4 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews

The ship is great with good food, in sumptuous surroundings, with great facilities and activities. The drawback is that there is a hard sell culture for everything, even from the waiters. The ship's crew are all smiles and happiness ... Read More
The ship is great with good food, in sumptuous surroundings, with great facilities and activities. The drawback is that there is a hard sell culture for everything, even from the waiters. The ship's crew are all smiles and happiness if you buy but if you don't, their faces drop and they start treating you like second class citizens. My wife and I are both teetotal and only ever drink water with our meals. We thought this would be fine but it wasn't. The food is included in the price of your booking but you have to pay for all your drinks apart from water. The first time we dined, the waitress came to take our orders but when we asked for water with our food, her face dropped and she looked very aggrieved. She returned with bottles of water which are $6 dollars each so I told her that we just wanted a jug of water which is free. From then on her face looked like thunder when she served us. She ignored us when we tried to get her attention, it seemed that she deliberately took the longest time possible to serve us and with other tables that were buying wine and suchlike, she was all sweetness and light. This was our experience with virtually all the waiters during every mealtime. On the first day when I went out on deck and sat on a lounger, a waiter approached me jovially and asked if I would like something to drink. When I asked for a regular glass of water he pretended not to hear me and just walked away. My wife was shocked and the next time he walked passed us she asked him for two glasses of water. He rolled his eyes in disgust and muttered "Oh my God" before walking away and returning with just one glass of water. It seems that it is the ship's policy to treat you so badly if you don't spend money that you feel obliged to eventually buy from them, however with me it had the opposite effect. It made me determined to dig my heels in and spend as little money with them as possible...I refuse to be bullied into spending money with them. On top of the constant barrage of hard selling techniques for their various products, activities, tours and excursions, etc, we were billed $12 per person per day for service charges. This extra was not mentioned in any of the literature when booking and considering the service that we got, I did begrudge paying it. It is such a shame that they have this culture on board because everything else about the cruise was great but to be honest this ruined the whole experience for me. I could not relax on board because I was made to feel like a second class citizen. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Let me start by saying that we both work in the hotel industry and I have dealt with my fair share of unhappy guests and complaints. Because of this, I have never once complained anywhere I have been as I realize that no one is perfect and ... Read More
Let me start by saying that we both work in the hotel industry and I have dealt with my fair share of unhappy guests and complaints. Because of this, I have never once complained anywhere I have been as I realize that no one is perfect and mistakes happen. This will be the first poor review that I have ever written, but I feel that anyone who is thinking of cruising with NCL needs to hear our experience. This was our 5th cruise, first time with NCL and our last. We booked directly through their website and were excited about all the different dining options offered in conjunction with the "freestyle cruising" they advertise so heavily. Eat whenever, however and whatever you want! This is true if you want to pay anywhere from $10 to $25 per person to do so. They had 2 main dining rooms, your standard all-day-everyday buffet and 6 specialty restaurants (all with a cover charge). But, oh by the way, one of the main dining rooms has a dress code so they won't let you in if you have jeans on, even if they are paired with a dress shirt and shoes. So, "freestyle dining" is really limited to one dining room and a buffet. Consequently, what this creates is lines and wait times to eat dinner. Nothing like being on vacation and being put on a wait list for dinner and standing in the stairwell until they called your name. Not to mention, the food wasn't anything to write home about. I had asked 3 different staff members if there was somewhere you could get iced tea or juice and they said 1)you had to pay for the tea at the bars and 2)they only served complementary fresh squeezed juice in the morning for breakfast. So, they have a soda program that you can purchase for $50 that is supposed to get you free soda for the week. This is true except that they still charge you for drinking a soda from your own room. And you also have to deal with the bar staff and waitresses rolling their eyes everytime you ask for a Coke and they see that you have the soda sticker on your ship card because they won't be getting a tip off of it. The first full day of the cruise was also our day at sea. We find out on this day that they cancelled our shore excursion for the next day because not enough people signed up. They give you no time to plan or research what you could do in its place, so you are forced to choose another shore excursion that you aren't really that interested in. The only apology made was "well we aren't going to charge you for the one that was cancelled." Well of course you aren't, we didn't get to go! So, in trying to figure out what we are going to do, I go to the reception desk to vent my