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Background - NCL Gem inaugural cruise, retired exec traveling with wife, 20th cruise, 3 previous freestyle cruises on Princess and AIDA, first freestyle with NCL, 2nd cruise with NCL, 2nd inaugural cruise first with Island Princess Embarkation - very good Internet information with documentation provided on the NCL web site, and very smooth and well-organized travel to London and smooth connection and bus ride to Dover. Embarkation formalities completed and on board in 10 minutes. Well done NCL, fastest and smoothest embarkation ever. The ship as expected on an inaugural cruise was super clean. The decor was 21st century garish in places (fluorescent green roll seaters and plastic pseudo crystal roof in the Atrium), and heavy wood finish throughout the boat, but was generally (just) acceptable to us. Good walking areas onboard and found plenty of space on sea days to be alone and quiet. Cabin - mini suite deck 11 amidships. Unfortunate to have New Zealand family with two wild, unruly children on one side next door (obvious members of the child freedom culture? - note, you may be oblivious but it spoils it for others). Complained to NCL who did best to correct problem, family were not responsive, but as ship full could not move us or them. Fortunately only a daytime problem but inhibited our use of balcony. We pre booked 4 months ahead, why cannot NCL be sensitive to family demography and allocate suites accordingly - get with it NCL. Suite was average size compared to others we have sailed in. Good sized balcony but spoilt by having 2 cheap tacky standard chairs (no loungers) and a very small (12 inch square) table. Nice to have a full glass wall facing the ocean. Cabin dEcor is not the brightest we have been in, the fairly dark simulated wood and the wall tapestry were a little too oppressive for our taste. Drawers and cabinets were ample for two for an 11 day cruise, only complaint was that the closet doors could not open fully as the closet was at the side of and too close to the bed. What happened to the concept (as on Princess) of walk in closets? The beds were great and the large extra pillows, provided without asking, made for good sleep. The towel animals on the bed every night were fantastic, a superb touch and greatly appreciated. Lighting was good, and we found no difficulty accommodating our mixture of 115v and 220v appliances. Bathroom was small. My wife found it nice to have a female friendly hand held shower. The separate, glass partitioned toilet cubicle was a good idea but it is narrow. If you are broad of beam (as I am), it makes for an uncomfortable visit, and susceptible to "accidents" in rocky seas. The mini bar was kept well stocked at all times, but beware, only the first bottle of water is free, the rest cost and are expensive. Food and dining - this was our 4th freestyle dining cruise, first on NCL, and we were very interested to see how it compared to others we had been on. We took into consideration it was an inaugural cruise but could compare it with similar inaugural cruises on Princess and AIDA. In general we found it only average, on a par with Princess, better than AIDA, with some faults in some areas. We used the buffets in Garden Cafe and Outdoors for many breakfasts and lunches when not on shore excursions, and for snacks. The quality of food here in general was good, but in many cases lacked variety. A large portion of the buffets was taken up by fixed hamburger, hot dog, pizza, salad, deli and sandwich bars, which did not change much over the day and from day to day. The carvery, pasta and fish stations did change daily and were very good. Two complaints registered by both us and others were that there was only one fish dish served per day and no seafood, strange considering the high fish area we were sailing in. We were told this was a cost factor with food menus dictated by head office. The other complaint was that all the food was highly salted. We only suffered one occasion when we found it hard to get a place to sit in the Garden Cafe/Outdoors - a far cry from the crowded freestyle dining situation on AIDA boats. Eating in the Outdoors cafe under the awning gazing out to sea was definitely the hit for us on the cruise. A big plus for NCL was the many free self serve coffee/tea stations around on deck 11 available 24 hours with Cappuccino available at the stations. No ordering or having to pay extra here. Also free ice cream was available in the Garden Cafe, and free soft ice cream machines at the buffets on deck 11, disappointingly these machines were not available after the first day, the joke going around was that NCL had discovered a new flavor going by the notices on the machines - "Out of Order". The specialty restaurants - we love Italian food and La Cucina Italian restaurant was a disaster. The Veal Marsala (one of my favorite dishes) was served up like roast beef and gravy, with a thick brown tasteless sauce. Investigation showed the chef was Indian and kitchen staff all Indian, not an Italian in sight. We gave it a miss for the rest of the cruise. Cagney's Steak House (prime rib) was excellent, although had to ask for horseradish, Le Bistro (Duck a L'orange) was superb with excellent service, ambiance and dEcor, hard to imagine we were on board a boat. Blue Lagoon good for snacks (fish and chips), likewise the Grill. Main dining room food was average with basically the same food on offer as at the Garden Cafe but with good service. Didn't get to any of the other restaurants. The nightly shows in the Theatre were above average with good variety, the Theatre was always full. Tendering to shore was well organized and efficient. Shore excursions were excellent, well organized with in the main good guides, but were very, very expensive. We prefer to reward good service personally ourselves, and object to the NCL policy of adding $10 pp/day to the bill to be distributed to all service staff. There were the odd service people who perhaps were complacent in this policy and who we felt annoyed that would be rewarded. Here is a tip for other NCL Gem cruisers. Accordingly we went to Reception (one can go up to the next to last day of the cruise) and filled out a form with the reason we wanted to withdraw (for personal choice reasons), and withdrew from the automatic charge, and got envelopes and made our own rewards. NCL do not publicize this, but were happy to comply with our wishes. Disembarkation was smooth and painless but we did not see the free and easy disembarkation style NCL advertise. We were hustled and even though we were the last group to disembark and our flight was not until 2.30 pm, they still had us off the ship by 9 am. Overall rating of the cruise and would we go again - well above average, and NCL Gem is on our acceptable list.

