We were on the doomed cruise from Dubai, 2nd March to Cape Town. Advertised and highly promoted as the cruise of a lifetime, visiting UAE, Muscat, Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion Island and several stops in South Africa. Yes definitely a trip of a lifetime.
This was our13th cruise with NCL - was this a sign already? We had heard via our roll call that Madagascar had been removed with an extra stop in the Seychelles instead - great but Madagascar was one of the selling points for us - we had no confirmation from NCL or our TA so don't know why. Obviously speculation was rife with no one knowing why.
We then heard that a Princess ship had had problems at Reunion Island on March 1st with the police having to use tear gas after tour buses were pelted with stones. It also reported that the Sun Princess had been refused entry to Madagascar on 13th February - the day before NCL announce no Madagascar for us, so both these incidents before we had even boarded.
Nothing was said on board about change of itinerary, just the usual pushing of tours. We had the visits to Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Muscat with time changes but no explanations.
On the first sea day we had our M&G with fellow passengers and officers and the Captain - yes - the Captain- he did exist. He spoke a bit then gave the mike to Armando, the General Manager, and left. Armando introduced all the staff and made sure we knew who to contact or by all means stop and talk to whilst on board - he should be a comedian - they were harder to find than Where's Wally when it hit the fan!! Armando then opened the floor to questions, a lady wanted to thank everyone on board for all they were doing to make sure the ship was clean and healthy for us us and that was well received by everyone. I then raised my hand ... I did say it was not a criticism in any way but the elephant in the room .... Madagascar, I explained that we do not and still dont know why it was removed from the itinerary - can I ask why .. the reply... 'we don't know, it came from head office' and that was it, he just shut me down and went on to the next question. You're not telling me that the Hotel Manager had not been told the reason.... but then that seems to be how the rest of the cruise went on so why should we be surprised.
Before arrival at the Seychelles we went through the farce of having our temperatures taken, forms filled in, picking our passports up to go ashore and then surprise surprise they wont let us dock - but we can have 25% cash back and FCC off future cruise oh and $200 non refundable per cabin - is that the port taxes and charges we paid CASH for that we didn't visit and haven't been refunded yet?
A memo from NCL dated 13th March was sent to the passengers who were staying on for the next cruise to say it was cancelled and what they were being offered. It also said 'Guests on voyages that are underway will conclude and guests will be disembarked as soon as possible and assisted with travel arrangements' bearing in mind this was dated 13th March, so why, as far as we were concerned, still going to Reunion & Mauritius from the 14th. We were then told we're not going to Reunion or Mauritius, now going straight to Cape Town, another letter delivered to our cabins with another money back and FCC offer and that we're docking in Cape Town on 22nd - this was always our arrival date so what happened to 'disembarking as soon as possible' and let's not even go there with the 'assistance with travel arrangements' really dont know if this was a cruise of a lifetime or a cruise of a different joke every day- if it was a film you wouldn't believe it.
So many things were so wrong, so many questions unanswered.
• Where was the Captain and the rest of his 'Officers' when you couldn't get near Reception desk - where were they hiding?
• Why had we been bobbing round the Indian Ocean at a snail's pace then suddenly he hit the pedal hard, especially in the rough seas? ... did hear that was what caused the damage in Spinnakers, we also heard an almighty crash at 3 a.m.
• Why was there no communication about what was happening? The lack of communication from start to beginning was disgraceful!
• Why couldn't you get a straight answer?
• They had the perfect opportunity at the Latitudes party to address some of the questions but the Captain couldn't even be bothered turning up for that ... he was busy ... doing what?? Oh I know - measuring the depth of the water - because that's all he ever told us on his midday talk and then just in case we never heard it, Alvin the CD would repeat it all.
• Why had we run out of supplies so early in the cruise but they could waste so much food by serving it cold. We went for breakfast in the buffet at 11, I had 2 poached eggs, cold, so I took them back, an officer asked what was wrong, I explained they were cold, he tapped his watch and said what do you expect coming this time ... it 11.15 by this time, I just stood there dumbfounded, he took them off me and I went for more toast and 2 more eggs that he had ordered for me, got back to my seat .. they had steam coming off them, cut into them - cold, all the 'chef's had done was take 2 already poached eggs out of the bain marie, dropped them in boiling water and straight onto my toast. The officer walked past me and looked, I just said that it was a waste of time and food was still cold, again, he tapped his watch and said it is nearly closing and I came down late, I explained I had to wait to be served tea, toast then the eggs so not exactly late late ... thought this was Freestyle, he was standing over me arguing/telling me off, great example for the rest of the crew to see. My husband was raging and put a complaint in to Armando, who answered with a letter saying F&B Manager will be in touch to ensure it was 'a cruise to remember' - yep - still waiting.
• The fiasco of getting flight information off us - who puts letters outside cabins when most people are either out or asleep in their cabins asking for flight details and saying they had to be at reception by 10 a.m. next morning - the stress and anguish this caused some people was totally unnecessary. The letter had an extra paragraph stating passengers would need to have flights out of Cape Town on the 22nd, the day of arrival. The ship had offered 1 hour free internet and a time limited phone call as their assistance for onward travel. We received an e-mail from our TA informing us firstly that NCL had told them not to make any changes to our flights, then a second e-mail to tell us they were re-booking our flights. A third e-mail arrived with new flights details attached, the internet was so poor the attachment could not be opened.
• Then told labels would be distributed and luggage out by midnight. My husband went back to our cabin at 10 p.m. labels still not there, we eventually got them at 11.15p.m. after joining the queue at reception for people waiting to pick up their labels. Got back to our cabin, labels were there, totally different colour & time to what we had been given - you couldn't write this!
• But the biggest question .... why did we sail when NCL knew there were problems in Seychelles, and Reunion Island putting us all in potential danger from angry residents
• I personally don't think NCL have done themselves any favours by letting this cruise go ahead, no amount of PR is going to get them out of the way they carried on.
• Bad decisions - Bad management - Bad Leadership from Head Office - Bad Leadership by the Ship's Senior Staff
Would I have been disappointed if they had cancelled this cruise? - yes but at least I wouldn't have known how bad they were handling a situation or treating their customers.
Would I sail with them again? - I honestly don't know, we have cruise credits but just dont know.
I know there are a lot of die hard NCL Cruisers out there who have already booked to go on similar itineraries for next year and that is entirely their right but I dont see where NCL have earned my loyalty on this occasion to contemplate going so soon. Whilst we were on the cruise we never heard once from NCL but we had emails from Princess & P&O letting us know as valued customers, what was happening with their cruises and the future and thank you for bearing with us - wasn't much to some but meant more than anything NCL did - they could learn a lot from Princess.
On a positive note - the crew were AMAZING
Cabin was ok but cramped.
Service marked as average but service from all crew was excellent. Service from Customer services and officers was dreadful. Need to go on leadership and how to deal with customers courses