the price of the cruise and an increase to 50% off a future cruise. Pretty unreasonable for an 11 day Vietnam cruise that never stops in Vietnam. From that point on the remainder of the “holiday” was far from it. With our extra days at sea and 5 missing ports, the exceptional vacation experience quickly disappeared. Unanticipated activities had to be scheduled and continually repeated, and the lack of pre-planning was visible. The crew themselves were visibly stressed by the change in schedule and the additional work placed on them. The passengers became distressed, worried, and aggravated. The series of itinerary changes and removal of passengers led to many of those final sea days being spent concerned that Singapore would not allow us to dock in their port.
The cabin was nice and large (aft facing penthouse ) but when the ship was stopped the diesel fumes were bad even in the room with the door closed.
The food at the buffet was good, typical NCL but there were two very off nights when the food was bad. OSHeehans was very good as is Cagneys. THe food in the asian restaurant (other than the sushi) was inedible.
The common areas are very good.
The entertainmant was poor but likely because we missed so many ports that they were unable to change the entertainers so it got repetitive.
Norwegian Cruise Lines owes the passengers and crew of the Norwegian Jade an apology and a full refund. Not only because of the changes required due to the Coronavirus but because of poor decisions making which lead to the ship stopping in only two of the original 7 ports, none of which were in Vietnam and the terrible lack of communication ensuring an environment conducive more of mutiny than of fun.
In all aspects of this situation, NCL has acted with reckless disregard for their passengers and completely failed to provide what was promised: an 11 day Vietnam cruise.
The cabin was great except for the fact that when the ship is stopped you smell the exhaust fumes.
I can assure you that no NCL officer has visited this port in the last two years. If one had, it would not be on the itinerary. If you look at TripAdvisor or any of the other travel sites, you will see the disgust and low ratings afforded to this port and the activities. NCL's own lecturer on the cruise ship advised there is a huge amount of construction of Chinese resorts and casinos making the port unpleasant. Passengers who booked tours there through NCL received a notice that they may want to cancel their tour as they will likely not enjoy the port due to the situation there. Even without the construction, the port has nothing to offer. The market is bad and unsanitary. The beaches have refuse and excrement and construction debris. The national park is devoid of wildlife (and according to TripAdvisor have been so for quite a while because of the construction). On disembarking NCL offered a shuttle to the port gate. The shuttle was an old bus with open windows and no door. Once we got on the bus, at least a dozen tuk-tuk drivers jumped through the windows and door and started harassing the passengers to buy tours. While this often happens to some degree at every port, this was particularly awful and you were surrounded by mobs of tuk tuk drivers who did not understand the word “no.” While NCL has no control over what happens once leaving the ship, the fact that you would include such a port (and not warn passengers as part of the booking) is more evidence of your lack of concern.
nice to see once. bagkok very far from the port. very big city and other than the temples and river, very much like any other big crowded city. very good food.