frustrations and the girl there, smirking at me the whole time I was talking, gives me comment card to fill out, assuring me that it would get the the managers (and no, she never offered for me to speak with a supervisor or manager at that time). She also informs me that there is a place to get iced tea for free after all! (Side note: the complementary "fresh squeezed" juice in the morning is concentrate and the actual fresh squeezed juice costs extra depending on what size you want.) And, if you do have to go to the reception desk at any time, fully expect to be cut in line by at least 3 different people and do not expect the staff to stop this from happening. So, I take this comment card and the one they left in my room and filled them both out front and back and turned them back in to the reception. I get a phone call that they had received it and we would hear something back. The next day, I get a voicemail message that I don't understand from someone I barely understand to call them back. I do so and, after about 4 minutes of me saying "I'm sorry but I don't understand what you are saying," I finally figure out that I am talking to the bar manager who is asking if I have a problem with my soda package. One sentence in my two comment cards mentioned that I was not happy about purchasing the package and not being able to drink the soda in my room. So, he sends me 6 cans of Sprite and tells me that will make me happy. This is the only thing I ever heard from my comment card. Talk about insulting! The entertainment on the ship was mediocre. The cruise director was boring and dull. The magician was decent and Second City was very funny (but don't get your hopes up because last week was their final week with the Gem). We went to Bliss, their night club, following the "Hot White" party towards the beginning of the week. We noticed that the employees were there drinking and dancing, so we thought that this was their one night they were allowed out. Not the case. As the week progressed, we realized that the employees are allowed to go out, drink and dance every night of the week. They are clearly marked by nametag and clique and are not mingling with the guests at all. They dominate the dance floor and take up all the seating around it, leaving the seats in the back for the paying guests. Now, we are in our mid-20's mind you, and even we found this extremely inappropriate. Here's one of my favorite parts...in this lounge, there are 4 bowling lanes. We saw this and thought "how cool is that!" So, when we went to go play a game, (I'm sure you see where this is going) its $10 per person per game to play! At this point, we're laughing it off because we are on vacation and trying not to let this cruise line ruin it for us. As on every cruise line, you have to check any alcohol you bring on from a port. So, we buy a bottle of Chianti from Florence and they make us check it as we get back on the ship. They take it and tell us that we have to pick it up ourselves on Saturday night between 5pm and 8pm somewhere on deck 6 aft. They don't even deliver it to your room for you! Needless to say, we had to plan our last night on the cruise around when we had to pick up our wine and then got lost with everyone else trying to figure out where it was. As was mentioned in other reviews, the TV options in the room are awful. Three channel in English, 2 of which are news and the other is TCM. Movies are only offered via pay-per-view and cost anywhere from $6 - $12 depending on how new the movie is. Overall, the ports were fabulous, the staff (aside from the room steward who was very good) was indifferent and you felt like you spent a week getting nickled and dimed everytime you turned around. My advise...definitely go to the Mediterranean but don't ever go anywhere on NCL. There are plenty of other cruise lines out there who will provide stellar customer service, fabulous food and the time of your life! Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
 We had the great misfortune of cruising on the Norwegian Gem with 700 rude, screaming, poorly behaving Catalonian children, along with their parents who were just too happy seeing their children off on their own, while creating general ... Read More
 We had the great misfortune of cruising on the Norwegian Gem with 700 rude, screaming, poorly behaving Catalonian children, along with their parents who were just too happy seeing their children off on their own, while creating general havoc on the ship. Every area was treated as if it was a playground rather than a cruise ship. From the Captain on down, NO staff member was willing to intervene or say anything to these rowdy children, who had literally taken over the boat and ruined the cruise experience for everyone other than these children's parents. MORAL TO THE STORY: Ask the cruise line, before you book, how many youngsters are expected on the sailing,and if it is a "school holiday week" in the port area from which you are departing. If the answer is "yes", take your money and run! GIANT POOL SLIDE: Yes the Gem has a giant,circular pool slide. This should have been a "hint" that the boat would be flooded with kids. From early in the morning till late at night, you were certain to hear the "blaring" of the whistle of the slide monitor. Note-this is the only area on the ship where a staff member was trying to control the children's behavior. Trying to keep them out of the adjacent, "Adults Only Pool" was a near impossibility. SHIP DECOR: Gaudy you would expect on a lower-end line. Very disappointing for a brand new ship. (Of course, if NCL keeps booking large groups of unruly youngsters, the ship will look 20 years old within 2 years. Don't expect a soaring atrium or marble stairways-no such amenities on this ship. ACCOMMODATIONS: We had booked a two-bedroom penthouse suite.