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Wally4973

Pride of America Disaster at Sea

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Disaster at Sea

My wife, Audrey Newman, our grandson Gavin, and I, Howard Wallenstein, had been looking forward to this trip through the Panama Canal on NCL’s newest ship Pride of America. Our first sight of her alongside the pier in Miami on June 25th was not a disappointment. Her gleaming white hull with the distinctive artwork was spectacular. Further, we were not disappointed in the beautiful public rooms and our staterooms. Unfortunately, the joy ended here.

 

Our Experience:

The ship layout appears to be of random design. It is not possible to access the Liberty Dining Room (the “upstairs” to the Skyline Dining Rooms’ “downstairs”) directly from anywhere else on the ship except from the aft elevators or through the Skyline Dining Room. On several occasions we had to go out onto the weather decks in the rain to get around either the Cadillac Diner or the Lazy J Steak House as opposed to going all the way forward and down to the fifth deck and then aft and through the Skyline Restaurant. Very annoying.

 

The Pride of America was about 18 or 20 days out of the building yards in Bremerhaven when we boarded, and the air conditioning system was not under control. All the public rooms, the restaurants, main lobby, and the Hollywood theater were too cold to linger in without a warm sweater or jacket. Several rooms had no a/c at all. Tests were run almost daily on our staterooms “to determine the full load capacity” we were told. This required placing our a/c control in maximum cooling while locking the controls. We were told that “these tests were only for an hour”. Four hours later they were still under “test”, and repeated calls to reception produced no technician’s appearance. Finally, five hours later a technician appeared, and I closely observed his procedure in unlocking our a/c control. During this “test” our room temperature dropped into the 50’s, and the room became uninhabitable. Where could we go? All the public rooms were of the same temperature. Who brings cold weather clothing onto a cruise into the tropics? All further “tests” were limited by me to one hour, and then I unlocked the a/c control and put on the heat! The two rooms next to ours were occupied by our grandsons and dear friends. I stopped the “tests” in these rooms as well.

 

The next most serious problem was in the dining rooms. These comments are for the Skyline and Liberty Dining rooms, Little Italy (until the last two days when the management changed - more later on this issue), Lazy J Steak House, and East Meets West. There are two major problems: food preparation and service. Food preparation first. I cannot comment on the layout or management of the galleys since we were unable to observe them first hand, however ongoing bottlenecks caused delays in food preparation all cruise long. The first night the appearance of the steak, which everyone ordered, was delayed over one hour. That’s right, we sat on our hands for more than one hour after the appetizer, soup and salad were served. Has no one aboard operated a large dining room before? We had problems completing our meals in less than two and a half hours. We started initially planning to go to dinner at 7:30 planning on attending the 9:30 show in the Hollywood theater. We were forced to miss dessert and rush through the entrée or miss the start of the entertainment. Eventually we started dinner at 6:45 with the request to our waiter to complete meal service by 9:00pm. Late arrival at the show meant that our family of six could not sit together. Additionally the waiter and his assistant were reversed in their interaction from what we had observed, and enjoyed, on our prior 25 or so cruises. Aboard the Pride of America the waiters had the job of running to the galley to fetch the food, and the assistant cleared the table, set the bread service, and (sometimes, when he remembered) get the drink order. This forced the least experienced member of the table service crew to manage the meal experience. One evening at the start of the cruise Mr. Michael Landry, whose card has the title “Food and Beverage Director” stopped at our table and inquired “How are things going? Do you have any comments about the food experience?” We described the above observations to him. The only change from the pattern we have described was the next day when all the tables for two were clustered in the front of the room in response to complaints from several couples that the “fuss” caused by several small children was disturbing their meal, and the “romantic mood was spoiled”. Of course this change had negative repercussions in that the waiters in the rest of the room now had to handle all the large tables which naturally slowed things down further. We had observed the senior ships’ managers lounging in the specialty restaurants, smoking in groups in the common spaces and drinking a leisurely cup of coffee. In my 45 years experience as a Naval Officer and senior manager in the food industry I had learned to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. The lack of hands-on supervision was visible in all ship operations. The only exception to this ship wide problem was in the Cadillac Grill. The manager of this operation was David Verschoor. He closely managed the Grill. Service was prompt, the wait staff were attentive and appeared well trained and competent. The last two days of the cruise his talent must have been spotted and he was transferred to the Little Italy Restaurant. We had our last meal of the cruise in this dining room and the change from our first experience was like night and day. This proves my contention that management is severely lacking on the Pride of America.

