14 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews

Overall, the vacation was fantastic, but I have to admit I was not impressed at all with NCL and will likely not sail with them again. Embarkation was fairly easy, they had to send us to 3 different lines because their key cards were not ... Read More
Overall, the vacation was fantastic, but I have to admit I was not impressed at all with NCL and will likely not sail with them again. Embarkation was fairly easy, they had to send us to 3 different lines because their key cards were not working, but it did not take that long and we were on board in under 30 minutes - very nice. The ship is very nice and very clean. I liked the layout of the ship and the cabin was fantastic - excellent bathroom - best I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The shower was great. The activities were limited it seemed compared to other ships with not as many things going on, but that may have been to being at so many ports of call. The biggest problem on board was the customer service - it was lousy at the two free dining rooms. Freestyle dining did not work very well for us as every time we wanted to eat we had to wait at least 30 minutes or so. We were told we could not make reservations unless we were in a party of 6 or more which was unfortunate. The food was definitely not up to par - poor choices and horrible desserts (very stale). I could live with hamburgers and hot dogs if service was good, but the waiters were very bad - they were down right rude to us at times, never smiling, very unfriendly. The same went for the room stewards who never made up our room till late at night even with the make up room sign on the door. We finally complained on day #3 (definitely something not in our nature to do, but it was really bad). After that the room stewards were very nice and had things done quickly. We also had a meeting with the restaurant manager Monica who was very nice and made sure we had reservations even though there were just two of us. She was great. I think they make things uncomfortable for you in the free dining rooms to get you to pay for the specialty restaurants...not sure. The ports of call were all great - had NCL tours in Pompeii (Excavations), Rome (Rome and the Vatican) and Florence (Splendors of Florence) which were all great although they could cut out the lunch on the full day tours as that was a waste of 2 hours that could be spent touring instead. The shows were pretty good, loved the singers and dancers, did not attend the magician or comediens. Disembarkation was very very easy, off the ship before 6AM to catch an early flight. Overall great trip, but would not go with NCL again due to the customer service unless the reates were really good. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We have taken many cruises in the past 15 years. Most with NCL. This itinerary was our favorite so far. We had a problem checking in the day of our cruise, due to a computer glitch at NCL, Miami. So problem here is you have to wait until ... Read More
We have taken many cruises in the past 15 years. Most with NCL. This itinerary was our favorite so far. We had a problem checking in the day of our cruise, due to a computer glitch at NCL, Miami. So problem here is you have to wait until that office opens...we sat for 4 hours. We found the ship to be about half full. The staff were all very polite. The freestyle dining is important to us as we do not like to have to be told where to eat at a defined time. The 7 "gourmet" restaurants were well worth the minimal extra charge. They were almost empty, the food was far superior, and the service was excellent. The main dining was acceptable, a large variety of food. My husband really liked it. I found some things to be lacking. The ice cream quality is poor, the lack of beverages included in the price. I did like the fact that no one enters the eateries or the ship without a hand disinfectant sprayed on your hands. The excursions: Here is my main complaint. They are so expensive it is ridiculous. The staff does not help you at all with any info about the ports. They would not tell us where the train station was, the bus stop,.... nothing. The ports, all except Cannes and Malta, were about an hour from the main cities in Italy. Rome, Florence, Pisa. We did research before going and I knew to catch the train and bus. One example, in Rome we took the train, got the 9Euro pass for the day, this includes all train and bus for the day. We saw the Coliseum, Forum, St. Peters and Vatican museum. We spent a total of about 80 euro for the whole day. To do this trip with NCL was about $450 a person. Outrageous. My other complaint is when you arrive they automatically add $12 charge a day per person to your bill. So the cruise is more expensive than we thought. Oh, and did I mention the gym is beautiful... you can use the eqiupment. Don't think about taking a class unless you want to pay even more....anything to make a $. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
How to do Norwegian Gem's Western Mediterranian Cruise on Your Own: I just went on the Gem on August 9th and am going to write out my itenerary and suggestions for changes. Note that this itenerary included a good amount of walking ... Read More
How to do Norwegian Gem's Western Mediterranian Cruise on Your Own: I just went on the Gem on August 9th and am going to write out my itenerary and suggestions for changes. Note that this itenerary included a good amount of walking and days that were packed full, but in the end we had an awesome time. This was an excellent trip for someone who has never seen any of these destinations before. Tuesday- Valletta, Malta: -8:15: got clearance to get off boat, got map from inside cruise terminal with walking directions from boat to different parts of city. Walked around the Valletta waterfront which wasn't open yet, but the restored historic buildings were pretty. -Took a 20 minute walk to Upper Baracca Gardens for great views. -9:30: 5 minute walk to St. John's Co-Cathedral. Went in St. John's Co-Cathedral for €6.00. A beautiful cathedral with great works of art notably by Caravaggio and one of the best things we did in Malta. The audio tour was included in the price. They do not allow stiletto heels or uncovered shoulders, but they provide wraps for free. -Walked down Merchant Street for a local market with vendors selling souvenirs and walked by the Grand Master's Palace. There was a lot of construction going on. We did not pay to go in. - Ended the day with a 5 minute walk to Hastings Gardens for good views of the other side of the city and then walked back to the ship with another 20 minute walk. Had to be back on ship at 2:30. Wednesday- Docked at Naples, Went to Pompeii and Capri: -8:15- Were allowed to get off ship. Took a taxi for €15 to Circumvesuviana train by the port (not the Naples central station). It was probably a 10 minute walk to the station but we didn't know that. Visit http://www.vesuviana.it/web/en/homepage for train times and current prices. You don't need to buy tickets in advance, we got 1 way tickets for about €2.40 each to Sorrento via Pompeii. Validate the ticket in the yellow machine at the station before you get on the train. -Get off at Pompeii Scavi stop, a 30 minute ride. Take a right out of the station to go directly into pompeii. Admission is €10.00 and does not include audio guide. We just walked around for about 2hours. Make sure you see the bodies that were uncovered that are located behind bars with other pottery and artifacts. -Exit Pompeii where you entered and continue on the train to Sorrento to get to Capri. Exit at the sorrento stop and take a 10-15 minute walk to the port to catch a ferry (probably need to find a map or ask someone directions). Visit http://www.capri.net/en/ship-timetable for times and prices (prices are 1 way and jets are faster than the other ferries). We got the 1:50 jet for €13.50 and it took 15 minutes. -Exit ferry and go to the right to get the return ferry tickets back to Naples. The ride was 45 minutes and docked right at the cruise ship port, less than a 5 minute walk to the ship. Same website for times and pricing. We took the 5:10 ferry. -We did a group boat tour around the island of capri that took 1 hour and LOVED it. The boat we took was back towards the left where the ferry docked from the ticket office. I think the price was around €10.00. The blue grotto was already full and backed up so we did not buy tickets to it, but saw the green grotto instead on the tour. I recommend booking a private tour here on a smaller boat and do a little swimming in the green grotto and by the coast. The water looked very inviting and we wish we would have planned it better. -We had another hour until the ferry left and we just hung around the port. We tried to walk to the city center but there were a million stairs and quit before reaching the top. If you want to do this definitely get a taxi or take the cable car. -Had to be back on the boat by 6:30. Thursday- Civitavecchia/Rome: -The ship docks at 7:00am but you have to take a shuttle out of the huge port and that started at 7:30 (so stupid on Norwegian's part). You can take a taxi if you want to get an earlier start which I would recommend to get more time in Rome. If you want to get the shuttle it comes to the left of where the ship docks right as you come down the gangway and go through the fence. -From the port entrance/shuttle stop walk right down the street bordering the ocean for about 10 minutes to reach the train station. http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ad1ce14114bc9110VgnVCM10000080a3e90aRCRD for times. Buy the B.I.R.G. ticket for €9.00 which gives you train ride to Rome, unlimited bus and underground in the city of Rome. Again validate the ticket in the yellow machines at the station once for the whole day. The ride to Rome takes about an hour. For Rome we bought a map at a bookstore in the US and went ahead and mapped out what we wanted to do. -Get off at Roma S. Pietro. Go to St. Peter's Square. Enter St. Peter's Basilica for free. Male and Females need knees and shoulders covered and I don't think they provide wraps here so wear pants/capris and bring a wrap at least. -Then go the Vatican Museum. The line might be long but it goes fast. The entrance is €14.00 not including audio guide. The museum is huge and you could spend the entire day in it. We just skimmed the museum until the got to the Sistine Chapel at the end (it is probably a 15-20 minute walk through the museum to get to the chapel). The entire museum was extremely crowded, but we really wanted to see Michelangelo's Sistine chapel and it was worth it. -Take the Metro to Spagna to see the Spanish Steps. Then walk to the Trevi Fountain and then the Pantheon (free entrance). It is a 5 minute