(#11030) Decor was early Chinese Brothel, but the amenities were wonderful-four flat screen TV's, Jacuzzi tub and separate(8 head)shower with picture windows, huge dressing area, king-size bed in the master bedroom,a second smaller bedroom with bath, a butler on call,a large balcony as well as a sitting/dining room area. The suite also came with a "worthless", don't bother me Concierge. SOME OTHER "JOYS" OF SAILING ON THE GEM: Children sticking their hands in the buffet food, no washing of hands or using hand sanitizer before or after using the bathroom, doing cartwheels up and down the corridors in their underwear, sitting in the Casino using the gaming machines, blocking entry to and from the elevators and stairwells, shoving and pushing even disabled passengers, putting their shoes on the upholstered furniture in the dining rooms and using the eating utensils as musical instruments. I could go on and on, but it just makes me more upset to remember this cruise from the netherworld !! NOISE: The ship is poorly insulated for noise deflection. We could hear screaming children, slamming doors, and loud music from the 12th deck until the wee hours of the morning. At times, it felt as if the ceiling would collapse into the suite. If you go, take earplugs! FOOD: Mediocre at best, unless you ate in one of the "pay extra" specialty restaurants. Since these restaurants also came with "screaming children", the extra cost was not worth the investment. There was little variety of food on the menu. A large group of appetizers, entrees and desserts were repeated night-after-night. DINING ROOM STAFF: As other reviewers mentioned, the staff were poorly trained. The wait staff in the main dining rooms should have been employed at fast food restaurants sensibility for table manners, placing or removing dishes,or ordering wine. Dining was a rather sad experience-something not worth getting dressed up for. (On at least two nights, the dining room staff were wearing tee shirts-bizarre!) CUSTOMER SERVICE: As mentioned by other reviewers, it was nonexistent. The reception desk staff were rude, and would stare a hole through you rather than make pleasant eye contact. Everything, without exception, was too much trouble for them. PHOTO STAFF: Take it or leave it attitude. Even when they made errors on the prints, they were unwilling to re-run the photos to take out the blems-So, they got none of our usual cruise photo money. SHOPS: Too few, with very little selection for a boat of this size. ENTERTAINMENT: Mediocre to really bad. In the theatre, there was one singer with a strong, broadway-style voice and an excellent Flamenco guitarist. Unfortunately, the guitarist was accompanied by a dancer who hadn't a clue about Flamenco. For most of the shows, the dancers were not even in step with each other. At times, you actually felt sorry for them-and then you remembered that "you were paying for this"! EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION: A breeze ! They were just too willing to see you get your own luggage on and off the ship, which was OK by us. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Refused to purchase any. With a little preparation, you could see all the highlights at 20% of what they were asking for shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Before I begin with the detail let me first say that overall this is the worst cruise I have ever taken. Now I would love to say that there was one thing that has made me bitter and hence this review but this is not the case. Therefore I ... Read More
Before I begin with the detail let me first say that overall this is the worst cruise I have ever taken. Now I would love to say that there was one thing that has made me bitter and hence this review but this is not the case. Therefore I will try to be objective and state before I go on that if you are the type of person who enjoys large Resort style holidays with fast food, buffets and the anonymity then you would undoubtedly enjoy this cruise line. Similarly if you have children I think you would have a good time as it did seem very child friendly and the menus would definitely appeal. Personally I dislike the impersonal service and production line feel of Resort holidays, now I'm not attacking them, but they just aren't for me. Also I don't have any children. I prefer holidays with a bit of style, sophistication, elegance; somewhere where you can indulge in fine cuisine, feel totally relaxed, enjoy the finer things in life and of course all backed up with stellar service. If this sounds like you, if like me you choose cruise holidays to get a few precious weeks of luxury each year then I do urge you to reconsider your choice of cruise company if you are thinking of taking a trip on the Norwegian Gem. Having cruised with a number of cruise lines before including the obvious large operators such as Carnival, RCI, Princess, P&O as well as the smaller niche players such as Clipper and Seabourn (Part of Carnival Group and simply the best operator out there - I would say beg, steal or borrow to take a cruise on the Legend) I was drawn to NCL in the belief that they operated in the premium end of the large ship players. Attracted by a fantastic itinerary I booked on the Norwegian Gem cruise sailing out of Barcelona on the 27 July 2008 for my partner and myself. I booked a BB cabin, in English that is an Outside room with a Balcony. Arriving in Barcelona we had elected to make our own way to the ship, something I would definitely recommend since the taxi ride was 25 Euros all in, so at 12.5 Euros per person much better value than an organized transfer, and no waiting around. Obviously