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Sail Date: September 2017
pleasant cruise; embarkation in Malta, Ship is a good size, not huge, not tiny Weather was clement - only ROME had rain but the day at sea from Cagliari to Hράκλειον (Heraklion) was bad ... Read More
pleasant cruise; embarkation in Malta, Ship is a good size, not huge, not tiny Weather was clement - only ROME had rain but the day at sea from Cagliari to Hράκλειον (Heraklion) was bad around Sicily and Malta - we had great laughs trying to learn Latin american dancing with the ship thundering against the huge waves and the dance floor in Maharini's at the prow bouncing like a drum skin with each wave. Dining was mixed - the self-service Raffles was characterised by an overweight or obese majority piling huge stacks of food on their plates and going back for seconds! While the windows restaurant had audible engine noise and occasional excitement like the lady who almost choked on her food. passing through the deck 7 corridors was often an ordeal due to the greasy spoon / bar smell. The oriental food restaurant Shogun was excellent though often overbooked. The menus of all restaurants did not seem to change much during the 10 days. The garden restaurant was the best mix for our taste but was often overbooked. Staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and with few exceptions radiated an air of cheerfulness and good spirits. Animateurs were equally excellent, though the master of ceremonies in the Stardust theatre was sometimes too bombastic for European tastes. The entertainment is aimed at the majority of passengers (older and from USA) and in our eyes was often very good with a few ludicrously bad shows. We liked the observation lounge/bar "Galaxy of the stars " best, especially for watching docking/undocking. The hidden conference room area on deck 8 was intriguing. The white (gala) dance was almost the very end of our trip and in my opinion was mainly for the on-board entertainers rather than the passengers, most of whom were a) old, b) tired from shore excursions. The pool was icy and while some had no problems, others had severe eye irritation after swimming there and subsequently sitting in the hot Jacuzzi tubs around the pool. we did not book any excursions form the ship. Some Italian cities we had visited already. In every port of call, tour operators at the exit of the port offered much more competitively priced good excursions. Santorini was somewhat disappointing as the island has wonderful views and many arty tourist-fodder shops but otherwise nothing to offer (it is too short a stay and too cold in October to swim). We made the mistake of trying to visit both Herculaneum which is very interesting in itself, and Pompeii, which is so huge that you would need several days to tour and appreciate it. Sometimes we could not find the well-hidden "audioguide" stalls which would have helped in the archaeological sites. The ship's gym is well-equipped though the use of the equipment was not explained except by unclear pictograms on the machines. Most times I could also watch the goings on at the Tivoli pool/bar area. Part of the Deck 13 "quiet zone" is adjacent to very loud vents for the air-conditioning system. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
My partner and I joined Norwegian Gem at Valletta, Malta for a 7 night cruise. As most passengers on this cruise join and leave at Barcelona our boarding was fast, efficient and friendly.

ACCOMMODATION: Our cabin (mini-suite grade ... Read More

My partner and I joined Norwegian Gem at Valletta, Malta for a 7 night cruise. As most passengers on this cruise join and leave at Barcelona our boarding was fast, efficient and friendly.

ACCOMMODATION: Our cabin (mini-suite grade AF) was spacious, well appointed and had a good size glass-sided balcony. The bathroom was the best we have ever had at sea with a full bath, lots of fluffy towels and a separate toilet. The decor throughout the ship is a blaze of primary colors - the carpets are a psychedelic nightmare.

FOOD: Excellent, wherever we ate, but "Freestyle Cruising" means a stampede for tables at around 8, unless you wish to pay a $10-20 cover charge for one of the speciality restaurants where the food is no better. We've seen champagne on ice in breakfast-rooms many times, but 4 different brands of iced vodka on offer at 7 in the morning was a first for us.

SERVICE: First class if a little over familiar (sorry, we're British). Always a smile and a genuine desire to please. A word of warning! NCL say that tipping is "neither expected nor encouraged" as $10 per person per day will be added to guests' accounts. I don't recall being told that a 15% "autogratuity" would be added to all beverage purchases, whether in the bars, stateroom mini-bar or restaurants.

