While I've never been on the POA, and my motivation for being on this board is to check out new concepts in cruising and how they are going, it seems that one problem here is too many guests for the size of the crew, as it actually is. If, as others report, the ship has carried 2000 guests with a crew of only about 500, that equals a passenger to crew ratio off 4 to 1. That's way too high by my experience. If this ship had the full crew of 850, this would equal a passenger to crew ratio of 2.36, and that's still higher than I would like to see, even with a seasoned crew and a well organized system in place, and the POA has niether.
I agree with those posting above who say NCL should do what it can to reduce the passenger load unitl matters are worked out. It's not that hard to do. I was booked on another line and my TA got a call from the line asking if I might volunteer to cancel my booking in exchange for a $500 credit and a 4 category upgrade on another cruise of my choice. As we are time-flexible, of course we accepted this offer!
My TA was told by NCL last Friday that our group could get a 100% refund and then on Monday when she called to cancel us they told her no one at NCL would have ever given her that information. Luckily she had the name of the NCL employee. She is now waiting for a call back from the supervisor.
I just want confirmation so I can get on with other plans.
On our Repo POA Cruise we read online that there was a Tip program where you could pay 10 bucks and tips were taken care of. We thought "great", we don't want to hassle with it. Then we got a note just before the trip and after we had paid that said something about a 10 buck service fee.
We get on the ship and we are wondering what happened to the auto-tip service. We were so confused and we weren't the only ones. It was a major topic of discussion amoung passengers. Everyone was confused about what that 10 bucks a day fee was.
We didn't tip at first and noticed the crew was getting pissed off. We though ... oh they are getting the tips automatically, right? It wasn't till a couple of days later that we realized they were not getting tips automatically.
THE SERVICE FEE IS NOT A TIP. YOU WILL BE TIPPING ON THE POA. THERE IS NO AUTOMATIC TIP PROGRAM.
I am extremely upset at NCL for this tipping/service fee fiasco. It caused a lot of unnecessary stress for many passengers including my wife and I.
If NCL would just be honest and let us know that they had underhandly raised the price of the cruise, we could have dealt with it better and I think the crew would have gotten what they had worked hard for.
I don't know what NCL now says on their website about tipping and the service fee but future passengers need to be prepared to TIP for good service as usual. (Could someone post what they are saying about the automatic tip program and service fee?)
The crew is working their rears off on a majorly shorts staffed ship and they need every encouragement they can get. Especially since reports are coming in that they are earning a lot less then NCL lead them to believe at job fairs and such.
I have seen people post here that refunds for POA have been given. I also see on the NCL website that for another ship (the Dawn out of NYC) that they will give refunds on demand if they are requested.
So the precedent of NCL offering refunds, at least in some cases, at the passengers request is certainly established.
I am the editor, but I also speculate, ask questions and play devil's advocate. I reserve the right to change my mind.
My experience, as horrific as food poisoning can be onboard a ship, is that the crew really want to do a great job, they have the desire. While they are in need of some training, this goes well beyond which side to approach a diner or how to open a bottle of wine. NCL corporate mangement is failing their employees. The argumentative shipboard management was a complete shock, I wouldn't want to work for any of them. The head chef was discoutious to his culinary staff in front of passengers and was rude to me. This was on the first trip out of Honolulu, July 4th.
While the staff can be trained, it is NCL's management both at the Miami office and on the ship that needs cultural change. This is not an issue of nationality, they need to find mangement that are passionate about great customer service and can motivate their staff.
I would not blame the American crew, but I do find major faults with NCL's management. They clearly are not living up to the goals that they need to set for their staff.
A passenger on PoA, I was charged $10 a day in service fee that expressly was for staff "gratuities." While we tipped on occasion, NCL's advice is very clear that the $10/ day service charge takes care of individual gratuities. Otherwise, where is my money going to?
"My TA was told by NCL last Friday that our group could get a 100% refund and then on Monday when she called to cancel us they told her no one at NCL would have ever given her that information. Luckily she had the name of the NCL employee. She is now waiting for a call back from the supervisor."
That is exactly the type of thing NCL did to me last May when they cancelled the cruise I was on. Told my travel agent they would do one thing, then the next day said they would not do that and tried to claim that my TA must have got it wrong. Then when she stood up to them and told them she had documented the original call they said they would look into it and speak to a supervisor. I don;t know if they actually did speak to a supervisor or not but when they called back the answer was still just NO.
One good thing, in your case, is that since letting some people cancel would actually seem to be good for them too (lower passenger load) maybe they will change their mind.
