Hey NCL, you call that a kids’ cruise?

SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.com
SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.com
I’ve been on the fence about this case for weeks, following the back and forth between this unhappy customer and a cruise line.

The reason for my indecision? Two years ago, I took virtually the same Norwegian cruise as Joseph Cilento, and my family and I had a dramatically different experience than he did. But things change.

Cilento, his wife and twin daughters were passengers on the Norwegian Gem in May, which sailed from New York to Nassau and back in seven days. He says the voyage was billed as a family-themed voyage, with lots of special amenities for kids.

“We were led to believe that this was a Nickelodeon cruise,” says Cilento. But it wasn’t — at least not the way he expected it.

“The characters were only available by paying for a breakfast or for seeing them for five minutes on stage,” he adds. “Needless to say, my children were disappointed.”

What a contrast to the Nick cruise my family took in 2011. The ship was teeming with cartoon characters back then, and it looked as if it had actually been retrofitted for the kids.

That’s not all. Cilento outlined a long list of other grievances in a letter to NCL. The biggest one revolved around a lack of available daycare.

We were told the kids’ zone was open until 10:30 p.m., and then
we [would] have to pay for babysitting. However, the kids zone closed from noon to 2 p.m. and then again from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. And it did not open until 9 a.m.

My wife and I wanted to play in the Texas Hold ’em tournaments onboard, but the three you had were all at 12:15 p.m., while your staff were out to lunch. Why no babysitting during the
day? So those plans went out the window for me and my wife.

Why don’t you have your staff in the kids’ zone overlap and break at different times? Who takes a two-hour lunch, anyway?

The promised Nick characters never showed up, he says. Not during meals, not during their visit to NCL’s private island. To add insult to injury, he says NCL wanted to charge his kids to use a slide on the island, which dampened his enthusiasm for this “all-inclusive” kids’ cruise.

I suggested he send his complaint to NCL. Here’s how it responded.

It is most unfortunate to learn of your disappointment with our youth program. Since we know that this type of vacation has become popular for families, we offer a comprehensive children’s program onboard, which offers a variety of age appropriate activities and supervision during certain hours of the day. When the ship is in port or during late evenings, we offer a Port Play program, which is a group sitting service for a customary fee per child per hour.

As an additional bonus for our younger guests, we offer the Nickelodeon At Sea program. Events include Nickelodeon Character Breakfast, available for a fee; Slime Time Live!, which is scheduled once during the cruise; meet and greet photo opportunities at designated times; Nick Live Poolside!, etc. Please note that the Nickelodeon at Sea events are listed in the Freestyle Daily newsletter.

We strive to provide a variety of activities for families with young children and do try to be flexible with our guests’ needs. We sincerely regret that we fell below your expectations and you can be certain that your feedback has been carefully noted.

We were concerned to hear of your experience at our private island and we wish to extend our sincere apologies for any inconvenience. Please know that every effort is made to ensure a comfortable environment for our guests so they can relax and enjoy their cruise vacation. A copy of your letter was forwarded to management in the respective departments, so they are aware of your impressions.

Similar to other hotel and entertainment establishments, there may be a customary fee for some activities and events. For future reference, your cruise fare includes ocean transportation, accommodations, meals in the main dining room, entertainment and guest activities planned by our cruise director’s staff. Items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, sodas, spa treatments, certain specialty exercise classes, laundry, photos, internet services, tours, etc., are not included, as indicated in our brochure. We are sorry for any confusion in this regard.

Thank you for this opportunity to respond. We value your patronage and hope to welcome you back aboard in the near future.

This appeared to be a form letter, so I suggested Cilento appeal to NCL in writing. He did, but NCL refused to budge. I reviewed his email, and found that he didn’t ask for any specific compensation — an easy mistake to make. He’s now on his third appeal.

Personally, it ticks me off when any product is marketed for families, but then comes up short. Is that what happened to the Cilentos? Did their travel agent — or did they — make assumptions they shouldn’t have, or did NCL stretch the truth in its marketing?

I have a feeling NCL will say “no” again. Which will bounce the ball back in my court. Should I go after NCL or tell Cilento he raised the bar too high on his cruise?

Should I mediate Joseph Cilento's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • simonhb

    “I booked on a family holiday, only to discover I couldn’t dump my family in daycare and go off playing cards”

  • PsyGuy

    My concern in this case is “what does he want”. People who write LONG lists of complaints are usually looking for a free cruise or a full refund. Given their experience they are unlikely to cruise with them again,so credit or funny money isn’t going to be worth anything. Since they aren’t going to cruise with them again giving them cash is just throwing money away. The damage from the PR is already done, so there really isn’t any good will to buy here.

    I don’t have kids but I don’t think they belong on a cruise unless it’s the big red boat. What didn’t the traveler get. They got the room, they got the food, they got most of the ships amenities. They didn’t get babysitting (hire a baby sitter and leave the kids at home) or some time with cartoon characters, minor inconveniences. Isn’t everything else sufficient enough performance?

  • lost_in_travel

    I get the feeling this was promoted as “the big red boat” alternative. I know I certainly would have avoided it because my kids are past this age. I do remember taking my son to Disney and that at the hotel he was fussed over, as were all the kids, and the cartoon characters at breakfast earned every penny – they were fantastic and inclusive to all. It did make a very big difference in our vacation. If the kids are entertained, the parents can go off and spend money on other parts of the boat – why doesn’t NCL recognize how good it could be for their bottom line if they actually delivered what their marketing promises?

  • Kevin Mathews

    Run Chris. This guy sounds like someone who bought into the sales pitch without doing any research himself…
    A quick search on the NCL Site specifically shows the times that the child care was open… Should not have been a shocker there.
    Doesn’t seem like much of a “case” to me…

  • John Baker

    In my best “Jenny Gump” voice… “Run [Chris] Run.”

    I’m not sure what’s worse from your perspective, his laundry list of items or the fact you took the cruise and your memory seems to match the NCL form letter.

    I’m also not sure what he was expecting or where he derived those expectations from. The NCL form letter and your experience seems to suggest that the fun family vacation was there to be had. He just “missed” the boat or had expectations that were unreasonable.

    I’m not sure what he wants but I’d guess it will be over the top.

  • Frosty

    If he wanted a kids cruise, he should have done some research and gone with Disney Cruise lines. Since when was NCL a kiddie-entertainment destination? As an adult without children, I’d be annoyed if I booked a NCL cruise to find a bunch of “rugrats” running around and a bunch of staff dressed up like cartoon characters everywhere. Hopefully next time he spends thousands on a vacation, he does just 5 minutes of research first.

  • robert

    NCL is the leader in “customary” charges…. Disney is more but no one does it better for kids.

  • DisneyCruiseRocks!

    Next time tell them to take a Disney cruise – you won’t have these issues. I hate to say you get what you pay for but if you took the money you spent on this NCL & maybe didn’t have the upgraded room on the Disney Cruise you would have had a much better experience.

  • Raven_Altosk

    If he wanted to play Texas Hold ‘Em, go to Vegas, hire an in-room nanny, and play.

    Cruise ships are the worst places to gamble.

  • SoBeSparky

    Much to do about nothing. If you don’t read your daily newsletter, then you can’t enjoy the activities. No one promised him he could play in his gambling tournament while the children are warehoused elsewhere. Doesn’t the OP understand the contradiction of going on a family-themed cruise to gamble?

  • Rick

    I have been on an adult only resort to relax with my partner, but when I arrived they told me they merged with the hotel next door which is a family hotel, the so called adult only pool was full of kids, I was reading on the pool side and got splashed with water and all my books were damped.

  • J D

    As a mother of 2 kids under age 10, I do my research before traveling with them. We recently went to Puerto Rico and booked a luxury hotel that had a water park and a kids club, specifically for those 2 reasons. Well, the kids club never had any other kids signed up (probably b/c of the $75 per kid per day fee!) so my kids never went in. They met and played with other kids at the pool and were fine. My husband and I got no time alone together but I can’t blame the hotel for that…other parents just chose not to sign their kids up. The water park sucked the day we went b/c it was packed with locals that day for some reason. Would love to blame the resort for that but it was just our bad timing. Sometimes things happen but you can reduce the problems but doing your research ahead of time. Don’t assume a kids club had 24/7 hours – check them ahead of time…check the restrictions and fees. Don’t blame others b/c you didn’t do your research ahead of time. To the person who made the sarcastic comment about family time and then sending your kids away so you can play cards: I’m guessing you’ve never been on a vacation with small children. It’s anything but relaxing. I love my kids and spending time with them, but it’s not a horrible thing for me to want to read by the pool or have dinner with my husband while on vacation without my kids there for a few hours.

