Arrival/Check-in: When our cab pulled up alongside what looked like a long, incongruously clean, white, city apartment block docked near the end of Barcelona’s extensive port, a porter greeted us, pulled our luggage out of the trunk and tagged it. Inside the terminal, registration took mere minutes and we were on our way to cruise along with 2,400 other passengers on a 12-day Western Mediterranean itinerary aboard the Norwegian Gem. (28/30)
Guest Quarters: Our balcony stateroom was cheerful and pristine, with gleaming light wood cabinets, a small couch beside our comfortable queen bed (and sumptuous duvet), flat-screen TV, deep shelves for our clothing and a small desk with a computer hookup. Large mirrors on both sides of the room expanded the bright space. I had brought a hairdryer. No need. Everything was provided. The bathroom was well designed for a small space, with terrific water pressure in the shower. A small safe was available for securing those jewels you might want to sport in the luxurious restaurants and nightclubs onboard. Gloriously, only the captain’s voice was allowed to break in on each room’s intercom and we began to look forward to his updates each evening as we set sail for the next day’s adventure. (30/30)
Services/Amenities: Norwegian Cruise Lines pioneered “freestyle” cruising: no set seating time or plan for dining. With 12 restaurants and 11 bars and lounges, you can eat where you want, when you want. Reserve a table for yourself and your special someone or join a group and meet your fellow passengers. Your choice. Not hungry? You can play tennis, practice golf swings, play basketball, bowl, rock-climb … or go to a lecture, a dance class, an exercise class, relax in the spacious spa and, yes, play bingo (I did, for the first time) … read in the library, join a card game in the game room or head for the casino. Then there are the evening shows. It’s almost exhausting to plan your day. One huge thumbs up to NCL: Every public room has a hand-cleaning station with a cheerful attendant to “suggest” you cleanse your hands. (39/40)
The Experience: Visiting 10 ports on a 12-day itinerary requires discipline. Forget the Spinnaker Lounge on nights before docking at 6 a.m. if you plan to explore/walk for eight hours onshore. This captain runs a tight ship!
Total Score: (97/100)
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