When we were looking for a cruise to use our two $250 soon to expire future cruise credits, we chose the Getaway September 6th cruise that would be sailing out of Lisbon, which is one of our favorite cities to visit in Europe. Unfortunately, the cruise began with a terrible boarding process for nearly every passenger on the ship except for those who had booked cabins in the "Haven," who were given special treatment once they reached the terminal. We entered the terminal on the left side, which ended up being a lucky choice, as we entered the terminal nearly right away, but those who were trying to enter on the right had to stand in a very, very long line that was mostly in the sun. Some passengers we spoke with told us they were in the line for 4 hours. Everyone was given a time to get to the terminal to board. Our boarding time was 11:30 and we arrived at that time, as directions said we would be turned away if we arrived early. However, no one was checking to see what time anyone arrived. We stood in line for about an hour, winding up a long ramp until we reached the room that was being used to check in at a desk. There was no priority line for those passengers such as ourselves who usually were given quick access due to their Latitudes status, but those passengers in the Haven, regardless of their "status" were whisked through the boarding procedures. I realize Haven passengers pay quite a bit to book the Haven, but we were in a mini-suite, so not the cheapest cabin on board. Nonetheless, most passengers were treated to a somewhat unhealthy and very lengthy boarding process, one that could have landed someone in the hospital due to heat stroke. We know the local cruise port authorities have their own rules, but we also know NCL was aware of the problem, but did nothing to change the procedure prior to the sail date.
In addition to the unacceptable boarding procedure, some of the ports that were chosen for the cruise were either very difficult to find acceptable transportation to anywhere interesting, or the ship was not in the port long enough to allow adequate time to get a nearby city that was close enough to visit and get back to the ship prior to its departure. Two such ports in particular are Le Verdon, that is in the middle of nowhere and has zero transportation from there to anywhere and Zeebrugge, which is primarily a commercial port that also has limited local transportation opportunities other than some cabs that charged 120 euros for a round trip to Bruges. The ship offered limited and overpriced tours to places near both of these ports, such as Bordeaux from Le Verdon, and Bruges from Zeebrugge. Zeebrugge also was a time limited port, as the ship left at 4:30. Le Verdon really needs to be an overnight stop, as getting into the city takes over two hours. We once stopped there with another cruise line that made the port an overnight stop and offered a shuttle into Bordeaux for a reasonable price, which made it possible for us to spend the night at a B&B in the city and enjoy Bordeaux at its loveliest, as the entire city is alight at night. We then also were able to book a local tour to three beautiful old wineries and that dropped us off at the ship at the end of the day. When the ship docked in Rotterdam, at noon, getting to Delft was pretty simple, but would have been better if the ship arrived earlier as we really had to run around Delft to do very much, although we did reserve a 45 minute canal cruise there.
After seeing the shorter times in port, we really wanted to cancel our cruise, but we had asked some relatives to join us on the trip and did not want to disappoint them, as they have not traveled very extensively and were anxious to continue with the cruise plans. We think the people involved in planning the itinerary should go back and change it to allow more time in ports, either by eliminating a port or two or lengthening the cruise from start to finish to allow passengers a decent time to tour.