  • Steve

    I’m not saying he has much of a case, but many of you are missing the point. These cruises (and hotels) that market their childcare and kids activities/services are appealing to those who want a family vacation but also to have their “adult” time as well, whether that be quiet time at the pool, entering a poker tournament, or whatever. I know several families that loved their Royal Caribbean cruises precisely because they had fantastic kids programs and more adult options (such as gambling) than what Disney offers. So the point isn’t whether someone should expect to be able to get childcare from the ship (when that is what they are promoting) or making a moral judgment on whether a “family vacation” means spending 24/7 with the entire family. The question is whether or not what Norwegian provided was up to what they had advertised.

  • frostysnowman

    I’m agreeing with other posters here: the OP should have done his homework, and then he should have taken his family on a Disney cruise. We took our first this year with a 7 year old and 13 year old, and it was fantastic for both of them (and us parents). No extra charges for babysitting as the OP encountered on NCL.

  • SoBeSparky

    I am empathetic. That would fester in me until I simply ask managment to be walked to an adult-only alternative.

    On the other hand, I sure hope you did not endure it for your stay, only to ask for a complete refund when you got home.

  • EdB

    And you probably would have complained even though you didn’t do your own research to find out that the cruise you booked was geared for children. Just because a company isn’t a full time “kiddie-entertainment” destination doesn’t mean they are not allowed to have offerings geared for specific audiences, such as kiddies.

  • Cam

    Yeah those family holidays with no poker games are tough.

  • mbods

    I voted “yes” is only to encourage the cruise line to be more specific about what is does and does not cover. The “there may be a customary fee for some activities and events” just isn’t good enough. Obviously the cruise was centered around the children or they would have left them home with a sitter and gone on an adult cruise. What’s wrong with doing a few activities without the kids? Two years later, sounds like they caught on to the “nickel and dime your guests to death” game.

  • Crissy

    Unless he can articulate what he would like and it’s reasonable (a full refund is not reasonable) I’m not sure what you can do for him.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    It seems part of the problem might be that the OP has a vision of “cruising” from the past that doesn’t represent reality today, similar to all those infrequent flyers, who haven’t set foot on a plane in 15 years, and then cry bloody murder when the airline asks for $25 for their checked bag. A lot of what used to be included in your cruise fare no longer is, and generally speaking, any kind of “special” programs are now charged for. You can figure that out in about 5 minutes just by going to a cruise line’s website. Chris, it’s possible that’s why your experience was so different, though the fee craze hit the cruise lines well more than 2 years ago, so perhaps this guy’s expectations are too high. I wouldn’t touch this one, as I suspect you aren’t going to be able to come up with a satisfactory solution to the OP short of a full refund plus a voucher for a free future cruise, or something equally outrageous, which isn’t going to happen.

    The lesson of the day, though, is that if you want the family friendly cruise experience today, stick with Di$ney.

  • emanon256

    I wasn’t going to say it, but I was sure thinking it. One thing being a father has taught me is that kids take a lot of time and responsibility. I can’t imagine leaving my kid with strangers all day and into the night so I can go off and party.

  • JohnG

    Your inane comment shows that you have misinterpreted the above statement. Frosty is merely suggesting that had the OP done a few minutes of research, he would have quickly come to the conclusion that NCL is not exactly a kiddie fun house. Sure, they may have offerings geared for kiddies, but it’s no Disney cruise lines or even as kid friendly as Carnival cruise lines.

    Happiness = Reality/Expectations. And his expectations unfortunately were overblown due to a lack of research.

  • Michael__K

    He used a travel agent. What does the travel agent have to say about the OP’s dissatisfaction? When someone’s expectations aren’t met, a common piece of feedback is that they should have consulted an agent. Then when someone does use a travel agent, then they should have done more research themselves….

    BTW, where is it disclosed that the following featured activities are not included and how much extra they cost? —


  • Nancy Nally

    This totally could have been avoided if the cruiser had done any research about what he was actually getting before buying his cruise. That’s easy to figure out with a few Google searches. It’s his bad for not doing due diligence. He got what he paid for. It’s not the cruise line’s fault he bought a Chevy thinking it was a Rolls Royce.

  • John Baker

    On our last cruise, my wife and I took one of the days at sea to have an “adult” brunch followed by a spa date. That cruise line had a comprehensive children’s program and the kids had a blast without us (they were annoyed when we picked them up). So needless to say, I don’t necessarily disagree with the OP wanting to go off on “adult time” during a family vacation.

  • emanon256

    The OP probably didn’t realize that its the same cruise employees who run the day care, who have to leave to go run the poker tournament. Okay, not sure if that is actually true, but my friend who worked on a cruise ship for several years always told me he worked 18 hours a day non-stop. During a break from one job, he had to work another, so its not too far fetched that that was the case.

    I voted no. It sounds like the OP had a laundry list of complaints about additional charges, which it sounds like were displayed in the brochure, and are to be expected on cruises. They really complained about having to pay for spa treatments, alcoholic beverages, and laundry? Wow! Also, he is complaining about the kids zone being closed during certain hours. By my math, its still open 9.5 hours a day. If 9.5 hours away from his kids per day is not enough, I question his judgement in bringing them at all. Honestly, I couldn’t leave my child with a baby sitter that I know very well for more than 2 hours a day. Also, the characters were available at a paid breakfast, or in various places throughout the ship that were listed in the daily news letter. So they were there. The parents probably just missed them while leaving the kids in the kids zone all day and doing other things. I question their judgement in bringing the kids if they think they should not have to do a thing with the kids the whole time they were there. It may be a kids friendly cruise, but that doesn’t mean its a cruise for parents to live it up and not have to take care of their kids.

  • Jim Zakany

    When done right, children in a kids program have a lot more fun than they would with their folks. That’s the reason they exist – so kids have their time and parents have theirs. It’s hardly dumping them off.

    I am about to cruise next week with my children. If their times conflict with some shipboard activities, oh well. There will be plenty to do for all of us!

    I think it’s silly to expect a cruise ship to coordinate every combination of activities to eliminate any conflicts. I also think that it is reasonable to have mealtime breaks for the child care staff. They aren’t only eating, but they are cleaning up and preparing for the next few hours of events.

  • ddjwms

    I voted “yes” not because I necessarily support all the OP’s complaints nor do I think he is very clear about what restitution he thinks NCL should make (I doubt that anything short of a refund–which I don’t think is warranted–would satisfy him…), but because I think that others in the future might benefit from Chris’s intervention. I don’t think it unreasonable to expect “characters” to be around the ship and available–for free– in a cruise marketted for families. I would think the character breakfasts would also be freely available. This nickel-and-diming approach by cruise lines that advertise one experience and then offer something completely different is getting out of hand IMO, and at least Chris can give voice to that.

  • emanon256

    But taking a few hours to yourself on one day is different than complaining that the 9.5 hours the kids zone was open every day was still not enough.

  • emanon256

    From why I read, they did get the baby sitting. They mention 9.5 hours per day that the free baby sitting was available. But complain that that wasn’t enough baby sitting for them, or at the times they wanted. Also from the response, the characters were available at the pool, and in various places on the ship throughout the day, or at a paid breakfast.

  • John Baker

    In this case, since he did use a TA, I have two thoughts. I wonder if the TA is the one that established the unreasonable expectations and didn’t match the family to the cruise well or if the OP wouldn’t listen? I also wonder why the TA isn’t fighting this fight? The answer to that might shed light on the first question.

  • EdB

    Talk about inane comments. Frosty claims, “As an adult without children, I’d be annoyed if I booked a NCL cruise to find a bunch of “rugrats” running around and a bunch of staff dressed up like cartoon characters everywhere.” So if he failed to research his own cruise thinking there wouldn’t be a bunch of “rugrats” and “staff dressed up like cartoon characters” just because “NCL is not exactly a kiddie fun house”, that would put him in the same position he is criticizing the OP for. I don’t see how I misinterpreted his statement. Yes, NCL isn’t a Disney Cruise Line. That doesn’t mean they can’t make an attempt at providing a similar cruise. And anyone on that cruise who would complain about the “rugrats” and the staff’s outfit would mean they didn’t do research either.

    And my comment was nothing about the OP, only’s Frosty’s comment as I quoted here.

