The Chill and Perils of Booking Guaranteed Cabin on a Cruise Ship
I was booked on a guaranteed cabin on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Breakaway, through an agency Ucruise. The smiley agent told me that I will be assigned on level 5 to 8 and assured me that since I book and paid for in full, 4 months before the cruising date, I will, very likely, be assigned to a cabin on the higher level. So, I paid for the booking in full then and even told the agent to request a cabin on the higher level.
20 days prior to the cruise date I received the cruise package and found that I was assigned to the bottom level. I called the NCL reservation supervisor, Brandy, to cancel my booking and she told me that this booking is 100% non-refundable. She also said that if I wanted any cabin other than the bottom level, I will have to pay extra. Technically anyone booking this guarantee is assigned to the bottom level unless you have paid extra. Clearly indicating that the cruise line can use “cheap dummies” as the ship’s ballast alongwith the sea water pumped in, to stabilise the ship for the comfort of those higher paying passengers on the higher levels.
In the event of a power failure, God forbid, the poor passengers on the bottom level are not only ship’s ballasts but will be swimming in their “doo doos” or someone else’s since the toilets cannot flush properly and water from the upper levels will drain down towards them, as evidenced on the cruise ship towed in on the Gulf of Mexico. These ships are nonetheless mechanical machineries and are operated long hours on days, months and years.
To protect my health and sanity, I have decided to walk away from the $2296 paid 4 months ago for this booking. This message is written to warn others thinking of jumping into a cheap cruise offered by this deceiving guarantee.
This was not our first cruise, so we knew what to expect. First of all, I've never been to a spa where after I had a massage ($170 ) I was told I couldn't use their shower unless I bought a day pass to the spa area! Food was just ok--a lot of repetition. Nothing special, and buffet was not good. Ate at Cagney's and it was very good, as was the Italian specialty restaurant. However, DO NOT waste your money on Ocean Blue! Very limited selections and while the appetizers were large, the entree was not. Scallops were over cooked (all 2 of them), and sea bass portion was tiny. All this for $49 per person! Husband ordered just plain vanilla ice cream for dessert and it had ice cubes in it. Had a "mini-suite" and it was indeed "mini." Went to the dinner show which was very good, but the food was bad. Also went to Fat Cat's the last night. While the entertainment was great, the kid ( around 4 years old) running back and forth in front of the stage was unnerving. I really thought someonein management would take care of the problem, but they didn't. Still can't understand while this was allowed in that particular environment. Unfortunately we were a day late into Bermuda due to the tropical storm, and first day in port it was raining. Not NCL's fault, but made for a bad time.
MINDSET before sailing: The contract was provided AFTER payment in full (NO Refunds) and stated that everything you were sold doesn't count. Only the contract details do. The ship is not guaranteed to be seaworthy. The staff is not guaranteed to be trained. The service charge is not a tip. It's like the service charge at a catering hall. It goes to management. No wonder the staff doesn't care. They are in a service profession without any accountability, ie. tips. If a ship is quarantined, we can be charged for having to remain on the ship. I especially liked the paragraphs that pointed out we can't sue but if we do, you are responsible for nothing and suits can be filed in Fl under Maritime law. We are not on a fishing boat. We are on a cruise that cost a whole lot of money and is supposed to provide us with the products and services we were told we would receive. The responsibility to create an enjoyable atmosphere and clean environment rests with you, no matter what the contract says. It was certainly a downer. It felt like we werebait and switch victims before we started.
The embarkation was simple because I walk with a cane so we bypassed the main line. There was no staff to greet and direct us upon boarding.
The steward was not a happy person and our room was not cleaned until the afternoon each day. Day 1: We had sour milk in our coffee maker's water reservoir and hadn't been set up for coffee with supplies. My brother's room had not been cleaned properly. Used tampons were in his bathroom garbage! There was no instruction to know you had to put your card in for electricity. What about charging stuff when you are out of your room? Shouldn't the steward greet each person to welcome us and explain the procedures and timing? We came back to our room at 12:30 and found our room still not made up. We had to leave again. Twice we stayed on the balcony while he worked on our room. We had to work around him. I don't think my cruise experience should work that way. My father's steward was friendly, efficient and answered questions which is how I was able to inform the other 6 rooms in our group how the electricity worked. Their stewards hadn't told them either.