walk between each of the sites and probably wouldn't be worth it to take the metro in between then, but you could try to take a bus if you didn't want to walk. -From the pantheon go to Via del Corso to catch a bus to the colosseum (colosseo). We walked around the colosseum, saw the arch of constatine. We then glanced at the Roman Forum and palatine hill from the street but didn't have time to go in because we had 3pm tickets to the Galleria Borghese. If you want to go in these places you can buy a €14.00 combo ticket and skip the galleria. -Take a Bus from the colosseum to Galleria Borghese- just ask which stop to get off at. I think it was Vle S. Paolo d. Brasile. (We walked and it took 20 minutes.) Take a 5 minute walk from the bus stop through Villa Borghese on Via del Museo to the galleria. Book tickets to the galleria at least a week ahead online . http://www.galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/edefault.htm They do not take walk-ins. The galleria has many Bernini statues that we loved. It will take about an hour to see the museum, it is small. -Walk straight out of the galleria down to the same bus stop and take a bus to the metro. Take the metro to Ottaviano S. Pietro and walk past to St. Peter's Square to get to the train station to go back to Civitavecchia. Friday- Livorno-Florence/Pisa. -Again the ship docks at 7:00am but the mandatory shuttle to get out of the port starts at 7:45am. You need a taxi anyway so just leave around 7:15 when you get clearance and share a taxi with one of the many people going to Livorno Centrale (€20.00 for a taxi van). - For times again see http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ad1ce14114bc9110VgnVCM10000080a3e90aRCRD. The ride is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Get off at Firenze Santa Maria Novella (S.M.N.). Again for florence we pre-bought a map and planned out our day. Florence is a very walkable city and everything is within 5 minutes walk. -Walk around Santa Maria Novella and then walk around San Lorenzo. There are street vendors by San Lorenzo if you want souvenirs. -Then walk to the Baptistry and Duomo. See the bronze doors of the Baptistry and the dome of the cathedral. We then climbed the Campanille or Giotto's Bell Tower for great views of the city and the dome for €6.00. Beware though that this was a ton of steps and was very tiring! It was about 15 minutes of continuous climbing tiny stairs and there was no elevator. When we reached the top it was worth it. -We pre-booked tickets for 11:00am to the Accademia. This was our favorite part of Florence. Book tickets at least a month or 2 in advance. http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/accademia/Default.asp They sell out, but you can still get tickets from other sites that buy blocks of tickets, but they are more expensive. The walk was 5 minutes from the campanille. Make sure you see the original statue of David by Michelangelo and some of his unfinished statues. -Then walk back by the Duomo to go to the Museo di S. Maria del fiore. You do not need to pre-book tickets. €6.00. The museum had the second pieta of Michelangelo and many Donatello works. Some of the Donatello's and other works were removed for refinishing though. -Head to Piazza del Signoria to have lunch at a cafe in the square and see the statues in the square (some original, some copies). -After resting a bit you can walk by Santa Croce to see where Dante and Michelangelo are burried (there is an entrance fee if you want to go in) and you can then walk by the outside of the Bargello. Vivoli is supposed to be the best gelato in the world right by the Bargello on Via Stinche and Via Lavatoi but it was closed for holiday when we were there. Also around there is a recommend store by Norwegian with free tastings of wine and olive oils, but you can try it there and get it cheaper at other stores. -Catch a train back to Livorno at Firenze S.M.N. Station. Stop at Pisa Centrale (the stop before Livorno) to see the leaning tower. It is a 15-20 minute walk straight out of the station to the Leaning Tower, so depending on time you can take a taxi. We spent about 20 minutes walking around the tower and taking photos. -Then catch the same train back to Livorno and split another taxi to get back to the ship by 6:30. Saturday- Cannes: -We were so tired from the other cities so we slept in and just went to the beach for the day. We went to a private beach and rented 2 chairs and an umbrella for €9.00. It was pretty crowded and the water was not all that great. There were also a few topless women who were mostly all older. -We then walked down the main shopping street and looked at the expensive stores. The we went to the Forville Market to see fresh foods and flowers which was a cool experience. The last tender to the boat was 2:30pm. With better planning and more energy we could have been able to do Nice or Monaco. This was our least favorite day. Sunday- Barcelona: -We got a hotel for a night in Barcelona, the Silken Gran Havana. The hotel was fine although there was no shower curtain and our electronics did not work in the outlets without a converter. -We did a hop-on hop-off bus. The bus turistica and it was fine. It was good to ride around the lines once for an overview of the city. We pre-booked the Segrada Familia to avoid lines and then did Park Guell. The National Palace had a great view of the city but we didn't go in. -In the city we looked at Gaudi's Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. Then we walked down Las Ramblas and observed the street performers and vendors. At the end there is Christopher Columbus square with the largest statue of Columbus. Ship Review: The ship was average. Our service was not great at the restaurants and our room steward did a less than average job. We ended up cutting the $12/day/person service charge in half because we didn't feel like any of the service we received was above and beyond. A previous Carnival cruise completely blew the Norwegian away with service. The activites were about average for cruises. The food was average and we definitely didn't go hungry but weren't impressed either. We didn't mind that our experience on the ship wasn't awesome thought because the itenerary was so good. I would recommend the Gem soely on itenerary. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We've been on a handful of cruises and this was our 1st with NCL. (Family of 5 people) One thing about 'Freestyle' cruising is that everyone else on the ship can be 'Freestylin' at the same time you are!  ... Read More
We've been on a handful of cruises and this was our 1st with NCL. (Family of 5 people) One thing about 'Freestyle' cruising is that everyone else on the ship can be 'Freestylin' at the same time you are!  Thus leading to wonderful wait times.  Very crowded... the only place more challenging to find seats than the main cafe is the pool area.  Either that or there are more Invisible people on this ship than any other I've been on. I'll get the other negatives out of the way first... specifically with regards to NCL.... be prepared to be nickel and dime'd while on the ship.  I was afraid every time I flush a charge may appear.  I wish they would just charge a Higher rate initially as a pose to trying to make up for it in junk fees/charges and their 'used car salesmen' type tactics. We're not overly picky about stuff so I would say everything as far as amenities was sufficient and the food was average, although we didn't try all the Specialty Restaurants despite ncl's constant reminders.  Even while at dinner in the Pacific Room a lady comes around with menu's of the other Restaurants and how wonderful they are and to make a reservations.  Also, the bartender at the pool/deck bars automatically upgrade you for a souvenir cup when you purchase a drink... at this point we're on the ship for 4 days, can't I simply get a drink without purchasing another cup with an ncl logo? Ironically... the only tv channels are bbc and ncl shopping, ncl activities, ncl cruising and NCL NCL NCL! (but this is not a huge factor due to long port days and other activities) With that said...  the itinerary (main reason for choosing ncl) was terrific. We did not use any of ncl's excursions and I'm glad we elected not to!!  I'll just list a basic summary for each Port of call and tour companies used. Being that it's our 1st time in these places we did not want the hassle and stress of figuring things out on our own.  It is definitely better value to just book a tour guide.   I'll post the driver's names for each later since I can't recall some of them right now.  But each of them were extremely professional and knowledgeable! Malta: Tour Company used: SwanSea Car Hire  Http://www.malta-car-hire.com, very pleasant driver!  Went to Mdina first - It's like going back in time once you're in there... a quick stop at the glass factory and then to Blue Grotto - the buses drops you off further up the road but the vans can bring you right to the pier to purchase tickets. We also stopped at Marsaloxx (wrong spelling probably), a nice little fishing village, colorful boats, flea market type shops and places to sample local beer.  We then got dropped off at the Gardens in Valletta and then walked around and back to the ship. (This was all very manageable within 5 hours and we had a great time... Try and catch the sail in and sail away it really is beautiful!)  Naples: Tour company used:  Sorrento Silver Tours. Also very knowledgeable, friendly and pleasant! First stop at Pompeii - We elected not to chose a tour guide just so we can move at our own pace.  My parents would have preferred the color commentary as we walked around (the audio rentals or guide can help with that) but it's fairly easy to walk around and figure out whats going on.  Guides are available at the site (near the railway entrance if you don't pre-book one) We then drove along the coast, made a couple of stops to get pictures and a brief stop in Positano and then to Sorrento, nice place, had a nice lunch here and walked around and then took the ferry back from Sorrento to Naples (about 30 minutes) Our driver went down to the port ahead of time to confirm the ferry schedule and purchase tickets just to be sure... which is a good idea! Rome: Tour Company Used: AllArounditaly.net  Email: info@allarounditaly.net  Our guide was Fabrizio, a gentleman and a scholar... what a great call this was!  My family finally thinks highly of me just for choosing this company.  We covered all the highlights of Rome and no complaints with anything.  Email him directly and he'll customize the tour and provide recommendations for pre-purchasing Museum tickets etc.  Much more personable and better than the romeinlimo company that is posted everywhere.  Definitely recommend his services. Florence: Chose allarounditaly again.  (there seem to be plenty of Taxi's at the port eager to bring you into Florence at decent rates but we felt more comfortable using allarounditaly.  Also, it is key getting out before the tour buses hit the road and beat some of the traffic) Stopped by Pisa to catch the leaning tower (no need to climb it) We then drove through the countryside in the Chianti region and a quick stop for some Wine.  Then a stop at a Scenic Overlook of Florence and then into Florence.  Plenty to do there... museums, churches, restaurants, shops, and all within walking distance for the most part.  Pre-purchased tickets to see David and everything went very smoothly.  Florence was probably the nicest of all and very charming.  Cannes: We had nothing booked for Cannes but we walked out as there is plenty to see along the coast line and a beach right to the left of the pier.  But we ran into a guide who offered to bring us to Nice, Monaco/Monte Carlo and so we decided to do it since a cab would not be feasible for 5 adults.  What a great call this turned out to be as well.  Made a few stops driving along Cannes, the Blvd, towards Nice and then Monaco catching all the mansions, famous hideaways, raceway, casino etc.  Spent a few minutes walking around Cannes and then at the public beach (which is right outside the port) Overall, this was a great time!!  Again, do not be afraid of using private tour companies... better service and often they can get into nooks that a big tour bus just wouldn't have the time or a way to get into.  And at a fraction of the cost.  Happy Travels! 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Sail Date July 2009
We are truly people who appreciate a good value for money spent.  We tend to seek out the more modest rooms, but we do like to at least have a bit of a view and on this trip the porthole was all we needed.  For goodness sakes if ... Read More
We are truly people who appreciate a good value for money spent.  We tend to seek out the more modest rooms, but we do like to at least have a bit of a view and on this trip the porthole was all we needed.  For goodness sakes if you're on a cruise there is plenty of deck space and it doesn't mean just next the the loud musical combo playing poolside.  There were many places for us to be in the fresh air and not feel crowded or cramped.  In terms of the comfort our cabin was quite adequate.  We really liked the dark wood cabinets, the beds were comfortable, there was plenty of storage space for the way we travel...just don't bring steamer trunks.  Most importantly, we found the bathroom to be very usable in spite of the space limitations that naturally go with being in a modestly priced room.  The Norwegian Gem is nicely laid out and the unusually bright colors of fabrics and furniture was somewhat Alice in Wonderland in nature in the public areas.  This was the best part of our experience.In terms of Free Style Dining, I would not recommend it as anything more than college dormitory in quality.  Yes, the main dining room was visually pleasing and comfortable.  You really should ask one of the servers the hours of peak dining to avoid waiting in lines.  The servers are mostly very attentive and willing to please to the best of their ability.  Providing food for thousands of people in multiple dining facilities is no doubt a daunting task, but maybe they are just trying to do too much.  If you are not looking for a gastronomic delight the food has it's surprise moments and you certainly won't lack for quantity but stick with the Grand Pacific Dining Room because the specialty restaurants are not so special, they just add to your tab very quickly.  We were optimists and tried three of the specialty dining rooms thinking that we just hit a bad night.  The only one that seemed remotely worth the extra expense was the Bistro.  Absolutely forget the Teppanyaki restaurant and the Cagney Steak restaurant is great for those who like the flavor of frying pan steaks.  I understand that they don't want open flames, but my rib eye steak was not that appetizing especially when I could have had essentially the same thing in the main dining room and not paid the extra price.  So one can avoid lots of extra and certainly unnecessary additional expense by staying out of the specialty restaurants.  The best part of the buffet was the morning greeter who could put a smile on the grumpiest of faces.  The food was mediocre at best.  If you wanted capers with your bagels, salmon, and cream cheese you had to request it from a very busy attendant.  Ice tea stations were frequently empty and the dining area felt very cramped.  In general I would say that the best food we had was off the ship in the ports of call. Oh, by the way, you will be visited frequently by staff members assigned to promoting the specialty restaurants and they are very persistent and high pressure.  After being nice, I found that saying "go away" finally worked.If you like your cocktails, beer, and wine, brace yourselves for a really big bar bill.  Here is where they really make up for the teaser booking rate.  Most everything is $6 or more.  A bottle of wine will cost you a minimum of $25 dollars and we're not talking premium wine.  If you don't drink anything besides tap water, coffee, and iced tea, you will be just fine.  Whatever you do, don't buy the bottled water they are selling as you go on excursions.  At $4.50 per small bottle you are being charged more than double the price you can purchase out of a vending machine on shore.  Of course they are scaring you all the time about the dangers of going ashore without water to make the sale.  That is their catch and we learned early not to follow their advice.  Find an on shore market and you can buy a big bottle of water for half the price.Now talking about shore excursions.  Keep in mind that you really don't have enough time to see a great deal in any port.  The shore excursions are very expensive and I really suggest you stay away from them unless you are fortunate enough to have unlimited resources and you don't care.  Do some planning in advance and you can save a huge amount of money.  They again will scare you that if you don't take their approved tours you could end up missing the boat and be left behind.  We didn't do enough advanced homework and therefore we opted to take their offers in three ports.  The ports in Rome and Florence are too far away to walk to anything of interest, but you can do these cities without being fleeced...just be smart and alert.  If you plan to keep in touch with family while you are away, you will pay steeply for Internet availability and it is a satelite connection meaning something only slightly better than dial up speed.  Think you are bringing your own laptop and will be less costly?  Take your laptop on shore and find a free Internet zone at a coffee shop because they will charge you just as much on board to access their wireless connection as if using their 12 computer terminals.Don't get me wrong, the trip was fine.  It's just that I have great difficulty with matching my expectations developed from NCL's promotion with the actuality.  So their is my disappointment.  If I had expected to incur costs matching the cost of the cruise booking itself, I would have been fine with that.  I was not expecting that however, and therefore I'm annoyed more than angry.  I think this has put me off cruising for awhile.  For what it cost, I could have just gone to a couple cities in Italy and Spain, stayed in a nice hotel or apartment, found my own food and restaurants, and really enjoyed the cities more than the exhausting attempts to make it feel like I had actually been in the cities/ports of call. 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Sail Date May 2009
This was our first cruise, and it had its ups and downs.  We found we were bored. We also felt nickled and dimed, everything was an extra charge.  We expecting a movie theater on the ship, this didn't exist; instead you had to ... Read More
This was our first cruise, and it had its ups and downs.  We found we were bored. We also felt nickled and dimed, everything was an extra charge.  We expecting a movie theater on the ship, this didn't exist; instead you had to purchase movie at $11.95 each to view on the tiny TV in the stateroom. The library was somewhat out of date and was primarily made up of fiction. The person running the library was not knowledgeable and unhelpful.  You cannot buy a book or a magazine anywhere on the ship.    On the plus side the ship was very clean and the staffs, with the exception of the reception desk, were friendly and helpful.  It was pleasant to walk around the decks and to sit out on the balcony. We went to an Italian wine tasting that was quite nice, but we didn't care for the wine.  The French wine tasting was cancelled.  The pastry lecture was nice. We are not night people, so did not go to things that happened in the evening after 9:00.  The food that was included on the trip was not particularly good.  I work at a facility that has a cafeteria and my staff often complains about the food.  The food on the ship was not as good as the food at work.  We did go to two of the specialty restaurants, the French restaurant and the steakhouse.   The food was fairly good, but not great at these venues, they would probably get a 16-18 Zagat's rating.  The service is very good at the restaurants and the decor of the French restaurant is lovely.  It was quite disappointing that the same crummy desserts are served at the specialty restaurants that are served on the buffet line. The desserts are yucky and disappointing. The best general food was a nice goulash, and a pretty good hamburger.  We were bored. There was nothing to do.  The pool area was unappealing, and over crowded.  We don't gamble or dance and tend to limit our alcohol consumption to wine at dinner.  We hated that alcohol and drawing were constantly being pushed at us. The performances were OK, the dance shows were enjoyable but we were not excited by the comedians, the magician and musician.  The health and fitness area cost extra.  The art auctions were particularly cheesy.  The lectures by on Malta and Pompeii were boring.  We had a balcony room, and it was fine, neat clean comfortable bet.  We did most of the excursions, despite the expense.  They generally were rushed.  The best of the excursions was Lucca and Pisa.  Nice knowledgeable guides who provided the right mix between free time and information.   Malta was also good, but we were put off  by the guide who yelled at us for waiting in a line for the bathroom. (only 2 stalls and two busloads of women). The Sorrento, Pompeii excursion was OK.  There was not much to see or do in Sorrento.  Pompeii was interesting, I would have liked more time in Pompeii.   The worst was Rome, uncomfortable bus, nasty guide and less than mediocre restaurant.  We did Canne on our own and loved it. 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
