Thanks for your response. I feel if the tipping and other compensation rules had not been in such a state of "confusion," there would have been fewer of the hotel crew on "sick leave." I feel also that NCL is understaffing this ship, even with the advertised 800 crew members, in light of the 2002 passenger advertised capacity; all in light of US work rules. Given all circumstances (including crew turn-over) I feel that a crew of about 1,200 would be more appropriate. Do you agree or disagree?
In evaluating cruises (and cruise concepts, which is all I am doing here), I can't disregard the fact that so many past guests have all said the same things about the POA on so many cruise boards. After all, how many liars can there be (both passengers and crew)?
NCL has been granted a monolopy by the US government (due to the "Jones Act") to do "Hawii only" cruises (and any US port only cruises, for that matter). And they are seemingly doing what all monopolosts before them have done: charging a high price for a (reportedly) inferior product --- and thereby abusing both employees and customers. Do you disagree?
Sorry to ask more questions that are probably obvious to those working in the industry but to which I don't know the answers.
Of the crew about how many would be waiters? If 50 (just to pick a number) were out sick what % of the total number would that be?
I'm still trying to get a handle on this because it seems to me, that the one most consistent complaint, from many cruisers, was the long wait to be seated and the slow service in the restaurants. Several people seemed to agree that there were quite a few empty tables while people were standing outside waiting to be seated. I also remember at some point, reading a post from someone who claimed to have been a waiter on the ship saying that each wait team had more than the usual number of tables to serve, due to short staffing. If these things were due to short staffing then there is good reason to hope that the service will improve dramatically once NCLA gets up close to it's proper staffing levels. If the ship is already close to those levels and there are still problems, the solution may be harder to find.
If the crew bar was not open so much there would also be fewer of us on "sick leave". We Americans seem to like to party quite a bit more than our International counterparts.
There have been staff shortages all along. The Coast Guard came up with many new surprise procedures for issuing our Merchant Marine Cards. It really delayed getting many crew onto the ship. Therre were problems with too many tables per waiter at one point. The short-staffing problem is nearly solved however. Total waiter count this week is almost normal.
Total waiter count on Norwegian Sky / POA is about 175. When 50 are sick, late, hungover, or missing, that`s a lot.
Aloha Pacific Cruises and American Hawaii Cruises also had US Government sponsored monopolies in Hawaii. That didn`t help them a bit. They still had massive start-up problems and many complaints - and they still couldn`t make a profit. And they both went bankrupt.
The new QM2 - twice the size of POA - has about 1200 crew (and a casino). Could it be that we Americans are so underproductive that we need so many more of us to do the same job on a much smaller ship?
Putting 1200 crew on POA would force removal of 20% of the passenger cabins for crew use and bankrupt the company almost immediately.
Are passengers or crew being dishonest about the situation on the ship? Most are not.
This POA startup is a very difficult one - just like the SS Monterey, SS Constitution, SS Independence, and M/S Patriot. Everyone sees things in a different way. There are obviously a few people on this chatroom with their own agendas - and it is very easy to spot them. After experiencing this thing first-hand for several months, and comparing it to my previous American Ship experiences, there are very few surprises. The biggest difference I see today is the internet that allows all of us to share our opinions and experiences - truthful or otherwise - with each other.
The bottom line is that every American Cruise ship in the past 50 years has gone bankrupt. Every bankruptcy was crew-related. That`s not an opinion. It is History.
I will stick with this one to see if it happens again.
Well, my sole agenda is to learn more about this rather unique experiment of a major line having an all-US cruise, as defined and controled by the Jones act. I clearly have no personal complaints, as I've never been on this ship and my other NCL experiences were fine. And I hope the reported problems with the POA will be solved.
Just another comment on crew size relative to passenger numbers and ship size. Perhaps 1200 crew (and a reduction to1600 guests) would be "overkill." But an increase in crew to 1000 and a decrease in guests to 1800 might just be the ticket. That number of guests would give the ship a passenger to space ratio of 43, which is about what the Oceania ships have, and their fares are about the same as POA, per diem. This would yield a passenger to crew ratio of about 1.8. I've cruised several ships where this ratio was below 2, and believe me, this cures the problem of overworked crew and underserved guests very well.
I very much like your ideas. There is just one fatal flaw in your reasoning.
