8 Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews for Romantic Cruises to Europe - Western Mediterranean from Barcelona

Service: great, no complaints. Our steward, Michael, was s sweet. On the first day we asked for 2 extra towels and he made sure we had extra towels every day. He was always around, and was glad to help us in every way possible. The servers ... Read More
Service: great, no complaints. Our steward, Michael, was s sweet. On the first day we asked for 2 extra towels and he made sure we had extra towels every day. He was always around, and was glad to help us in every way possible. The servers at the Italian Restaurant were also very nice, we had a great time dining there. And I can't forget to mention the "washy washy" guy at the Garden Cafe. It was so fun! Entertainment: the 3 shows by the Norwegian Gem singers and dancers cast were excellent. A must see!!! Second city was funny and the magic show was also very nice. The Strings Quartet played almost everyday in different places of the ship. I recommend it!!! Dining: we ate at the Garden Cafe, Magenta, Sushi Bar, and La Cucina. Sushi Bar and La Cucina had a cover charge, but it so worth it. The food at La Cucina was amazing (for only $10 pp). Sushi was also great and the charge was $15 pp. Cabin: we could not have asked for more. We had a balcony at starboard, fwd.The only downside of having a balcony on the front was that on 2 of the 7 nights the weather was terrible. On the first bad night(leaving Malta), our balcony door kept opening due to the wind. On the second bad night they locked all the balconies and we were not able to go outside in any place of the ship due to strong winds (hurricane force winds, actually). It went on from 7 PM to 1 AM (and it was advised by the captain prior to leaving the port (Cannes). But that has nothing to do with the cabin,it was the weather that was not good. Note: The bed is extremely comfortable! Spa: we bought a spa package and we were able to use the relaxation facilities at any time. Steam bath, jacuzzis, warm beds,etc. It was nice to relax after a day walking!! Embarkation and Disembarkation were very smooth, we were able to leave the ship at 6:30 AM, in time for our early flight. Public rooms: very clean, well maintained, beautiful ,and comfortable. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We are a 50+ couple that decided to go on this cruise to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We had been on a cruise to the Caribbean on Carnival 10 years ago so we were familiar with cruising. The idea of Freestyle cruising attracted us ... Read More
We are a 50+ couple that decided to go on this cruise to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We had been on a cruise to the Caribbean on Carnival 10 years ago so we were familiar with cruising. The idea of Freestyle cruising attracted us because of the casual aspect when it comes to dining. I learned from the Carnival cruise you select a dining time, get dressed up and sit with the same group whether you like them or not. If you miss the time you are SOL. With Freestyle you can get dressed up or not. I would prefer to sit with just my wife and eat whenever and wherever I want. This worked out well for us. Naturally the Garden Cafe which is buffet style can get crowded and a little crazy depending when you go but I had no complaint with the variety and quality of selections offered. There was something for everyone. The "free" restaurants Magenta and Grand Pacific were fancy, had great food including "cooking light" dishes and we found the service fine. They did however get crowded because they were free. We ate at LeBistro French and Cagney's Steakhouse and they both were outstanding with service and the food. After all what's another $10 or $20 when you are on vacation. We had a porthole room on the 4th deck and loved it. Perfectly adequate for the amount of time you are in it. The only complaint I had was with the dial on the outside of the door that could rotate from "Welcome, Make up room, Do not disturb". We went on an excursion one day and set it on "make up room" and came back to a messy room because someone changed it to "do not disturb". I saw a kid playing with the dials and I also saw an adult too. After a call to guest service the room was quickly cleaned. The top nationality of people on board was Spanish followed by USA, UK, French, German Malta and all others. The ship starts in Barcelona and I think some Spanish will bring the kids for a vacation but there is not a lot for the kids to do so they will horse around. We did not care to use the pool so we don't care about that. We did find the "quiet" sunning area up past the climbing wall on the 14th deck which was really nice and quiet. It's no