This is the most difficult review that I have ever had to write. Based upon time limitations, this was one of the few cruises that fit into our schedule and the only one our extended group could agree on, so we decided to give it a chance. This was our 10th cruise - our first and our last with NCL.
Embarkation: Went fairly smooth in the terminal. We were able to start boarding the ship around noon. What they don’t tell you is that once on board most of the cabins are not ready. They send you to a public room and invite you to lunch at the Aloha Café. It is a real pleasant experience to obtain food in a buffet while carrying both your tray and all your carry on baggage.
Cabin: We reserved a category BE cabin. This was the smallest and most poorly laid out cabin of any ship we were ever on. At this point let me add that we are two adults traveling with two kids (3 & 6) in the same cabin. This is the first time we ever had difficulty fitting all our clothing in the closets. (We have gone on voyages as long as 11 days without any problems). The irony here is that we did not even have any formal clothes thanks to NCL’s Freestyle dining.
The cabin was the filthiest cabin we ever occupied. As you brushed against the walls the dirt just transferred onto you. There were remnants of previous occupants on the floor and in the dresser drawers. The cabin was just disgusting. Not what you would expect in a new ship. There was no soap or shampoo in the bathroom. It took two days and multiple visits to the Guest Relations desk to get this resolved. Simply unacceptable.
NCL provides a dial on the outside of each cabin to indicate to the steward. During the week, it was a rare occurrence for our cabin to be made up before 4pm. Maybe this is an NCL cost cutting move: make-up and turn down the cabin at the same time.
Ports/Excursions: This was Hawaii. The ports were simply perfect. We did use NCL’s excursion desk and, other than being overpriced, the excursions went off without a hitch.
Tender service was among the worst we ever experienced. In Lahina we had to wait over an hour to catch a tender to get off the ship. The wait was the same to get back onboard. When you are in port for only a few hours, it is very disappointing to waste over two hours of a short day just on transportation. We were assured by the Cruise Director that in Kona the situation would be better. It was not. We had to stand in the hot sun in line for over 90 minute for a tender. For every Pride of America tender, we saw three Island Princess tenders. There was one additional POA tender in the water “practicing” and other tenders that were not even lowered into the water. Maybe this is NCL’s way of conserving fuel?
Security: NCL had contracted with Akal Security to provide their pre-boarding screening. Needless to say I did not feel safe. While they were very good at catching food and beverage items being brought on board, people were just walking around the agents wanding other passengers and getting right on the tenders. This level of incompetence is just unacceptable in the post 9/11 world. Once onboard, on one occasion the security personnel failed to check one member of our party back onto the ship, even though all four key cards were presented. We did not find out about this until the party member was paged over the ships PA. This is really reassuring that NCL knows who is on the ship.
Kids Program: Perhaps, this is the one part of the ship where we met the most devoted crew members. Overall our kids thoroughly enjoyed the program. Unfortunately, unlike other lines, the hours are extremely limited for the free program.
Dining: Due to a severe food allergy in the family, we made special arrangements in the Skyline dining room for a fixed table and wait staff. Because of this, we did not experience any long waits for seating and overall the wait staff was helpful. Unfortunately, dinner was still a two hour ordeal and the food (both preparation and selection) was barely acceptable. Food selection in the Aloha Café was also only fair.
In my prior cruise experience, I have never seen a cruise line run out of food. That was until this cruise. Over the course of the week, they ran out of garlic, mozzarella sticks, bananas, onion rings, grapefruit, cream cheese, lox, and assorted boxed cereals. During the week, no attempt was made to replenish these items, even though we were in port every day. They did however have plenty of mahi-mahi as it was the only fish on the dinner menu for the entire week.
The biggest problem was in the handling of a food allergy. My child is allergic to nuts. NCL Corporate was first notified (both orally & written) at the time of booking about this severe allergy. Upon initial embarkation, both Maitre’D‘s (Skyline & Aloha) were informed of the allergy. In Skyline, we were assigned an experienced wait staff. We met with the head chef in Aloha and were briefed on NCL’s policy regarding treatment of passengers with food allergies. In Aloha, we were told that all wait staff in the buffet stations are aware of the ingredients in the food that they are serving and if they are in doubt to always consult a chef. This is important since most of the food in the Aloha Café was never labeled.
Unfortunately, their procedures did not work and were not followed. My 6 year old was almost KILLED by crew negligence. She was given a cake with peanut butter icing (which did not look like peanut butter) and almost immediately went into shock. The crew member working the dessert station assured us that there were no nut products in any of the cakes being served at that time. Medical attention was necessary and provided, but the damage was already done.
Disembarkation: This was fine as well. We were given the opportunity of carrying our luggage off the boat and leaving at any time. We took advantage of this opportunity. The sooner NCL & us parted company, the better.
Prior to taking this cruise we consulted many of the online cruise review sites and read many negative reviews about this ship and her crew. We decided to take these reviews with a grain of salt and make the best of it. We were wrong. We should have listened to the reviews and gone elsewhere. Based upon these reviews and our personal experience both on the ship and dealing with NCL corporate, we have come to the conclusion that they just don’t care. Even if the nut incident hadn’t occurred, we probably would never cruise with NCL gain. That just sealed the deal.
To see Hawaii, our opinion is that this is one destination best seen by staying on land. If one really wants to cruise the islands, there are much better options available. We will sleep better at night knowing that we are hopefully helping prevent someone else’s misery.
Note that this review was not written directly after the cruise. Prior to posting this review we attempted to get some satisfaction from the cruise line or at least some answers and an apology. Our main concern was not compensation, but to make sure that their policies & procedures are updated so that someone else with food allergies does not go through what we did or worse. Apparently they were not even interested in talking to us as written correspondence was ignored and calls to the Executive Customer Relations team in Miami have gone unreturned.