8 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews

This was the first cruise that my boyfriend and I have been on. Guess you could say that we didn't really have a benchmark to compare our experience to, but we certainly do now. And the benchmark is set LOW. I wouldn't say that ... Read More
This was the first cruise that my boyfriend and I have been on. Guess you could say that we didn't really have a benchmark to compare our experience to, but we certainly do now. And the benchmark is set LOW. I wouldn't say that it was completely unpleasant as the ports were beautiful, but the feeling we take away from the the experience was that we're constantly having to'watch our backs'. Because if we're not careful, we will fall for one of NCL's hard selling traps and be slapped with extra charges. But before I get to that, here are some general highlights: Room: We stayed at a Penthouse suite at the bow of ship. It was smaller than I expected, and the decor was really gaudy. For example, our carpet was bright green with red butterflies, quite distracting really. I expected tacky, but this was pretty bad. We embarked early, and caught a glimpse of the Owner's suite next to ours, and immediately tried to pay for an upgrade, but apparently, others had the same idea, as we were put on a long waitlist (that is, if the original people don't show up.. small chance, but worth a try!) Anyway, we felt our room paled in comparison, maybe we shouldn't have been so nosy! Now I see that the extra money would've been worth it. So if you plan on booking the penthouse, maybe consider Owner's if it fits your budget. Gorgeous suite, with bathroom size probably 3-4 times bigger than ours. By the way, our suite is on deck 9, 2 decks above the Stardust theatre. So it gets noisy when shows are going on. Fortunately, the shows don't go on for too long. The bed was large and really comfortable, but maybe alittle too soft because our backs were sore by the third or fourth night. We noticed that smaller cabins also had beds of the same size, so at least they ensure that you get a good night's rest regardless of the size of your room. Best part of room was the HUGE balcony, which we made good use of when we arrived and departed from the ports. Another two extras that I liked about our suite are the Lavazza espresso machine, and Elemis toilettries (very large bottles). Also, we had a bowl of fresh fruits and different canapes waiting for us every day after our shore excursion (Eg. cheese, chocolate dipped strawberries). Our butler was very helpful, and we could always find him (fast dial to his mobile!) We were invited to two exclusive cocktail parties for "VIP guests", where we got drinks on the Captain. That was nice. Believe me, all the guests took advantage of the open bar! Food: We had breakfast on our balcony most mornings catching the sunrise as we arrived at the ports. Beautiful! Pretty much could order any breakfast item we wanted, even if it wasn't on the room service menu provided. I'd say food in general was pretty average. Our favorite restaurant was Le Bistro (French), we had dinner there twice. Grand Pacific twice, which surprisingly was good. I like the fact that they give small portions, so that you can have room for the wide selection of appetizers and desserts ( these change daily, so variety is good.) Cagney's is free of cover charge for breakfast and lunch because we stayed in the Penthouse suite. Food was average, but since we like to dine in a more quiet setting, this was a better choice for us than the main dining halls. Stay away from the Sushi Bar! We are from Asia, and may be spoiled with top notch Japanese food, but honestly, this was the worst sushi we've ever had. The raw fish was not fresh at all. We only ordered one plate of sushi, and couldn't even finish half. Not worth the cover charge. Public Area: The Tahitian pool area was way too crowded/noisy. They seem to alway have a band playing there, which I guess is to create a more festive atmosphere, but we found it to be alittle annoying (and cheesy! But I guess that's just personal taste.) We ended up paying about USD 160 for a couple's pass to the spa area where there is a private jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, etc. We only used it twice, but since they only have 80 passes, it ensures that the area doesn't get overcrowded. Shows: Only one we enjoyed was The Second City, a comedy/improv show. Quite funny. The rest was pretty cheesy and boring. My boyfriend wanted to highlight some things that particularly bothered him: Firstly, you really have to have your guards up when it comes to their hard selling. Even though I've read about it beforehand, I have to admit that we still fell for it a couple times. They got their sales pitches down pat. For example, after the massage treatment (deep tissue was great, but didn't like Swedish massage as it was too light), they recommended some massage oils/gels, which we ended up purchasing. Also, we bought the wine package where you choose 6 bottles, and get 20% off. However, the price came out to be way more than we expected, and we didn't catch this charge on our bill until after we disembarked, so I'll need