surprise that the cruise line makes it's money on all the extras so if you are going to complain about it then don't go. We went on one of the ship's excursions every day and loved every one. We even got the last one, a $194 value for free! The ship's excursions will always wait for you to get back. If you go on your own I can't see how you will know all the information that the tour guides tell you. Also with a group you bypass the long lines other's are waiting on, further optimizing your time. Sometimes we had to be on the excursion early but we came to see Europe, not sleep late. The excursions did seem to cost more in Europe but with 3 of them we had a great meal with wine and dessert. There was plenty of things to do on the ship and were never at a loss for something to do. The staff were always friendly even when we had a hospital charge added to our bill. It was a clerical error and was immediately corrected. We definitely going on another "Freestyle" cruise again, in fact we are planning it now. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We sailed on the Norwegian Gem on September 20, 2009. This was an incredible cruise, the staff was first-rate, and we consider it a trip of a lifetime. The shows were great (especially "Second City"), and the piano player in the ... Read More
We sailed on the Norwegian Gem on September 20, 2009. This was an incredible cruise, the staff was first-rate, and we consider it a trip of a lifetime. The shows were great (especially "Second City"), and the piano player in the main area of the ship has an angel's touch on those keys. Our room came with a butler, Andrew. It was like he magically appeared when you had a whim. If anyone made our trip feel special, it was him. He was great!! Our suite steward was Mickle (prounounced Michael). He was very very helpful and seemed to love his job. He is also a towel-animal artisan. Nice touch. The ship is very clean and well kept. I had read the food was terrible, but did not experience that at all. We both thought the food was top-notch at all meals. There are some crowded times at the buffets, but you don't HAVE to eat at those if you lack of patience. We did a couple of times and it was just fine. Of the places on the ship that charge a little extra, we enjoyed Cagney's the most. Teppanyaki's is fun, but probably the priciest of the pay-extra places at 25/ per person plus drinks. Of the "included" eateries, The Grand Pacific is really nice. Embarkation: Sooooooooo easy. Show up, show your documents, get on the ship. Period. You can go eat as soon as you walk onboard or go look around. It's freestyle... it's up to you. First day at Sea: We met up with some friends we had contacted on cruise critic before the cruise who were to share our Rome tour with us. They were amazing people and we had tons of fun with them right away. Those two, my wife, and I attended the wine tasting/ food pairing class. We learned a lot, and drank quite a bit as well. I remember the laughter and familiarity we felt in this group of "strangers." I highly recommend this class. The show that night was a magician. He was unique. Some people walked out on this show too soon (no regard for how hard the entertainer is working). It started slow, but ended with a bang! Those who left early missed it! Valletta, Malta: You must be awake when the ship sails into this port. It's the most scenic of all the entries. The sunrise over the fortress city walls bathes the stone in a golden light that can't be recreated in pictures. Breathtaking. We did not have an excursion here. Our new friends walked with us around the city. We headed right out of the port and along the seashore, took some pictures back across the water of our ship. Continued our path to a bell-tower erected in memory of fallen soldiers. As we circled the city along the water, we came along the fort, and the museum next to it. At this point we cut back across the city through tiny allyways and saw real citizens going about their respective lives. Sounds boring, but was immensely interesting. We worked our way back to St. John's Co-Cathedral. This place is AMAZING. Your mind won't be able to take it all in, but it's worth a shot to see this masterpiece of a church. We ate at a little outdoor restaurant across from St. Johns. I don't recall the name, but it was great for people watching and the food was decent with decent prices. Naples, Italy: Pulling into this port is nothing special. Kind of industrial looking. In fact, I recommend doing an excursion that takes you well OUT of Naples all together as it is a very dirty city with garbage lined streets. Sad. However, once you leave the city limits hold onto your hats for the views you are about to see. We did the NCL excursion "Pompeii and a