  • WindyCityMom

    EdB, you stated “And you probably would have complained even though you didn’t do your own research…”. The reason you are incorrect here is because you are assuming Frosty would book a cruise without doing research first. And then, you are jumping to a strange conclusion that after he books a cruise, if it indeed was overrun with rugrats and costumed characters, he would then proceed to complain about it. You have no evidence to support your claim or convictions. I believe that is why JohnG described your comment as inane.

  • EdB

    Frosty made an absolute statement that NCL was not kiddie centric and that as an adult without children would be upset to find a cruise was geared for children. He didn’t qualify that he checked out the cruise before he booked. HE assumed, based on his statements, the situation should never occur. That was the bases for my statement you quoted.

  • Daddydo

    Joseph Cilento needed to do a whole lot more investigation before he booked his family cruise through whom? If you sell cruises, you know that there is absolutely nothing that is going to be there without a surcharge. I advise 1200.00 – 1500.00 extra on most 1 week cruises. NCL has their staff well trained to suck every bit of the cash in your pockets and credit cards in order to have lots and lots of fun. I cruise 3-4 times a year with friends and family and know what to expect and how to avoid those expenses while still getting the most of my money. That information gets passed on to my clients and they have great cruise on the PROPER ship for their needs. The Gem’s ratings are great, if you spend the bucks to make it great. Joseph Cilento claims that there were no sitters. BS, they are always available at 20-30 per hour per child; I use them on NCL regularly.Characters appear for a price in certain paid for areas. Drop this one, I believe NCL is correct with their response.

  • nateisfunny

    Like Chris, I have also had the opportunity to cruise on the Gem. I felt that the characters were around plenty, though I am a mid-twenties guy without kids. I think the larger point here is that the NCL cruise is not the Nickelodeon equivalent of a Disney Cruise, and absolutely any site on which you researched the cruise would have told you that. Was it so important that both you and your wife play in the same 12:15 tournament that this ruined your time? One of you playing while the other took the kids out to the pool, with a free water slide, with Nickelodeon activities almost daily at the lunch hour, might have made a little more sense.

    I feel as though most of these complaints rise to the level of annoyances that we all deal with in most travel. The daily newsletter alone, which came out the night before, could have helped you plan a lot better.

  • JenniferFinger

    I wouldn’t take the case, Chris. It’s not clear what he wants, and it’s not clear that you can get anything out of NCL. I’m not sure exactly what he was promised that he can successfully claim he didn’t get, and even if he could make that claim, it doesn’t seem to me that NCL will respond with anything more than another form letter. Maybe they’ll offer him a voucher for another “kids’ cruise” – with the same conditions as this one, but I think that’s the best he can get, and it won’t satisfy him.

  • WindyCityMom

    Frosty did basically say that the situation shouldn’t occur, because you’re expected to do some research prior to spending thousands of dollars. He never said anything like this has happened to him before and actually he never said he booked a cruise before either. He simply wrote, ” As an adult without children, I’d be annoyed if I booked a NCL…” It sounds like you misread his comment and then commented.

  • Deborah Orth

    Well said, we had the same experience as you on NCL. While we had a pleasant cruise it seemed that they really worked on getting every last dime they could out of your pocketbook.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Exactly. You nailed why I up-voted Simonhb’s comment. The hours that the kid’s zone were open seemed totally appropriate to me. A cruise is not a floating baby-sitting service. If the parents wanted a kid-free vacation, they should have gotten Grandma to watch the kids, and left them home.

  • Michelle

    Perhaps, but if this is a family themed cruise, they would have to assume that families, including children, would be their on board guests. That being said, planning an adult only event like hold-’em during a time when there is no supervised childrens play room seems like a bit of poor planning on the cruise lines part.

  • LeeAnneClark

    What you seem to have missed is that the ship provided many hours of kids club time. The parents had plenty of kid-free time. They just didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t ALL FREAKING DAY. Oh, and worse…not during Texas Hold’em time.

    I raised two kids. Sometimes we took them on vacation, and sometimes we left them with Grandma. When we took them, we assumed we would not have much, if any, alone time. If we did, it was a bonus. No, vacations with the kids aren’t “relaxing”. Being parents isn’t “relaxing”. Want a “relaxing” vacation? Leave ’em home.

  • EdB

    “Frosty did basically say that the situation shouldn’t occur, because you’re expected to do some research prior to spending thousands of dollars.”

    There is the key. IF Frosty did research on the cruise, the situation would never occur. So by his making the claim that he would be upset if it did occur would only mean he didn’t research the cruise.

    I never claimed, or even read into his reply, that it had happened to him. Only based on his own comment, if he ever found himself in that situation it would only be because he didn’t research the cruise.

  • EdB

    I feel the complaint is not about the number of hours, but more the scheduling. Why schedule an adult only activity when there is no child care offer? What are those adults with children suppose to do to enjoy the activity scheduled for them on a family cruise when they have no where to leave the kids?

    Yes, the parents had plenty of kid free time, just not when the adult only activities where scheduled.

  • Randy Busch

    He might want to to contact Nickelodeon about this also since their rep is on the too.

  • emanon256

    From the NCL website its listed as a family friendly cruise, not a family themed cruise. They bill it as having activities for both adults without kids and adults with kids, and of course, kids. I would imagine having adult only events while the children are out of day care would make it better for the adults without kids on the cruise, that way the kids are entertained while the adults are on deck, and the adults have activities wile the kids are out on deck. I think it was actually good timing, the only people who would have a problem with it, are people with kids who want to be on a no-kids cruise.

  • emanon256

    The web sites lists it as a kid friendly cruise, but states they have activities for adults without children, activities for adults with children, and activities for children. My hunch, is that this was an activity for adults without children, and the intentionally scheduled it when day-care was out so the adults without children and the children would not be on deck at the same time. That woudl keep the majority of their guests happy.

  • pauletteb

    I lost all sympathy for the OP when I got to the “Texan Hold ’em” part. Sounds as though they were too cheap to pay for a babysitter and selected this particular cruise expecting the ship’s crew to watch their kids . . . at the OP’s convenience, of course.

  • DavidYoung2

    When we were on the Allure, the childrens’ program was so amazing we had to fight to get our daughter to come with us! Between pirate dress-up plays, water battles, crafts and games, she didn’t want anything to do with us parents. And it was open until 1.00am (a fee applied between 10.00pm and closing.) The NCL program sounds a little skimpy, especially when it’s billed as a family cruise

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Thanks, guys. Let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?

    Suffice to say the OP didn’t get what he expected. What he expected may or may not have been reasonable, based on the information available about the cruise. I’m surprised the ship doesn’t offer private babysitting at all hours, though.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I’m thinking there’s probably some liability if the kids were fed something they were allergic to, etc. so that’s why they’d rather the parents oversee mealtimes. I don’t think it’s a staffing issue…

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I agree with you, Steve. It’s just that NCL clearly states the hours of babysitting / kids club. That said, I’ve been on cruises before and I could’ve sworn they did Texas Hold ‘Em at different times of the day on numerous days. Maybe not on this cruise, though…

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I would have to agree this was a bizarre cruise. Family themed with cartoon characters, but with a card tournament for adults with no childcare available during the tournament? Weird combo…unless the tournament wasn’t all that big of a deal. I wonder if that is just a standard amenity and the OP made it sound like a bigger deal than it really was?

  • greaterson

    So you are saying that if Frosty did go on a cruise and found it full of kids, he obviously didn’t do enough research. This seems to be exact point Frosty was making…prior to spending thousands of dollars, do the research. I would certainly believe Frosty would do the research if he ever booked a cruise based on his and your statements. But, then you went and said he would probably then complain about it. I don’t see how you came to this conclusion.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But I was enjoying them arguing over every single line in their original posts. ;-)

  • Helio

    Me too ;-)

  • Jim Zakany

    I’m sailing on the Allure next week. This is good to hear. I selected it especially for their children’s program.

  • Charles

    I’ll bet you don’t have children. These parents will be with their children 24/7 on this trip other than a bit of time for themselves, which parents need. They were not complaining that the cruise didn’t take their children off their hands for the entire cruise. They are complaining that they could not partake of one adult activity. They are complaining that the daycare was not available the hours they needed it, even though it was clearly scheduled for those hours. It does not matter how many hours day care may be open if it’s not open that one time you need it.

  • Jim Zakany

    Do you have any idea how many things are happening on a cruise ship simultaneously?

