Norwegian Sun: NCL's Panama Canal Fiasco Cruise

Norwegian SunSeveral readers of this blog alerted me to a Facebook page called Panama Canal Sun chronicling the ill-fated cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sun through the Panama Canal which left from Miami on March 16, 2018.

Construction related to a deck refinishing project reportedly began on board the NCL cruise ship almost immediately according to the website.

As you can see in the numerous photographs posted online, the cruise involved the sanding of the wooden decks and the application of noxious smelling chemicals and compounds throughout the open decks of the ship. Many of the ship employees/contractors involved in the work were wearing respirators due to the dust but the passengers obviously were not wearing personal protective equipment. There are dozens of comments on the Facebook page regarding dust generated by the work covering the public spaces.

The heavy construction caused NCL to shut down numerous bars, deck spaces and restaurants. The photos show paint particles and fibrous insulation covering the decks. Flammable chemicals were stored on open decks. Many passengers complained of burning, itching and runny eyes and difficulty breathing due to the strong fumes and/or particles. 

One passenger complained to guest services of what they believed to be toxic fumes which were entering her cabin from the work on the outer decks. Guest services sent a supervisor to the cabin who reportedly sprayed "Fabrese" into the vent and around the cabin.

The passengers were expecting a  dream vacation on a luxurious cruise ship but paid for a construction zone which woke them up in the early morning with noise and odors which they heard and smelled throughout the day and into the night.

This appears to be a project which obviously should have taken place in dry-dock, not during a cruise NCL's Norwegian Sunwith nearly two thousand people aboard trying to enjoy a relaxing vacation. The Facebook page members realized that this project was not due to the fault of the captain or crew but was the result of poor leadership from NCL's corporate offices here in Miami who essentially scheduled a floating dry-dock at sea with passengers on board in order to maximize profits. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

April 2, 2018 UpdateSome of the passengers state that doors leading to muster stations on the ship were blocked (photo above right) - this seems dangerous, especially considering the flammable chemicals stored all over the decks . . . Muster assembly access to some of the lifeboats is also blocked, as shown in some of the photos below . . .   

April 3, 2018 Update: 

Global News (Canada) B.C. travellers say trip of a lifetime ruined by work on Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Norwegian Cruise Line said: “While we do our utmost to minimize any impact on the guest experience when these enhancements are taking place, we recognize that in this situation our guests have experienced some inconvenience.” (The company offered passengers 25 per cent off another cruise until March 2019).

CBC Passengers angry and frustrated as cruise ship renovations ruin vacation (Canadian newspaper interviewed me regarding NCL's outrageous dry-dock-at-sea shenanigans).

April 5, 2018 Update (A.M.): The U.S. media is finally reporting on the NCL madness: 

Newsweek: NIGHTMARE NORWEGIAN CRUISE WAS LIKE A FLOATING CONSTRUCTION SITE.

Travel Pulse: Unhappy Norwegian Sun Passengers Making Voices Heard.  

Photo credit: Panama Canal Sun Facebook page. 

April 5, 2018 Update (P.M.): NCL finally offers a 100% future credit.

 

Norwegian Sun

 Norwegian Sun

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Comments (38) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Mona Bazinet - April 2, 2018 9:54 AM

I was on this cruise. I planned this cruise a year in advance for my family if 5. Dreaming of showing my kids the Panama Canal only to enjoy it with jack hammering going on in the background . Top levels being closed off to enjoy the sites. Not what I paid thousands of dollars for. Very disappointing !!

J pierce - April 2, 2018 11:01 AM

Sounds like a class action lawsuit is on order

Randy - April 2, 2018 11:12 AM

I think that a refund is in order. Does anyone think about the passenger experience or is it just about the company saving money regardless of the inconvenience. The safety issues are a whole other story. Pretty frightening that a company would disregard the people who make their business possible.

Sandi Nystrom - April 2, 2018 12:52 PM

My husband and I were on this cruise. WORST experience!! Between the fumes, noise, construction, insulation, paint particle, etc..my husband (who has serious health issues) couldn't leave our cabin often. #NCL sucks!!!

