Sail Date: November 2010
We were very pleased, my wife and I with the great ports visited, the Greek Islands plus Split and back to back return to New York, it was very convenient. We experience waves on deck 8 in the Tequila bar that came up as high as the ... Read More
We were very pleased, my wife and I with the great ports visited, the Greek Islands plus Split and back to back return to New York, it was very convenient. We experience waves on deck 8 in the Tequila bar that came up as high as the middle of our window. This was an exciting event to say the least. On three occasions plates and furniture hit the floor and some passengers were hurt. It was worst on the 12th floor and it had to be closed down. This event although a bit dramatic, was a memorable experience and a first for us. It also brought a significant number of passengers to the main dining rooms. Freestyle works when all of the dining areas are open. An event like this one brings utter chaos because sitting procedures and choosing a table are much more time consuming than fixed table seatings. Thus for myself I just went to the Blue Lagons instead of waiting for hours. We ate tomato soup and hamburgers and this continued next day. One can say that Freestyle dining contributes to occasional chaotic table service but is pleasant when it works (70 to 90% of the time depending on the dining area. By the way the cafeteria style of the Garden Cafe would also require cafeteria style trays. Getting up every time to fetch food is a pain and requires constant attention because staff very rapidly remove your empty plate and others can very easyly take your table... Although pleased with the personel and the ship the smoking policy permitting smoking in the cabins was a very important draw back. On the very first day of the second leg of my back to back cruise, I was surrounded by a pack of smokers. We complained about the smell and very prompty, the staff cleaned the room sprayed the carped with perfumed stuff and made our day or so we thought. We unfortunately stayed in the room to read and after an hour plus we became lightheaded and nauseated (excuse my English my French is better). We were feeling ill enough to tell personel at the front desk that we would get off at the next port. It was impossible to change rooms (sold out cruise) and we tried an electronic air purifier. The smell of cigarette was replace for the next 14 days by a strong smell of ozone but we accepted this. We were pleased with the cruise but felt ill in this envirement. Runny nose, smokers cough, red eyes...WE WILL MAKE SMOKE FREE PERSONAL LIVING SPACE A MUST FOR OUR NEXT CRUISES. NCL SHOULD STOP EXPOSING THEIR NON SMOKING CUSTOMERS TO SECOND HAND SMOKE. Their courageous personel would surely benefit from smoke free corridors and cabins. I know that selling tax free cigarettes is a big motivating factor for them but is also very bad for those who smoke in a rapid fire fashion in their smoky cabins. Non smokers be ware! Good and healthy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Embarkation: No waiting (we arrived about 90 minutes before sailing), very smooth. Quick luggage delivery to the cabin. Ship: Very colorful and kitschy. Nice place is the SPA with splendid views. Comparing to other ships there is no ... Read More
Embarkation: No waiting (we arrived about 90 minutes before sailing), very smooth. Quick luggage delivery to the cabin. Ship: Very colorful and kitschy. Nice place is the SPA with splendid views. Comparing to other ships there is no "Atrium" and no real center of the ship. Costs: On NCL you are often reminded to spend on add-ons like speciality restaurants, excursions, items in the shops, spa etc... Even the offered enrichment aims at it (Martini Classes, Chinese Medical products, gem stones). Enrichment: Not really, more like selling shows. Food: American oriented (burgers, fries, eggs, bacon, beer...). The speciality restaurants lack the real authentic flavour. But Cagney's, as it's American, has really superb steaks! All black Angus. Cabin: Nice and quiet. Very comfortable bed. Port of Calls: Dis-/Embarkation always very smooth and well organized. The ship was fully booked, but there was no hassle. Activities: Good sport deck. Especially the field for ball games, which was often used by teenagers. Shore Excursions: We didn't participate in any. Too expensive and mostly crowded. Final remark: NCL Gem was a nice experience, but I prefer other ship layout (RCCL) other decoration style (MSC) and less freestyle, in the sense of more "all inclusive" style. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We just returned from the October 16-23rd sailing of the NCL Gem from Venice. I was somewhat apprehensive given the range of reviews - we decided to "see for ourselves". I'm glad we did! We had a fabulous time! ... Read More
We just returned from the October 16-23rd sailing of the NCL Gem from Venice. I was somewhat apprehensive given the range of reviews - we decided to "see for ourselves". I'm glad we did! We had a fabulous time! EMBARKATION: We arrived around 2pm. The arrival hall was basically empty so we were checked in and on the ship in 10 minutes flat. The cabin was ready so we didn't have to go to the cafe loaded with bags to wait for entry. CABIN: We had a balcony on level 9 - it was clean and comfortable with ample storage space. My only quirk was the "toilet room": the bathroom was divided with the toilet in a separate space (to allow for others to come in while you're taking care of business) which I found to be a bit cramped. Had to sit at an angle to keep my knees from pressing the wall. The shower was great! I especially liked having a glass door instead of a shower curtain so no sticking of the curtain to the body as with other cruise lines. The coffee maker in the room was a nice touch and eliminated me having to call room service every morning - I could make my own coffee when I wanted it. NCL even provided cream which I kept in the refrigerator. The balcony was spacious. The room stewards were very friendly and accommodating. FOOD: After taking a cruise on MSC (never again!!) last December, we were in food heaven! There was food everywhere - so many places to eat. We dined in a different restaurant every night. For those who complained about the specialty restaurants, just don't go. You have two dining rooms, the buffet, Topsiders, and the Blue Lagoon to eat for free. It was nice having somewhere to eat with table service (Blue Lagoon) at any time of the day (24hrs). We found the food to be quite good in all areas. The chinese restaurant was just "ok". The food, though served hot, tasted like a frozen entree you can purchase from a supermarket. You can order as much as you want. Teppenyaki was great - just like the Japanese steakhouses at home. Le Bistro - very romantic atmosphere and well-prepared dishes. If you are allergic to alcohol as I am, the staff will accommodate your needs however your selections become limited (alcohol is used in many of the sauces/dishes). Otherwise, I felt this was the best specialty restaurant on the ship. Cagney's I must say was a bit of a let down. It's not that it wasn't good, it was just that - good. Not great, wow!, superb, or outstanding. Just good. The Cagney's fries are great - fried in truffle oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese - the best part of the meal. Frankly, you could do just as well in the main dining room with the steak and side dishes. The only difference is the number of ounces of the steak! The asparagus side order was skimpy (3 pieces). We felt the food in the main dining rooms (we ate in both) was quite good. The service in all areas was outstanding - food was served in a reasonable amount of time, servers polite and accommodating. We had no problems getting reservations for any of the places we wanted to eat in including the dining rooms. You can make your reseravations for the entire week the first day of the cruise with the exception of Teppanyaki - they only allow a reservation no earlier than the day before. CLEANLINESS OF SHIP: I found to be quite good. I even reported someone using their hands to sprinkle parmesan cheese on their food in the buffet instead of using a utensil!! The staff removed the container and thanked me for saying something. Just because there is a staff person at the entry of the buffet with hand sanitizer doesn't mean you put your hands in something meant to be served with a utensil! The staff person told me "you should see what we see from behind here (the food line)!". I noticed the second day there was a sign at the deli stating to use the tongs to serve your sandwiches. Wonder how many people used their hands to pick something up and put it back?! Other public areas were well-maintained and all public bathrooms that I visited were clean. ACTIVITIES: I found to be the same as other cruise lines. Many people complained about Bingo like NCL is the only line playing the game. I didn't see any difference. Bowling was $5pp per game including shoes - that's cheaper than at home! For those who felt nickeled and dimed, I just don't see how. NCL didn't do anymore than any other line. ENTERTAINMENT: We didn't see much as we relaxed on this cruise. What we did see ranged from very good to blah/boring. NCL could step up a bit in this area. EXCURSIONS: All cruise lines are going to charge top dollar for their excursions. Frankly, we were glad we paid the $199 for Athens day tour. The city would not have been easy to navigate in a short period. Plus it was somewhat dirty and graffiti was everywhere! We were even handed a flyer about museum workers on strike when we went to the Acropolis. I'm glad NCL handled our day for us there. The excursion to Ephesus was great however NCL should cut out the carpet stop and insert a stop at the bazaar in town. Who wants to spend thousands on a rug? I don't care how many loops were used to make it and that it's handmade! I was quoted a price of $11k (THAT'S RIGHT!) for a handmade rug. We left the showroom and waited on the bus for the others. Dubrovnik and Napflion are places you can definitely do on your own. We were fortunate enough to dock instead of tender in Croatia - NCL provided transportation directly to the old city free of charge! STAFF: All were very polite and friendly. Some others on their reviews of this cruise prior to this week said they encountered rudeness, uncaring staff members. Must have been an immediate turn around as NOBODY was rude, unprofessional, or discourteous at any time. Outstanding crew! FREESTYLE: Well, I must say I do like the concept. But I also like having designated formal nights when just about all are dressed up. Most people dressed resort casual or cocktail for dinner everynight. Only a few people wore shorts to the dining room or wore clothing I felt should have been worn to the buffet. NCL has 2 "dress up if you want" nights. Perhaps they can designate one of the dining rooms for these nights for formal wear. Otherwise, you weren't forced to sit with others not dressed like yourself if you had a reservation. DISEMBARKATION: A breeze. We were off the ship right away when our color was called. OVERALL: I was pleasantly surprised. Even the decor was not as gaudy as the pictures I saw of the ship and was actually warm and inviting! I would definitely sail NCL again. ADVICE: The airport in Venice is a nightmare to check in for your flight home. Gates do not open until 2 hours prior to flight time so don't get there too early. Space is limited in the front portion of the airport, there is no direction from any airline staff, people have no manners and take cuts in the security line - and there is only one big line! Once you get through security, it's like the calm after a storm. Very nice and a number of high-end shops. Also, if your carry-on bag doesn't fit the regulation model, they will charge you and make you check it. $90 lesson we learned! Cabs cost the same as NCL transfers. We did take the express bus to the Piazza le Roma from the airport and that is a great way to go when you arrive in Venice - only 3 euro per person. The shuttle bus to the ship from the Piazza le Rome is not clearly marked. It will stop near the Hotel Olimpia. On October 15th it was a large yellow school bus. There was a small sign in the front window but I still ad to ask the driver to make sure - it's not like he went out of his way to get the attention of anyone needing to get to the port. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Our ship left from Venice, Italy for a 14-day cruise to New York,with several stops before the ocean. We had no problems at the various ports along the way. In fact, we absolutely loved Porto Degado in the Azores. Our problem was ... Read More
Our ship left from Venice, Italy for a 14-day cruise to New York,with several stops before the ocean. We had no problems at the various ports along the way. In fact, we absolutely loved Porto Degado in the Azores. Our problem was not with the stops or the excursions. Our problem was with Norwegian trying to extract money from us all he time. We were "expected" to buy drinks or play bingo. It was as if whatever we spet was not enough. On top of that, we had miserable weather, at the tail of a very hard storm. A rogue wave hi the ship one day, causing damage to the gift shops and injuries to the travellers. Movies? They were not on the cabin television but we could ent them for just $6.00 per day! Current news? None, unless you were hooked on Sky News, a very sorry substitute for decent news coverage. We have sailed several times with Norwegian. We have one more booked, because we purchased the discount before we found out how greedy the line was. It will likely be our last Norwegian cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
The ship is very nice as were the crew. I dont think that the food was up to the standard of Royal Caribbean. The entertainment was ok. Our first port of call was Dubrovnik. It was a nightmare getting off, by tender. We were kept ... Read More
The ship is very nice as were the crew. I dont think that the food was up to the standard of Royal Caribbean. The entertainment was ok. Our first port of call was Dubrovnik. It was a nightmare getting off, by tender. We were kept waiting for a very long time. It seems that they were telling us to book excursions through them so that we would get priority on dissembarking at the other ports. They ran out of draught beer after a few days at sea wich is a disgrace. If the ship had been full of Irish, Welsh, Scottish or English, then im sure we could have seen somthing resembling HMS BOUNTY. They were lucky that the majority of passengers were either American or Canadian who wouldnt normally socialise as we do. To put insult to injury they tried to push an AUSTRALIAN beer on us with a sell by date of only a number of days. The bingo was a joke. You would have to be without ANY brain cells to enjoy it, how did they make us suffer and at one hell of a price. The final night had an all WHITES party night and what did they do, they tried to sell us T shirts at their special rate for the party. Sooo nice of them. RCI here I come. The plus was that we went with and met some fantastic people and they made the holiday for us. We are all intending on going on another cruise early in the new year but it wont be with NCL. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We have sailed several times - most on NCL. We always select interior cabins because our goal is to spend as little time there as possible. We have been pleased with NCL in the past. In fact, our favorite cruise was a full transit Panama ... Read More
