Norwegian Cruise Line Reviews

Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Category: Mainstream

Summary: With the recent introduction of new ships the third biggest cruise company in the world. Free-style cruising, elaborate dining options and surprisingly good entertainment.


Norwegian Cruise Ships

3 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

81 Reviews

Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda

Good for: First-time Cruisers. Value for Money. Children`s Programs.

28 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean

Good for: First-time Cruisers. Value for Money. Teens.

40 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean Western

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.

63 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico

Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Families.

72 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast

Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.

7 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. First-time Cruisers.

14 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard

Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.

2 Reviews

Good for: Value for Money. Group. Families.

27 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean Western

47 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

98 Reviews


Good for: Group. Singles. Families.

56 Reviews

Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
from 538 reviews


Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms


Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities


Shore Tours


Alternative Dining

User Reviews

538 User Reviews of Norwegian Ships
Panama Canal
Publication Date: January 16, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Pat Panama Canal January 16, 2010

We were very disappointed in the quality of the food in the main dining rooms. The service was inconsistent in all the dining establishments and non existent in the bar areas. Rarely were we served at the pool area & found ourselves ordering and serving ourselves at the bars most of the time. The entertainment was sub standard and not at all catered to the majority "over 50 crowd". The shore excursion staff were not acquainted with the excursions they sold and less than enthusiastic in assisting customers. My elderly parents selected this ship for the itinerary. I had sailed with NCL on the Spirit 20 years ago and the Norway 12 years ago.I was appalled at the changes. I will never sail with NCL again.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 1, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Lines Sun, January cruse 2011 to the Caribbean a filthy, cockroach infested, fake food, stains on the sheets, no heat, rude cruise, cruise. Want the time of your life then don't step foot on the NCL Sun.

When we arrived on deck 5 to our full window berth I could not believe they expected us to sleep between the stains on the white bed spread and mystery stains on the sheets and pillow cases. After informing the guest services of this several people appeared and we got clean bedding the next morning.

We complained 3 times as did others on our deck, that there was no heat on our floor. I received several written responses that everything was 'Normal'. We received a frayed and torn twin bed blanked for the two of us who would sleep in our clothing all but the last night. After turning a deaf ear to our heat problem on the 5th morning my wife smelt a burning smell in the bathroom enclosure. Wondering if I should call 911 for the suspected electrical fire I called guest services who sent some on in a grey jacket

that examined the bath room and said yes there was something burning in the wall. He placed a call from our room phone and disappeared. I waited what seemed like forever with the door open others passing buy the room commenting they also smelt something burning.

Finally as a lay person thinking it might be a big deal, I returned to guest services where the person at the desk told me yes we have your new complaint that there is no heat in your cabin. So, other could hear me I told them the guy who left thought something in the wall was burning, that turned a few heads and a technician arrived who also agreed it smelt like an electrical problem in the wall. First he removed the wall filter by hand to show a filthy filter with what looked to be cotton on both sides. The walls of the heater were covered in lint and dust and apparently according to him it had caused the fan to stop spinning thus the burring smell from a very hot fan motor. I have included the photos for is tearing the wall out and the filter. I purchased allergy pills (for the snorkeling day to stay dry) on this ship the dust caused a reaction not only with me, but later in an elevator discussing the trip another passenger told me his allergies were real bad also. I told him to pull out his filter and if it was as filthy as mine to demand they change it.

On the second day of the voyager my wife and I went up to the pool deck to get some sun. When she took off her shoe a cockroach wandered out. I captured it in a napkin and returned to guest services with it and quietly explained what had occurred. They sent the 'pest team' who went over the cabin with a small flash light and left. Later that evening after falling asleep the phone rang ( we had arrived on the red eye New Year's evening to Florida from California and with the time changes and flight were tired) guest services wanted to let us know the bug team had determined "that the cockroach was not theirs" . I got up and since I went to bed in my clothing checked my shoes and went to the desk no one knew who placed that call.