to follow up. We are positive that it shouldn't be so much, given the 20% discount. Sadly, I get the feeling that this won't be resolved. Secondly, be careful with the costly NCL shore excursions. They tend to try scaring the unsuspecting cruisers into thinking that local tour guides are highly unreliable and inefficient. Not true. Again, do your research and meet with others in the roll call thread. We met really friendly people, and definitely recommend it. Not to mention, we saved a lot of $$$!! I understand that NCL is charging more for the convenience, but they are charging 3-5 times more than local prices! The only port I'd recommend for a shore excursion with NCL is Cannes, France because I was told that people booked with NCL excursions get priority with the tenders that take you to shore. Since you only get half a day there, it would be worth the money if you want to make best use of time. We took the tour "Monaco and Eze". However, be warned, NCL obviously don't screen for quality of tour operators because our tour guide, Celine, was NOT informative at all, and quite lazy. She basically took us to the destination, told us to meet back at a certain time, and that was it! Our concierge was completely useless, he isn't helpful at all. We were planning on exploring Florence on our own, but last minute (night before we arrived) we inquired on an NCL shore excursion, in particular, one that included a lunch at a 5 star hotel. However, we were told that it was too late to book with them. That's fine with us, but we wanted to know what was the name of the restaurant, so that we may go ourselves. Our concierge bluntly said that he can't tell us the name, that it was for the NCL tour group. I guess I'm not aware that NCL owns this private restaurant and has made it exclusive to a set group of people. Are they afraid that the others will realize that they are paying 2-3 times more for the exact same meal? Whatever the policy is for the concierge, he was just NOT helpful at all in providing any suggestions for activities at ports of call, instead he is focused on hard selling NCL excursions. All in all, my boyfriend and I wanted a more romantic, luxurious, European experience. And having to be constantly conscious of all the "nickel and diming" was just tiring. So, NCL Gem was not really our thing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We just came back from our Mediterranean Cruise. We sailed on September 6th on the Gem. I will separate the review into two sections, the ship experience and the ports. First the ship experience. It is a fairly new ship with a small atrium ... Read More
We just came back from our Mediterranean Cruise. We sailed on September 6th on the Gem. I will separate the review into two sections, the ship experience and the ports. First the ship experience. It is a fairly new ship with a small atrium and chopped up little public areas. We thought we had booked a date after children had gone back to school but in Europe children go back to school the 3rd week of September so the cruise was filled with families with children. This made getting any where near the pool impossible. NCL has a policy against saving chairs around the pool but they don't enforce it so the entire trip I was never able to get a seat near the pool. I had to spend the money to get a spa pass so i could use the hydro theray pool in the spa. it was a nice quiet space that didn't allow children and had plenty of seating. the spa pass cost $99 for the entire cruise or $169 for a couple. I resent spending this money just so i could have a quiet space but it was necessary. the hydro pool was wonderful after a long day of sightseeing in the ports. NCL advertises freestyle cruising but it comes at a cost. You have to pay an upcharge at most of the restaurants and then on top of that they charge extra for some of the best dishes in those restaurants. On this cruise we tried La Cucina on the first night. The service was a mess and the food was ok. On the last night we went to Cagneys and the service was much better and the food was very good. This is the most expensive restaurant on the ship but worth the up charge. My only quibble with Cagneys is the seating. The chairs are the most uncomfortable chairs for extended dinning. When you first sit down you will notice most of the diners are sitting forward on their chairs. after a while you will know why. (yes I know that it is a small thing but did anyone from NCL sit on those chairs before they purchased them?). The main dinning room, Grand Pacific was very nice but it was often crowded at later times in the evening. They have a beeper system so you can wander around the ship while you wait. The only problem is that most people wait around the entrance to the restaurant and spill over into the bars around both dinning rooms making the whole area impassable. Magenta is the smaller dinning room and it seemed to be overly popular and often had crowds even though it served the same food as the main dinning room. The buffet area is too small for a ship this size. There are too many people trying to eat in this small space that they have packed with way too many tables so it is next to impossible to squeeze through the space. They really need double the space. The one great find is the Blue Lagoon. It is the 24 hour restaurant on the ship and it usually wasn't crowded and it had great fish and chips (and mushy peas). Our stateroom was a mini suite with a balcony. The room was compact with too much furniture ( a recurring theme on this ship) so it was hard to walk around. the closet space was good but the one of the beds was in front of the doors so it was hard to get in and out of the closet. the bathroom was nice and spacious. The balcony was nice but it could have used a couple of lounge chairs so we could utilise it mor. It only had 2 small chairs so it was not conducive for laying there and reading a book. overall though the room was fairly nice. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and efficient. The lines moved quickly but beware that they do let you on the ship before 2:00pm but the rooms aren't ready until then so if you carry your luggage on you will have to lug it around with you. Of course everyone congregates in the buffet area so it is a madhouse. Another issue that I had with the cruise is the constant "upselling" that they do. Every where you go they try and sell you something. It gets very annoying after awhile. An example, I would order a glass of wine and they always tried to sell you the bottle instead. NCL really needs to lighten up on the hard sell. The ports are great. Don't listen to all of the scare tactics that NCL tries to do so that you buy their overpriced tours. We connected with people on the message boards and rearranged our own tours. We used miles and miles in Italy and had a great experience. In Malta you can get off the ship and walk to the town but it is a steep climb up. There is a tour bus usually waiting at port and it cost 12 euros or we took a 2 hour tour with a taxi (there are many waiting at the port) for 50 Euros and it was great. It was just the 2 of us and the driver took us all around the island. Malta is beautiful and worth exploring. The average price of an NCL tour was around $100 each, definitely not worth the price. As I said in Italy we used Miles and Miles. In Naples it is a must to see Pompeii. We also did the Amalfi Coast which is so beautiful. The Naples for 16 of us was 57 Euros each which was much less than NCL and personalized to what we wanted to see. In Rome we took a tour to the Etruscan tombs and the town of Tarquinia. This was a great alternative to going into Rome since we had already been to Rome. In Florence there is so much to see. Our tour was 80 Euros each and we spent the entire day exploring Florence, Lucca and Pisa. One day is definitely not enough time. In Cannes we didn't do a tour because by this time we were so exhausted from all of the other tours. At this port you have to tender. Wait until all of the crowds go ashore so that the tender lines have subsided. we just walked around Cannes. It is pretty but nothing special. Many peole go to Nice and Monte Carlo (but the tours usually get you there so early that nothing is open in Monte Carlo at that time). Overall, I would say that the ports are wonderful but I am not sure I would choose NCL again. I have been on NCL many times before but this time the ship felt way too crowded. The push to sell you at every turn was so intense. The pool was unusable because of the crowds. I found I spent my time on ship trying to find an uncrowded and quiet space. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My husband and I cruised on the NCL Gem from September 6, 2009 to September 13, 2009- Barcelona to Barcelona. I'd like to write about how much we loved the cruise, but what we believe must be corporate policy ruined it for us. All ... Read More
My husband and I cruised on the NCL Gem from September 6, 2009 to September 13, 2009- Barcelona to Barcelona. I'd like to write about how much we loved the cruise, but what we believe must be corporate policy ruined it for us. All of the crew members were delightful. From the cabin stewards to the wait staff, everyone was friendly and helpful. The food was very tasty. We have no complaint with anything about the food. We only went to one show [Colorz] and it was excellent. What ruined things for us was the extra charges on things which we believe must be corporate policy trying to increase revenues. Would you like fresh-squeezed juice for breakfast in the Garden Cafe? $4.00 extra. If you're excited about eating at Cagney's Steakhouse for an extra $25.00, you can have the really special items for an additional $10.00. The French restaurant was only $15.00 extra per person, but the really special items were $10.00 more. After that, we gave up on the special restaurants. We chose to eat in the Grand Pacific most evenings. When we arrived at the front desk, we were immediately seated. But when we left about 8:15, there was a standing line of people about 20+ strong waiting to get in. They were given beepers. What's free-style about waiting in line? All through the meal was a girl hawking purchase of a flower bouquet for your 'sweet heart'. The one time we tried to eat in the Magenta Dining [about7:15] we were told by the hostess that we'd have to share a table with another. When we docked at Civitavecchia the port provided a free shuttle service for cruise passengers to the front of the port. We've never been to Livorno, so it may be the system for all cruise ships, but in Livorno NCL passengers had to pay 5 euros to leave the port. The most amusing 'sale' was toward the end of the cruise when the Spa offered a 20% off sale [however at the bottom of the sign they wrote an additional service charge of 18% will be added]. We have sailed on Celebrity, Princess and HAL, but have never run into this kind of thing. I'm all in favor of profit, but we would so much rather pay a little more for the cruise than to have so many extra charges. