This is not starting well. . .

It’s hard to believe, but we have been on board our ship, the Norwegian Spirit, for 10 days already. We cruised on the Spirit several years ago and fell in love with its unique décor. Originally, the ship had been owned by an Asian cruise company and had Japanese décor, including samurai warrior outfits on display. It is also a slightly smaller ship (2100 passengers) than many of the mid-range ships. Unbeknownst to us when we booked, the cruise from Rome to Dubai would be the first after the ship was being completely refurbished.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our itinerary ended up getting changed twice. The first was several months ago, which removed Turkey from the itinerary. To compensate passengers for shortening the cruise by one day, we were given the option of $300 OBC or a free night in Rome plus transportation to the ship. We opted for the OBC. And then, a couple of weeks before sailing, we were notified that the ship would not be ready in time, and so the cruise was being shortened by several more days and many of the ports were being eliminated. We would be refunded 25% of our cruise fare and also receive 25% towards a future cruise with NCL. We also received communication regarding the coronavirus – anyone that had been in China, Hong Kong, or Macau within the past 30 days would be prevented from boarding the ship. And, all passengers would have to have their temperatures checked and fill out a health questionnaire before being allowed to embark.

With all of that in mind, we were a little nervous about how smoothly the boarding process would go. We were informed that boarding would take place at 9:30 am, so we arrived slightly before. Many people had decided to arrive even earlier, so there was quite a lineup to get through security and then go through the check in process.

Everyone had their temperatures taken before proceeding to security. After security, we joined the line for check in. We didn’t have to wait too long, and since we had filled in all of our information online prior to checking in, the process went fairly quickly. The only hold up was that everyone’s passports had to be checked to make sure we had not been in any of the “no no” countries within the last 30 days. Each agent took the passports to a separate area to be checked; there was a fairly long line they had to wait in before being able to complete the check in process. We were not told when boarding would begin, but were told to go stand in a line to wait. Normally, we wait in a priority boarding area due to our repeat customer status with NCL, but when I asked, was told to stand in the queue instead.

After waiting in line for an hour, we were finally told we could board. We assumed that since the ship had been out of commission for a couple of months that we would have immediate access to our cabins, but that turned out to not be true. So, we headed to the main dining room for lunch. Hardly anyone eats in the MDR on embarkation day; this day proved to be no different. As a matter of fact, there were only a handful of people there during our entire meal. We never did hear an announcement stating that staterooms were ready but decided to check it out anyhow. And, our room was indeed ready! We were carrying on our own luggage (rather than checking it) so were able to unpack immediately. The room was pretty standard for a cruise ship balcony room, but the color scheme was quite tasteful, the bed was comfy, and the pillows were perfect! The old cabins on the Spirit had a small couch; the new ones have only a chair and small round table. So, no sitting together to watch tv. No problem.

All was well until one of us needed to use the bathroom – our toilet was nonfunctional. It would not flush. We knew guest services would be extra busy on embarkation day, and neither of us wanted to wait in a line, so we called to notify them of the problem. No worries; they would have someone address it immediately. A short time later, our cabin steward (Arnold) came by to introduce himself. We notified him of the problem and he assured us that he would report it to his supervisor.

So, in the interim, we would need to go up or down two flights of stairs to the nearest public toilet. We spent the afternoon acquainting ourselves with the ship. The new décor is quiet bland – no trace is left of the original, unique style. There is nothing wrong with it; it matches the décor of the rest of the NCL fleet now. I did, however, hope that some of the original charm was still there. Oh, well!

The ship was supposed to leave at 1:30 pm. That time came and went and there was no sign of us leaving. The mandatory muster drill was scheduled for one o’clock. It didn’t happen, and no announcements were made to let us know what was going on. Finally, sometime between 2:30 and 3 pm, we were told to report to our muster stations. It took about a half hour for everyone to report. Unfortunately, the loud speakers that broadcast to the exterior decks of the ship worked as well as our toilet, so no one was able to hear any of the information. The guy in charge of our section said that the main thing was if the emergency signal was broadcast, to go to our cabins, grab a warm coat and any needed medications, and to report to our muster station. Finally, we were dismissed.

By dinner time, we assumed our toilet would be fixed. Not.

We made numerous phone calls to guest services that day. By 8 pm, nothing had changed. On our last phone call to guest services (that day, anyhow), we were told that there were multiple cabins on the same plumbing line with the same issue. The plumbers would be clearing the line, and all would be well. Sure enough, the toilet starting flushing on its own – problem solved, right? Not even close!

Today is the 10th day of our cruise and the first day that the toilet has worked most of the day. We have spent an inordinate amount of time calling guest services, reporting the issue to our cabin steward, writing notes to the general manager, and contacting NCL online. Despite numerous efforts to repair the problem, our recalcitrant toilet just doesn’t want to stay fixed. The best we’ve had until today has been a single flush before quitting working. Today, I think we’ve had 4 or 5 successful flushes, so maybe, just maybe, the problem has been fixed. Of course, we have thought that before (and been wrong).

There have been plenty of other issues on board. There were some people that boarded that found the cabin they had been assigned to did not exist. For others, there cabin was one of the ones that wasn’t completed in time for the sailing. There were a few others that went to their cabins only to find that someone was already occupying it! One poor couple not only has the same toilet issue we have, but they have no cold water (a VERY hot shower!), their shower doesn’t drain, their phone doesn’t work (meaning they have to stand in line to report issues to Guest Services), their toilet overflows when it does flush, and their carpet is wet. I guess a non-functional toilet it small potatoes compared to having no cabin at all or having all of the issues that other couple has! And, the ship is sailing at less than 2/3 capacity. Imagine the mess if every cabin had been sold!

Despite all of the issues, the crew has been phenomenal. They are unfailingly friendly and happy.

Due to the itinerary change, we will have plenty of sea days. We have excursions planned for most of the ports, so I will be making separate posts for each and will post when I have internet access. We brought our Skyroam, so should be able to post on port days when we don’t have an excursion planned. So far, we have spent a couple of days in Jerusalem, cruised the Suez Canal, spent two days in Safaga, Egypt are currently docked in Aqaba, Jordan.

As to the toilet? We hope that we are at the end of a very crappy experience!