This was to be the cruise of a lifetime but now it will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Even before we embarked, the itinerary had been changed. It was only when I contacted a tour company in Madagascar that I found out that Madagascar had been taken off the itinerary. No communication from NCL, though they were quick enough to send communications about booking tours!
Little did we know as we sailed from Dubai that passengers on another cruise ship were being attacked by locals on Reunion Island as a result of fears of Covid-19. By the time Norwegian Spirit sailed for Abu Dhabi, NCL management should have been aware of this and the deteriorating situation along the line of our itinerary.
Within a few days, we were already running out of wine and draft beer.
A few days more and other provisions began to disappear - muesli, butter, milk, orange juice, pineapple juice, salads, fresh fruit, chicken, fresh vegetables. We wondered how this could happen so early on in a trip.
Later, staff scavenged mini bars to supplement the disappearing wines. Food from other restaurants on the ship was requisitioned for the main eateries. The published menus grew shorter each day as the cruise developed with clearly adapted dishes being added to make up for the lack of fare.
Meanwhile, all remaining destinations were dropped from the itinerary. Little to no information was given by the captain, who seemed happier to tell us the depth of the sea and the wind speed than what was happening to our cruise. He might as well have been an imaginary figure as he was never spotted round the ship. In fact, he didn’t even turn up to the cocktail party for repeat cruisers. Perhaps he knew what reception he would face?
Guest services was just as bad as the captain in giving information. They refused to answer questions, obfuscated, and were downright disrespectful at times.
Bar and restaurant staff were great, however, doing their best to make up for the rapidly deteriorating cruise experience.
By the time we reached our final destination of Cape Town, we just wanted to be off the ship.
By this time, passengers had taken matters into their own hands, holding meetings by nationality and contacting senators, MPs and other officials in their own countries.
We were allowed into Cape Town harbour but not off the ship until we could be bussed directly to the airport. More NCL-created confusion followed as misleading information was issued at times too late to take action.
Some people were left at Cape Town airport for an entire day till their flight took off. Some were told at the last minute to pack and get off the ship and bussed directly from the ship to the back of the airport without going through immigration and health controls. Others took three days to get back to the UK, on three different flights and to the wrong destination airport.
We have been greatly let down by NCL.
NCL knew Madagascar was closed to cruise ships from 13th February.
Their risk assessment team will have warned them about the deteriorating situation worldwide as a result of COVID-19 and the effect this was having on the ports on the cruise itinerary of Norwegian Spirit.
This intelligence that should have led them to cancel the cruise.
It looks as if Norwegian may have been involved in a major deception in order to cheat the passengers of Norwegian Spirit cruise of 2nd March 2020 – the day that a riot against cruise passengers took place on Reunion Island, something that had been brewing for some time. They would have known that future cruises would be cancelled and would have wanted to hang on to the monies that we had already paid.
Norwegian did not meet the planned itinerary on eight separate occasions.
Further, as stated above, there were severe and obvious shortages of provisions, meaning that in addition to the itinerary being curtailed, the other aspects of the cruise that we contracted from NCL were not delivered – salads, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, cereals, milk, the published menu, draft beer, numerous wines, etc, etc - everything that might reasonably be expected on a cruise of this nature, price and reputation.
In other words, NCL failed to deliver what they advertised.
It was not COVID-19 that ruined our holiday. It was NCL who failed to cancel the trip when it was clear that it could not be delivered as advertised and then went on to make a bad situation worse.
We have been offered a 50% refund by NCL. This is laughable. The cruise should never have gone ahead. The stress created, and added to, by NCL merits a 100% refund and additional recompense to make up for the stress that NCL created.
It seems that Norwegian Cruise Lines and their new CEO find it difficult to learn lessons.
So, I will never sail with this cruise line again.
Excellent recently refurbished cabin. A bit small but very comfortable. Excellent having a separate shower. Spent quite a bit of time in the cabin as most of the ports of call were cancelled.