BACKGROUND - We are a German family with a 12 yrs old son having our fourth cruise with NCL beside some other lines.
TRANSFER PACKAGE - For the first time ever we've booked NCL's fly and transportation arrangement in addition to our 14-days B2B trip to/from Venice.
EMBARKMENT - Upon arrival at Marco Polo airport we were welcomed by the friendly ground staff with NCL signage who guided us to the bus leaving to port. There we unloaded our luggage and handed it over to the NCL porters. Check-in procedure with NCL went smoothly and quick. Before the ship was ready to be entered we've taken the opportunity to make our initial reservation for speciality restaurants and to spend some money for our 14 days spa ticket (2pax = 256.00 US$) and a kids soda package (64.40US$) for our son.
SHIP - Very clean and in good condition. As we have been on NCL Jewel in 2007 we've noticed the equivalent layout and design. Therefore it was easy for us to get familiar with the location. Our inside cabin #9077 was always clean and functional. Limited space but suitable for all the three of us. Minor repairs (blinking bulb and worn out hair dryer cable) were fixed by the very attentive and friendly cabin stewards (Gregorio & Joseph) in short term. We didn't miss special butler or concierge service.
LIFE ON BOARD - Other than our last Mediterranean cruise by NCL Jewel in hot month August 2007 this time of the year (May/June) was the perfect season for us. Less passengers, less noise and less stress. We enjoyed the public areas as well as the spa and the special restaurants (Teppan-yaki, Sushi & Sashimi). Even the gym was not overcrowded. Better avoid pool deck on days at sea or the atrium during presentations.
STAFF - Under the patronage of the Finnish captain the majority of staff (about 2/3) was/is from the Philippines who were always friendly and nice. We really appreciated meeting the hotel director Mr Kaj Turunen who took the time and was kind enough to explain his position onboard as one of the NCL key persons in terms of this professional hotel business at sea.
DRESS CODE - We were often astonished about passengers who mis-interpreted or most likely ignored the requested and adequate dress code at the occasion of our dinner in Grand Pacific restaurant. In our view the pool deck and the buffet restaurant are the adequate location for worn out shorts and T-Shirts.
ENTERTAINMENT - We've visited almost every show (mainly nice mix of music and dance) at Stardust Theater and some respective party events (US fun games) at Spinnacker lounge. However, the entertaining atmosphere at Stardust was sometimes spoiled by late arriving guests looking for free seats. Unfortunately the theater will not be closed during the showacts which causes trouble and irritations. FOOD - Good standard. Most of the time we've met our personal taste by combining daily specials with items from the standard menu. The menu card of the second week changed to the week before. Our favourites were chateaubriand, soufflEe - only offered once in two weeks ;-) - and the specialities at Teppan-yaki and sushi &sashimi (subject to supplement fee). Waiters were very friendly and if we didn't like a dish we could always get another one.
BEVERAGES Icewater, coffee, tea and milk were available all time in the Garden Cafe or at the Great Outdoors. Wine and beer must be ordered through the bar service staff but don't expect and advise special knowledge from the personal in the main dining room. More training or expertise is needed.
EXCURSIONS - Like practiced before we could easily arrange our own trips and excursions at the various ports of call. Each destination was well worth to be visited and to get in touch with the people in order to enrich or even change the personal image of the country. Our favourite is Nafplion whereas the short stay in Iraklion on Crete was rather disappointing and unattractive. During the first week the port of call information was insufficient but was improved in our second week. At breakfast the management even opened an personal attended information desk in the Garden Cafe distributing flyers.
DISEMBARKING - As easy as we did come onboard we left the Gem at Venice port. After a comfortable ride to the airport please be prepared for a mess at Marco Polo's departure hall but if you are well relaxed after a 14 days cruise in the Mediterranean Sea you may easily deal with this chaos before the daily business will be part of you again.
SUMMARY All in all we enjoyed two wonderful and recreative weeks on the Norwegian GEM.
Happy, happy and smiley, smiley !