My husband and I planned our first vacation in years with our small children, Amanda 10, Allanah 9, and Aaron 3. It was for our anniversary celebration, the honeymoon we were never able to take, time together as a family to celebrate our son's birthday, and Christmas. This was their gift Santa gave them!!! Not gifts under the tree, this cruise! We hung the pictures and brochures from NCL and the Gem up in their rooms, on inside cabinet doors and all over the house to see every day. The pictures were put in frames, on our walls, we told all our friends and family about it!
Our wonderful cruise consultant gave us beautiful posters to hang up, look at, and simply get the little ones excited for this adventure of a lifetime! Swim with the fish, get to see everything we could at Atlantis, none of this happened! As per the welcome aboard book: "Dear Guest, Thank you for choosing to cruise with the Norwegian Cruise Line. We're excited to welcome you on board and we're confident that you'll have a wonderful time enjoying the freedom and flexibility of our exclusive Freestyle Cruising." This was not the case!
"...our goal is to deliver the best vacation ever, so if there's anything we can do to help make your cruise more enjoyable, please let us know."
NCL brochures say over and over 'do what you want when you want'! This cruise not just let our family, our children, and friends down, it was a disgrace to cruising, they let us all down! Our children never got what you advertised, this is not the Christmas gift they were supposed to have, they never got to experience the voyage and ports as advertised. We all came home sad, disappointed, and our souvenir was a fever and stomach virus!
We wanted the Gem for the Wii Wall, rock wall, ship's slide, Nassau, Bahamas, port and Atlantis, for us to go to the water park, swim with the fish and we all dreamed of it night and day. We were expecting the "do what you want, when you want" that they had advertised. This cruise let us all down. I felt horrible my children didn't get to see Atlantis properly with the late disembarking, nor enjoy each of the ports as scheduled!
We were originally scheduled for Dec. 4th on the Gem. We were only really interested in the rock wall, 2-story high Wii Wall, bowling alley, Great Stirrup Cay, and a full day at Nassau, a full day of port time to enjoy Atlantis. My husband lost his week off for the cruise, the Dec. 11th Gem was the closest thing to it.
The ship was delayed getting to NY, it left well after 9 pm not the 4pm as per itinerary, they canceled Great Stirrup Cay. NCL would not let us rebook after that was taken away AND after itinerary was changed. They said they would apply huge cancellation fee if we did try to change to another ship, they said it was too late! Teri Sorenson tried her best, she went out of her way for us, even connecting us to the manager. He really could have changed if he tried, a cruise line as big as NCL it should have been no big deal! We asked to fly to Florida and take a ship with a full 7-day schedule with at least three ports and they would not let us and just spoke of penalties! We reluctantly went on this cruise destined to fail. Did they really think they could make up over five hours?
On our first day, Gem lost our luggage until after midnight ! They never told us about or mailed us updated luggage tags, there is no excuse for that! We were not told they had our room destination on them, as new cruisers we had no idea the tag was by room not name or reservation. They could have simply looked up our name from the luggage and found it. Our full names were printed on several tags all over the luggage, redundantly so it would not get lost.
Our kids were crying to go to our villa's indoor pool, my heart broke. All my husband and I wanted was a shower and clean clothes and to go to sleep.
Ruth, the Concierge, was the one who figured it out and saved the day. She found the luggage by asking if we upgraded! The luggage was at the previous room still sitting in the hallway, your staff never reported it! Until then we could not shower or swim at the villa pool or even brush our teeth! The rooms had no mouthwash! We went to bed without a shower as it was too late by the time they found our luggage.
There was no penthouse/villa DVD library as stated on the website and emailed to us by our NCL agent and in the brochure. Isn't that called false advertising? Oh, and the DVD library for the penthouse/villa movies no longer exist. It is now IT something and are over $9 each and they have a very small selection. We told Ruth and she comped us a few movies for our sick baby.
The Soda Card, we spent over $165 for our card, we were told we could use it in the room! We have three kids and you can't use it for soda in your room. We had to complain, again. Thank you to Ruth AGAIN who let us get soda to the room (we caught a virus by then.) You can use it at the restaurants and bars only during their hours. We ended up running around the ship to get gingerale for our sick 3-year old son.
The kid's crew put the wrong wristband on MY SON repeatedly, and I had to raise my voice before they understood it was a different Aaron. My Aaron has life-threatening allergies requiring an epipen AND asthma meds. He needed his wristband with his medical info on it! The people at the door should not be trusted with kids. I have a child on the spectrum and she is more on the ball than the people checking in the kids at kid's club. One child threw up near my son and he came down with the virus. Then we all eventually got it and it was not the lactose intolerance the ship doctor thought because the fever and rash came later. Yes a virus, no matter what the crew say about it being seasick, we had high fevers, vomiting, and nasty intestinal issues, followed by a rash on our face on its way out.
Finally, one wonderful crew member, Ruth as usual, helped us out letting us get soda from the butler who was also wonderful. Speaking of wonderful our steward, Victor was the best. Ruth and Rob Sugar seemed to have pull on the ship. Again thank you, Josephine, who really did try her best to help all of us through the horrible stomach virus. I hope they didn't all get it!
Oh and the "optional automatic tips," bad idea. The people who really deserve them didn't get their fair share. I spent an additional several hundred dollars in tips for the people who deserved it. It should be just tip as you go! They hit you for 18% on bar drinks anyway.
But the absolute biggest letdown was when NCL GEM didn't allow us off in Nassau at noon. We had a long wait, getting shoved like a mosh pit trying to get off, AGAIN THIS IS A SAFETY ISSUE.
We were told by one crew ship's papers were not in order, by another crew there was a labor dispute, and told by another crew member, natives were protesting. Got to Atlantis as fast as we could just to have it close less than four hours later at 5pm. The kids got to go on only four slides. What a waste of money! They were in tears, all that way and only three slides, they had every right to cry, I felt like crying! So we paid over $400 for wrist bands and only went on four slides. Actually, they went on the same one two times so only tried three slides. I wish NCL would have just let us get a ship out of Florida last minute as we requested and it would not have been a ruined vacation.
NCL advertises "do what you want when you want."
well when it comes to the two-story high Wii wall and rock wall, that translates to false advertising. Even our agent said they would be able to use the Wii and rock wall as often as they like! I printed the NCL site page stating the bowling games were included in the fare, I gave the Front Desk a copy. They agreed after they read it, and I saved a copy of the web page off line for each of the false advertisements/misrepresentation/lies (you choose which word you feel fits)! The line for the complaints desk was always long when we went and we heard the people complain about the same things we did, over, over, and over again! You can't say it was just our group's cabins! These people were from all over the ship! From all over the world, and many were seasoned cruisers!
Wii wall was not available every day. It was primarily an advertising wall to peddle ship's goods and services. Wii wall only opened for 45 minutes at 9am and we had to negotiate / protest to Rob Sugar and Ruth to add time slots to the schedule. Rock wall was hardly ever open and had long lines.
We all eventually got the intestinal virus with fever, along with other passengers we sailed with. Staff said seasickness, but seasickness doesn't come with high fever and lower intestinal issues.
Their compensation for lost port was $160! That was an insult! Less than 1 1/2 days in port, not three days. For all we went through, what is deserved is a full refund or the same trip out of Florida including airfare!
Our vacation issues are posted on all the relevant major travel, cruise, social, and networking sites.