We have sailed several times - most on NCL. We always select interior cabins because our goal is to spend as little time there as possible. We have been pleased with NCL in the past. In fact, our favorite cruise was a full transit Panama Canal cruise in 2009. However, this was our worst cruise ever and fr at least two reasons: Embarkation, ports of call and debarkation were all "okay". Nothing to be blown away by but certainly adequate. Embarked from Venice, visited Malaga, Lisbon and Puerto del Gado. Even the very rough seas during the crossing was acceptable because the captain worked hard to avoid rough seas - unsuccessfully. What disturbed us was that entertainment was very minimal and the quality was very poor. We have never been bored on a ship before this trip and we can no longer say that. I have never played so many games of cards with my wife as we did on this trip! Crew seemed to have too much to do to be bothered with keeping the passengers busy. WAAAAY boring! The other problem was NOTHING was free! Bingo? Costs money. Gambling? Costs money. Ship tour? Costs money. Watch a movie on your stateroom TV? Costs money. Eating? Except for the buffet, main dining rooms and one quick restaurant, most venues cost money. I have a personal aversion to being offered food already paid fr in the tip cost, but having it implied that if I want GOOD food, I need to pay even more. Paying the trip cost is not really the total cost of this cruise. You will be given many more opportunities to pay . . . and pay . . . and pay. Maybe some people welcome that, but we didn't. We made a mistake of purchasing $250 toward a future cruise too early in this cruise. Now I need to decide whether to blow that off or cruise just one more time in Norwegian - then, never again! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We embarked from Venice. Arrived at the port terminal at 11:30AM, and were on board by noon. No Problem. Our suite was beautiful, everything we expected and more. We particularly enjoyed the perk of being able to have breakfast and ... Read More
We embarked from Venice. Arrived at the port terminal at 11:30AM, and were on board by noon. No Problem. Our suite was beautiful, everything we expected and more. We particularly enjoyed the perk of being able to have breakfast and lunch in Cagney's. The breakfast and lunches were wonderful. We had dinner in five specialty restaurants and enjoyed each of them. We really enjoyed the French Bistro, and went there twice. Cagneys was good, and the Italian restaurant was OK, but the menu was lacking creativity. We had a dinner in our room one night from the Asian restaurant. Our butler service was outstanding that night and for the entire cruise. We ate in the main dining room the rest of the nights, and experienced no problems. The food was good, well presented, service was good, and deserts were outstanding. The ports we visited were good, we had done them before, and didn't use any NCL tours. We took the Hop on Hop Off bus in each port. Enjoyable. Attended two shows on the ship and enjoyed them. We visited the casino each night and enjoyed ourselves there. The casino people, dealers, etc. were really very nice. We experienced one stormy day at sea, rough seas, etc, but it wasn't that bad. That night, we at in our room from the Asian restaurant. No sense having to get your balance every 10 steps. The captain kept everyone well informed and and I believe he handled the ship and the situation well. I heard and read a lot of negatives about the cruise, mainly from the die hard Cruise Critic members. They seemed to have a lot to say about everything. Maybe we're easy to please, but we've been on Crystal cruises, Holland American, Costa, Seabourn, Celebrity and this cruise was just as good as any of them. The ship was immaculate and the workers were very amiable. Like any other cruise, they try to sell you, but I didn't think there was any pressure. We got off the ship as easily as we boarded, there was a slight delay that had something to do with the luggage, but it was worked out and didn't upset anything. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this cruise at a 9. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and would go again. We are unhappy that the Gem is no longer doing Transatlantic cruises. Hopefully it will return. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
The Gem is a wonderful ship. We been on the Jewel in February and really liked the ship, so it was an easy decision to make. Everything was very well-done, beautiful surroundings, very clean. We really enjoyed being on the Courtyard level ... Read More
The Gem is a wonderful ship. We been on the Jewel in February and really liked the ship, so it was an easy decision to make. Everything was very well-done, beautiful surroundings, very clean. We really enjoyed being on the Courtyard level and utilized that facility frequently. It was nice to have breakfast or lunch served in the courtyard, without having to even go downstairs. Cagney's is great, although after the first few days my husband would have liked to have a little more variety in the menu. The crew and service people were fabulous, very friendly, very professional, very helpful. Our butler, Roy Perez, was very competent and we appreciated the efforts of the concierge, Ruth Haggar, in seeing that we were taken care of and making reservations for us. We felt very pampered on this ship. When everyone else went ashore, we just stayed aboard and enjoyed the ship, it was that good, very relaxing. The entertainment seemed to be an improvement from most of the other cruise lines and the options available at multiple locations was really nice. Listening to the piano at the martini bar, or the strings in the star bar, was particularly delightful in comparison to other ships. We liked the shows that we attended, mostly the single performers. Even with the rough weather that we encountered, we found that the crew was most helpful and accommodating. The only negative remark that we have is that the room service food was just not that good, and it seemed we always wanted something between hours and just didn't want to take the hike to the stern for the great outdoors for just a snack. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Flew into Venice one day early to rest up for cruising. Stayed out in Quatro d'Altino which was fine. Have been in Venice before so knew we would save the city for our port day. Embarkation was easy. Was glad that we could sign up for ... Read More
Flew into Venice one day early to rest up for cruising. Stayed out in Quatro d'Altino which was fine. Have been in Venice before so knew we would save the city for our port day. Embarkation was easy. Was glad that we could sign up for spa while waiting to board as that is a priority for us. Loved all the ports on the Greek portion. Did things on our own everywhere except Santorini where we took the ship's tour that including eating, dancing and breaking of plates. Great fun. All the ports: Split, Mykonos, Iraklion, etc. were easy to get around and had so many things you could do. The transAtlantic portion was equally good and we had better weather in Spain and Portugal. Again, we did things on our own. Don't miss the Alhambra. Cadiz is great to do on foot. Loved Lisbon. Would love to return and spend more time there. Only other NCL tour we took was whale watching in Ponta Delgado and that was cancelled because of weather. Nice town for walking though. Wish we had more time on Crete. This was our first balcony room on deck 10 midship. We were on port side and that was perfect for all our ports. For the first time we used doctor's services--for back problems not related to cruise. Saw 3 different doctors. All had different ideas. Despite many tests and medications nothing worked. Hours are not adequate for this large a ship. Ship's store ran out of cough drops, tylenol, etc. You could get tylenol at main desk, but it's not strong enough. We had no problems with any of the restaurants. Usually Cagney's is our favorite, but on this ship it was Le Bistro. We used the main dining room and buffet a lot. Had no problems with waiting or food quality. One time I didn't care for what I ordered, but that was not their fault. It just wasn't my cup of tea. They offered to replace it, but I ate it and just knew that wasn't what I would get next time. Everyone was polite and really aimed to please. Loved Asian restaurant too. Being a Latitudes member helps with those extra charges. Would have liked to have done Teppanyaki, but never had a special for it. NCL has listened. We didn't see near as much selling in the shows and we try to attend all of them. Also, did not hear as many announcements of what was going on. They seemed to just do it all at once. Most of the entertainment was good. Just missed two of them during the storms. Gem band is really good. I thought all staff were incredible under difficult circumstances. They were trying to cover restaurants they don't normally work in and running room service too. It was obvious that some were overwhelmed, but who wouldn't be. The storm didn't effect us as much because we were midship on 10. NCL might consider opening up other restaurants for lunch if something like this happens again. We would have loved to have eaten Asian or TexMex for lunch on those days. We made good use of the library and also used the gym this time. Debarkation was not good. We were glad we had a late plane trip. Would we sail NCL again? Yes, we can afford it. The ships are beautiful and the itineraries are good. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Fatest check-in of any cruise we have been on. Security photo taken at check-in, boarded the ship within about 30 minutes.Staterooms were not yet ready, as advised, but could avail ourselves of the public rooms and lunch. The cabin ... Read More
Fatest check-in of any cruise we have been on. Security photo taken at check-in, boarded the ship within about 30 minutes.Staterooms were not yet ready, as advised, but could avail ourselves of the public rooms and lunch. The cabin slightly smaller than others,found the toilet section to be very cramped,even though we are both thin. Service in the main dining room was slow, food not the high standard we expected, so only ate there once. Rest of our meals we took in the Garden Cafe buffet, which had the widest variety of salads, hot dishes and vegetarian food on any cruise line so far. Food quality here was superb - fresh and plentiful, and more than that tastefully set out.Later at night the outdoor grill was plentiful. Bath towels as usual were small so used pool towels instead. No complaints about the soap and shower dispensers, but thought at least for balcony category we would have been given hair conditioner and complementary toiletries.The only real complaint were the frequent public announcements for art auctions, bingo etc etc. Nightly shows were the best and best variety that we have seen on board. Staff always friendly and helpful.Another complaint is that smoking is still allowed in cabins (some days we could not use our balcony because of smoke drifting, even though our cabin was right up front), the casino and on outer decks. The ports of call, not a major factor for us, due short distance to our home country, were interesting. Twice we tendered, and the operation went smoothly and orderly.Bars and specialized restaurants are plentiful, with enough variety to suit everyones tastes. Shopping on board, like other lines, was interesting with the usual array of "specials" and sales. Even the last day and, and the sadness of disembarkation is made easy, and was an enjoyable end to a wonderful cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
This was purchased this as a 21 day, our 30th cruise-3rd with NCL. We're retired-60 and 61. I'll try to point out the positive and negative to reflect my ratings. Embarkation went smoothly and the ship definitely ... Read More
This was purchased this as a 21 day, our 30th cruise-3rd with NCL. We're retired-60 and 61. I'll try to point out the positive and negative to reflect my ratings. Embarkation went smoothly and the ship definitely has that WOW factor. It is a beautiful, stately vessel but the public rooms were all too small and too crowded. The cabin was tight but the bed was very comfortable and the sheets were crisp and ironed. Fitted sheets would have worked better, the bed was a mess each morning and at times the staff pulled up the comforter, straightened it out and left the disaster underneath. There was ample storage but the closest had those horrible hangers, not the traditional. The two person, very hard sofa, was by the balcony. When it's placed closer to the bath/closet it works far better for nightly dressing. It also presented problems when having cabin service breakfast delivered as the staff had to navigate around the bed carrying a tray in the dark. One of us was always still sleeping. The coffee maker in the cabin ++++, it was used daily. Our cabin steward and his assistant were at the end of their contracts and did as little as possible. I'm sure they were burned out. Only the top sheet got changed once without asking, the place desperately needed a good dusting and we left notes daily for what we needed, ....tissues, coffee, cabin service breakfast menus, ice, clean glasses, change sheets (after 8 days) etc. We finally just stopped by guest services to pick up things and helped ourselves to supplies off the carts in the hall. What ever happened to the days when the cabin steward anticipated your every need? Is this what happens when the tips are automatically added? They never started cleaning the rooms until after 9 and were long gone by 11. You saw them again about 6 and we usually headed out about 7 so I don't know what time they wrapped things up. The room with storage and supplies was just across from our cabin and it was crazy noisy each morning that the crew met up and socialized before staring their day. The gym was nice, great equipment and all in working order but way too small. Even with the huge senior population on board, it was a score to get any machine on sea days and no one paid attention to the 30 minute max if you saw people waiting. The majority of the programs were just a prelude to get you to spend. There was very little offered in the way of free entertainment. Cruise critics people set up a lot of activities but if you didn't participate in these, there was not a great deal to do. We went through 8 books in 21 days and that was with excursions in every port and we sailed with another couple. We paid a boatload of money for this vacation. It wasn't only the cruise, it was airfare, excursions, gratuities, hotel up front, etc. It was the most we've ever paid for one vacation and it was booked as a 21 day. Shame on NCL for all the repeat shows and menus. With almost 800 people staying on board (1/3 of the passengers) to do the crossing, NCL should have been more innovative with the food and entertainment. We were shocked when we saw a repeat performance from a comedienne who delivered the exact same show only the week before. It was not surprising he received some heckling from the audience. We already knew every line and joke. Entertainment doesn't have to be costly, offer some of the movies that you charge for in the staterooms or change up the show. There were 5 duplications and that's unacceptable when it's sold as it was. While we felt the majority of the entertainment was poor, they did have a few outstanding shows over the 21 days, a group of male singers (3X), a Celine Dion tribute singer and a pianist. They also offered on 2 different sea days, a mid-day show performed by the NCL singers. The food was pretty good and always served hot. We only wished they changed up the menu selections more often. The pay restaurants must have been slow because they offered all the people staying on for the crossing along with all Latitude members BOGO except for the Japanese. For the most part, the food in the dining rooms was just as good if not better. The Chinese was good and the French was very good. The meat in the steakhouse was not only not cooked to specifications, it was poor quality and a huge disappointment to everyone at the table. With the exception of Dennis in Magenta, the waitstaff was a bit surly, rarely engaging and more often than not - forgetful. We're just not impressed by those that take your order without writing it down. We never sent anything back nor re-ordered what they forgot, they had attitude enough. The freestyle dining does not work here or or any ship we've tried it on so far. Unless you make a reservation, be prepared to wait from minutes - up to an hour on some nights. The bonus was if you did have to wait, the bar offered 2 for 1 drinks but it did not include wine. We loved our shore excursions to Delos/Mykonos and Fatima/Lisbon. The rest were a costly disappointment but we chose them. Probably the most exciting part of the vacation was the crazy nor'easter we encountered and sailed through for nearly 2 days. While it was AMAZING, I heard quite a few people got hurt. We're in good shape and we knew enough NOT to venture out of the cabin at the peak of the storm by just looking out the window. The huge waves slammed the ship as it listed deeply from side to side. Thankfully, we do not get seasick...ever. At one point our bed slipped, the nightstand tipped and everything that wasn't secured went flying. We could hear the carts in the hall crashing over and later saw slot machines in Bliss that toppled. The captain came on regularly updating conditions and the cruise director kept in touch as well. They upped staff for cabin service delivery having to close the buffet and let everyone know that it was safest not to wander about. Suffice to say, I don't think we'll be sailing with NCL again any time soon. We're booked on the Oasis in 3 weeks and a back-to-back on the Nieuw Amsterdam in January so we are not loyal to any line. We live by the code...the more you offer us, the more often you'll get our money. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We took this 14 day cruise to celebrate our 20th Anniversary and my 60th birthday. While we have sailed on Norwegian many times, this was our first experience on a "jewel" class ship. The Gem is beautiful but the balcony cabins ... Read More