Embarkation:My wife and I arrived in Barcelona on Saturdaya afternoon, the day before the cruise was scheduled to leave Barcelona.  This gave us approx. 24 hours to catch up on sleep, and explore a bit of Barcelona.  When we arrived to ... Read More
Embarkation:My wife and I arrived in Barcelona on Saturdaya afternoon, the day before the cruise was scheduled to leave Barcelona.  This gave us approx. 24 hours to catch up on sleep, and explore a bit of Barcelona.  When we arrived to the pier on Sunday at about 2pm, there was a sizeable crowd already in front of us for check-in.  Regardless, we were able to check out luggage quickly (within 5 minutes), and then proceeded into the embarkation area inside the facility.  After getting through security in about 5 minutes, we were then led to a separate check-in area for those with mini-suites.  We were pleasently surprised by being first in line.  As a result the check-in process was quick and we were given a group boarding number of "7".  After waiting for about 15 minutes, our number was called and we proceeded to board the ship.  All in all a painless process and off to a good start.Ship - Public Areas & Mini-Suite stateroom:Once we were on the ship we went directly to our balcony mini-suite on the port side of deck 11.  Upon opening the door I was a bit dissapointed in the size.  Being my second cruise and having been only on the Crown Princess (balcony mini-suite) in 2005, I couldn't help but think that the NCL gem mini-suite size compared unfavorably.  There was hardly any room to walk between the bed and wall, and the overall size of the room seemed quite a bit smaller than Princess.  The positives were that the balcony seemed roomier (perhaps because NCL has a very small table on the balcony), and the bathroom seemed a bit larger.  I should also note that from our cabin 11594, we constantly heard banging from what seemed like above us when trying to get to sleep between 10pm-12am.  We were below the Italian restaurant - La Cucina but could not believe how noisy the kitchen area apparently was.  Somehow we ended up with a complimentary bottle of champagne that we are still unsure of why we received, but nonetheless a nice touch.  The only other glaring drawback to the stateroom in retrospect was the limited # of television channels.  Besides TMC, a sports channel, and 2 news channels, the TV offered nothing else interesting. Overall we found the public areas of the ship to be quite nice from the beginning of our trip and throughout the voyage.  The only dissapointing piece was the unimpressiveness of the atrium area of the middle of the ship - but a small issue with an otherwise positive reaction to the public rooms on the ship.  On the positive side, the gym and spa were both nice and the gym was never full, meaning we could always get in a workout without a crowd.  Unfortunately like any ship any group class at the gym you had to pay for.  The result- almost completely empty classes.  What's the point?  Lower the fees & you will see increased usage.Food:Unfortunately the food was dissapointing aspect of our cruise.  The room service was absolutely dreadful and also confirmed by fellow cruisers.  The quality of the free food - Garden Cafe (buffett), Blue Lagoon (comfort food), main dining rooms were marginal at best.  You can absolutely tell that NCL skimps on the quality & quantity of the free food and instead focuses on the delivery and service of food in the cover charge restaurants.  At a minimum we expected the presentation of the food (espec. desserts) to be nice in the main dining room, yet were sorely dissapointed.  Princess definitely kills NCL by comparison.  On the positive note the "freestyle dining" of both dinning whenever and wherever was good.  There were never lines for restaurants (except for Teppenyaki), and the various options of restaurants was nice.  But again, the nickle and diming of having to pay most restaurants was unfortuante.  In fact, Tequila - the latin tapas restaurant is a great example.  The restaurant was completely empty every single night because no cruisers were willing to pay $10/pp for burritos when that isn't even necessarily a good value on land!  I can see dining at Cagney's a good steakhouse for $25/pp when it might cost $50-70/pp on land, but why would anyone pay to dine at a latin restaurant where the ingridients aren't expensive to begin with.  The restaurant was so empty in fact that waiters from that restaurant would end up going to the main dining rooms to help serve food because they had nothing else to do.  In my opinion NCL should consider lowering all their cover charges by $5/pp and I think they would see an uptake in the usage at the restaurants, while at the same time increasing revenue. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I'm posting this several days after our return. It was a wonderful itinerary, a great ship, but NCL really needs to get their act together in terms of customer service. We also found a number of great companies to use to avoid ... Read More
I'm posting this several days after our return. It was a wonderful itinerary, a great ship, but NCL really needs to get their act together in terms of customer service. We also found a number of great companies to use to avoid NCL's over priced shore excursions. November 2, 2008 We arrived in Barcelona about 9:30AM. NCL pre-departure told us we couldn't check in and/or get rid of our baggage until noon, so we contacted Barcelona Taxi to pick us up at the airport and take us on a 4 hour tour. The charge was €45 per hour and it was money well spent. We met our driver just outside customs. He spoke great English and gave us a perfect overview tour throughout the entire city, even though it was raining. Barcelona is beautiful and the architecture is different then you will see anywhere else. The driver dropped us off at the ship a little after 1:00PM and we easily boarded. We found out that we could have dropped off our luggage much earlier, although it didn't cause a problem it was just the first of NCL's many miscommunications. Pre-departure we received a coupon book from NCL via our travel agent. Most were for discounts on pictures and the gift shop. But two seemed to provide us some value. The first coupon provided dinner for two with the first paying the coverage charge at any one of their specialty restaurants—at least that is what we understood. This is NCL's signature feature, Freestyle dining with two main dining rooms and 6 specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants have a cover charge ranging from $10 to $25. We found out that the coupon was only good at 3 of the specialty restaurants—the least popular restaurants. We used it anyway, since we were going to try most of them out during the cruise. The second coupon's conditions, however, really set me off. In the large and medium font it said that if you dined at 5 specialty restaurants, you would get the 6th dining experience for free. However, much to my discontent, in small print that I couldn't even read with my glasses, it stated that it was only good for one person per stateroom. So if you have 2-4 people each paying a cover charge and going to dinner together at the same restaurant every night, only one gets a cover charge-free meal. Of course, we didn't find this out until the meal was over. The waiter took the issue up about 5 levels to the Food and Beverage Manager, but they all refused to use common sense. Thus for refusing to honor the $20 coupon, I had the $10 per day service charge deducted from our total ship invoice, or $140. I have also told my favorite cruise specialist Beth Christie and now you. I realize that this may hurt the crew who share in the service charge, but I felt the need to make a point. While I'm on the subject of food, overall I was disappointed. It's cruise food, no matter how much they try to oversell the quality. Also, you don't get what you pay for when you pay a cover charge at the specialty restaurants, what you get is freedom to eat when and where you want. Steaks at all dining rooms are equivalent to Ponderosa. The Teppanyaki Room was the most popular, but it was mostly for the show. The seafood was over cooked and drowning in garlic. The French restaurant and the steakhouse had great appetizers, but weak entrees, the Italian had good entrees, but the appetizers were mediocre. Almost no one (including us) ate at the Tex Mex restaurant. It was always featuring a 2 for 1 coverage charge. We had one forgettable meal at the main dining room, not completely forgettable, the steak was bad, a ½ inch of choice sirloin. November 3, 2008 A sea day. I came in about 15th in the Texas Hold'em tournament out of 29 and lost my investment. November 4, 2008 A day in Malta. This is my second visit to Malta and our shore plans were the same. We ignored NCL's shore excursions that averaged about $50 per person and hailed a taxi just off the pier. The fare is €60 for up to 4 people to get a 4 hour tour, including Mdina. We found another couple and we were off. The taxi ended the tour at the medieval part of Valletta and we walked on our own through the streets and then down the hill to the ship. This was a short day on shore, with all aboard at 2:30 pm. Luckily there was a second poker tournament. Only 16 players, but I won! Not bad for my 3rd time playing. November 5, 2008 We docked in Naples. From searching on the internet I found Pompeii Taxi and hired them to take us from the ship to Pompeii and then on to Sorrento. The charge was €140. This probably was high, but we really wanted to focus on Pompeii and not be rushed by being on a tour with 4 or 40 others. The biggest mistake we made was not paying the €100 for a guide. There is so much history and houses open and close for touring so guidebooks are frequently outdated. Plus a guide might have had an extra umbrella that could have prevented us from getting soaked that day. After visiting the Villa of the Mysteries, the driver took us on to Sorrento. Overall the driver was OK, but a little too quiet as he didn't impart any information about the surroundings unless questioned. We spent about an hour and a half walking the streets and enjoyed a pizza. From there we walked down the hill and took a hydrofoil to Capri. We wondered about a bit, taking the funicular up the hillside and walked to the gardens. Although the gardens and view were beautiful, 1-2 hours was more than enough if you intended on avoiding the high end shopping. There is supposed to be a wonderful blue grotto, but we were told the seas were too rough, so it was closed. We then took the slower ferry back to Naples and the ship. All in all we spent about $300 for our day