I wrote a letter to Norwegian Cruise Line outlining our easily verifiable difficulties on the Pride of America. The letter was mailed on September 12, 2005 after our return. We recieved no response so I sent a copy of the letter to corporate headquarters and a copy to Latitudes Customer Service on January 12, 2006. There has been so response at all. That tells you a little bit about how much they care about customer service.
The letter follows:
Norwegian Cruise Line 7665 Corporate Center Drive Miami, Florida 33126
We got off of Norwegian Cruise Lines brand new ship, the Pride of America on September 9, 2005. My husband and I have been on about 15 or so cruises. Some were on budget cruise lines that no longer exist. We have never had such an unhappy experience. I have never been so glad for a vacation to end.
12 hours before we were to leave home, the cruise line left a message on our home phone that the Radisson Hotel, where we were to stay, was overbooked and we were being moved to a much cheaper budget hotel some distance away that is due to be renovated this year for the precruise part of our package on Oahu for 2 days. It was nowhere close to being a comparable hotel.
On Saturday, September 3, we boarded and there was a buffet awaiting. It included large shrimp with cocktail sauce. We expected to settle in and enjoy paradise. We got to our high priced balcony cabin on deck 10 and discovered that we could only see straight out. The balcony had a large overhang of about 10 feet past the rail and walls that came down from the roof that kept it dry in the rain but also prevented us from seeing to either side at all. We could only see straight out. It was much like having blinders on. By the second day, the chairs and rail were salt encrusted and stayed that way the remainder of the cruise.
We were handed a schedule for the day as we boarded. Inside was a letter saying that we would not be sailing past the volcano on Sunday evening. That was the chief reason for booking this particular cruise. We were supposed to sail past the erupting volcano on the big island after dark and turn around and come back so that it could be viewed from either side of the ship. Within an hour of reading the letter, we happened to run into the Captain on deck and asked him why were losing a part of our trip that was so important to us. He first told us that there was an engine problem that prevented us from reaching top speed and we would have been late arriving in port on schedule. After pressing him a bit, the Captain, who has now left the ship, told us that it was too costly to sail up the coast and back, a distance of about 30 miles. We all know what has happened to the cost of fuel but it was the biggest reason to book this particular cruise and was a MAJOR event on the cruise. You should continue to do it until you have notified all passengers of the change and allowed them to cancel their cruise without penalty.
The shore excursions are very overpriced. Keep in mind that we are seasoned sailors and have taken many cruise line shore excursions in the past and have enjoyed most of them. NCL passengers can't buy reasonably priced tours on the islands from local operators. You need a hotel key to get the normal, reasonable price. If you are on the ship, you pay double or even triple the advertised price. These vendors are not about to risk their contract with the cruise lines by selling you the tour at the price hotel guests pay. We found this out when we tried to buy a tour at the advertised price. I don't think that is legal but it is the way it worked.
This ship has no casino to generate revenue as the international ships do. A single photograph is $13. Photos were taken regularly as most ships do. We usually buy several for $6-8. We bought none. The price is a bit high and we already felt gouged. This ship is staffed by Americans. Unfortunately, instead of tips, we were billed a service charge of $10 per person per day. We are good tippers and have always had wonderful service on every single ship we have sailed on in the past. On this ship, we were charged the service charge but didn't get the service.
Our cabin was filthy. It had not been vacuumed before our arrival and there was a dirty paper napkin and toothpick on the floor when we arrived that was still there on Tuesday afternoon when I had the Assistant Executive Housekeeper, Diane Clark, come to our cabin to see the condition it was in. Our mirrors were splattered, the dust was several weeks old on every surface, the glasses were dirty and one was broken at the rim and would have cut us if we had not noticed it. It took us two days to get ice in our room. We suspect that the bedding was not changed from the PREVIOUS passengers before our arrival. It took until Tuesday to get it taken care of. Diane Clark had our room completely cleaned under her direct supervision at dinner time on Tuesday but our room was NEVER cleaned again after that and our bedding was never changed again. The service to our room after our contact with Diane Clark, was limited to clean towels and ice. WE GAVE UP. The cabin stewardess and HER BOSS were called on the carpet for the condition of our room and IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE. That's pretty typical of the attitude on this ship.
Ours was not an isolated incident. Passengers from every area of the ship were complaining long an loud about the condition of their cabins on this ship that was on its 7th or 8th cruise. I was in line behind about 8 or 10 people at the front desk complaining about their rooms to no avail when I asked to see the Hotel Manager and Diane Clark was summoned. The others never did get their problems resolved.
The doors of the elevators look as though food was thrown at them and they never were cleaned while we were on board and I did take Diane Clark to see them. She notified the department in charge of them but they were never cleaned before we left 4 days later.
The brownies and robes that Diane Clark left in our room could never make up for the condition of our cabin before and after she had it cleaned and the effort it took to get it taken care of. I took pictures of the ship to send to the corporate office and was told by previous NCL passengers that were on board that corporate would not care. I am sending them anyway. I can't imagine sailing again on a line that didn't care about the kind of conditions that exist on this ship that I will provide you evidence of. These previous passengers said that they continued to tolerate the conditions because no one else offers "Freestyle Cruising". Take my word for it, it isn't worth not getting dressed up to put up with these conditions. Every ship we have ever been on has some alternative to eating in the main dining room at set times at set tables. Buffets are available at all meal times and most offer room service as well.
The Dining Room staff is poorly trained overall but we found one excellent waiter, Greg, and stuck with him throughout the cruise. Stephanie and Ian were also very good and were working with Greg. He was the bright spot in our cruise and he was tipped in addition to the "service charge" that was billed to us and every other passenger who got lousy service. The food is adequate, at best. We had veal that was so tough, it was hard to chew. Our Prime Rib, the first night out, was overcooked. Our expectations dropped after that and we let Greg advise us on what was the best offering. Menus at each meal were meaningless. There was always at least one item that was not available. They didn't run out of it, there simply wasn't any. All fish is frozen in this seafood paradise. To get wonderful fresh fish, we ate ashore. Papaya grows wild in Hawaii and I was really looking forward to eating my fill. We saw papaya offered one time as an appetizer at dinner in the dining room. For two days, there was no pineapple in Hawaii. They ran short of butter and put only margarine on the tables. I really enjoy yogurt and it is usually readily available. I enjoy a large variety of flavors. I had never had watermelon or green apple and that was all that was available. I skipped the yogurt.
Upon leaving the ship, my husband approached an NCL employee on the pier to ask a question and she turned to him and told him in a very nasty tone that they don't answer questions. We had found this to be true of the shore excursion people on the ship as well. We had had enough and skipped our prepaid transfer to the airport and took a cab.
I will never sail on NCL again but my husband said never is along time so I guess he may go again with his next wife.