We took this 14 day cruise to celebrate our 20th Anniversary and my 60th birthday. While we have sailed on Norwegian many times, this was our first experience on a "jewel" class ship. The Gem is beautiful but the balcony cabins are small compared to the last ship we were on (The Sun) and the bathroom bordered on ridiculous. If you have any physical limitations, I would recommend getting a cabin configured for someone with disabilities. Let me say from the beginning that our entire cruise package (including air, transfers, post-cruise hotel) were all booked directly with NCL. Having nothing but Caribbean cruises out of the United States to go by, we weren't sure what to expect but having wait at the Venice airport for an hour for our bus to the port, then having to haul our luggage from the waiting area at the Venice airport to the bus (which was quite a hike), was not pleasant experience especially since we had been up for 24 hours. Upon arrival at the port, again, we had to haul our luggage to the holding area. Inside the terminal we were given numbers and had to wait close to another two hours before we were allowed to board the ship. Do all of the cruise lines thread you through a maze of their products/services for sale while fumbling with your carry on items? We have never had to do this before. The last NCL cruise we took we were greeted in the atrium with a glass of champagne and escorted to our cabin (that was 2 years ago). We were not allowed to go to our cabins at this point and were directed to the Garden Cafe (with our carry ons) for lunch. Finally, we were allowed to go to our cabin. Like I said earlier, the cabin was much smaller but we decided not to let it ruin our cruise. Since all of our cruises have been to the Caribbean we wondered if European cruisers didn't like entertainment because it was sorely lacking on this cruise. We have always enjoyed NCL's shows but the few they had that we did go to, were not very good. No kind of entertainment was shown on the cabin TV unless you wanted to pay for a movie (they used to be free). It was a good thing they had a good library! We can not complain about the food or the service. They were excellent as usual. But, we have never had to have reservations for the main dining rooms before which puzzled us some. I thought we were "freestyle" cruising. Having to have a reservation sort of negates that in our minds. Maybe everybody wanted to eat at the same time? The shore excursions we took were expensive but worth it. All of the ports (except Crete) had something to offer even if you weren't doing an excursion. The shops, cafes, scenery were so interesting and intriguing. While there is more I could say, both positive and negative, I would still urge anyone who hasn't done this kind of cruise to do it at least once in their lifetime. We probably will never do another European cruise, but we have enough memories from this one to last forever. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Background We are just back from a 21 day cruise on the Norwegian Gem. We began our cruise in Venice on Oct 23 with a 7 Day Greek Island Cruise and then on Oct. 30 began a 14 day Spain, Portugal and Transatlantic cruise. Although I ... Read More
Background We are just back from a 21 day cruise on the Norwegian Gem. We began our cruise in Venice on Oct 23 with a 7 Day Greek Island Cruise and then on Oct. 30 began a 14 day Spain, Portugal and Transatlantic cruise. Although I booked it as one cruise, we were given credit for two cruises and we became Latitude members after the first week. It was a wonderful trip and we enjoyed it immensely. We are a newly retired, east coast couple who have cruised quite a bit. We have been on Princess, Celebrity, Princess, HAL, Renaissance, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, as well as, Grand Circle and Uniworld River Cruise. I had fairly low expectations from what I had read and been told about NCL but chose it for the itinerary. We were pleasantly surprised. No, it was not perfect by any means but neither were any of my other cruises. Each line has some things they do best and their strong points, as well as, negatives. We choose to focus on the positive and try to always make the best of a situation. Weather For most of the trip the weather was pleasant. Except for a rainy day in Corfu, we enjoyed mostly sunny skies and temperatures in 60's to 70's during the day. It was a bit chillier on our day in Venice mid cruise in the morning but did warm up as the day went on. We were able to enjoy our balcony most days at least for a few hours. This all changed when the Nor'easter arrived on Wednesday evening and continued for almost 36 hours! Not only could we not use our balcony, our furniture had to be tied down and all outdoor areas were off limits. Depending on which report you listened to, we had winds up to 70+ mph and waves anywhere from 30-50 feet. It was quite a scary experience and many passengers and crew were injured. However, it wouldn't keep me from another transatlantic ...couldn't be any worse could it? I though the Captain and crew did a wonderful job. Cabin We were in a mini suite, 11150 and the layout is wonderful. The colors are a bit different, orange with purple trim and turquoise carpet, but the walls and wood panel doors made it look less garish. The lay out is great with the bed in front of the sliding doors and a couch in front of desk area with TV. There is a very large closet and so many drawers we had trouble filling them all. The bathroom is the largest we have ever had, with full tub with sliding glass doors and a separate toilet area with sliding glass doors also. We also had a coffee pot ( never had one of those before) as well as small refrigerator, which we had emptied of their products. Bathrobes were hanging in our closet . We like an aft cabin and this one is the last one on the corner so we only have neighbors on one side. The balcony is not deep like on Celebrity but is shielded from the wind and has two chairs and a small table. It might have been a bit rockier than a mid located cabin and yes we could hear them moving the chairs in The Great Outdoors above us each evening for about 5 minutes...but we thought that was a small price to pay for the views. Our cabin stewards - a male and female team were excellent and unobtrusive. We had all our needs met and our cabin was always made up as soon as we left. There is a cute little "gizmo" outside the cabin door that tells the stewards-" Do Not Disturb", "Make Up Cabin" , "Turn Down Cabin" and "Welcome". With Freestyle, they never know when you are leaving. It changes every day, so this system is efficient and much better than hanging something on the door which can be easily lost. For about 36 +hours, our cabin was a terrible location as we encountered a Nor'easter two days before we arrived in NYC. With 30-50 feet waves, there were no perfect locations on the ship but if seasickness is a problem this would not be a good location. Would we book aft again? Probably, as the good outweighs the bad. Food As the usual disclaimer goes, food as we know is very subjective. We eat out often and enjoy trying many restaurants but also consider ourselves fairly easy to please. If we don't have to plan, shop, cook nor clean up, we usually can find something good on any menu. We really enjoyed having so many options of locations to eat each evening. NCL was the first to offer Specialty restaurants and freestyle dining, to us , they seem to do it right. The specialty restaurants on the Gem are Cagney's, Steakhouse; Le Bistro, French; Orchid Garden, Asian Fusion; Sushi Bar; Teppanyaki, Japanese; Tequila, Tex Mex and La Cucina, Italian. The cost for these varies from $25 to $10 per person. During the transatlantic part of the cruise, they offered half price at these restaurants between 7:30 and 8:30 for Latitude Members. There are also three venues that do not cost extra : The Grand Pacific Dining Room, Magenta Dining Room and The Blue Lagoon. We ate at all the venues except the Sushi Bar and Teppanyaki. ( we have an authentic Japanese restaurant near our home). We had some excellent meals and some so-so meals. Only one afternoon in the Grand Pacific was a meal terrible - short ribs- and we just left and went to the Blue Lagoon for a great hamburger. For eating three meals a day, for 21 days to only have had one bad experience, says a great deal. Some of the highlight were : Cagney's, great T bone steak and the fries are fabulous. Le Bistro had the best Coq au vin and rack of lamb but bouillabaisse was disappointing; La Cucina tender Osso Bucco and thin, rare delicious carpaccio. Grand Pacific had many outstanding items for lunch - Nicoise salad with perfectly done rare tuna in a mustard sauce, baked cod, Greek salad and for dinner fried crawfish, ceviche and escargot were wonderful appetizers. We enjoyed the soups, which were nice and hot and the white bean soup and pumpkin crab soup stand out as favorites. The rack of lamb, sirloin of beef and coq au vin were all excellent entrees served in this venue. Rolls and bread were fresh and tasty The desserts were all very good but heavy on the creme brulee, flan and custard types. We tried to avoid the buffet. First, we feel we overeat when we go there, tasting too many items that all blend together. Secondly, we never felt relaxed at the buffet, one of us minding the table, the other getting food. Most importantly though, I feel it is a place where germs are easily spread which was confirmed by the fact that for 3 days of the cruise it was in "lock down" which meant passengers could not touch anything at the buffet. All items had to be served by staff including drinks. There were no salt and pepper shakers, ketchup, mustard, etc. on table. It made a crowded, frustrating, situation even worse. As we try to avoid buffets anyway, it really did not bother us. As you can imagine it was a great source of complaining among many passengers who were not happy with this situation. You could make reservations at ALL the restaurants but there was always a line to get in at The Grand Pacific. If you had reservations you just by passed the line and were seated. Not sure why people choose not to make reservations but then they shouldn't complain about waiting in line. We always decided in the afternoon what time we wanted to eat and made our reservations with a quick phone call. Since we prefer eating late , after 8, it was never a problem for us. For dinner, we always chose a table for 2 with no problem. Many times we had were seated totally aft center, next to window and we could watch the wake. Usually, we had a team wait on us - 2 waiters and 2 bus people which was efficient and pleasant. Portions were not huge but just enough to allow you to have all courses. Again, very pleasantly surprised. For breakfast, we ate in our cabin (except for two occasions when we tried MDR) and the selection from continental menu was just what we wanted. There was a fresh fruit platter, yogurt, cereal and a delicious different muffin each day. We also enjoyed the coffee brought in a small carafe and juice. MDR had usual breakfast selections and we tried the Eggs Benedict and hash and eggs which we both enjoyed. We ate lunch in the MDR except when eating in port or on one other occasion. We enjoyed the soups, salad, pasta and fish entrees mainly during lunch. Service was always good and we found all servers we met to be pleasant and efficient. Washy-Washy In the past few years, I have seen dispensers on all other cruises I have been on but never to the extent as this cruise. Not only were there dispensers but people spraying your hands before you entered any eating venue ,the gym and Spa,as well as , getting on the ship. They were almost always smiling and would say, "washy-washy". I heard there were some altercations - passengers refusing to have their hands sprayed. I really don't understand how rude some people can be to the employees and have witnessed it first hand. We appreciated the extent NCL has gone to, to keep everyone healthy and certainly did not mind to have to washy-washy! Service One of the biggest complaints I had read was that the service was not up to par on NCL. This was not our experience. Almost everyone we met provided excellent service. Our cabin stewards were unobtrusive, we didn't have long conversations with them, but they did their jobs and were pleasant and friendly. What more can you want? All the waiters, waitresses and bus servers in the dining rooms were friendly and efficient. We had no complaints. We found the very visible maitre D's were always trying to please passengers and help dining room staff. One night when service was very slow at Cagney's, it was very crowded and our appetizers arrived lukewarm. The maitre D asked us how everything was and we told him, we were a bit disappointed. He apologized and gave us our dinners for half price. I think he handled the situation quite well. We also thought the bar service was very good from the servers to the experienced bartenders. Yes, maybe your waiter gets to know your specific wants better with traditional seating, but for us the freestyle situation gave us the flexibility we wanted . Once again the good things about it outweighed the bad. Internet I brought my laptop and found the internet service to be a bit slow at times but not unbearable. If I went online early morning, I usually could get on fairly quickly. I paid the same internet fee using my laptop, as if I went to the computer room. I think it was about $.40 a minute if you bought a plan. There were frequent specials in early morning and bonuses of extra minutes for getting the plan. I loved having my own laptop, as I could compose my letters off line and then just go online to send them. I also downloaded all my pictures and was able to keep a journal everyday on my computer. I also had all my information for each port on my desktop so when we were going to a port, we just read over the info I had saved. Port of Call Venice We began our cruise in Venice and arrived two days before the cruise left. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard and they provided a free shuttle. Make sure if you stay there, you follow the online advise and go to Departures, Lane 2. The shuttle arrived within 20 minutes and we had a few minutes trip to the hotel. It was very convenient to stay so close to the airport and using our Marriott points the hotel was free for two nights. For the first time ever, with a European AM arrival, our hotel room was ready at 11 AM and we were in a wonderful king bed before 11:30AM. We both slept until 4 PM, felt very rested and got ready for trip to Venice. We got a bus directly across the street from our hotel for 2.30 Euros each, round trip and headed for Venice which was about a 20 minute trip. The front desk even sold us our bus tickets which was very convenient. We got off at the main transportation center Piazzale Roma and just wandered and wandered. Having a map would be useless as there are so many streets. It was a beautiful evening, fall like and after a few hours of wandering found a restaurant which looked crowded with many locals off the beaten path....Trattoria La Rosa. Don't think we could find it again if we tried, but it was a good choice. We had liter of Prosecca, wine of Venice area (14 Euros) and prix fixe dinner for 18 euros each, a delicious pasta dish, chicken or fish, side dish and dessert. Mine was delicious bow ties with brown sauce with cheese and seasoning, chicken with mushrooms, spinach and tiramisu. My husband had the same except instead of chicken tried local fish, cuttlefish with squid ink sauce. It looked disgusting and he didn't like it but I give him credit for trying it and had enough with pasta, side dish and dessert, a chocolate soft biscotti. We got the bus back to hotel ( made mistake and got off a stop too early but it wasn't too far only 500 meters. How far is that??) Padua We had been to Venice before and knew we had another day mid cruise, so decided that Friday we wanted to go to Padua. We had the buffet breakfast at hotel, scrambled eggs, bacon, yogurt, croissants, pastries, cheese and fruit (if you bought it the night before it was 12 Euros). It was just OK but it was a good idea to eat before we set off for our day. We then began our "adventure". Now for a girl who never takes public transportation I did "good". First we got the # 5 bus across street from hotel to Venice. We now know you buy your ticket ahead of time at hotel and scan the ticket as you get on. We had a nice 25 minute ride into Venice. We had directions to the train station " over the big bridge and down the Grand Canal" which we found just fine. We then found the right train to Padova in Italian, not Padua, and the right track and got on our train with only minutes to spare. Of course, no one told us we should validate the ticket before you board but a nice conductor explained it to us and we didn't get the fine of 50 Euros!! I would have loved to nap for the 50 minute train ride but had to be vigilant so as not to miss the stop! We arrived and found a tourist office , a must to get directions and headed for The Scrovegni Chapel with world famous frescos by Giotti. You are only allowed inside this temperature controlled chapel for 15 minutes and only 25 people are permitted at a time. Since this was off season, we had no trouble getting tickets right away and enjoyed our visit with only 1 other person. The frescos were impressive especially since they were done in 1300 and the preservation is marvelous. Too bad, The Hermitage and Vatican don't take some lessons from Padua. Next was a long walk to The Basilica of St. Anthony but a beautiful day for a walk. The Basilica was very beautiful, reminds me a bit of Notre Dame and there are many relics of St. Anthony, as well as his tomb. We also attended a 30 minute multimedia presentation of his life with English translation ( headphones) and then went to the gift shop. As we were buying a few items, we heard people saying responses "and also with you" in English and found out an English Mass had just began. There is something comforting about finding a community of English speakers in a foreign county. There were 3 priests, all English speakers, I would guess Americans and about 75-100 people at Mass. Afterwards we walked a block and found a tram to take us back to the train station.( I think the transit police are probably looking for us as we could not find out how to buy a ticket or pay on this rode for free.) Next the "adventure " in reverse but this time we know to validate our ticket and we find the platform and wait only 5 minutes for a train. Next, we have only a few minute wait for the bus (today we know where to find the return bus and more importantly where to get off) and get back to our to hotel a little before 7. The second day in a new country is always so much easier...glad we had two days here in Venice. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant...terrible service but OK food, just pizza and wine but we had a long day and just wanted to get to sleep. We got up at 10:15 AM to a slightly overcast day. We packed up and got ready for our 12 shuttle. We went downstairs about 11:45 and it was waiting for us. It was 20 Euros per person and very easy about a 15 min ride. We were happy with our choice of the Marriott and except for terrible service at dinner were quite happy with our accommodations. The shuttle to cruise port was great. We were in the terminal at 12:30 and boarding the ship by 1:30PM. Embarkation was smooth... first we checked in with no line at all. Then we received a number ...we were #19- and waited for the number to be called. It was efficient with no lines nor mob scenes. After we embarked we went directly to the South Pacific Dining Room for a sit down lunch. We were escorted to a table for two and had our first NCL meal. Our expectations were low because we had read NCL was a notch below Celebrity , HAL or Princess but it was wonderful. While eating it was announced that our cabins were ready so after lunch we headed right to Deck 11, Cabin 11105. Next was muster and again a pleasant surprise. We did not have to bring our life jackets; met in a comfortable dining room and took no more than 10 minutes..the least painful of any. ( HAL had us standing outside in cold and rain while leaving NYC for at least 20 minutes!) We then went to make some dinner reservations, to look at some menus and buy some wine specials ( buy 6-8 bottles get 20% off) We enjoyed sail away with Prosecco. Sail away in Venice is just beautiful although there wasn't any music that I could hear. (When we were on Princess they played Andre Boccelli's ,Time to Say GoodBye...a nice touch) Split We slept in, until awakened by a call from room service at's a great alarm clock! The sun was shining and it was in the low 60's. We had a continental type breakfast in our cabin. We got tender tickets at 10:15 AM and had about a half hour wait. I hate tendering in, it's always so much more of a hassle. The seas were incredibly rough and the tender ride was quite scary...worse than Space Mountain! I think the seas were 8 feet, ( DH says 5 feet...but I think he's lying) quite high in a tender. Fortunately, it was a short ride and we got to Split safely. We wandered around, saw the Diocletian Palace. It was Sunday, so most shops were closed but there were many people selling things- flea market type. We strolled through the markets admiring fruits, vegetables, flowers and even meat. We saw several crowded Churches with Mass going on. We stopped for lunch around 1PM at a lovely outdoor cafe type place, Adriana, right on the water. Prices were in Kronas..who knows how to convert that? I ordered shrimp done in scampi sauce and DH a pasta and seafood dish. My shrimp had the heads on them, much different than we would have in NJ. They were delicious as was the pasta. We sampled Croatian wine...very good. When we got the bill we had to laugh about my expensive shrimp costing $5 each, $40 total just for my dish. It was worth it, but of course DH had to tease me as his dish was only$18! We had to wait on a long line for tender back to ship but were back about 2:30. Fortunately, the seas weren't as rough on way back. Corfu We took a ship sponsored tour here as this was recommended by many others on CC. Our tour Scenic island and Flavors was scheduled to leave at 10:15 so we again used room service as our wake up call with a continental breakfast at 9:00. The tender process with a tour is painful on every cruise ship I have been on...lots of people waiting in a theater for number to be called. This was even more difficult because we first had to get a shuttle to the pier and then get our tour bus. It was an enjoyable tour and we started out with cloudy skies. First we went to Kaum Kouat distillery where they make delicious kumquat liquor. The we visited the monastery of Blessed Virgin Mary with many beautiful icons..lit candle here. tThere were many beautiful views of Paleokastrista during our trip. Arrived at top of hill at Golden Fox for included snack, ouzo, wine and Greek sampler platter of appy, very good with again spectacular views. Next, really treacherous roads in the rain thank goodness we had a wonderful bus driver (he got a good tip) and finally arrived in town. It was now pouring rain so we opted to stay on the bus. Corfu is very mountainous with narrow roads and high hills. It is not at all like other Greek Islands in that it has many olive trees and is very green (it rains a lot there) . Glad we got to the countryside, too bad it turned out to be a less than perfect weather day. Santorini, Greece We are here from 4 PM to 11 PM so again we took a NCL excursion today to Charming Oia Village. The last time we were in Santorini ( also known as Thira) we went to the village of Fira, which requires you to take a tender, then cable car up the hill. I had read that it was easy to take an excursion here as you get to avoid the cable car up the hill, which can take quite awhile giving the # of passengers going ashore. We still have to take it back to get tenders back. The tour was interesting, got to see Oia which involved a half hour bus trip up an enormously steep winding mountain and then a drive to other side of the mountain from Fira to Oia. Our guide was good and we learned a lot about the area . We had some free time in Oia and found a table at a taverna, Sunsets ,which had a wonderful view of possible sunset but with clouds we did not see it :( but we enjoyed a glass of local wine and some delicious feta cheese. Then got bus back to Fira and got cable car down hill and boat back to the ship. Not the easiest port to get to but well worth it. It is so picturesque just what you imagine a Greek island to look like with white washed buildings and blue roofs. Mykonos We again used room services for our wake-up call for 9 AM. By the time we left the ship there were no tender tickets required. The sun was shining , mid 70's and we had a calm tender ride to port. Mykonos is mainly a resort town and very popular for its beaches in the summer. The streets are cobblestones and buildings all whitewashed. We walked around found the windmills of Little Venice and explored the narrow streets. It was a nice atmosphere and fun to explore and find a tiny Church on almost every street. We stopped at a taverna for a gyro and some Greek wine..have had better gyros in the states but it was fun and they had wifi so I could at least check my mail. Crete, Iraklion or Heraklion We are only here from 7 AM to noon. I had originally signed up for excursion to Knossos, ancient ruins, but we decided we really didn't feel like another organized tour especially one that leaves at 7 AM! We got up at 8 and had our usual continental breakfast. We got the shuttle to town around 9 and explored a bit of the city on our own . It is a large city, the largest in Crete and 4th largest in all of Greece. There were lots of markets and shops and looked like a very nice city but there were many gypsies especially kids begging. Today is some sort of Greek Independence Day with lots of music piped unto the street and parades scheduled. It was a nice day so we walked around for a few hours using a walking tour printed online and saw many things. Venice again Today marks the end of the first week cruise. We were again awakened by our room service call...continental breakfast at 8 and off the ship by 9. It is a beautiful day with bright sun although a bit cool this AM. We took the alliguagina ( public water taxi) to San Marco. It was right next to the ship and very convenient for 12 euros round trip. I had purchased tickets online for the Secret Itineraries Tour at Doges Palace and it was a very enjoyable, interesting tour. One viewed all the secret rooms and prison cells at Doges Palace and lasted about 70 minutes. Our guide spoke English very well and kept everyone quiet and paying attention. After the tour, we again walked through Doges Palace. We then wandered around a bit. We had been to St. Marks last visit for a tour and the line was very long, so we didn't do it again. We wanted to have pizza and wine in Venice for lunch so we walked a few blocks and found a cute outdoor cafe and had a really good mushroom pizza and carafe of wine for 25 Euros...expensive but it is Venice and it was good!! We walked and then got a bit lost as one always does in Venice. We caught the water taxi back and were back on the ship around 3:30. Malaga, Spain We got up at 6:00 AM..that was tough. We had a quick breakfast -and got ready to meet group at 7:10 AM. On Cruise Critic Roll Call, I signed up to do a privately arranged tour with a guide to the Alhambra. There were 38 of us on one bus and then broke into two smaller groups when we arrived there. The trip was approximately 2 hours and we arrived there at 9:45 AM. Our guide, Oscar, was terrific and the grounds and gardens just beautiful. We were so fortunate to have an absolutely beautiful day weather wise with bright shining sun. There is so much interesting history associated with the Alhambra and the architecture and tile work just spectacular. Washington Irving, author of Ichabod Crane, stayed in Alhambra for 6 months and wrote tales about it based on history...would be very interesting to read now that we have see it. This privately arranged tour cost $50 each as opposed to $200 tour ship arranged! We had no problems or snags and were back on ship at 3:30 PM. Cruise Critic again was a wonderful source. Cadiz, Spain Up around 8:30 AM and it was another beautiful day. We were off the ship before 10 and just walked around. Cadiz is a very nice city....where Christopher Columbus sailed from on two of his voyages. There is a lot of Moorish architecture here and much of tile work was like we saw at the Alhambra. We walked to center of town and walked through the market area. It was like a Redding Station in Philadelphia with just amazing fruits, meats and vegetables. It was so clean and everything looked so fresh. We enjoyed following different marked paths through the town. It is a lovely place to walk around and again the weather was very cooperative. Lisbon, Portugal Up at 7 AM for NCL tour called, Simply Fatima. We had to meet at 8 AM. We took a tour bus for a panoramic tour of Lisbon, which looks like a very nice city ( lots of graffiti though). It was then about 1 1/2 hour trip to countryside to Fatima. It is off season here so fortunately there weren't big crowds. It is a large complex with beautiful Basilica, chapel where Apparitions took place and Modern chapel that seats 9000! 