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  #1  
Old January 28th, 2013, 11:53 PM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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Default NCL isn't safe for kids!

This is my first post, but I feel it necessary to warn parents about my experience on NCL with my 10 year old son with Autism. On the last night of our cruise on the Epic over this past Thanksgiving, we took our 3 boys to the kids club, so my wife and I could have a quiet relaxing dinner. Upon returning to our cabin after dinner, we found our stateroom attendant standing in the hallway outside our cabin, motioning for us to look inside our cabin. Believe it or not, we found our 10 year old son with Autism sitting on the bed playing with an iPad. The stateroom attendant told us that Ben, walked into the room while it was being cleaned, and that he had been there for about 30 minutes. Thank goodness for Jose, the stateroom attendant. If hadn't been there, who knows where Ben could have wandered off to. The kids club is on deck 14 and our cabin was on deck 11 at opposite ends of the ship. I immediately ran up to the kids club and demanded to speak to someone in charge. Of course, they had no idea that my son was missing. Basically, they apologized and explained that they had no idea how he was able to leave their care. What a crock! That's all I got from them was an apology, not, is he ok? Are we ok?, just an oops, we're sorry, this has never happened before. When we returned home, I sent a letter to customer relations asking for an explanation. It took over 4 weeks for them to respond, and again, no explanation. What they did do is offer us a future cruise credit of $1500 as an apology, if, and only if we were willing to sign a disclosure to keep our mouths shut. Well, obviously I'm not keeping quiet. We have given NCL ample time to own up to what they allowed to happen, and still haven't done so, so I am here to warn all parents that I don't believe that NCL has our children's safety as a major priority. Mind you, they never called security when I told them what happened. The stateroom attendant called his boss to report my son being there, but again, he was just told to watch him and security wasn't called. I'm disgusted by NCL's lack of accepting responsibility for losing my son. I guess because he wasn't hurt, they don't care enough. I guess it will take a child being injured, or worse, falling over board or being molested for them to care. I will never travel with NCL again and I hope my letter will help other parents make the same decision. NCL isn't safe. NCL doesn't care. I hope this helps others to make responsible decisions about choosing a cruise line.
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  #2  
Old January 29th, 2013, 12:13 AM
celle celle is offline
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Please understand that I'm not trying to criticize you in any way, but I would like the answers to a few questions:

  • What is the usual age at which children are allowed to sign themselves out of the kids' club on NCL? (I've never sailed NCL, so I don't know.)
  • Were the staff at the kids' club aware that your son had autism and needed perhaps a little more supervision than other children?
  • Did your other children remain at the kids' club?
  • Was your son upset? I do hope not.

All credit to your son - he found his way back to a safe place. And a big thank you to your room steward, too!
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  #3  
Old January 29th, 2013, 12:32 AM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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Thanks for your questions. I believe he is old enough to sign himself out, but a parent needs to give authorization, which we didn't do. Yes, the kids club new about my son's autism as did the cruise line before we set sail. My other kids were still in the kids club when I went back to confront them, but I pulled them out as soon as I arrived. My son was/is fine. He wasn't the least bit affected by the ordeal, just we were.

One fact I left out, not that it really matters, but it was pajama night in the kids club, so my son went on this adventure in his pj's and socks, no shoes, and no one stopped him!

I'm just so disappointed by the way NCL handed this mess.
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  #4  
Old January 29th, 2013, 12:53 AM
room010 room010 is offline
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I understand your distress but speaking as the parent of an autistic child myself I can tell you that this incident won't be the first or the last "adventure" you'll experience. I give your son enormous credit for finding his own way back to your cabin where you say he was perfectly OK and in no danger.

I'm not diminishing NCLs slip up and they need to tighten up or enforce their kids club sign out protocols, but if you focus too much on the "what if's" you're making an already tough parenting job even harder for yourself.

I'm not surprised NCL won't accept or acknowledge any responsibility for the incident in this litigious age.
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  #5  
Old January 29th, 2013, 01:02 AM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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I agree with you abut the what ifs. My goal is to warn people about what happened. If NCL won't take responsibility, then I feel responsible to make sure as many families I can reach out to are made aware of this situation. This probably won't make a dent with NCL, but every little bit could make a difference. I appreciate your response.
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  #6  
Old January 29th, 2013, 07:14 AM
rebeccalouiseagain rebeccalouiseagain is offline
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I think it was an unfortunate incident but you also have to decide in the future if you are going to leave your 10 year old with strangers in the youth program. I think kids with autism would be overwhelmed by this type of experience.