The next morning a knock at the door was Christopher in a white uniform who pleasantly enough explained what she had meant was that the bug crew had not found any more cockroaches in the cabin. Funny that night no one knew who called and after time to fix it they had an answer. I was to get another of the many "sorry" as the solution for the problem. He then asked if there was anything else he could do for us. I told him you are big on hand sanitizer but on arrival I had noticed a sticky looking substance on the glass elevator dripping from the roof so could you tell someone to clean it off? As I was to learn they are very good at pretending to listen or care but in one ear and out the other. On the next to the last day I took the hotel manager to the elevator and pointed out what had been there for at least 6 days.

So, filthy air to breath and cockroaches in your personal possession's a great start to a trip of a life time you have PAID FOR WELL IN ADVANCE.

What about what goes inside of you their food? Let's start with the oblivious I also have photos of the long black hair in our morning fruit bowl from room service. How long does it take to pull them out of if they were looking? My wife is blond and I have short brown hair the room guys had short black hair it was quite long and obvious on the green melon chunks. But what goes to the intent of their business model of NCL is that they label the juice dispenser "orange juice" but what they pour into the fountain clearly states orange drink cocktail on the containers. When questioned the dinning staff stated (as Royal Caribbean juices them in front of you) is you can get orange juice for additional cost. Why not say what it is orange drink. Please if your poring fake orange juice call it what it is so we can choose. As it sits at the table it separates into water on top and the food coloring to the bottom. Something seemed wrong with the coffee they brew and again things are not what it seems as the large stainless steel coffee makers are giant instant coffee dispensers. Again we found out that for an additional charge you could have normal coffee where water passes over the grinds.

The buffet always seemed like someone should take a rag and clean it up (photos). Having the buffets in the back of the ship closed caused a jam up at meal times. The first meal I tried on arrival was a mock hamburger. I called it mock as I work for a school and see trays of pre marked hamburgers steamed for the kids, guess what NCL served them the same way trays from the oven sitting in water. As I was adding the condiments the curtain actually hit my hand and I was told by a young man that I would need to go get into another line as he was closing this station. A man in the chief hat watch this so I walked over and explained I was on vacation and did not take orders from the help. I left the plate and went to the fan tail where I was approached by a guy in a white uniform who asked if he could do anything I said "yes, get away from me". We went exploring around noon on another day and found the included Spanish dining area on the Sun. Here are olives, some cheese and a few lunch meats including Baloney and salami with no pepper corns, who goes on a once in a life time Caribbean cruise hoping for a baloney sandwich on white bread.

Dinners were lacking in the prepaid venues and the staff was once again rude. We tried to make reservations for two and were told just come on down "two is no problem". So, that evening after determining many in front of us were in large parties I approached the desk and told her two. She told me "go get back in line". We went out the dining hall and around to the bar where I watch other pairs loiter by the entrance where it would become clear later she was calling out "2" from time to time from her podium. Not knowing if the couples were joining others I needed to wait to be seated to see them finishing before we got our water. Guess the solution NCL staff offered after walking away from the table to tell the head waiter of this, "sorry".

The meals themselfs were time and again a disgrace. On the last night I received the roast beef lunch meat I had avoided with gravy along with one table spoon of canned peas with two baby carrots as the roast beef dinner. If you read roasted potatoes would you expect more than four slices from a single potato? Yes, you can request all the plates or dinners you want. The shrimp cocktail had a very strong taste as if they were old. One night I received 3 thin slices of a steak only Jesus could feed more on a steak than NCL. A note on this cruise the head chief was Indian and it had an influence on the spicing of every thing from fried potatoes, rice with chunks of fish blended in, to the cold cherry soup that was quite good.

