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A scary diary from a cruise on Norwegian Jade

A scary diary from a cruise on Norwegian Jade

Connor Joyce was a passenger on the Norwegian Jade cruise ship. It was not an everyday cruise, but a scary nightmare. Connor is the Founder and CEO at Behavioral Insights Professional Society in Seattle, Washington.

Today he gave a report posted to his Facebook saying:

I am upset, and I along with around 1,000 other passengers have signed a petition demanding a full refund for our experience on the Norwegian Jade. This is our story:

It is Sunday, February 16th morning, about 50 miles of the coast of Thailand and instead of enjoying the remaining hours of an 11-day cruise, a collection of over 400 passengers has assembled to demand reimbursement for a failed vacation. This was not caused by one or two strives but a series of poor decisions, communication failures, and what can not be explained away by anything but corporate greed.

This all started with the news that a Hawaiian family was not getting refunded over $30,000 after requesting to cancel their cruise journey throughout COVID-19 affected Southeast Asia. Guests who made similar requests were met with similar responses so many reluctantly boarded the boat, my wife and I included.

The miscommunication started before we even left. Some were informed of an itinerary change before we made it to the terminal, but many did not find out until checking-in. Our journey would no longer culminate in Hong Kong and instead, we would be journeying back to Singapore, with this extended trip home we would no longer be docking in Halong Bay. As two of the main destinations which led vacationers to choose this cruise, it was a major blow. NCL offered 10% money back and 25% off a future cruise as compensation. The 25% was not to exceed the 25% we paid for this cruise.

Another new condition of entry was also enacted, any passenger who had visited mainland China within the last 30 days would no longer be able to join. These passengers would be turned away and given a full refund, a luxury those of us who did not want to join were still not offered. Walking through security and going through the boarding process, I found it interesting that my passport was never checked. I thought to myself, “How would NCL know that one had visited China without a thorough scan of visa stamps?” but my faith that someone with more power than me had everything in control and the fact I was now on vacation caused those thoughts to quickly subside.

After embarking, the situation calmed. The first day at sea yielded tranquil waters and bright sun. Upon arriving at our first port, Laem Chabang, all was fine except for NCL’s odd decision to take our passports. This again caused many alarms to go off in my head, but the vacation priority took over and I was off to Bangkok. By the end of the third day, as we boarded the cruise once again, we heard rumblings of people being asked to leave the cruise because they had recently been to China. The realization soon came that those visa checks were now happening.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia was our next stop and while the city was received with mixed reviews, everyone was concerned by the fact that buses were picking up staff and passengers who were once again being removed for their previous visitation of China. (Later, we discovered that it was around 200 in total.) These individuals had been allowed to board and had been interacting with the fellow guests for 4 days now…

Everything went downhill from there. The halls began to fill with discussions about what was happening and how the situation on the Diamond Princess was only getting worse. A day at sea allowed theories to spread and concerns to rise. Yet most of us kept a smile on and awaited our vacation in Vietnam. I went to bed the fifth night taking a beautiful photograph of the sunsetting.

Waking up on the day of our first Vietnam port, Chan May, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise… Something was not right. I scrambled to the TV channel which displayed the boat’s navigation details to see the boat had completely turned around; we were not heading back to Singapore. This was NCLs first chance to take a stand and effectively communicate what was happening. Instead, 7 am (our docking time) quickly passed, next to the tour meeting times passed, still no land in sight. It took until 10 am for the captain to come on the intercom and read a legal-department approved message; verbatim from the document we later received describing that Vietnam closed their ports to cruise ships. We would no longer be stopping in any of the 4 planned ports. Our compensation for such a change, 50% off a future cruise.

The remainder of the “holiday” was far from it. Without taking port supplies began to run out. The situation was far from dire straits but also far from NCL’s mission to create exceptional vacation experiences. The fun quickly disappears when restaurant menus have scratched off options, the bar selection becomes limited and games and activities are continually repeated. We did briefly dock in the Thailand island of Ko Samui which while providing a nice refuge after our 4 days at sea, offered little compared to our original itinerary.

In total our extra 5 days at sea, many of which were spent concerned that Singapore would not allow us to dock in their port after the series of itinerary changes and removal of passengers was far from a vacation. Conversations quickly turned as groups banded together and became suspicious of every cough and sneeze. Cruise officers and security guards began to patrol more frequently and mutterings of what should be done grew louder.

Thankfully one retired businessman stepped up and formed a group. This group met to discuss how a peaceful protest could occur and what the group’s options were for seeking increased compensation.

A letter was written demanding a full refund and signed by around 1000 passengers (half of the remaining vacationers). This signing is what led to the Sunday morning meeting where this article started. This letter of protest was delivered to the captain who then forwarded it to NCL leadership. As of writing this article we have not heard anything from NCL.

Norwegian Cruise Lines owes the passengers and crew of the Norwegian Jade an apology and a full refund. Not because of the changes required due to the Coronavirus but because of terrible lack of communication ensuring an environment conducive more of mutiny than of fun.

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