The last time I sailed NCL- I felt that there were far too many children in the youth program and my son often left there being overwhelmed (he was 4 at the time).

Have you left him successfully before on a cruise and if so- sail that line the next time.
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  #7  
Old January 29th, 2013, 08:34 AM
B&Z's Mom B&Z's Mom is offline
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I have to agree with the other posters, while it is unfortunate that this happened, no one is 100% safe all the time. You know this more than anyone, kids with autism often communicate through their behaviour, and a kids club staff member who has known a child for a few hours likely cannot pick up on the subtle behavioural changes your son uses to communicate that the environment was not something he could tolerate. We have sailed NCL 3 times and while my children do not have special needs, they have received more than adequate care in the kids clubs. To say that NCL is "unsafe for kids" is over generalizing, to say the least.
I do agree that you should take up the issue with NCL corporate, although all this may do is have them put restrictions on who can participate in the kids clubs, which would be unfortunate.
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  #8  
Old January 29th, 2013, 09:03 AM
rebeccalouiseagain rebeccalouiseagain is offline
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The more I think about this situation that madder I get.

A parent takes her family on a crowded Thanksgiving cruise and leaves a child with autism with strangers.

I know enough about autism to know that kids with autism don't respond well to new situations and wouldn't feel comfortable in this type of situation.

They would feel more comfortable if they had some one on one with a certain counselor during a quiet time in the youth program and perhaps over time could be made to feel comfortable. This is true of most children. I still go to the youth program with my son on day one of the cruise and he has cruised many times and is 12 years old. I don't just fling him in there so I can go to dinner.

I think it wasn't fair on the part of the parents to leave him there in the first place- because they should have been aware of this. This was a completely new environment with new people- a double whammy.

I am tuned into my children and their respective personalities and can anticipate their needs.

NCL was wrong in allowing this child to escape but the child knew to seek a place he felt safe in and he went back to the cabin. This is not unusual for kids with autism- to run away and find a "safe" place.

I feel sorry for the boy but in the end- he did the less traumatic thing. Had he had a meltdown in the youth program trying to get out- it could have been much worse.

The lesson learned here is to accompany their child to the youth program the first day of the cruise when parents can stay. Familiarize the child and the next time leave them when the youth program is quiet- there are always quiet times there, especially in the AM on port days. If the child doesn't want to go after that... then the parents need to accept this.
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Last edited by rebeccalouiseagain; January 29th, 2013 at 09:11 AM.
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Old January 29th, 2013, 09:07 AM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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Really, are you kidding me? They keep people posted at the entrance so kids can't leave, but my son still managed to get out? How was he able to get past "their security"? We have left him in other programs without any incident, but he escaped from the care on NCL. The fact he escaped means they need more security, perhaps a security guard should be stationed at the door, not a bunch of twenty somethings that haven't been trained properly. I would think more of you would be appalled at what happened rather than make excuses. The kids should be 100% safe from disappearance when in there care.
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  #10  
Old January 29th, 2013, 09:15 AM
rebeccalouiseagain rebeccalouiseagain is offline
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The question is "why did he want to leave?"

I suspect he was overwhelmed. This wasn't a good environment for him so he left.

He is older and since kids can sign in and out- he fell through the cracks and I do agree with the lax security.

Lesson learned don't sail NCL again with your child because it didn't work for him or for you. Now that he is older, you are going to have to make sure he even wants to go there. If he feels uncomfortable- he is likely to try to flee again. He may just not like going to organized activities such as this. Again- lead him into it, don't just drop him off.

Some cruise lines have fewer kids- Holland America, Celebrity, Cunard. But I would not sail at peak travel times on any cruise ship because there will be too many kids in the youth program.

Kids change. My 12 year old doesn't like the same things that he did at age 10. And at 14 he won't like the same things he did at 12. Your child is no different.
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Last edited by rebeccalouiseagain; January 29th, 2013 at 09:22 AM.
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  #11  
Old January 29th, 2013, 09:27 AM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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Again, it was the last day of many ays on the trip. All 3 of my children were there each and everyday of the trip, not just the last. We always accompany all of our children to make sure they are happy and comfortable when we sign them in. To suggest that we just flung him in there so we could go to dinner is wrong and rude to suggest. The cruise line knew he had autism before we left home, they contacted us to see if they needed to do anything special for us and we informed the kids club on the first and each day of this fact to see if they needed any instructions or reminders. This is me wanting to tell our story, to hopefully help others, not look for sympathy, but to warn others. I want to know how he got out! How did it happen? Did he get out through an emergency exit, and if so, why didn't an alarm go off! How do you let any child walk out in their pj's and socks?
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  #12  
Old January 29th, 2013, 09:34 AM
rebeccalouiseagain rebeccalouiseagain is offline
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So he went each and every day without incident but the last day escaped.

