I've been a some other cruises between 2001-2006, like on Royal Caribbean and NCL Norwegian Dawn (ND), both ships, smaller than Norwegian Gem (NG), but much, much nicer, like palaces, like opulent hotels, mirrors and nice entrances, elevators in glass, open space 5 or 6 floors high, magnificent. On Gem the reception area, it is like 3rd class hotel, in the beginning, I asked the reception person where is the Atrium, the Centrum. This is it, she said. wow bummer. Compare NG atrium with ND: see the links
Comparing with our previous experiences, the main difference is that the economic recession affected the cruise industry visibly. They are passing the buck as much as possible, charging as much as possible for anything possible.
For example, there were no trays to carry your food in the buffet lines (imagine if you had a stormy sea and have to walk to a empty table), the bottled water over $5, beer a bit under $5, no free movie channels on TV, $9.99 per movie. The food variety lower than a few years back.
Starting from the begging…it was a big plus, the embarkation was much, muchbetter organized than other times. Almost no wait to get on the ship, went through all the checks in probably 10 minutes. The embarkation started at midday, they would call numbers, very nicely organized. We waited much longer, lol, almost half an hour to make some specialty restaurants reservations (they hand only two persons and only one computer working). When we got on the boat, in the Atrium, the guys from the Caffe bar greeted us with nice cocktails, joyfully welcoming on board, and asking for our key card to pay for the colorful cocktails (9 bucks if I remember correctly)…warning… they are not free. Not long after that we went to our staterooms. I am a map person, so the first think was to look for the daily boat pamphlets, and the boat layout map. I found the schedule for the day, but maps? Noap, no such a thing. Even on the daily schedule, the way the info was put, the restaurants location, hours etc, were not very easy to digest.
Regarding the food, I will be more specific in the dining category below, the food was ok, not too much variety, very crowed, lines to get omelets, lines to get “orange” juice, if you could find it.
Regarding boat stops activities.
In Orlando, we went to Cocoa Beach. Nice weather, the water a bit cold. Some taxi buses had arrangements with the cruise lines to transport passengers to/from boats to the beach. In the same day it was also a Royal Caribbean boat there. At around 5 PM was the last pick up shuttle. We went at about 4 PM at the pick up spot, where it was a sign “for Norwegian Gem” and were a group of people waiting. After a while some other people came from RC ship and they formed another line, 15 feet before NG. Nobody knew if those Taxi buses will carry both parties or they were separate for NG and RC. The fact is that when the bus came at 5, the driver, (Ronald Sterling was id in the bus), stopped where the RC group was and which came there after us. Imagine the frustration when that big crowed starting pushing, trying to get on the bus, and some of the people that were among the first in line, couldn’t get on the bus. We had to travel back, standing in bus crowed like sardines and he drove us to the Royal Caribbean ship first. Very poor organization and service.
In Great Stirrup Cay, they made a lot of new improvements, be aware that the lounge chairs are free but those covers $30. The food was better, more variety. The drinks ok, except beer, I am an European beer drinker, so from 5 spots/bars, only one had Heineken and of course long line.
In Nassau was ok, you can do so many things. We went to see the aquarium in Atlantis Hotel, but now is $39 bucks and even to access parts of the outside hotel (with great water views) is not allowed anymore.
The voyage back was ok, normal.
Ship Quality Average
As I said before, the ship is bigger than what I experienced before but the Atrium is UGLY, it doesn't exist. The main eating area-Garden Caffe (Buffet) it has such an inefficient layout, it is smaller or seems smaller than Norwegian Dawn (ND). It seems that even if the ship is bigger, the extra space was used for cabins but the public areas weren't increased proportionally I guess, they are smaller, that's way it was crowded at dining, at pool, at the bowling/karaoke/disco lounge (Bliss Ultra Lounge). Good thing that they are clean, a very clean ship, EXCEPT, even if "washy washy" was the motto in the dining areas, I found to issues: 1-the close napkins that had wrapped the fork and knife were that clean at all 2-more dangerous, how the staff would clean the table after somebody else was disgusting, with some cheap blue cloth, no detergent.
Quality food for the restaurants that we went:--Buffet areas: Garden Caffe, ok, shortage of paper napkins, tea spoons, very crowed.
Difficult to find seats, many times we will find seats all the way at the aft open area where they did not have as much food as in the middle buffet, the bar was closed at breakfast, you were lucky to find one of the the 2 or 3 Orange Juice dispenser (by the clock, they were available only during the breakfast)
Great Outdoors, ok, same like GC but much less variety. If it was not windy, it was very crowded.
The Pool Grill; I am wondering why it is called Grill, very poor offer of BBQ and grill; some chicken and ribs. The worse cruise regarding BBQ.
On most of the Buffet areas, if don’t hold on your food, the waiters will take your plate even if you did not finish, very annoying.
Summer Palace Main Restaurant; almost OK; we had steak, it was like the cow was a bodybuilder, it was medium done as requested but, the meat was so hard.Indigo Main (Magenta on the ship); better than Palace, good food, very good service, drinks Le Bistro; very good, the Fillet Mignon was a delish, wine good, nice variety from $20-30 something to $120. The service a bit slow. Cagney Steakhouse; excellent food, drinks and service. Best Margaritas from Star Bar. La Cucina; ok, the pizza not that ok for an “Italian” restaurant, but pretty good for a cruise --Bars: Good and cheap (bet $2-$5) coffees and lattés from Java Cafe
Stateroom Quality: Good We had a balcony room 10th deck. The toilette very small, but the rest was nice, very good insulation, you barely can here the outside public announcements. Not too many times we found the towel animals; on Royal C. almost every day we will have another animal, sometimes twice a day. TV program very poor, no free movies, not even 1 channel; it was something like the preferred programs that was mostly for kids or nothing.
Ship Staff Quality: Very Good
Entertainment & Activities Good
Sinan is funny funny funny. But as I read, his nickname was the Bingo boy. Not that I am such a bingo fun, but damn it if I heard more than two times that they have Bingo games...and when I heard it, they were at not a very good time. The shows were also funny and entertaining, except much acclaimed Second City; I cannot digest at all this type of fun.
They have a casino also, which was ok.
Bottom line, I would think twice before taking a trip on this ship.