taste of Sorrento." The tour guide was great. The bus ride was pleasant. And, the scenery enroute to Sorrento along the coast was world-class. Sorrento was a quaint little town with lots of little shops. We then were taken to a farm where we watched a cheese making demonstration, and were fed homemade lunch by the farm owners. Wine was included. Yes! After lunch, we were taken to Pompeii. I had no idea this place was as big as it is (I believe close to 4000 acres). You can not see it in one day, much less a two hour tour but you definitely get the flavor. Do not miss this. Rome, Italy: We used a private tour guide through www.romecabs.com. I don't see many people using them, but a friend of mine had just gotten back from this cruise and they came highly recommended. I agree. Our driver was Maurizio (ask for him). We felt like we were leaving an old friend at the end of our day. We saw all the major sites. Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican. He even took us to a local restaurant to eat that tourists don't go to. This was the best meal of the vacation for me. I had seen where people were trying to do Rome on their own. I, for the life of me, can NOT imagine that. This place is huge, the traffic is very heavy, and there's so much to see that you would have to sacrifice a lot to try to see this city on your own. Livorno/ Pisa, Italy: Here, we did another NCL excursion called "Pisa and a taste of Tuscany." The bus with tour guide take you on a nice ride to Pisa. They give you a little history and some facts along the way. Then, you are dropped off near the leaning tower and Field of Miracles for two hours to see and do as you please. I've always wanted to see the leaning tower, so I had to do this tour. It looks just like the pictures you've seen. There were thousands of people here, but it didn't seem crowded because the tower and Duomo are in a large field. After viewing the leaning tower, we were taken to a winery and got information on olive oil production and wine making. I thought we were going to get to SEE them make olive oil or wine, but it was just talking. Then, the fun part... the wine tasting and food began and all was ok. We met more people here and had a fine time. We also bought a lot of wine and olive oil from this place. They are really raking in the cash hand-over-fist. Cannes, France: You have to take a tender on this stop. We did not do an excursion here. I had read where people said they didn't even get off the ship for this place, and others that said they took a train to Nice or Monte Carlo and intimated that Cannes itself really had nothing to offer. I beg to differ. This town was the most beautiful of all the towns we visited.... By far! We just started walking. We walked through backstreets, allyways, and major roads. By sheer accident, we found the castle at the top of a hill. Nice views from here. Then we made our way back to the main road near the beach for some window shopping and people watching. There are nice beaches really close to the port if you want to have some beach time. I was light-heartedly warned by several Italians about how rude French people were and how I was not going to like my stop in Cannes. Not true. We do not speak any French at all, but the people were warm, helpful, and very friendly in all our encounters. Look for the buildings with the nice paintings on them. They are really interesting. You can feel the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" at this stop. Enjoy! Barcelona, Spain: We stayed in two different hotels in Barcelona because we flew in a day early and stayed one extra day after our cruise. This is where some negatives are going to fly. Before the cruise, we stayed at Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel. I believe it's listed as 4 stars, but it's just a room, nothing special. The staff seems detached and uncaring... dare I say "bothered" you are there. The concierge told us an out-and-out lie that affected our trip just to move us on so she wouldn't have to help us. Enough about them. We will not be staying there ever again. Upon our return, we stayed at Hotel Arts-Barcelona. Just the opposite from Eurostars. Incredible staff of helpful, caring, prompt, knowledgeable people. The room had a spectacular view of the harbor and the giant whale sculpture and the beds were comfortable. For our tour of the city, we hopped on one of the double decker buses that go around town for 21 euros per person. You can hop on and hop off, but we only got off once to see park Guell. Gaudi's works in this city are unique and need to be seen. If you only have one day in Barcelona, you will not have time to see everything for sure. We didn't. This is a city of almost 4 million people, so you know it's huge. We ate that evening at a place right across from Hotel Arts called Barnabier. Our waiter didn't speak English, but he was fun! He recommended (pointed at on the menu) a wine that ended up being the best wine we'd had all vacation. The food was also good here. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