Another good thing for you is that, at this point, most people on the boards seem to accept that NCL has messed up on this one. When I posted about my experience I was attacked and called a whiner.
The Service Fee is not an auto-tipping fee. There is no auto-tipping program on POA.
If you read the Service Fee wording, it is a salary adjustment for the crew and it doesn't specifically talk about where the money is going. I have heard stuff like vacation pay/salary adjustment etc.
The crew we talked to were expecting tips and where royally pissed off to hear that NCL Management was recommending that passenger don't tip unless they receive exceptional, out of the ordinary service.
This ships crew and the NCL management have a huge disconnect that is adding to the mayhem that passenger are getting caught between and it's not the crews fault!
Basically, what really happened here is that NCL raised the cost of the cruise without raising the advertised price of the cruise. It's really an outrage what NCL did. They ripped off the crew and the passenger AT THE VERY SAME TIME IMHO. The crew is not seeing any more money because of this service fee and the passenger are seeing less, in my humble opinion.
If you are sailing the POA, then be prepared to tip as you normally would on any other cruise ship. This crew is working their tails off and deserves it.
Again, from what I have heard and read, there is NO Auto-Tipping program on the POA. If you believe that I am wrong please point me in the right direction.
"This is the first I have heard about the behavior of some individuals on the charter cruises. "
Paul, you keep making the same mistake as others have. Please separate the two charter cruises. People keep lumping the two of then together. I've heard about bad things on the first charter cruise. I won't deny it because I wasn't there. And I know for a fact that Guy was spit on by some idiot on the first cruise. However, as AlohaRefugee admitted, our second cruise was a lot more peaceful. If you want to talk about bad behavior on the "charter cruises", please restrict it to the first one or come up with some evidence that there were problems on the second one as well. I was there and I swear to you that tht stuff did not happen on my cruise. Word gets around, and we heard plenty about the first week both from crew members and the travel agency reps onboard.
I just cut and pasted this from NCL's website about this cruise and tipping:
Applicable to Norwegian Cruise Line Ships
Traditionally, gratuities for all the service you experienced aboard an NCL ship were paid at the end of the cruise. This often led to a last-night scramble as guests tried to find the correct amount of cash to place in each tip envelope. For your convenience, NCL now automatically applies a service charge to your shipboard account: $10 per guest per day for guests age 13 and above, $5 per day for children age 3-12 and no charge for children under the age of three. All of the service personnel on board receive gratuities from this service charge, and there is no need for you to think about additional tipping. Separately, a 15% gratuity is added for bar drinks and spa services.
What am I not understanding that tipping is not included when the wbesite clearly states it?
I fully intend to tip those who give exceptional service - but clearly from the wording on the website, "There is no need for additional tipping"
The only thing you don't understand is that the policy you quote is being applied on all NCL ships at this time, EXCEPT for the POA. On the POA, the crew reportedly does not receive any part of the $10 charge, or any other compensation in addition to their wages/salaries, unless guests tip them individually.
Babe ruth, You are correct. People are missing the "EXCEPT FOR THE POA"... The NCL statement is correct for their ships "except for the POA"...But in May of 2005 it will be for all of their ships... Now won't that be interesting??? OM
Old Man, it will be interesting, but we have 8 more months before the policy goes into affect. I just can't get worked up about it right now. Time will tell if it is even implemented. I think it will be, but that's just a gut feeling.
On the FAQ page under the POA link on NCL's web site, the language you mention is stated as applicable for NCL ships, but it is followed by another paragraph specifically for the POA as of June, 2004. This latter paragraph is not clear. It does make the $10/day/person non-adjustable, but is less than clear as to what happens to that $10 per day. All I know is what I've read. NCL management has said this is not a tip, and crew members say they get none of it. And on the POA, the automatic 15% gratuity on drink orders does not apply. Read above on this thread for comments from crew members as to what is REALLY going on.
I've been on cruise ships where the tips are legitimately included in the fare, and the crew is paid more. The crew I've met on those ships have liked this situation, as they know up front what they are to be paid, are well satisfied with it, and work well as they want to keep their jobs. That is motivation enough, for them. But what we have here is a breakdown in communications of some sort. It seems that the POA crew was expecting that they would receive tips, but NCL instead levied this "service charge" which is not a tip and does not go to the crew above their wage or salary.
I think you are just befinning to grasp the frustration of the crew and the passengers who are trying to figure out what is happening with this 'service charge' and tipping policy.
If you were on the page for POA the information there should have been for NCLA ( not NCL) but I gather from your post it didn't.