Washy Washy does not make you Happy Happy...
Just returned from a 7 day cruise from NYC-Port Canaveral, Fl, Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas, and Nassau Paradise Island, Bahamas. We chose this cruise from NYC because we live here and didn't want to incur the flight charges to leave from Florida. This particular cruise line nickel and dimes you for every little thing, while giving you nothing in return. You pay a flat fee for the cruise and you think you have a great bargain. That's until you step on board. There is a fee on this cruise for anything remotely fun. For example, the food in the buffet on Deck 12 reminded me of school cafeteria food. BAD cafeteria food. (and they have the nerve to serve the SAME crappy food downstairs on Deck 7 at the main dining room, and same food for ROOM SERVICE!). You just get a guaranteed seat there, so the staff may bring the disgusting food to you, instead of you chasing it down in a buffet and then looking in vain for a seat. Powdered eggs for breakfast, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, EVERYDAY for lunchAND dinner. Each day around lunchtime they would set up a grill/wok station near the pool and make rice and chicken. EVERYDAY. So after day 2 and you're bored of the burger/fry combo, you can have chicken and rice for a few days, get bored, then back to the burgers. The free food wasn't even fast food or Applebees quality. It was gross. Pizza was laughable. Pasta dishes were tasteless and dry. This is where the money starts to add up. You have several "specialty" restaurants onboard that charge you extra to eat there. You MUST eat dinner in these specialty places (and pay extra $$), in order to have something edible on your trip. And these specialty places aren't all great. The best ones were of course, the more expensive places. Le Bistro (French , $25 pp), Cagey's (steakhouse, $25 pp), and Teppenyaki (hibachi, $25 pp). Orchid Garden has Chinese Or sushi, for a $15 pp overcharge, but the food was bland and awful. The sushi was disgusting. Tasted like plastic. I have had better sushi at the supermarket. We also tried the Italian place, La Cucina, ($10 pp), but that was atrocious. The staff had no idea which pasta was which, and no clue how to make any Italian dishes. I ordered spaghetti carbonara, and it was oily and gross without cream or any of the right ingredients in it. My boyfriend had gnocchi that was also greasy and tasteless. Never mind the fried calamari. It looked like onion rings from Burger king. Gross. Never had such bad food ever. Always an up charge for something. Cant even get a seat in the buffet if you are brave enough to try the food. Their only saving grace was their fresh baked goods. We lived on sugar for most of the week. They had great cookies, cakes, cobblers, ice cream, and crepes. If they could get their bakers to cook- the food would have a shot!! We were so disgusted with all of this, that we went to reception and told them we were planning to get off at the first port (Florida) and stay there and get a hotel and pay to fly back. The lovely people at reception smiled and asked me if I knew about the "Jones Act". Its some act from like 1916 where the ship has to bring everyone back from the port they took them from. Otherwise they get a heavy penalty that they happily pass down to you- $350 pp!!! I was fit to be tied!! We paid all the money to book the cruise (which NCL or Travelocity wouldn't refund if we got off), and then would've had had to ADD money to leave!! UNREAL!! We decided to stay and get the cruise over with and make the best of it.
Then there is the "entertainment". They have 2 clubs on board the ship- "Bliss" and the "Spinnaker". Bliss is clubby and has the lights and the whole thing but NEVER a DJ. They had an awesome DJ onboard, but they never let him work in the clubs at night. They would waste him during the DAY to play out by the pool (where it was always too cold to swim). Out by the pool you couldn't even dance- they had to do stupid line dances and electric slide like you were at someone's Sweet 16! In Bliss, they have 10 TVs around the room playing "Time Life" videos from 1990 that you're supposed to get up and dance to. NO ONE dances there. In the Spinnaker, they have hokey game shows (newlywed game) and Karaoke, so the guests have to entertain each other, rather than NCL hiring talent. Then there is a theater where they have the "Norwegian Gem dancers" put on shows. Who cares?? I'm in my mid 30's! How about a comedian? They had one comedian but he was pitiful. Nobody laughed at him at all. A cover band? They had a band called Kinnosis that played very rarely and played very outdated material. A real DJ? A Broadway play? Something!? It s like a trip for the over 65 crowd. Everyone was older than us. There was under 10 couples near our age without kids. We' d run into them walking around the ship at night- all looking for something to do. If they could run the club right, it would've been fun. We could have bought a lot of drinks and danced. They're always trying to push you to buy drinks- but I think if they had the right entertainment, you'd want to drink and buy em. We never wanted to stay anywhere for more than 1 drink- so we may have had 4 or 5 drinks the whole trip. We were never even buzzed. Sad.
The excursions...They don't tell you where you need to be, what time- what gangway to take. They also don;'t tell you that some ports don't even take cash and you need to bring your debit card. You also need to bring photo id AND your ship card to get on and off the ship at the ports. I found the excursions very disorganized. Our first excursion was Port Canaveral, Florida. You had the choice of a resort for the day with full run of it, Disney. Universal, etc. We chose the resort because you ll never have enough time at Disney/Universal. On the NCL site, they tell you they are in port from 9am-8pm or so, so you think you have all day at the port. Not so. By the time you get off the ship and to the port, its 10, 11 am and then they tell you, you have to be back on the ship at 5:30pm! The ship doesn't even leave port till 9:30pm! What the hell? Our "resort" in Port Canaveral was a joke. The ocean was rough and too cold to swim. The jacuzzi didn't work, and half the food places near the pool were closed because its off season. The heated pool was fine, but we could've stayed on board for that... The second port- Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas was great. We snorkeled for the first time and loved it. That port is NCL's private island. They brought all the gross cruise food to the island and made it there and served drinks. It was a nice day off the ship, but still the bad food followed us. Then Atlantis, Paradise Island on day 3. It was gorgeous, but over priced and over rated. I was disappointed. The way the commercials look on TV- you think the whole place is amazing with a million things to do. They had about 10 pools, 4 Jacuzzis, 6 water slides, an awesome aquarium, a real expensive mall you cant afford to shop in, and the beach. It was a lot to do- but not for more than a day. We were toying of the idea of booking a week there- which is close to $3,500- and I'm glad we didn't do that trip. We did Atlantis in 1 day. The food there was atrocious also and for half the afternoon, it rained. It may just be that NCL is a crappy cruise line, but I'm not willing to try it again. I am an officially retired cruiser. Looking forward to booking Vegas for June 2011.