I agree that NCL should be more aware of who is allowed to sign out etc. Point taken.

In the end- be glad this happened on a ship where you had the room steward and not on land where he could have been hit by a car or something.

Go back to the cruise lines where you had success.

I don't cruise NCL anymore so it isn't my trying to back them up.

Again- did you ask him why he left? Your son's feelings are more important to me than the fact that NCL allowed him to escape. I think it's important to understand what activity might have triggered this flight response.
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Last edited by rebeccalouiseagain; January 29th, 2013 at 09:38 AM.
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  #13  
Old January 29th, 2013, 09:47 AM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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He is verbal, but explaining why he does things is not the easiest thing for him, so we don't know why he left. I will go back to other lines and probably start cruising with an autism group called autism of the seas. They organize group cruises for families with autism, usually on Royal. When on one of their cruises, they post their employees in the kids club at all times in addition to the cruise staff because they are better trained.
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  #14  
Old January 29th, 2013, 09:52 AM
rebeccalouiseagain rebeccalouiseagain is offline
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That sounds like a good plan. I think that is the smart thing to do. I think they would be more equipped to deal with your child and his individual needs. That way you and your family can have a happy and safe cruise!

if it makes you feel any better- sometimes all kids at that age want to leave. My son, now that he can come and go as he pleases only likes certain activities and doesn't want to stay for others. He hung out more with me on our last Royal cruise than he has in the past. You may find this to be true of your son now that he is getting older.

Have you ever taken him to trivia? My son loves that and I suspect your son would too.

Bon Voyage!
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Upcoming cruises:Celebrity Constellation 8/9/15

Last edited by rebeccalouiseagain; January 29th, 2013 at 09:57 AM.
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  #15  
Old January 29th, 2013, 12:01 PM
mmbrocker mmbrocker is offline
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Default Please don't generalize ..

about children with autism. As the mother of a child with autism, I've come to learn that:

If you've met one child with autism, you've met ONE child with autism.

While some symptoms can be similar with some children, each and every child is different and their ASD is apparent in different ways. Please don't focus on the fact he had autism as his reason for leaving. It does not matter one whit WHY he left. Only that he was allowed to leave.

I can see it being scary that your child got out. I mean, it's totally something my child would do. My kiddo would never really understand the social aspect of "all kids stay here" and would just go if he was ready to go. Deal is, while my child is verbal, he has the hardest time forming an unscripted question in a new situation. He would have the hardest time asking anyone for help. In fact, we may also practice asking a "teacher" to call mommy if he wants to leave.

This is a great warning for me that on our next cruise we will also model and walk through some "finding help" situations just in case.

NCL failed. hard. But I am curious, what would you want from them? What action can they take to make you whole? I don't know really if it is a situation that they could ever rectify in my eyes. I understand accidents happen and no kids club is perfect -- but if I were you I'd never ever ever sail them again.
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Old January 29th, 2013, 07:15 PM
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luvsviola luvsviola is online now
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Perhaps NCL (and others) need a color coded bracelet for kiddos that can and kiddos that cannot sign themselves out.

I'd be BEYOND furious if my kiddo was allowed to escape too. There should be better security in place. You knew you had a special needs kiddo in there. Thankfully, everything turned out ok this time, but when you agree to care for children, you are 100% responsible. I don't see how people could possibly say this was the child's fault. He is a child. Even more so, he is a child they knew they needed to watch carefully.

Thank you, OP, for letting us know this. As a special needs parent, I will definitely be wary of NCL.

If you are in the market again, Disney advertises that they are able to cater to special needs children with extra staffing if you give them advanced notice. It may be a better fit for your family.
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Old January 29th, 2013, 09:03 PM
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I think those currently on Epic need some retraining

I wish you didn't title your thread to be so inflammatory because you do make some VERY valid points.

NCL isn't unsafe - I can assure you. Gem was very safe. And VERY different from our "after Thanksgiving week" cruise on Epic.

The system on Epic IS safe. The staff on Epic need to be retrained. I had a few issues with them myself.

The system is designed to be safer than almost any other cruise line we have been on - locked door - password - parent's card AND child's card scanned - then one person tells another person to call back for the child. Then the child is released to the parent by another person.

