Let me start by saying...this will be a long review. This has got to be our 7th or 8th cruise with Norwegian. We have been on Royal, Holland, Princess, Carnival (for a total of about 15/16 cruises).
We started with Norwegian so long ago that we use to receive the envelopes at the end of the cruise to pay who WE thought were giving us exceptional service...now, cruise ships are dictating that we pay a daily gratuity (in this case it was $14.50 per day for 4 people, which totaled $406 dollars for the week)...on top of the thousands of dollars you have paid just to get on the ship...let's think about this for a moment, you pretty much have an 'alliance' - for lack of a better word, with your cabin steward. Unless you request the same table, in the same restaurant, every morning, afternoon and evening, you WILL NOT get the same person waiting on you, which means you are dealing with quite a few personalities. The bartenders are automatically tipped and now the beverage prices are so far off the chain ($8.10 for a beer, in some cases it was $8.57, this includes tax and gratuity). Soooo, we had 4 in our party (they had the 3rd and 4th passenger FREE option) so we bought two of our younger children. The cabin was obviously small (we got an Inside. Since we have cruised so many times before (we learned after the fact on this cruise that a few things had changed). Upon entering our cabin, they had not allocated the room to accommodate 4 people...one large bed was setup...we also had not yet received our 'free bottle of wine'...in the past, these things were already done upon arrival...in any case, my husband and i were heading out of our cabin to head up to the deck, we happen to see a cabin steward walking towards us so we asked do you know who will be having our cabin, to which she replied, me...my husband said, the bed hasn't been adjusted...she stated, in frankly a disposition I felt was 'icy' - it will be done between 6p and 9p...I said oh, also we didn't have the bottle of wine and she repeated the same thing...no, HI, I'm going to be your steward, my name is...welcome on board, not so much as a smile...now I'm salty because i felt like we were 'bothering her' and if we just let her do what she has to do, we'll be done (between 6p and 9p)...let me state, in the 15 or 16 cruises we have been on, I've never had that 'disposition' from someone (and to me, here in lies the problem with this damn - PRE-PAID gratuity nonsense. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET THAT STELLAR STATE OF THE ART SERVICE BECAUSE WE ARE PRE-PAYING FOR IT...as they say when people live together and are not married...why pay for the milk when i already have the cow? Why on earth should we pre-pay for services not yet rendered when we don't know what the service will entail.
So, fast forward, we go out, come back later and sure nuff...room has been setup, wine is there...next day...we see her again (still don't know her name), and my husband asks her for a corkscrew...reply, call room service...some will say, what's the problem with that, really, there is no problem...it was the TONE and DISPOSITION...so, I'm really starting to feel some kinda way about her and don't really want her in my space. I'm on vacation...we pay goo gabs of money to HAVE A GOOD TIME, not feel like we are intruding on THEIR time...so now, we all leave the room, put (MAKE UP ROOM) on the outside, return mid-afternoon...room not done...hubby and i start to have a few words about it...he wants me to be patient, i'm feeling snubbed...so as he and i are having this not so quiet discussion, I open the door and she is literally across the hall at the other room, door open and has the audacity to say IS THERE A PROBLEM? LOL, I SNAPPED! Are you freaking kidding me, how is that YOUR place? Who are you to listen in on our conversation...OMG, I was not happy..I PUT THE DO NOT DISTURB sign on our room because I DID NOT WANT HER IN OUR SPACE...my husband is trying to calm me down, I leave, go around to the elevator, only to come back and find her telling my husband (I've never had a problem with anyone before), as though I WAS A PROBLEM, I stated the same thing, in all my cruises, I have never had anyone like you before...so we even. Again, I leave and go to the elevator, my husband and son meet up with me there to calm me down...my daughter (19), remains in cabin. I return later in the evening and my daughter tells me that the steward enters the room and proceeds to have a 5 minute conversation with my daughter on how (I AM WRONG), how she is going to REPORT ME etc., etc....so much so that my daughter has to say to her (you are talking about my mom). First of all...had this been a male steward, entering our cabin with my nineteen year old daughter in there (door closed), it would have been unacceptable. What on earth made her think she could enter my cabin, door closed, and bash me in front of my child? AND REPORT ME FOR WHAT - HER MINDING MY BUSINESS?
Soooooo, I leave back out later in the evening, and as I return later, the manager yells down the hallway, good evening, how are you, I said i'm fine and you? And I proceed to open my door at which point he is at my door and asks if he could speak to me, i said yes. He obviously wants to know what happened from my point of view, and frankly, I was on vacation to enjoy myself and did not want to have a conversation at that time. In my mind were two things...one, she's not cleaning my cabin and two, money talks, so at the end of the cruise, I will get reimbursed my gratuity...I can show you better than I can tell you...hence, the title of my review, which many people clearly do not know, if service is not up to par...get your gratuity back...all or a portion of it. These cruise ships make so much money, week after week after week, there is no reason we are paying thousands of dollars to get on these ships and pay the people who are cleaning our rooms. It's like going to a hotel and paying for the room, and then paying the people who come by to clean the room. Everything is overpriced to the 11th power. I'm sorry, I'm on vacation, if my service is not STELLAR/STATE OF THE ART...it's a WRAP!