There was also a teeny casino onboard that was cute. We paid extra for a spa pass- that was a Godsend. They only sell 85 passes and we were there everyday. They had gorgeous Jacuzzis, steam room, sauna, etc. Super Nice. Def recommend that! It was $99 per person for an unlimited week pass to use the spas amenities. The stateroom was tiny but ok. It was an ocean view. Very nice. Comfy bed. The room was the least of my worries. You also have the mandatory $12 per person per day charge for the room steward and tips for the various bars/restaurants onboard. That's crap. I saw the room steward maybe twice the whole week. He's supposed to clean the room, bring you ice twice a day and turn down the bed at night and leave you towel animals. My room was cleaned daily but I only got it turned down with a towel animal once. Sad. I thought that was a cute touch that they did nightly.
We tried it and that's the bottom line. We ended our "cruise curiosity" and saw Atlantis and we're done with it. We don't have to spend crazy money to stay there now. We're good. We made the best of it. The few good restaurants were very nice. 2 out of 3 excursions were good.
I'm with my family(6 person) were traveling on this cruise for special occasion to celebrate birthday.Since the day of arrival aboard the ship, all of us experienced terrible stomach virus with high fever and so on... When we call for a doctors help
receptionist told us it is charge $150.00..?????
Unfortunately for us every day we started feeling worth. Then on ship was announcement "Quarantine". It mean that most of the passenger got sick.I don't want wright all this situation but after all we try wright letter to NCL company to get back some reimbursement for our cruise.They send us letter that they are unable to offer any compensation in this regard and they understand that illness overshadowed the overall enjoyment of our cruise.It was the last drop of this stupidity. All of us our family and friends will never ever go with this cruise line because of such attention to people on board.
It was more than 24 years ago that we took our first cruise and through circumstances, we were luckily put on then the new NCL Seaward..closet sized cabins, french service and white gloved waiters. We have since cruised Premier, Dolphin, NCL Sky through their first transit of the Panama Canal, Carnival, Princess, Royal/NCL Majesty (the minimum of twelve times to Bermuda), NCL Sea (previously the Seaward) in one of it's last cruises, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We have read many pros and cons on the new Free Style Cruising and decided to try the NCL Gem on recommendation of avid cruising friends.
Since we had cruised from Barcelona previously we had stayed at the Hotel Continental on La Rambla and met up with many folks who also booked the hotel and several used our favorite taxi driver/guide. What made it our own little party was that the night before embarking more than a dozen of us met for an informal bite to eat and drink at a little pizza place next door where we all seem to bond.EMBARKATION
Unfortunately, our driver arrived earlier than expected and we decided to let the chips fallwhere they may. We were at the port much too early but our luggage was taken immediately and we were escorted to be signed in. We sat there meeting up with other cruisers or shopping at the duty free (they are always there, aren't they) shops in the terminal,
In less than an hour we were allowed to embark. Parrot Pop who now uses a rollator was directed to the elevator for the handicapped. As we were about to enter the Atrium glasses of champagne and orange juice were offered.NCL GEM-FIRST IMPRESSION
Walking into the Atrium I was overwhelmed by the purple and blue ceiling and the moving picture wall. We were not allowed to check out our cabins in that the doors were closed off, and there was a mob scene in the atrium with all chairs being immediately filled with new cruisers and their carry on luggage and others milling around. I guess if you were familiar with the ship or a previous cruiser on the ship and there were many, you could slip off somewhere. The area is very welcoming with huge chairs and I swear somebodies idea of a joke...ugly lime green modern sculptured hassocks. Being a sculptured glass fanatic I spotted what I thought was and is a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture on the balustrade,CLEANLINESS
Never and I repeat, never have I seen a ship kept so spotless, people cleaning baseboards on their hands and knees in the hallways at 11:30 at night, the Garden Cafe being polished up in mid-afternoon after what I observed was continual cleaning all day long, everywhere.The gentleman who greeted you at the Garden Cafe with "washie-washie", it was annoying at first but then you got into it. Automatic dispensers everywhere, bathrooms cleaned continually, the rugs in the heavily trafficked areas like the Atrium continually being vacuumed ( always special sales going on and people milling around). One of the ladies at bar in the Atrium cleaning the glass pastry case, the jewelers in Colombian Emeralds cleaning the wall cases. During the roughest of seas crossing the Atlantic with the attentive staff in the Garden Cafe not a drop or drip remained . A speck of dirt or a smudge seemed to be an insult to the staff and was promptly cleaned up.CABIN MINI-SUITE AF 11568
Sadly, my husbands folding rollator could not fit through the doors and had to be left outside in the hallway, a handicapped cabin was not a available. The bathroom was divided by glass sliding doors next to the "throne" and the shower..leaving the sink area open.. Somebody had the foresight to install three shelves near the sink which gave extra space for toiletries.. This may seem like a strange comment, but the bathroom floor of shimmering iridescent green tile reminded me of the beautiful sea, a theme carried out in the design of rugs throughout the ship. Closet space was more than sufficient and the drawer space the best I've seen on any ship. My major complaint was as the person sleeping next to the closet there was one tiny wooden shelf to hold personal items.
It would be wonderful if little shelves such as in the bathroom could be installed on that side of the bed. Kudos to NCL for a "real" hair dryer that's one less item to bring from home. One complaint was that the ice bucket was not filled daily. Ladies bring your own shampoo.ENTERTAINMENT
After having cruised on NCL more than 15 times I was shocked at the poor quality of entertainment provided generally. In the Atrium there was an older piano player who was so "full of himself", he only played songs from the thirties up until the 50's...and "played" to several repeat cruisers.. He claimed he lived in Paris, but when asked about a famous song writer claimed he didn't know him, and he was from the fifties I believe... his genre.
By accident we found a young new entertainer on the ship, Randon, whose guitar playing, singing and sweetness was the highlight of our trip. He is a find and deserves more. He often played in the Champagne Bar andoccasionally the Atrium.