First day back at work after our cruise.  Here's a few personal observations.I thought the general attitude of the passengers was a little more inconsiderate than when I did the NCL Jewel on a similar itinerary two years ago.  There ... Read More
First day back at work after our cruise.  Here's a few personal observations.I thought the general attitude of the passengers was a little more inconsiderate than when I did the NCL Jewel on a similar itinerary two years ago.  There was a lot more cutting into lines and just pushing around you as if you didn't exist.  At the chocoholic buffet, we actually got disgusted and left.  When you see an inconsiderate boob carrying three plates of cake, pushing around you because they're going to starve to death if they don't get a fourth - give me a break already!I don't know why people have to stand in front of doorways to have their conversations.  The ship's large enough that they can move three feet so other passengers can walk through the doorways.  I felt like I was on a cruise going out of New York (where I live).  I'm not politeness-man, but when a 35 year old man pushes me out of the way on the ice cream line at the buffet - come on already you pig!  It's not going to run out.Chair hogs - well, you've heard all that before.Anyhow, my main purpose isn't to complain, just wanted to get that off my chest.The ship is wonderful.  We were in aft balcony 9674 and were very pleased with the room (although I wouldn't spend the extra $500 for a BA that I did versus a regular BB balcony again.  For a suite, that would be a different story).   Our room steward, Christopher, was great and kept us in clean towels and a tidy room, what more could you ask for?Every time you look over your shoulder, there was somebody cleaning something.  The public areas were well policed and cleaned, except the last day when 20-30 knot winds kicked up leaving Cannes and glasses, plates and food were blowing around the sun deck.  Nobody from the ship came up to pick anything up, and I wasn't going to clean up after the rest of the passengers.We didn't attend any of the shows - just weren't interested.  The earliest we dinned was 9:00, usually 9:30 and once at 10:30.  We ate at Cagney's twice, it was great both times.  The Grand Pacific dining room always had a line when we went there so we chose the Magenta dining room instead.  Food was good, service was great.  Blue Lagoon was so-so, very limited menu, more like appetizers than dinner.  Tequila's was really good - we had the fajitas for two and a pitcher of white Sangria that we couldn't finish.  We did the buffet for breakfast most mornings and had room service once.  Omlettes could have been made with a little less oil, scrambled eggs were delicious, if you like them soaked in butter (I do).  They had eggs Benedict with spinach instead of Canadian bacon, which saved me a good 50 calories for the week.The poolside bar makes a really good hamburger, and a little hint for you, the ketchup dispenser is always empty but the one labeled "Sauce" is ketchup.  The french fries at the pool were consistently great (hot, salty, crispy outside and potato-ey inside).Good choices for salads for the health conscious, if you take it easy with the dressing.Embarkation was a bit slow.  There was a bizarre twist with some international immigration law that between July 5 and July 15, the Italian government wanted the ship to collect our passports so they could be presented for inspection on docking in Naples.  (Don't ask me to explain, I'm just a guest.)  They took our passports on embarkation, gave us a photocopy, and gave them back on Wednesday afternoon when we left Naples.  I think that process was just for our cruise, your upcoming cruise shouldn't be affected.Disembarkation was a breeze.  We walked off the ship with our luggage at about 8:45 and there was no line.  However, at 8:15, you couldn't find a seat at the buffet because it was full, so I'm guessing people who waited until 9:30 to leave may have had a different experience.We didn't do any ship excursions.  The one I wanted they cancelled, so we did the Italian train system instead.Real quickly on the stops:Malta - Hired a private gondola for a harbor tour, right outside the boat.  I seem to remember 30 Euros for the two of us for a 40 minute ride.  Well worth it.  Then we walked through town.  The trip leaving Malta was fun.  The city is an amazing site to see and the ship plays some very dramatic music.  