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Based on other reviews of this NCL ship, My wife and I thought we had made a good choice for this years holiday.How wrong can you be?Sunday 12th July 2009, Embarkation in Barcelona, - We were picked up at our hotel and dropped off around ... Read More
Based on other reviews of this NCL ship, My wife and I thought we had made a good choice for this years holiday.How wrong can you be?Sunday 12th July 2009, Embarkation in Barcelona, - We were picked up at our hotel and dropped off around noon. Completed the details and told we would get our passports back on Wednesday, with no explaination as to why. Got on board to be told the cabins would be ready after 2pm, left to find the cabin ourself, with the aid of the ship map. Shortly after we are handed a drink in a goldfish shaped bowl, however we were not told that they cost $10 each and the glass is a souvineer. I complained about this the following day and the cost was eventually removed.  In General       Cabins - Cleanliness in the cabin was not great. A layer of dust was on most surfaces (high shelves, table base, lights) but not the table or dresser unit. Well stocked mini bar ($7 for a minature of whiskey etc). Bed was comfortable.     Bar drinks wine / whiskey start at $5-95 plus 15% tip, however there is room on the tab for you to increase the tip if you like. Best bar for peace and quite (unless kids are going by) the Malting Bar.     Food - There may be 13 dining options but only 4 are included in the price, the others charge $15 - $25 per head. The Cafe Garden is self service. You have to get a table first the go for your food one at a time or you could end up eating off you plate as you search for a seat. The Grand Pacific has nothing grand about it, the staff are poor - mixing up orders, food in most cases not just cold but chilled, wine list is expensive for poor quality wine ($28 +15% for a bottle you might buy for £3.99 at the supermarket). Restaurants have short opening times so breakfast tended to be in the Cafe Garden.We tried the Sushi bar one night ($30) but instructions as to how to order would have been helpful. When you order a small roll, you get eight pieces of the same thing.     Pool side - NOISE and hard to find a lounger without towels (they are supposed to be removed by staff after 30 minutes. No they are not.    Excursions - examples Rome transfer $199 / Florence & Pisa (with lunch) $239 / PISA $87 - we took the local excursion 15 euros each. A couple told us the train was 4.40 return .    Two deck high video wall - WI fit played occasionally (good laugh watching some of the kids) mainly NCL advert screens. Beware you will be charged for coffee at the JAVA Cafe.   BING BONG - this could drive you mad. on some occasions this went off three or four times on the trot to tell us about bingo in 10mins, Art auction in 15mins, then five minutes later the same again to tell us the bingo would be in 5mins.    STAFF - to get served you have to approach the staff, though not in the Maltings Bar.     Casino - Opens 30mins after sailing. Table rate starts at $5 on one table and upwards at the others. Very few people played the tables. If the made the minimum bet $1 or 50c more people would play and NCL would not be out of pocket, staffing tables that no one wants to play.    Ship tips - you are expected to pay $12 per head (also for children over 3) on top of the £100 per day cruise charge. After the week we had, I complained about this and completed a sheet listing may complaints and got the charges removed.Final thoughts - NOISE, 2700 passengers approx. and around 1000 of them kids. Cold food . Over priced drink and excursions.Would I recommend NCL, what do you think. I could not agree more with David Boyes, who reviewed the Norwegian JADE. I will not be using NCL again.    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
We sailed on the Gem out of Barcelona to the western Mediterranean on 5 October 2008. It was my third cruise and my husbands second. We are 40 years old (but it's the new 30). We had a balcony room. We are very well traveled so did ... Read More
