I am an experienced cruiser having sailed at least 20 times in Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, and Canada/New England. Most of my experience has been with Celebrity, which I love, but I have also cruised with Princes, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland America. This was my first cruise on Norwegian and I will not be back. Here is why.
The drinking water policy on the ship is obviously Norwegian’s strategy to get its guests to fork over money for what is a health necessity. You cannot bring any bottled drinking water on the ship. It will be confiscated. If you want to avoid paying for NCL’s bottled water, then you are forced to use the tap in your bathroom or the water dispensers up in the buffet. Both of these options will give you water that smells and tastes of chlorine. Yuk! The water dispensers are not without additional problems, because despite posted directions to the contrary, people fill their germy water bottles and used glasses directly under these dispensers. If you want to avoid these contaminated dispensers and purchase NCL’s bottled water, you will be forced to pay $6 per liter bottle or $16.95 for 6 bottles, $29.95 for 12 or $44.95 for 24 bottles of NCL’s “purified water,” which is not spring water and tastes exactly like the stuff out of the tap or dispensers.. For all of these prices, add a 20% gratuity as well. Really, NCL? I understand your wanting to make money on people’s desire for soda or alcohol, but water? That is pushing the limits of common decency for making a buck off of your guests. I won’t cruise with you again specifically because of this policy.
My friend and I found out about the water policy when we each purchased two sealed bottles of water in a port and tried to bring them back onboard the ship. They were confiscated as we entered the ship. When we went to Guest Services to talk to them about this event, we were dealt with very shabbily. One representative pointed to a tiny blue box titled Agricultural Notice on the daily events sheet which said that “Due to public health regulations, food of any kind (hot, raw or unpacked/packed) is not allowed to be brought onboard or taken off the ship at any time. Beverages cannot be brought onboard. Wine or liquor purchased in any port of call will be stored by the ship and given back to the guest on the evening before disembarkation or the morning of disembarkation.” I understand the food restrictions for health reasons and the wine and liquor restrictions for making money, but not the restriction on bringing in water. It is not justified under any circumstances and the policy should be dropped.
If NCL is going to continue such a policy to fleece their passengers, then they should make an announcement explicitly telling passengers leaving the ship to not purchase water as it will be confiscated upon their return to the ship. Don’t hide such information behind a notice regarding health restrictions and the prohibition of carrying alcohol onboard.
Additional sources of irritation on the Gem were the lack of entertainment options if you did not want to go to the live shows in the theater. Forget the casino; it reeks of smoke and there is no designated movie theater on the ship like you will find on Celebrity and Holland America. Movies are played at 10:30 at night in the very public area of the atrium where you will also find a bar, Guest Services, the Excursions desk and the future cruise desk. Movies will sometimes be played here in the afternoon as well, but with all of those other services and people walking through the area to get to other portions of the ship, good luck seeing and hearing the movie. Besides, most seats there lack backs and are very uncomfortable.
Very limited television options await guests in their cramped cabins. There is a movie channel but it does not always play movies and what movies there are repeat throughout the week. We found that A Star is Born was playing at least three nights on this channel. If you want more movie selections, then fork over $9.95 per movie for a just few more more films, less than a dozen. I remember that Holland America offers a huge collection of free in-room movies and the guests have their choice of numerous DVDs that can be picked up or delivered from the guest services desk.
Seating for the buffet upstairs is very limited and we found that our food often got cold while we searched for a place to sit. I think this is because, unlike all other cruise ships I have been on, the buffet seating is limited to only one side of the ship. A pay restaurant and its kitchen takes up the space on the other side. You can sit in it’s very limited dining space in the morning and afternoon up until about 2 pm, but after that, it’s given over to the paying guests. While you are in there, you are bombarded with the noise of a basketball court above you. What a joke!
We didn’t take any ship excursions, which are always overpriced and herded into big busses. We hired cabs and shared them with other cruisers off the Gem. If you haven’t ever done this, try it. Stand around outside and ask if anyone is interested in joining you. Negotiate a price with the cab driver and enjoy your small group excursion. The cabbie will always get you back to the ship in plenty of time and you won’t be traveling with 39 other people.
Sadly, I wanted to like this cruise line, but I didn’t. That ridiculous drinking water policy ended my cruising with NCL. I won’t be back.
I have never been in a balcony cabin that was so poorly laid out. It’s a good thing that my friend and I are small ladies because a larger man or woman would be extremely uncomfortable in these rooms. We had our beds separated and that meant you had to squeeze your way past one bed to get to the other. The bathroom was tiny by any standard and my husband would have never fit in that shower. Storage was limited, so if you are bringing more than a carry-on bag with clothes, good luck putting everything away. There were three tittle drawers for the two of us and a couple of cubby holes to share. That’s all.