This was our 10th NCL cruise and first trans-atlantic crossing. The cruise left from Barcelona and we flew in a day early from NYC to be well rested before boarding the ship. Really did very little in Barcelona but roam Las Ramblas for awhile and the Barri. Went to the famous market and had the best ice cream ever. The embarcation was the easiest we have had. We were led to the latitudes area and the procedure was over in about 5 minutes. The crew on the Gem were wonderful from the moment we stepped foot on the ship. There was a line-up of crew all smiling and welcoming. NCL is very diligent with sanitation and right from the start our hands were sprayed and the crew member said washie, washie!! This is silly, but fun. And immediately set the tone for the friendliness of this staff. We were told we couldn't get to our cabins until after 2 PM. So, we headed to a quiet place which turned out to be the Star Bar tucked away on a top deck. Great place to spend some time with no interruptions. Our cabin was an inside on the 9th deck. It was one of the largest we've had on NCL and we had tons of space for storage. We also loved the small refrigerator which our steward emptied for us as we were not going to use the drinks it was loaded with. I want to note, this was my first trip being a gold latitudes member. We had a large fruit bowl waiting for us on arrival. We were sent priority tender tickets and priority disembarcation tags. We didn't have to ask for anything as everything was taken care of and I appreciated this. Let me talk about the Gem a bit. She is a beautiful ship and very clean. The atrium, especially after recently experiencing the non atrium on the Zuiderdam, was very well done. It is not soaring like the Spirit, but lots of comfortable seating, ceiling and glass art and very dressed for the Christmas season. The public rooms, especially Spinnaker on the 13th deck, Bliss and both Grand Pacific and Magenta dining rooms are very comfortable and well presented. Bliss is something to experience with its bowling alley and beds for lounging. We spent some time in Maltings Bar and Magnums both of which were great for drinks and people watching. The specialty restaurants we experienced were La Cucina and Cagney's. We enjoyed La Cucina although I missed the "trolley" of olives, cheeses and salads they had in the past. Cagney's was what we are used to in a top restaurant in comfort and service. The food I can't comment on fairly, as we were both suffering from 6 days of storms on the open Atlantic and couldn't really enjoy the meal. I'll comment on our ports in another section, but I'll close with a comment on the crossing. It was a very stormy and difficult crossing. Lots of people were ill and spent lots of time in cabins. The ship never stopped pitching and making lots of noise. However, the Captain spoke to us every day with information and the crew was wonderful in attitude and their ability to take care of us while balancing on a pitching ship. I'd sail anytime with NCL, but I think for a trans-atlantic crossing, I'd do it a bit earlier than December.
Inside cabin but lots of room, nicely furnished. Everything was shining and well kept and we were very happy in general.
Cannes is what I expected having visited Nice in the past. We did not do a ship's excursion at this port. We walked over to the theater where the film festival is held and then headed back to the pier and picked up "The Little Train" for an hour tour of Cannes. They did a good job of telling us some history and allowing us to experiencing Cannes without having to hike the town.
We were part of a very large group of Cruise Critics. This was an extraordinary group in that so many people were willing to set up private excursions, dinners at the ship for the group, and the meet and greet. We were part of Romeinlimo for the trip to Florence. I would recommend this company anytime for their thoroughness and care about getting us back to the ship in plenty of time. We had Ricardo as our guide and driver who was wonderful. We had a full day in Florence with the highlight for us being the Acadamia where the David is located. I had been to Florence twice before and stayed there so I was very familiar with this remarkable city. We also visited Pisa and were treated to breakfast by our driver.
Again, we had Romeinlimo for our tour. We had Marco as driver guide. He was very knowledgeable and charming and tried to make this full day go well for us. And it did all morning visiting the inside of the Colesseum, Trivoli Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximum. The circus was a real treat as you can see the race track and easily imagine the chariot races. After a very nice lunch, we went off to the Vatican. I think that the Vatican is an all day or several day tour in itself and to try to run through it in a few hours is fruitless. However, we did go to the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms which of course are glorious. We ran into trouble leaving the Sistine Chapel to go to St. Peters. Somehow our group took a wrong turn and we walked all through the Vatican Museums and around the outside walls I think for several miles. Not great with several older people and not quite sure where we were going. My advice, visit Rome but don't try to do it all. And better still return and visit for a few days and enjoy the city as it's meant to be.
We had a ships excursion to Prunelli up in the mountains of Corsica. The clear mountain air, the goat herders huts and the gorges were wonderful to experience. I felt it was a good choice to experience the island and have some insight into the people who live there.
We did not go to Granada as my partner has a mobility problem and could not handle the walking involved. We took a panaramic tour of Malaga. The city is lovely, our guide very funny and charming and it made for a short but special memory. My mother was born in Andalucia so I have a special feeling for Spain. We visited the Cathedral with it's beautiful stained glass and went high to the top of the City where we could see the Gem in the distance. My last memory of our European ports, was of sunning on the pool deck of the Gem with the sun setting over the lovely city in purple shadows.