Yes, we enjoyed the Hypnotist and the Second City Troupe and sadly missed El Divos, but the musical troupe which was definetly NOT of Jean Ryan/NCL caliber was poorly directed and produced and was an absolute disgrace to the reputation for entertainment that NCL held with us. A woman singer one of the first evenings was so bad., she sang off key.
Except for paying for a Jazz brunch in Le Bistro (we did not go and it was only offered once on a thirteen day cruise) there was no jazz heard at all.. that was a big disappointment..
The Sring Quartet played throughout and was enjoyableFREE STYLE DINING
MAIN DINING ROOMS
MAGENTA We are early diners and found if you went to the dining room after 5:30 there was a long line waiting to get in. The first evening the food and service were very acceptable..
The second evening at the Magenta. we were at the same exact table with a different waiter and when he asked how my meal was I told him the soup was cold and he walked away.
GRAND PACIFIC A bit more formal once we found it and the handicapped entrance was the Grand Pacific, Lovely decor and on the whole, the same indifferent servers, except for one we discovered at breakfast. In other words.. these waiters in the Grand Pacific and Magenta are just "order takers" and don't seem to give a hoot and it showed.
GARDEN CAFE Not being a fan of buffets I must rave about the Garden Cafe. After entering and our washie washie routine.I would go further past the end of the buffet to find a table.. NCL has done something I'd never seen before there were at least four tables that had signs on them to be used by wheelchair/handicapped guests. They could have used a few more, but a nice touch. There were handicapped cruisers of all ages from teens to the elderly, many had walkers, canes, and I noticed several blind cruisers by their white canes.
Parrot Pop loved the station that had hot cereals was a favorite place for him and my first stop was the hot upside down pecan rolls.. NCL has decreed that guests not have trays and that there is less wastage when they have large plates.The minute a staff members spots you with two plates or even juggling one they absolutely insist upon taking your plates and taking you to your table. No shortage of staff upstairs in the buffet whether it was an officer or server, not only that they were gracious enough to get Parrot Pop a coffee or cold milk and bring it to him. There wasn't just one omelet station in the morning, but at least four.. They never ran out of juices and another juice/coffee station was placed conveniently in the next room. After two days the attractive food and displays got to me and I decided as a foodaholic, smoked salmon, fresh danish, cheeses it was enough to drive an overeater crazy, so we went to the Pan American for breakfast at least for a few days..
We never had supper there, but would stop up for a bit of lunch, i.e. salad..forget it.. so many choices, Caesar salad with anchovies, you couldn't help yourself. Best of all at the end of one section was an ice cream bar and soft serve ice cream, available all day long.. All in all the Garden Cafe was a highlight..
BLUE LAGOON. What a disaster.. The big draw here was for me the chicken wings and the tomato soup (fabulous soup),. One example.. my husband and I both ordered our lunch at the same time..and it was to come with french fries, they both came at the same time, mine dead cold fries and his hot..The second day there I ordered ten chicken wings again, and mild,....they came cold...I sent them back and they arrived hot, but only six. When I mentioned the serving problem to an Officer helping out he said..people don't want to leave the tables..WRONG, they are waiting for their food.. Yes, I did see guests walk out. Heaven forbid you ask for iced coffee...you got it at the end of your meal..maybe.. We had breakfast and lunch there.. and always,, always a problem with service. Oh yes..
I think the Hostess there felt the pressure and it must of been a punishment.. she always looked grim faced
CAGNEYS Cagneys is a STEAL. and service quite attentive..compared to the regular free style dining rooms. I ordered a rib eye steak which arrived and was larger than a salad plate, the jumbo shrimp delightful and a wedge of salad with blue cheese.. also ordered with the famous french fries in truffle oil and sprinkled with cheese. Don't remember what Parrot Pop ordered for a steak although he did order a double giant shrimp cocktail.. Neither one of us could finish our steaks... Would never hesitate to eat at their Cagneys again. The food and the service were so far superior than Magenta and Grand Pacific. On land at a fine steak house..$25.00 might cover the cost of the entree, but not the side orders.
LE BISTRO The only extra charge restaurant we went to twice.escargot, mushroom soup, veal, bouillabaisse, etc..The setting is very romantic and this may sound strange, but the charger plate is this magnificent piece of Versace china... I noticed a few guests discretely turning the dish over...absolutely beautiful.. The restaurant had a Gauguin theme, very lovely.. We were never able to make as far as the chocolate fondue.
Coincidently we had received two bottles of wine as gifts while on the ship and neither restaurant charged a corkage charge which I thought was a nice touch
LA CUCINA The evening we decided to go the restaurant there was a two for one for dining.. Great deal...NOT!!!! It seems that the more expensive items like veal, shrimp and their osso bucco are taken off the menu.. Parrot Pop complained to the Maitre de who said he was new, but promised with the group party of 84 the next evening that we were paying FULL PRICE for everything would be on the menu... and it was.. Sadly, Parrot Pop who loves pasta found his pasta with meat sauce inedible the first night.. The next evening at the special private dinner you could see the difference in the menu and the staff, including Officers who came in to check to check that things were "wonderful"... We never went back.
ORCHID GARDEN, SUSHI BAR, TEPPANYAKI - GREAT OUTDOORS--we never went to.
In general, Parrot Pop and I felt with the run of the mill food with the exception of the fabulous soups that NCL is trying to get you to go to the specialty restaurants (read that as extra $$$) for service and quality of food. We missed excellent desserts and the presentation of desserts usually at the end of the meal by our waiter. In most instances we were asked what we wanted for dessert as we were ordering our meal.. We cruise for several reasons..the experience of the ports, the food, the entertainment and the high quality and preparation of food. Food in general for the most part was nothing to write home about and far less imaginative and tasty than we are used to.
STARDUST THEATER Although the sightlines were great it was difficult for handicapped cruisers to get down to the seats and the only alternative was the back seats taken by regular cruisers.. railing are needed.. or another entrance/exit on the sixth floor
BLISS LOUNGE Guess I'm old fashioned, but the bordello atmosphere of the Bliss Lounge certainly threw me for a loop.
GREAT OUTDOORS Just as a side note on embarking I mentioned to the Food and Beverage Manager that I was looking forward to the rib barbecue.. sadly the weather did not cooperate..