Barb M - April 2, 2018 1:56 PM

What a disappointment. We decided to take our first cruise with NCL and it was a major disappointment. The crew members were wonderful as was the food and entertainment. But NCL put $$ over the health of the passengers and crew. We rarely used the pool area due to the odor of the chemicals and the grit flying in our food or drink. We had to call as our room was filled with the chemical odor. The workers refinishing the deck wore hazmat suits and the passengers and crew members were left to breath in the chemicals. NCL apparently doesn't value their guests or crew to expose them to the chemicals. A refund should be issued.

Stu - April 2, 2018 8:02 PM

How stupid and grossly dishonest to have this Norwegian Cruise Lines Ship operating and charging customers regular rates without disclosing of the construction. I and my family will never consider using Norwegian Cruise Lines untill they offer a full refund or similar. This will be in my conversations with my friends and business associates in a very negative way toward Norwegian Cruise Lines. This will be my way of trying to help the consumer and take to task another dishonest large corporate thief.

Sheila - April 2, 2018 9:39 PM

I’ve got 3 cruises booked with NCL right now. I’ was attracted to the cruise line because of the Freestyle cruising and solo cabins but after the last several stories of just terrible customer service, I will be cancelling all 3. I will be finding a cruise line that puts customer service over profits. Or at least pretends to.

Angela K - April 2, 2018 10:17 PM

This was our 40th wedding anniversary /my 60th birthday and retirement cruise. It has been on our Bucket list for such a long time and I am so deeply disappointed!

I would expect 100% refund and at least another complimentary (no time limit) and equal length cruise to be offered . We also need to be refunded our flights from Ireland Beautification who cares!!
#ncl

Charles O'Dale - April 3, 2018 7:59 AM

B.C. travelers say trip of a lifetime ruined by work on Norwegian Cruise Line ship (GLOBAL NEWS) - I have image documentation of the danger to my health and safety they put me in with metal chips/filings we were exposed to on our cabin balcony. My documented complaint to them #179095. Their letter of apology referenced our inconvenience without noting the danger to our health we faced because of the construction. Having a jack-hammer go off 1 metre from your head is not fun!!!

N boulanger - April 3, 2018 10:20 AM

Ce travail sur ce bateau n avait pas besoin. D’être fait durant la croisière le bruit et les aidera onts gâche nos vacances on devrait être dédommager!!!!

Peter zurcher - April 3, 2018 11:41 AM

Unbelievable what NCL allowed to happen on the ship. The captain handled it very badly, it was probably not his doing, but in his limited English he came across as a condescending company man. He ignored safety issues in regard to dust, fumes, storage of toxic and flammable Materials among passengers AND, most importantly, limited access to the evacuation deck for periods of time, including block egress doors.
It ruined the otherwise excellent performence of the restaurant, hospitality and entertainment crew.

Verna Clepper - April 3, 2018 4:32 PM

I am so disappointed to hear about the inhospitality of my favorite ship the NCL Sun. I've many wonderful memories of great times onboard, the super staff, but now I am reconsidering my South America NCL Sun booking of Feb 2 2019. It's quiet certain that there will be no such worries on my NCL Bliss cruise to Alaska June 30-July 7, because it's a new ship. But I shall be mortified should any such disregard happen after spending months dreaming of a adventuresome escape around Cape Horn. NCL, please listen to your guests. Should you choose to do nothing, you will loose many of us who are diehard NCL cruisers. Verna C., a Latitudes Platinum member.

Nicole Clement - April 3, 2018 6:18 PM

I was on this cruise and everything that is posted, is correct, you pay big money to go on a bucket list cruise and get construction, not acceptable. This was our first Norwegian cruise,very disappointed. Norwegian should fix this problem before social media ruins their reputation and refund the passengers the cost of the cruise, not a credit for a future cruise so they can make more money off of their passengers.