5 million visitors come to Fatima each year. First we bought and lit a candle. Then went to the shrine and then to the Basilica where there was a Mass in Portuguese. We stayed for some of it but had to leave because of time restraints. We went to the modem chapel which was very different but beautiful also. There is a long, marble path from one side of area to another where many people ( pilgrims) come to shrine on their knees. They built this marble path so they would not hurt themselves while on knees. It was quite inspiring to see the faith of others. We had to meet the group for lunch at 12:15. We had a lovely meal at Lux Fatima a nice hotel. There were about 120 people to serve and it was done efficiently and food was hot. Afterwards, we visited several of the many religious gift stores. None are sanctioned by the shrine as they want to just keep the whole area of Fatima for quiet prayer and reflection. Kind of nice that no one was selling anything right there. It would have been nice to have a little more time to wander around. There are many other interesting things to see but we had to meet bus at 2PM for our trip back which again took almost an hour and half. We had a long wait to go through security at the pier and again to get on the ship ( although they had three entrances which was nice.) Once back on ship we watched sail away again from our balcony. We went under a bridge much like Golden Gate. There is also an enormous statue of Jesus on the mountain, just like the famous one in Brazil, on one side of the bridge. The scenery was beautiful and it was perfect weather again all day. Ponta Delgada, Portugal We went into town to Sao Michael. It was Sunday so much was closed but they recently built a new mall near the pier and it was open with a lot of shops and cafes. It looks like a lovely town with a combo of many old historical buildings as well as high rises. Surrounding the town are mountains that are of volcanic origin. The call themselves Acores. We walked around a bit and found a nice outdoor cafe across from a Church and had a bottle of Portuguese wine and banquette with cheese and ham. Then we found an internet cafe and both went online and cleared our email! We walked around some more and before got on ship sat and again say at a nice cafe. NCL positive and negatives Positives Freestyle is the BEST thing NCL has going for it. We loved not having to bring dressy clothes to Europe. We like to dress up and do so often at home but with strict weight restrictions now and cost for extra luggage, it just makes no sense anymore. Last time we were on Celebrity, my husband had to bring a suit and a blazer as there were still formal and semi-formal nights! Princess and HAL too still had formal nights. Mass There was a priest passenger on board for this sailing and we were appreciative that NCL provided him a venue to say Mass. It was well attended on three occasions with several hundred people. It was a nice extra provided that we hadn't counted on with NCL ( HAL had daily Mass and Princess guarantees Easter and Christmas) Mah Jongg This was one of the highlights for me on sea days! One woman was able to have a MahJongg meeting published in the Freestyle Cruise Daily on our first sea day...thanks Barbara! After that, we met every sea day and played afternoons. NCL was nice enough to open up the Magenta Dining Room while at sea so there was plenty of room for all the card, game and MahJongg players. NCL even had three MahJongg sets on board and several women brought their cards and extra cards to play with. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon ...especially as we did have 9 days at sea. What a nice group of women of varying backgrounds, ages and geographical locations. Cruise Critic We had a fairly active Roll Call and a web site started by one member, Dee called The G Force. We attended the two Meet and Greets one for Week 1 and the other for Transatlantic part of the cruise. The Captain was even in attendance and heads of all services, hotel, housekeeping, bar, restaurant, etc. They made it very clear that if there is a problem let them know NOW. They seem to take CC very seriously! We got lanyards with our names; coffee, tea, water and danishes were available. I met the woman who arranged the Private Tour to Alhambra. There are 39 of us going in two mini buses and we are saving approximately $150 per person. Other tours were arranged for some places also. The second meeting gave information about the cabin crawl, slot pull and Last Supper. It was nice to see familiar faces as we walked around ship and say hello to other CC members. I went to the Slot Pull and found it to be enjoyable. There were 65 people, who met through Cruise Critic. We met at the casino and each put $15 into the pot. The organizer then loaded $975 into the slot machine and we each had 5 pulls and it took over an hour! It was a lot of fun with people cheering for each other. When all was over the group had lost $5 each so we walked away with $10 ...a lot of fun for only $5...I have my suspicions though as the slot machine was picked by the casino not us. Would have been more fun to win but still a good way to spend a morning at sea. We also went to dinner with Cruise Critic group . There were suppose to be 100+ there plus Captain and officers. We had a special area reserved in the Grand Pacific, Main Dining Room and it was fun to talk to others and eat dinner with some new people. Our organizer, Dee, did a great job and came around to talk to everyone. Because of bad weather the Captain was not able to attend which was very understandable. Once again, as on all other cruises, CC was a valuable resource and provided such useful information. Alcohol and Bars Before our trip I had read that drinks were expensive on NCL but perhaps because we are use to NY/NJ prices did not find $7.75 for a nice size martini to be high. House wine was $5.50 a glass and there were several bottles of wine available for a fair rate for a restaurant. By buying several bottles for each cruise, they also gave us a 10% discount which was well worth it. If you did not finish the whole bottle with dinner, you could either take it back to your cabin or put it away in the dining room for the next night. We thought the cost of the martini and wine tastings seemed high $15 per person. We enjoyed the martini tasting and Lindsay the bartender was great and very informative but we felt $30 was an excessive cost. We only went to three tastings and had it been a bit less expensive or reduced prices for "package deal", we might have attended more. Entertainment We thought there were many good choices and that the quality of the entertainment was very good. Some evenings we chose to just listen to music in the bar and eat a late dinner. Other evenings we went to a show. These are the shows that we saw: The Fourever- They are 4 very talented men who were originally formed as a tribute to El Divo. They had wonderful voices and preformed Spanish, Italian and English songs too. The theater is beautiful and show was very enjoyable. We saw them twice for two different shows. The comedian on board was Paul Adams. We laughed quite a bit and enjoyed his shows the first week of the cruise . We were disappointed that for he transatlantic part of the cruise, he did the exact same show! I think there were 700+ cruisers on board from last week which warranted a different show and some new jokes! Richard Gauntlet put on a"vaudeville" type show which was pretty funny and entertaining. World Beat was a musical voyage through the world, Spain, USA, Africa, Ireland, etc.and was an enjoyable production show. The performers were talented and energetic. This show was the same for both cruise segments. Tracey Shield "An Evening with Celine Dion". She was really very good and sounded exactly like Celine..looked like her too. We would have liked to hear her sing a few songs in her own persona not just Celine After there was a strings show called Spring Fever, which was very entertaining and played electrical string instruments. They were very talented and played classical and pop music...much better than I thought. Another performer who we really liked was Claire Maidin. She was a pianist who sang and preformed Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield, Alicia Keys and Liberace... to name a few. she was pretty, young and talented and we enjoyed the show. Radim Zenkl, a mandolin and flute player, also put on a wonderful show with music from around the world. He had two different shows for the two different cruise segments. We really enjoyed him. Other entertainment available: There were Movies in the Stardust lounge not the Crystal Atrium. NCL did move its location and this was a much better venue to watch a movie. Most were a few years old - Angels and Demons, Blindside, etc. as well as The Twilight Saga-Eclipse and Bedtime Stories (We never went so I do not know if they were well attended or not.) Dance Parties were held almost every evening in the Spinnaker Lounge. The music ranged from 70's to 50's and 60's Sock Hop to Country and Western Hoe Down. There was a White Hot Party where you "could dance the night away in a wonderful world of white" and a Halloween Party . There was also karaoke, Folkloric shows, Ballroom Dancing, Newlywed and Not-so-Newlywed Game, Liar's Club Game Show and International Crew Talent show. Negatives There was a lot of "hawking" going on (but I have noticed that on many cruise lines.) This was done in a different way. As you entered the ship everyone had to walk through the Magenta Dining Room. Here was the "opportunity" to buy your soda card, reduced wine package, spa info, dinner info for Specialty restaurants, Murder Mystery Dinner, etc. No one asked us to buy anything but we did have to walk by these "vendors". It didn't bother us, in fact I liked it better than being bothered at lunch several times to buy wine for dinner and a soda card ( which happened to us on last Princess cruise) I did hear several people complain though and they did not like this at all. Our "hawking" complaints were: • being asked to pay money to eat with the Captain... $150 per person! • being asked to pay extra to eat with Officers • $40 for bingo..I don't even like Bingo but many others complained that this was excessive • selling raffle tickets during shows..never have heard of this on any cruise • asked to pay for Back Scenes tour of the ship... this was free on other ships • TV channels in room were very limited especially for a transatlantic cruise • cost of $10 for PPV to watch movie in cabin...never heard of this on any other ship either • worse Latitudes "party" for repeat cruisers- no officers present, no food & just another opportunity to sell things One of our biggest complaints is that you could not bring local wines on board except if you paid a $15 corkage fee. We know several people were able to circumvent this rule, but we didn't even try. We enjoy buying and tasting local wines when we travel and would have enjoyed bringing a bottle aboard for sail aways. This is just a ploy by NCL to keep your bar bill up! On every other cruise that we have taken, we were allowed to openly bring wine aboard. I think especially when in Europe this should be allowed. ( We were told at a Cruise Critic meeting that changes are often made because of complaints. I hope you are listening NCL ) . Smoking is big a problem on most ships we have been on, except years ago on Renaissance ( total none smoking ship). We could smell it in our hall, deck 11 starboard aft, whenever we walked to the elevator. The only time I went to the casino, for the cruise critic slot pull, the smoke was overpowering. I could occasionally smell it on our balcony too depending on how the wind was blowing. Wish more cruise lines would prohibit smoking in cabins and balconies and wherever others are subjected to secondhand smoke...maybe some day? We heard lots of people complaining. They were of all ages and from different parts of the world, but there was complaining everywhere. I am not sure why one would choose a Freestyle cruise and then complain about having to wait for dinner or not make reservations if you don't want to wait. I heard one couple complaining that they never got the same waiter. didn't they know what Freestyle cruising meant? Even on these boards you will find people complaining about the food and service while a Nor'easter was going on! I just don't understand it. I think it is impossible to please some people and nothing makes them happy. I also think that some people just enjoy just becomes a bad habit. As I said before, I have never been on the perfect cruise, there are always some things that could have been better. We would definitely cruise NCL again with the right itinerary and price. Nor'easter and all, it was an adventure that was truly wonderful, enjoyable and memorable and I am glad we had the opportunity to experience it. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We cruised on the Norwegian Gem on NCLs last greek islands cruise of 2010 before the ship heads back stateside for the winter. We were travelling as a party of 6 across 3 cabins (2 adults with a 6 year old child in our cabin). ... Read More
We cruised on the Norwegian Gem on NCLs last greek islands cruise of 2010 before the ship heads back stateside for the winter. We were travelling as a party of 6 across 3 cabins (2 adults with a 6 year old child in our cabin). Overall we were very impressed with the experience, our previous cruise was on the QM2 so the Gem had quite a lot to live up to. Despite this we were very favourably impressed by the experience, all of us had a lovely time and relaxed completely. Our 6 year old son especially enjoyed the kids club, which is staffed by an excellent team who ensured he always had a superb time. He also had a great time in the pools / slides on deck 12, which is a great area (but can be a little noisy at times if you don't want to listen to the music). Our only niggle would be the ever so slightly 'in your face' NCL policy of trying to make a buck off you where ever they can - in most cases we ignored this but it can lead to costs rising on this type of cruise if you are not careful. An example is buying a beer by the pool - you may want them one at a time, but they assume you want the 'buy 5 get one free' deal and try very hard to make you take them up on it. We also didn't take any of the on shore excursions, they are prohibitively expensive for what they are.. however we found our way about perfectly well without them. For example. we visited the ancient Greek ruins on Delos while in Mykonos, our trip for 3 of us was €50 including ferry, entry to Delos and a guide (our 6 year old was free all the way). NCL's excursion would have cost us $180US (of which $50 would have been for the 6 year old). By the way, that excursion travelled on the same ferry as us, and used exactly thre same facilities). No, NCL are not a charity, but this strikes me as a bit too steep for most people. One other area we found lacking was the ship's internet service - slow and billed by the minute, which for the speed you get makes it almost pointless for anything other than basic html / email. We couldn't get checked in on after 20 minutes of trying - in the end they refunded my money as the session was completely pointless. If you need internet I recommend you buy a coffee in any quayside bar on your stopovers and enjoy their wifi for free! Despite these few negative points the ship is generally excellent - the staff are helpful and friendly, the food is generally very good (especially the meals we had in 'Le Bistro') - but even the main Garden Cafe & Dining rooms serve perfectly acceptable fare. Despite our cabin (an oceanview with a picture window and extra bunk for our son) being reasonably small, the design is excellent and the storage (in our opinion) far better than the equivalent in our balcony room on the QM2 two years ago. I have seen reviewers who complained about the bathroom, we thought the 3 sections (loo, sink and shower) which can be separated by glass doors was very well designed. Granted it isn't large, but unless you are of a large persuasion I can't see why it wouldn't do the job for everybody. The common areas are fitted out very well and the ship is beautifully maintained. The ship allows smoking in some areas, mainly outside and in the casino. It is not obtrusive (unless you are a non smoker and expect to use the casino a lot) and I never smelt smoke anywhere else. In all, NCL's 'Freestyle Cruising' idea is very relaxed, well executed and provided us with a great holiday. I would recommend it and would go again. Providing you don't expect the Ritz and don't take the whole experience too seriously I would expect you to have a great time - but beware the extra costs! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We had planned this Cruise for over a year and NCL did not disappoint us. We had spent some time in wonderful Venice. We got near the port and we found out that there was a "secret NCL" bus that would take us directly to the ... Read More