DISEMBARKING What a disaster for handicapped cruisers.. We were asked to report to one of the restaurants where the handicapped cruiser would be taken down by wheelchair when their color was called. The problem was.. there was not enough wheel chairs nor helpers. When our color was called we discovered we were 8th on the list.. We decided to wing it and took off ourselves...on the way down the ramp we comandeered an empty wheel chair and steward and off we went.. Parrot Pop could never managed to get down to the terrminal in time for us to catch our transportation.
A big thanks to all the people at the NYC Pier.. they are the best, even over our home port of Boston.
MISCELLANEOUS COMMENTS At a Get Together a large representation of the Staff was present and as they introduced themselves they offered their extension number if anybody had a problem....it worked..
Not in the theatre, nor the lounges were guests bothered by the staff to buy drinks.. nice touch..
What I think is an effort to save $$ Lattitude Pins are not being given out.. sad.. I would have loved to added the NCL Gem to my large collection.
POOR TASTE--- NCL had chutzpah to have young ladies selling roses in the dining rooms and the selling of the Jazz Brunch during supper on one of the first evenings, tacky, tacky, tacky
Lectures by Colombian Emeralds should be done in the Spinnaker Lounge which certainly has more seating than the Atrium where guests seemed to ensconce themselves early in the a.m. and NEVER BUDGED it seems the entire day..
The library is in an inaccessble part of the ship.. it should be mid-ship..not on the pool deck tucked in a corner near the spa.
Guests expressed concern regarding the lack of newer movies...if you want you can rent one for $12.00 they are available. They also were upset that only FOX was available on tv for news.. the excuse is they couldn't get CNN..NOT TRUE!!!! Have been on other trans-atlantics and CNN is available as are newer movies.. I think I watched Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly movie, Singing in the Rain at least three times.. and lets not talk about the old John Wayne black and whites..
Another concern was the lack of washing machines...and another corp, answer.. sanitary, etc. NOT TRUE..there is a large cruise line if not two that provides washing machines and dryers, especially useful on two week trans-atlantics.
Sadly, the weather was not cooperative and we had a rough crossing with rain, thunder, lightening and high seas.. we were unable to use the pool or the jacuzzi. It was the roughest crossing we have had in five trans-Atlantics, rain, thunder, lightening and did I mention high rough waves.
STAFF-OFFICERS A serious problem arose with a particular officer (which I will not go into) and I reported the incident to the front desk privately. Shortly thereafter the Security Officer came to investigate the matter and later told me that the matter would be taken care of.. THANK YOU
FINAL THOUGHTS Having cruised in the past year Celebrity and Princess and now NCL...how do I feel about Free Style... It's a good deal if the ports and the price is right.. If you want TLC and those extra touches... NCL isn't for you.. The question is.. would I cruise NCL again... yes I would and I intend to.. there is an itinerary have in mind but I will also know that I had better as others have told me... put aside extra $$ for the special restaurants..
In a word - wonderfull - We traveled to Barcelona and spent a day relaxing before embarking, and 2 days after departing to rest up and see Barcelona.
(All of that arranged outside of NCL).
My wife has lots of cruises under her belt, but had not been on a cruise in the 23 years we are married, me I did all my cruises thanks to the US Navy so I was the green one.
We had a balcony stateroom, on the port side on the same deck as the bridge. The service staff cannot be commended enough in my opinion; from the people who cleaned the rooms and turned down the beds at night, right up to the head waiters and the guys down in the laundry.
We took the behind the sceens tour as well as one excursion in every port, including the Monserat excursion when the ship returned to Barcelona.
I work in Nuclear power generation as a supervisor, with more reulations and regulators then what they deal with on that ship in my opinion, but at no point during the entire cruise did the least individual of entire shipscompany fail to impress me with their personal pride and professionalism, right down to the guys doing my wifes danties in the laundry.
The "Free Style" dinning expierence left us put off at first, but once we made the decision to avoid the "buffet" lines on deck 12 and the bars on deck 13, it was very very pleasurable.
The money making the ships crew has to do is a bit over the top, but its the industry standard aparently; still it did nothing to diminish our enjoyment of the entire expierence.
The Captain and the Engineering Crew where something to be proud of for NCL. You could set your watch by their work from entering port, through docking to getting under way for the next port.
Only leaving Rome did we leave late, by 45 minutes, and that was because 8 people who went off on their own out of Civittea (sp), did not return to the ship on time. We (me and the wife) actualy watched their taxi cabs pull up outside the gate from our balcony, as the ship finaly pulled away from the pier; about 20 minutes too late for the ships staff to do anything to correct the situation. Let me stress they did not use the NCL excursions!
On a very rare ocasion some item from one of the menue's failed to please; and the staff almost jumped over each other trying to make things right, despite my wife and I both telling them it was alright, the food was done perfectly, we just did not care for a particular item - (like coconut), or in the Oriental Fusion restraunt, where my wife specificaly ordered her entree without peppers. Her plate showed up with the peppers, and while my wife started to pick out the offending things, our waiteress, who was assisting at another table; saw what was happening from across the restraunt floor and FLEW to our table! Appologizing for the error in the kitchen, and took the offending dish away despite my wifes being perfectly happy with working around the peppers so as not to waste the food.
Only her Matri'D and the Chef worked harder to make it up to my wife.
The room was always smartly made up and cleaned.
The one night, with a huge cross wind was the only time we even felt the ship moving as we made our way back to Barcelona, and while it appeared to bother several of the other passengers, it was nothing to us. It did however leave the slidding glass doors and our balcony soiled to the point we could not enjoy the balcony view as we returned to the Harbor without opening the slider, which we ended up having to "lock and pin" closed so it wouldnt keep opening as the ship rolled in the high cross wind.
I am a sort of night owl, and frequently would arise in the middle of the night and go "wandering" about, only to be surprised by one of the ships staff or another doing things like wipping down the base board edges or doing the high dusting, or some other task, typicaly ignored even in the best of hotels, and almost never seen by a guest.
The Gem is due to rotate back to the U.S. soon and NCL's newest ship will take over the Barcelona run.
The Gem will then return to the med but doing the eastern med loop in 2011.
We plan on celebrating our 25th aniversary on board the GEM cruising to those new ports.
