2 Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews for Group and Theme Cruises to Europe - Western Mediterranean from Barcelona

I work for a financial planning firm that as a fun perk, offers a group trip for clients and friends of clients who want to take trips once a year to different locations. I am not a travel agent, but since I travel the most out of our ... Read More
I work for a financial planning firm that as a fun perk, offers a group trip for clients and friends of clients who want to take trips once a year to different locations. I am not a travel agent, but since I travel the most out of our office, the research, planning and execution falls on me... which is great because that means I get to go too. This year there were 20 of us and we took a 7 night cruise on the Gem to the Western Med. I was a little concerned since I had not ever cruised with Norwegian before and I really did not want to let anyone down. Our group had cabins from inside cabins on deck 4 to the mini-suites on deck 11, so I was able to get feedback from most cabin types. My husband and I had a mini suite on deck 11, midship. While the cabin was very clean and the decor was better than I was expecting from the pictures on the website, there were several things I was disappointed in. The entire cabin had two single electric outlets, both over the "desk". There were none near the bed, bathroom or couch. It was a hassle to have to switch things out for use and charging. There was not a place to plug in a clock by the bed and there was not a clock provided in the room, unless you wanted to leave the tv on at all times. Everyone in out group had the same complaint about that. One lady (also in a mini suite)in our group has to use a breathing machine at night and the cord would not reach from the desk to the bed FORCING HER TO SLEEP ON THE COUCH TO BREATH! If not for the balcony and larger bathroom, the "mini suite" is the same size of an inside cabin on a Holland America ship. I was expecting something larger but since we did not spend too much time in the cabin, it was not a huge issue for me but I heard people who were a little larger than myself complaining about the amount of space from the foot of the bed to the wall. You have about 1.5 ft from the bed to the wall that is the "walkway" to the couch and balcony. There is a table in front of the couch that takes away any from for standing or walking in the "living area", so we moved the table to the corner of the balcony and it freed up space making it feel less crowded. The only other thing I was disappointed in were the chairs on the balcony. I would have preferred lounge chairs (which would have fit) instead of patio chairs. When we sat in the patio chairs out view was of the wooden railing. If we had lounge chairs we would have been able to enjoy the view without standing the whole time. Our whole group had no problems with ever finding a variety of dining options. The Garden Cafe was the buffet which seemed to not have enough seating but the two outdoor grills always had tables available. The blue lagoon had a wonderful lunch menu and the two "main dining rooms" were very nice. They both had the same menu, but still nice all the same. We did upgrades to Cagney's Steakhouse (very nice manager who came and spent time talking for a while with our table) La Cucina, very good Italian food but they charged for water??, and the Teppanyaki which was also very good. The company I work for is a financial planning firm so being over charged or wasting money on things I could find for less expensive, is just not an option. That being said, we only booked two days shore excursions through NCL, which were Malta and Cannes. Since we were a group of 20, several broke off to do different things and the only complaint I heard was the "Little Train and Nice" at the Cannes port. Apparently the little train only took them to a flower and vegetable market for shopping. This was the last port so no one could purchase anything or customs would have taken it from them when re-entering the USA. 10 of us did "Historic Towns and Crafts" in Malta, which was old town, catacombs glass blowing factory where you can get great deals and a filigree shop, not so great deals. "Grasse & St. Paul De Vence" in Cannes, which we all enjoyed completely. St. Paul De Vence was picture perfect. The days in Naples, Rome and Florence, I did research and booked through two private companies that offered MUCH more for the money. I don't know if it would have worked out so well without it being a group, but it cost less per person than any of the NCL options. It was fantastic to be able to get out at each of the locations and walk around instead of driving by them with NCL and praying the pictures you had to take from a moving bus, would come out. I mean really, why go to the Rome if you cant get out and play? Let me first say that I was VERY nervous about booking three days worth of excursions with companies that I had only ever read about online and who held the whole experience for the trip of a life time, in their hands. My worst fear was that they would not show up and we would be standing at the pier with no one to take us anywhere. I do have a few gray hairs that I did not have before from worrying about it, but if it worked out like I hoped it would, we would get to see so much more for so much less money and would be in the safety of our own little group. It made me feel a little better that they did not want prepayment and would take cash or travelers checks at the end of the trip. Anytime I contacted either of the following two companies via email, they responded back within an hour. Very professional. Naples we booked a private bus and private guide for the whole day which ended up costing 1400 euro divided by 20. Great price! The name of the company was Sorrento Silverstar and our guide was Lucia. We walked off the ship and to the line of buses and she was standing there with a sign with my name on it and a very welcoming smile! Ah, relief!! She was fantastic, friendly and very knowledgeable. We went to Pompeii, where she was able to get our tickets without standing in the very long line and we went straight in. From there we did a drive on the Amalfi coast to Sorrento where we stopped for shopping. She was able to reserve us a table ahead of time at a family run restaurant on the way to Positano. It was 25 euro per person but was worth it. They brought plate after plate of fantastic "local cuisine" and all the wine and lemoncello we wanted. It was on a cliff that over looked the bay and had amazing views. For Rome and Florence we booked through another private company called romeinlimo. Rome was our first day with them and the only day we had a "mishap". When we got off the ship, there was no bus, no guide, no driver. Panic set in and I immediately called their local contact number where Jany (I think I woke her up) said she would check it and call me right back. 15 minutes later, no phone call. I called again and she said that the security for the port would not let the bus through. She said, of course, that this is the first time that had ever happened. She said that the bus, guide and driver were waiting for us outside the port gate and we would have to walk to them... just over half a mile