How he slid out of there when even my 12 year old who CAN sign herself out had to jump through hoops to get out - I have noooo idea. For kids who can sign themselves out - she had to give them her card - then wait for them to scan her - then give a password - then wait at the door for the person who scanned her to give the other person the "go ahead" to open the door. And they had to give up a name tag too.

So the system is safe. But he definitely fooled them that day and beat the system
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  #18  
Old January 29th, 2013, 10:38 PM
notentirelynormal notentirelynormal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rzelden View Post
Basically, they apologized and explained that they had no idea how he was able to leave their care. What a crock! That's all I got from them was an apology, not, is he ok? Are we ok?, just an oops, we're sorry, this has never happened before. When we returned home, I sent a letter to customer relations asking for an explanation. It took over 4 weeks for them to respond, and again, no explanation. What they did do is offer us a future cruise credit of $1500 as an apology, if, and only if we were willing to sign a disclosure to keep our mouths shut. Well, obviously I'm not keeping quiet. We have given NCL ample time to own up to what they allowed to happen, and still haven't done so…..I'm disgusted by NCL's lack of accepting responsibility for losing my son. I guess because he wasn't hurt, they don't care enough. I guess it will take a child being injured, or worse, falling over board or being molested for them to care. I will never travel with NCL again and I hope my letter will help other parents make the same decision. NCL isn't safe. NCL doesn't care. I hope this helps others to make responsible decisions about choosing a cruise line.
First let me state that my granddaughter is also autistic and I agree you can’t paint the autistic with one brush stroke.

I guess I’m having some problems here understanding what exactly it is you want from NCL. Your kid got out but is safe. They have apologized and offered you compensation. HOW do you want them to take responsibility? How do you want them “to own up”? What would satisfy you?

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Originally Posted by Rzelden View Post
The cruise line knew he had autism before we left home, they contacted us to see if they needed to do anything special for us and we informed the kids club on the first and each day of this fact to see if they needed any instructions or reminders. This is me wanting to tell our story, to hopefully help others, not look for sympathy, but to warn others. I want to know how he got out! How did it happen? Did he get out through an emergency exit, and if so, why didn't an alarm go off! How do you let any child walk out in their pj's and socks?
You say you want to know how he got out. Well, since no one saw him you can write letters until you are blue in the face. No one that you are writing to has your answers. They weren’t there. Since the kids area said they didn’t know he left, again, you can demand, jump up and down, hold your breath until you turn blue but NO ONE can offer you an explanation to something they didn’t witness. I don’t get how you want them to produce an explanation for a past event that no one knows happened. Going forward they (NCL) should make changes but that is not what you are looking for to make yourself happy. So again, what can they do to make you happy?

Besides telling everyone your story – what more do you want from the cruise line?
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Last edited by notentirelynormal; January 29th, 2013 at 10:40 PM. Reason: .
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  #19  
Old January 29th, 2013, 10:53 PM
Rzelden Rzelden is offline
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The cruise line told me they were going to review the ships cameras to retrace his steps. They told me that cameras are everywhere and they would be able to figure it out. I want answers to questions they told me they could resolve.

I created the title to draw attention, but I also don't think they did enough. I witnessed a child get injured near the pool and 3 security officers were there within minutes, but when I raised a red flag that a child was missing, they didn't think to call security and take a written report. Granted, my son was in my care and safe, but I just don't think they followed a reasonable protocall for a missing human life. My wife and I feel that their offer of a future cruise credit with the stipulation that we sign an NDA is a slap in the face. They dropped the ball entirely.
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Old January 29th, 2013, 11:02 PM
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I would have liked to see if they had video of the "escape". We were on the exact sailing as you were. My DD8 only went to kids club 3 times. It was extreme chaos. She just can't tolerate that level of noise and activity. I'm surprised a child with autism would stay for even a few minutes. We've been on the Epic on "Non-Thanksgiving" weeks and have had a wonderful time - but the number of children on this sailing was overwhelming.

The reason I'd like to see the video - I'd love to know exactly how it happened. Every time we picked up our daughter the line was 15-20 minutes(at least) to pick her up. They were extremely picky - as Michele said - Photo id, match bracelet, secret code word, then they were allowed to squeeze out a gate opened briefly for them - painfully slow process. I can't even imagine how he got out. On 30+ cruises, the EPIC definately has the most secure kids club.

Can he communicate verbally and explain to you how he was able to leave and if anyone questioned him?
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