Soooooo, I told him i don't want my room cleaned, we just need towels, toilet paper and soap...he states, we have to have the room cleaned and that he would swap her with another steward...I said fine!
So, of course i see her every day, several times a day, and she goes out of her way to speak to my husband and son...as though I care, my secret (weapon) is getting refund of my gratuity at the end of the cruise...I am not going to go back and forth with her, its not what I'm there for.
Obviously, the Norwegian Gem is a dated ship, no frills such as outdoor movie theater, racing cars, laser tag etc...very basic same old same old stuff...i did this cruise for two reasons, leaving out of New York (no airfare required) and 3rd and 4th passenger was 'free' - haha.
Shore Excursions: WE DID NOT, I REPEAT, DID NOT, go to Great Stirrup Cay, we pulled up, an announcement was made that the tenders could not bring us to/from shore due to the waves and we left and headed directly for Nassau...so in 7 days, we did 2 stops, Port Canaveral and Nassau...they thought for everyone's inconveience they provided a $31.50 credit (hummm...minus the $14.50 gratuity), $17 bucks net. THANKS!
We get to Nassau in the evening, we don't get off the ship...we wait until the next day and on our own look for a location where we can jetski/wave runners...this was what we signed up to do at Great Stirrup and it wasn't offered as a Shore Excursion in Nassau.
With us not getting off in GSC, it gave the ship an opportunity to make more 'goo gabs' of money...people drank, hung out by the pool, shopped, gambled...the cruise ship made out just fine for (our inconvenience).
Entertainment: nothing, absolutely nothing to rave about...we did enjoy Show Out Tonight
Dining: it was so hit and miss it wasn't even funny...I still hear, happy happy, spray spray, smile all the time, in my head :-)...my daughter took a liking to O'Sheehan's, they have wings and nachos...bar and grill type of place and ultimately our Vacation Hero was a waiter who was in that bar...he was just NICE. When dining at other locations, I don't know, it was just one of those, whatever side of the bed they rolled out, was what you were going to get.
I have to go back to the pre-paid gratuity, clearly this gives me heartburn...back in the day when they did envelopes, apparently, people weren't leaving anything or enough to compensate the workers...I suppose they felt that what they paid for a week's cruise should compensate the workers as well...i frankly feel the same way...now that being said, if you had someone who went above and beyond, then tip them accordingly, but this pre-pay has the workers acting any kind of way and that is UNACCEPTABLE.
NOTE: from what I saw, there were quite a few people at that desk requesting their gratuity back by the end of the trip...I believe most were upset about missing that 2nd stop...i say this to say,they may want to re-think this pre-paid gratuity nonsense, it will put these workers back on their toes and give good customer service TO EVERYONE, EVERYTIME...I am certainly not asking for much, don't need anyone to go out of their way for us, but, I am a customer service FANATIC and politeness MEANS THE WORLD TO ME...you will be rewarded for good customer service...period...I was more than prepared to leave something extra because there were 4 of us in the room...but I don't pay anyone to mistreat me both in words and action.
Lastly, disembark: OK, so cruise lines are now letting passengers take their luggage off themselves and leave pretty much as soon as they dock....WHAT A NIGHTMARE. I'm not kidding, by 7:30am, there had to be almost 1500 people waiting in line to get off the ship...it was so bottlenecked...people couldn't even get off the elevator...elderly standing, children, babies...they have got to figure out a way to combat this process...very cumbersome...perhaps they can do this but streamline it, for instance:
Take the highest deck and give them a 15 minute window, have staff stand at the elevator entry, make an announcement that Deck 13 can take their luggage and head downstairs, after they get downstairs, have the same crew go to Deck 12, Deck 11, Deck 10 and so on until there is a nice flow of people exiting with out the headache. This process can start at 7:30a/7:45a (depending on when ship docks) and be done by the time the people with luggage tags are ready to exit...if for some reason, the folks on Deck 13 who are taking off their luggage themselves are not ready to disembark when their deck is called, they default to the end of the line so to speak.
In any case, I'm done...oh yea...the cabin manager, I caught up with him by chance the night before we were scheduled to depart and i told him that i didn't want to talk about the incident because i didn't want to ruin my vacation, i told him what happened and he was going to reach out to me before I left to discuss further...if I heard from him, so did you...haha.
In summary, I like NCL...we have used them as our cruise ship more than any of the others...however, they have some stiff competition...Royal has the Symphony of the Seas, which NCL is competing with their new ship Bliss...service (for me) dictates giving my money to Royal versus NCL...its just that simple.
I am hopeful that we will use NCL again and they will retrain their staff to just provide each and every person stellar service...no matter what...some people will say that the staff works hard, 8 months without a break...but, they filled out the application for employment to do just that...they knew what they were signing up for, just do your job, like I am required to do my job when I'm at work. Read Less