away. Not a big deal until I mention to her that we have a 90 year old in our group! So, we start walking to the gate, with me on the phone letting her know how upset I was with the whole thing. If they had just called and let us know as soon as the bus told them that they could not get in, we could have taken a shuttle to the gate and saved ourselves 1.5 hours. Anyway, we finally get to the gate where the bus and guide are in fact waiting on us. You can imagine the guide already had a uphill battle to get us back in a good mood. Her name was Paula and to her credit, did her best to put the "incident" behind her and give us the tour we wanted. We were able to go the the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum and the Vatican. We went to eat at a local pizza restaurant, where again giving credit where credit is due, Duman (the owner of romeinlimo) personally came to meet us and buy our whole group lunch. He also went ahead to the Vatican where he prepurchased our tickets and got our headsets for the tour so we would not have to wait in line. He also paid 8 euros toward each persons ticket for the Vatican (keep in mind, there are 20 of us). So after lunch and the payment for the Vatican, we received a 20% discount for 2 hours of tour time we lost. We did end up running, literally, through the Vatican and had no time for shopping to make sure we made it back to the ship on time, which we did. Unfortunately, things just happen sometimes outside of our control but I feel like he did his best to make up for it. The next day in Florence we also had booked with romeinlimo, where Duman promised our guide would be there the minute we stepped off the ship. We walk off the ship with baited breath. I see a line of guides with signs held up so I walk to where they are.... and my name is no where to be found. Back on the phone quickly where I tell her I have no bus or driver. She tells me he is at the ship with a sign and is waiting for me. This is where the humor comes in. There were two walkways off the ship. Marco, our guide, was at the one at the front of the ship, literally leaning on the railing so it would be impossible for us to miss him. He was not standing with the guides because he wanted us to make sure we saw him before we ever set foot on the ground,,, we came off the ramp at the back of the ship. Everyone in our group LOVED Marco. He asked me for the list of things we wanted to see and do and made sure that each of them happened in the course of the day. Even down to the request from one of our members to try real Italian Gelato. There was ALOT of walking, our course, we are in Europe after all. The 90 year old lady took a little tumble on the uneven cobblestone streets where she tore up her knee and had a pretty good bump on the forehead. It could have been anyone of us since we were all walking looking up at the buildings instead of down at the street. It luckily happened almost directly in front of the Accademia Museum. Marco immediately put everyone else in the "reserved" line and took her and myself in the side door so we could get her seated and looked over by the first aid. He even sprinted down the street to get her ice packs to hold on her head and knee. He was able to secure her a wheel chair for the museum because she refused to stop for even a second. Let's keep in mind that she is 90, that means she is a little fire ball from the generation that plowed fields, didn't have ac, would never dream of missing Sunday service and saved the free world from Hitler and Stalin. She says she wants to keep going, myself being 32, the only answer is "Yes ma'am". When the cruise was over, we opted for "Freestyle disembarking". This means that we did not get color coded luggage tags and leave our bags out the night before. We met at 6:45 at the Crystal Atrium and took our own bags with us. I had arranged for a private bus to and from the ship, saving each couple around $100.00 from what NCL charged for the round trip transfer. We walked straight past the lines, off the ship to the bus and were on our way to the airport in 10 minutes. The company we used to arrange for the bus is European Tour Connections, ask for Walter. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My college friends and I were a mix of well experienced cruisers and first time cruisers (which included myself). With the exception of one let down excursion, we had an amazing time and NCL did a great job accomadating us while aboard ... Read More
My college friends and I were a mix of well experienced cruisers and first time cruisers (which included myself). With the exception of one let down excursion, we had an amazing time and NCL did a great job accomadating us while aboard their new ship. OTHER GUESTS We found the demographics of our cruise to mostly be older people, but there were also families and young adults. Didn't matter, we stuck with eacher other. Two of my friends immediatley began to idealize Joe Peach, the assistant cruise director. ROOMS We had the small basic interior rooms, but they were very nice - even for 7 days straight. ADVICE If you are taking this cruise as an affordable way to experience Europe (it certainly is) just be mindful that you will have very little time at each port so while this is a cruise, be ready to go go go to make the most of your time at each port. When looking at the itinery online remember you will have to spend time on transportation, de-boarding and re-boarding. Being at these wonderfall cities would leave anyone wanting more; you just can't take in these cities in the few hours available. EXCURSIONS The only semi-negative experience was our Florence excursion. We booked the one where a bus just dropped you off in Florence then took you back to the ship. It advertised that we would have 5 hours in Florence, but we were really only there for 3 1/2. Seemed like the best deal with the unreliable train system and my friends' previous knowledge of Florence. The ride took longer than we anticipated and our bus dropped us off on the outskirts of the historical city center. We had to walk through dirty allies to finally make it to 'the good stuff'. We hurriedly saw David, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchia and ate lunch before heading back our meeting spot where we waited thirty minutes for stragglers before heading back to the port an hour before guests had to be back. I wished NCL had worked the logistics out better to allow us more time in the city For Rome, we arranged a private tour on our own, expensive but I think worth it in the long hall so we could see all that WE wanted. Overall, food and staff and the ship itself were really great! Lot's of cute, small details made the cruise too. The cruise guide on the tv with funny sayings and our names, the buffet greeters... my and my experienced counterparts were impressed with NCL on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Norwegian Gem Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.5 3.9
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 3.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.6
Enrichment 3.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.1
Value For Money 5.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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