On the same subject: there is a serious fault somewhere in the food handling chain. My wife, myself, and our grandson had a severe case of “runny tummy”. In the case of our grandson (13 years old) it required two trips to the ships’ doctor. We found him caring and competent. He was very concerned that this might be a transmittable form, and quarantined Gavin to his room for 24 hours. He prescribed a bland diet which would be served to him in his room by Room Service. Room service could/would not comply. All attempts to order white rice and plain chicken failed. “It is not on the menu, we will not make something special”. We coped by delivering food from the Aloha Buffet. An informal interviewing of all the people we came across during the last three days revealed that almost one person of each couple questioned reported a case of “runny tummy”. By informal count we spoke to over 250 couples. This is a serious problem.

One more fact on the subject of food preparation. The garbage handling system for the Aloha Grill was built too close to the Little Italy Dining Room forcing the Little Italy Dining Room which is directly next to the Aloha Grill to fetch its’ food from the main dining rooms six decks away. Yet, under Mr. Verschoor’s management the service and dining experience was excellent, and what we have learned to expect from a first class cruise ship.

 

Lastly, and the most embarrassing to as an ex-Naval Officer was the total lack of seamanship on the Pride of America. Our last scheduled port visit was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The absence of pier facilities required that shore visits must be made via tenders. We have visited this port on other ships and had experienced small boat operations before. My Naval experience was in USS Cambria (APA-36) an assault ship whose mission was landing Marines over the beach. We earned our pay by unloading, filling and dispatching landing craft.

Our Pride of America schedule had us anchoring at 8:30 - 9:00am and starting tender operations by 10:00am. With a scheduled ship departure at 3:00pm (last boat departs shore at 2:30pm) we could anticipate a brief, but tolerable four and a half hour visit. Short, but tolerable for our grandson to “taste” Mexico, and renew memories for us. Having drawn Tender #8, we anticipated a short wait, and decided to watch tender operations from the sixth deck. What I witnessed was complete chaos, and an increasingly dangerous operation. There were 3 to 4 (varying from time to time) seamen handling lines, and no visible supervision. The tenders were supplied by the port and were handled by experienced boat handlers. As I said the ship was anchored. In these conditions, there is no net current at slack tide, up to a few knots of current when the tide is running. Under all conditions the ships’ head is into the source of current, as she is anchored. That is why ship designers install a bitt in the ships’ hull forward of the tender platform. What is supposed to happen is that ships’ sailors bend (attach) a line called a “painter” to this bitt, and it should be of sufficient length to run to the platform. As a small boat approaches, the deckhand seizes the painter, and bends it around the boats’ forward cleat. This act stabilizes the boat alongside of the ship allowing the attachment of another line, and the discharge and loading of personnel. No painter was in use. Further, and adding to the dangerous situation, seamen on the platform ALWAYS bent the first line to the boat onto the aft cleat, assuring instability and the swinging of the boat at right angles to the platform causing the boat to cast off and try again. One more thing added to the chaos: when a seaman caught a line from the boat he did not know that his weight and strength was insufficient to keep the boat alongside, and he should immediately take a turn around the cleat in front of him to snub the line to keep it from running and allow its’ further tightening.