ENTERTAINMENT: So-so unless you are in to late night discos. The shows in the theatre were mostly done to backing tracks but were mercifully brief.

PORTS-OF-CALL: No need to review these individually as they are all well known. The shore excursion flyer delivered to the cabin told us that the cheapest and easiest way to do Rome under our own steam was with the ship's "Rome on Your Own" package. $119 per person takes you to the center of Rome by bus and brings you back in time for sailing. Instead, we walked to Civitavecchia railway station (10 minutes pleasant stroll) and purchased return train tickets for 9 euros ($12) each! The ticket also gave us unlimited travel on the excellent Rome subway system which is centered on the main train station, with everything you are likely to want to see within 2 or 3 stops. Frankly we think that NCL's claim of the ease and cheapness of their offering is very close to fraud. Similar differences in the cost of going it alone applied to Pompeii (from Naples), Florence (from Livorno) and Nice/Monte Carlo (from VIllefranche) - all served by fast, comfortable trains.

LEAVING THE SHIP: No problems at all until we got to the foot of the gangway at Malta. No signs whatsoever to tell us where to collect our luggage and no NCL representative to be seen. A Maltese port security guard told us that he thought he had seen bags going from the ship to the Sicily Ferry Terminal. Thank goodness he was right. All very strange as we had boarded from the Cruise Terminal. The two buildings are a quarter of a mile apart!

In general a great cruise and very good value for money.

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Sail Date: June 2008
First I would like to state that we are from Malta which is the first port of call after Barcelona embarkation. Secondly because I'm from a hot Mediterranean country I strongly advise the use of sunscreen, light comfortable clothing, hats ... Read More
First I would like to state that we are from Malta which is the first port of call after Barcelona embarkation. Secondly because I'm from a hot Mediterranean country I strongly advise the use of sunscreen, light comfortable clothing, hats and a steady supply of drinking water for every excursion you plan to take.

Take a very small lightweight stroller as you will have to stash this under your bed due to the space constraints we had a balcony but space was a problem. The crib supplied by NCL was essentially a travel cot playpen. The mattress was harder than our playpen at home so our baby ended up between us in our bed and the crib was returned after 1 night.

We took a very small inflatable pool for our 10 month old daughter as per Cruise Critic reviewer advice. It was a good decision as the babies pool was too hot and a very silly lady decided to feed her daughter in there once, leaving the water full of bits of food. The bar staff will happily oblige to fill a small baby pool up. We usually took a couple of chairs opposite the Topsiders grill and snacked there with our baby pool by our feet.

You won't have to worry about the children not enjoying it. Mine hardly participated in club activities but made friends by the pool and in the jacuzzi.

We learned that the staff will empty your cabin fridge if you ask- useful for baby food. There was a launderette on the inner side of our deck (10) so I assume there was one on each deck. You can buy laundry supplies from the shops on level 7. Another thing, they will bring a children's menu if your child doesn't like the foods in the paying restaurants.

One of my sons was in a cabin next door with my mother. Unfortunately or fortunately for my husband our cabins did not intercommunicate as the locked doors led to another cabin on the other side. This was probably a mistake of our travel agent so make sure to check with them.

The library unlike my previous cruise experiences was well stocked with new books.

The pool was rather hot throughout the trip and busiest on the sea day and the Villefranche day. You will struggle to find empty sunbeds unless you go early or very late or alternatively choose to stay onboard rather than visit a port. The sea and France days are also the busiest for the restaurants and as other reviewers said the Teppanyaki is ALWAYS full.