  • Jim Zakany

    Yep. And the character showings are usually listed in a daily planner, so those with interested children can make sure they are at the right place at the right time for their kids.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I think it boils down to just how major an activity this card tournament was. If it was something that was advertised and really played up, then it was silly not to have childcare available at that time. However, basically anything could be called a card “tournament” and if this was just one of many activities in the ship’s casino, then there’s no reason to assure childcare during that slot.

  • Helio

    Was there only poker tournament as adult activity at this ship trip?!?

  • Jim Zakany

    “Since when was NCL a kiddie-entertainment destination?”

    Has NCL ever not been a family cruise line?

  • Cass

    Wow, it amazes me how many people are judging this OP based on the fact that he didn’t like the way the childcare was scheduled.

    I have done a lot of research on family cruises. I didn’t like Disney because they are overpriced and not enough “adult” stuff for me. I decided against NCL for the same things the OP is complaining about. However, NCL was my number one choice until I found after *digging* that they are terribly inconvenient with their childcare. If I wanted to go spend the day doing an excursion I would have to come back for two hours right in the middle to pick my kid up and drop them back off. Could you imagine if a daycare center said “we will watch your kid but you have to come get them so we can have a two hour lunch break”? Why is it so wrong for my husband and I to want to take a vacation with our daughter but want to have a day or two to ourselves out of 7? The OP had TWINS so you’re talking about twice the work for everything. I don’t think it’s bad that he and his wife wanted to do something fun that the ship scheduled.

    It is ridiculous that people act like it’s okay for the travel companies to do so much fine print and make things so hard for travelers to find. A person shouldn’t have to do a ton of research (not to mention that many people don’t even know where to begin or how to do the research) to find out that a “family-friendly” cruise that offers “lots of exciting and engaging family activities and events” means that I have to pay extra to do a character breakfast, can’t enjoy a kid-free lunchtime event with my spouse without extra planning and expense, or that the “Nickelodeon experience” will only happen at a few events that we have to plan our days around to attend. Just because it’s common practice for companies to try to trick consumers with half-truths and attention grabbing lines that fail to deliver doesn’t mean that it’s right or that a person loses their right to complain. Complaining during a cruise will get you nothing more than “I’m sorry” and you are still stuck. You can’t complain prior to a cruise in most cases because you haven’t experienced anything yet. When else are they supposed to complain? Are they supposed to walk off the cruise at the first stop with no way to get home to register their complaint in order to be valid?

  • EdB

    If Frosty found himself on a cruise where, as he says, there were staff members dressed up as cartoon characters everywhere, then he must be on one of the family oriented cruises and if he did his research, he should know there will be rugrats all over the place. He stated he would be annoyed in this situation. If he had done his research and knew this was what would be happening, why would he have reason to be annoyed? He booked a family cruise. However, if you take his statement about NCL not being a kiddie entertainment destination and add his annoyance comment, it leads me to believe he feels NCL wouldn’t have these types of cruises and should be able to book any cruise and not have the rugrats and cartoon charaters dressed staff members. How else would he have gotten into the annoying situation?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh, well that changes EVERYTHING. How horrible for the parents to not have been able to play Texas Hold-em on their vacation! That would completely destroy anyone’s trip. Yeah, they deserve a full refund, because all parents who bring their kids on their vacation should have full access to every possible thing that they might possibly want to do, and if the cruise line doesn’t make every possible activity available to them, well then they don’t deserve a penny. The poor parents’ vacation was clearly ruined because instead of getting to play cards, they had to actually…y’know…be parents.

    /sarcasm off

    Seriously, this is just about the whiniest complaint I’ve ever heard. When you decide to bring your kids on a vacation, you have to be willing to care for them. What if one of the little darlings had a tummy ache? No Texas Hold-em. Being parents means taking responsibility for your kids, not expecting someone else to take them so you can do whatever you want.

    What about the joy of being with your family without the normal day-to-day responsibilities? All the food you can eat…someone else doing the cooking and cleaning…beautiful scenery…teachable moments (“Look, Mommy, dolpins!”)…and all these whiners could do was complain that they couldn’t dump their kids off for more than 9.5 hours a day. Sheesh, maybe they shouldn’t have had kids if they consider them to be such a burden.

  • LeeAnneClark

    That’s one thing that all people who take cruises need to know: NEVER base your entire vacation enjoyment on the ability to participate in cruise-organized activities. Things change…schedules change, weather changes, ports are missed, staffing changes, not enough people sign up…there are any number of reasons why activities get canceled or moved. Cruiselines NEVER guarantee that all activities will be available.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I can’t help but wonder why you would even bring your kids with you. If you consider it all to be such a burden…leave the little darlings with Grandma. But if you bring them, they are your responsibility. NOT the ship’s, NOT the other passengers…yours. If you get an opportunity to leave them with child care for some kid-free time, consider that a bonus. But you can’t guarantee that. What if they have tummy-aches (not uncommon on a cruise ship)? What if events get cancelled (happens all the time)? What if a kid with a tummy-ache throws up all over the kid’s club and it has to be shut down for cleaning?

    As for not having to pay extra…you clearly have no knowledge of how mass-market cruising works these days. Yes, research would teach you that all you get for your fare these days is your cabin on the ship, food in the main dining rooms, and *some* free entertainment…everything else costs money. They don’t even guarantee you’ll visit the ports on the itinerary. That’s how cruise lines can afford to sell cabins for so cheap. If all you want to do is hang out on the ship and eat, you’re covered. If you want anything more, it costs. That’s cruising these days.

  • jmtabb

    I’ve been on two cruises with my family – once on Royal Caribbean and once on Princess lines. We take a 3rd family cruise next month, on NCL. We cruise because we get a good mix of family time and adult time over the week. Our daughter also enjoys the kids activities so much that she’d rather spend her days in the kid’s clubs than doing shore activities or other on-board activities with us.

    The childcare setup that NCL seems to be offering is pretty standard based on what we’ve experienced. Opens at 9 AM. Closed for lunch and dinner during sea days (open for lunch during shore days so adults could take shore excursions), extra charges for late nights.

    I do think that scheduling all three poker tourneys during the time that the childcare is closed is poor thinking. But I’m not sure that this is something that can or should be “compensated” for.

  • emanon256

    That’s such a good point, I didn’t even think of that.

  • emanon256

    Wasn’t there a story about someone who wanted a 100% refund of their entire cruise because one of the pools was closed for a few hours each day? She said that that particular pool was the only activity she wanted to do and was the whole reasons eh went on the cruise? Am I remembrance that right?

  • MarkKelling


  • emanon256

    According to NCL, when they are in port, they offer port sitting so you can do a whole day excursion and not have to come back for lunch. There is an additional fee for this service, but it seems worth it you want to go on an all day excursion without your children.

  • Pier Queen

    Chris, when people go to you, they may be looking for something extra. NCL does an excellent job. Maybe Mr. Cilento should have sailed on Disney Cruise Line where he will pay twice as much, and still probably won’t have liked the service. He’s looking for a free cruise, nothing more. NCL is a fine product, I’m sure his cruise was everything and more. Since you sailed on the same cruise, I’m sure you realize what a fine job NCL does.

  • emanon256

    I agree with you 100%.

    In my case we have no one to leave our child with, so we can’t go on vacation without him. So instead he comes with us. Is it hard? Yes? Do we get time to ourselves? No. Do we get to do everything we want to do? No. Am I am complaining? Not at all!!!! I am so happy to have my child with us and share our adventures with him. We knew having a child would be a lot of work and we could not live our former care free lives. Having a child is actually a lot more work than either of us expected, but is well worth the sacrifices we make. It really bothers me to hear so may people make it sound like their children are a burden, or someone elses problem, and getting in the way of their fun. My wife and I have has 5 dates in the past 10 months, two hours each. They were wonderful, and I would love more time with just her. But our child is our number one priority. I know we will have time again to do whatever we want when he grows up and moves out, which will happen far too quickly.

    I would be so grateful for the services NCL offers, and it sounds like we could get more time to ourselves then we do at home without even paying for the extras. Honestly, today’s story has put NCL in a good light for me, and I want to cruise with them now.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Now that’s just a beautiful post, from someone who seems to actually get it.

    And yes, you are right…it does go by way too fast. My kids are in their early 20’s, and I couldn’t PAY them to come with their Dad and me on a vacation now! I remember with great fondness every single vacation we took them on, from the time my son and I got delightfully lost in the back alleys and stairways of Riomaggiore, to the mother-daughter camping trip when we almost got rained out of our tent, to the Caribbean cruise when our kids shrieked in delight over the dolphins racing the bow (and hated the kids club, so spent the entire time with us).