After watching this debacle for two hours, and listening to my fellow passengers’ grumbling, I went to the Reception desk and asked to speak to the most senior officer available. The Assistant Front Desk Manager appeared. I described what I had observed and requested that this situation be made known to the responsible operating officer, and a decision made to extend the shore visit by several hours. He refused stating that the ships’ schedule was unalterable. So, off I went with my grumbling shipmates. We hit shore at 12:30, had a wonderful (ha!) two hours visit, and was aboard at 2:45. Adding insult to injury during embarkation ship personnel had dispatched one of the their lifeboats to fetch supplies from the port. Loading tenders was interrupted for 35 precious minutes while the seamen attempted to bring the lifeboat alongside to receive several crew members. Then when it returned about 3:30 to unload these precious emergency supplies, four loaded tenders had to cast off and heave-to while these supplies were off loaded as a priority cargo more important that four boatloads of increasingly seasick passengers. And what was the emergency supplies? It was toilet paper and bananas! As it worked out, tender operations continued until 4:30pm. This delay could not be made up over the next 36 hours of cruising, and we arrived late in Los Angeles. Delays caused by the documentation of about 75 American citizen crew added to the final time we were able to debark. We used the NCL “Express Disembarkation”, which means we hauled our own luggage and stood waiting in the sixth deck passageway with about 500 other guests who had elected the “Express Debarkation”. Needless to say we missed our scheduled flight, and the next one we changed to, finally arriving at LAX at 12:15. Flight connections failed all day, and we arrived home exhausted the next day.

All personal spirits and wine were confiscated from us upon boarding. They were returned when we arrived in LA, and this operation took over an hour. We had lots and lots of time waiting to get off.

 

As a parting note, we found the lack of “work ethic” among the US crew as compared to foreign staffed ships. Our stateroom steward had to be reminded daily to fully replace the in-room coffee service, and wash out the pot and throw away the spent coffee filter. Our room was never dusted, and the balcony glass was not wiped to remove the salt deposits. I mention these petty items because they illustrate the condition, and many of our fellow passengers cited the same issues.

Every port (even the Panama Canal) saw several crew members with their personal luggage leave the ship. Most were disenchanted by the requirements to work, and the rest were terminated for various reasons. We had heard through the “scuttlebutt” (ships’ rumor mill) that 100 new crew members would be boarding in LA to take their places.

 

Guess our answer to NCL’s question: “Would you sail on an NCL ship again, and will you recommend it to a friend?”

:mad::mad:

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Interesting report from a more technical and nautical mindset. I can only bet that a flood of response is to follow . . .

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Gee, I was getting excited about having booked this cruise! Now I'm back to "should I have or not?"

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Guess the new poster to the boards went before the bugs were worked out! :eek: Thats why I would never consider a ship for at least a few months while they work things out! Crew even needs to get use to the ship!:D Hawaii will more than make up for any small problems for my family!:rolleyes: Can't wait.........:)

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I'm sorry to hear that you were so disappointed in your cruise. It was interesting to read your very specific complaints, hopefully some of these problems have already been addressed by NCL. Please keep in mind that you were on an initial voyage of this ship and one would expect that there would be problems that would need to be worked out - specifically the air-conditioning issues and dining room problems. I found your description of the tendering problems to be a bit too technical to understand; however, this stop is not one that will be on America's itinerary so perhaps this was a one-time occurrence.

You mentioned problems with "runny tummy". Were there hand sanitizer stations available around the ship? When we have sailed NCL before we were always impressed with the number of these stations available to encourage hand sanitation and cleanliness.

Hopefully staff that was hired that didn't know what they were getting into or that are not suitable are being weeded out and there will be less turnover as the ship continues to operate.

I appreciate hearing both the good and bad experiences onboard the ship. Most reviews that I have seen from this trip have been overwhelmingly positive which is a good sign for those of us that are looking forward to sailing on the Pride of America.

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I hope you report all of this to NCL. There are 11 of us looking at booking this ship for Hawaii and after your report and several others, we are seriously looking at doing something else. Thanks for the insight.

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Sounds just like the negative posts about POA. I wouldn't worry about it too much. If I had a cruise booked on her, I would try to just enjoy in spite of the annoyances. I would be interested in any other reports from this sailing.

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I'd be interested in reading some of your reviews of early cruises on other ships. Your report is very detailed, but makes me wonder whether you are flexible enough for cruising as a travel option. Especially, inaugural cruises.

 

Many of the issues you identify are fairly common on ships, especially cold air in public rooms, tendering adventures, deck access problems from one set of stairs, even the ocassional illness.

