Below is a letter sent to NCL following our cruise. I have not edited it for this site.
Re: Addendum to comment form, Norwegian Star Panama Canal Cruise
To Whom It May Concern:
I expect that several of the passengers on this cruise have already made their comments, complaints and concerns known to you. I tried to keep a positive attitude throughout this voyage but the difficulty was that it seemed every new passenger I met soon turned the conversation to the deficiencies in the ship rather than the virtues. The overriding problem, as I experienced it, was not with the items that were not up to NCL standards as might have been expected on a maiden voyage, but with the fact that those in charge were not even acknowledging or attempting to address the problems that existed. The general attitude seemed to be that this ship was going from Miami to Honolulu and the people booked on it were rather secondary.
The first sign of trouble was the delayed departure which was blamed on late arriving passengers, when it was obvious that delivery trucks were lined up unloading cargo onto the ship. People didn’t like being misinformed from the very beginning, and were suspicious from then on. “They should have been loading the ship instead of shuttling travel agents,” was a commonly voiced criticism.
The freestyle concept was so foreign to this group of mostly seasoned travelers, that they never got over being turned away from the main dining room the first few nights. The solution that was immediately obvious to almost every passenger after the first night, was on the second night to open all the restaurants without additional charge, and offer an open bar happy hour for the evening. Word of mouth from the “cover charge” restaurant patrons, along with a thorough explanation from the ships management and the mellowing effect of free drinks would have gone a long way towards decreasing the surliness of the passengers. Unfortunately any chance of discussing this with the restaurant manager, Beatrice Moine was out of the question, as nothing but her name was available for comments after the cruise was over. During the cruise, I couldn’t find a “contact us” button anywhere on your web site.
The re-boarding of the ship in Aruba was a disaster. Having one of the ships officers inquire about the well being of the passengers in line after over an hour in the heat, and then blame the situation on the Taliban, didn’t go over very well. Lack of preparation created the problem. By the time I re-boarded security was non-existent. Those doing the processing then seemed like they would rather die than irritate the passengers any further. I walked through the metal detectors carrying a six-pack of canned colas, beeping all the way, and nobody cared.
My concern for NCL extends only as far as the concern NCL appeared to have about their customers on this particular voyage, but I do have some concern for the staff of the ship. The probability of the disenchanted passengers punishing them through the withholding of the automatically deducted tips was high. For the most part, the staff was publicly pleasant right to the end. Privately, I think they felt like management had cut them loose to fend for themselves. Talk of jumping ship in Honolulu was widespread. Here again, with a ship full of seasoned travelers, it probably wasn’t a good time to initiate an unfamiliar tip policy.
I am assuming that by now the ships sound system has been balanced. The music was particularly loud in the Market Place and at the pool. People were actually leaving the pool area in mid-afternoon because of the “rock concert” atmosphere. Complaint calls from the library to the front desk required name and cabin number so a report could be filed.
We presume that the three NCL cruises we had taken prior to this one were before the “Latitudes” program was initiated. It was disappointing to find out that a third of the other passengers had gotten a substantial “previous passenger” shipboard credit, while we got none. I would expect that your future cruise bookings during this trip were probably not very great. However, we did say several times during the trip that we would like to try the Star again in November in Hawaii to see how much everyone had learned since we plan to be over there anyway.
Even with the deficiencies, our cruise was still enjoyable. . I am sure things would have gone smoother if it was the twentieth time for this two-week trip, or even if it was the first of a series; then everyone would have been more inclined to learn from it rather than just get it over with. I hope that the problems mentioned above have been completely fixed by this time, and if not, that my comments will be helpful in doing so
WENDELL J BIAS