The cost of operating POA (American Flag, American Crew, American Taxes, no bingo, no Casino, no duty-free, no art auction, and reduced revenues during long port stays) is at least double and possibly triple the cost of operating an Oceania ship.
Unless NCL America was willing to double or triple current cruise prices - and the public was willing to pay them - there is no way that POA could be profitable.
Hi Another crew member,
Its me again and although I said I would try to limit my posts here, I can't help responding to that last post of yours.
Are you saying that you think NCL went into this knowing that they couldn't charge the prices they are charging now, offer a competitive 'cruise ' experience and make a profit?
Robert Kritzman, NCL America Managing Director, has more or less admitted to the press on several occasions that the NCL America ships cannot make a profit. NCL America is hoping to invest heavily in land-based businesses that service the cruise ships. They are hoping to make a profit there. But that is a very long way off - if ever.
After your last post, things are starting to make a lot more sense.Obviously we still don't have the whole picture,but now, I'm beginning to get a glimmer of an idea as to why NCL would undertake this venture.
Please understand that people worked long and hard, just like yourself, to go on a cruise like this. As someone said, to pay for a $4000.00 cruise and get $100.00 worth of service, is very frustrating. NCL should have been honest, and stopped this ship from sailing. I was on the Aug. 15th cruise, and although MOST of the crew was very nice, there were a few "bad apples."
Good luck to you. WARNING!! to future POA passengers, think twice about going. Unless you have money to burn, it's NOT worth it! You're going to be VERY disappointed, especially if you've sailed before on a better cruise line. Stay at a hotel on the islands!
I received my cruise documents yesterday - and you are all absolutely correct about the service charge - it isn't a tip. NCL needs to signifcantly change their wording in all places on their website to reflect this.
From the "Weclome Aboard" book about tipping:
"This service charge will not be paid to the crew while onboard the vessel. As you may know, leave for most crew on cruise ships is unpaid. This service charge will be paid into a fund which will provide our crew with leave pay or continued earnings while on leave. This service charge is not a gratuity. Separately, a 15% gratuity is added for bar drinks and spa services".
Yet nowhere else in this book does it state the customary tipping for staff on board, as every other ship does.
This is very deceiving, particularly if people have never taken a cruise before. No wonder the crews have complaints!
However, this also leaves us that have cruised before at an advantage, we can tip those who give us great service right on the spot. I am sure waiters or room stewards can remember those that tip nicely during the cruise and might insure a little bit of extra attention to passengers who tip.
I was informed by NCL that we would be charged a gratuity fee of $10.00 per person per day as part of the FreeStyle arrangement. It was my understanding that this would cover TIPS for the crew for services provided to the passengers as a whole.
I understand that special services (i.e SPA, Drinks) would be charged a 15% fee for their services.
I thought FreeStyle meant paying TIPS in advance and not having to worry about trying to arrange TIPS at the end of the cruise.
You're absolutely right. The corporate NCLers do need a little training in how things are done, that is to say, cracking the whip on crew won't inspire change, it will inspire mutiny. International crew was motivated by fear, of losing the best opportunity the've ever had. POAers have responded better to the "We are a team, let's make history, you will be relieved when it gets better!" line of psychobabble.
Also, so many problems have been blamed on becoming a US flagged ship, and not knowing what to expect. Sorry, that's Bullplop. Another Crwmember, among many others in upper management, (not that s/he is) have done this US thing before. There should have been ZERO surprises.
700 Bishop St. Suite 900. Directly across the street from the ship. Go get your $$$!
One last thing on the tipping that hasn't been brought up. Right before the changeover, We were informed that there would be no tip pool for the crew. This is because it would have to be reported as part of our wages, therefore subject to overtime laws. In other words, NCL would have to pay out the butt for to equal time and a half of our hourly wage + tip pool, sending them into the red. Apparently, they turned the tip pool into the service charge. Bigger profit for them, since pax can't take the service charge back, like they could tip contribution. Bend me over and call me Susy.
I have to assume you are familiar with the restaurant dept. You say we have 175 waiters. Lets do some quick math. There are normally 15 groups of five teams, each team being one back/front combo. 150. Add the Hukilau Cafe group, normally reserved for the new sign-ons. They do this for about two weeks. I've mentioned in other posts that new sign-ons are worthless for two weeks, meaning they can't work in the dining room, as they aren't trained. About what, 15? That's 165. Included in there are a handful of irregulars. These are your office staff, and those that do other jobs that prevent them from working breakfast or lunch. About five. And your closers, they never work breakfast, atleast, didn't used to.