We sailed on the Gem out of Barcelona to the western Mediterranean on 5 October 2008. It was my third cruise and my husbands second. We are 40 years old (but it's the new 30). We had a balcony room. We are very well traveled so did not do any ship excursions. I would not cruise with NCL again, here's why. I was largely unimpressed with the onboard staff. They were neither warm, friendly, helpful or spoke english very well. They were mostly indifferent. Aside from our room steward, Bernard, the service was terrible. The reception desk was rude and snotty. I dreaded everytime I had to ask anything of them. I asked about a schedule for the hydrofoil from Naples to Sorrento, no help. I had asked if there was a hop-on-hop type of tour in Florence and they knew nothing (there is, but I really wouldn't recommend it for the money and the short time in port, the city center is pretty easy to navigate). But come on, they have been going there four times a month for six months now. How can you not have basic knowledge? We went to the internet center and found the answer in about 20 seconds (but paid $3.95 to log on plus 75 cents a minute to find out). Their main focus is sell you an excursion. Do your research before you go as they are no help whatsoever. We were drinking the $26 pitchers of Sangria that is served in a glass poolside without a pouring spout. With all the fruit and ice it was almost impossible to pour into a glass without spilling all over. We asked a server to pour it and you would have thought I asked him to drink poison. I must have been wearing my invisible suit all week as it was quite difficult to get the attention to any of the bartenders on duty. Speaking on on-duty. The on-duty stuff gets far better service than the guests. While at the fitness center one afternoon I had to fight to use the equipment in the weight room as three staff members were doing their weight training. My husband could not get in the weight room at all. We entered the sushi bar on night, there was no one seated at the bar but were told to wait so the hostess could attend to uninformed crew. This is one of the cover charge restaurants. I was never offered green tea. My husband had to ask twice to have his water glass refilled and it still went empty until dessert came. We had a flag down the waitress twice. There was only my husband and I and one other couple there our entire visit. The fine dining restaurant was my favorite. The food was decent but nothing to write home about. None of the desserts at any of the restaurants were exciting or even very tasty. It made it easy as they were not really worth the calories. It was a bummer though as I am a big desert eater. it's a bit odd to be in formal wear and the waiters are wearing T-shirts. I used the ladies toilet and observed a waitress come out of the stall without washing her hands. Another cruisers husband observed the same thing. We ate at Cagney's for steak one night. I made a request for a half order on one of the starters. They could not do this. It was the giant prawns, just take two of them off how hard can it be? They are hanging off the side of the serving dish. I ordered the surf and turf. It was another $10 on top of the $25 to eat there. It was dry and had no flavor at all. I am still angry at myself that I did not ask to have it removed from my bill. I am not a fussy diner but I felt ripped off. You'll enjoy the ports and with research and bravery you can tour DIY and not pay for the excursions. We did hire a driver for Rome. This was well worth the expense and we saw far more than those that toured with NCL. The ship is beautiful, the ports were great but the service was just too disappointing to give NCL another try. The food was just okay, and the buffet was a miserable experience trying to find seating. More restaurants on-board charged a cover charge than not and they just weren't worth the extra fees. You are charged an auto gratuity on everything you purchase plus the $10 a day. I am a great tipper. I just found nothing worth tipping aside from our room steward. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
My husband and I had never sailed on NCL before, so we were quite excited to try "Freestyle". Simply put, NCL lets you dine wherever, whenever and with whomever you wish. Sounds great, right? For this privilege, you give up ... Read More
My husband and I had never sailed on NCL before, so we were quite excited to try "Freestyle". Simply put, NCL lets you dine wherever, whenever and with whomever you wish. Sounds great, right? For this privilege, you give up quality and quantity of food in the main dining rooms. Our dinner meals were poor to inedible in both Magenta and Grand Pacific main dining rooms. Because of the poor food, you feel you are forced to make reservations in their specialty restaurants for an extra up charge of $15-20 per person. We ate at Cagney's, Tequila, and Le Bistro. Even within Cagney's Steakhouse, you are charged an extra $10 per person for ordering the Surf 'n Turf dinner. Cagney's was a big disappointment. The filet mignon was a perfectly round, vacuumed- packed piece of tasteless meat, and the lobster was sub-par; overcooked and chewy. Tequila restaurant was quite good. The lobster tacos were great, along with the tequitos and salsa with chips we had as appetizers. The margaritas were perfect! Le Bistro was probably the best specialty restaurant we went to. Again, I tried the filet, and this time was presented with a great cut of beef done to my specifications. Service was fair