compared to the $560 NCL would have charged the two of us for the exact same itinerary. Plus we did it at our pace rather than going with 30 others. They may have had a guide in Pompeii, but we believe we were able to see more. November 6, 2008 Rome! Or more precisely Civitavecchia. Once again we just winged it and left the ship and took the short walk to the train station purchasing an €8 day pass that included roundtrip transportation to Rome, plus the Rome metro. We did hire a guide to see the Coliseum, which would have also include a tour of the Forum area. We skipped the forum half and then walked and walked the city. From the Coliseum to Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, St. Peters Basilica and everything in between. November 7, 2008 Using CruiseCritic.com we meet up with 5 others and had a fantastic day seeing Pisa, Florence and visiting the Principe Corsini winery in Tuscany. Our driver was Paolo Bonetti and I would highly recommend him for a day of sightseeing. The cost for 7 (or 8) passengers was $520, so for the 2 of us it cost $150, plus $15 each for the wine tasting. The vineyard was fascinating as it also included a tour on how they extract olive oil. November 8, 2008 We tendered into Villefranche. I probably should have done a little more research. After getting a quote from the local taxi stand for €210 for a 3 hour tour to Monte Carlo and Eze, we decided to wonder down to the train station. The train one way to Monte Carlo for the both of us was only €5. We were a little confused after exiting the train station, but a local helped us understand the bus system and for €1 were off to the casino, and had a 29 minute transfer to get back on board to continue on to the palace. We experienced a few glitches in not understanding the map topography, but all in all a good stop. We tried to go back on the train to Eze, but after disembarking the train, found it would take too long to visit the medieval city. This was another short day requiring us to back on board at 2:30 again. A short day however called for a third poker tournament. This time there were 11 competitors. After 2 hours it came down to 3 players (top 3 win cash prizes). NCL really wanted to hurry us up and proposed we all split the pot. So I guess you could say I tied for 1st! I actually was slightly ahead in chips. My poker winnings, covered all the extras on board; wine, cover charges and a little laundry. November 9, 2008 Disembarkation. Soooooooo easy. We picked what time we wanted to get off the ship, and we just walked off and immediately found our luggage. When we made the booking, NCL told us that we should not book any flight before noon. We could have booked a 9:00am flight and made it easily. Why can't NCL tell their phone people how things really work? Once again, things did work out, because we took an 11:55am flight out of Barcelona for home via Amsterdam, we could get off in Amsterdam for 23 hours and not have it cost any more. We found a great hotel bargain at the Sheraton in the airport using Skoosh.com. It was hundreds cheaper than Orbitz or hotels.com. Again, we used local transportation and rode the train to the city central. We took a walking tour through the old section of Amsterdam and then had a great dinner at Cafe Bern. This was the best meal of the trip and it cost us less than the cover charges at any of the restaurants on ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We traveled on the Gem from Barcelona. Traveled with another couple, all 4 of us in our early thirties and from the U.S. We stayed in a mini-suite. Second Cruise for us, first cruise to the Mediterranean. Stayed a couple days before ... Read More
We traveled on the Gem from Barcelona. Traveled with another couple, all 4 of us in our early thirties and from the U.S. We stayed in a mini-suite. Second Cruise for us, first cruise to the Mediterranean. Stayed a couple days before departing in Barcelona at Le Meridien. Great location, right on La Rambla. Rooms comfortable, average dEcor, very modern. If you are in Barcelona before cruise would recommend El Quatre Gats (good atmosphere) and Le Quince Nits (good food at a good price). We also took the Bus Turistic one day. Price is 20 euro per passenger - great way to get to the sights, but beware that there are long lines at each stop you get off to get back aboard the bus. Cabin: stayed in a mini-suite. Great room, lots of space and bed was pretty comfortable. Bathrooms were very nice and roomy. We did not regret paying more for a balcony because it was awesome being able to see the ports first thing in the morning - especially Villefranche, very pretty. Disappointed in the TV options in the room - although didn't spend a ton of time there, it would have been nice to have more options for unwinding after a long day of touring. Only English channels were fox news and cnn...also turner classic movie channel but they played one movie all day (wizard of oz, and other older movies). You could pay for movies, but they were $12 apiece, older movies $6. If you bought a movie you could save it, although you would have to rewind (slowly) each time you rewatch it. There was not a theater room or any other movie viewing options offered by the ship. Ship Info: Ship dEcor was nice, however felt the ship was missing a 'central area'. Our previous cruise on RCL had a much more 'open feel' with a main promenade area. Also found this ship to be harder to navigate, I thought they could use more maps posted around the ship. Elevators were very crowded, took stairs most of time to get between floors. Service: Restaurant service was disappointing, servers seemed annoyed and lacked personality. Room stewards were great. Bar service was very pushy and annoying, especially at the pool bar Shore Excursions: Although we did a lot of research on ports before cruising it would have been helpful for NCl to provide more information on the ports - the only thing they gave us was a high-level map of a couple shopping areas. If you can get maps of each port before getting on the ship (including bus lines, etc) you will save yourself some headaches! Malta: very easy to do on your own, walked off ship and took a taxi (~10 euro) to the co-cathedral. Very pretty, worth a visit. Amount of time at this port is just right. Naples: Also did this port on our own. Took a ferry to Capri, the ferry terminal is very close to where you get off the ship. Finding the ferry schedule was a little more tricky. Once off the ferry we could not find the bus station so ended up in a cab which cost 25 euro for 4 people. Kind of a ripoff but the cabs are convertible and the view along the way made it worth it. Once in Capri we visited Villa San Michele. The building itself was not all that impressive, however it is worth it for the views. After that we had lunch and took a ski-lift type ride to the top of Capri - definitely a must do. The ride is a little scary on the way up but the view at the top is priceless. Rome: used a car service we found online - great way to get around...you just cannot see enough of this port in the time allowed. Would suggest picking your top 3 sights and hitting those. Vatican took about 2 hrs, Colosseum another 2 and we made a quick trip to the Trevi fountain. All of the sights were very crowded for October which I found surprising. Livorno: Did the NCL excursion "Pisa and Taste of Tuscany" tour. Loved it. Leaning tower is quite a sight to see. The winery was a really fun experience, very charming little Italian restaurant where you have lunch and the wine tasting is much more than a 'tasting'. Each table is provided with 2 bottles of wine, dessert wine and a shot of something else at the end. The meal includes large appetizers (proscuitto, bruschetta, cheeses, olives, garlic bread) and then a pasta meal with biscotti for dessert. I learned about this tour from another cruise critic reviewer and would highly recommend this tour!! Villefranche: Very pretty port. We did this port on our own, after a busy week of touring we just wandered in to town and took a bus to Monaco. About a 25 minute ride. Navigating the bus system was tricky since drivers did not speak any English. If I were to do it again, I would have just stayed in Villefranche vs going to Monaco... Dining: One of the things that drew us to this ship was the advertisement for "freestyle dining" and the option to choose when/were/what you ate. The ship had a good selection of specialty restaurants, however they were all at additional charge. It was very frustrating. The main dining room and buffet were free of charge, but basically all others had an upcharge. There was a charge to get into the restaurants and ALSO upcharge for many food items. Most of our servers seemed annoyed to have to wait on us - and we were not demanding customers. One even rolled his eyes when I asked for another glass of wine. We ate at Tequilas, Cagney's, and Orchid Bistro. Cagney's was not worth the upcharge, the steaks were horrible. We had expected more after experiencing the Royal Caribbean upcharge steakhouse dining experience. Tequilas and Orchid Bistro were good - better food than free restaurants. After getting hit by all of the other ship upcharges, we gave up on the 'freestyle' options after a few nights! Would recommend NCL including restaurant fees in overall price of ship! Also, it was hard to find a seat in the Garden Cafe. We never encountered trouble getting a table at any of the restaurants as previous reviewers had expressed. Entertainment: Welcome aboard show was boring, the cruise director took about 30 minutes to introduce about 10 staff members. The cruise director lacked personality. We enjoyed comedian/magician show and the Second City show. There was a 'white hot party' one night where the staff dressed up in all white, many of them with very little clothing...definitely not a 'family' event. Apparently crew members are allowed to drink while on the job... Also, I didn't see it mentioned anywhere that you should pack a white outfit, and since it was October, only a few passengers had something to wear to the part, in fact there were a handful of cruisers who wore their white bedsheets draped around them... Fitness Center was very nice, all new top of the line equipment. Nice selection of group classes. There is a card/game room which is nice if you are with a group. There was a lounge outside the Champagne/Martini bar area that a frank Sinatra-type piano singer played at several nights. He was pretty good, and it was a good place to sit and enjoy a drink. There were also several days where they had bands and bbq out by the pool area. It was a little too cold and windy to enjoy this time of year. Disembarkation: NCL also advertises 'freestyle disembarkation'. That was kind of a joke because they kept saying "stay as long as you want" as long as you are off the ship by 9:30 am...I did not find that different from our other cruise, except they didn't tout "freestyle" disembarkation...kind of ridiculous. Also, the last couple days they were very pushy about trying to sell another cruise - offering an onboard credit of $100. The amount of advertisements and ship announcements/signage for this was rather annoying. Especially when you are trying to enjoy your last couple of days on the ship. Summary: Disappointed in the number of upcharges/fees onboard. From the freestyle dining fees, extra menu fees, even the foosball and pool tables had a charge of one or two dollars. It all adds up and you will find yourself asking "what did I pay for in my lump sum when booking this trip...?" The concept of freestyle is just a marketing ploy...did not feel this ship was anymore 'your way' than our last cruise...if anything it was more restrictive due to the charges. Although the ship itself and rooms were nice, there was just nothing that really stood out. Would not cruise again with NCL. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
