Good Cruise, but could have been better
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
We have been on numerous cruises, but never NCL. We selected the Gem based on the itinerary. The ship itself was very good. We enjoyed the layout of the ship. The staterooms were good and we really liked the fact that it had a much larger shower that we have experienced on all our other cruises. The ship is extremely clean and we enjoyed the "day beds" by the swimming pool.
The food was average - I think that was because of their "Free Styling" cruise program where they have numerous speciality restaurants which you pay an extra fee to utilize. As such, I think that the food selections in the main dining room (which is included in the basic price) were limited and didn't have a lot of imagination. If you wanted many of the dishes that we have had on other cruises, you need to go to the speciality restaurants (where the costs is from $10 - $25 p/p). We did try the mexican restaurant and it was very good. Drinks were also expensive (beer $7 bottle).
The entertainment was More
probably the worst that we have ever had. They had one singing and dancing show that was very good and one dancing show that was good. They had two show - a ventriloquist and magic show that were absolutely terrible.
The other issue we had was that they provided no information on the ports of call (other than a very simplistic map). All cruiselines push their excursions, but they have all also provided some basic information for each port of call (how to get around, where beaches were, some general shop information, etc) - to the best of our knowledge, NCL didn't provide any of this. Also, while we spend very little time in the room, the TV channel selection was terrible - other than their 24/7 info commercial on their excursions, the only other channels were BBC, Euro Sport and the entertainment channel E. If you wanted a movie, it cost you $10 per day.
We had a good time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the ports of call, but in the future, if we have a choice, I don't think that we will cruise with NCL again. Less
Read more Norwegian Gem cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic's Norwegian Gem Review >>
Cabin review: Norwegian Gem
We had an inside stateroom, which was average in size, but had a much larger shower (with doors!) than we have had on other cruises. Another in our group had an outside balcony and it was much larger and had a tub/shower combination.
Port and Shore Excursions
We docked at Corfu. You can take the local shuttle into the main part of town for about 1.5 Euro. The town is very nice, we walked through it and then out to the point, which is just past the Museum of Asiatic Arts and had very good views. The guys then went to the fort, which we enjoyed and the ladies walked to to Mon Repos beach. The cruisecritic review said this beach was a 15 min walk - I am not sure where they were walking from, but the ladies walked about 45 mins and the beach was horrible! If you do decide to try out this beach, you can take the bus there, but I wouldn't recommend it.
You dock at this port of call and they provide a shuttle bus to get you closer to town. The stay here is short (max 5 hours, starting at 7 AM), so all we did was walked into town and then did some shopping in the local shops.
Tendered again at this port. You then take a shuttle bus which takes you close to the town center. We basically went to the beach on this port of call. The beach we selected was Paradise Beach. To get there, we walked through town to the bus station, passing the famous windmills. You buy your tickets at the shop next to the bus station (really just a bus stop) - make sure you also buy a return ticket (about 1.4 euro each way). The bus takes about 15 min. The beach itself is very nice, you rent lounge chairs and there are areas to change, bars and restaruant there to. Water is nice, food and drinks were good and we had a great time.
This was our favorite port of call. The ship doesn't get their until 4 PM and you have to tender in. The tender tickets get distributed starting at 9 AM, although I got there at 845 AM and they were handing them out. I would strongly recommend getting your tender tickets early. We got "number 2". When we got to Santorini, the water was a bit rough, therefore, they just boarded from one side of the ship. Even with our low tender group number, we didn't get to shore until almost 6 PM. Once there, you have to get to the top of the cliff either by walking, taking a burro or taking the cable car (which is what we did). The town is lovely, all the buildings are whitewashed and have narrow streets. We walked out to the point which overlooked the strait and had great views of the ship. We then found a restaurant that overlooked the strait and had drinks and a great dinner and watched the sunset - beautiful! Then walked back through town, did a little shopping and then took the cable car back down and tendered out to the ship around 10 PM.
We did not book any excursions for any of the ports of call. Basically we just toured the towns on our own and went to the beaches. In Split, you take the tender to the town. Split was a very pretty and we walked around the town, went through the local markets and then walked to the local beach (about a 15 min walk from town). The beach was only average.