    I wouldn’t have given up any one of those moments for all the Texas Hold-em games in the world.

    Today we can go wherever we want and we have all the alone time we could possibly need…which is an entirely different type of vacation, which we enjoy immensely. But I wouldn’t have traded a single one of our trips with our kids for any of these vacations. They are memories I will always hold dear.

    How sad that some couples don’t seem to realize how fast it goes, or how precious the moments are. Kudos to you for getting your priorities straight. You’ll have all the time in the world for couples time later. Enjoy what you got while you got it. :-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Awww…they had to miss ONE event. A card game. Yeah, that would spoil anyone’s entire vacation. (Sounds of violins.)

    And the daycare was only available 9.5 hours a day, but not at the exact time the parents wanted it! (Notice I said “want”, not “need”…they didn’t NEED it, nobody was going to die if they had to take care of their own little darlings during mealtimes.) How shocking!

    By the way, MOST cruise ships’ kids clubs close down during meal times. Parents are expected to take care of their own children during meals. Kids clubs on cruise ships are not designed to feed the kids.

  • Grant Ritchie

    I tell ya buddy, treasure every minute you’re lucky enough to have. My now 40-year-old son almost drowned when he was 11… changed my attitude instantly and forever. NOTHING is more important than our babies, and now that mine is half a world away from me, I am overwhelmingly glad that I took part in all those activities which were so often a pain in the ass at the time. I love you Son, Pop.

  • SallyLu

    I am the mother of one daughter who is now 22. I would never have considered leaving her at home with her grandma when we went on vacation because we always wanted her there to experience new places and be part of our experiences. She is now 22 and away at college in another state. We really miss her and every vacation we take, we always think it would be better if she was there with us.
    With that being said, I can completely understand wanting to have some time where the parents want to get away for a few hours for some adult activities that they were looking forward to. There is nothing at all wrong with that and saying something like “you should have left the little darlings home” just misses the point entirely. They apparently took a vacation with the kids because they wanted them there. I’m sure the kids did not sail for free, so looking for “free childcare” doesn’t seem to be the case either. Maybe this family could afford one vacation and was hoping that they could have some great family time as well as a little bit of adult time in one trip. Yes, sometimes things happen, such as illness, or a scared child that doesn’t want to stay at daycare, that prevent the planned activities and a good, concerned parent would never think of leaving their child in such circumstances. That does not seem to be what happened here. I have not done any research, but I’ve read several comments from people who said that even with searching, some of the the details of what was provided and what had a fee was a little bit lacking (ie – “some activities will have a customary fee”, which means little). Counting on children’s amenities to be include and being upset that they weren’t provided is not the same thing as not being able to participate in something because your child became ill.
    It does sound like this OP could have done more research, especially with the daycare hours, but I find it really sad that so many would condemn him for specifically booking a trip where he and his wife could have some adult time and participate in activity that they were looking forward too, then being upset that they didn’t get it.

  • Lindabator

    But they do have paid babysitting during those hours as well – it is just that they close so the family can spend the dinner and lunch hours together (shocker, I know!)

  • Lindabator

    There is service available, but during the dining times there is a fee – sounds like he thought everything should be free.

  • JenniferFinger

    So what if there is no Grandma or neighbor available to watch the kids?

    I don’t even get where you are taking that they wanted a kid-free vacation from, because it doesn’t appear from the OP’s posts that a totally kid-free vacation was what he was looking for. It sounds like he wanted there to be a mix of kid-friendly activities where kids were invited to participate and kid-free activities with concurrent babysitting, but NCL didn’t provide that on this cruise, or at least not for free.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well, what parent in their right mind takes their kids on vacation so they can EAT with them! Modern cruising parents expect to be able to leave the parenting to the Kid Zone crew, so they can have an actual vacation. Y’know, one that doesn’t involve having kids. ;)

  • JenniferFinger

    My parents do, and they are “in their right minds.”

  • Lindabator

    Not everything IS free. 9.5 hours of free babysitting leaves only a couple of hours to pony up some funds if you want them even during dinner/lunch hours. Not like a lot of money either.

  • polexia_rogue

    i cannot belive “yes” is getting so many votes.

    any sane person should realize that “cruise fare includes ocean transportation, accommodations, meals in the main dining room”.

    some times there is more- if you are lucky- but most of the time that is IT; a room and a meal in the default dining area.

    as for “what does he want?” he wants a full refund. will he get it? no because cruises are not magical boats of wonder- they are floating hotel rooms- and HE should have read the fine print.

  • Lindabator

    Not really – a lot of cruise lines have children’s programs to accommodate families – that does NOT mean there should be nothing available for those travelling without the little darlings.

  • JenniferFinger

    I know-I wasn’t justifying the OP’s desire for free amenities, only indicating that he wanted them and they were not provided.

  • Lindabator

    They have 2 hours for lunch, 2 hours for dinner. I don’t see where he got the idea that it was closed after dinner – it is, indeed, open till 10:30 pm. Just during the lunch and dinner hours, and afterhours do they charge a small fee.

  • Lindabator

    Disney, Carnival and Royal have the BEST children’s programs fleet-wide.

  • LeeAnneClark

    If you have kids, plan on raising them. If you are lucky enough to have a Grandma or a neighbor to watch them, how wonderful. But there are never any guarantees. If you’re going to have kids, assume the responsibility, don’t assume that you’ll be able to dump them off on someone else. And if that means you don’t get vacations alone, awww…poor parents, how horrible, they might actually be forced to PARENT their own kids!

    The OP complained about three things:

    1. The kids club wasn’t open during meal times. The clubs were open 9.5 hours a day, and most cruise ships close the kids clubs during mealtimes…but apparently the parents didn’t like the fact that they had to be with their kids during meals.

    2. The kids club wasn’t open during one adult event. If they were planning their whole vacation around this one activity, they were making a huge mistake. As I said earlier, you can never count on ANY cruise ship activity. Schedules change, activities are canceled, ports are skipped, weather can turn bad, staff changes, not enough people sign up…activities can be canceled for any number of reasons.

    3. They had to pay for some things. Yeah. Welcome to modern cruising. There is no such thing as an “all-inclusive” cruise these days. This is well known, and easily learned if you spend a few minutes doing research. If they couldn’t afford the vacation, they should have picked something they COULD afford.

  • LeeAnneClark

    They wanted them. But they weren’t provided. Welcome to the real world. None of what they “wanted” was guaranteed. They could have done a few minutes of research and learned all of this.

  • Lindabator

    Or if the “agent” was one of those 800 numbers — and I only see Chris asking about the agent – do we even know if this was the case here?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Finally – a comment from someone who gets it!

    LIKE X1000

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL I take it you don’t understand sarcasm?

    Just to be clear: I was being sarcastic. Go back and re-read my comment, but this time, say this to yourself first:

    “She’s being sarcastic. She actually thinks parents should plan on eating meals with their kids.”

    Hope that helps.

  • Lindabator

    And they do offer babysitting during that time, just for a fee. (They would prefer you feed your own picky eater, after all!) :)

  • JenniferFinger

    Whether or not they could do “research” depends on what information is out there that NCL shares about this particular cruise and whether or not they had the means to access it.

    LeeAnne, we really don’t know what he was told about this cruise or what kind of “research” he could do. I’d rather know that before making any further assumptions about what he “should have” done.

  • JenniferFinger

    See my response below about what kind of “research” the OP could do. It sounds to me like you’re making a lot of generalizations here without actual facts.

  • Lindabator

    I should hope not , since they cost about 3 times the cost (on average). Not everyone wants ALL KIDDIES, ALL THE TIME. And Disney sucks for adult activities, by the by. These other cruise lines try to appeal to multi-generational groups of travellers, so try to offer more for all the guests. He just was too cheap to pay a fee when something was not covered, and obviously paid NO attention to the activities list to see when the characters would be around.

  • JenniferFinger

    I understand sarcasm but I don’t think it helps your case. Calm down, would you?

  • LeeAnneClark

    There are always casino tournaments on cruise ships with casinos. It’s a standard activity. Not everyone on the cruise will have kids…and those adults are entitled to events as well. There are literally DOZENS of simultaneous activities going on all week…should they really not plan any activities for the period of time when the kids club is closed? Then all the childless guests would complain. This was ONE activity…and, oh garsh, they had to miss it. Because they have kids. How horrible.