we travelled as a family of 4 in one inside cabin, 4 friends also joined us...booked through internet and got what we thought was a good price.. Embarkation at Barcelona was straight forward and very quick..The ship being so new was ... Read More
we travelled as a family of 4 in one inside cabin, 4 friends also joined us...booked through internet and got what we thought was a good price.. Embarkation at Barcelona was straight forward and very quick..The ship being so new was spotless and very funky..our cabin was small but perfect, i was originally worried that 4 would be too much, but it was fine and we actually enjoyed the chatting at the end of the night whilst in bed. The food we enjoyed,plenty of choice in garden buffet, but resembled a cattle market sometimes and was difficult to find a seat. Went to Cagney's one night had a lovely steak, but went to magenta another night and also had a lovely steak, so decided why bother paying extra for speciality restaurants and stuck with grand pacific & magenta, would of liked to try Teppanyaki but thought $50 dollars surcharge per couple was a bit excessive. Our kids age 9 and 12 went to the kids club a few times but as the majority of kids attending didn't speak english they got fed up quite easily.our kids liked a movie at night which they got, but again i thought $12 was excessive, soda package was $62 for both, and it was $5 dollars for a game of bowling. the pool deck was great and i loved the large beds for sunbathing, the only downside was the waiters, who constantly asked if you required a drink, (no chance of reading your book here)..also be aware of befriending any waiters because if you do, you unofficially become theirs. One night when entering the spinnaker lounge the waiter who served us mostly by the pool approached and said he would get us a seat, when he couldn't get us one we found one ourselves, however the seat we had found wasn't his area and when another waiter appeared to take our drinks order, they had words and the new waiter walked off in a strut, he then approached us and asked that we also order drinks from him. This really angered me, i wanted to tell them all to leave us alone... The casino, we hated.. was more like a games arcade..on our last cruise we always ended the night in the casino,not here, Minimum bet of $10 , no wonder it was quiet and lacked atmosphere. We got off ship at all the ports and did Malta, pompeii,Rome,Pisa,and Monte Carlo on our own, the ships excursions were far to expensive for a family of 4.. We only did one show on the ship and that was the Magicians, and it was good. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
I've been on a lot of cruises...and i mean a lot...over 100 and have worked as an entertainer for some years on crystal, seabourne and ncl...so hopefully I've got a balanced view of things by now. NCL doesn't pretend to be a ... Read More
I've been on a lot of cruises...and i mean a lot...over 100 and have worked as an entertainer for some years on crystal, seabourne and ncl...so hopefully I've got a balanced view of things by now. NCL doesn't pretend to be a 5* cruise line and it isn't. Myself, my wife and our 3 kids booked a cheap holiday in peak season...only about £500 each and got a flight for only £25.00! Overall, it was quite good value for money but with hindsight, i would have preferred to pay more and get a bit more class. THE GOOD POINTS: 1. Very quick embarkation for latitudes members. 2. The quickest disembarkation I've ever had...straight off, no queues at all! 3. Ice cream was free. 4. The gym was open 24 hours...i went at 1.00am which was great for me. 5. Cabin was cleverly designed...it had a lot of extra storage space. 6. Cabin steward was excellent in every way. 7. Kids club was open all day from 9am to 10.30pm and then baby sitting till 1.30am....this is the best times I've seen from a kids club on any ship. 8. Pool musicians were very good quality...played some lovely music...also a spanish singer with a guitar...loved him. 9. Selection of food at buffet was generally good. 10. Sun loungers around the pool were very comfy and well padded although the ones on the upper decks were more basic. 11. I liked the double beds around the shady area by the pool...pity there wasn't space for more of them! 12. Furniture around the ship was imaginative and unusual. 13. The theatre was great...really well set out with great views all around...one of the very best. 14. The shows were generally good. 15. The overall cruise price was cheap. 16. The organized 'star gazing' seemed an interesting idea...had it not been cloudy!!...i like the idea though. 17. There were NO pool games!!!...no belly flop or sexy knees etc! 18. The open air buffet at the back of the ship was a nice touch...nice to sit out at night after the show and have a snack with the breeze! 19. The lift doors were quick...i preferred this so gossiping families couldn't dawdle keeping everyone waiting. 20. This is the first ship I've seen have reduced tipping rates for kids...half price....therefore it was the first time I've left the kids tips on our account as i usually have them taken off. 21. Nice view from Grand Pacific dining room over the sea and sunset. 22. Nice seating in theme rooms like Bliss and Spinnaker Lounge...double beds and 4 posters...i thought it was great fun. 23. Bowling alley seemed to work well and our kids liked it. 24. The cool air misting over the sun best was cool. THE BAD POINTS: 1. It was way too crowded around the pools...just not enough sun beds or space. We walked around all day on the first sea day and couldn't get a sun bed for love nor money! I hated this and it was a major point for the whole cruise. You had to be out at 9.00am on the sunbeds to stand any chance. Lots of arguments seen with disputes over who had this or that sun bed first. 2. The sun bed 30 minute rule was not enforced so people just left their clothes and towels on the beds all day. By the end of the cruise i had resulted to the same...put my stuff on the bed in the morning, went out on tour, came back mid afternoon and it was still there! 3. The two pools were way too crowded....i counted 40 people in the pool at one point...my idea of a cool, relaxing swim is not being shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of big hairy Spaniards jostling you for space....and the men weren't very respectful either!! I felt like i was in one of those communal football pools that the players bath in together after a match! 4. Not enough seating in the buffet....it was bedlam and close to a riot! 5. Over 600 kids on board!! Need i say more? I know, 3 of them were mine....but i hadn't wanted another 597 to add to the ambiance! 6. Multilanguage announcements! All the time and usually in 3 or 4 languages....it was the Costa ships all over again! 7. Constant revenue touting over the speakers. 8. No free Sauna ...you had to pay to go into the spa to use a sauna. 9. Salt water swimming pools....our kids don't like them as makes their eyes sore. 10. The ship needs another pool. 11. Needs either more deck space or less passengers. 12. Gaudy carpets...especially in cabins...3 shades of blue with orange and red shells and starfish on them. The designers must have had their work cut out to blend that with the wood paneling, yellow cabin door and cerise pink headboards! 13. The ship was 2/3 full of Spanish...nothing wrong with them except i don't feel the ship knows who its catering for...spanish, english, american, german, french and maltese who got on at Malta. It was hard to make friends with anyone as hardly anyone spoke the same language....and to be honest...the cultures are very different and i don't feel it works that well. 14. Dancing with the Stars competition...the ships own professionals turned out to be anyone the ships staff could cajole into it...we had the ships Nurse, tours office staff, shop assistants, fitness staff etc...some of which couldn't dance at all...i'd have thought the ships own dancers would have had more idea and would have been a more logical choice. 15. Sick of revenue touting....even selling bingo tickets in the theatre just before the curtain went up. There was a 'pool casino' so you cold gamble by the pool, yoga, pilates, abs , cycling classes...all chargeable. 16.If you booked a massage you got free use of the spa...but only for 30 mins...should have been for the whole day as all the treatments were expensive. 17. Dance production shows need more imagination & storyline as it was really just a load of singing and dancing with little or no connection to anything. The individual dancers, singers and lighting were all of a very good standard though. 18. The huge tv screen in the reception lounge was very glaring...no one could watch it with its glaring neon psychedelic colors, heat images and electro funk clips...who this added to an ambiance of the room i'll never know. And to top it, they put the classical quartet playing in front of it. It needs something more relaxing and beautiful to watch to match the music and purpose of the room. It was so bright, people were having epileptic fits looking at it! To sum up, the ship has a lot of good ideas and good points that i liked. The food wasn't too bad but neither was it memorable. I preferred it to the Costa ships but it was also similar in many of the negative ways. If it hadn't been so crowded around the pools and buffet...i would be recommending it as very good value for money....but as it was im more in the middle on it. I overheard two couples talking saying the ship was vulgar.....i did know what they meant when i looked at the sea of sprawling bodies around the pool, kids and burgers. And yet the ship does have some charm and innovative ideas that did impress me. Would i go again...yes for the right price but with an itinerary that attracted less of a cocktail of nationalities. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
