This was a 12 day South African cruise we booked early. We were told that we were getting a great price for a this cruise (35%), only to find out many were getting up to 55%. We booked early because it was filling up fast. All lies by NCL. This was not our first cruise with NCL, but our fifth. We use Carnival for many years, but decide to scale down a little from the fun ship. Our past experiences have been good, especially the food and service.
We arrived a day early an enjoyed Cape Town on our own. That day we were to board starting at 4:00 PM, so we took an independent tour an arrived at the cruise terminal at 7:00PM and no one around. We told the terminal people we had just arrived and needed to check in. The boat wasn't to set sail till later the next day. Final we evaded the port people and made it to the gang plank. When we told them no one was at terminal, they seemed surprised, but allow us on board and escorted us to the service desk to check us in. Well a little shaky start but we thought all would be good forward, Nope. We had upgraded to a junior suite and were impressed by the size and balcony. Bathroom was impressive but the shower-tub is very high and hard to get in. The tub is so narrow that most would get stuck in it. We decided to try the food since we were starving. The buffet was OK, but many of standards were poorly prepared and were oddly seasoned. Seems the ship lacks any chefs with American tastes. We always enjoyed desserts, but most were made with some flour substitute and covered with some odd flavor topping. Also missing was the hand scooped ice cream flavor, just so-so soft serve. We booked 8 shore excursions with NCL. This proved to be our biggest disappointment. Because this is a new cruise area for NCL, no reviews were available. Our second excursion was the best at Botleirskot private game reserve. Along it was a little rainy, the tour operator provided nice ponchos and warm blankets. Another nice touch was tea-coffee (on china cups and plates) and biscuits. The 4 x 4 was quite a beast of a machine and the roads were like a roller coaster ride. We were told that they had 4 out of the 5 big game and we would see up close. The guide was great, the 3 lions we right next to our truck and remained there until we went to our next spot. All of the animals were up close and guide was very informative. They had radios to talk to different guides on where they found animals. Last on the list was an elephant herd, but we finally found a small herd near the start. The next day we did the Addo elephant park by 4 x 4. We were convinced to buy two ponchos (plastic bags) from NCL for $6.00. It rained all day and truck had little to no protection and guide could have cared less. This a national park with 600 elephants scattered over many miles in heavy brush. We found out later that seldom are elephants sighted or at such a distance that most binoculars can barely make out an image. NCL should have made us known of this fact. Next day we did another 4 x 4 safari and saw a few elephants at a quarter mile distance and a few other small game closer. We did a trip to a Zulu tribe (really a side attraction with crocodiles and snakes). They did provide a nice tea and a very Zulu interpretive dance. We signed up for a desert tour and a stop at wild horse watering hole. This was a disaster. Two busses with drivers that hardly spoke English. A third small vehicle followed with a guide. We drove 1-1/2 hours each way in silence. When we were at the watering hole, the guide did talk about that area. When asked questions about the area we came from, he said well if you were in my vehicle you we have heard about it. We then asked if he join our bus on the way back, he said no. We talked to a couple that did personal tours about the area and they gave a lot of historical info. We talked to excursion desk on our return and ask for a partial refund. He said, everyone seemed happy coming back on board. He admitted that tour had staffing issues. He said he would reach out to the tour provider and surely follow up with a response. No response, no refund. We know others on the trip complained and got nothing. I would suggest you book your tours on your own, NCL charges too much and is not looking out for you.
More on food, well we ate a Moderno Brazilian Steak house. It was OK, but most meats were too well done. Service was good. Next Cagneys steakhouse, total failure. I ordered the seafood platter. 3 shrimp, 3 shallop, 2 calamari, 1 small piece. All cold, calamari made a perfect rubber eraser, shallop poorly prepared, and unknown piece of fish. They have the nerve to post a $45.00 price. It was a small appetizer. My wife ordered prime rib. She smiled at when they brought out the meals, thinking she made the better choice. She asked for medium, just it was rare. She could cut it with a steak knife without coming off the plate. Moments later a couple next to us got prime rib and a steak. They quickly complained and were told they cook another piece. When they found out ours was no better, they left. If this was really a high end steakhouse they would have been out of business in a month. We also ate at the French resturant and I had a decent steak. We tried the formal dining rooms a few night hoping to have lobster. Don't serve it. The Irish pub has a few decent things such as their wings and sandwiches. I have always enjoyed great food on cruises, this was especially true even on our first cruise with 3 small children in the cheapest inside cabin. The made us feel like royalty. Not so on this cruise, food was a 2 on scale of 10, shame on you NCL. Overall the free drinks, specialty dining all come with so much add-ons I would never take them again. As many say, NCL wants to nickel and dime you to death. The overall mood of the ship people was poor, not the fun ship. Back to Carnival. NCL is going down fast. . ..