Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sailing on the Norwegian Escape - Bigger Isn't Always Better

We sailed aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship "Escape" from Miami to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau during October 29 to November 5, 2016.  The Escape is the newest and largest ship in the Norwegian fleet and its heavily marketed because of those traits.  However as our rather disappointing experience aboard the Escape suggests, bigger isn't necessarily always better.

The letter below was sent today to Norwegian Cruise Lines.  I'm certain given the number of other frustrated, annoyed and generally disappointed people we encountered on this cruise, Norwegian will be receiving many other similar responses.  At least I hope so.  What they do with this information is up to them.  However if they had a modicum of sense they would heed the comments and concerns of their otherwise dedicated guests.  Time will tell on that one.

Guest Relations
Norwegian Cruise Line
7655 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, Florida 33126

Re:  Cruise Aboard the Norwegian Escape, October 29 – November 5, 2016

Dear NCL

My partner Catherine Hayslett and I were aboard the Norwegian Escape for a 7-day cruise to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau, during October 29 to November 5, 2016.  The two-fold reason for the cruise was to 1) celebrate my 65th birthday and 2) to become engaged to be married. 

At the conclusion of this cruise I can say with great confidence that there simply are not enough words in the English language to describe how thoroughly disappointed we were with our cruise aboard the Escape.  Norwegian may be able to enjoy greater corporate profits by cramming more people onto bigger ships, but in the end that quest for corporate greed ruins the experience for your guests.

Let us begin with there being only 2 pools on the entire ship for 4,260 passengers.  Let’s add to that 4 hot tubs for 4,260 passengers.  Do you really expect that shoving all those people into such tight quarters will result in a quality experience?  Then next let’s examine the wait times to be served a drink at one of the bars in the pool area.  It’s bad enough that you charge extortionate prices for a bottle of beer or a Bloody Mary but then add an 18 percent gratuity to the cost for simply (and finally) reaching in a cooler, grabbing a beer, opening it, and then handing it to a customer.  It used to be that the best deal on a Norwegian cruise was a 32 ounce “oil can” of Foster’s beer.  Now you have discontinued offering them.  Then to top it off you have jacked up the price of already extortionate prices of your drinks, you refuse to allow people to bring their own water on board (citing “safety” concerns – that’s pure horse hockey and you know it….you want to sell people water… it has nothing to do with safety), and then you charge passengers a $15.00 charge per bottle if we want to bring our own bottles of wine on board.  The ultimate insult is being charged $30 a day to access the Internet.  Seriously?

Next let’s consider the excruciating long wait times to be served meals in the main dining areas and the packed-like-sardines feeling of trying to dine in the Garden Café.  One morning in the Savor we waited 1 hour 30 minutes from the time our breakfast was ordered until it was served.  At least the wait staff remembered to drop off some coffee relatively early on in the experience.  Let’s also consider the hour long wait in the Manhattan Dining Room that resulted in Cathy’s veal being so tough it was like leather when she attempted (and failed) to cut into it!  The Cruise Daily regularly stated that breakfast would begin at a certain time yet when that time arrived the Garden Café (as an example) was not open.  The omelet station server said that his station would open “in 8 minutes” or “sorry we don’t open for another 20 minutes” and then he proceeded to parade back and forth in front of his station for the next 20 minutes while a growing line of annoyed passengers waited and waited for him to step in and begin preparing a meal.

Evening entertainment was practically impossible to enjoy because, again, you have too many people competing for too few seats in the venues.  Invariably our attempts to book entertainment were met with “sorry sir, that show is already booked.”  While we are on the topic of entertainment, I would like to know why you did not provide for any contact with the very historic 2016 World Series.  We could watch the Czech Republic play Russia (a team from Moscow to be exact) in basketball, and there was no end of English Premier League soccer shown endlessly and there was even a tennis match or two but no baseball and especially the World Series?  The bulk of the passengers on this cruise were from the United States not England, the Czech Republic or Russia but you could find no way to show the World Series between one team that had not won the series in 108 years and another that had not won in 68 years?   Can we assume that you did not show the World Series because Norwegian would have had to pay a fee to Direct TV or whomever is your service provider?  Given how much you charge for everything else, was it really too expensive to show America’s past time to a ship full of Americans?

The original route of the cruise and the ports we visited

When we docked in St. Thomas the weather was questionable at best and we wondered if our dive excursion had been cancelled.  We went first to the Shore Excursions desk to inquire but there were 40 people in line (I counted) waiting for ONE employee to answer their questions.  Flummoxed by this situation we went across the room to Guest Services where five people stood doing nothing and we asked if they had any information on the status of the shore excursions.  They pointed at the shore excursions desk and told us to go wait in line to find out.  Really?  Can’t one department work with another to extend information to guests? Or is there a turf battle between competing departments and nobody wants to share information?

On the topic of Guest Services I would like to know why on the four occasions I dialed “00” for Guest Services the phone rang a minimum of 20 times and a maximum of 46 times with nobody answering the phone.  I know the number because I counted the rings.

For whatever reason the bulk of the employees we encountered on this cruise were not happy campers.  There was a noticeable lack of espirit de corps that has epitomized earlier NCL cruises.  Maybe it was a result of the staff being worn out trying to keep up with the demands of 4,260 increasingly frustrated guests?

We are currently booked on the transatlantic crossing of the Epic from Barcelona to Port Canaveral in November 2017.  However out of fear that the service on that crossing will be as lousy as it was on the over-stuffed Escape we are giving considerable consideration to cancelling that trip.  Seven days of lousy service on the Escape was bad enough; I can’t imagine what 13 days of it would be like in the middle of the Atlantic.

I am not sure what has happened to Norwegian in the three years we have cruised on you but the quality of the service and the value for the dollar expended have both declined dramatically.  The quest for greater corporate profits might make your CEO richer and your investors happier, but attaining those profits at the cost of quality service and happy customers who make those profits happen, is a lousy way to run a cruise line.


  1. GREAT letter! I was also on this cruise with my family, and let me add to your of the worst experiences ever. The main reason was due to a topic you wrote about above....NCL's failure to show what might go down in history as the most significant World Series in decades. We are die-hard lifelong Cubs fans when I first booked this trip back in May, I contacted NCL directly to make sure they would be playing the World Series on this ship (I was hopeful even back then). They assured me the would have it and would play it on a big screen on the ship. So, I booked the cruise. Then, around October 17th when it looked like my Cubbies might actually be going to the World Series, I called NCL again to double check, and they not only told me they would be playing it, but they would be having a party with WINGS! Behold, we board the Escape on 10/29, unpack and go down to try and find out where they are playing the WS - only to find out they lied, not once but twice, and not only to me, but to many families who were also wanting to watch the series. My son cried for days, and I am still crying. The trip will go down not only an epic fail, but a stolen life experience for these Cubs fans. Signed, Sharon Nykaza-Slawinski