NCL - Norwegian Gem Sail Date: 24th - 31st Aug 2008 The following is an outline of the good and the bad of the cruise, as we found it. My little family troop consists of: - Myself (male, 35+) - Wife (female, *cough* how old?! ... Read More
NCL - Norwegian Gem Sail Date: 24th - 31st Aug 2008 The following is an outline of the good and the bad of the cruise, as we found it. My little family troop consists of: - Myself (male, 35+) - Wife (female, *cough* how old?! *cough*) - Daughter 4.5yrs old - Mother in law... immune to arsenic and we found she now floats to ... bugger We had two cabins. One stateroom with balcony (deck 11). And one interior (deck 10). I will conduct this as a Good vs Bad list with a conclusion. Just like good old science class. The Good Kids club The children's "club" called Treetops, was nothing short of fabulous. I left a double line break there so that statement sinks in. It really is that good. I did not meet one incompetent "teacher/play mate/ organizer" or whatever you would like to call them. The area is deceptive at first as it is split into many sections. But as my four and a half year old said in her own words "it's magic daddy, it's awesome!". If you have kids and they are 3+ then I'd recommend this club over anything. Its open hours that you are not in port for free. Or five US dollars per hour if you are in port. Times if I recall correctly are something like 7:30-10:30pm but don't quote me on that. My experiences are simple enough with the kids club. My daughter woke up in the morning DEMANDING to be taken to play with her new "friends" at "school". And on top of that. She skipped in and said "see you later".  To any parent you know you cannot ask for more. It really makes your holiday. They provide the parent that signs the child in with a ships phone on request. Any problems and they call you. It really is that easy. Security for the child's area is excellent and the "teachers" really do try to get to know the parents. On port days if you decide to leave the child on board and venture off. They take your mobile number if you want/have one available. Not once did my daughter ever say "I don't like it" or "it's boring". And usually they are her most beloved quotes. Don't worry about them being fed on port days if you leave them in either. They take care of that to, don't expect anything too nutritional though. But a week of junk food won't hurt them; they do get enough exercise to burn it all off so it's really not an issue. Please be aware here though my daughter has no "special needs" or allergies. So check up on this if this affects you. A final personal note on the kids club. I am a typical over protective father. But to the extent I have only ever left her in the care of her grandmothers or the school she attends. I cook and prepare all meals for her outside of school time. Your really can't get more over protective and I am aware of that failing. Yet even I felt totally at ease with leaving her with the staff in the kids club area known as Treetops. So from me and my wife THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH. The functional furniture The furniture was great; it was comfortable for my large rear end and very funky in design. It's hard to describe the furniture so you would do best looking online for pictures people have taken. The colours were bright and vibrant and the design wholly unique. Exceptional comfort and the person that took the leap of faith from the conventional uncomfortable furniture should be given a pay rise immediately. The shows I have been on the MSC so you'll have to forgive me not giving this an "amazing" rating as others have. But it was adequate and entertaining for the most part. What on earth they were thinking with the tacky flamenco dancers I'll never know. People were leaving in droves when it came on. My heart went out to the dancers it must have been humiliating. But that being said for a cheap enough cruise it was good enough. And the Second City entertainment troop was a riot of laughs. The Freestyle main evening meals The main meals in the evening were simply put. Fine. The Cagney's restaurant I heartily do recommend as the food and the service was spectacular. Everything else for main meals in restaurants was just fine. Nothing to write home about but certainly not disappointing. The Bad This part may drag on but I feel I should justify each negative point by describing the situation it happened in. all too often we read reviews and have to take it with a pinch of salt so ill save you that trouble by giving you the real situation. I am brutally honest in real life and I don't pull my punches when I deal with people so you should know that before we begin. Gift shops / boutiques etc On board there are a pitiful selection of stores, there is virtually nothing for you to buy a child as a toy. I saw a few rattles and other than that a yo-yo, which my daughter did buy, nothing else. The items are shoddy, poor quality by enlarge and frankly insulting if they believe people will buy them. Ill not spend any more words describing it, it just is not worth giving it space. The shops staff was awful I had the opportunity to bring it to an officer's attention onboard via the cruisecritics.com meeting with the staff. But that really did nothing to be honest, I received a follow up call to try and make me feel like I was perhaps being "mistaken".  The issue wasn't resolved and was left. The issue: I took my daughter down to buy a toy on the first day onboard. My wife immediately ran for a facial and so I thought to score "browny points" by getting her a toy or some such thing to make her laugh. As it turned out the stuff was dismal but I tried to make the best of it. Then I ran into "sales guy #1". I asked him if any of the other stores sold toys (save me looking!) and I was told "I don't know, just look". I told him he should try doing his job and left him to mutter under his breath as I walked to "sales girl #1" I asked if they sold any kids jewelry, colouring books or anything to keep "monster" busy? (monster is my nickname for my daughter). She tried to sell me something entirely non suitable for a child values at 90+ US dollars... At this point I saw this was going to be harder than I though.  They were both yanks (Americans) so I forgave them. And was foolish to try "sales guy #2". I walked up to him and was about to just say something silly like "all the staff new this voyage" but sadly I didn't get a single word in. He waved me away and dismissed me from his presence. I had my daughter with me, that is the only reason his wrist was not broken I assure you of this. Total time 25mins and my holiday was taking a nose dive, but I thought "bah they are probably new" and I knew the next day I'd get to talk to an officer onboard and I thought id give him the heads up that his "staff" were perhaps in a reality check that they are service people onboard a ship that its passengers pay around 5,000 U.S. dollars to be on per cabin. We bought the yoyo and a pink cup and left without further confrontation. Reception If a "how not to talk to paying guests" example were ever needed. Then just record these guys. Offensive, snotty, cheap, ZERO education beyond stringing syllables together and to top it all off, they truly believe they are untouchable. he single worst customer relation experience I have ever had the misfortune to be involved in. Period. Issue: The cruise charges 18% "gratuity" on everything you purchase. Now forgive my rudimentary primitive thinking but that's well ... a tip. From soft drinks to duty free.They put a Service charge on things as well as "gratuity" on everything. When I read that they charge $10 per person and $5 per child, per day. I was determined to remove it. I may be a mug, but I'm not about to be taken for a ride. Tuesday: I call reception and ask how to remove the added surcharge for tips per person per day. I asked it clearly and precisely. I have no accent and I spoke slowly for them, I didn't do so to be insulting but I know it helps when you talk to other nationalities so I was trying to be polite and make life easy for them. "the what?"  "I would like to remove the added surcharge you add to my bill. The one where you charge $10 per person per day". "you cant" "I think I'm not making myself clear. I would like to remove the added charge where you.." "I know what your saying sir (the first and only instance of "sir" I heard from these people) but you cant its not fair as it goes into the tip pool." At this point I've had enough. "I don't care, Ill tip whomever I want to. You do not get to dictate that to me. Now how or whom do I need to talk too." "you cannot do that till Thursday" ::phone goes dead:: Deep breaths. Thursday: I go to the counter and we are told its not possible till later, fine.. I go back later and its now not allowed till Friday. I get another lecture about how its not fair but at this stage I'm just auto switching off. Friday. My wife decides maybe I'm being a bit aggressive so she decides to do it herself. She comes back shaking and upset. The girl had humiliated her by shouting in a loud voice about this business. So I go down stairs and decide to sort this rubbish out. I tell them I want to do it and she starts with the lecture AGAIN. I stop her and tell her I owe her no explanation. I am happy to write this down for them but I can no longer be bothered to deal with her or waste my time. She basically says it's not possible till the Saturday. Saturday: I get up at 6:30am and think I'll just go finally get it over with. I go down stairs and they look a smug lot so I knew something was up. She doesn't try to give me a lecture, goes to fetch the form. 10 minutes later she comes back. No apology for the delay. But I don't bite I want to get it over with now out of principle and never have to speak with these people ever again. "I'm sorry sir, your wife is the signature on the account. You'll have to go WAKE her" she says.  