Let's go explore the islands with NCL partners, the excursions desk set me up with a power snorkel adventure, where a machine would pull you through the ocean included was an open bar with snacks it was listed as 4 ½ hours on the card provided by NCL staff. The photo of the machines at NCL's website look like machines from James Bond in fact the fans were 10 inches thick with the battery in the handle. Once away I asked for a beer where I was told no beer, wine or spirits but on the way back we could have some rum punch. Off we went to "Turtle Island" for the day among the turtles of course. As we approached an Island the skipper told us how much more fun it would be to dive at a ship wreck. We parked between 10 to 12 other boats with 40 to 60 people each and several scuba diver ships and were informed it was better here than where we had paid to go ( it was also closer to the ship). You could have booked the ship wreck tour for ½ of what we paid for Turtle Island snorkel adventure. When I asked for a snack I was told to have a warm coke as no ice was on board the Jolly Mon. After a written complaints about the power snorkels not having been charged as they quit 10 minutes into the adventure ( I swam back holding one in each arm as my wife is a novice swimmer) no beer or open bar, no snacks, and the crew who must have thought we did not want the last hour on the catamaran and returned 60 minutes early, NCL refunded 50% to those who had signed on to the original letter. I was to find out later the others who had also had dead power snorkels paid the full price to NCL even though they knew the facts about the group's problems.

After the electrical fire I went to the guest services desk where I informed them I had had enough and wanted to speak with someone with "stars or bars" on their shoulders. We met with the hotel manager who I was to believe genuinely was as shocked as we were (or had he done this a thousand times before).The air conditioning person told us this ship has to heat water and send it through the heating pipes but was not fired up, oil cost money that we had given them our money a long time ago. The Sun's hotel manager asked for some time to review the matter and we found $300 ships credit for a ruined trip on the last full day. That took care of the mandatory tipping and the $19.95 photos and a souvenir from the gift shop. Not a refund to our charge card mind you but a credit for ship board retail.

Waiting to meet with him we were able to hear a constant stream of cruisers wondering about this charge or that. A few of the favorite were the man who liking his bartender had given him a tip to only find out that all transactions at the bar had a 15% gratuity charged to them, so a tip on the tip he had given. Another woman wondered about the two 6 dollar charges on her bill. She was informed she had grabbed two small waters on the way to an island, the kind that are 6 for a $1 in a store. NCL has a strict policy of no water or soda being brought on board the charge for a soda card was $60 per person. At the pier locals sell cold water for a dollar a bottle; I wonder if NCL knew this.

In conclusion, if you are still reading the Carnival Dream which we shadowed the trip had 24 hour free Sushi bar with more than California rolls, Pizza and pasta bars, BBQ on the decks and more included in the meals, which the people on St Thomas informed us were very good as we talked at a pulled pork stand eating our first good meal in days. Just to think, at Trip Advisor we had read of a sewage smell from a poster on the Dream and changes to NCL from that fact alone. Yes, they said it was true from time to time there was that smell. On the Sun we went to the 4th floor by accident after a show and it smelled bad, asking someone in the hall about the smell they said it was that way each day. The man also told me there was a banging sound in his wall. Seems the crew had put the gang plank away wrong and something big and metal was striking his cabin wall with each wave. Guest services had told him nothing could be done until we unloaded in 2 more days.

All goes to the business model for NCL, where you certainly do not get what you paid for from fake juice and stained sheets in a room with roaches, to shore excursion that are not what was represented in writing. I have included photos of much of what I have written. Do yourself a favor and explore your options in cruising, sometimes you get far less than what you are paying for and they pocket your money as profits.

When you intentional don't get what you paid for and speak to the 2nd in command all that is left is to warn others in words with large format photos. So, don't do it, there are other cruise lines that you can sail on, our trip was ruined day after day by NCL's, sanitation, food and several rude people. Finally there is always something good to say about anything and talking to others regarding our interactions with the Sun and staff we were able to make some new friends who also were discussed by the treatment to passengers. In the 7 days 3 sets of passengers would travel on her again the overwhelming majority were sick they had book on the NCL Sun and would not do it again.