Now that's fully staffed, which we are not. I've spoken with waiters this week. They are about 70 short of being fully manned. So, that puts us at about 85 waiters, and not everyone works breakfast, the others work lunch.
Now, you wrote:
"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."
First off, 50 or 60? C'mon. That would leave 25 -35 to serve breakfast every morning in Crossings and Hukilau. Second, I walk past the doctors office on my way from my cabin. If there were 50 or 60 Waiters standing in line, I wouldn't be able to walk past them, nor would we be able to tender passengers, since the infirmery is right next to the tender, and 50 or 60 crew members would be spilling out into the hallway, especially considering the DOCTOR DOESN'T SEE ANYONE UNTIL 9 AM!
Third, I've been to the Doctor on occasion. Both times I've been giving Ibuprofen and put on light duty, that is to say, not lifting trays heavier than 15 lbs. To get a day off from Dr. Birdsong is to have the runs or a compound fracture.
Maybe if we were salried we could get paid to stay in bed. But we are paid hourly. Just like every other hourly job out there, if you're not working, you're not being paid. You SHOULD know that waiters timesheets have to be initialed by the closing Maitre d' on duty, and the d's take this seriously. Nobody gets paid to sleep off a hangover.
I know for a fact, and you do too, that the crew bar is partly to blame. But think back to the Sky, when it was more packed then it is now every single night. Internationals and Americans would stand in a thirty foot line to buy six packs every time. Now the crew bar doesn't even stay open as long as it used to.
Not only that, the Internationals partied harder and longer than americans can. It wasn't hard to get bottles of hard liquor or cocaine from the Filipino Mafia, and the internationals knew it.
I appreciate all comments on this thread. Though there are some conflicts of information, these things appear to be true of the POA.
1. The "service charge" is not used for tips for anyone.
2. The only service person who serves a guest throughout the whole cruise is the steward/steardess. One can tip this person at the start and at the end of the cruise.
3. There is no "tipping program" on the POA which a guest can use to facilitate tipping of waiters and such, who do not serve the guest for the entire cruise. So a guest must carry cash if the guest wishes to tip.
4. NCL has confused the tipping situation to the point that service crew does not receive much in tips. There are no recommended tipping amounts and procedures.
5. For whatever reason, and a possible variety of reasons, the ship is generally understaffed as to service personnel.
6. Due to US work rules, taxes, and such, NCLA cannot increase crew numbers without incurring big losses, or charging fares nobody would pay.
7. Service crew morale is understandably low.
8. NCLA knows of this situation and is giving 100% refunds to booked guests within the "penalty period."
Unless a substantial amount of this is wrong, I think I'll just forget about an inter-island cruise of Hawaii!
"Thank you!! I've received a verbal confirmation of my 100% refund and am just waiting for a written confirmation. What a nightmare this has been!"
I hope you will get that confirmation soon. There are some of us out here who don't have too much confidence in any 'verbal confirmations' from NCL. Hopefully in your case the amount of public attention focused on this particular ship will motivate NCL to actually follow through on their verbal promise.
Please let us know when/if they do.
Got the refund confirmation!!! shawooooooooooooooooooo is all I can say!!!! Since I live in Hawaii and have seen all the islands, I just wanted to enjoy the ship. From all the reviews I've read since July 4, this just wasn't going to happen.
Thanks to all of you for your honest reviews. I stumbled onto this website and boy am I glad I did.
Our group of 13 has now rented a beach house on Kailua Beach.
1. "The "service charge" is not used for tips for anyone."
You got it.
2. "The only service person who serves a guest throughout the whole cruise is the steward/steardess. One can tip this person at the start and at the end of the cruise. "
Incorrect. If you have access to a butler, they (there are two) will be at your beck and call all week.
3. "There is no "tipping program" on the POA which a guest can use to facilitate tipping of waiters and such, who do not serve the guest for the entire cruise. So a guest must carry cash if the guest wishes to tip."
I also take personal checks with appropriate ID.
4. "NCL has confused the tipping situation to the point that service crew does not receive much in tips. There are no recommended tipping amounts and procedures."
