We sailed on October 4-11 2009. Two couples mid 50's. Balcony cabins,deck 10. NCL made our flight/transfer/1 night hotel arrangements. We were met at the airport and driven to the Confortel Barcelona in a private van. Very modern, clean hotel with a rooftop deck that overlooks the Mediterranean ( buffet breakfast included).We chose not to use the provided shuttle to the ship the next morning,they did transport our luggage to the ship however. There is a NCL rep. in the Lobby if you have any questions. We wanted to get in as much sightseeing as possible before going to the ship and this gave us an additional 2 hours of sightseeing time. Don't miss walking down Las Ramblas. Lots of fun. Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo were on our list. By the time we arrived at the port around 3:30 there were no lines and we checked in right away.
The GEM is a beautiful ship. Laid out very well and easy to get around. The itinerary was the main reason for choosing this cruise, the GEM was a plus.
Naples... We did a private tour with allarounditaly.com, Fabrizio picked us up at the ship at 8am and gave us the tour of a lifetime. We went all around the Amalfi Coast,stopping in Positano for shopping and lunch. The scenery is breathtaking and his insight and comments made the day! We spent a few hours in Pompeii,totally incredible, before heading back to the ship in time to sail. Fabrizio made us feel like we were family and it was truly an unforgettable day. I highly recommend his company. I found him by reading the boards on this site and others and it was well worth it. The price was 450 euros for 4 people,not including tip and lunch. It was so much more relaxing to tour the Amalfi Coast and little towns in a car instead of being herded around on a tour bus with 100 other people. We'll book him again in the future. email...firstname.lastname@example.org
Rome.... We took the train ourselves into Rome, Very easy and not as confusing as I thought it would be. We bought a round trip ticket and were off. Just be sure to check the schedule for the return. We had no trouble at all.
Florence.... We took a taxi from the port area as soon as the ship cleared to Pisa. Spent less than a half hour there taking photos and caught a taxi to the train station to go to Florence. Again, very easy, we bought round trip tickets. Pisa-Florence-Livorno. The trains are fast and cheap. Cheap being the word our husbands liked to hear!! I pre-booked and purchased tickets to see David online. This is the way to go. Lines were long,long,long! We waited about 5 minutes, showed our voucher that was emailed to me and off we went.
We did alot of pre-planning for this trip. Rick Steve's Travel book was a great source of information. That book went to every port with us. I was unsure at first of using the local trains, but they were very easy to use in spite of the fact that none of us speak anything except English. Very inexpensive way to get around.
Loved the split bathroom on the GEM, shower was bigger.
Plenty of closet space.
Lighting could be better. Higher watt bulbs,maybe?