to poor, probably due to the fact that you pre-pay service charges of $10/pp per day. Our room steward was personally tipped 20 euros the first day of our cruise to assure us of ice in our staterooms every afternoon. We finally received the ice on the 5th day of our cruise without chasing him down like we did the previous 4 days. Apparently it is customary that on the night before disembarkation, the room steward will remove one set of towels and the robes from your stateroom. My husband and I did not appreciate having to share a bath towel in the morning. A big negative for NCL! The stateroom was excellent. We had a balcony room with more than adequate space for clothing, personal items in the bathroom and odds and ends on the small desk and tables. The overall ship is well maintained and public areas are clean. The excursions we went on were very good. Although a bit pricey, they were well thought out, excellent guides, and overall a great value. We had 10 in our group and signed up for different excursions in each port. All of us had positive experiences with our individual tours. In summary, I will probably not cruise NCL again. In my opinion, the food and service were fair to poor. I would rather have an assigned eating time with better quality of food and tip my waiters and stewards at the end of the cruise, like I have always done before. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We booked out NCL Gem cruise to the Western Med online. At one time NCL was my favorite cruise line and I did my first 5 cruises with them, since they started the Freestyle cruising I do not care for them any more. In spite of that I ... Read More
We booked out NCL Gem cruise to the Western Med online. At one time NCL was my favorite cruise line and I did my first 5 cruises with them, since they started the Freestyle cruising I do not care for them any more. In spite of that I booked this cruise because of the good price and the itinerary which included Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar. I could not find another line with this combination of port stops. We booked our own air and flew to Barcelona a day early; stayed at a nice hotel, the Barcelona Princess, which is just a few block from the sea shore and also next door to a shopping mall with plenty of restaurants. I do recommend the hotel ($155. Euro per night). We took a taxi to the port around noon and check in went smoothly and quickly. We saw after check in that there were special windows for Latitudes members but we didn't need them. We were informed verbally and in writing after we checked in that one of the port stops, Casablanca, Morocco, had been canceled due to safety concerns. Many passengers were upset about this and especially since they had not been informed via email or otherwise before getting to the ship. Overall I would rate this ship about a 5 on a 10 point scale. Other than being nice due to its newness (we were on its third voyage) it does not have any special features that stand out. Its one unique feature is the bowling alley but as a serious bowling I declined to pay the $5.00 per game to bowl. In my opinion the ship is not decorated very well. It has a lot of dark wood grain wall panels and not much in the way of good decor to complement the dark wood. Consequently, many areas of the ship are very dark. The ship has a Promenade Deck that allows you to walk all the way around the ship. But the walls of the rooms on deck 7 have been extended out a couple feet and that, along with equipment, the deck lounger chairs, and two shuffle board places on each side of the ship, restricts the ability to enjoy walking on the Promenade deck. There was no passenger access to the bow of the ship. The main dining hall is single story and accessible by a stairway between decks 6 and 7. It is also rather dark although it has picture windows looking out the back of the ship. The ship has a nice roomy casino with table games and a variety of slots, including a good selection of penny and multi-denominational slots. The main showroom is also dark and is not of a very good design. It can be accessed from deck 6 or 7 but if you enter on deck 6 you find yourself halfway toward the front of the room. Navigation in the room is not good at all because you have to cross over other passengers to access seats other than those on the two isles. Access would be better if there were isles along the walls. The ship's gym was adequate with about a dozen each treadmills, and stepper/elliptical, plus some weight machines. I did not tour or use the spa facilities. The pool deck has two pools that are about 20 ft by 40 ft. They are separated by a stage for the band. One pool is for adults only and there are 4 hot tubs which will accommodate about 8 people each. The couple times that I used these the water was not very hot. There is a kids water play area and a water slide. The pool deck has some nice thick padded lounge chairs and different type sitting/lounging areas. But space was limited; there is no covered pool or hot tub. There is a game room and library and these were quite often full. The ships atrium is not much of an atrium as far as I am concerned. It is mid ship