What I understand is that tipping in the dining room is almost nonexistant if alcohol is not purchased, even then, it's iffy.
5. "For whatever reason, and a possible variety of reasons, the ship is generally understaffed as to service personnel. "
Yes, but there seems to be more than enough engine & deckies.
6. "Due to US work rules, taxes, and such, NCLA cannot increase crew numbers without incurring big losses, or charging fares nobody would pay."
Wrong, to a certain extent. The crew is not fully staffed. Once or if that happens, then there's a point where you have too much crew, and they just bump into each other and fall down.
7. "Service crew morale is understandably low."
Atleast Internationals knew where to get Vicadin.
8." NCLA knows of this situation and is giving 100% refunds to booked guests within the "penalty period.""
I hope so.
Thanks for your response, and I'happy to know that I was not far wrong in figuring out this mess, from all that has been said. May I advance another theory? It seems that NCLA is abusing the service crew, who in turn (as to be expected) are just not providing the greatest service. And things just go downhill from there.
And let me say this. I've been on many cruise ships of many different lines. If and when the POA gets to full crew staffing, she will only be running a 2.5 to 1 guest to crew ratio. Even on "international crew" ships that had the full staffing at this ratio, things were pretty well strained. Heck, I was once on a ship with such a ratio of 1.6 and, due to to many kids onboard, things were pretty strained. But that was an exception, as usually a 1.6 guest to crew ratio works just fine. But 2.5? Never saw it work so as to satisfy all guests. And when the service crew isn't getting tips because of the line's lack of support for the service crew in the form of an understandable and easy to use tip policy? Recipe for disaster.
Folks on boards like these like to talk about tips. Usually to gripe about them. How wrong they are! When one takes a line with "suggested tips" of say $10/day/pp, the guest who books that line should just figure about $15/day/pp into the total cost of the cruise (the additional to account for room service) and go with the flow. If the service crew depends on tips to make a living, and if the line tells one that at the time of booking, all is clear and fair. No problem.
But here, there is a problem. The cruise line on their web site and in their printed material is making it sound like the $10/day/pp is all one must pay. In so doing, they are cheating the crew, and cheating the guests who must put up with a demoralized crew as a result.
NCL REALLY should just raise fares to include tips, and then PAY the service crew the tips. Otherwise, NCL should just include the "service charge" in the fare and adopt an "auto tip" policy like on all other NCL ships, and PAY THE TIPS TO THE SERVICE CREW.
Until and unless such changes are put into place, the cruise on the POA will be off my list. I don't go on a cruise to see employees being abused. I get to see that too much at home, for free.
Well, this is all very interesting and it is especially helpful to have the thoughts of some crew members -- what I would like to know from THEM is this: how much should one tip to ensure good service? I, for one, after spending almost $4,000 for my upcoming cruise, am not going to moan and complain about $140 - NCL rip? Probably but such is life. I still plan to tip my room steward but how much? The first day and then again at the end or $ every day? Are you really supposed to tip in the dining rooms? Again, how much since you don't have a bill to base a percentage on. From what I've read on this and other boards, tipping seems to be the key but I don't know what is appropriate. Thank you for whatever information you can provide!
What you do is this. Find a server you really like, and request them all week. Then you tip at the end of the week. Tip them based on what they did for you. Say you don't like your entree, it's too cold. See what their response is. If they apologize and run back to the galley to get a hot meal for you, take it into consideration. If they say "sorry" and walk away, take it into consideration. Ask them about their own personal meal and wine recommendations.
If you want to tip meal by meal, that's fine, for some reason, most people don't tip at breakfast. I don't know why, it's the most stressful for waiters, because we often have to get you fed in a short amount of time because of fast approaching shore excursions.
I'm sorry I can't offer any monetary examples. Even when asked, I'll always say, whatever you feel is appropriate. For some reason, people always say that I give very good service, often the "best we've had all week." Therefore, I get pretty good tips. Remember that it's not the food you're tipping on, it's the service and attitude.
Thank you, alohainsider. Hey, will you be working on the 10/17 POA? I want to request you! ! And I never blame the food on the server unless they don't make an effort to correct it; that wouldn't be fair. I understand your reluctance to offer monetary examples but I am really stumped, especially for the room steward. $20 per day (my husband and me and we are not too messy!)? Too much? Argh! :-)