Norwegian Gem - Western Mediterranean

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Davendee

Trip Details
Background - NCL Gem inaugural cruise, retired exec traveling with wife, 20th cruise, 3 previous freestyle cruises on Princess and AIDA, first freestyle with NCL, 2nd cruise with NCL, 2nd inaugural cruise first with Island Princess
Embarkation - very good Internet information with documentation provided on the NCL web site, and very smooth and well-organized travel to London and smooth connection and bus ride to Dover. Embarkation formalities completed and on board in 10 minutes. Well done NCL, fastest and smoothest embarkation ever.
The ship as expected on an inaugural cruise was super clean. The decor was 21st century garish in places (fluorescent green roll seaters and plastic pseudo crystal roof in the Atrium), and heavy wood finish throughout the boat, but was generally (just) acceptable to us. Good walking areas onboard and found plenty of space on sea days to be alone and quiet.
Cabin - mini suite deck 11 amidships. Unfortunate to have New Zealand family with two wild, unruly children on one side next door (obvious members of the child freedom culture? - note, you may be oblivious but it spoils it for others). Complained to NCL who did best to correct problem, family were not responsive, but as ship full could not move us or them. Fortunately only a daytime problem but inhibited our use of balcony. We pre booked 4 months ahead, why cannot NCL be sensitive to family demography and allocate suites accordingly - get with it NCL.
Suite was average size compared to others we have sailed in. Good sized balcony but spoilt by having 2 cheap tacky standard chairs (no loungers) and a very small (12 inch square) table. Nice to have a full glass wall facing the ocean. Cabin dEcor is not the brightest we have been in, the fairly dark simulated wood and the wall tapestry were a little too oppressive for our taste. Drawers and cabinets were ample for two for an 11 day cruise, only complaint was that the closet doors could not open fully as the closet was at the side of and too close to the bed. What happened to the concept (as on Princess) of walk in closets? The beds were great and the large extra pillows, provided without asking, made for good sleep. The towel animals on the bed every night were fantastic, a superb touch and greatly appreciated. Lighting was good, and we found no difficulty accommodating our mixture of 115v and 220v appliances.
Bathroom was small. My wife found it nice to have a female friendly hand held shower. The separate, glass partitioned toilet cubicle was a good idea but it is narrow. If you are broad of beam (as I am), it makes for an uncomfortable visit, and susceptible to "accidents" in rocky seas. The mini bar was kept well stocked at all times, but beware, only the first bottle of water is free, the rest cost and are expensive.
Food and dining - this was our 4th freestyle dining cruise, first on NCL, and we were very interested to see how it compared to others we had been on. We took into consideration it was an inaugural cruise but could compare it with similar inaugural cruises on Princess and AIDA. In general we found it only average, on a par with Princess, better than AIDA, with some faults in some areas. We used the buffets in Garden Cafe and Outdoors for many breakfasts and lunches when not on shore excursions, and for snacks. The quality of food here in general was good, but in many cases lacked variety. A large portion of the buffets was taken up by fixed hamburger, hot dog, pizza, salad, deli and sandwich bars, which did not change much over the day and from day to day. The carvery, pasta and fish stations did change daily and were very good. Two complaints registered by both us and others were that there was only one fish dish served per day and no seafood, strange considering the high fish area we were sailing in. We were told this was a cost factor with food menus dictated by head office. The other complaint was that all the food was highly salted. We only suffered one occasion when we found it hard to get a place to sit in the Garden Cafe/Outdoors - a far cry from the crowded freestyle dining situation on AIDA boats. Eating in the Outdoors cafe under the awning gazing out to sea was definitely the hit for us on the cruise.
A big plus for NCL was the many free self serve coffee/tea stations around on deck 11 available 24 hours with Cappuccino available at the stations. No ordering or having to pay extra here. Also free ice cream was available in the Garden Cafe, and free soft ice cream machines at the buffets on deck 11, disappointingly these machines were not available after the first day, the joke going around was that NCL had discovered a new flavor going by the notices on the machines - "Out of Order".
The specialty restaurants - we love Italian food and La Cucina Italian restaurant was a disaster. The Veal Marsala (one of my favorite dishes) was served up like roast beef and gravy, with a thick brown tasteless sauce. Investigation showed the chef was Indian and kitchen staff all Indian, not an Italian in sight. We gave it a miss for the rest of the cruise. Cagney's Steak House (prime rib) was excellent, although had to ask for horseradish, Le Bistro (Duck a L'orange) was superb with excellent service, ambiance and dEcor, hard to imagine we were on board a boat. Blue Lagoon good for snacks (fish and chips), likewise the Grill. Main dining room food was average with basically the same food on offer as at the Garden Cafe but with good service. Didn't get to any of the other restaurants.
The nightly shows in the Theatre were above average with good variety, the Theatre was always full. Tendering to shore was well organized and efficient. Shore excursions were excellent, well organized with in the main good guides, but were very, very expensive.
We prefer to reward good service personally ourselves, and object to the NCL policy of adding $10 pp/day to the bill to be distributed to all service staff. There were the odd service people who perhaps were complacent in this policy and who we felt annoyed that would be rewarded. Here is a tip for other NCL Gem cruisers. Accordingly we went to Reception (one can go up to the next to last day of the cruise) and filled out a form with the reason we wanted to withdraw (for personal choice reasons), and withdrew from the automatic charge, and got envelopes and made our own rewards. NCL do not publicize this, but were happy to comply with our wishes.
Disembarkation was smooth and painless but we did not see the free and easy disembarkation style NCL advertise. We were hustled and even though we were the last group to disembark and our flight was not until 2.30 pm, they still had us off the ship by 9 am.
Overall rating of the cruise and would we go again - well above average, and NCL Gem is on our acceptable list.
Davendee’s Full Rating Summary
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