This is my first review. Maybe I should wait until I've had more time to digest my thoughts, but decided to write something while it's still fresh in my mind. Since I had very little sleep last night having disembarked this ... Read More
This is my first review. Maybe I should wait until I've had more time to digest my thoughts, but decided to write something while it's still fresh in my mind. Since I had very little sleep last night having disembarked this morning and driven straight to work, I do hope what I'm writing will make some sense and be useful somehow.
Our cruise was the 2 nighter from Dover to Amsterdam and back to Dover on 6th Oct 2007.
The Ship and Crew 1. This was our first time on a new ship having been on the Jewel and Dream previously. The brand new ship was very impressive. Everything was so shiny! Loved the new dolphin carpet. However, by this morning we had already found scuffed carpeting on the stairs. Our balcony stateroom was compact but still lovely. The new partition door for the toilet was a nice useful addition.
2. Being one of the first cruises on this new ship, the friendliness and efficiency of the staff was the best we have experienced so far. Everyone was making so much effort to give the best first impression possible. One of our staterooms had a faulty heater and repair was carried out promptly.
3. The layout of the ship is much improved from the Jewel. Switching the locations of the Bliss Ultra Lounge and the Trade Routes Boutiques made much better use of both spaces. I believe it's very similar from the Pearl though. The Bliss Ultra Lounge was lovely and the velvety new furniture they've scattered at different locations was gorgeous. Provided us with plenty of funny photo opportunities!
Dining 4. Being only a 2 nighter, we only ate at the Garden Cafe, the Grand Pacific Main Dining Room, La Cucina Italian Restaurant and the Blue Lagoon. There were 8 in our group, some had travelled on other cruise lines (RCI and MSC, I think) and their verdict was NCL served the best food.
5. The first night was Lobster Night at the main dining rooms and the lobster was pretty good! Our waiter was very helpful and the service was very quick. Some may not appreciate this, but for us having hardly any waiting time between courses was great!
6. On our Jewel cruise we had tried every restaurant apart from the Italian so we made a booking by phone for La Cucina as soon as we got to our stateroom! The food was good, risotto a little underdone and too salty but generally it was good. Great atmosphere in that restaurant and the large windows gave great views.
7. The new layout of the Garden Cafe meant more choice of food and having servers meant less mess and better appetite! The area is very well lit and welcoming, unlike on the Jewel. However, the actual eating area felt very cramped and was difficult to navigate through, they've tried to fit too many tables and chairs in that area.
Entertainment 8. The general standard of all the different performers at the various dances and shows was very high, much higher than our previous cruises. The pool band playing at the Sailaway Party was excellent, the lead singer was so pitch perfect they could have been playing a CD! The show at the Stardust Theatre was also very good with much better singers and dancers than on the Jewel or the Dream.
9. Didn't catch his name, but the guy on the piano, who I think was the Music Director, was very good. Not only was his piano playing excellent, he was very funny and even provided music to those waiting to sort things out at reception during disembarkation.
10. On our second night we wandered into the Teen's Leopard Lounge and found "free play" in the games arcade! We spent time playing on all the machines and had a lot of fun!
Disembarkation 11. We were able to disembark whenever we were ready rather than deck by deck. Some people were still sleeping by the time we left. Very quick disembarkation at Dover as usual.
Now, the Not so Good… I must admit most of these are just minor teething problems…
Parking 1. They really need to get their act together at Dover Cruise Terminal Parking. Customers with bookings wait in line with those without bookings. Expect at least 30 minute wait at peak times.
Embarkation 2. Embarkation was chaotic. Seemed like everyone arrived at Dover at the same time! Being Latitude members didn't benefit us in any way this time. The rest of our group checked in normally waiting behind a queue of at least 70+ people and us with only 1 family before us in the Latitude check-in, we still finished at the same time! It appeared that the lady checking us in was on training…
Lifeboat Drill 3. This point probably had nothing to do with the ship, but I'm still going to rant. Scheduled at 3:30pm., some passengers didn't turn up until after 4:00pm. What usually takes about 15 minutes took more than 45 minutes to complete! I suspect these late passengers had been watching the rugby and couldn't tear themselves away from the screens. If all services ceased at 3:30pm for the drill as advertised, then I'm sure the rest of us wouldn't have been held up unnecessarily.
Sailaway Party 4. There was no party. There was a band, but they had been playing as soon as we embarked. There was no BBQ, although it was never advertised, but we had come to expect it due to our other 2 NCL cruises. No special food was laid out (you take the food from the Grill or the Garden Café), no games were organized, it was just an extended lunch! And so we move on to the next point…
Cruise Director Clint 5. He was a no-show at the Sailaway Party. Maybe that was why nothing was organized. In the 2 days we were on the ship, we saw Clint once, for about 1 minute at the end of the Stardust Theatre show.
Entertainment 6. On our 2 nighter there was only a show on one of the nights. At first we thought this was understandable, this was a shakedown cruise after all. But since reading the first Gem review we have become less understanding because they saw a different show to ours which means they had 2 shows prepared and rehearsed already!
Special Request 7. A lady in our group had a birthday during this cruise and I had made a request in the booking for her stateroom. This did not materialize, but understandable since I only ticked a box indicated the birthday in the booking and didn't pay extra. At dinner I made another request for a birthday song and after much clarification and having identified the lady in our group to the staff, this also did not materialize.
Well, 11 major good points against 7 minor bad points, I think that's a very good score for a shakedown cruise! I look forward to sailing on the Gem again on a full length cruise once they've perfected everything! Read Less