Monday, November 20, 2017

The Debacle of Exiting the Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship at Port Canaveral

The Norwegian Epic at anchor in Ponta Delgada harbor, Azores, November 11 2017

On November 18, 2017, we completed a 13-day transatlantic crossing aboard the beautiful Norwegian Cruise Line ship "Epic."  Our itinerary included departure from Barcelona Spain on November 5, a one-day stop over in gorgeous Malaga, Spain, another day in Ponta Delgada in the Azores, and then 6 full sea days from the Azores to Port Canaveral, Florida.  Other than a few minor glitches on board the ship, it was a wonderful cruise until we attempted to disembark in Port Canaveral on November 18.  There the word "clusterfuck" immediately came to mind and the following letter sent to Norwegian Cruise Line today spells it out.

November 20, 2017

Guest Relations
Norwegian Cruise Line
7665 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, Florida 33126

Dear NCL;

My wife and I are Gold Latitude Rewards members.  This past Saturday we completed a great cruise aboard the Epic on her transatlantic repositioning journey from Barcelona to Port Canaveral.  At least the cruise was great until we encountered the debacle of disembarking in Port Canaveral.

Rather than doing the “Easy Walk Off”, we chose to let you handle our luggage, and we chose the “Green” zone for a 9:00 a.m. departure.  Things started to go downhill early when at 8:30 our housekeeper Melody (Deck 10, Forward, Starboard) was miffed that we were still in our stateroom and were impeding her ability to make up the room for new guests boarding for the ship’s next cruise departing that afternoon.  This was despite information we had from Norwegian saying we could remain in our staterooms until 9:30. 

To assuage her concerns, we immediately left our room and assembled outside the Bliss Lounge at 8:45 a.m. There we noticed a humongous line of Easy Walk Off guests who were not having a very easy time walking off the ship.  We were directed to wait in the Bliss Lounge where we sat until 9:45 a.m. before the 9:00 a.m. Green Zone was called.  When we reached the security checkpoint just before stepping off the ship, we were told that “because of Immigration and Customs” we would have to wait “a few minutes” before we could exit the ship.  “A few minutes” began at 9:50 a.m. – after standing in the hot sun with no water available, we finally stepped off the ship at 10:45, only 1 hour 45 minutes after we were supposed to originally depart.  Meanwhile there were still tons of guests on board who had later departure times than we had, and they likely were as upset as we were with this debacle.

Once in the Customs area we were told by an immigration officer that the hold up was because “Norwegian let too many guests off the ship at once and that immigration had insufficient personnel.”  Thus, nobody accepted responsibility for this mess and instead the two major parties (you and Customs) passed the buck to each other.  After standing in line for what seemed like ages, we FINALLY reached a Customs agent at 12:05 p.m., a mere 3 hours and 5 minutes after we were supposed to originally depart the ship and be on our way home.

Whomever is to blame for this mess needs some immediate people management training.  There simply has to be a more efficient way to disembark a ship load of passengers.  Once in Bangkok, I watched Thai Airways unload a full capacity 747 and then board a plane full of people in 25 minutes.  Granted there are more people on a cruise ship than on a 747, but if they can do it quickly why can't you?

Don’t you have some systems engineers on staff who can identify passenger flow problems and find ways to eliminate what happened in Port Canaveral yesterday?  I can imagine the rage felt by some travelers who had to get on a bus or grab a rental car to make a flight out of Orlando in early afternoon.  If they were in the “Green Zone” with us and had planned a 9:00 a.m. departure to catch a 1:00 p.m. flight they were SOL and I would imagine you are receiving a ship-load of angry comments from those travelers.

Its frustrating enough that we have to endure the ridiculous “safety demonstration” on entering the ship the first day where we spend 45 minutes learning how to attach a life vest (by the way after 13 cruises I STILL do not know how to board a life boat!).  Its beyond annoying to have to endure what a ship load of passengers experienced exiting the Epic yesterday in Port Canaveral.  NCL management and the people on the ship responsible should be ashamed of themselves.

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