Alan P - April 3, 2018 6:43 PM

I sailed on the Norwegian Sun in December of 2017 and they painted a crew access area directly across the hall from my cabin. The painters wore respirators and the fumes were noxious and I had trouble breathing for 2 days. The response from the customer service department was pathetic so I am not surprised about what they just did as NCL and the Norwegian Sun seem to feel that disrupting passengers and doing work harmful to passengers is acceptable.

Rob Williams - April 4, 2018 4:44 PM

Wondering when the construction ended or is set to end.

Rosario Urquizu - April 5, 2018 1:50 AM

The second night of the cruise I started feeling my nose very congested, dry throat and cough, specially at night. At one point I woke up feeling my mouth
completely dry, with my tongue stuck on my palate. The congestion, sore throat, and cough was making difficult to breath and sleep, until my husband went to a Pharmacy in Puntarenas, Costa Rica and got me an asthma medication: Salbutamol made by PME (Laboratorios Stein), lot IB70318. This product is sold only in Costa Rica and Honduras. I can send you the picture of the inhaler. It helped, but even with this treatment it took me few more days to get better, this was my first episode of asthma in my life. Somewhere in the middle of the trip I felt headache for a couple of days and had to take Motrim. My husband and I are witnesses of the construction work done in the boat, the noises, smells and closed areas.

belinda - April 5, 2018 3:51 AM

The comments made previously by other passengers who have noted the exposure to toxic chemicals, the dock areas blocked, the rescue boats compromised, the jack hammer noise, the inhalation of dust, metal shards and more are also what my sister and I experienced. My sister (who is a gold member of NCL) and I (who sailed for the first time on NCL) will definitely NOT book our New Zealand and Australian cruise or any other cruise with NCL. I, too, will consider joining a class-action suit as an appropriate response for the violation of passenger safety and health!

Richard Viviano - April 5, 2018 3:26 PM

Wow! I was so upset to hear about this. My wife and I have been on 5 cruises with NCL and are now platinum. We have another 10 day cruise booked for March 2019. I am now seriously thinking about cancelling and booking with another cruise line. I was thinking Royal, Princess or Celebrity. Anyone have suggestions?

Cathy Chufch - April 5, 2018 9:57 PM

My understanding of International Marine Law, is that the final responsibility for the safety of the passengers and crew rests with the Captain. Does he not have the authority to refuse to sail if the health and well-being being of thepassengers are at risk? These problems could have proved fatal for someone (like me) who suffers from emphysema or other serious lung disease. This whole thing was a health and safety hazard. What say does a Captain have in these circumstances?

Bill Sykes - April 6, 2018 6:48 AM

It is clear that this was not a routine remedial or painting exercise. This was a major construction/refurbishing project which was a long time in planning and preparation which turned the ship into a Construction Site. Norwegian Cruise Line management would have been fully aware that this work was going to have a major impact on service, quality and tranquillity of what should have been a relaxing holiday. No effort was made to communicate to the passengers that this work was scheduled therefore giving them the opportunity to cancel or transfer to another ship. Therefore I must conclude that this was a decision made by the company in purely financial terms with a full understanding in advance on the negative consequences on their passengers.
Therefore given this conclusion I totally reject the any NCL offer to date In my view they have misrepresented this cruise through their advertising and information provided which have set expectations versus the quality and service actually delivered .The failure to deliver the product was totally in NCL,s control. Therefore NCL are liable for the full expense incurred for this trip

Victoria - April 7, 2018 1:04 PM

I read about this horrific ordeal online. My heart goes out to every passenger. As a registered nurse my head is spinning with all the potential short term and long term health issues from being exposed to this kind of environment. What Norwegian Cruise allowed to happen is criminal. They must be held accountable. Excellent job (passengers) joining together to get this injustice out in the media and heard.

Craig Ball - April 8, 2018 7:53 AM

The captain was absolutely at fault. He should have refused to leave port. Yes, greedy corporate bears the ultimate responsibility but on the ship the captain is the one making the decisions.