 

:rolleyes:

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I agree with you alinnj.....there will always be problems on any vacations.....had them on both cruises....but I won't let those be my memories.....as far as "runny tummy"...always carry immodium AD or something similar...most of tend to overeat and eat things we do not normally eat.....wash your hands constantly...kids tend to put their hands on their faces all the time....NCL Sun handed out sanitizing wipes all over the place.....no problems....I find air conditioning wherever I go to be cold......always carry a sweater.....I too found the tendering explanation over my head...but we did have an incident in Ketchikan...it was so rough by the time we returned the tender slammed into the ship and actually busted a hole in the side of the tender....the crew was extremely helpful in getting us off safely.....hopefully all the bugs will be worked out before Aug 13th when we sail.....Hawaii will make up for any inconveiences we have.....BTW alinnj...are your friends from Williamstown teachers too? My kids were kinda curious....fear was in their faces!!!! Its a small town....Enjoy your flight and your cruise!

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Gee, I was getting excited about having booked this cruise! Now I'm back to "should I have or not?"

 

Jfeasel I hope you report all of this to NCL. There are 11 of us looking at booking this ship for Hawaii and after your report and several others, we are seriously looking at doing something else. Thanks for the insight.

 

No need to panic over a negative report, if you go back and check there have been several very positive reviews. Many of the complaints can be chalked up to a new ship and new crew - things that will be worked through in time. As others have said, thats why many people wait a few months before booking a new ship. Herb, your cruise is over a year away - plenty of time to continue to watch reviews and decide for yourself if this is the ship for you.

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This review sounds very similar to the first reviews from the Pride of Aloha's first trips last year. Maybe NCL didn't learn from mistakes or didn't bring enough people over from the Aloha.

 

The Aloha also suffered from the work ethic of many of the American crew. Those who didn't realize what working a 12 hour day/80 hour a week schedule means. I figured that was to be expected. The Aloha posters from her first cruises also mentioned crew leaving in every port.

 

The dining experiences that you mentioned are also very similar to what was reported on the Aloha last year and what happened to us on our cruise. I think that just takes some time for the cooks, waiters and other dinning staff to get used to each other and the procedures. As for moving the tables for two together and leaving the large tables together, now that is pretty stupid. I am not in the food service industry, but I know enough that you can't slam one waiter with all of the big tables!! (What brillant Food and Beverage person decided to that....) The crew has to learn that you can't listen to all of the whining people but do what is in the best interest of most people. (and as far as those whining about the noise ruining their "romantic dinner....hello, clueless clods, you are in a public restaurant, deal with it!!)

As far as the air is concerned, I have found that all NCL ships tend to be very cold in the public areas. Having worked in a large venue myself, I know that you have to get the area cold to start with because once a lot of people start congretating there, the combined body heat makes it impossible to cool down. But there is no sense in locking the AC controls in the cabins on high for 5 hours.

 

I also observed that NCL tender operations have a lot to be desired as well. I saw serveral tenders actually crash into the ship as they were pulling alongside in Kona last year. And wait until you get to Hawaii, golfers (and their bags!) have a priority on tenders through that NCL Golf Hawaii deal.

 

As far as compenstation is concerned, I'm sure NCL will do something similar to what they did last year for the Aloha passengers, refunded their $10 a day service charges and give them a large credit for a future cruise. It will be interesting to hear what the current passengers on the America (the San Fran to Honolulu cruise) have to say. We should be hearing from them around July 25.

 

Finally, after reading and being a part of the Aloha start up fiascos last year and reading about this mess on the America, I would be very hesitant to book a new ship, especially an NCL America ship for at least its first six months in operation! (remember this when the Pride of Hawaii launches)

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Thnk You for your review,

 

I am sure that these problems were very annoying to you. Frankly, I am relieved to hear them. I expected much worse.

 

The one thing that bothers me is the crew leaving so soon. I would have hoped that with the extensive training that NCL is giving them they would be more prepared to deal with working on a ship. This does not renew my faith in the American work ethic in our youth (am I sounding old, or what:eek: )

 

The problems that you cited were real but IMO they can be rectified. This is the first "real cruise". The dinner flow has to be streamlined to give more prompt service. I just got off RCCI Voyager and it took us 2 and a half to 3 hrs. to finish our meal. So, go figure. There was no sanitation on the ship, ie. sanitizing stations in the restaurants. Grossed me out with all of the kids.