Restaurants: We were very unhappy with the crowds in the Cafe - the noise, the poor food, no choices, no seasoning, waiting to find seats. The fried chicken still had hair on it and the Romainian guy in charge said that's the way it comes ?!? The buffet staff allowed things to run out then wouldn't let you know if someone was going to backfill it. The flavor of the food and desserts was not existent. Moderno's was delicious. Our large group enjoyed the opportunity to dine on excellent food together. I question the reservation policy since we were told we could only come at 5:30 and the group we were traveling with was told only 6:15, I think. The dining room remained half empty for most of our time there. This is certainly not run like a restaurant to reserve and turn tables. The only complaint was beverage refills. The sushi restaurant took forever for 4 sushi rolls and again slow or no beverage refills. The Uptown Grill had a nice staff but NO SALT for breakfast ?!? Why? We enjoyed the food and service in Savor 3x. Excellent.
The reservation system blocked out any opportunity to eat in the main dining rooms until 8:45 each night. The shows changed times when we departed NY throwing off our schedule. Most shows were already blocked out just like dining reservations. Nothing was "Freestyle" on this cruise. It was TOO CROWDED!! You couldn't enjoy anything on the outside decks. No room. The deck chair areas were barely passable. We couldn't get into the tiny pools. 4000 people and pools could probably hold 200.
Handicap accessibility was poor. The hallways were TOO NARROW !! It was a matter of taking turns in the doorway nooksfor people to walk through in different directions. Anyone with a stroller, walker, motorized scooter or wheelchair was at the mercy of the cleaning carts and the room service food that never got picked up. I watched a woman who HAD to escort her father so he could get around. His narrow scooter could not pass the carts. She had to pull the carts into the doorway nooks so he could squeeze past. She said her mother had a wider scooter and could not fit through. I donâ€™t know if her mother was on the cruise but that should be criminal if she was confined to her room. Personally, it was painful to have to walk sideways to pass the carts. I estimated the hallway width to be slightly over 3 feet which is the size of a hallway in my home and a bit less than 2 feet with the cart in place. It was an obstacle course. An obese woman with a cane barely got through. It had to be embarrassing.
CLEANLINESS: I had to point out to a young lady in a gown for pictures that she had to lift her gown to keep from getting dirty on the breakfast food that was on the floor, having been bumped off the plate that had been there for over 8 hours. I called down to have someone retrieve it and they took only that plate, leaving 3 others in the same hallway!
ROOMS: The rooms hold 4 people but the balconies only have room for 2 chairs. Smokers made it disgusting to try to be on our balcony and when we were enroute back to NY, we smelled marijuana.
RAID: Before the ship left Bermuda, our friend's 75 year old mother had her room raided by Bermuda police looking for marijuana!!
Really, A 75 year old is your suspect? She was too frail to have left the ship, yet they accused her of buying pot in port. They opened her safe and searched her room, forcing her and her 70 year old friend to sit while they did. She was told the next day that other rooms were searched also because of a complaint about smoke from her balcony's vicinity. My friends were incredulous when we came back to tell them the room is subject to unwarranted search, especially when we told them how many balconies were so close together, how small they were and the wind currents made it impossible to determine a particular path. Guess there's no Bill of Rights on the ship or in Bermuda.
There was too much "Big Brother" with our cards for my taste. You could tell when we were in our rooms, at a show or restaurant, at the activities, etc.
None of the entertainment was at the level we expect on a cruise. Rock of Ages is completely inappropriate on a family cruise. The day of the show was when they pointed out it was not kid friendly, yet kids were allowed in. Sex acts, beastiality and the language did not belong in a show on a family cruise. This info wasn't available when making the reservations. WHY?? There was no info about the shows to know about reserving them. Burn the Floor was the most impressive but of course we were blocked out of most of the others. The Magician was not "Amazing" and most of his humor went over the heads of my pre-teens and even our older teens in the group. The drinks we received at a quiet bar area during the day were tasty. The ones we received at the Theatre were not. They were watered down or had no liquor. A waiter in the Theatre was very accommodating and went to make me a Mexican coffee. He was the most accommodating person we encountered outside the Savor Restaurant. The timing for events we wanted to participate in always conflicted with other things so we didn't get to them. There was little to nothing on the days in port for those who couldn't or weren't going ashore. I remember a lot of Infomercial type offerings.
INFORMATION: The staff was content with not knowing answers, especially about our ONE port of call. We received a bus ferry Xerox copy without the information required to read it. When I went back, I was given the real flyer which showed there were multiple pages, including explanations and information that was not copied on the handouts at point of sale for the transportation passes. Any questions were blown off if you were not buying an excursion. There's only one port. Why isn't there a rack with flyers and brochures for the area?
Even though the NCL app was recommended for groups to communicate with each other on board, it required everyone pay a fee and it didn't work. How about making the voicemails in your room accessible from ship phones so everyone can call in to meet up without additional fees? Make it easier for families and large groups to choose cruising, not harder.
Nobody on the general staff smiled. These people must be miserable working for NCL. At least we had a reasonable time because we were with so many family and friends and knew we were going home again.