My wife had never been on a cruise and my last was with RC so when we chose Norwegian Epic I thought we were making a good decision based on a well-known cruise line, large ship and Western Caribbean itinerary. Overall we were sorely ... Read More
My wife had never been on a cruise and my last was with RC so when we chose Norwegian Epic I thought we were making a good decision based on a well-known cruise line, large ship and Western Caribbean itinerary. Overall we were sorely disappointed but I will try to be objective to help others make decisions for themselves.
1) Relatively new ship, appears to have been commissioned approximately 2010. Larger than most.
2) NCL Cruise consultant was very accommodating and seemed very knowledgeable to the extent we ended up having another couple join us as we were impressed with the cruise consultant and her salesmanship.
3) Balcony cabin was absolutely clean, comfortable and well equipped and met our every expectation. Lots of storage space, under the bed and the couch and the steward readily provided extra hangers and extra chairs for the balcony.
4) Port Canaveral is very close to our winter home in Florida and parking was easy and not overly expensive at $17 per day x 8 days. Secure, covered and convenient if you arrive about 10:30 am before the rush.
5) The 2 shows we attended, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Burn the Floor" were excellent and we would have gone a second time to Priscilla but it was fully booked.
6) Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel were great stops and worth exploring.
7) Breakfast in the TASTE dining room was comfortable usually met expectations without crowds. Dining at Moderno Churrascaria was excellent and the noodle bar was fabulous being very authentic and accommodating (noodle choice).
1) Line ups. Massive line ups and packed elevators at all times. Lunch usually only had the option of the Buffet (pushy line ups) or for sit down service one main restaurant (Taste of Manhattan, never both) and Osheehans where line ups averages 30 min to an hour. On the last day the self-assist meant people brought their luggage on to already crowded elevators resulting in (as both our couples had difficulty walking stairs) inability to get to the Breakfast buffet or to Guest Services. Going to shore was a nightmare of line ups with no real communication as to where you were to go and how many stairs you had to cope with.
2) Pools, although there were three pools the two largest were mainly inaccessible for therapy due to number of children unless you went at 7 am. The adult pool at the aft of the ship was a joke as one stroke was all you could manage to swim from one end to the other. Essentially it was a standing room only “hot tub”(only warm water) without jets. No Aqua fit activities were available at all, despite what our Cruise consultant had said in response to a specific question before we booked. It seems geared entirely to children despite the majority on board being retirees.
3) Cabin had 2 major issues;
a) the so called fridge is not a fridge but a cooler and unless you want to pay mini bar prices regardless of your "Ultimate Beverage Pkg" this cooler has to be cleared so you can use it for your own medications, water etc. It never really gets cold, only cool, so my insulin was at risk all week.
b) The TV is limited to hotel admin channels, 3 news channels, 1 tv series channel and 1 movie channel. Most of our usage was to check our account. Yes, you could purchase movies at $10 each, most of which were of no interest.
4) Meals. Overall the food was disappointing. The couple that accompanied us on this trip were thoroughly unhappy with food that was offered. They are old hands at cruises and expressed that this was one of their most disappointing cruises.
Even on specialty nights the main dishes were so lined up in the buffet that you ended up opting for the same old stuff. The 15th floor buffets seemed to be the main source of food and although there were some occasional pleasant surprises, as a rule it was difficult to find seating and line ups were the norm. The bar here is small that to get a drink (limited selection) is nigh on impossible and only 1 waiter seems to provide table service for the entire area.
The two main dining rooms both shared the same menu every night so that limited your experience. However the inconsistency of the food often provided variety. One night 3 of us ordered the same meal but you would not have known it to look at what arrived.
Of course if you have the specialty dining feature, which is limited to 3 meals only during the week and requires reservations, you can get some other choices. Cagney’s Steak House was fully booked for the entire week by almost sailing time on the first day. We managed one specialty dining room at 5:15 pm but the other two were both after 8 pm and later in the week. Not much of an option when availability is so limited.
La Cucina was ok, but the menu disappointing in its variety. Le Bistro was also limited although good escargots and they were so long bringing desert we gave up and left.
We noted the instructions to get to Le Bistro said 14th deck but actually the main entrance is off of 15 and down a flight of stairs. On 14 you have to walk a long way from the elevators, past cabins, and enter through the kitchen (wheelchair entrance).
As to O'Sheehan's, the touted 24 hour restaurant, it is located in the middle of the casino where smoking is allowed and although we tried several times, especially during lunch hours we were never able to get seated in a reasonable amount of time for meals and when we did get seated in non- peak hours service was non-existent.
5) Entertainment; although the two shows we saw were excellent the top billed show was roughly $50 per person extra.
6) General comments;
a) There was no garbage disposal anywhere except in your room, in the public washrooms or on deck 15 by the pools. This means if you have garbage you must either find a washroom to dispose of it or carry it with you or as many do, leave it lying around.
b) Other than on the elevators themselves there is virtually no signage to indicate the deck number you are on. This is especially frustrating when you are forced to take the stairs as the elevators are overcrowded such as returning from shore.
c) Staff training; on several occasions we had contact with guest services or management and each time their initial response was defensive or argumentative. Almost at no time did anyone in authority acknowledge that the customer may be right or provide a positive customer experience. On one occasion, despite my having already been assisted by two other staff, a casino manager, “Adam”, assured me I was wrong about certain machines not working and being unable to dispense tokens. On another occasion I had to escalate my concern to the 4th level of management before that senior officer acknowledged my concern was valid and provided us with the amenity we needed which probably had a total cost of only $15. I would have saved 45 minutes, stress and argument if the first guest services employee had been empowered to look after a customer in the first place.
d) Communication: Most communication was confusing, and barely audible. On several Occasions during disembarkation, the deck we were told to go to was not actually the deck by which you disembarked and we had to navigate many stairs without being forewarned, which as I said earlier, caused difficulties. Staff directing people were curt and demanding and appeared to make decisions without regard to passenger’s capabilities or disabilities.
