|# of Nights:|
> 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.
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> FREE STYLE DINING
> MAIN DINING ROOMS
> 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 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..
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> 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..