and two story with the purser's desk, tour's desk and a very small Internet cafe on deck 7 and on the second level reached by stairs as well as elevator, two of the free specialty restaurants. The ceiling and furniture in the atrium could stand a make over; not very pretty or stylish. The ship has several shops with the usual fare. BUT, what was conspicuously missing was any souvenirs at all from any of the countries we made ports stops in. Instead there was "stuff" that looked like it was from Holland (windmills, shoes, etc.) but not a single item from Spain, Portugal or Morocco. The ship has a very nice lounge called the Spinnaker which is on the front of the ship on deck 13. Its nice and also has some very unusual decor and furniture. It has a couple TV screens, an automated Roulette table for gambling, a couple dart boards, a pool table, and a table top shuffle board game. These latter two you must pay to use; do not know how much. Our balcony cabin was nice but not as nice as others I have had. It had a nice bed, a rather small 15 inch HD TV, plenty of closet space, lots of shelf space, but only 3 drawer. It has a fee basis mini bar and a safe. It also had some furniture that I do not think needed to be there, i.e., a stool, a straight chair, and a pedestal table that all seemed to be out of place. The TV had more channels devoted to things on ship, like tours, activities, the art sale, etc., than it did usable channels for viewing. It had one English language movie channel and two others that were Spanish and German/French. The TV program guide advertised CNN but all we got was FOX news and BBC World. The TV had ESPN but all it ever had on it both in our cabin or anywhere else we saw it on ship was soccer or tennis. There were TV screens at various places on ship but no real sports bar. As I said up front we booked this cruise knowing we did not care for freestyle cruising and nothing on this cruise changed our minds. My plan was to just book a standing 6:00PM reservation for the main dining hall each day. But we found that they would only accept reservations for 2 days at a time. So every other day we had to remember to make a reservation. Those who did not reserve were often left standing in line awaiting a table or to be seating (the line was usually about 10 couple deep). At some point each evening they went to issuing buzzers for those waiting a table. Service in the main dining room the first day was terrible; took an hour and a half. After that the service was OK. The meals were OK, nice food but nothing I wanted to order seconds of. The lobster night turned out to be half a lobster tail along with a couple shrimp, scallops and muscles. There was a prime rib night but not a fillet mignons night. There were no special deserts either and most were passe and the same as what was available in the leisure meal buffet area, the Garden Cafe. The Garden Cafe was the buffet meals place and you always had to hunt for a seat there. It was always crowded and on a couple occasions I reported to the staff that they needed to do something about the flies that were buzzing around in the window wells. I had several things happened that sealed my/our never going on another NCL cruise. First, on the first day of the cruise we never saw our cabin steward until about 9:30 PM when we were headed in for bed. Before that she never came around to introduce herself. On several occasions after she came in she did not remove dirty dishes and glasses from the room and her cleaning schedule was more suited to her than to us. We would go out for 3 hours and when we returned she had not cleaned or made up the room. On the first formal, or as they call it "dress up if you want" night, we went to the atrium to have photo taken. We wanted just one on the atrium stairs. The photographer refused to take the picture unless we also took three other shots in front of painted canvasses. In addition, when we went to look at our boarding picture we found that all of the photos in the gallery were locked under glass and you had to have the attendant unlock the cabinet to retrieve them. This was not like I have ever had it on any other ship. On the day of one of our port stops I went to the purser's desk to get a $50 Euro bill changed; all I wanted was 2 twenties and a ten. The purser refused, saying that he didn't have that much change. Then as I stood there the next person in line behind me asked to BUY $200 worth of Euros and the purser then had plenty of change for that. Seems that he wanted to save all of his Euros for people buying money. A few days later I learned from another passenger that she had the same problem with the purser refusing to change a $50 Euro bill. Three tours that we took from the ship were really good and I do recommend them. One was called Fire Mountain and Camel Ride on Lanzarotte. The second good tour was the Horse Show and Fantasia in Agadir. And the third was the Gibraltar In Depth in Gibraltar. The other tours that we took were nice and informative but kinda passe. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
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

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