Additionally NCL in several other places NCL(A?) has stated clearly that the service charge was NOT for tips. They were not quite so forth coming as to what it WAS for.
Do you begin to grasp the frustration levels here?
From the posts of some who claim to be POA crew members or ex-crew members it has become clear that most of the crew did expect to receive tips on this ship. They did not expect that NCL would replace the automatic tip with the nebulous 'service charge'
and then on top of that, go and tell customers that NCL employees received a salary and no tips were necessary.
I quite understand if the crew is seriously annoyed about this. I also understand if passengers feel that NCL(A) is just using the 'service charge' as an excuse to rifle their wallets for another $70 per person per cruise.
What does the service charge go to? "I can't discuss it on that basis. How we use the service charge … is a complex pattern that I'm not going to get into detail on."
Why isn't it wrapped into the Pride of Aloha's fare? "No one else is doing that, and it will make our pricing uncompetitive."
Duh! No one else has a nonrefundable mandatory service charge, so of course no one else is including it in their fare!
They pay less general excise tax, less TA commission and maintain an apparently competative pricing, but there are still crew on board who hope to earn a tip while NCLA tells people there is no need to tip.
If you do not support this kind of deceptive business practice, cancel your cruise and stay at hotels.
You also may be interested in some of my other posts;
mandatory "service charges" on NCL - my post 8/30/04
NCL Bashing: stay calm - my post 8/30/04
Pacific Business News article on POA - my post 8/29/04
Yes, and understand that I'm in no way opposed to cruiseline fare increases, in light of the astronomical price of fuel. Heck, I hate to pay what it takes to fill up my Honda. I can only imagine what the increase in fuel bills for big ships has been! IMO, what NCL has done here is in effect to siphon off tip money to cover their increased operating costs, at the expense of the crew! And then, they have been sailing the POA, advertised to have 800+ crewmembers, with only 500 or so crew onboard. Anybody who knows anything about cruising knows that you can't provide good service on a ship carrying 2000 passengers with a crew of only 500, and that it is hard enough to do so with 800! With a crew of only 500 or so, I can't even see how this ship can pass safety regulations, let alone provide good service.
Well guys and gals I think we all get the picture now.. babe ruth, gardencat and Stephen Hensley have all hit the nail on the head.. The secret is out.. now everone has to be on the look out for the next trick.. Any ideas as to what that will be???
The US Coast Guard requires POA to have a minimum of 635 crew to legally sail the vessel. If the number falls below that, the ship cannot and will not sail. By law, POA must furnish a crew (and passenger) manifest to the Coast Guard every day before she departs a port. The vessel has never even approached the 635 limit. Your 500 crew count was a bit below the mark.
As of September 4, there were 824 crewmembers onboard POA.
OK, good. I was merely taking into account reports that the crew was "down by about 300." If this hasn't been the case, that's great. By the way, am I correct about the tipping situation? And what was the smallest number of crew she has had?
Actually, I think NCL's site says 800 crew members. Check it out and let us know if I'm wrong. I got the 500 from reports that she was 300 down, and if they are wrong, I'm wrong. But if the POA HAS been sailing with no more than, say 2.5 times as many passengers as crew and the service has still been as reported, I've got a few more questions!
As Norwegian Sky (with Casino) we had 925 crew.
When the Casino was taken off, so were the 80 Casino staff.
That makes about 845 without Casino.
I believe that the lowest number we ever saw on POA was about 750.
When we had American trainees onboard the Norwegian Sky, many of them were "extra" crew. At one point we had as many as 1,000 total crew (International and POA) onboard. Some of my fellow POA crewmembers assumed this was normal. Now that we are down to regular levels, it does seem to them that as many as 300 are missing.
There is another factor that nobody planned for. On all International Ships, if you are sick, you can get a doctor`s note to stay in your cabin - but you don`t receive wages or tips for that sick time. International Crew rarely call in sick. On an American Ship you can call in sick and get paid to stay in bed. Nearly every morning we had 50 or 60 waiters standing in line at the Doctor`s Office to get the day off. Even if they don`t get the day off, it takes a few hours for the Doctor to see everyone, so many miss their shifts while standing in line. To be fair, many are legitimately tired or ill - but many more are suffering "alcohol poisoning" and are trying to play the system for a day off.