We had planned this Cruise for over a year and NCL did not disappoint us. We had spent some time in wonderful Venice. We got near the port and we found out that there was a "secret NCL" bus that would take us directly to the ship. The only markings on the bus was a small handwritten note saying "NCL". Word to the wise-do not overpack-shlepping heavy suitcases on trains, busses & water taxis is not a fun thing. I was so grateful when we were able to drop off our bags before we went into the terminal. Once we went inside the terminal, everything went very smoothly. Before we knew it, we were on the ship and in one of the Main Dining Rooms eating lunch. Shortly thereafter we were allowed into our cabin. We had a pretty balcony room. A bit compact, but very adequate. After the very easy Muster Drill, we met on the 13th deck for the sail away party with our Cruise Critic Group (more on the group later). I had been on a very nice cruise on the Dawn a while back so I knew that I was in for a nice time. I have to say that the Gem exceeded my expectations. Every crew member was pleasant and very attentive. I sincerely cannot think of anyone who did not try to go the extra mile for us. Food-it was just fine! I am not a food snob-if I wanted ultra gourmet, I know that I would have to pay a much higher price than I did! The food was very good. Remember, if you don't like something, you can always get something else. I don't like buffets, but I have to admit that the one on the Gem was wonderful. The food was very fresh & varied and the presentation was beautiful. The first night we ate in the Tex Mex Rest. with some of the folks from our CC Roll Call. We had a blast. The food was good & the staff was wonderful. On Sunday night the group of 16 that I traveled with ate together at Cagneys. It was awesome. I had the lamb-the best that I have ever had. I would definitely go back. Another night we went to the Italian Rest. What a nicely decorated dining room. The food was very good & the staff was very attentive. The food in the Grand Pacific & Magenta was fine as was the Blue Lagoon. I was a little sad that the Blue Lagoon didn't look like a diner as it did on the Dawn. The chocolate buffet was beautiful. A little about our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet Group. We had all been writing on our roll call for quite a long time. I had set up a Meet & Greet for Tue. morning. We decided to meet in Venice at the Baccaro Jazz Club the night before the cruise. There was 14 of us there. It was like an instant family. We also met at sailaway. We share many dinners together. We had 54 in attendance at our Meet & Greet. Pat S. set up a very fun gift exchange for us which was an excellent ice-breaker. "Eloise 4 Ever" ran a slot pull after the M + G. NCL did a wonderful job with the M + G. Many of the Roll call members ended up sharing excursions. Miss Pupule (Marion) organized a Wild & Crazy Cabin Crawl for us. We had 23 Roll call members traipsing thru the ship. The last night a group of us got together for the "Quest" game-NOT to be missed! Excursions-Nice & Interesting, although I probably won't do them again. I like to poke around the shops & just talk to the people. We took an excursion in Iraklion, Crete & we found out to late that we could have had free transportation to the town. Entertainment-there was a "Beatles" group who was exceptional. Everyone said that if you closed your eyes, you really felt that the Beatles were there. It is difficult to explain the entertainment on one of the last nights-3 Mexican Guitarists who were funnier than you could imagine. So many things to do & not enough time Most of our group purchased Cruise Reward Certificates-we can't wait to do it again. Bonni Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We arrived Venice 20 Oct, stayed at the Marriott near the airport. Took the ALILUGUNA to St Marks or bus to Piazza Roma. No negatives at all re the hotel, except that next time will stay in city. Took VIATOUR guided tours 21 ( (Walking ... Read More
We arrived Venice 20 Oct, stayed at the Marriott near the airport. Took the ALILUGUNA to St Marks or bus to Piazza Roma. No negatives at all re the hotel, except that next time will stay in city. Took VIATOUR guided tours 21 ( (Walking tour of Venice, plus guided canal ride), 22 (tour of Murano, Burano, Torcello) Oct, always very satisfied. Boarded ship 23 Oct, embarkation was fine, and relatively quick. Ship is very clean, and well maintained. We stayed on thru NY, so got to know many staff members. Marrianne and her partner, our room stewards were very efficient. We tipped them every friday. We always use the soda plan, so glad they still have that. First leg with excursions was Split (Historic walking tour), Corfu (Scenic Island and Flavors-Bella Vista and Distillery), Santorini ( Charming Oia Village-sunset and shopping), Mykonos (Scenic views-Taverna restaurant and church), Crete (Pottery and Vineyards-pottery and distillery), and back to Venice. All tours were enjoyable, tho we felt the time in Santorini was less than adequate. The view is the thing here, but arrived @ 4, left at 10PM. We ate at Orchid Garden, and Tequila as well as Grand Pacific and Magenta. All good meals, staff friendly, efficient. Back to Venice, took monorail to P Roma. Found out later there was a free NCL shuttle. Massive amount of shopping 30 Oct around Rialto. Reboard was done smoothly, tho we cut it close, arriving back at 3:30. They announced a 2 for 1 deal at the specialties for all lattitudes members, and We made use of it, eating at Orchid 3x, Tequila 2x, Cagney's 3x. I like Orchid the best, Grace Salva M'D, runs it like a top. Had multiple entrees every night. My wife likes Cggney's, extra $ well worth the attention and better food. Then went to Malaga (Marbella and Banus), Cadiz (Stroll), Lisbon (Scenic), and Azores (passed on excursions, walked around town). Re Malaga, more time should have been given to shop in Marbella, and less in $$$$ Banus. The Cadiz stroll was fine for us, but lots of folks could not do the walking. I like this tour the best. Had time to shop, saw the fish market, awesome!!! Tho Azores needs to work at more interesting tours. Realize the crossing has lots of smoking Europeans, but we think Carnival does better in allocating space for them. On deck 12, we were restricted to only the starboard side, with lots of folks, but space on the port side was available if you wanted to smell smokers. We did not. They also have to do better with babies in the Jacuzzis, as saw a naked kid come out of one, and a 1 yr old come out of another. Potty trained, not!!! Anybody think those waterproof diapers keep everything in? They also restricted folks being able to take their own food in the Garden Cafe, am guessing to cut down on spreadable sickness. Still saw men coming out of the bathrooms who never washed their hands. Carnival has the little napkins near the doors. I took to using the paper towels, and opened the exit doors that way. They ended up propping all bathroom doors open, a little tacky. The actual crossing was fine. Capt kept us informed about efforts to avoid the bad weather. Only had about 1 1/2 day of really bad weather. Was intimidating to see a huge wave crash against the windows at lunch, in the stern of the Grand Pacific !!! We were fine. Heard there were some injuries, but they continually told people to hold onto the railings (some still did not), and you could have meals delivered to your room, if you felt unsteady. The entertainment was very good. Especially liked the folkloric program. Liked Fourever, and Claire Maiden, as well as the in-house troupe (Jeremy, Jasmine, Chris). They added afternoon jam sessions for the crossing, a great idea. In conclusion, the ship was fine. We had not cruised with NCL in 1 1/2 years, and hoped it had same high standards. Staff were all very friendly. Saw numerous time of staff personally helping cruisers. Will definitely do NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
This was a 21 day cruise consisting of 2 cruises back to back: a 7 day cruise departing and returning to Venice visiting Croatia and the Greek Isles and then a 14 day transatlantic cruise from Venice to New York City visiting several ports ... Read More
This was a 21 day cruise consisting of 2 cruises back to back: a 7 day cruise departing and returning to Venice visiting Croatia and the Greek Isles and then a 14 day transatlantic cruise from Venice to New York City visiting several ports in Spain and Portugal. This was our 4th cruise on NCL and our 2nd Transatlantic cruise on NCL. We have been on 20+ cruises. Before anyone starts to ready this—I want to apologize for all the complaining. I'm sure that there were many folks on board who loved the cruise—unfortunately I'm finding after cruise # 4 on NCL that I'm just not a fan of Freestyle cruising because the service just isn't the same with Freestyle as it is on a traditional cruise ship. I want to have the same waiter every day who knows what I prefer even before I sit down. Some people could care less about the service—I have friends who are just as happy going to the buffet every day and hate sitting down for meals. Luckily, we have the freedom to choose what we prefer. Overall I was disappointed in this cruise. The itinerary and ports visited were fantastic—but the food, service, and activities on the ship were average to subpar. NCL's cost cutting was evident at all times and trying to avoid hidden costs was a major activity and frankly—exhausting. Food—compared to Holland America, Royal Caribbean, NCL 2 years ago and even Carnival—the food in the buffets and main dining rooms was generally boring and not always well prepared. The breakfast buffet (and yes it is a buffet except for the made to order Omelets) featured the exact same food for 21 days. The only thing that ever changed was the type of fruit in the Danish. Lunch and dinner buffets also featured the exact same food every day except for a different meat and fish entrEe and the desserts varied. (The fish was cooked "to order" and the Ceasar salad was also made freshly as you approached the salad station, so that's why NCL doesn't call it a buffet anymore.) In the main dining rooms, I was surprised to see the same menu on the 21 day cruise 3 different times—most ships feature at least 14 days worth of different menus. It used to be that the menus used to feature: appetizer, soup, salad, main course and dessert. NCL's menu has the main course and then a list of several things to choose from before the main course. The waiters seemed pained when a soup, salad and appetizer was chosen from the before dinner list instead of just choosing one item. Dessert of course follows. We frequently felt rushed thru dinner in the main dining rooms—on more than one occasion—the appetizer, soup, and salad was delivered so closely to the main course that all four plates were on the table at one time. With Freestyle cruising there was ALWAYS a wait to get into the main dining rooms when we decided we wanted to eat. (Generally 15 - 30 minutes). We considered this a positive and not a negative issue, because if you got handed a beeper, it meant that you could order 2 for 1 drinks at the bar while waiting for your table. (Only certain cheaper drinks were eligible, of course). The specialty restaurants were better, but not great. (Holland America's steak restaurant served the best steak I have ever had.) We resorted (because of boring menus and poor service) to mainly eating in the specialty restaurants or in the buffet for dinner. (Have never in over 20 cruises eaten at the buffet for dinner before.) The specialty Italian restaurant that is an extra charge was especially disappointing since we had fallen in love with the food prepared at the free Italian restaurant on our NCL cruise 2 years earlier. The steak restaurant was OK—but our table partners ordered steaks medium well and had to be returned because they were well done. (2 days earlier our steaks that were ordered medium were practically uneatable because they were so raw). One nice feature was that the specialty restaurants were 2 to 1 for Latitudes members on the 14 day transatlantic cruise portion of the trip only from 6:30 to 7:30PM. I was surprised by the lack of outdoor barbeques for lunch or dinner. They had paella outside on the Lido deck for lunch once or twice for about an hour, but by the time we decided to get some—the service had already shut down. Also I know that the day of the midnight buffet is gone—but what happened to NCL's famous chocolate buffet? They featured this for the 7 night Greek Isles cruise, but it never happened during the 14 day Transatlantic cruise. Room service food choices were extremely limited--I don't ever remember seeing such a limited menu on a cruise ship before. And I suppose this also fits into the food category: —what happened to the nightly chocolate mints? They completely disappeared. I guess that's due to more cost cutting. And beware of the freshly squeezed orange juice in the garden buffet—that's an extra charge. (Free on Holland America). Drinks—prices were posted for drinks, but when the drink came with that special plastic glass that everyone throws away—the drink was twice as much—I made them bring me back the drink without the glass at the posted price. Service was fair. I don't think that this was due to the crew not caring—there just wasn't enough of them to accomplish things like: trying to get water refilled during dinner—impossible. (Same for the iced tea.) My husband finally devised a game to see how long it would take him to get hot tea with dinner. Every time we sat down for lunch or dinner he calmly explained that he wanted hot tea with dinner, not after dinner. The fastest time to get his hot tea was 30 minutes from when he asked for it. Forgetting it altogether was not unusual. The only exception to the lack of service with meals was in the buffet Garden Cafe. There were an incredible number of crew standing around ready to swoop up one's dish and silverware as soon as it looked like one was done eating. This resulted in numerous instances of plates disappearing when one was still planning on continuing to eat what was on the plate. One's food was sure to disappear if there was a pause in your eating to look out the window. We got a chuckle out of watching fellow passengers protecting their plates by hunching over them and shouting "No" when a waiter would appear before they wanted to give up the plate. Our cabin—Service was good. The room was kept clean, we had ice regularly. I do long for the old days when the room steward would introduce himself within the first 15 minutes after arrival at our room. We didn't meet our room steward until several days into the cruise. The room steward looked like she had twice as many rooms to clean as what they used to have to take care of. Only time for a few towel animals—but of course we received numerous offers to buy the towel animal folding DVD. And we never did figure out how to find the room steward when we were unable to get into our room. (Not our fault—the electronic key mechanism's battery was low). In the old days—the room stewards generally hung out at all hours in their crew areas near our room and were easy to find. The room itself was smallish compared to the same category room that we had stayed in 2 years earlier, but there was lots of storage space. Activities: Shows: As is usual—some good and some bad. The Russian acrobats were the best we have seen on a cruise ship. The poor hypnotist was the worst show we have ever seen—his show was moved up a day unexpectedly because of a singer's illness. Activites: this ship was big on trivia—every day once or twice a day. Lots of time set aside for getting together to play bridge and cards also. There was the usual Bingo. We were disappointed in the lack of dance lessons—they were sparse and taught by the dancers in the show. Our previous NCL transatlantic had featured a competitive ballroom dance couple whose love for dance inspired us to learn complicated dance moves -the previous ship had dance lessons once or twice a day and the couple also were available during ballroom dance sets in the evenings. Generally the activities really gear up during the transatlantic portion of the trip—nothing extra was added activity wise that I could see. The murder mystery dinner that we paid for was disappointing—especially when we remembered that it was free 2 years ago and at dinner found out that it was the exact same script from 2 years ago. Note to anybody from NCL who is reading this—I have friends who will write you a new murder mystery script for $200.00. Buy a new script every year! Overall , I thought that the activities were not as plentiful as what I expected. On the subject of cost cutting -on 4 separate occasions—I walked into a bathroom during the early evening or afternoon hours and found no toilet paper in my stall. Not good on a cruise ship -first time I encountered that phenomenon ever on a cruise ship. On the positive side—the itinerary was incredible. I loved most of the shore excursions I took (and we did a lot), couldn't have asked for better ports to see either. Also—loved the dinner with the officers (yes it cost extra)—was a very relaxing evening and felt like we got to know the officers on a personal basis. Also—wanted to specially mention our captain. His seamanship was excellent. We rode thru a storm with 30 foot waves fairly smoothly. He kept us informed regularly about the weather and calmly explained his strategy . He also strongly encouraged folks with difficulty ambulating to stick to areas with hand rails during the storm. Of course not everyone listened and they finally had to close the lido deck and the Garden Cafe Buffet because of the number of injuries from passengers falling in those areas. Another area of the ship that deserves positive recognition is the casino—no I didn't win, but the crew there was particularly pleasant. Also—NCL still has Pai Gow Poker in their casino—the table was generally full when they opened it during the evening. Guess that it's not a big money maker for them, but it was definitely entertaining for those of us who love the game. Frankly—if I ever go on an NCL cruise again—it will be because they have Pai Gow Poker in the casino. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We travelled on NCL Gem 2 - 9th October 2010 with another couple. She is a beautiful ship, in tip top condition and absolutely spotless. We had a wonderful week and enjoyed ourselves but there are a number of areas which should be ... Read More