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Publication Date: December 19, 2009

Just returned from a seven day island-hopping cruise and it was fantastic. Despite what previous reviewers have said, the service of the crew was impeccable. I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone who wants a 'sample' tour of the islands. The food was great and the nightly entertainment was wonderful. This was my first cruise and I am definitely hooked on the whole concept. The only complaint and I'm sure this is true of all cruise lines, is that they wanted to 'nickel and dime' you for just about everything beyond the very basics. This got a little burdensome over the course of the cruise. All of the shore excursions went off without a hitch and were the real highlights of the trip.

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Norwegian Dawn
Publication Date: December 13, 2009

I booked this cruise during a quick sale and got a balcony cabin for $249 per person, so I feel I got my money's worth and then some, but I did end up spending $500+ on extras during a five day cruise, and I'm cheap and didn't really buy much.

Embarkation: Very well organized, very easy and quick, but a long way from taxi to cabin. Once on the ship, cabins were not ready so we went to have lunch at the main buffet restaurant. It was the most crowded of the whole cruise because it was the only place open and there was nowhere else to go until cabins were ready. The first lunch was awful, but that was the theme of this cruise. No matter where you went or what you paid, the food was bland, the service inattentive. It was bland on an entirely new level. I have never cruised before and dreaded mealtime. I felt like I was shoveling food in and not one bite during the entire cruise, save for a few things, was worth the calories.

It was really irritating on deck when they

offered us a drink and then asked for our room card to pay for it. It seemed like it was gratis. I just handed it back and said no thanks.

I mentioned the selling. it was non-stop. Every show began with the cruise director trying to get everyone to but strips of raffle tickets. They constantly pushed the art auction, bingo, excursions, drinks everywhere, photos. It got obnoxious after a while. It seemed like all of the staff that were so busy trying to sell you stuff could have been better used upgrading the level of service.

The ports were fine, but the tender services were slow. you had to get tender tickets and then wait in long lines, but getting back was easy.

All in all, I have cruised on Celebrity, Chrystal and now NCL. NCL doesn't compare with those lines on any level, but I did like the relaxing quality of the freestyle cruising. I loved having choices and not having to wear formal clothes. That was almost worth the lousy food and service, but not quite.

When you go on a cruise, you go for the food and service. NCL really needs to deal with this.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: October 24, 2009

The Pearl is a newer ship and now it is our favorite. We have been on 12 cruises and the Pearl was the most enjoyable, beautiful and well run ship we have been on in a long time. No lines anywhere, 12 ( I think) restaurants, even the buffet was amazing. They even had a juice station where you could pick whole raw carrots, celery, fruits, etc to have fresh juice made. 4 made to order omlet stations, pasta stations, too many choices to list. Quality of food was also very good. We really enjoyed the French Bistro.

So much to do too. A lounge on an upper level was laid out with sofas, beds, etc in small semi private cubbys with a stage for entertainment and 4 bowling lanes & casino slot machines. The lobby atrium has a huge floor to ceiling film screen that runs Wii games during the day inbetween movies. Great entertainment on the stages, and in the lounges.

We stopped at NCL's private island and couldn't believe how much nicer it was than Carnivals. Palm trees gave lots of shade for all the rows of beach chairs,

hammocks strung between the trees, the beach lunch was on the beach not a half hour walk inland. The beach was clean and water clear, a craggy rock outcrop had many different fish to feed and snorkel around.

This is a great cruise and wonderful cruise ship.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 29, 2010

Embarkation: On the ship in 20-25 minutes

Disembarkation: Of the ship in 20-25 minutes

Housekeeping: The ship and my stateroom were showing there age. Stains, cigarette burns, leaks in hallway ceilings, etc.

Entertainment: Very good. Good stage shows. Jose and Patti were fantastic!

Food: The absolute worst I have ever eaten on a ship.(12 cruises). If you don't pay a surcharge you don't get edible food.