After all why change off a winnner!
Only 2 things will change with our travel arrangements:
First - I will pick a different suite, so we are not directly under the room with the video games - (long and funny sort of story which I will sapre you all). Actualy thinking about upgrading to the suites on Deck 12 or 13 with the Concierge (sp) service.
Second - I will try and remember to pick the side of the ship that gets to view the coastline this time. Port side cabins get the sunsets for a view sailing north from Malta, starboard side got to view the coastline. A Sailor like me should have thought of that; it's my only regret when it comes to the cruise portion of the vacation.
I do have some comments I will be writting to NCL management about, but they are more about how NCL does business (management suggestions for improvement) then about anything to do with the GEM specificaly.
I highly recomend this ship and this cruise. and for the most part even the excursions.
I'm supposed to keep this review to 2,000 words or less. Hard to do since I sent NCL a nine page letter listing all the problems with no response from them. Doesn't surprise me. I'll try to cut it way down for this.
Basically, the Gem experience was awful. This cruise was by far the worst cruise we have ever been on. When we boarded the Gem in New York we headed to the Garden Café. The cafeteria was packed. We finally found our way to The Great Outdoors dining area. Let me tell you that The Great Outdoors isn't so great when you are forced to sit there in winter in New York. We were freezing! But there was no place else to sit. Our food got cold fast, but the worst part of it all was that my husband's hot dog roll was moldy. Freestyle Cruising? What a joke this is. "Eat where you want:" We felt we already paid enough for the cruise so we didn't want to go somewhere where we had to pay the "small cover charge." So that pretty much limited us to only4 places -- not 13. Small cover charge by the way is $20! For $18.89 I can get a much better meal at the Outback Steakhouse.
"Eat when you want:" Attempted dinner at Magnolia. Thought we would eat at 7 pm. We were handed a pager and told it would be a 30 minute wait. So we leaned up against a wall and waited directly across from the woman who was handing out pagers. My son-in-law was wearing shorts. He was wearing the shorts when we put our name on the list and were handed the pager and he continued to wear those same shorts for the entire 45 minutes we waited. Finally my daughter walked up to the woman and said, "How much longer is this going to take? We've been waiting longer than the 30 minutes you told us." To which she replied, "Oh, your table has been ready for 15 minutes." Showed her the page and said, "this pager didn't work. We were not called." So we walked in and were then informed, "He can't come in here in shorts, we require pants." Information that would have been useful when we put our name on the list. We went to our cabins and pulled out the "Freestyle Daily." The back page under "For whenever you are hungry" it reads: "Dress Code: Feel free to "dress up or not" wherever you are dining. Please refrain from wearing jeans in the Grand Pacific after 5:00 pm." Nothing about Magnolia not allowing shorts. Wait staff can't get anything right. Ordered cole slaw, got fries. Ordered cranberry juice, got prune juice. Ordered eggs over easy, got scrambled. Ordered baked potato with sour cream, got whipped cream. Hamburgers were either raw or burnt. You need a magnifying glass to locate your vegetable serving. Their "8 oz" steak is about ¼ of the size of Outback's 7 oz Victoria's filet. With the exception of the Gazpacho or tomato soup, all the other soups are horrible. Meats fatty. Chicken tasteless and dry. Why would anyone want "green tea" ice cream? The pastries were stale, hard and awful. The coffee dispensers were usually not working. "Free" restaurants were usually packed. We had to wait.
The Garden Café was always full during regular meal times. By the time we found seating for 5, our food was cold. While the "free" restaurants were packed full with long waiting times, the "small cover" charge restaurants were empty. Lots of empty tables at Orchid Garden. There always seemed to be plenty of room at Le Bistro as well and while waiting to sit at the Blue Lagoon, Tapas was completely empty.
Private Island experience. It was not pretty, it was not clean, it was basically a dumpy place. Started to follow the signs that read "to lighthouse," but quickly saw another sign that said, "Leaving NCL Property." So how much of it is actually NCL Property? It looked pretty sketchy. Garbage piled up along the trail. The line for food on the NCL island was even worse than the line for food at the Garden Café. We stood in line for over 40 minutes. The end result -- I got a raw hamburger. The cooks couldn't keep up with the amount of people trying to eat at noon so they just passed the burgers over the fire and threw it onto the plate.
Activities were limited and boring. The cruise director and staff were dull. Bingo was boring and expensive. The shows were not that good. The comedian was particularly awful. The Theater was hot. I know it was December, but when you cram a theater full of people, it gets hot. Air conditioning would have been helpful.
Getting off the ship in Port Canaveral was a nightmare. It was not organized. Everyone tried to get off at once and this resulted in jam packed hallways and staircases. Had there been an emergency, no one could have gotten help. Don't know how disembarkation was at Nassau and Freeport because we waited two hours to get off the ship for fear that we would once again be packed like sardines trying to get off.
TV or lack thereof. All we got was Fox News and CNN. Plus it was so out of sync that the lips didn't match up with the words. In fact, one time there was a woman talking on the screen, but it was a man's voice coming out of her mouth. That was actually funnier than the comedian on the Gem.
The last night of the cruise was the alcohol "pick up" between 6 and 11 pm. There were a couple of raffles going on in the duty free stores at the same time. We once again found ourselves in a very long line, with lots of people pushing and shoving. People crammed in the store trying to listen to numbers being called for the raffle, other's trying to make their way to their bottles. It was a mess. There has to be a better way to pick up alcohol. I think pick up should be in the always empty Orchid Garden restaurant.
Disembarkation in New York. Yay! Back home! Tried the "express disembarkation." By "express" they mean wait in line for over an hour. I swear all we did on this cruise was wait in one endless line after another. It only seemed fitting that we would wait in another endless line yet again. We skipped breakfast so we wouldn't have to eat more stale, raw or moldy food, and so we just waited in our cabins until the ship cleared and we were told we could disembark. Once they announced that those people who had signed up for express disembarkation could leave, we headed to the exit. The doors were closed and the line didn't move for over an hour. A crew member walked by and told people. "It's not NCL, it's customs." Okay, if the ship hadn't been cleared why were we told we could head to the gangway?