The girl next to her laughs. At this point I blow my top. "Take that smug little sadistic look off your face. In 30mins you'll be hearing from your boss. At that point you'll not be so happy." I go to my room and call the number I had memorised (not a difficult number!) and I WAKE him up. He is a little groggy but I have no forgiveness and I proceed to inform him what has happened. It takes 10minutes for him to wake fully and realize I was not going to go away anytime soon. And I have this horrible habit I have learned in life of asking them questions about information I have given them so it sticks in their minds. I never did get the promised call from their boss with an apology. Nor do I care to be honest. But my wife did go down and sign with little to no words from the girls on the desk. This series of incidents almost ruined our holiday. But I am sure it's not a common thing, but you should be wary. Gratuity and that $4 bottle of water 18% is more than the tax of England or Spain for VAT. Its extortionate, and frankly greedy. By all means bump the price of the cruise up and by €300 and remove it and give bottled water free. My daughter does not drink cola or lemonade or anything other than pineapple/ apple juice or water. Yet for quality water that didn't taste like someone poured drops of vinegar in it, we were forced to pay a ridiculous amount for water.Don't be so greedy or just add it on to the initial ticket price so you don't annoy so many of your customers. Yes every person I spoke to onboard mentioned it. Shame on yourselves NCL. The endless hawking and money grabbing My wife spent a grand total of just under $1,000 US dollars on cosmetics and facials etc on board. She would have spent that regardless so was it really necessary for NCL staff to badger her while she was supposedly "relaxing" with getting her to buy yet another product and offending her by trying to sell her BOTOX! There should be a strict rule unless asked or part of a consultation you should not recommend anything which is not relevant. This issue was corrected on the second visit by my wife simply telling the staff to stop but for a cruise line that is aimed at upper middle class of passengers. It's simply embarrassing. $4 dollars for a can of beer. I can understand not wanting drunken behavior but that's going to far. Enough said people now know the price and can judge that themselves. We ate at a restaurant each night. And each night we asked "what is the house wine". NCL waiters neither knew nor cared. The staff is by enlarge totally untrained and lacking any sort of "customer care" training. My mother in law I know can be annoying but for a shop assistant to blatantly ignore her attempts to buy perfume as it was far too much effort to do something. Says a lot about the shop staff and this was 9pm on the Saturday before we were due to disembark the following day. I did not mind the lottery ticket sales before the shows. Nor do I mind the gambling in weird places. But I did mind the lack of enforcement onboard about smoking in bad places. Like near the kids section. They need to clean their act up. TV For families with kids believe it or not it helps to have something like Cartoons available in the morning while the parents take showers etc. How this over sight of lack of children's programming occurred I'm not sure. But it really needs to be corrected. The films were extortionately priced often more expensive than buying the DVD in the highstreet! Staff to Crew ratio Simply put NCL needs more staff. You can never find waiters when you want to order a drink. Out of 30 mojito's I ordered for my wife and myself TWO arrived. Thankfully the other drinks were never charged to our account. But the waiter service anywhere outside of the Cagneys restaurant was down right awful. Conclusion: I hated the staff by enlarge. They were talentless in their profession and to be frank had no customer service knowledge at all. The "officers" put on a show but the words were hollow and everything was timed... however badly. I'm referring here to the cruisecritics meeting with them. Would I do it again? You'll be surprised to hear "Yes. Definitely". Let me explain. My wife and I actually got to enjoy ourselves, even off the boat and we knew our daughter was loving every second of her holiday. The kids club is the sole redeeming aspect of this ship. It is highly talented and makes the holiday a reality. We did all the excursions ourselves as it was all in Europe and it's not exactly rocket science organizing a cab from A to B with a guide included for half the price of what the ship was often charging. I feel NCL have done themselves a huge injustice here. They could be so much better than they are and it would make them even more money. People don't mind the prices being marginally higher if they see they are gaining in something else. They however do hate to be robbed after they have paid for their tickets. Raise the ticket prices by 300€ and provide unlimited water or at least a set quantity of bottles of water per day free in the minibar. A last note: I have no idea which bright spark thought of the "cool" annoying/flashing/ultra colourful clips for the main big screen in reception.., but please fire him. The only design fault on a beautiful ship I found. If NCL wish to address any of this to me personally they can reach me on kabben@msn.com and im happy to talk to them. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We were 13 people (from the US and England) on our second family cruise. We spent four fabulous days in Barcelona touring and exploring on our own. Our accommodations at the Villa Emilia in Barcelona were terrific and the staff there went ... Read More
We were 13 people (from the US and England) on our second family cruise. We spent four fabulous days in Barcelona touring and exploring on our own. Our accommodations at the Villa Emilia in Barcelona were terrific and the staff there went out of their way to ensure us a good time. Our group was so excited to board the Norwegian Gem and travel the great itinerary through Italy and onto Villefranche. I planned this trip in September and our wonderful travel agent booked it. We had 1 penthouse suite, 1 mini suite (my hubby and I) and 4 outside balcony cabins. The accommodations were lovely and the food good but that is where it stops. Let's just say the service was lousy and the staff that we encountered fairly incompetent. First and very importantly, NCL does not receive closed captioning on the Gem (didn't bode well with the 2 cabins that have hearing impaired people). Our TV set worked for a total of 1 1/2 days. Now I know TV is not an important component, however, when you are in your stateroom and have 1/2 hour or so of downtime it is a good thing!!! We had "technicians" in our cabin on 2 different nights at 11:15pm. Since we were getting up to enjoy the wonderful ports we were really not happy about these "late night" intrusions. Out of the six cabins booked my husband and I paid for three. The other two did not have TV for 3 days. Our cousins in the penthouse suite did have TV but never had sunlight on their balcony due to the overhang. Their concierge took them to a "private" deck area and ensured them they would have a key for this area so they could enjoy the sunshine. Our cousins were pleased with this compromise until they never received a key and every time they wanted to sit in the sun they had to call the concierge who in turn would have to call someone else to let them onto this "private" deck area. We did eat in one of the two main dining rooms, the Magenta Room as the other, the Grand Pacific had a stringent dress code. We didn't have the necessary "dress up clothes" as all the information sent prior said it's "freestyle" with no worries!! There are several restaurants that charge per person on board. The first night was buy one get one free so we dined at Cagney's. It was very good. We were 4 non-meat eaters in the group and the food was perfect. The next night we dined at Teppanyaki at a cost of $25 per person. The food, prepared at the table, was very good. However, we were asked to move to the main part of the Asian restaurant for dessert so they could sit another group. There was no set up for 13 people in this part so it was confusing and to be frank rather rude to uproot us for dessert especially since we were paying $25 per person. That was it for our group. We decided our "freestyle" from that point on would be what was include!!! The food in the Magenta Room was quite good as was the service. As far as the spa goes, the manager at the spa was quite unfriendly but at least those of us that used the facilities managed to put that out of our minds. Our cousins paid for use of the spa for the week and even they were wondering why there was an air of unpleasantness. There were empty wine glasses around the spa area that were not picked up, so they had to be careful of where they stepped. The entertainment was about what you expect on a cruise ship. The magician was very good. The musicals that we saw were ok. Other activities our group didn’t partake in as we were enjoying our reunion with each other. Embarkation was a breeze. In fact it was the easiest embarkation we had ever encountered. Disembarking just had us shaking our heads. We paid for transfers ahead of time (in doing so you do not receive paper vouchers) and the staff had a hard time figuring us out since we didn't have paper vouchers. Finally I said check your passenger list and there we all were!!! My advice is to check into cab fare off the ship. NCL did not help at all with our luggage during disembarking including putting it on the bus!!! They also drop you off at one location at the airport and it is a good 10-15 minute walk to the other end of the next terminal if you are British Airways (and with heavy luggage that is unpleasant). One interesting sidebar: I filled out a comment card mid cruise and wrote about the nice ship and good food. Then I went on to ask that a supervisor contact me due and if a supervisor did not call then I would know that the comment card NCL requested we fill out was never read. GUESS WHAT? No one called!!!! Oh I could go on and on but in the end the ports on this cruise were fantastic and to be fair to NCL their excursions were good. We did our own thing in Malta which worked out perfect. We booked the Sorrento/Pompeii excursion with NCL that included a lunch stop at a working farm. It was a wonderful tour. Rome we booked a private guide, as NCL did not offer all the spots we wanted to see. It was wonderful as well and allowed us to pack everything we wanted to see in Rome in one day. We booked an NCL excursion for Florence and Pisa that included lunch. This was also a wonderful tour. We did our own thing in Villefranche (took a short train to Monaco) and had a great time. I wouldn’t hesitate to book tours through NCL and their pricing is fair. Would I recommend NCL to my friends- probably not? It truly spoils a vacation when too much time is spent trying to rectify situations on board the ship with people that either don't understand you or really don't care- but hey the Captain did a great job!!! We do cruise a fair amount and never had these personnel issues before. Anyway happy sailing to whatever ports you travel............................. Read Less
Sail Date June 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 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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