16 days at sea, 5 ports of call, 8 additional days traveling through Europe and 7 countries for 1 awesome family vacation!
Unfortunately this awesome, nearly month long family vacation has hit several setbacks, after cancellation, after cancellation. All as a result of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). Along our 16 days with NCL, we were scheduled to see 5 different cities/countries, referred to here as “port” or “ports of call”. But so far we have been VERY disappointed with the poor execution, planning, and handling of situations with NCL.
This is our third cruise and up until this point, we have loved every second of cruising! It is such a fun, different and convenient way of traveling that can be very affordable vs the standard way of travel via hotels, airfare, rental cars etc. Once you board the cruise ship you don’t have to spend a penny. Your cabin, food, entertainment, and transportation are all covered! It is so fun falling asleep on the ocean and waking up in a new city the next morning!
Our first cruise was our Honeymoon, in Sept 2010 with Carnival Cruise Line to the Caribbean. Our second was Sept 2013 on Royal Caribbean, with Faith (13 months old at the time) to The Bahamas and Caribbean. And now this Transatlantic Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line from Miami, FL to Europe (May 2017) with our kiddos Faith and Alexander.
Our first two cruises were awesome! But this post is to share our current experience with NCL so far. We are currently on day 12 of 16, on this cruise. And after 10.5 days at Sea, we finally got off on our first Port of Call yesterday, in Brest, France. The following is a summary of every port so far on our itinerary.
1st Port of Call//Ponta Delgada, Azores//May 8th 2017
We pulled into port around 6:30 am. A few minutes after 7 am the Captain canceled the port because of “winds”. Even though it was very calm, the calmest we had seen in days. It would have been nice to see a stronger attempt made by the Captain to allow us to proceed with our day, in port as planned. For example, waiting around for the “wind” to die down, since we were scheduled to be there all day anyway. At a bare minimum, we should have stuck around for an hour.
2nd Port of Call//Brest, France//May 11th 2017:
We were so excited for yesterday, to finally be able to get off and explore. But unfortunately, they were SOO disorganized that it took over 2 hours standing in line to get off the boat! No excuses, they should have had more than one gangway open to expedite disembarkation! To make matters worse, after standing in a line that didn’t move, they announced they were changing the deck of the gangway (the ramp on cruises used to disembark the ship) from 5 to 7. So after relocating up two decks and waiting in line for an hour and a half that hardly moved, I found out they were unloading everyone from below deck 7, up one staircase before our line could start. By the time we finally got off, we only had 2 hours left to walk around the city.
We are very disappointed that NCL could not execute a smooth disembarkation for anyone aboard. Another hour was spent waiting in line, (in an area we were “banned” from walking through in the morning because it was too dangerous) just to get back on the boat. A few hours after leaving Brest, the Captain made another announcement. Yes, more bad news…
3rd Port of Call//Southampton, England//May 12th 2017:
After leaving France, they endured a technical issue with their azipod propulsion system. Which has resulted in us cruising at a much slower speed then we should have been going. So we are arriving 4 and a half hours later than we should have been today. And every guest onboard still has to do a UK inspection, before we can get off the ship. Which I have no hope will be executed quickly or without issues.
We are currently waiting, not IN line but to be ‘allowed’ to get in line, as I write this. We have been waiting for 1.5/2 hours as of right now. Because we didn’t book (a crazy expensive, sold out excursion) we are not a high enough priority to go through yet… They adjusted the departure to midnight, which really doesn’t make a difference. Considering shops and places will still close around the country on time between 7-10 typically. Not to mention we will not keep our little kids out so late in a foreign city, where everything is closed. It is currently 1:40 pm. 6 hours after we were supposed to arrive. We will not be off anytime soon. As if 3/3 severely affected ports wasn’t bad enough…
4th Port of Call//Zeebrugee, Belgium//May 13th 2017:
ANOTHER canceled port! As a result of the previously mentioned technical problem. So even after “fixing it” in England, today like they said. They decided to cancel ANOTHER port instead of speeding up to make up time. So it’s now our problem once again. Another missed day of exploring a new city. Another Sea Day.
5th Port of Call//Rotterdam, Netherlands//May 14th, 2017:
So far we are scheduled to have the first and last port to be executed like planned. At this rate, they have screwed up 4/4 ports in some way. I have no faith that something will not happen making this another wasted day, thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line! I’ll cross my fingers for the best though.
Because ports of call, are just as big a part of the cruising experience as sailing is, our family will NEVER sail with Norwegian Cruise Line again! This is the first and sadly the last time. If Norwegian wants to be in the cruising business, they need to figure out better solutions to common problems ships face, like winds and tides. Without immediately resulting in canceling the port altogether. And executing a much, much quicker and smoother disembarkation process. Over 2 hours in line to get off and another hour to get back on is ridiculous!
With all that being said, this wouldn’t be a proper review if I just stated the negatives. Here is a quick summary of our trip so far besides port of call issues…
CABIN – BALCONY STATEROOM
The room and our cabin steward are great. Lots of space for storage and a family of four. With nice, modern decor. Unfortunately, the view is obstructed below our balcony, because they didn’t fit the life boats on a deck and they also extended it farther out.
The food is subpar compared to what Carnival and Royal dished out. Especially considering we are on this Ship for over two weeks, it would be nice to see the food options differ more from day to day. On Carnival and Royal, we ate as much crab and lobster as we wanted in the included dining rooms. On NCL, we’ve only seen those nice options in the specialty restaurants aka you have to pay extra.
Everyone is really nice, friendly and helpful! We’ve been told there is only about 50-70 kids on board (vs over 1,100 like their last cruise). So our kids have gotten a looot of extra attention and made a lot of new friends. Aka the friendly people in the Garden Cafe (The main buffet/place to eat almost any time of the day).
Our room steward Wayan is awesome. The kids have fun talking and playing with him. They go back and forth leaving their stuffed animals in funny places around the room each night. It’s entertaining. My favorite is Pascal (from the movie Tangled) trying to save Alexander’s monkey from falling off the bunk and the towel animals.
On this type of cruise we quickly learned the main travelers are of the older generations. Hardly anyone around our age or younger. Thus the entertainment options provided are mostly targeted toward the older crowd. But there has been a good amount of other onboard activities to keep us entertained for the most part of the trip so far.
For example, the five water slides look fun, we haven’t tried them though because the weather hasn’t been warm enough. Faith and Alexander enjoyed having the kids pool area to themselves the first couple days (while it was warm enough for water activities) since there is barely any kids on board. The ropes course, kids rope course, rock wall, put put golf and sports court have been a lot of fun!
All in all, the trip has been great up until they started canceling and severely delaying ports right and left. I hope if you cruise with Norwegian in the future that you are able to successfully visit your ports of calls as scheduled. And do not have a similar experience. But I know our family will NEVER again cruise on NCL.
I really had hoped NCL would step up and do something substantial to make up for all these canceled/delayed ports and other hassles! As of this morning, we got notice of an onboard credit of $100 pp or $200 max per room. Wow. Thank you Norwegian Cruise Line, that is so generous! You cancel two ports, we only had two hrs in Brest, who knows how today will be. And we get $200. What a joke! We invested WAY more into seeing all these places then $200 can cover. Very disappointed in Norwegian Cruise Line!