We had problems with our TV which continuously reset and we had to bring in a technician twice. We were told not to touch the buttons but ONLY use the remote. Unfortunately this did not help when we tried to watch a pay movie. We ended up restarting it 6 times and despite calling reception repeatedly and being assured the restarts were not being charged they still appeared on our bill. We visited reception twice more but right up until our last day when the issue was finally solved the charges still appeared. For those like us who are sushi lovers try the sushi-bar. Jonathan will try and stuff you with as much sushi as humanly possible...and more. Other pay restaurants we tried were the Le Bistro brunch with string quartet music on our sea day. We had a lovely steak with shrimp there. The steak at Cagney's was amazing. We also loved the Asian fusion restaurant. We never tried the Italian, Teppanyaki or Mexican. The dining rooms were good as was the over-all service. We liked the Blue Lagoon the least maybe because we ended up eating there 3 times and got bored of the comfort food.

For those visiting Barcelona: BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS especially in the area around the aquarium. 2 passengers I know who were not traveling together had to have their NCL cards re-issued, to make matters worst the local police spoke very little English despite the huge amount of people reporting wallet thefts. Their wallets were stolen from there bags and pockets but they only realized this when they needed to purchase something. In Barcelona we first caught a port bus just outside the entrance/exit of the NCL terminal. We then caught a hop-on-hop-off bus. You can purchase tickets for this in the information stall just across the port bus stop (It's about 20euros per adult & 12 per child). If like me you had a young child plus stroller don't stop at Gaudi's Park Guell stop as there is a looong steep hill which you have to walk up in the blazing heat.

For those doing a DIY tour of Malta wake up early, unfortunately you have an early departure so I don't advise going too far. In Valletta don't forget to look up or you will miss some wonderful Baroque architecture. If you like to visit old churches don't forget the beautiful St John's cathedral and if you're not feeling too hot try the traditional Maltese snack of Pastizzi made with a local puff pastry, eggs + fresh cottage cheese. Make sure they're fresh though as they won't taste good otherwise. Mdina (it's pronounced as im-dee-na)is also very interesting, bus 80 should take around 1 hour or less for a one way trip but take a taxi back if you're short of time. Other buses: 81, 82, 84 pass the stop at Rabat which is close to Mdina outskirts but ask the conductor for the right stop. The 3 cities area is also very interesting especially the Vittoriosa area which can be reached with buses 1 & 2. Vittoriosa or Birgu as the Maltese call it has wonderfully restored stores and wine bars; baroque buildings & churches and for the sadists the Inquisitor's palace. Make sure you take 1 euro coins and other small change to pay for your bus fare. We caught the Capri hydrofoil (I think it was about 17 euros per person for a 1 way). The tickets booths are 5 minutes away across from the exit of the Naples terminal of NCL. We did not venture into Naples but we know people who did safely. Don't forget to leave any valuables in your onboard safe. Capri has some lovely 6 person taxis with an airy linen canopy. Visit the Majolica church in Anacapri and the views there from Axel Munthe's house are lovely so take your camera and snap away. Capri has some beautiful luxury stores and hotels. We came down from there by cable car but did not venture on the Monte Solaro chairlift in Piazza Vittoria as it was too hot and there was baby Thea to contend with.

As we visit Italy quite often we decided to stay in Civitavecchia for some leisurely shopping and a lovely Italian fish-based lunch in a quiet piazza off the main road. In Livorno we did the same thing after catching the 1 euro bus from the ship. Make sure you get directions as the main shopping street is about 5-10 minutes away. Alternatively Pisa is a short train trip away but beware of train strikes and unannounced delays or cancellations in Italy. Always have enough euros for taxis and remember there are always huge queues of people waiting to walk up the leaning tower- on payment of course.

In Villefranche make sure you have breakfast in the Garden Cafe/Great Outdoors area for the lovely views. Here we had to get to land by tender. Going was fine but the return was terrible as there were way too many people in the glass waiting room and the boats were taking long. I heard of somebody who fainted from the heat. We set sail quite early so as a DIY I suggest to do as we did and taxi it to Nice (25-30 euros one way). The pedestrian area near Place Massena is nice but Old Nice is better. Take a coffee, snack or brunch in Cours Saleya and peep in the antique shop windows.

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