  • Lindabator

    you can get those quite easily online.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL I’m a cruising veteran, and a vacation research veteran. I am acutely aware of the availability of information about cruises. It was out there, if they’d just bothered to look.

  • Lindabator

    bull – not only is it cost-prohibitive for most, there is nada onboard for adults. (Although I still sell quite a few for those families only interested in keeping the kiddies happy).

  • LeeAnneClark

    It’s out there. http://www.cruisecritic.com. Everything you could possibly want to know about your upcoming cruise. Ask any question, and cruise veterans will respond.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL! I love it when people who have no idea what I’m actually feeling tell me to “calm down”. That usually means that the person saying it is the one who is all worked up. I’m just having fun here watching everyone scrambling to try to defend these poor beleaguered parents who were forced to miss a card game and take care of their own kids during mealtimes. I think it’s all quite entertaining! ;-)

  • Lindabator

    They are, as listed in the daily events calendar. And NO cruise lines offer alternative dining for free anymore. So just because he “expected” more than was promised by the line, does NOT mean he should get anything in this case.

  • Lindabator

    They are all getting to be that way – try sailing Celebrity nowadays – the dining charges are getting to be ridiculous!

  • LeeAnneClark

    The entire case…in a nutshell.

  • Lindabator

    They already approve the events onboard, and could care less he spent no time checking the daily activities list to see where they would be. After all, they don’t promise Spongebob is your pal for the week!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay, that made me misty. :::sniff:::

  • JenniferFinger

    You may be an experienced cruiser, but it sounds like this guy is not. Again, we don’t know what he was told or what he actually knew about what the cruise would offer. Simply because there’s a website out there doesn’t mean either that he would know about it or have the ability to access it. You’re still generalizing about what people know or have the ability to find out. I’d prefer to have facts before making any more assumptions, and what’s on that website might not be applicable to this particular cruise.

    By the way, there’s no prize for winning this “debate” with me.

  • Lindabator

    How refreshing! And yes, that is the ship’s point – we will give you a break (and the kids something to do), not adopt them for the week. :)

  • Lindabator

    Unless you’re cheap (like this one seems to be).

  • LeeAnneClark

    No worries, I am not trying to win anything, dear. I do thank you for the entertainment, tho! ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    It sounds as if you may not have read the actual full article. Are you aware, for example, that the kids club was actually open for FREE babysitting for a full 9.5 hours every single day? They only closed down for a couple hours at lunch and dinner. So these parents had more than enough time away from their kids.

    And babysitting for a fee was available during the hours that it was closed.

    All of this is openly disclosed on NCL’s own website. Doesn’t take a lot of searching to find it.

    If 9.5 hours a day without your kids isn’t good enough for these parents, then I believe they SHOULD be told to leave the little darlings home.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And that’s what irked me so much about this story. For pete’s sake, the kids club is open for free babysitting 9.5 hours a day! All these people saying they had a right to some “alone time” seem to have ignored the fact that they had 9.5 hours a day of alone time. These parents seemed to want to pawn their kids off on the cruise line and have a mostly kid-free vacation. If you want a kid-free vacation, leave the kids home.

  • emanon256

    I would be inclined to believe its not that big of a deal, they have
    lots of similar casino activities at various times throughout the
    cruise. This is from the NCL website where they list of 12 various casino activities they have on-board:

    Texas Hold’em Tournament

    The extremely popular Texas Hold’em Tournaments are available on
    various ships across the fleet (excluding ships with Hawaiian
    itineraries and the Marco Polo). Two types of tournaments are available:
    the 10 player version and a no-limit, large pool version with rebuys
    and add-ons. Entry fees are $60 per person. Please consult your Casino
    Host for more details.

  • EdB

    Awww…. But if you guys were enjoying it so much, why did you up vote the message to make it stop? *grin*

  • SallyLu

    I did read the full article. Iwas more commenting on those people, such as yourself, who are making such nasty judgemental comments about these parents who were looking forward to a specific adult activity that they could not participate in and were disappointed by it. I was particularly bothered by comments that they should have just left their children at home if they didn’t want the responsiblilty of taking care of them. No where in this entire article did I ever see where these parents were upset that they couldn’t leave their kids in day care for the entire day, nor that they even wanted to leave them in there for the 9.5 hours that it was available. They were just disappointed that the day care was closed during the one event that they had planned on participating in. Perhaps they had budgeted a certain amount of money that they could use for specific activities and due to the OP’s insufficient research, he was caught off guard by the schedule and the extra fees it would cost for babysitting during that time. I am saddened that judgemental people would make these terrible assumptions about people who, from the sound of it, wanted to have a vacation with thier children, and also a bit of adult fun too.

  • emanon256

    With heir kids 24/7. Okay, lets do the math. Kids sleep a long time, Ill just say 9 hours, but depending on their age it could be longer. So 9.5 hours of day-care and 10 hours of sleep. That gives them only 5.5 hours with their kids a day which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. That’s too much time with their kids? They can’t get the bit of time to themselves that they need?

    Also, the day care was available during the clearly published hours. It was also available after hours for a fee. So I don’t really follow your post.

  • emanon256

    HAHAHAHA!!!!! Spongebob as a pal for the week!!!! I find that hilarious, I am really laughing out loud.

    I am sure if someone was rich enough they could make that happen. Just like that travel group in Florida that rents out People with Disabilities so rich families can skip the line at Di$ney.


  • EdB

    Why waste the money renting someone when all you have to do is rent a wheelchair or electric convenience vehicle. Those automatically get you to the special entrances for the rides that have queues that don’t accommodate them.

  • ddjwms

    It didn’t sound as if the characters appeared very often, listed in the daily events or not. And most lines–including NCL–do usually offer a few alternate dining venues for free. I just think that on a cruise marketted especially for families, it is not unreasonable to expect a free character breakfast for kids at least once during a cruise. I don’t sympathize too much with the OP; I just think cruise lines have passed the point of reasonableness overall and thought possibly Chris could call attention to that. As frequent cruisers, we have seen the deterioration of service and all-inclusiveness year after year; at some point, I think customers need a voice in saying, “Enough!” (Yes, I know we can do that by just not cruising anymore or not using a certain line anymore, but that is kind of cutting off our noses to spite our face, as the saying goes… Chris’s voice for us seems like a preferable alternative.) If you notice, I said I don’t think Chris can do anything to make this OP happy, but I do think he can possibly add a powerful voice for the rest of us.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay, so here’s where I disagree with you:

    You wrote: “No where in this entire article did I ever see where
    these parents were upset that they couldn’t leave their kids in day care
    for the entire day, nor that they even wanted to leave them in there
    for the 9.5 hours that it was available.”

    Except that they did. They specifically complained that the kids’ zone closed down for meal times, and wasn’t open for as many hours as they thought it would be. They specifically stated that they were expecting it to be open all day. Why would they complain about this if they didn’t intend to use it?

    You wrote: “They were just disappointed that the day care was closed during the one event that they had planned on participating in.”

    So they missed one event! One card game, amidst the dozens upon dozens of activities that these cruise ships offer every single day. They missed it because…ZOMG…they had to take care of their kids during mealtimes, during a time when it was openly disclosed on the NCL website that the kids zone would be closed. Oh heavens! Let’s hold a pity party.

    Can you really not see the pettiness of this complaint? Really? And what did they want for it…a refund? Money? Because they missed a card game? They never actually said what they wanted, but clearly it was more than an apology because they already got one of those. PLEASE tell me you don’t think they are due any money because they had to miss ONE activity.

    You wrote: “Perhaps they had budgeted a certain amount of money that they could use for specific activities and due to the OP’s insufficient research, he was caught off guard by the schedule and the extra fees it would cost for babysitting during that time.”

    So you are acknowledging that the fault lies with the OP himself, for not doing sufficient research. And you are wondering why all of us are telling Chris to NOT support this guy in his demand for some kind of recompense, when even you admit the cruise line did nothing wrong and it was his own fault?

    You wrote: “I am saddened that judgemental people would make these terrible assumptions about people who, from the sound of it, wanted to have a vacation with thier children, and also a bit of adult fun too.”

    Terrible assumptions? I didn’t see any terrible assumptions. I saw many people (myself included) who were irritated with some parents who didn’t bother to read the cruise line’s own website (where they would have seen the kids zone hours), didn’t do enough research, weren’t willing to spend the money for the things they wanted, missed ONE little card game, then wanted Christopher to jump in and demand something for them. I saw many commenters just telling it like it is, and calling out these people for having unreasonable expectations and then blaming the cruise line and demanding something back.

