Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by cottowner: NCL Freestyle Cruising - Nothing Else Was Free
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NCL Freestyle Cruising - Nothing Else Was Free
3rd Cruise for us, but 1st with 2-year old. Spent a night in Venice before making our own way to the cruise terminal. There has recently been a people mover (sky train) opened from the main square to the cruise terminal and car park (although the cruise terminal part was not open yet it was easier to walk from the car park to the port).
EMBARKATION - On entering the port on a very wet day with luggage and a small child in a buggy we headed towards the ship, there was absolutely no-one we could see from NCL trying to direct anyone, or maybe they were hiding behind all the MSC banners and people in MSC t-shirts telling their people where to go. From there is got slightly easier, very helpful people with the baggage and no problems getting through the passport / immigration area although I do feel it could be streamlined. On getting on the boat, we were quickly offered a seemingly free cocktail which was almost thrust into your hand before asking for your room key to charge for More it.
DISEMBARKATION - went smoothly enough, until walking along gangway to pick up luggage, we came to some stairs, as we had a buggy and a couple of hold-alls, we asked if we could take the lift, the woman abruptly told us that there was a lift, but we could take only the buggy on the lift. The woman next to us complained that she had a hip replacement and didn't want to carry her suitcase down the stairs, this was dismissed by the woman as "there is only 1 flight" (there were 4). it was like you are off the ship, we don't care anymore, get out! ROOM - First time with an inside cabin as paying for 3 people not 2 this time, so was a saving. On getting into the room, we found it very clean and tidy, the steward over the duration of the cruise was excellent, with absolutely no complaints with great service. I am 6ft tall and due tot he positioning of the toilet, I could not sit straight on it as my legs hit the wall.
KIDS FACILITIES - As junior is only 2-1/4 we picked this cruise line as they had a programme and facilities for his age group. We put him in the club on the first day, but he was not keen as he was in there with a lot older children all in together (up to 10 - 12 years old) which is something he is not used too so we had to come and get him. The facilities looked good in the main play area, however the baby play room where we spent most of our time was a but shabby with a selection of infant toys and incomplete puzzles. The baby pool was heated and very good, excellent for toddlers.
EXCURSIONS - These were extortionate, we never took one with NCL, but couldn't have done one anyway as due to toddler not sitting for that long a time. Nafplion - Very nice, access by tender, can walk around there and up to hilltop fortress and easily fill in a day.
ACTIVITIES - There seemed to be charges for all of these on previous cruises we have taken, these have been free. Towel folding, Martini making etc... There was even a charge for a tour of the ship.
RESTAURANTS - As we had a toddler with us, we didn't book or go to any of the bookable restaurants, preferring to go ad-hoc to the main dining rooms. The food was OK, just OK nothing more. Cheese board was poor. The Tepinyaki restaurant was the only one that seemed to get booked up, all the other 8 supplement restaurants seemed very empty most of the time.
DRINKS - Around $6 to $8 a drink once you add on the 15% service charge which was fair enough I guess. You would always get the more expensive spirits if you ordered and did not specify (bar staff get 15% on top so an extra 7 cents to them I guess). SPA - Again extortion, told wife I would pay for whatever she wanted on boat as it was her birthday, she refused to take any due to prices (even though she wasn't even paying) generally 200 - 400% higher than high street prices.
CASINO - Only played Poker - 25% rake on re-buy tournament and very small amount of chips, very poor and designed to maximise money for NCL, not enjoyment, so only played once. 10% pot rake on No Limit Cash Game, actually won a split pot and lost money with such a high rake. I am a pretty experienced poker player and tried to point out that the had made a mistake with the blinds only to be told that it was right and the ship has its own rules????
SUMMARY - Nice cruise, clean cabins, excellent destinations, just soured slightly by the feeling that if you were not on the boat NCL couldn't give a toss about you and that they were trying to squeeze every penny from you at every opportunity. Less
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Nice family vacation