You'll probably love it.Naples - Hired a private taxi driver on the pier to take us to Pompeii.  He waited 2 hours while we toured the ruins, then drove us to Sorrento and waited another hour and a half while we walked around and had some pizza and wine.  We paid him 150 Euro, plus a 25 euro tip.Rome - Took the train from Civvitachevia.  We walked off the boat and walked out of the pier (yes, it is legal in Civvitachvia).  There is a shuttle bus but it was full and they told us it would be half an hour until the next one, so we walked.  We saw three shuttle buses go by while we walked!  Anyhow, it's about half an hour walk from the ship to the train station.  We bought a BIRG ticket for 9 Euro.  That gives you unlimited travel on trains and the Rome metro for a 24 hour period after you validate your ticket.  Another note:  after we bought our tickets, nobody checked them either in Civvatechia or in Rome.  We could have just walked onto the train.  Livorno:  We planned to take the 10:00 train to Florence and got off the ship at 9AM.  Big mistake.  The shuttle bus from the ship to Livorno got us there at 9:50, and we couldn't find a taxi willing to take us to the train station.  So instead, we took a 15 Euro bus tour to Pisa.  You pick it up where the port shuttle drips you off.   That was for round trip air conditioned bus to Pisa, and two hours at Pisa.  Cannes:  We walked off the ship, browsed in the flea market, shopped around for another half hour and spent two hours on the beach sunning ourselves.Our only real problem on the entire cruise was when my GF put a diamond necklace in a napkin to straighten out the chain, followed by yours truly deciding to tidy up the cabin by throwing out all the papers laying around.  (NCL does provide a bit of paper advertisement you know.)   When we realized the next day, we called ship's security and I asked them if they would look through the garbage, but I guess you know where this story is heading. (The steward told me garbage is incinerated quickly and yesterday's trash was definitely burned up by now).  The head of security offered to tear the cabin apart to search for the necklace, but we didn't want to waste half a day when we were sure the necklace was gone.  They filled out a report for us to give to our insurance company and we'll see what happens.My GF was very upset, but it was spilled milk and we focused on enjoying  the rest of the trip.  Which we did.  I think the cabin steward was even more upset - he must have figured we were going to blame him.Bottom line:  I'd go back in a second, even with all the slobs at the buffet! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My wife and I have cruised 6 times.  One with Princess and all other with Royal Caribbean.  This was a first with Norweigan.  Let me address the ship first since this is the type of vacation that it is more about the destinations than ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised 6 times.  One with Princess and all other with Royal Caribbean.  This was a first with Norweigan.  Let me address the ship first since this is the type of vacation that it is more about the destinations than the ship.  I would rate the food average.  The entertainment was below average and the front desk and overall service and FRIENDLINESS below average.  The ship is clean and easy to navigate.  I more than likely will not choose Norweigan for a European type cruise vacation.  Will stick with Royal.  Also, after my second cruise experience, I stopped using excursions sponsored by the cruise line, even Royal's.  So, see below for my recommendations and experiences.  Having said all of this about the ship, understand that the cities in the itinerary is frankly the important aspect of the Western Mediterranean.  Embarkation was fast and easy as well as disembarkation.  Now to the cities.   We decided to take advantage of Barcelona 3 days prior to leaving.  This city is a destination in of itself.  We stayed at Hotel Montecarlo right on La Rambla.  Fantastic hotel and Fernando and Sergio, in the front desk were extremely helpful with restaurant suggestions and places to see.  To see the city, if you only have a couple of days, take the Turistic Bus.  Blue and Red Line.  Trust me, it is inexpensive, safe and organized.  Barcelona is one of those cities where you can spend a week.  The ship left at PM on Sunday so we had a full day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  See la Boqueria, Sagrada Familia and Park Guell.  For Tapas, Restaurant Ciutat Comtal is fantastic.   First Stop:  Island of Malta.  We took no taxis or buses.  We walked to the city center and saw St. John's Co-Cathedral.  Unassuming church from the outside and absolutely majestic in the inside.  