So that's a shortened version of my experience on the Norwegian Gem. It certainly will be memorable, but not in a good way. I'm sure my family will remember this for a long time, and we are now laughing and joking about how awful it actually was. For me it was a huge disappointment. I was looking forward to cruising on Norwegian again. I remember my first Norwegian cruise as being lots of fun, with excellent food and lots of great activities, but after that week I will never cruise on NCL again.
How many things can go wrong?????
First got my reservation and then called NCL to see if an upgrade was available. Yes, ok for $400.00 get to room 9002. All was okay until we arrived to get on the ship and no one had any record of the upgrade.
I was told to go to our original room and wait. Our luggage would be delivered to our original room. Hours later there was still no luggage. We finally found it sitting outside room 9002.
Then we were asked to prove we paid for the upgrade. I contacted the credit card company and yes they had record of the charge. I contacted the travel agent and yes they too have record of the payment. I gave a copy of the statement to the "desk person," would said they would look into it.
Day 1 nothing. Day 2 still nothing, etc. Finally on day 7 we get a call from the concierge (Lisa Meyers) telling us that we will get a refund. When? Who knows.
We have taken 3 cruises on NCL in the last 15 months and are totally discouraged by the treatment werecieved. What was said sounded like we were lying about the upgrade. We were told that NCL would determine if we would get anything back.
We paid for a better room. What happened to it?
The cruise turned out to be a tension-packed week of put-offs, no answers, lack of decision-making and an uncomfortable feeling. We did not feel right using certain facilities with the room that we had. I would like someone from NCL to contact me so that we can discuss this issue.
Thank you for reading this.
We (Swiss family with three teenagers) sailed the NCL Gem for 7 nights out of Barcelona October 19-26 (Barcelona, sea day, Malta, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno, Villefranche, Barcelona). I started enquiring about some last minute booking two weeks before the sail date but since my wife would not be able to embark until the ship got to Naples and some derogation had to be asked at NCL HQ in Miami, we booked the staterooms actually only four days prior to leaving. We were assigned two outside staterooms with portholes on Deck 4 (4570 and 4602) at 499 Euro pp (about 670 USD, with the fifth passenger paying only 99 Euro). At the same moment I managed to find reasonably priced flights from Geneva to Barcelona avoiding thus the 8 hour trip by car.
Prior to this cruise we had sailed on 12 other ships, many Costa and MSC ships in Europe and a few in the Caribbean (HAL, Celebrity, Royal Majesty -- now NCL Majesty).
Freestyle Experience It was our first experience with Freestyle cruising and this was not a disappointment. Especially not having to rush for dinner was nice about it,but we missed the formal nights though. Service was very good, the production shows were excellent as well as the other performances. Announcements were not too many. The cruise director was just OK and often thought of himself that he was funny.
The food was very good to excellent (choice, quality, timing, options). We only once ate at a surcharge restaurant (our first time in Teppanyaki). Some other passengers overall commented the food was just OK. We found the breakfast buffet to be outstanding. Embarkation and disembarkation was the best (read: fastest) we ever had.
The Ship The layout of the ship is quite different from what we were used to previously. Nothing is symmetric about it and it was kind of hard to move around. Beautifully decorated, very clean, pool area somewhat inefficient though, excellent buffet lay out, Grand Pacific dining room was very stylish, excellent theater lay out. Especially Deck 6 and 7 felt crowded. Also, the aft eatery was crowded and felt very remote from the rest of the ship.
The Staterooms Very clean and good lay out, somewhat noisy, very nice and spacious bathroom; there is a seat or sofa missing (could replace the silly table in the stateroom, as there is already a vanity desk), nothing on TV, ample storage space and comfortable beds.
Itinerary We did not take any shore excursions as we know already the ports we got to and find it easy to navigate around those places.
Passenger mix was about 75% from North America, 10% Spanish speaking, 10% German and the rest were Dutch and Maltese (in Malta on day 2 passengers can also embark).
In Summary Would we sail her again? Why not, if the price is right, any cruise ship is fine, but I would not book on this ship if I have a similar offer from another cruise line. Our terrific 14 night HAL Noordam experience last Xmas/NY out of New York was still fresh in our minds.
I went with a friend on the Norwegian Gem for a weeklong cruise that started out great, but quickley took a turn for the worse. On the second day of our vacation, we came back to the room to find the toilet flushing and making odd noises. We called reception at about 12:00 AM and they said they would send a plumber right up. No one showed up until 2:30 AM, when we were already asleep. I answered the door and the plumber was there asking if we knew that there were flushing noises coming from our room, and I told him that yes, and I had called reception. He proceeded to tell me that reception had never reported it to him, and he just happened to be walking by and heard the sounds.
After one episode was over, it seemed the next one started. Two days later, the ship docked in Rome and my friend and I decided to explore it on our own. We took the train in, and it happened to be raining when we got there. We were walking down the steps to the Vatican whenI slipped and fractured my leg. I had to be rushed to the emergency room, where no one spoke English. I thought that when I got back to the ship, the crew would be falling over themselves to be helpful, but found that I was incredibly wrong. We took a car service back to the ship around 2:00 PM, and found that none of the pharmacies (to get perscriptions filled) were open until 4:00 PM. Apparently, neither was the infirmary on board. And shortly after it opened, it closed just an hour later. The ship was not helpful in retrieving the perscriptions, and the nurse told me it was virtually impossible to switch rooms to a handicapped accessible room, which I needed because I couldn't get into the bathroom, as there was a step up. After a lot of fighting and insisting with the reception desk, I was finally able to get the room change. Furthermore, my insurance company was waiting to get my medical papers faxed to them so they could set up arrangements for my departure. The ship charged me $50 for a fax that never went through. And the man at reception fought with me over and over reassuring me that it did. It wasn't until my insurance company called up, that he recognized that perhaps he could have been wrong.
To add to our trip-gone-bad story, when my friend would get us breakfast to bring down to the room, she would explain to the manager at the buffet that her friend had a broken leg and she needed a tray, which he refused to give to her, making her make the extra trip upstairs.
