THE GOOD - 1)-Check in procedure at Venice was one of the fastest/best we have encountered in several years of cruising. Disembakation equally well organised.
2)-The cabin was well laid out,very good use of space, especially the bathroom (shower very roomy and powerful)
3)-Resident singers/dancers were awesome, how they remember all the routines and find the energy I will never know.
4)-The cabin stewards and waiters were all very friendly and obliging
5)-The ports of call were all great, some we explored on our own, others we went on booked excursions(over priced as usual, but then all cruise lines rip us off wuth these)
6)-The food generally was quite good, even my "fussy eater" wife could always find something she liked.
THE BAD - Where do I begin ?
1)-Freestyle Dining is an absolute joke.The main purpose seems to be to make guests so fed up with the complications of dining in the main dining areas that they feel pressured into going to the surcharged restaurants,and this is where NCL take top place in the money grubbing stakes. Every ship has one or two speciality restaurants- but seven? As only 30% of places in the main dining rooms could be pre-booked you had to be pretty switched on at 7a.m. when the booking call line opened(the last thing you need on holiday)
2)-For a ship only three years old the so called Atrium is also a joke. At only two decks deep it would be bad enough,but the top floor is taken up with two food areas(guess what, one of which is a surcharge one, what a surprise).So you are left with a one deck area where at any one time there could be someone trying to entertain,stalls set up selling overpriced tat, a coffee bar(more money,an internet area(how people could concentate is beyond me with all the noise), plus a large screen used for everything from films to lectures.(Note to NCL management-if you want to see a proper Atrium visit a Princess or Royal Caribbean ship)
3)-The TV in the cabin showed either foreign programmes or a limited news output,no film channel for the times you wanted to relax in the room.
4)-The Garden Cafe(or Mad Hatters Garden as I preferred to call it) is so badly designed it beggars belief. Small two seater tables next to the windows facing "booth"type seating oppsite makes a gangway so narrow that guests/waiters had no room to pass.
5)-We seldom use the main pool area on ships,but on the Gem it was absolute bedlam any time we passed by, with loud music of one kind or another blasting out all day.
6) With the exception of the "staged shows" and a brilliant balancing act called Crayzee Horse, the entertainment in the main theatre was mediocre(a puppet show,a manic singer? who switched from one language to another so quickly it was almost impossible to follow plus other low budget acts)This combined with a Cruise Director(I use the phrase loosely)who was obviously employed for his multi language skill rather than anything else, whose English was so heavily accented it was at times impossible to understand
THE UGLY- hordes of unruly, bad mannered Italian and Spanish kids(and adults)whose sole aim seems to be heard above everyone else(why do they have to shout all the time insted of talking normally)Every announcement on the ship made in almost every major European language was more than a little irritating, but I realise these things have to be done.
I could go on,but in essence - I would not recommend NCL to anyone, and will certainly never book with them again. Their main aim is not to give you a memorable experience on board but to extact as much money as physically possible out of as many people as possible in the shortest possible time