Casino: 6 to 5 payoff on Blackjack is a ripoff. $10 minimum on craps is ridiculous.

Overall: Never cruise NCL again.

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Publication Date: January 22, 2010

Thought if anyone else reads these for a little insight this might be helpful. We managed to only spend $250 on alcohol, but I heard a lot of horror stories on disembark about bill running thousands. Stick to the buckets of beer, good value. KEEP your receipt, you'll need it to get the 5 bucks back deposit on the helmut bucket. If you want wine with dinner, consider buying the package at the start.

Food: Head chef is Indian. The curry dishes are amazing, dont be scared of the vegetarian dishes even at the Palace and Crossings. The fresh fruit is the 2nd best part of the main buffet. Going to buffet at peak times is like Hometown Buffet meets Denny's. Use as last resort. Desserts are worth the calories. Secret: Il Adagio (the pay extra italian place at the back of ship opposite the buffet) has an omlette and waffle station for breakfast and pasta and pizza for lunch FREE. Tables are plentiful and if you want extras go get them at the Great Outdoor cafe (the "mini buffet").

If you have a day at sea get a lounge chair early

(think 9am). Best quiet place - outside the Outrigger Lounge, theres a "hidden" door to the left of the entrance that takes u outside. The bartender there will also give you hints on how to win the Resort Quest contest on the last nite, so hang out by the bar until you get your number.

The entertainment was the best part of the cruise! Go see the shows. Also, we made the mistake of thinking that the luggage we set outside by midnight per instructions the last night wouldn't be seen again until the airport, not so. You will get it back before you head to airport, so if you need to put some stuff back in there that can't be checked you can.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 10, 2010

After 5 NCL cruises we have stricken NCL from our cruise line list. We cruise fairly frequently, at least 2x per year and have had about 20 cruises. Our NCL ship, the Spirit, was leaving New Orleans the night of Jan 10, 2010 for Western Carribean. Instead of enjoying the exciting night departure, we were below decks standing in line for an hour and then having our suspicious luggage searched for alcohol under the pretense of a security search looking for weapons! Clearly, the crew, who fondled through our clothing and personal items, pulling out clothing, my tuxedo, etc., were searching for alcohol. Their sensor equipment apparently identified container-looking items and the bags, ours and others, were marked with the suspected items -- "alcohol," was marked on bags everywhere. My wife and I always bring fine wines to enjoy with our dining room meals on cruises. We pay the usual corking fee in the dining room, just as we do when we take wine to land-based restaurant. We have collected wine for years and usually look forward to cruising in order to enjoy some special labels at dinner. From my observation watching

others' bags being opened, and my own, and rifled through, at least half the suspicious alcohol containers were discovered to be other items. In our case, one of the containers had Zatarins spice purchased in New Orleans.

This rather crude welcoming really set the tone for the rest of the trip. After pulling our bag apart, the foreign baggage handler found one bottle of wine and gave me the choice in broken English of paying the corking fee then and there, or having the bottle confiscated, to be picked up at the end of the trip. If there were no corking fee involved, of course, you didn't have the choice. I paid then and there my $15.00. Those many who chose to pick up their bottles of wine or alcohol later, were made to stand in line again at the end of the cruise to pull their bottles from a box and be signed out.

After over an hour in line then being searched, missing the sendoff, we were finally left to carry our own baggage up to your room. Just unbelievable! I refused and insisted the ship's personnel bring the bags, for which we had contracted, but they would not do so before 8:00 p.m., I was grudgingly told. (My wife later complained to ships personnel, so we did get our bags earlier than 8:00 p.m. and had time to dress for dinner.)

This episode was fairly typical of the loss of quality experience on this ship that we had previously been accustomed with NCL. It had been one of our favorite lines, but now is crossed off the list. Ships crew were generally unfriendly and seldom a smile or glance when passing in the hallway, quite different from our entire past cruising experiences. It seemed something was amiss. NCL has become the Denny's of cruising, appealing to the less experienced masses; not a way to spend a future vacation when there are other really fine lines available for the same or less cost.

