We just completed the 19 day TA on the Getaway. We had this cruise booked almost a year and a half in advance and were really looking forward to it. Sadly, it will be our last cruise on NCL for the foreseeable future. We've already cancelled an upcoming cruise on Norwegian and booked a different cruise line. We are experienced cruisers with Platinum status and have sailed with NCL more than any other line.
So, what went wrong? It would easier to talk about what was right. The ship was immaculate. The bed was comfortable. The European ports were fantastic. Embarkation was fast and efficient. The restaurant staff were friendly. The good points pretty much end there.
The low point was probably the food. I know food opinions are subjective, but I find it impossible to believe that anyone would have found the food served on this cruise to be even close to good. We began rating individual dishes as barely passable, pretty bad, and inedible. 75% of the dishes fell into the latter two categories. I did have a dessert soufflé and a wings appetizer that I thought were actually good, but every other dish fell into these three categories. My wife loves fish and usually orders whatever fish entrees that are offered in the MDR, but she gave up after several days of poorly executed meals. I'm more of a meat and potatoes guy, so I'm used to ordering whatever red meat entrée is available. Many were left half finished on my plate. I don't know if it was the lack of skill of the chefs, the recipes themselves, or just poor, low-quality ingredients, but this food was just plain bad. Our best meal was in Cagney's, but in no way did that restaurant equate to a high-end steakhouse. It was okay, but more like an Outback Steakhouse in terms of quality, and I would not have been happy if I'd had to pay their premium prices for what I received. We also tried O'Sheehans once again, the fourth ship we've had the dubious pleasure of eating in this establishment. I used to equate it to eating at a Chili's or Applebees, but I think that may be too high of a bar.
The ship apparently ran out of coffee creamer a couple of days into the cruise. No problem, they still had half and half in the buffet. Then, that disappeared, Then one day, even the milk disappeared, and some of us resorted to using the juice box servings of milk to squeeze into our coffee. Half and half would randomly reappear on the buffet one day, then be gone the next. The creamers didn't reappear until the last two days of the cruise. Lettuce and tomatoes also disappeared for extended periods. It was clear that restocking and inventory management were not this crew's strong points.
Our cabin steward was the most unfriendly, unhelpful steward we've ever experienced. He never introduced himself at all, and I gave up greeting him with a friendly "good morning" toward the end since I almost never got a reply. It's not like we're demanding passengers. We asked for an extra towel one day. I asked for an iron once and left laundry a couple of times to be washed. The first time I asked for an iron as I passed him in the hallway, and his replay was you have to be in your room and call. Okay, I tried that later and got a recording telling me he was unavailable (7 straight times over two days). Finally, someone picked up (not him) and delivered the iron. The first time I needed laundry done, I wrote PLATINUM across the bag, and it was picked up and returned in less that a day (no complaints there). The second time a week later, I did the same thing, but the bag was still sitting where I left it with a laundry order form placed on top. So, I filled in my name and cabin number on it (which I did not do the first time), but it was still not picked up. I finally found the steward the next day and asked why the laundry was not being picked up, only to discover that we needed to actually fill in the order form with specific counts of items. I told him I was happy to do that, but asked why I hadn't needed to do it the first time. His response: if you hadn't filled it out, I would not have picked it up. He actually argued with me that I must have filled it out.
Then there was our port stop in Miami. We were scheduled to be in port from 7 until 2. The day before, we received a letter telling us that we'd be going through Customs since this was our first US port. Each deck was assigned a specific time period to go off the ship, and we would not be able to return to the ship until everyone had gotten off. The people who had to get off at 7:30 AM could not return to the ship until after 2:00 PM. Fortunately, our time wasn't until noon, so we at least got to eat lunch on board before spending 2 1/2 hours standing in the terminal. When we got off, we could see the terminal overflowing with passengers, many sitting on the floor or standing since there weren't anywhere close to enough seats. NCL's only assistance, despite this being a dedicated NCL terminal, was to dispense paper cups of water to the waiting passengers. Then, that evening, aware that virtually everyone on board was angry, the captain apologized over the announcements and blamed everything on Immigration. Pure BS. I was aware that we'd need to go through immigration in this port, so that part wasn't a surprise. NCL even knew how long it was going to take and what the process would be well ahead of time since they put it in our letter. They had no business even advertising this as a port stop since the random staggered debarkation times precluded making any arrangements in port. Most people with private excursions or plans had to cancel Only the NCL excursions were permitted to debark early and go on their way. Secondly, knowing how bad this process was going to be, NCL could have done a far better job making sure there was enough seating in the terminal; maybe providing some basic snacks and drink; maybe providing a shuttle to transport passengers across the bridge to where there are several restaurants. Heck, doing anything other than stacking us like cattle in the terminal.
Great Stirrup Cay was only marginally better. NCL had two ships in port because they had rerouted the Sun from another port (poor things, they actually had two separate port stops there), so they only allocated one tender to the Getaway. That meant that 400 passengers were being tendered every 45 minutes. Some passengers didn't get off until 1:30, 3 1/2 hours after we arrived and got there 15 minutes before the main food service on the island was scheduled to end. They only got off that early because NCL finally allocated a second tender to our ship at that point. The food on the island was comparable to what we had on the ship. As just one example, they were serving baked beans with the BBQ lunch buffet. How can someone mess up such a simple dish? You can start by making it from scratch, but forgetting to actually presoak or cook the beans. Think putting a forkful of rocks in your mouth, and you have some idea of what this was like. Obviously, not one cook actually tasted the dish prior to serving because it was truly inedible.
There were many other smaller problems on board like numerous drinks not being prepared correctly by bartenders (I actually had three separate margaritas on different days and in different bars where they "forgot" to add alcohol). There were one hour waits to be seated in the MDRs, and the only way to avoid them and make a 7:30 show was to show up for dinner by 5:15 PM. Surprisingly, the waits disappeared after the first week, so either the staff improved, or enough people got sick of the food and stuck to the specialty restaurants. We also noticed staff reductions like the absence of assistant waiters most of the time. That appeared to be one reason service was slower than we've experienced on other cruises. Finally, it appeared to us that fewer crew members had any sort of command of the English language. It was like they had received a crash course in the phrases they would need for their position. If you asked a question like "do you have any half and half?", the crew member would have no idea how to respond. I also can't count the number of times I was told that they would go and check on something, yet never return. None of these by themselves would be a big deal, but lumped in with all the other issues, and they just served to add fuel to the fire.
So, after pretty much sticking with NCL over the past ten years, it's time for us to go back and give Princess and HAL and Royal Caribbean another try. Maybe they are just as bad these days, but I find it hard to believe that they could be worse.