7) Ultimate Beverage Package. This implies a different definition of the word “ultimate” for a passenger than for NCL. Be aware that although you can drink as many glasses of wine, beer, fountain drinks as you want (under $15 each) it does not include bottled water, bottles of wine, cans of soda or your mini bar, all of which are available at an additional cost. So if you prefer bottled water to take your pills or brush your teeth your only choice is drink from the bathroom tap (?), get a glass of filtered water from a bar or lounge and walk it all the way back to your cabin, or pay extra for bottles of water (415 for 6 bottles)to be delivered when the steward remembers.
8) Shore excursions; forget about the trinkets that “Jake” offers. In most cases the stores are out of them or they just are not worth the hassle and dealing with the sales people. In two cases we were told to go to other (sister) stores, quite a walk away, if we wanted them. Go for the ambience and the taste of the island. Also communication about changes to itinerary especially with respect to costs and distance involved when the ship cannot anchor in the normal port are not clearly communicated. In Grand Cayman weather did not permit our ship and another from anchoring at the normal location and the alternate only could handle 1 shuttle from each cruise ship at a time (long lines and waits)and required we take a bus (at extra cost) for 15 minutes into town. The busses would not move until fully loaded whether coming or going, meaning you had wait times of over 30 minutes sometimes sitting on a crowded uncomfortable bus.
9) Cleanliness; although every time you approached any dining area you were greeted and your hands were sprayed with disinfectant we noticed that staff cleaning tables did not have much in the way of cloths or spray to do so. We watched as one fellow wiped down a table with a small cloth no bigger than his hand, drop it on the floor and then continue to use it on the next table. He had no bottle or bucket to rinse it with. On an elevator we watched as one father encouraged his small child to learn numbers by pressing the buttons for passengers, of course this was between the child picking his nose at the time. Never saw anyone wiping clean the elevator controls all week. We recommend carrying your own sterile wipes to use before touching surfaces.
Recommendations to NCL:
1) In the buffet area provide signs for table saying “Occupied” or “Coming right Back” so that no one has to stay and guard their table or food while the others get their food. Often we did not eat at the same time as after one got their food (waiting in lines) the other then had to get theirs and wait in lines resulting in eating 10 to 15 minutes apart. Not a pleasant dining experience. Staff were too efficient, often clearing away drinks and plates we were not finished with because we may have got up to find something briefly. Once their hands on your plate you are loathe to ask them to set it down again so you can finish as now it may be contaminated by whatever they picked up before.
2) When dealing with customer issues my 40 years of experience in this role is to always greet the customer with “what is it that would resolve this to your satisfaction?” This immediately disarms their anger and stress and allows them to express their expectations, usually in a very reasonable manner, because they have not been further aggravated or made defensive. Knowing the customer’s expectation enlightens the guest services staff and the solution is often much less than what the Guest Service agent may have expected and they can offer resolution much more readily. This prevents arguments in front of other customers and creates good will which is far cheaper to help retain customers than having to spend money on advertising for new customers who probably have already heard negative news, which spreads faster than any advertising would.
3) Focus on customer perspective when initiating processes, rules or policies. Learn a little about “Lean Management” which teaches us that organisations generally design processes to suit the organisation rather than the customer which leads ultimately to the demise of the organisation. Organisations like NCL appear to be focussed more on what they want to sell rather than on what is it the customer wants to purchase. The best example is using the term “Ultimate” to describe their Beverage Package which in the customer’s eyes is far from ultimate.
4) Have each NCL Co. Director travel incognito once a year in an economy class status on their own ships for a cruise selected at random. The resulting awareness should have obvious impact on future offerings to passengers.
5) Never argue with a passenger, customer or client, even if you are convinced you are right, in the long run you will lose! Confrontation only adds stress and increases the negative aspects of the trip.
6) People are trained to read Headlines! Fine print is dead. If there is an important piece of information your passenger must have make sure you put it out there in bold clear language. If it isn’t worth making the effort than it isn’t important for your customer. To use the phrase, “that was in the e-documents “ doesn’t make a customer’s experience any better.
What we learned for future cruises;
1) Although you think arriving early would have benefits the reality is that the only benefit we perceived was with parking. Early arrivals have to cope with long lines and waiting after check in at 11 for boarding to start around 12 noon, then lining up to board in groups, then waiting in the buffet area for you room to be ready (approx. 2 pm) then waiting for your luggage to be delivered by (8pm latest). People, who arrived after about 1 pm registered, boarded, lunched and were in their rooms almost with no wait at all.
2) There are advantages you may not be aware of on arrival if you have not cruised before. Immediately register for your special meals and entertainment, “DO NOT WAIT”. This is unfortunate as you have no time to weigh the pros and cons of timing or sequence for your overall week but it is a reality that this ship, at least, cannot accommodate everyone when they would like. Check out duty free on board immediately the first night!
3) We packed our on disinfectants and vinyl gloves and were glad we did.
4) This was a special event for us and costly. To us it was a combination of our birthdays, our anniversary and our Christmas gifts to each other. Being retired, our budget only allowed this one extravagance yet the experience left us telling our friends and neighbours that we do not know why we wasted so much money on such a poor experience. After her first cruise my wife is adamant that she will never cruise again! Read Less