The picture of The beheading of John the Baptist is breathtaking.  Great people.  Easy to walk through and safe.  Naples:  I scheduled the tour for 17 people via Sorrento Silver Star (info@sorrentosilverstar.com) Luisa Sorrento is the owner.  Let me say this.  I wouldn't go with anyone else.  They are the best. In fact, the group I was with said that this tour was the highlight of our trip.  Imagine how hard it is to please 17 people.  Lucia was our excellent tour guide of Pompeii and all day tour and Aaron the fantastic driver.  I will request Lucia when I return to be our tour guide.  We visited Pompeii first.  It is a massive city and we were only able to see 1/4 of it.  Truly spectacular.  Then we went to Positano and had lunch at La Tortelia (I think that's the name/check trip advisor).  The best.  For 25 euros, a feast all the wine you can drink and lemonciello made fresh that morning. Mmmmmmm.......People couldn't stop taking about it all week.  Sorrento is beautiful but I think Positano the town and shopping is better and much prettier.  The ship excursion doesn't take you there since the buses are too big.   Rome: I scheduled the private tour for 5 of us with Stefania Cinotti ( stefania.cinotti@tiscali.it ) Stefania has over 10 years of experience as a certificate tour guide of Rome.  She was fantastic and will use her again when I return.  She gave us the important highlights in The Vatican, Colosseum, and The Pantheon.  We spent 6 hours with her.  Our driver who picked us up at the port (more than hour away from Rome) was Fabio Leotta from www.leottalimousine.com or www.romeinlimousineservice.com.  Fleotta@tin.it.  Fabio was excellent and definitely would use him again.  We chose to not take the train or a taxi within the city.  We only had 8 hours to see a lot and didn't want to waste time.  Best decision we made to get Fabio to be our driver within the city.   Pisa and Florence:  We used romeinlimo and contrary to I have read, we WERE very disappointed.  Will research another company when I return.  Pisa is an hour visit if that.  Go to Florence afterwards.  Beautiful city.  Uffizi museum too big for one day unless that is you target.  Accademia is a short museum but where the David's statue is housed.  We bought a leather jacket and a purse.  DO NOT pay the price they have.  Bargain with them.  We bought a jacket with a sticker price of 540 euros and bought it for 140 euros.  Nice:  Very surprised how much I loved this city.  Low expectations but is a destination I could spend 2 or 3 days in.  Montecarlo is a must see.  Ese as well.  Cote de Azur Chateau and Jardin d/Eze is a must see as well.  Do Nice last if you have time.  French Riviera beach, etc..We used Ricardo Scarafoni.  r.scarafoni@gmail.com.  Did a great job in only 5 hours.  He was the only tour guide who took credit cards by the way.  All others we had to pay in euros at end of the day.  All in all, an excellent vacation.  Very active.  You will be returning to the ship an hour or two before leaving port an unto the next stop the next day.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
As background, my husband and I have been on 3 previous cruises (Royal Caribbean & Princess).  We selected this ship based on its port-intensive Western Mediterranean itinerary and unbeatable value.  We opted to save money on the ... Read More
As background, my husband and I have been on 3 previous cruises (Royal Caribbean & Princess).  We selected this ship based on its port-intensive Western Mediterranean itinerary and unbeatable value.  We opted to save money on the cruise and get a ocean view room and spend more money on the excursions.  My thoughts on Norwegian Cruise Line and the Gem:The Freestyle Cruising is fantastic!  We were optimistic about the freedoms it would present, but boy, were we in love with the concept once we participated in it!  The ship offers numerous dining possibilities and it is so nice to go to dinner whenever you are ready...eat solely as a couple for privacy and to reflect on the day's activities..and to wear more relaxed clothing if we wanted to.  After a long day in the ports, we found we wanted to eat right upon our return to the ship so it worked out nicely to drop our backpacks off in our cabin and head to dinner!  The staff appeared to have less interest in the guests.  I'm not sure if that was due to servers having different guests every night or what.  Those employed at the pursers desk were not overly helpful or polite; I found it frustrating when attempting to exchange currency.  Normally, we've had terrific experience with the staff on our cruises and they have really added to the experience!  The common spaces are nice; the decor is very trendy.  It's not nearly as "glamorous" as other ships but meets the needs and is pleasant.  