Stein Erik - April 8, 2018 8:51 AM


A refund of the cruise cost is not enough.
These guests deserve to be refunded for the loss of their vacation time which for many people is priceless.
Many guests spend a year anticipating their luxury cruise, coordinate vacation time with friends/family and won't get another break from work for another 51 weeks.
They will return to work more tired and aggravated than when they left for vacation.
Class Action Lawsuit to include Pain and Suffering.

Colleen - April 8, 2018 1:48 PM

Any suggestions for an asthmatic taking the first cruise out of dry dock on Apr 19? My asthma was caused by exposure to harsh chemicals several years ago. Not sure if it is a good idea to take this cruise but not sure how to handle my concerns with NCL. Should I let my travel agent handle this?

Cobra Magick - April 8, 2018 3:19 PM

Was on a cruise last year with this company. Booked the balcony suite.
The second day in as we were planning to rest and relax in the cabin a maintenance crew came and started drilling and such. No explanation, no warning, no nothing. This went on for half a day.Pissed me off to no end.
Also NCL does these things because they know they can get away with it. THEY make ALL passengers sign away their legal rights and instead go to arbitration which = if we hurt, abuse, injure you in any way we'll just take your money and screw you. You can't go to court. Evil

STEPHEN R TERRILL SR - April 8, 2018 5:42 PM

We were real NCL fans but our fifth cruise certainly changed our attitudes. Friends had just gotten back from their first cruise (NCL) and were really disapointed.But we figured that they weren't experienced and packed our bags. We almost died sitting in the sun for several hours waiting to be loaded on a tour bus; we are elderly. There were no seats for the old folks, both of us, and we had to hire someone to get us back to the ship. Still, the man in charge sent six chocolate covered strawberries to our cabin. My wife insisted that I give them to the stewards while I had other plans for them.

Roger Keranen - April 8, 2018 9:50 PM

During my complaint to Guest Services, #179471, I told the staff person that the Captain is GOD while at sea. Surely he could stop the maintenance. I was told Corporate in Miami demanded the work during our cruise and the Captain had no say. I could file a formal complaint and suffer to the end. We planned last May 11 to have a stateroom on deck 10 just below the Lido Deck and unfortunately we got the worst of the sawing and scraping from 8 AM to 11 PM for the first 5 days of our cruise.

As of April 8th, I have not been contacted by NCL in any way.

Dust and metal chips blew into our eyes at poolside by the 25 mile an hour wind. My wife and daughter had to visit the ship's doctor for breathing/congestion issues and got one free bottle of saline solution to rinse my daughter's swollen eye and full charge for visit and antibiotics all billed out at $600 to our rooms.

NCL management is greedy, dishonest, and worthy of a class action suit to reimburse and punish their behavior.


Katherine Hoffman - April 9, 2018 10:45 AM

I Smelled some kind of chemical fragrance during the cruise, banging sound early in the morning in our room and once the ship swayed side to side while in the room.

Bill Weiss - April 9, 2018 6:04 PM

After reading this blog site and reading about this voyage in the news, it is evident that the parent company has no regard for the health, safety, or enjoyment of its passengers. My wife and I certainly will certainly NEVER consider a trip with this company. A 100% credit is hardly sufficient compensation for the passengers whose vacations were ruined. As one who was not on this voyage and has no personal benefit from any compensation, I feel that the appropriate compensation would be a heartfelt apology from the company CEO, a total refund for each passenger AND a 100% credit for a future trip. Otherwise, I think the courts should decide on the appropriate compensation for the passengers and appropriate punishment for this uncaring company. In fact, those company officers who made the decision to do the work during a cruise should be taken to task financially, as well. This was a travesty by any standards.

