We booked a cruise from Dubai to Cape Town on the Norwegian Spirit because it had an interesting itinerary but, after just 3 stops, we ended up with 16 consecutive days at sea.
During embarkation we were disappointed to learn that the stop at Nosy Be, Madagascar, had been cancelled but an alternative call at La Digue, Seychelles was scheduled. A few days later, stops at the Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion were also cancelled and passengers were then informed that excursions to Richards Bay and Port Elizabeth, in South Africa, had also been cancelled. NCL clearly knew that we would not be stopping but did not have the decency to admit it.
Throughout the cruise, the Captain and Cruise Director, Alvin, remained in hiding and Alvin was only ever seen after show time in the theatre. Alvin’s announcements were clear, unlike the Captain, but contained no relevant information until we eventually started to dock at Cape Town.
Communication was abysmal with no announcements to inform passengers that ports were being closed and we had to rely upon gossip and the occasional randomly distributed note to discover what was happening.
It soon became evident that insufficient provisions had been taken on board initially and basic items, like fruit juice and vegetables started to run out after just a few days.
We had paid £250 each for a Premium Drinks Package but most dry white wines and various spirits had run out after 4 or 5 days. Food in the speciality restaurants was excellent initially but we had an abysmal meal in Cagney’s towards the end of the cruise. Cagney’s is supposed to be a steak house but had no decent steak or vegetables left.
After a few days, service in Windows restaurant had deteriorated to the point where it took 1½ to 2 hours for a mediocre meal, so we were obliged to use the busy Garden Café buffet instead. Protections against the Coronavirus clearly contributed to delays but the waiters were going around empty handed. Service in the cramped Taste restaurant was better than Windows.
The refurbished ship looked good, apart from signs of work still in progress and ongoing plumbing issues. However, part of the ceiling in the Spinnaker lounge collapsed resulting in overcrowding elsewhere for several days, whilst major repairs were in progress. Our tiny inside cabin (10067) was extremely noisy, with constant banging from the adjacent service area throughout the night. This may be due to the ship’s age but is totally unacceptable and should have been investigated.
Fortunately, there were no infected passengers on board, after 16 days of isolation at sea. It was, therefore, an absolute disgrace for NCL to take us to the airport 7 hours before our flight, which exposed everybody travelling to an avoidable and unacceptable risk. Clearly NCL has total disregard for passenger safety, which was also evident from their shambolic emergency drill on the open deck.
NCL initially credited each cabin with 200 USD on board credit and later promised a 50% refund, which has yet to materialize. NCL’s offer of 75% off a future cruise, which is currently conditional upon starting the cruise before 2 March 2021, is a worthless gesture as passengers are still likely to be at risk. A window of at least 2 years would seem more reasonable for any passengers still willing to travel with NCL.
We had cruised with NCL back in 2002 and said “never again” but gave them a second chance, as we liked the itinerary. Having enjoyed many cruises with Princess since then, we felt NCL’s entertainment and speciality dining was excellent but in all other respects, including food, Princess Cruises is so much better.
To finish on a positive note, we would like to thank the cheerful, hard-working crew who are, presumably, still stuck on board and compliment the resident entertainers for some excellent shows.
Cabin 10067 was a standard inside cabin on deck 10. It can sleep 2, 3 or 4 people but even with 2 it is very cramped. Both folding beds were constantly in the way and cabin was the smallest we have ever had. Refurbished bathroom was small but good with a decent sized shower. AC worked well but cabin was very noisy at night due to adjacent service area and age of the ship.
Worth spending a few days here before or after a cruise. It is easy to get around by metro and reasonably priced taxis. The Dubai Mall, by the Burj Khalifa, has a good aquarium, fountains and an ice rink. The gold and spice souks and historic area are interesting as is the Frame. The Dubai Marina Mall is a good place to eat in the evening. Ski Dubai, an indoor ski slope, is inside the Mall of Emirates. Metro stops are some distance from the attractions. Too early for us to visit Expo 2020 or the Bluewaters Island project with its huge new Ain Dubai wheel.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is spectacular and well worth a visit. Unusually, it is open to visitors, entry is free and it can be reached using the number 44 bus. Allow plenty of time and dress appropriately.
Muscat, Oman - Was Port 4
A pleasant port with an interesting fish market and several souks. The Grand Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world and the complex is mostly open to non-Muslim visitors. The Swarovski crystal chandelier, the largest hand-made Persian carpet in the world and the marble panelling are “must see” items. It is open to the public from 9 until 11 am (not noon), Mondays through Thursdays. Taxi accepted USD and waited for our return at the mosque.
Ship not allowed to dock.