We enjoyed several of the specialty restaurants; the food was very tasty and well presented.  I will warn future guests the ship had continual problems with both ATM's on board, so please be prepared and arrive with sufficient cash or traveler's cheques in case you do not make it to an ATM on land.The cabin was great!  The bed was by far the most comfortable bed we've had on a cruise.  Decor was nice- very relaxing and clean.  We did our own excursions through Rome in Limo (we HIGHLY recommend using them!) so we didn't participate on any through NCL.  The prices were steep, but we heard fantastic things from those who did them.  Though NCL wasn't the nicest cruise we've been on, it was a terrific value and would do it again.  In all honesty, we cruise to "sample" different places and the ship is just our means of transportation.  That doesn't mean we don't appreciate great food and nice accommodations- we do!, but we don't really participate in many on-board activities so I don't have any recommendations as far as activities go. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I planned this cruise for a long time and as the months became weeks then days, I found myself .... smiling more often.  I think everyone does on a much awaited cruise.  Well anyway, this was going to be a celebration of our 15th ... Read More
I planned this cruise for a long time and as the months became weeks then days, I found myself .... smiling more often.  I think everyone does on a much awaited cruise.  Well anyway, this was going to be a celebration of our 15th year anniversary and my 40th birthday.  We usually sail with our 2 kids (D 10, S 4) but this time it was just me and my hubby.  Thanks to my Mom and Dad for looking after the kids while we go on vacation.  This is our first time on NCL and we cruised on Princess four times, Disney once and Carnival twice.  Let me just start by saying that the GEM is beautiful!!!!  I was worried when I booked NCL because of the reviews I read on cruisecritic.  However, the itinerary was perfect, the price was great and the service was beyond compare.  I liked the fact that it starts and ends at the same port and that it was only 7days.  To me it was perfect because I didn't have to be away from the kids for a long time.  We originally booked a balcony but 2 weeks before we sailed I saw an opening for an aft penthouse suite on travelocity for a very good price.  I also read that the suite came with extras so I called my TA to upgrade.  I love love love the suite.  We had Alex our concierge and Andres as our butler.  I think our NCL experience went up another notch because of these extras and the room was wonderful too.  Alex made sure our dining reservations were always for a table next to the window.  Plus, I think because Alex made the reservation we never had any problems even if we were late, there was always a table waiting for us.  I mentioned this because other people were either told to wait or had to sit with other groups.  Andres, our butler, gave us the best service.  If you are lucky enough to get him as your butler, you will have the best time.  I told him that when I'm back at home making breakfast I will remember him.  From the moment we met him at the registration desk until the last day, he was very accommodating.  After checking in, and I should add was a breeze, Andres took our hand carry and led us through the building into the ship to our room.  It was about 1pm and people were waiting in the lobby area because their rooms were not ready but we bypassed all that.  In our room, Andrew acquainted us with the amenities plus chit chat about the Philippines since we came from the same country.  Let me tell you about the suite, the espresso machine was heavenly that my hubby was making coffee probably 5x a day!  The room was very spacious, lots of cabinets, big flat screen tv with a choice of DVD (I needed this because there's only a few channels in English), our own wireless phone to use everywhere on the ship, spacious bathroom with tub, thick towels, nice furniture indoor and out on the balcony.  But the best feature of this room was the bed.  I was in heaven and felt like the bed was hugging me.  The pillows were wonderful too and you get a pillow menu to choose from.  My only complaint about the room was that you feel the vibration of the engine some nights (not too bad, I'm just a light sleeper) and by the middle of the week, there was soot on the balcony from the smoke exhaust.  By the middle of the week, they gave us an advisory that they were going to clean the balcony while we were off shore.  I didn't notice the soot before that but I did notice it the day after they cleaned.  I think next time I would go for a suite elsewhere because of the soot and vibration.  