Monday, January 12, 09
Each week the ship is graded based off comment cards and survey results from passengers a couple of weeks after they return home. The ship is graded on such things as cleanliness, food, accommodations, itineraries and entertainment, etc. The ship we’re on right now has been rated number one in the NCL fleet since its inaugural sail, just over a year ago. It’s the newest ship in the fleet so ratings for cleanliness, accommodations etc should rate naturally higher. For almost six months of the year it’s also been in the western Mediterranean where each new port is better than the last and as a passenger you’ve got so many opportunities to see and experience something new and wonderful.
That all changed however the week after Thanksgiving after crossing the Atlantic, when we left New York for a new itinerary and all hell broke out on the ship. In Barcelona (the home port while in the Med.), the ship ports early in the morning and then doesn’t leave until 6pm, so the steward staff has plenty of time to get rooms ready and the ship turned over for a new cast of passengers. Most people enjoy breakfast, lunch or even an early dinner on land before coming on the ship so getting food on the ship is a low priority. Because there’s such a long port day the delivery of luggage to the state rooms is spread out and almost everyone has their luggage delivered before we even leave port. Everything seems easy and relaxed.
Contrast that with a New York port day. We arrive at 9am but passengers don’t have to be off until 11:30am. Which means for many of them they’ll get their last breakfast in and hang around in their state rooms until the very last minute. This leaves the stewards only two hours to turn over the entire ship before newly arriving passengers are let on board. It also means that the buffet area has to be completely cleaned out and reset for new passengers who apparently haven’t eaten anything for the last three days. Every week it’s the same madness. All new passengers have to be on board by 3:30pm at the latest and often times their rooms aren’t ready yet so they head to the buffet, where it is utter chaos. Because it is New York and the middle of winter all of the normal outdoor eating areas are only for the bravest of souls. Which means approximately 1,000 people are walking around the garden buffet sitting area with plates piled high with more food than a starving camel should eat in one sitting calling out “Marvin, where’d you go? Don’t walk so fast” “There’s no place to sit, this is fucking ridiculous.” “Hey look, MaryAnn they’ve got cappuccino machines. MaryAnn? Yo, MaryAnn!” Marvin and MaryAnn then end up sitting in the kids section at tables about a foot and a half high on little toadstool chairs. For Marvin and MaryAnn their cruise is over.
For the stewards who have just had to turn around the entire ship in a matter of hours their next duty is to lug the passenger luggage from the fourth floor receiving area to the corresponding passenger room. I’ve noticed that New Yorkers are not a patient lot. They’re vacation has just started and they need their luggage NOW dammit!! This is when I feel the most empathy for our stewards. Often times they don’t get a chance to even stop and eat the entire day. More than once Rance and I have gone to the buffet and beaten off the savages to secure some food, which we hide in our room for our stewards.
Adding insult to injury is the itinerary. While this ship was enjoying it’s number one ranking we were visiting ports like Malta, Naples, Civitevecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence, Pisa), and Villefranche. Now after leaving cold and bitter New York, we go to Port Canavral where the high lights are Disney, NASA, or WallMart. I’m not kidding, there is a shuttle that will take passengers and crew to WallMart, where people can spend their entire port day lost in a florescent jungle that is consumerism at it’s best.
From Port Canavral the ship sets sail to Grand Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island. This sounds wonderful and romantic, but in reality it’s a stretch of sand that the entire ship is transplanted to, loud Caribbean music and all. In truth I’ve never gotten off to enjoy the pleasures of sand-flea-island. I usually spend this day in the spa, looking out at the masses in horror from the safety of my hot stone bed.
Next stop is Nassau, Bahamas. For most of the passengers the highlight here is Paradise Island where Atlantis Hotel is located. It’s a ritzy resort with a major casino. Everything on this island is expensive. Everything that is, except the bootleg DVD’s at the straw market, which you can pick up for $5. To get a meal outside of McDonald’s or Burger King it’s going to easily run you 50 bucks for two people. And I’m not talking anything special that’s a gyros, fries and a beer folks. You’ve got to bring deep pockets if you plan on spending the full day off the ship at Nassau.
The last stop on this itinerary is Freeport, which is now famous as the place Jet Travolta passed away after hitting his noggin. We get in at 7am and all aboard for crew is 11am. I have never seen this island. The port area looks like we came into New Jersey for the morning. I’m sure it’s nice somewhere on the island I just don’t have the desire to get up early enough to find it.
From Freeport it’s basically two sea days back to New York. On the itinerary basis alone I can see why the ship’s ratings have fallen from first to last in the pack. I use this itinerary to save money. But I’m guessing if you’ve shelled out money for a cruise vacation you’d like a little more pizz in your azz.
We’re on a new itinerary now that takes us from New York to the southern Caribbean, ports like St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados, St. Martin and Tortola. I’m almost positive our ratings will go up even if the cruise is over for some after their first buffet experience in New York.