Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by KateDen
- Sail Date: April 2010
- Destination: Transatlantic
- Cabin Type: Penthouse with Large Balcony
For some background, we cruised on NCL twice before and have also cruised on RCCL, Disney and Princess. We have also traveled extensively on land trips. We are both retired and are enjoying life.
For this cruise, we were a part of a large and active Cruise Critic group. The people we met and shared meals and adventures with were the best and made the trip wonderful. We met our fellow cruise mates at sail away parties planned by one of our members. We had a great Meet and Greet (well, actually two) that included visits and presentations from Captain Mikael Hilden and seven other top officers. It was a pleasure to have them attend our gatherings. We had also arranged for two group dinners on the TA and one on the Greek Isles portion. For these events we were given a quiet side room in the Grand Pacific dining room so we felt we were in our own private restaurant. The room was set up with tables for four and six, so we could actually have conversations with our new friends. They were all wonderful experiences and we had the chance to get to know our fellow cruisers.
I had put together a website for the cruises which allowed people to connect for bridge, canasta, scrabble and other games and tours. We also met people who had seen our posts and website, but had not joined in. I was amazed at how many people are part of the Cruise Critic community, even when you don't "see" them. One disappointment was that some of our friends we were supposed to meet on the Greek Isles cruise couldn't make it to the ship because of the volcano in Iceland and the subsequent havoc with the airlines. We missed you!
Cabin: We splurged this time and had a penthouse suite, which was an excellent choice for this particular journey. My husband uses a mobility scooter so we had a handicapped AE suite that worked very well for us. It was only a little larger than a regular balcony HC cabin, but it had a much more luxurious feeling. We had lots of nice storage space, a Lavazza coffee maker, a large (32"?) flat screen TV and an overall nice ambiance. The bathroom was a typical HC one, but with nicer finishes. There is only a shower with lots of grab bars and it's at the same level as the floor - no tub. It worked very well for our needs. Our deck was narrow, but had nice chairs and was the perfect perch for watching the wake. The aft location allowed us to use it even in the middle of the Atlantic since it was sheltered from the wind.
Suite Perks: The priority embarkation and disembarkation, priority tender tickets, snacks in the afternoon, breakfast (always) and lunch (sometimes) at Cagney's, and just the "special" treatment made the upgrade so worthwhile for us. Ruth was our concierge who greeted us warmly each morning and Maxi was our ever elegant and helpful butler. We probably didn't utilize them as much as others, but it was just extra nice having them check in on us. It was our first suite and we loved it.
Food: I tend to have the philosophy that any meal I don't have to cook is a good one. We ate at both main dining rooms, Le Bistro, Tequilas, Orchid, Blue Lagoon (our favorite for lunch) and Cagney's. We didn't dine in our room since the HC units did not have a table and we wanted to be out anyway. We tried the buffet a couple times for lunch (good) and once for dinner (not so good). I must say that we had only that one really disappointing meal, many good ones and perhaps two "wow" ones. Our favorite meals, though, were those we shared with our new friends - where we really didn't notice the food. Most of our breakfasts were at Cagney's, where we enjoyed the quiet, the service and the company of other people there. The service in all restaurants was friendly and efficient and we enjoyed the interaction with the staff.
Activities: Keep in mind we had nine sea days out of fourteen on the TA leg of the trip and only one (the last day) on the Greek Island part. We brought lots of books along to read, which was a good thing. My husband signed up for bridge with our Cruise Critic friends. I planned to wander, read, watch movies, relax and see what other activities piqued my interest. This is where NCL missed the boat, so to speak. The only programs available on the in-room TVs were news (MSNBC, Fox and BBC), sports (ESPN and some European channel) and the usual collection of NCL infomercials. No free movies, not even TV reruns. You could purchase movies for $12.99 (!) each. No problem, I thought, our suite has a DVD player. Let's see what movies are available for that. Well, uh, no more DVD's available for the suites. Corporate decision. Okay, what about movies outside? Well, no movie theater - three movies were shown in rotation in the atrium on the big screen there. And the three movies were Up, Michael Jackson's This is It and a Star Trek movie. That's it for nine sea days. And shown in a large noisy public space with vendors hawking the various promotions of the day and people wandering through having their own conversations. There were a couple language classes offered - and hour or so each, the shopping talks and trivia. Otherwise the activities consisted of pay-to-play things like bingo, wine and martini tastings, the casino - and not much else. There were the usual evening shows and evening entertainment, but this doesn't help for the long sea days. The library is available, but I heard there was a rush the first day to get the limited supply of material. I'm just glad I packed a lot of my own. The planned activities works for a seven-day port intensive trip, but is really disappointing for a long journey. As I said before, we are pretty self-sufficient and able to amuse ourselves pretty well - and we did Just be forewarned and bring along your own activities when you go on a long cruise.
Ports and Tours: How great is it to be able to sail from New York to Venice then on down to the Greek Isles in one trip! We enjoyed the ports, some more than others. It was overcast or drizzly or very windy (a shear gale in Mykonos) in many of the ports, normal for this time of year. We especially enjoyed the cruise tour that took us to Seville from Cadiz. It dropped us off, and then told us when to be back. It was a perfect way for us to see the town at our own pace. We were less enamored with the cruise tour in Lisbon. It was supposed to be a level 1 tour (which was supposed to mean some walking, mostly sightseeing and suitable for everyone). It was great until the end when we were told that the "grand finale" was a long trek (at least a half mile straight down) from the castle to the port on a street that had slick cobblestone steps and no handrails. A third of the tour members had to sit in the bus for almost an hour waiting for the others to make the trip. When we reported to the excursion desk that this was probably not appropriately labeled, we were greeted with accusations that perhaps we had not read the description properly (we had) and that all tours require some walking (that's fine, we can walk, just not down the side of a mountain). They eventually begrudgingly took off 15%, but acted as though we had done something wrong. We hadn't even asked for a discount, we only wanted to let them know. Otherwise we did our own private tours or just went out and wandered. We did enjoy the opportunity to see a lot of different places in a short amount of time.
Overall we had a wonderful time. The ship is beautiful and the staff for the most part helpful and friendly. We made several friends we will keep in touch with and hopefully cruise with again. Will we do another Transatlantic - absolutely. Will we do it on NCL? Perhaps.
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