Finally, after all the papers had gone through to the insurance company, they had made arrangements for a car to pick me up at 10:15 AM from the port, and told the cruise to have a wheelchair & luggage carrier at my room at 10:00 AM. We confirmed these details with the front desk 3 times the night before and they reassured us that this was the plan. The next morning, we recieved a call from reception that we needed to disembark the ship. We told them about our arrangements, which the woman on the phone had no idea about, but she said she would send up the wheelchair and luggage carrier right away. 15 minutes later, no one showed up and we called reception, where no one picked up. My friend went down to talk to them, and they weren't sending anyone up and had no note of the arrangements. They fought with us about the wheelchair and luggage carrier, telling us that it was too late to reserve any of these. They had to comply after we told them that it was impossible for me to get off the ship without this help.
The reception desk was incredibly NON-helpful throughout my entire disaster of a cruise. I had to fight with everyone to recieve decent treatmeant from anyone. This was a terrible experience and I would never return. I had never been injured before, and this was the worst possible experience that I could have had.
On Jan 26, 2008 my wife and I booked a 12 night cruise on the NCL Gem out of New York to the Eastern Caribbean with another couple. It was great to be on a new ship to some new destinations. The cruise was great and we had a good time. Our only complaints were minor ones, no ship pins were available and one of our Latitude treats was never delivered to our cabin. While on the ship we availed ourselves of the $250 deposit special, where you could get a $100 credit on your current cruise and use the $250 deposit for a future cruise within two years. We noticed that the NCL Jade (a renamed Hawaii ship) would be leaving around the same time next year from NY to the Western Caribbean, a destination that is not really available from NY. We planned on using the deposit for this future cruise. Upon arriving home a group of friends and relatives asked us to join them on the NCL Gem for a 7 day cruise out of NY to FL and Nassau. Since we had a good timeon the Gem in January we decided to book on this April 5, 2008 cruise. The deposit would have to wait to be used next January.
Well our good time experience turned into a bad time experience. The Saturday we left NY we booked a dinner in one of the free specialty restaurants, La Cucina. On our January cruise we were never able to get a reservation in this restaurant until the last night. I was happy to see we were able to get in the first night without any problems especially since I raved about the food, service and the fact that there was no charge involved like the Bistro or Cagney's Steakhouse. Well guess what happened at the end of the meal? Our waiter came over and asked who was paying for the meals. Boy was I embarrassed to find out that there was now a charge for the previously "free" restaurant. Needless to say I paid the bill, which according to the NCL daily newsletter should have been half price, but wasn't.
At our second Latitudes party (for silver, gold, & platinum repeat customers) I managed to corner the Hotel Director, Prem. He remembered me from our January cruise since I had requested the use of a spa massage table for a Reiki session for a relative who has cancer. He was very accommodating then. This time however when I mentioned how embarrassed I was to find out that both of the "free" restaurants, i.e. the Italian and Mexican, now charged a fee, his answer was "since the other ships do it we have to do it." Wrong answer. If he was in Atlantic City or Vegas he would have been fired for such an insensitive comment. He didn't even apologize or indicate he was sorry to see us put on the spot in front of our guests. I don't expect a free cruise or some other miracle, but it would have been thoughtful if he had offered a bottle of wine or a free drink at dinner.
We also talked to Captain Frank and asked why the ship had changed its itinerary by dropping the port of Key West and replacing it with Freeport. His answer was just as bad, saying "that when the trip was first advertised they thought they could make it back to NY on time, but then realized that they could not." This sounds like more BS. The more likely reason was that the increase in fuel prices would cause them to burn more fuel to increase the speed of the ship on it's return trip. The Captain also indicated "that there were more changes that would take place in the future." Since he was unable to elaborate, I can only gather that these changes will not be for the better.
Other little points to ponder about the NCL Gem were obtained from past cruisers at the Latitudes Party and include: There are still no NCL Gem pins available for guests who have been on other NCL ships and like to collect them. There were a good number of complaints about there being charges for dining in all of the specialty restaurants, especially the ones that had been "free" in the past. The fees at the Bistro and Cagney's were also increased on this cruise. Another interesting complaint was that the free movie channel is gone. You were able to watch a first run movie in your cabin and a schedule was provided in your welcome aboard literature. The "free" movies are now gone, replaced by a pay per view channel. I heard several parents complaint that the "Cartoon" channel was taken off the air once we were at sea. This forced them to buy a pay per view movie in the evening for their children to watch. It wouldn't be so bad, they said, if the price of the movie was the same $3.99 that you pay to rent a movie at Blockbusters, or from your cable or satellite company, but the price on the ship was $10.99 per movie. "What a rip off" was the overall feeling. Probably the most sensible comment was made concerning the food on NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. Every person who went to the food pavilion on the island was appalled by the number of flies that landed and walked on the food as soon as it was placed in the serving trays. You couldn't get back to your beach chair to eat anything without being surrounded by a swarm of flies. They should rename the private island "Fly Island," it was truly disgusting. It looked like there was more food thrown out than there was eaten.
The last comment concerns the "Quest," an adult treasure hunt that took place on the last night of the cruise. We told my daughter and her husband that they should see it, since some pretty funny things happen during the Quest. At the end of the Quest the cruise staff totaled up the score and announced the top three teams. When they got to the first place team they made a big joke that their prize was absolutely nothing. There was nothing to give out. Now I have seen the Quest before and on other ships. The winning team and even the 2nd and 3rd place teams had always received something small, whether is was a pen, cup, keychain or even a tee shirt. In this case the there were no prizes, not even for the first place team. The cruise staff just about called the customers jerks for playing the game and they weren't giving any prizes out to the jerks who played. They really had a good laugh about this.
My opinion of NCL has changed dramatically to that of a company that wants to squeeze the last cent out of the customer and isn't there to provide anything unless they can charge for it. What about my cruise next January on the NCL Jade? Forgetaboutit! The Jade has been transferred to the Med, the Gem will be back in NY making a one night cruise to nowhere and then an 11 night cruise back to the same old tired ports in the Eastern Caribbean. Why didn't they just leave the 12 night cruise that they had originally advertised?Do you know how I can get my $250 deposit back? NCL can keep the $100 credit they gave me and refund the $150 difference. A letter to the President has gone unanswered. I don't think I'll be sailing with NCL in the future. They may call their cruise experience "Freestyle", but believe me, nothing aboard their ships is free.