Other observations: no enrichment lectures. All classes and enrichment talks were focused on selling products, and emphasized drinking liquor or wine, or expensive alternative restaurants.

The dining experience was lacking, without personal interraction with the waiters, etc., due to the open dining -- no assigned tables. NCL has become sort of a Wal Mart experience, and you can expect, at least on this ship, to be treated as though a dollar mark is inscribed on your back. Moreover, the standards for dress in the dining room were abominable, with men wearing caps and T-shirts to evening dinner, as well as excessivsly loud borish drunks carrying on in the dining room.

And forget about formal night. Aint any such thing on NCL. It is not even announced in the daily guide, and ship's staff were uncertain when we inquired. I did wear my tux once -- for my wife's sake -- but I was out of place amongst the casual dressers and T-shirts.

I hope this is not the direction of the entire cruise industry, but represents only one ship or cruise line. We had sailed the Spirit out of New York three years ago and found it a decidedly different and positive experience. For our cruise dollar, currently Princess seems to deliver a lot, which will be our future direction. We have also enjoyed Celebrity and Holland America, as well as others.

Food Generally I liked it. Wife calls me the "human garbage disposal." Wife had a lot of complaints, but I call her a "professional complainer.". I thought the fish was always excellent and had it every meal where possible. NCL serves steamed kippers for breakfast and this was always excellent. Wife didn't like thin cuts of beef, and there seemed to be less willingness or ability to have meats cooked to order. I recall she thought her lamb was excellent, cooked exactly medium rare. Beef is always sub-par on cruises (we've been on many lines), so I don't hold it against NCL that the beef wasn't always like a fine steak house. My partiality is seafood, and this was uniformally excellent for my taste.

Room smallest we've ever experienced (20 or so prior cruises on various lines). Had to take turns standing up in the cabin. I would stay on the bed while spouse dressed, and so on. Showers, by contrast, were roomy. Go figure.

On board activities Poor. As noted in my comments above, all ship seminars were centered around generating income to the ship. Nothing was offered that might be considered cultural. Seminar on destination cultures were absent, other than the shopping talks, and those focused on where to buy jewelry or other junk. NCL did not yield of itself a second in time that was not directed toward ship's income. It caused me to wonder if this cruise line was in financial trouble.

Excursions It's hearsay, but I was told by a person who sailed NCL last year that a person had been bitten by a poisonous snake in the cave expedition where you float through on inner tubes. Allegedly she was airlifted home asap. I don't put much stock in this since it was second hand, but needless to say, we did not go on the float trips. People who did go -- no reports of snake bites! -- just said they were cold in the water.

About our trip See longer comments at beginning. Won't ever again sail NCL. We had been Latitude members and this was our fifth cruise on NCL -- varying from 7 -- 14 days. We noticed on our 4th trip, second on the Spirit, that NCL seemed to be marketing to the lower rungs of cruising ilk. Not that we are stuck up, and I hope we are not, but like the democratizing of the airlines, many people you have to rub shoulders with have no manners, breeding, or a sense of how to act in public or with respect for others. It was especially bad three years ago out of New York, and whereas the behavior was not as bad aboard this trip, there were a lot of low life wearing cutoffs and T-shirts in the dining room at night, stumbling drunk and cursing loudly (in a dining room of all places). If you are used to any sort of refinement at all, you may not be happy spending a week on NCL. We long for the older days of course when NCL was my wife's favorite line. Anyway, you don't have to sail NCL if you prefer a little refinement at a reasonable cost; we've had good experiences on Celebrity, Princess and Holland America, and there areothers, I'm sure.

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Publication Date: December 19, 2009

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.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: November 29, 2009

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.


Unfortunately, our driver arrived earlier than expected and we decided to let the chips fall

where 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.


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,


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.


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.


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 enjoyable



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 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.


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 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 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..

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