 

As far as air conditioning goes I find it spotty on all of the ships I have ever sailed. We could never get it right on the Voyager in our cabins.

 

As far as seamanship, I cannot comment. I have always admired the seaman that do the tenders. Tough job. I have seen them carry a women in her wheelchair up the steep ladder on rough seas.

 

It seems to me that you booked your flight much too early out of LAX, you say you arrived at 12:15? NCL advises to not book before 1:00. What time was your initial flight? I would say book your flight around 2 or 3 from LAX just to be safe.

 

I do hope that you give NCL another shot, to never say never limits your options in life:)

 

Whatever you decide for your next cruise, Bon Voyage.

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I would consider a "Disaster at Sea" something that involved serious injury or loss of life to passengers/crew members. A cold cabin and some poor tender procedures do not make my list of disasters. Very dramatc title from someone with all that Naval experience. From the reviews posted I would still rather sailed on the "Disaster at Sea" cruise then DrVals now famous "Dream was a nightmare" sailing.

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I experienced many of the OP's complaints the first time I sailed Majesty of the Seas when she was brand spankin new - the ship experience was the pits but in no way discouraged me away from RCCL - eventually, the Majesty got her act together. Frequent Cruisers know to wait till the bugs are worked out -or- to expect "bugs" if they choose to be first-in-line. I was impressed w/OP's nautical knowledge - I, too, agree tender operations can leave one to challenge safety applications - this is not limited to NCL -- darn near crashed into the rocks at CoCo Cay when the motor died/wouldn't restart and the "crew" didn't have the where-withall to cast out the anchor!:eek:

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The one thing that bothers me is the crew leaving so soon. I would have hoped that with the extensive training that NCL is giving them they would be more prepared to deal with working on a ship. This does not renew my faith in the American work ethic in our youth (am I sounding old, or what:eek: )
I don't doubt that the original poster didn't enjoy his cruise. However, when I read the title "Disaster at Sea" I thought there was some kind of death or the ship had been involved in an accident. I'm so relieved to read that it was just slow dining service and cold spaces. :rolleyes: I'm sorry his trip wasn't very good. I did the maiden voyage through the Panama Canal on the Star during Thanksgiving 2001 and I remember Thanksgiving dinner took over two hours and we made friends with the people at tables around us and we talked about the things that can happen when you book a brand new ship. It was funny. Most poeple we ran into were seasoned cruisers that take advantage of maiden voyages because the prices can sometimes be lower or if a maiden voyage gets cancelled, the compensation is pretty good. We rolled with the punches and never would have booked the maiden voyage is the service and ports were the most important thing to us. Being on a maiden voyage was most important to us. Anyway...I do, however, question anyone that claims to know why staff is leaving the ship or if staff was fired. How would he know that? On every cruise I've ever been on I've seen staff change over. The original poster himself said that the rumors around the ship were that staff was being replaced in LA, etc. I chose to not put complete faith in rumors. The same thing happened with the POAloha when someone reported that 400 employees walked off the ship. We later found out that that was incorrect. It seems especially odd when the POAmerica crew is put through the most comprehensive training program available that mimmicks shipboard life. Bygones...I'm just saying that you shouldn't base your opinion on the American work ethic on one review about one cruise ship.

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Wow! What a detailed review. It sounds alot like the first reviews of the PoAloha- I was hoping the service issues would be better, but as others have said, the first sailings always have problems.

 

As far as runny tummy goes, did you really talk to over 500 people about this topic?:eek: I am extremely social but would never find the time to have a coversation with that many people--especially about their bathroom problems! BTW- I get runny tummy (I like that term) every time I travel, cruise or not.... I know, TMI!!

 

Thanks for taking the time to post your feelings about this cruise and ship:D

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I for one am all for an honest assessment. I do think NCL reads these boards and as a result we may have a better cruise when we go on 8/6.

You are to be complemented on all the details and I hope some NCL people that are familiar with tendering will take notice. This could lead to a dangerous situation if not fixed. I would not like feeling cold much of the time; I would not like waiting so long for service etc. If it happens once, in one resturant, I would forget it. Also I noted when you wanted to speak to a "Senior Member" you were given a much less than senior member to talk to. And I would think since your grandson needed to be quarantined, room service would comply with the doctor's bland meal request.