    Sorry if reality makes you sad.

  • emanon256

    I think we read a different article. I read it as they were upset about how late in the morning the day care opened, as well as being upset it was closed for lunch and dinner. They were even further upset the poker game was during a time daycare was closed. They were upset the characters were not everywhere all at once, but rather only at places listed in a schedule it sounds like they didn’t read. They were also upset that they had to pay extra for special meals and activities, and they were upset that they had to pay for an activity on land, and they were also upset that had to pay for alcohol, spa service, laundry, and internet usage.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL I forgot about their complaints that the characters weren’t at their beck and call! That was a good one. ;-)

  • emanon256

    Because Di$ney charges you $380 an hour if you need accommodations and don’t already have a guide, when you can get the same service from these Guides for the Rich for $130 an hour.

  • ddjwms

    And there is the crux of the problem. The OP does NOT sound like a veteran cruiser with the insights and information resources you take for granted. Please don’t be so condescending to cruising newbies. (I am a Cruise Critic fan myself and use it extensively. I always try to tell friends who are new to cruising about it. But not everyone is lucky enough to have more informed friends like you and me…) I’m just sorry that the OP was disappointed in his expectations, realistic or not. It is no fun to go off with high expectations that are not met, especially on a looked-forward-to experience like a family cruise. That doesn’t mean I think he deserves a refund or anything, just that it is too bad he was so disappointed…

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Given you have a sense of humor, EdB, I can now pretty easily guess where the down vote on my comment up above came from! Guessing the other side may not have had quite as good a sense of humor!

  • EdB

    The “$380 for accommodations” is for the tour that you don’t need. And why pay the $130/hr when you can rent (at Disneyland) an ECV for $50 (plus $20 refundable deposit) and get moved to the front of the line just like the people renting the “disabled” person. They can’t check or make you prove you have any type of disability.

  • LeeAnneClark

    This may surprise you, but…I fully agree with you! I don’t blame the OP for being an inexperienced cruiser. I blame him for discovering that things were not what he expected, then rather than recognizing that his inexperience and lack of research caused the problem, turning around and blaming the cruise line…and then asking Chris to help him demand money.

    If the OP had written a blog post saying what a bummer it was that he’d gone off on his vacation without really understanding how cruises work, and that he’d learned his lesson to research your trip before you make assumptions, I would have gladly empathized with him, and then HELPED him. As an experienced cruiser, I’ve got a ton of resources that I could provide him.

    Although I would probably still shake my head at the fact that he didn’t even bother to look at the NCL website to find out the kids zone hours. That seems pretty basic, and something that anyone going on a cruise should know to do without being told. I have never gone on a cruise without reading everything I could find on the cruise line’s website, and it’s hard for me to imagine someone not doing that. But, that being said, he didn’t…who’s fault is that? NCL’s? What did he want for it? Money? That’s where he went wrong, and that’s why so many of us have commented derisively.

    I’m sad for the guy too. But I’m angrier that he had the nerve to demand money for his own mistake.

    We see complainers like him on Cruise Critic every day, and this is pretty much how most veteran cruisers respond. Do the research. If you didn’t, and your vacation was spoiled, learn from your mistake and do the research NEXT time. But don’t blame the cruise line.

    If every cruise noob who didn’t bother to read the website demanded money back for their unmet expectations, the cruise lines would go broke. Or raise their prices so high none of us would get to go cruising.

    I hope this helps you to understand why you are seeing the comments you are seeing in here.

  • EdB

    Sorry to tell you, it wasn’t from me.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Cool website. Thanks for sharing.

  • jpp42

    Indeed, and I think this is entirely the reason the Kids Zone is closed for two hours during lunch – to ensure the kids ARE picked up and not left there all day.

  • Stephen0118

    If there is a next time, he should go with a Disney Cruise. I had a blast with my family. I wish I could do some of the stuff my niece and nephews got to do. The food was good too and the inside stateroom that I stayed in was comfortable.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Exactly what would this guy like to compensate for disappointing activities for children? If it’s so important for you to have someone take care of your kids, ask more questions before you book. Anyone whose trip would be ruined by something specific not happening needs to do some research, not whine about it when he gets home.

  • Michael__K

    Feel free to show us where it’s clearly disclosed which of these marketed features of the cruise are not covered and precisely how much extra they cost. Note the graphic on the lower left (“Included in your cruise fare”). There are no unchecked boxes indicating un-included items.


    If it occurs to the customer to go to Help -> FAQ’s -> Money Matters, then with 4 clicks (I wouldn’t call it easy) you could reach this page:


    … which still doesn’t disclose prices nor completely resolve which marketed features belong to which category.

    Added: Oh, and if you check webarchive.org, you can see that they can AND DO change what’s included all the time. So even if you do the most diligent research humanly possible, the answer when you cruise could be different than what the answer was when you booked.

  • ddjwms

    But he DIDN’T ask for his money back. We all (me included!) figure that is what he wants, but if you read the article above, he really doesn’t ask for anything specific; he just complains… I understand the comments I am seeing here just fine. And I, like you, am an extensive researcher. But that doesn’t mean everyone is or should be expected to be: people have different ways of approaching things, and that’s life. Sounds to me like he’s an inexperienced cruiser with high hopes that were disappointed: don’t know if he just assumed a lot of unrealistic things or if someone oversold what he should expect. I don’t think he deserves a refund–even if I assume that is what he wants. But I still say that cruise lines are nickel and diming people to death these days, and I would be glad to see Chris address that with them–which is what I have said all along and I still say.

  • emanon256

    Oh, I thought that was for the rental and such. I read a few articled about it and one made it sound like it was cheaper to rent a person than a scooter.

  • Ali Jackson

    I’m curious is the guy discussed his concerns with anyone while on-board the ship. Solving a problem while it’s happening is the quickest way to resolve it. Who knows…maybe the hours of the kids club could have been easily adjusted. Or, perhaps the charge for breakfast could have been waived.

    This reminds me of my days working at the Front Desk of a hotel. I remember asking a guest how is 3 night stay was at check out. He said it was the worst hotel he’d ever stayed at because the air conditioner didn’t work. He said that even with the windows open, it never got under 80 degrees.

    That hotel had sensors on the windows that automatically disabled the air conditioner when they were open. (The fan worked…just not the cooling.) Had this guy simply picked up the hotel or stopped by the desk, we could have fixed his non-existant problem virtually instantly.

  • EdB

    Nah. Just rent the scooter. Those rich people just have more money than brains it seems. I get my wife the ECV when we go (she does need it), but we will trade off at times. I know when I read those stories in the past, I just had to laugh at those people sending that extra money.

  • y_p_w

    Try pricing similar cruises. Disney charges a huge premium.

    I remember pricing an Alaskan cruise on DCL. I was also talking to my folks who recently took an Alaskan cruise on Princess. They were telling me that some couples paid as little as $600 for a 10-day cruise.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Really? You’re not sure this is a demand for money? So you think it’s possible he wants Christopher to “mediate” for him in order to get…what? A more sincere apology?

    Now that’s funny!

  • frostysnowman

    They cost more, but include more. And I found lots to do while on the ship. I didn’t think their adult offerings sucked at all.

  • Charles

    Wow, where did you leap to the conclusion that they leave their kids at daycare 9.5 hours a day? I sure didn’t see that. What I read was that daycare was not available when they wanted to use it. Maybe that was only a few hours. I read this as parents who spent nearly all of their time with their kids and found one adult activity they got excited about, but the daycare was not open during that activity, so they could not do that activity.

  • Michael__K

    We were told the kids’ zone was open until 10:30 p.m

    I’m curious when the OP and his travel agent booked the cruise.

    It appears that the kids zone hours were modified on November 18, 2012.

    If you checked the NCL website during October 2012 (and possibly even beyond), there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that the kids zone had any closures during the day before 10:30pm. The closures did not exist or appear on the website until later.


    Lesson: Doing your research in advance is not necessarily good enough — you have to keep checking because the terms can change at anytime.

  • Michael__K

    A quick search on the NCL Site specifically shows the times that the child care was open

    BTW, do you know when the OP’s cruise was booked?

    Because if you did that exact same search as of Oct 2012 or prior (and possibly also as recently as Feb 2013), you would see that the hours shown were different and that the kids zone was open continuously from 9am to 10:30 (no meal time closures).


  • Michael__K

    You make assumptions that do not have a factual basis.