Peter Wakeman - April 9, 2018 6:54 PM

I recently also had a poor experience with NCL and would therefore never neither recommend them to anyone nor consider another cruise. After cruising 2 times with no problems, the 3rd time, the captain canceled the final leg of the cruise, actually the only destination port on the list (Nassau, Bahamas). That's right, a Bahamas cruise that didn't go to the Bahamas. The excuse was supposedly poor weather...but at the return port (NYC). I guess the captain wanted to try to beat the storm back? But even though we turned around a full day early, we didn't get back to NYC any earlier. Made no sense. No refund. No partial refund. As another OP mentioned, NCL has you on the hook for arbitration, so no suing. This is a bad company that does bad things. Do not give them your business.

Cathy Church - April 9, 2018 9:53 PM

I was not on this cruise, but have cruised twice with NCL. Neither cruise was anywhere near the high standards I have experienced with Celebrity and Holland America, and after reading all the reports of this fiasco I Wil not be cruising NCL in the future. Whatever Customer Service told passengers, a ships Captain DOES have the ultimate authority on whether or not a vessel is safe. Not just seaworthy, but SAFE, and any company attempting to fire a Captain because he refused to sail under conditions that were not safe, could have a real legal battle on their hands! and to charge passengers for medical attention that was of NCLs doing is just beyond belief! That medical care should have been free!

james brooks - April 9, 2018 11:51 PM

I guess if I ever miss my days at sea with the Navy, I can book a cruise with NCL. No temporary flammable liquid storage cabinets? Was an industrial hygienist available to measure air levels? From a cruise ship perspective, sounds like if you gave everyone another cruise (who wanted one), you might limit the loss on reputation and return service through such a decision.

David Hoffman 5 - April 10, 2018 5:55 AM

I keep trying to convince my coworkers that all cruise vacations are not the nightmares of illness and mismanagement that they read about, then incidents like this happen.
This ship should have never left the drydock or or outfitting dock. It might have been acceptable for the ship to not have a particular promised food or beverage, but the physical infrastructure should have been completed to outstanding excellence before the first customer boarded.

Mark Unhjem - April 10, 2018 7:13 AM

As a Norwegian-American I am chagrined that this cruise line is named Norwegian Cruise Line. The only tie to Norway is that most of the senior staff were Norwegian, but none of the crew were. NCL is not owned by Norwegians, the ships are not built in Norwegian shipyards, and the ships are Bahamian-flagged.
My Norwegian wife and I sailed twice with them, on the MV Dreamward for our 25th anniversary and later on the SS Norway.
On Dreamward we got to know the captain, his wife, and many of the senior officers because some of my cousins have a jewelry store near the captain's hometown in Norway.
SS Norway was originally built for speedy transatlantic trips, not cruising. As a result she was deep-drafted and could not tie up to piers in many ports. She was also steam-powered, which is a finicky method of propulsion; as we were leaving St. Martins harbor she "dropped the load" twice and we almost wound up on the rocks. Not a very good decision to buy SS France, alter her, and try to use her for cruising. NCL also bought two other transatlantic steamships, but fortunately never put them into service.

Karen Melanson - April 10, 2018 7:37 PM

My husband and I were on the March 16 panama cruise as well. We feel cheated and lied to . First of all I had read this was a refurbished ship when I was reading about the Sun. The real kicker is it was headed for dry dock. They weren't doing repairs that just couldn't wait. Also they saved a ton of money using our cruise for transporting all those flammable chemicals. We saved them money!Imagine what they would have to pay to ship all that through the canal by transport. I have a cough since I returned home. I posted this morning on Facebook the question if anyone else was also having a cough since the trip. So many people do. It's not a sickness: I feel fine, just cough all the time.

jennifer - April 10, 2018 9:15 PM

nothing free about freestyle cruising

Joyce Haase - April 11, 2018 8:25 PM

Did NCL sell the Sun and is the Sun’s last sale date March 16, 2019?

Rajesh Parikh - April 15, 2018 12:05 PM

Me and my wife was on this cruise with 6 other people in our group. Not only they need to compensate our price we paid plus 15 days worth pay and airline tickets. I wonder what I eat in this cruise is toxic or not.

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