Inaugural Transatlatnic Cruise dEC 2007
Norwegian Gem Cruise Review to Transatlantic
Review SummaryFirst off, if you have never been, Barcelona is a beautiful city and deserves at least a 5 day pre-cruise visit if you can swing it. My wife and I combined my birthday, our 25th anniversary and a mutual Christmas gift as reasons for the trip - hey, one has to justify things - right? Not to mention the pricing for this crossing at $499 p/p for a balcony on a brand new ship with a 9 day itinerary was unbelieveably GREAT!
The GEM was truly that, a beautiful ship with the friendliest crew and attentive staff I had seen in a long time. They worked extremely well as a team and you really did not want for anything.
The makeup of the passengers for this crossing was approx. USA-1100, Germany-250, UK-250, Canada-100 and ROW (rest of world) making up the 1900 or so passengers on this 2400 capacity cruise liner.
Embarkation process in Barcelona was excellent and fast and very well organized. The area is new and there were ample staff to look after us and we were there within the first hour of the opening of the process. From arrival at the pier to entry in our balcony cabin (deck 9) was less than 20 minutes.
Being a brand new ship, it was pristine and had that 'new ship' smell ... lol. Our balcony cabin was nice (forward on the port side) and if you are doing a east to west crossing and want the sun - that is the side of the ship to be on! The amenities in the cabin include a flat screen 175" TV - although the selection of live TV channels was limited due to satellite coverage, there were other channels for various movies and ship information, I would rate that a 6 on the 10 scale. An in room coffee maker was there and the bathroom was an adequate size for my 6'3", 245 lb. frame. The sliding shower doors were great vs. other containment possibilities. Lighting in the cabin was good and the balcony was of a decent size. The cabin attendants were very thorough and attentive to all needs.
The ships Captain Mikael Hilden was very visible and attentive and social - we bumped into him daily all over the ship and passed on our comments and observations and solicited his ... a charming 'old man' of the sea! His daily 11:30AM 'from the bridge' updates were informative and I looked forward to them. I would add though that the other audio systems around the ship should be turned off (or at least down) when the Captain is speaking - if not for the information - in deference to respect of his contributions.
There are 12 restaurants to choose from aboard. 4 of these include 'extra charges' ranging from $15-20 but there are 'specials of 2-1 on occasion if you choose to eat between 5:30 and 6:30 in some of them. We tried Teppanyaki (Benihana type) which was very good 8 out of 10 and Le Bistro (french cuisine) was excellent 9 out of 10 - although here you also had a surcharge for the menu selection which included chateaubriand, souffle and more - but was well worth it!
Our favorite (non surcharge) restaurant was the Grand Pacific, a beautiful formal-ish dining salon. Although I would add here the NCL Free-style dining experience lessens the formality - which for us was just perfect! This restaurant is available for all meals in a sit down non-rushed fashion. Our favorite server was Heidi, so ask for her and tell her Fay and Mike from Canada sent ya! She is a GEM.
The Garden Cafe is the main buffet style eatery and is always busy and typically it is difficult to find a seat without a bit of a chore. There are helpers to assist in taking trays to your table 0when you find one ... and if the ship had been at capacity, I am sure the challenge of eating there would have been much more difficult. The selection of things to eat was vast, regularly replenished and fresh. All in all I would rate it a 7-8 out of 10. The outdoor cafes were very good although the selection of items more limited, but one could get everything you wanted in the Garden Cafe and take it outside to the Outdoor Cafe areas as the seating there was usually more accessible ... weather
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
Pros: Most Everything!
Cons: Onboard pre-excursion briefing