    Why would they complain about the hours if they didn’t intend to use it all day?

    Possibly because they felt misled about the hours and thought they would be able to use the day care at whatever time of day corresponded to the adult activities they wished to partake in.

    You assume that they didn’t bother to read the cruise line’s own website. (1) The OP booked through a travel agent and claims he was told the kid’s zone would be available until 10:30pm, without any closures disclosed (2) Websites change. And, in fact, we can see that the kids zone hours were reduced about 6 months before the OP’s sailing. If one checked the website last October, one would not have seen either of the meal-time closures that you see today on the website.

    And was that the OP’s only complaint? No. The marketing materials on the website clearly imply that children will be able to “meet and greet” and have photographs taken with characters. Not just see them on stage.

    Do I assume that the OP’s characterizations are completely accurate? No. Even if he’s completely right, does he deserve a full refund (or even 50% or anywhere close to a 50% refund)? No, and I don’t see where he asks for that.

    But I suppose it could be fun to put words in stranger’s mouths and judgmentally put them down if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • LeeAnneClark


    And I suppose it could be fun accuse someone of “putting words in strangers’ mouths” when nothing of the sort happened, accuse them of making assumptions even though no assumptions were necessary because the facts are pretty darn clear to anyone with a modicum of sense, and scramble to ineffectively defend some whiny complainers who obviously didn’t research their trip enough and had nothing by petty complaints anyway and yet still tried to enlist the services of a mediator to get *something* (no one knows what they actually wanted but obviously more than an apology) even though they deserve nothing but the form apology they already got but they still aren’t satisfied….if you’re into that sort of thing. ;-)

  • Michael__K

    Right, who cares what the website actually said at the time…

    Who cares if others like Chris received a very different product (with no disclosure that anything changed)…

    None of that matters. YOU are absolutely certain that they “obviously didn’t research their trip enough”

    You claim he “demand[s] money for his own mistake”. You “LIKE X1000” the accusation that “what does he want? he wants a full refund”

    And yet you haven’t made any assumptions nor put words in anyone’s mouth. You would never do such a thing.

  • Michael__K

    Oh, wait — there’s more.

    As of at least May 14 2013, if one found the not-especially-easy-to-find FAQ on NCL’s website titled “What does my cruise fare include?” one probably would have thought that the character breakfasts were included:


    Looks like someone quietly changed that FAQ answer in response to the OP’s complaint:


    At least the new FAQ is slightly more accurate….

  • LeeAnneClark

    Exactly! Now you’re getting it! :-D

    Hey, Michael, this is all just talk on the internet. No trees were harmed in the creation of these messages. Lighten up! Nobody is in danger here. The OP had himself a wonderful vacation (well, if he can ever recover from having to miss Texas Hold-em, and his kids can get over the trauma of not being able to cuddle with Sponge Bob), NCL got to keep his cruise fare, Christopher got himself a topic for a column that inspired thousands of hits on his website, and we all got something to rant to each other about for a couple days. Sounds like a win-win to me!

  • Michael__K

    NCL even won some free feedback which they “carefully noted” :)

    Teasing and lighthearted commentary is cool. Sometimes posts come across as way way beyond that. I always think of the OP as a reader and an equal to us commenters.

    PS- I didn’t down-vote you and I’m not a fan of down-voting.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh don’t worry…I know who my down-voters are. I’m well aware that my take-no-prisoners, tell-it-like-it-is style has some detractors.

    But I got me some fans too. ;-)

    And as far as I’m concerned, if someone’s going to allow Christopher to publish an article about their situation, they’d better be prepared to take a thrashing in the comments section. This is the internet, after all! People are going to say what they think. And many of them are going to do it anonymously. Hey, at least I’ve got the cajones to use my real name. That’s because I don’t ever say anything that I would be ashamed of if my friends and family knew about it. I’m no troll – I don’t believe in hiding behind my computer. I say what I think, I mean what I say, and I stand by my opinions.

    That can NOT be said about some of my “detractors” in here, who toss out insults while hiding behind screen names.

  • Michael__K

    if someone’s going to allow Christopher to publish an article about their situation, they’d better be prepared to take a thrashing in the comments section

    My objection is when the eagerness to thrash turns into a sport where people reach for any and whatever assumptions are helpful for thrashing, without considering perfectly plausible alternatives.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh, well, and here I thought you were lightening up. Clearly not. There’s no competition here for the last word, Michael…have at it. I’ve stated my opinion, and I stand by it. It’s one that is widely shared among the other commenters in here, by the way…so there’s that. Yours happens to be in a distinct minority.

    Say what you want…you get to have the last word, dude, and I hope it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Go for it!

  • Bill___A

    I don’t know if there is even a basis for complaint here. The cruise lines are a known pain in the butt and to have high expectations of them, especially after reading all of the issues, is unrealistic.
    I have made the decision to not deal with them.

  • Jim Zakany

    I have a special-needs child. Carnival and Royal participate in the Autism at Seas program, and I have heard good things about their childrens’ programs.

  • Jim Zakany

    I’m an absolute cruise noob, but I know what activities are typically planned on my upcoming vacation because, well, Internet.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, there is that thing called the internet. ;-)

    But I keep being told that it’s unreasonable for me to expect people to actually USE the internet to research their vacations. Because, apparently, not everyone knows about it.

    And now I’m told that by suggesting that their lack of doing so is their own fault, I am displaying an “eagerness to thrash, turning into a sport where people reach for any and whatever assumptions are helpful for thrashing, without considering perfectly plausible alternatives.” [sic]

    Plausible alternatives like, I guess, they don’t wanna use the internet to research their vacations. Or maybe they did, but the website magically and coincidentally changed right AFTER they researched their vacation. Or something.

    Everyone wants to blame someone else for their own mistakes. Which is a good thing for Christopher – it keeps him in business! ;-)

  • GladISailedDCL

    I would be disappointed if they didn’t have child care during normal mealtime hours. I enjoy eating with my children .. but I also enjoy a meal or two where I’m not having to cajole my children to eat, to not bother neighboring tables, to be patient with slow table service etc. So, sometimes, we feed the kids separately so we can enjoy a meal as grownups. Which, on land is a rare luxury. It is not always about “ditching the children”.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well then you might want to choose vacations other than cruises. Most cruise ships do not keep the kids clubs open during meal times.

    Although if you really want to dine without them, there usually is paid babysitting available. These folks were just upset they couldn’t get it for free.

    Now that you know it’s not free, you can avoid getting upset about it and trying to get Christopher to “mediate” something that had no need for mediation.

  • Rae A

    Nada for adults? Let’s see … on my last Disney cruise I enjoyed dinner in the private dining room in Palo, the adults-only Italian restaurant with the other adults I was traveling with, and I attended a champagne tasting seminar. I also enjoyed a deck-side massage in the adults-only pool area and several espressos in the Cove Cafe coffee bar, which while not included, does provide a punch card that you can take from ship-to-ship if you don’t fill it in one cruise so you can get a free coffee after purchasing so many. There were over 900 kids on that cruise, but because of the way Disney does their rotational dining, we had no idea there were so many children aboard until the last night of the cruise. (Tip: If you’re adults traveling without children, do late dining.)

    On the cruise before that, my husband and I enjoyed champagne brunch in Remy on the Disney Dream, the exclusive French restaurant. It was hands down the best dining experience I’ve ever had, on land or at sea, and served with five different pours of bubbly. We also enjoyed the District adults-only nightclubs with martinis in Skyline Lounge every night and Champagne cocktails in Pink.

    And on the cruise before that, my mom and I entertained ourselves with a whiskey tasting on the Wonder, had a ball at the included character breakfast (on 7-night or longer cruises only), and she played bingo until I lost count of the games (that’s the only gambling you’ll find on DCL).

    On the cruise before that, the husband and I celebrated our anniversary with dinner in Remy overlooking Nassau at night, and spent every day in the adults-only Rainforest area of the spa.

    Yeah, you’re right. There’s nada on a Disney ship for adults.

    /rolling eyes

  • Marie

    The NCL website clearly states what activities are extra (like the slide on the island). The times the kids zone is closed are also CLEARLY STATED on the NCL website. If he would read up on it before going he would know what to expect. It wasn’t a surprise to us and this was our first cruise with kids. Just because you “expect” something or “want” it doesn’t make the cruise line have to provide it. If you expect it, you should research it. Why didn’t the wife watch the kids for one poker tourney and the husband watch them for another if playing poker was so important?