Being in the aft though protected the room from the wind if you want to leave the sliding door open.  Another perk of the suite is being able to eat at Cagney's for breakfast and lunch.  Andrew would bring our Cagney's breakfast and we'd eat by the balcony.  Lunch at Cagney's was also nice, they had enough selections for the whole week.  We loved the colossal shrimp cocktail which was truly colossal.   We were so spoiled that we didn't go to the buffet anymore.  I think the only time I went was to have ice cream or their crepe with a scoop of ice cream, yummm.  I thought the buffet area was chaotic with everyone trying to get their food.  It was nicely laid out, even better than at Princess ships, but of course with the number of passengers this cannot be avoided.  As for the specialty restaurants, we tried La Cucina, Le Bistro and the Sushi bar.  We loved them all but would go to La Cucina again anytime.  This place had a $10 cover charge as opposed to $15 for the other two and I thought that for the price the food was excellent.  Le Bistro was okay and the Sushi bar was awesome, all you can eat sashimi/sushi.  The other restaurants we didn't try had a cover charge of $25 plus another $10 (if I remember correctly) if you get lobster.  I thought that was too much.  As for the main dining rooms, I agree with the other reviews that they tend to make the food less appetizing to sway people to the specialty restaurants.  I thought that the food at Princess or Carnival was much better.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed every night.We decided to take tours offered by NCL even though they were outrageously expensive.  We wanted to relax on this cruise and didn't want to be worried all the time.  I heard a lot of horror stories of being left and then having to find a way to get to the next port that I decided going on our own might be more expensive in the end.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
My husband was skeptical, he is not the cruising type, but booking a European cruise got him on board, so to speak. We arrived in Barcelona on Friday morning and spent 3 days in that amazing city before we boarded the Gem on Sunday ... Read More
My husband was skeptical, he is not the cruising type, but booking a European cruise got him on board, so to speak. We arrived in Barcelona on Friday morning and spent 3 days in that amazing city before we boarded the Gem on Sunday afternoon. We took the subway train to the station closest to the port and then a taxi into the dock area. We boarded about 3 pm and embarkation was exceptionally easy, no lines at all. We were greeted with a glass of champagne and went to our cabin. We had a balcony room, not huge, but well laid out. The bathroom was nice and the bed was especially comfortable. The whole ship was very nicely decorated with lots of cherry paneling, other than the Vegas style carpeting in the hallways and our room. Especially liked the art-deco styling of the Main Dining Rooms. Although the ship is large and was at capacity, we never felt crowded or like there were huge crowds anywhere. The pool does seem small for the size ship, but we didn't use it since we were there in October. The food was good to very good. We live in San Francisco, so we have pretty high expectations. I'd say the food was always good, and sometimes great. We only ate in the buffet once, as the crowds and food made the experience just okay. We loved the main dining room for breakfast (never a line) and for dinner, as well as Magentas. Since it was such a port heavy trip, we never had lunch on board. We paid the up-charge to eat in Teppanyaki ($25pp - but worth it and fun), Sushi ($15 pp - great sushi!). We went to the wine tasting in the Italian Restaurant which was very nice as well. Entertainment on board was okay to great. The magician just okay. Musical numbers pretty good and Second City Comedy was great. Service was wonderful throughout the ship. We were constantly greeted by everyone from officers to cabin stewards. All the wait staff were attentive and helpful. By the time we went to the last show, when they had all the crew get up on stage, everyone in the audience actually gave them a standing ovation. We did all our own shore excursions, none with the cruise line. It was easy for us. In each port, we planned each day to visit one tourist site, have a great lunch and then do some shopping. We loved cruising, we loved NCL and can't wait to go on our next cruise with them Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
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 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.8

Find a Norwegian Gem Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click