this is Barcelona, I can't say this is valid for all embarkation ports. First impressions of the ship were very positive. There was far more deck space than I had envisaged and the pools were big. They had some nice touches like the double lounge pods on deck. Inside the standards are high as you would expect for a ship so new (completed October 2007) and when we got to our cabin its was a nice size and the lay out was well designed. The problems started to become apparent that night when we sat down for dinner. For me the single most important aspect of a holiday is the food. Let me say if you know what a Zagat guide is or read the Square Meal then this is definitely not the cruise for you. The standard of food on the cruise is simply appalling, the staple food is burger and chips by day; bland, poorly prepared dishes in the evening from limited menus. The level of ingredient recycling is high and by time it hits the table the food is always cold. A word on variety - when researching the ship I was pleased to see that it had many restaurants, I would personally be embarrassed to call them restaurants based on the standards I saw. And please don't even bother wasting your hard earned cash on eating in one of the many Pay Extra rooms onboard - they are equally as bad. Now as I stated earlier if you have children the menus are fantastic, based around simple dishes and packed with junk you won't have to hear the kids complaining. Even the small details were missed - the choice of breads was limited, the presentation of food was poor, deserts unsatisfying, lack of fresh fruit. Also you need to make reservations all the time - if you don't make one, forget it, you will not be dinning when you want and you certainly won't be where you want. For me one of the most enjoyable aspects of a cruise is having the opportunity to sit down to a gourmet meal every day, not with NCL - had I known that the taste was going to be more back street cafe than upmarket restaurant I would have picked another line. Now the food may be bad but at least the drink may have rescued the situation. And indeed there were a few highlights on the Wine List, perhaps one of the best being a Lafite Rothschild for circa $350 (Obviously you can guess the vintage by the price) however I was only to sample one bottle of wine on the holiday, in that one bottle was the only alcohol for the entire trip. Now I admit this was my choice, but I felt I had to make a stand against the outrageous policies of NCL that are there to extract cash out of its guests in any manner possible. You see they make it very clear that they charge $10 per day per person to cover tipping. After this $10 they state very clearly "Unlike most other ships in the cruise industry, there's no required or recommended tipping on NCL America or Norwegian Cruise Line ships. Guests should not feel obliged to offer a gratuity for a service that is generally rendered to all guests." Let me say this is not true. They add 15% to all bar bills including your Mini Bar and soft drinks. I found this deeply insulting and so refused to drink for the duration (lucky we had purchased the soft drink option). Cruise companies make a huge margin on drink sales and prefer to fill cabins with people who will have large accounts to settle. His was my not so silent protest. You see I did complain and they told me they would get back to me with a solution but alas it never came. This leads nicely onto service. Generally the level of service is below average for the cruise industry, I can't help but say this is a result of the tipping policy. Where is the incentive to provide good service if tips are not optional but are automatically levied each day AND on each purchase. Deck service is non-existent if you are asking for soft drinks, if you have lunch at the aft veranda then forget it, got a complaint - don't bother. However the cabin stewards are superb, very attentive and I certainly hope they get my $70 and my partners $70. Other quick comments the quiet zone on deck is completely ignored and not enforced, children run wild in the adults pool which is always very busy, elevators are inadequate, and they hold up disembarking each day by taking photos which means you need to queue to get off the ship. With an eye on this review getting pretty long I will say that the ports of call were excellent and while the excursions are very expensive they are rewarding. Please note that if you live in Europe as I do some of the excursions are so expensive that for the same price you could get a weekend there - eg. Rome; a full day excursion with guide started around $270 pp - you can get a no frills flight and hotel for the weekend for this. Obviously for guests from further locations the excursions are simply a must. Disembarkation - generally pretty efficient but be warned the Freestyle ethos may be promoted but in fact you have to choose a disembarkation time the latest being 9.30 am, and these labels go fast!!! Also breakfast that morning is like a food riot, want a table - good luck. I hope this review is helpful to some of you, it is clear this cruise line is not for me, but looking at other reviews it seems many enjoy it, I think you need to be honest about what type of holiday you want and what level of expectations you hold - this is certainly not a classic cruise line and if you are looking for 5 star luxury (I use the 5 Star in the UK sense), service, style and substance there is far better out there AND for less money. If you are looking for 3 star Resort style then you will find this at the top end of expectations. Happy Cruising. Read Less
Sail Date July 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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