Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Crown
Sailing Date: June 4th, 2006
Up until a few weeks ago, I actually
favored NCL. Not any more. As you may know, the Crown went out of its channel
and was stranded on top of a reef pit side King's Wharf en route to Hamilton.
What you may not know is how badly NCL handled the situation. And besides that,
I echoed most prior reviews about the very low quality of NCL food and the poor
service the freestyle cruising has apparently spurred. Its a great idea until
you see it implemented. Well, here's my letter to NCL:
I am writing to convey my deep disappointment in the way the crew aboard the Norwegian Crown handled the grounding upon a reef en route to Hamilton, Bermuda on 7 June. True, accidents happen. But it is the way and manner they are dealt with that matters most. What certainly appeared to be a lack of planning, experience and training amongst the crew helped initiate and foster an atmosphere of chaos over the following hours. While about 20 minutes after we hit the reef and took a list, the Captain did announce that we had hit a bar and he was planning to get tugs to free her, there were no clear announcements about the tender process. That information could only be gathered in the hallways via gossip. And, we didn’t hear anything on the ship’s status for nearly 48 hours until the Captain sent notes under our cabin doors around 2200 Thursday night. Up to that time, most of us only knew we saw a clear hole in the bulbous and divers off the side all day. Rumor was we would sail back to Philadelphia but without official word on the ship’s condition, my family and many others were quite fearful of that proposition. The complete lack of information and understanding are what I and many others found most troubling. First the tendering process. It all amounted to unnecessary stress and frustration.
Since we were on the 4th deck, we could see the tender beside the crown shortly after the grounding. Many started to gather in the hallway speculating that they would board. Eventually, the assistant cruise director came downstairs and told everyone they were wasting their time since tickets would be required. When someone asked where tickets would be distributed he replied “I don’t know”. Much speculation ensued and many including my family proceeded to the Stardust Lounge since this is the logical place to distribute tickets. Some even claimed that crew had advised they go there. After awhile an announcement was finally made that tickets would be handed at the excursion desk. This was horrible planning since as you know, the lobby on the Crown is quite small. The crowd grew quickly and a stressed staff started to yell at us which only worsened the situation. After all this, when we went to board the tender we found that tickets weren’t necessary!!
Upon arrival in Hamilton, the staff advised that our last tender would be at 4:30 since they would try to free the Crown at high tide. We didn’t understand why this was necessary and asked why they couldn’t just bus or ferry us to wherever the ship ended up later. We were told no ifs and or buts, 4:30 was our last chance. Since this only gave us 3 hours, we couldn’t plan for a trip to Horse Shoe Bay or any other beach that we would have otherwise gone to since our excursions were cancelled. Yes, it did rain that day but I would add that the skies cleared at 4:00. Following directions we returned to the tender at 4:00. Good thing since those that came at 4:30 were stranded as you know. Upon tendering I was appalled at the safety conditions since we were directed to walk across another tender to our tender via a gangway supported by 2 ice chests!! As another passenger commented, if those chests collapsed you were going in the drink!
When we returned, we watched the show with others as the gallant tugs freed the Crown. But we were concerned that she had to be pushed into port and neither the Captain nor Cruise Director Pedro (who was missing during the entire affair) had made an announcement about the ship’s condition or what the plan from there would be. It seemed the crew had been ordered to pretend that nothing happened. We are not fools and we know a good cruise form a bad cruise. Fortunately we were not in the ninth or tenth deck apartments as the stench in the hallways from the flooded septic system there was awful for several hours as we walked from the back to the front elevators (the back elevators failed).
At about 5:45, while we were in the Seven Seas restaurant, an announcement was made that there would be an open bar form 6-7. Unfortunately for me, I was seated and was told I could only get house wine. I later heard from others that the “open bar” was full of restrictions (no frozen drinks, etc etc) so I’m not sure what I missed. This represented as much insult as gesture as by this time information and an apology would have been better.
I have to admit we had a great time in King’s Wharf Thursday although even that day was still overshadowed by us not knowing for sure how we would get home or the status of the ship (that info didn’t come until Thursday night). Fortunately, we made it back safely and the port of Philly was one of the smoothest processes I’ve seen. But I don’t think we would sail the Crown again and have already advised people I work with (many of whom sail annually) to do the same. A few other point disappointments:
• Food and service. This was absolutely the worst food and restaurant service I have had on 9 cruises. On most days I didn’t get my iced tea (following numerous requests) until well after the entrée arrived. I was in shock that we didn’t have escargot on “French night”. My son was equally disappointed that he couldn’t get a hot dog at the “All American Buffet”. And fortunately we ate in the restaurant Thursday night because the Asian buffet looked more like dog food. My Asian wife took a risk and had a bite and almost vomited. That food was not suitable for a cheap Chinese buffet much less a cruise ship. While several deserts were good and the soups were better than average, I should have heeded the warning of others who advised the Crown has a reputation for its dietary challenges. And why were people not seated in the middle? Fortunately we ate early but those after 6 had quite long lines while the center section remained empty.
• Chocolate Buffet. A highlight of every cruise, I was disappointed that I could not even get into this one. The lines went all the way from the back to front of the ship the entire hour. I kept checking and when the line finally went down I learned it was because the buffet was closing so I missed this.
• Cabins. True, we were in an economy cabin but the beds felt like a dirt floor. Air mattresses would have been better. And I kept falling out of bed during the list. I also don’t understand why passengers must still carry a metal key in this modern day with key cards which we also had to carry.
• Crew attitude. While generally polite, the crew pretended that nothing happened the entire cruise and grew agitated when people asked for updates. Even upon debarkation, the line grew large and unruly with no crew members in sight. This is inexcusable. They should have had crew posted along the line to keep order. This was their last chance to leave a good impression and they missed it. And, the excursion staff changed our times without explanation causing disruption to our plans (Thursday and Wednesday—even before the grounding). Lastly, the excursion staff’s yelling at those in line to get the un-needed tender tickets was appalling.
• One waiter, Donald from Jamaica stood out. So much so that he was being name requested by many. We had him by chance one night and I was pleasantly surprised. He was great with children, knew the menu and our drinks came early and often. But he was alone. This was the first ship I had seen where the maitre’ d didn’t come to each table at least once. On every other cruise they have talked to the children and gone out of their way. Our maitre’ d spent most of his time looking out the window (probably wondering about the hole in the front of the boat).
• Our cabin steward. I forget his name but while the cabin design was poor he kept it very clean.
• Luggage. I have to admit I have never seen luggage delivered as quickly to the staterooms (within an hour).
Summary. I have taken time to share my honest feedback and hope you do the same in replying. The worst mistake of all was the secrecy and lack of information. Any public affairs person will tell you rumors develop and worsen in the absence of reliable info. That happened to an extreme. We sail annually without fail. As you can see, I’ve gone NCL 3 times (first on the Norway) and we have also sailed Celebrity and HAL several times. Up until this time I favored NCL by a slight margin. But the Crown’s bad handling of an unfortunate event has changed all that. Sincerely,