If I had your experience, I would not be a happy camper.

I chose to cruise on 4 1/2 or higher stars ships to avoid such an adventure.

At least now I am readying myself for all of this. I truly wish I had not booked on the 4th voyage of the P of America.

Guess I will have to make the best of it.

And for all of you who can take the punches just being in Hawaii, I am not one of them; I expect good service and can handle some minor glitches.

If I were the poster, I would expect some compensation back for this ill-fated adventure.

And it reminds me that sometimes you get what you pay for and if the first cruises are reduced, now I know why.

That being said I have a glimmer of hope our cruise will be better and I am so glad we booked one night at the Sheraton in Kaui just in case I am not overly enthralled by the P of America which I already know will be giving us a very tiny balcony cabin which was not anticipated when we booked due to NCL misrepresenting the cabin size and since there are 3 of us, we will need a night away from the ship methinks!

Hope when I get back I have a better report to give you all; I promise complete honestly and I do not expect perfection either!

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This reason, if one was required, why shakedowns happen.

 

I am on Jewel before she enters full service and I know full well there are going to be problems, it is inevitable.

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If I were the poster, I would expect some compensation back for this ill-fated adventure.

 

Donna -

What exactly do you think the OP needs to be compensated for?

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Cecilia...Happy Birthday in advance...and no you are not old..just getting to the good part!!!! I can't believe the negativity here....It is a shame that the cruise was not enjoyed......I know it takes us quite a while to save for them and hate to be disappointed....but it seems this ship is being condemned to failure by some who have not even sailed on her yet....Give it a chance and go with an open mind and a good attitude....You are going to Hawaii!!!!!! Most people just get to dream about it.....Don't let this vacation of a lifetime be nothing but bad memories....that is very sad....

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I'm not old. Why would you say that? I'm 34. I'll be 35 next month. :confused:

 

Don`t get your "knickers in a twist", I know you are sensitive at "this time":D

 

Bubbie has us confused, I made the comment about getting old.

 

BTW to the OP,

 

Regarding the food issue concerning your grandson, I would have gotten a "perscription" from the DR. and given it to the food and bev. mgr. to make sure he got the proper food delivered to your cabin. I know hindsight is a good thing but it may help in the future.

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...I do, however, question anyone that claims to know why staff is leaving the ship or if staff was fired. How would he know that? On every cruise I've ever been on I've seen staff change over. The original poster himself said that the rumors around the ship were that staff was being replaced in LA, etc. I chose to not put complete faith in rumors. The same thing happened with the POAloha when someone reported that 400 employees walked off the ship. We later found out that that was incorrect. It seems especially odd when the POAmerica crew is put through the most comprehensive training program available that mimmicks shipboard life. Bygones...I'm just saying that you shouldn't base your opinion on the American work ethic on one review about one cruise ship.

 

 

Cecilia,

I saw this post from an NCL crew member. I think he has more idea of the true amount of turnover on Pride of America

 

Author: American Pride

Date: 07-09-05 02:11

 

It also doesnt reflect the truth. As I have stated in earlier posts on other related threads, back at the shipyard in Bremerhaven my desk was right next to the personnel managers. Now that we are on the ship, we are still friends. I just showed this to her and she pulled up her files in the computer and this is the actual counts.New York City 21 resignations 8 terminations and 3 medical leaves. Miami 33 resignations 11 terminations.Cabo San Lucas 3 terminations. And finally in LA today there were 7 resignations 1 sick leave and 45 vacations. Now as far as wages go. The ship is bound by both US and Hawaiian labor laws. ANY EMPLOYEE WHO WORKS OVER 40 HOURS IS PAID OVERTIME. Are there people working 70 - 80 hours per week? yes... it's the nature of this business! Are they paid for it? yes ITS THE LAW! Turnover rates in this business have always been high whether its an American or foreign ship, whether its NCL, Carnival, or anyone else.

Wake up and see this post as a crank or possibly even posted by one of the folks who has been terminated from either the Aloha or the America.

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