We travelled on NCL Gem 2 - 9th October 2010 with another couple. She is a beautiful ship, in tip top condition and absolutely spotless. We had a wonderful week and enjoyed ourselves but there are a number of areas which should be addressed. We really liked the idea of My Time Dining on the Gem, and it was a contributing factor when we booked our trip. However, most of the food served in the main dining rooms arrived cold at the table apart from the meat dish, and almost everything is over salted. Potatoes, veg and pasta are only luke warm to cold....... such a pity. Lunch and breakfast buffets are varied, we had no complaints , apart from the desert lines which were bland in general. Most of the staff are very pleasant and the deal of offering 2 drinks for the price of one, while you wait to be seated in the Magenta or Pacific is a nice touch! The Gem did step up in the fee paying restaurants - we enjoyed good meals at Cagney Steakhouse, The Tapas Restaurant and at The Tappanyaki Diner. This Japanese restaurant served us the best food on our trip and we enjoyed eating here the most....... Chefs are humorous, talented and put on an excellent show. There is a surcharge of $20 per head to eat in any of these restaurants, but we considered it well worth the money because main dining rooms just don't come up to the 4 star standard that is advertised by NCL. In general, the average age group on this trip was 55 - 60 years and upwards, most of whom were American and Canadian passengers. We saw no large gangs of fast drinkers, so it was amazing to find that the ship had run out of draught beer a couple of days before our cruise ended. We firmly believe that Management stopped serving draft in order to clear stocks of bottle beer ....... the season afterall, is almost over. We were offered buckets of Australian Beer - buy 5 bottles and get 2 free. The expiry date on the bottles was 16th October. I think this practice is shabby. I also have issues with waiters who become over familiar with guests and harass passengers to purchase drinks......... really, it is unnecessary and intrusive to be disturbed every 10 minutes with a request to buy yet another BOTTLE of almost out of date beer.! Drinks are over priced, especially wine, and are not good value! Entertainment is what you expect to find on board ........ variety shows, dancing and game shows.. The bowling alley is a fun and our group enjoyed it immensely. Bingo afternoons were too long, drawn out and boring....... The promise of a free cruise for one lucky passenger is enticing. We attended on two afternoons - the cost of playing the whole game on our last Friday was $100 per person - it's a joke ! The game is for morons........we absolutely hated it, and staff do far too much talking through out the was an endurance test to sit through. This was our third cruise - the Gem has alot to offer and we had a fun week overall without the draught beer - even!! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
This is a beautiful ship. 3 years old and so stable you hardly know you're at sea. Our minisuite was wonderful and had a bath which was a first on a cruise for us. The cabin stewards were efficient and very good at their job. Eg: A ... Read More
This is a beautiful ship. 3 years old and so stable you hardly know you're at sea. Our minisuite was wonderful and had a bath which was a first on a cruise for us. The cabin stewards were efficient and very good at their job. Eg: A light bulb went and we informed the steward and by the time we'd had dinner it had been replaced. The food is fine. Plenty of it 24 hours a day if you are that way inclined. The big BUT is the costs involved if you want to eat in one of the speciality restaurants, the price of drinks (from water to brandy) and the cost of excursions. To the new cruiser these costs can be daunting especially if you are unaware that you can do trips yourself. Tha Americans also seemed unaware that they could bring soft drinks and water onto the ship from shore. Just because alcohol is banned, it doesn't mean non-alcoholic drinks are. The price of excursions is extortionate. One trip we took was to Knossos. It cost $70 each and involved (approx) a 20 mile round trip in a coach and a 6euro entrance fee. How bad is that? And don't pay extra for restaurants like the italian- why pay for pizza and pasta when it's on offer every day in the top deck buffet restaurant? The crew, on the whole, are lovely especially the Phillipinos. Also the entertainment is very 1950s. Magicians, balancing acts,a ventriloquist and a Tina Turner act were not of the highest calibre. The ship is spotless and we had a wonderful time. But we are experienced cruisers and know how to avoid the pitfalls. So, be warned and then enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
First time NCL for me and my friend. My previous cruises were twice on Carnival both times in the Caribbean, my friend has cruised previously with Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean in the Caribbean and Panama Canal, so the ... Read More
First time NCL for me and my friend. My previous cruises were twice on Carnival both times in the Caribbean, my friend has cruised previously with Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean in the Caribbean and Panama Canal, so the Mediterranean experience was new for us as well. We cruised 14 days back to back. We booked through a local travel agent but after much research we selected our own air (KLM) and hotel in Venice (Best Western Olimpia) Both were good. The Olimpia was exceptional and very conveniently located on a small canal near P.le Roma. We travelled from Marco Polo airport by ATVO express coach for 3 Euro. Very easy except we had to load and unload our own luggage on and off the coach - a bit difficult for us but we managed. Short walk from bus drop-off over one small bridge to hotel. On embarkation day they stored our luggage until we were ready to go to the port. Venice was wonderful although we only stayed one night. We wished we had more time to explore. Thankfully we had booked a time slot for the Basilica for priority entrance on the Friday afternoon (4pm) and were able to enter early (3:30pm) although the regular line-up didn't look too bad. We went back to St Marks square on the Saturday morning around 9:30am and the lineup was really long. We went to Doge's Palace with pre-purchased tickets and entered as soon as it opened. It was raining on our way back to the hotel but not too heavy. The free port shuttle was available and was in the corner of P.le Roma near the hotel. There was a Norwegian Gem sign on the front of the bus, and again we had to load and unload our own luggage. We checked in at the port around 1:30pm and were on the ship around 2pm. We found the ship to be clean and nicely decorated, a bit more upscale compared to Carnival. The staff were wonderful and always had time to say hello, the senior officers were often visible and would stop to chat, I saw the Captain in the Garden Cafe almost every morning. He was very approachable as was all of the staff. The pool area was very busy on sea days and half-sea days. Almost all loungers had towels draped on them by around 8am although we were able to find comfortable seating in the shade on the couches most times. The couches on the Gem were a nice touch, not found on the Carnival ship I have previously sailed on. Sometimes there was a cool breeze around the pool area and we discovered that it was warmer in the Great Outdoors area (AFT) especially when it was sunny. The pool slide was a disappointment - very slow to the point where we had to push ourselves down most of the way. No big deal but needless to say we only went down once! The pool water was cold but refreshing on hot days. Too deep to touch the bottom for me and my friend so my friend couldn't go in as she doesn't swim. We've only travelled in a balcony cabin but this time we decided to go in an obstructed oceanview since it was a port intensive cruise. We were not disappointed. The cabin was a good size as was the washroom area, with good showers and decent shower gel and shampoo. We had two oblong portholes, one with only a view of the lifeboat support structure, but the other was a decent view albeit a narrow one. We could see the ocean/ports and when in port we could see down to the dock area so we were able to check if it was raining or not. The lifeboats were used for tendering so if you don't like getting up early do not book a G cabin. We arrived in some ports early and the lifeboats were being lowered as early as 6:30am on some days. This did not bother us but some passengers on the deck above (9) said that they could also hear the noise so be aware of your cabin location when booking if this would bother you. The cabin stewards and dining staff were always pleasant and nothing was too much trouble for them. The Group Services Coordinator, Rochelle Brown, looked after our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet both weeks and made sure everyone knew where to go, since the location was changed last minute both weeks. Freestyle dining was a new experience for us and we were not disappointed. We dined in the Grand Pacific most nights, never tried the Magenta, and we sat with other passengers most nights, often with Cruise Critic members. The service was good and the food was hot. I would say that the food in the dining room was OK but not special and found the fish dishes to be a bit heavy on the salt although still OK. (Carnival wins hands down for their MDR food). We dined at around 6:30pm and did not have to wait for a table. A few nights we were later (after 7pm) and had to wait 30 minutes so on one of those nights we ate at the Garden Cafe buffet. It was OK and different food available compared to lunchtime. We dined at specialty restaurants as well - Cagneys for the Murder Mystery dinner. The food was excellent and it was a fun evening as we joined with 2 Cruise Critic couples. Le Bistro was also excellent - a special birthday dinner for my friend. La Cucina was OK, we dined there on the 2 for one special that is available on the Saturday evening mid-cruise for back to back guests only. Teppanyaki was fun and I enjoyed the food except the entree. I had lobster and scallops which I found to be too salty, and way more food than I could eat. We had breakfast and lunch in the Garden Cafe most days, sometimes taking it out to the pool area on sea days. On embarkation day we had lunch in Grand Pacific, it was good, and one morning we had breakfast in the Blue Lagoon, a nice quiet location for breakfast but with a limited menu, ok if you want the basic bacon & eggs & toast. If you like cappuccino then buy them at the Java cafe, Anaa is the bar manager there and she always knew how we liked our cap. Dining room cappuccino is not good but I think it is a bit cheaper but not worth it. The coffee throughout the ship was not the best either, I think I only had 3 regular coffees during the whole 2 weeks. Entertainment was great, we enjoyed every show we attended in the Stardust theatre and the entertainment on the 2nd week was not the same as the first week since there was a large number of non-English speaking passengers the second week so they changed the entertainment to suit all languages - nice touch. The Gem singers and dancers are very good and the Kenosis band was also very good although a bit loud at times. We also enjoyed the entertainment in Spinnakers lounge and in Magnum's champagne bar which was adjacent to Shakers martini bar, our favorite place. Lindsay the bar manager makes the best martinis. We would buy our martinis there and take them up to Spinnakers rather than buy at Spinnakers. Disembarkation mid-cruise was easy, we got off when we were ready and breezed through, taking the free shuttle to P.le Roma, and when getting back on in the afternoon we did not have to wait. We just told the staff we were returning guests and they allowed us straight through, although if you get off then I think you cannot get back on until after 12 noon, which was OK with us. I think you can stay on the ship if you want but cannot go into your cabin until after 2pm. Disembarkation on our last day was also easy. We had NCL transfers to Marco Polo airport although would have taken the free shuttle and ATVO express from P.le Roma had we known about it when we booked. At least the NCL transfer bus driver loaded and unloaded the luggage for us. The airport was a zoo. At least 4 ships were in port and the airport departure checkin area is too small and not enough staff to handle the crowds. It was difficult to determine which checkin line to join and people were frustrated and cranky. Once through the checkin, the waiting area is nice to wander through the many shops, but expensive shopping. We enjoyed a cappuccino and croissant at a small cafe bar. Ports: After much research we decided to explore most ports on our own, except in Izmir and Corfu where we wanted to see more than the port areas. We took NCL Magnificent Ephesus tour from Izmir, and NCL Scenic Island and Flavors in Corfu. They were both very enjoyable and we did not think overpriced. Most other ports we just walked through the towns and enjoyed the sights as well as local beer and appetizers in the many cafes, notably the Greek appetizers at Zafora on the caldera in Thira, Santorini; pizza, beer and cappuccino at Kavos cafe on the waterfront in Mykonos; the best gelato at Antica Gelateria Di Roma in Nafplion (recommended by NCL). Gelato in Venice was not good. Iraklion was a waste of time, a very large industrial port and quite a walk into town, which we did not mind, but was not worth the walk. We wish we had booked an NCL tour. In Athens we pre-booked a taxi, shared with other cruise critic members, and pre-booked the Athens Walking Tour through the city centre and up to the Acropolis, enjoyable but I found the history talks a bit too overwhelming and more information than I really wanted. We enjoyed meeting Cruise Critic members, which made our cruise so much more enjoyable, and enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to purchased Future Cruise Rewards for a future cruise, a good bargain. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
The cabin was small but nice and clean. The staff were very pleasant. The pros stop here. I was disappointed from the get go. After speaking to NCL multiple times on the phone and asking over and over again about the different ... Read More