On every cruise ship, the number of crew changes every day. Crew are coming and going on vacation, sick leave, family emergencies, resignations, terminations, returning from vacation, returning from sick leave, getting transferred to other ships, etc. On any big ship, it is normal to have about about 150 crew signing off the ship during a one week period and another 150 signing on. Novice cruisers who see 100 crew on the pier with suitcases tend to panic when seeing what appears to be a mass exodus. In reality it`s a normal day. That`s probably how the rumors about "large groups of crew leaving" got started.
International Ships do not have "Day Workers". This is unique to American Ships.
This week they have about 50 Day Workers coming aboard in every port except Kona. These are cleaners, dishwashers, busboys, cooks, etc. Add those to the 824 crew, and we now have more Hotel Crew (Minus the Casino crew) on POA than we had on Norwegian Sky.
"Add those to the 824 crew, and we now have more Hotel Crew (Minus the Casino crew) on POA than we had on Norwegian Sky"
Okay now I'm getting confused again. If you have more Hotel Crew (does Hotel crew include waiters?) than you did on the Sky, why are we hearing so many reports of empty (unstaffed) tables in the restaurants while customers wait at the door to be seated?
Very interesting report. According to what you report, the passenger to crew ratio on the POA never got higher than about 2.57 to 1. I've cruised some ships with a passenger to crew ratio as high as 2.5 (while I don't really like to do so). The service wasn't bad, though, and the cruise didn't spark the massive complaints that the POA cruises have. Are the prior passengers (and other claimed crewmembers) making up stories? Keep in mind that I have not been on this cruise, but am just doing my research.
Also, you didn't comment on the tipping situation, as I had asked. What happened on this issue when the ship changed to the POA?
Further, if the NUMBERS of the crew were generally up to snuff, to what do you attribute the massive number of complaints? Is the reported understaffing in the restaurants all due to US workers abusing US work rules as to sick leave? And if so, how can any US flagged cruise ship do Hawaii? Heck, given the price NCL charges for this cruise, one can book the Radisson Paul Gauguin around Tahiti (during free air season, and on special) for less than the POA, if equal cabins are booked!
Finally, I have never in 15 cruises experienced crew changes in ports of anything near the 150 crewmembers you report. I can only recall that on a cruise or two, I noticed A FEW of the crew leaving and A FEW arriving. Never a massive crew change at ports mid-cruise. So, no, I don't observe that it is "normal" for 20% of the crew to change at mid-cruise ports.
To my experience, the term "hotel crew" does include waiters along with all kitchen staff and room stewards/stewradess.
The tipping situation was - and is - a mess. The people in the NCL America Office in Honolulu kept changing the rules. The Management and crew on the ship had to follow those rules. I don`t know how they are ever going to sort it all out. The majority of us definitely feel as if we have been mis-led.
Crew changes are very different on International Ships. They normally take place early in the morning in turnaround ports only. The US Government is very strict about how they are handled. Customs and Immigration Officials must go through many different procedures before crew can come aboard or depart. Some ports (New York) do not even allow crew changes. Normally, International crew are escorted directly to a bus and off to the airport as a group.
On most ships the crew have their own gangway, so you may not see them depart unless you are looking for it. On POA there was a shortage of Security Staff, so often the crew used the same gangway as the passengers.
With an American Ship, there are no Customs or Immigration procedures involved. the crew can come or go in any American Port at any time. It is less costly to allow the crew to sign on and off in their home town rather than flying them from Honolulu.
I trained on the Norwegian Star in Hawaii. Every Sunday (turnaround day) about 75 crew signed off (mostly for vacation) at about 9AM and were bussed to the airport. Around 10 AM about 75 new and returning crew arrived and signed on. Since there are no Customs Officials outside of Oahu, only emergency sign-ons and sign-offs were allowed for International Crew in the other ports. But with family emergencies and other situations, another 50 or so had to leave in the other ports. Sometimes it was more, sometimes less.
With the American Crew working contracts only half as long as the International Crew, it means that they go on vacation (and sign on and off) twice as often. The math is simple to work out.
Just because the crew are onboard does not mean they are working. When you have 50 or 60 waiters standing in line to see the doctor, they are not serving breakfast.
Are some people making up stories?? You be the judge. This would not be the first time that SOME passengers (certainly not ALL) had conflicting versions of what really happened. SOME (not ALL) people hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see.
On a ship, the Hotel Department includes everyone who is not in the Deck or Engine Departments. The Hotel Staff includes everyone in direct service to our passengers - including Restaurants, Bars, and Galleys.
I worked on two other American Cruise Ships; SS Monterey and SS Constitution. They both had very similar problems when they started out. Please read this carefully, "When they started out". They improved nicely as time went along - at least until they went bankrupt. Why should this American Ship be any different??