First 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
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
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
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 17" 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 ship's 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
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
when 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 permitting of
We did not try the room service.
The internet Cafe has at least 6 terminals but is pricey and
transmission via satellite takes you back to pre-cable speeds --
spare the aggravation -- unless you just have to!! Wireless is
throughout the ship as well if you bring your own laptop, but the
speed is no better. The crew utilizes the same satellite so the
competition for the available bandwidth adds to the degradation of
The entertainment on board was decent but not spectacular -- a
variety of musicians, magic, dance and all. The ship's cast is a 7
which is consistent with the overall assessment of the
entertainment in the theatre (Stardust). The guest lecturer on
marine topics was excellent and he gets a 10 in my book. The cruise
director (Clint) was superb as was his staff -- friendly, energetic
and helpful. The bars aboard were very good and we sampled almost
all of them. The Bliss Lounge is awesome -- even if only for a look
-- with its chic furniture, roman-like decadence in decor with two
bowling alleys on either side. It's definitely "the happening"
place on the ship -- especially after midnight!
As with a lot of cruise ships, your onboard alcohol consumption
(beyond the duty free store purchases and chosen excursions) are
likely your major extra charges.
The Spinnaker Lounge is a great place for relaxing during the
day and catching whatever may be going on there, lecture, games,
impromptu gatherings, drinks, etc. or just curling up in the bow of
the ship with your reading material. In the evening, it is another
happening spot for entertainment -- so our routine was to have
dinner and finish around 9-ish, catch the Stardust theatre show
from 9:30-10:30, head to the Spinnaker Lounge for its entertainment
for another hour+ and if still feeling like partying, head to the
Bliss Lounge -- all good!
The spa aboard is to die for. We took the $95 full cruise pass
here and enjoyed it thoroughly and made it part of our daily
routine. The steam room, sauna, chaise lounges in the his/her
sections were excellent and they joined in the middle into a
beautiful room with a hydro-like pool, hot tub and heated loungers.
No doubt the best spa on the seas in our opinion! The exercise room
is large, well equipped and typically busy but there was no waiting
for the equipment.
The Casino aboard is large and has a variety of table and slots.
No big winners were found -- lol -- on the crossing!
The weather for the crossing was unreal for that time of the
year! Sunny for most of the days -- highs in the low 70's during
the day for 7 of the 9 days. Only when we got within 2 days of
Boston did it turn cooler and was in the low 40's upon arrival. The
seas were pleasantly calm throughout the journey save for one half
day and evening where 12-14 foot swells caused a gentle roll that
was more pleasant than otherwise! The ship's stabilizers did their
job extremely well.
The only negative I had for the trip was the excursion day
briefing (immediately prior to the excursion) in the Stardust
Lounge. It seemed very disorganized and with time pressure to get
to the bus at a particular spot and time, and the 4 variations
involved, the control was less than stellar by the onboard
excursion staff. Let's hope they improve that!
Funchal I might add though is a magical location and if you do
stop there, do take an excursion -- it is well worth it!
Tipping is included daily in your onboard charges and at $12/day
I believe well worth it for the staff.
Disembarkation was decently organized. Being its first US port
of entry ever made for perhaps a little longer process, but not
noticeably. We docked around 7 AM, US authorities boarded just
before 8 and we were off the ship after a leisurely breakfast by
9:45. I must add though that Boston has a lot to do to make their
cruise terminal modern, passenger friendly and efficient. In a
word, it is horrible!
Funny story -- we had a noon flight to catch (thank goodness
Logan airport is within 15 min. of the terminal) and were concerned
that the disembarkation process may delay us, but the ship's
(NCL's) part was fine. Once off, we routed for our bags and a
friendly porter assisted us and by-passed the huge taxi lineup to
take us to a mini-van who he got to take a bunch of us to the
airport. With my wife aboard and me outside making sure the bags
got on the van, I ended up jostling with the ship's guest piano
player entertainer for the final seat on the van -- next to my
wife. He was relentless, but I beat him back. Funny, I had a
feeling about that guy and his insincere "schtick" of a performance
Albeit the above negative, we would rate the entire GEM
experience a 9.5+. The crew, the ship, the cabin, the variety of
activities, the food (quality and choices) are the principal
contributors to this rating. All in all, a terrific holiday leaving
us wanting to do it again -- soon!
If interested in more info, email me -- email@example.com
and I'll be glad to help!
Great Sailing all!