The cabin was small but nice and clean. The staff were very pleasant. The pros stop here. I was disappointed from the get go. After speaking to NCL multiple times on the phone and asking over and over again about the different charges and asking if there were any additional fees or charges and told that there were none, I was very upset when I found out that there would be a $12 charge per day per person for service fees so that tipping was not needed. That's great and all, but what about all the meals eaten off the ship and all the times we turned away the room stewards because they showed up too late or too early? The charge was atrocious. The food was hit or miss. Magenta typically had nice meals but the buffets were disgusting. How so many people were at the buffets all the time, I just don't know. They must not have any standards with food. I was also irritated at the cover charges for restaurants since this was a question asked before the cruise was booked and NCL said that all 10 restaurants were included in our charges. Guess that the cover charges were in the fine print somewhere. Then there was the tendering services to Dubrovnik. What a disaster! We were in group 4 and we had to wait an hour and 45 minutes to get off the boat because they didn't know what they were doing and the stairs were completely jammed with people who were just holding up the process and the NCL staff would not get them out of the way. We got there at 1pm and the last tender left at 8:30pm so our 7 and a half hours became almost 5 and a half. Very disappointing for visiting such a lovely town. Also, guest services will flat out lie to you. When deciding if we wanted to book an excursion to Athens we asked the excursions desk how far the Acropolis was from the drop off point of the bus and if it could be walked or if there were other forms of transportation. We were told it is a minimum 45 minute walk and there was no other transportation other than cab. We decided to book the $129/person excursion for 6 and 1/2 hours. We then found out that there was a metro station right outside the cruise terminal and for 1 euro we could get right to the Acropolis and the walk from the bus to the Acropolis was less than 10 minutes. Horrible service. The 6 and 1/2 hour tour only ended up consisting for 1 hour on the Acropolis and 1 and 1/2 hours in the Plaka. Much of this was due to elderly women who could not walk unassisted either because of the physical demand or because they wore heels! Yes, heels to the Acropolis excursion that was described as only for the adventurous traveler, wear comfortable shoes, and not for people who cannot climb up 75 steep stairs and walk uneven terrain. It was miserable. All they wanted to do was go to the cheap souvenir shops to buy crap from China. And they bought plenty of that in the Plaka. They had so much trouble walking around the Acropolis and complained incessantly to suddenly boogey around the Plaka hitting as many shops as possible. Thanks for ruining my day. This cruise is also really geared toward the elderly traveler. A younger person is not interested in daily bingo or bridge tournaments or all day buffets. We want to experience the European sights. The pool area was a joke. For the amount of people on the ship and two days at sea, two tiny pools don't cut it. Also, there are signs everywhere telling people that unattended items left for more than 30 minutes will be brought to lost and found so that people don't lay claim to the choice chairs all day when they spend most of the day in the buffet. This never happened of course. All the chairs are claimed by 7:30, yet no one is there. Books and bags and glasses are but no one is in sight. It was extremely frustrating. I would never cruise NCL again. NEVER! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
On booking the prices had risen from those printed in the brochure. The pre-cruise airline registration was flawed and when we queried the process a few days before departure we received a letter telling us that that NCL would get back to ... Read More
On booking the prices had risen from those printed in the brochure. The pre-cruise airline registration was flawed and when we queried the process a few days before departure we received a letter telling us that that NCL would get back to us within 28 days. To be fair we did receieve a letter of apology on board including a $100 on board credit.We were accommodated in a mini suite on deck eleven forward starboard which is located close to some noisy plumbing which erupted every few minutes with such volume that it would wake us up 24/7. When this was not disturbing us the large family in the adjacent suite would be making such a noise on the adjoining balcony that we could not enjoy sitting on our own balcony when they were present. Complaints about the plumbing resulted in some investigation but no remedy or offer of a cabin change as the ship was full. We did however receive some canapes on a daily basis some restuarant discount and priority tender tickets to keep us sweet and the noisy family only stayed for a week. We have cruised five times with NCL but what a contrast this trip was to our previous experiences. It is apparent that cost cutting measures have been applied across the board toiletries in bathroom, no bathrobes, no fruit, no flowers.The self service washing machines have been removed, higher charges apply for almost all activities.The food in the Garden Cafe was plentiful but pretty basic fare The speciality restuarant food was much superior, we did enjoy excellent meals in Cagney`s and Le Bistro. The destination tours were very expensive so we made our own arrangements using the information provided by the staff at the stand in the Garden Cafe. The entertainment provided has been adjusted to meet the diverse needs of the multinational passenger list. The passengers on this cruise consisted of Spanish, Italian, French, American, Canadian, British, Russian, German,and many others we did not identify. The shows consisted of singing, dancing,magic and ventriloquism which crossed the language divides, and were well received. The Cruise Director used his multilingual talents to good effect and kept everyone well informed. The ship had around 3,000 on board on week one and 2,600 on week two so space around the pool was at a premium with vacant loungers booked with towels limiting use to many guests. The Information desk is one of the best that we have experienced. They had a can do attitude and were able to answer all our enquiries adequately with a smile. The room stewards Jo & Arthur were excellent they worked extremely hard. It should be remembered that this cruise is two seven day segments with almost a full weekly changeover so staff have to work much harder than on a two week cruise. All in all we enjoyed the cruise and destinations but NCL has changed and we will be looking for better value and a quieter experience for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
NCL 'appears' to offer good value against the other more luxurious lines but, once on board, they will extract every cent from you bringing it in line with the likes of Royal Caribbean, etc. So whilst paying top quality prices ... Read More
NCL 'appears' to offer good value against the other more luxurious lines but, once on board, they will extract every cent from you bringing it in line with the likes of Royal Caribbean, etc. So whilst paying top quality prices you get shoddy service, absolutely appalling food and zilch entertainment. Our cabin was like the black hole of calcutta with constant sewerage/running water 24/7. There was one European socket hidden behind the ice bucket. Free-style dining was a farce as there are not enough tables in the only two silver service restaurants (not including the self service)that are included in the price - every night, if you had forgotten to book first thing in the morning, you had to wait unless you wanted to eat at 6.30 or 9.30. Pagers were issued and you were sent to the bar to have a drink. Apart from one waiter we were lucky enough to get one evening, the service was truly diabolical. The staff had ceased to care about whether the guests were happy as they had heard it all before. The food was absolutely dire - every cost that could be cut had been cut - this was bargain basement steerage fodder. All the other restuarants applied exhorbitant charges, given the poor quality of the food. We resorted to Le French bistro twice in desperation but portion sizes were miniscule so we wound up doubling or even trebling the order (which you can do). Also, Coquille St Jacques turned up as some scallop stew - when we complained we were told it was the chef's interpretation! In our book it is either Coquille St Jacques or not. We also ate at the Mexican which was ok; really we should have been able to eat at the restaurants included in the price and there should have been moer but what with the overcrowding, poor service and dreadful food it was not an appetising thought. Certain lagers ran out half way through the cruise with only beer being available by the end of it. Interestingly whilst oranges were available free, a freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast would set you back $3.75 - the lone juicing machine must be making a handsome return for NCL against its purchase price! Entertainment - what entertainment? Unlike most lines who keep you entertained, the day seemed to consist of music blaring out at dangerously high decibels on the sun lounger decks. Night??? To add final insult to injury, the baggage handling mechanism squeezed one of our suitcases to an unrepairable wreck and they are denying any responsibility, just a continuance of the NCL customer care policy! Steer well clear of this bargain basement line. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
In September last year, six of our family had a one week cruise on the Norwegian Gem with 3 balcony rooms next to each other. We picked up the ship at Barcelona and visited Malta, Italy and France. The holiday was excellent, staff ... Read More
In September last year, six of our family had a one week cruise on the Norwegian Gem with 3 balcony rooms next to each other. We picked up the ship at Barcelona and visited Malta, Italy and France. The holiday was excellent, staff extremely pleasant and helpful, food wonderful etc. etc., we decided to go again this year. On 18th September we picked up the ship at Venice to visit Croatia, Turkey and Greece. On arriving in the room, · Minibar items were missing, we informed the cabin stewart. The minibar is supposed to be restocked and locked prior to final departure. The next day we were presented with a bill for the minibar, we refused to sign and insisted the items were removed from our bill. · The robe provided was filthy. The neck, inside and around the pockets were a murky brown colour (don't even ask). I asked for clean robes, which were provided approximately an hour later. · The duvet had a wear hole in. We thought this had been replaced, it had actually been turned over. We asked the cabin stewart for an adapter and were told to go to reception. On arrival at Dubrovnik we were originally to use tenders to get from the ship and all passengers were to obtain 'Tender Tickets' to ensure an orderly disembarkation. We were then informed that we would dock at the other end of Dubrovnik not using tenders (Tender Tickets no longer needed). We went to deck 4 to disembark as instructed. The floor and stairs (up to deck 7) quickly became very crowded. People trying to get out of the lifts at deck 4 were unable to do so and getting irate. Two members of our party are 80+, one has sight and hearing difficulties, both have walking difficulties. They were being pushed around and we were afraid they would be pushed over. My sister tried to reach them and was abused by passengers who would not listen and assumed she was trying to push in. Members of staff were present but only got involved when a situation behind us became very heated. As everyone had Tender Tickets the easy answer would have been to call people forward using that system. Quite a few people recognised this, unfortunately not the staff. We asked for the adjoining balcony doors to be opened in the daytime and closed early evening. This was not a problem last year but we were told it could not be done this time. We asked to speak to the supervisor, who was supposed to come to our cabin but never arrived. We had to constantly ask cabin staff for more tea and sugar, which should automatically be provided. I stopped asking and brought them down from the cafe each morning. Last year cappuccino coffee was freely available, that has disappeared this year and was only available when paid for in the coffee lounge. The coffee machines were continually breaking down. On the Thursday evening the garden cafe bar ran out of draught lager and we were told Bass was available (as two members of our party smoke we were restricted as to where we could sit). Unfortunately, after one drink the bar ran out of Bass and only the more expensive bottle beer was available. The bar also had no Bacardi and a visit to 3 other bars on the ship was the same. We all went back to our rooms. On Friday the draft lager and Bass were back, only to disappear again in the evening. We spoke to reception staff, they were dismissive until we explained we were trying to give constructive feedback. Standards since last year have certainly dropped and signs of penny pinching are everywhere. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
The Good: The ship is clean, bright and new. The staff is wonderful, friendly and helpful. The NCL is so concerned about health issues they provide hand sanitizers as you enter the dining rooms and when you reboard the ship after a shore ... Read More
The Good: The ship is clean, bright and new. The staff is wonderful, friendly and helpful. The NCL is so concerned about health issues they provide hand sanitizers as you enter the dining rooms and when you reboard the ship after a shore excursion. This was a relief especially when dining at the buffet. Cabins are nicely appointed, not spacious but provided ample storage for a 2 week cruise. The nightly entertainment was surprisingly decent and there was only one repeat in our back to back cruise. The live bands that played in various venues on the ship were very good. The place to be when leaving a port is the Spinnaker Lounge, leaving Venice the first day at sunset, in a chair that is essentially a bed is a wonderful experience. The Bad: Automatic tipping of $12 per person per day and 15% on bar drinks. This can really add up and it is easy to forget the automatic tip and tip on top of it when getting bar service. The food in the basic dining room was essentially cafeteria food (with a lot of variety), not bad but not great. The deserts are tasteless and smack of frozen Sara Lee stuff from the supermarket. There are 2 no extra charge dining spots and we found the portions to be extremely small and food very over salted. There are a number of "specialty" restaurants that charge anywhere from $15-$25 per person in addition to what you paid for the cruise. The food is wonderful but every time I ate in one of the restaurants I felt ripped off. Essentially, if you want good quality food expect to pay extra, for our 2 week back to back cruise it would have been an additional $560.00. The shore excursions were either really great or awful and they are not cheap. Our guide in Athens, Helen, in Iraklion (forgotten his name) and George in Izmir,Turkey, were terrific and gave us a real flavor of the country. Our guides in Mykonos and Santorini were just so-so and Athena in Nafplion was really awful (in her defense she did have a problem with a cough but perhaps someone else would have better led the tour). There is a horrible lack of lounge chairs in the pool area. Signs are posted indicating your belongings will be removed if you are not there for 30 minutes or longer. I NEVER saw anyone removing a person's belongings from a lounge chair that remained unoccupied for HOURS. I don't know what time these people get up in the morning but chairs were draped with towels, hats and books as early as 8:30am. There are lounge chairs on other decks but typically they were in places where it was too windy to be comfortable reading in September. The NCL Gem is the only cruise I have ever taken and given the number of places we wanted to visit in 15 days it was the only realistic way to go. However, I did not get to spend enough time ashore rubbing elbows with the natives to get a real sense of the country and people which is the main reason we travel. I don't think another cruise will be in our future travels Read Less
Norwegian Gem Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 5.0 3.9
Public Rooms 5.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 5.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.8

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