First I wanted to thank Norwegian Cruise Lines for providing a rewarding , enjoyable time during our Family reunion-getaway. My family has been through some difficult times over the last year and this was desperately needed.
Here is my review:
Background Information: I am retired military and enjoy spending time with family and friends on vacations. Live in the Northeast USA, and prefer sailing out of NYC, no airfare required.
Travel to port of embarkation: I live in the north east and a majority of my family and friends who went on this cruise also were from the area. We arranged to park in a private lot in Suburban North Jersey and hire a bus to drive us 15 min over into the Port of NY. This cost each of us $120 per family, no cost for the parking. We will do this again if possible.
Hotel Info: None used, since the majority of my family and friends are from the NY&NJ area we arranged for a bus to transport us into NYC from Suburban NJ.
Ship Info: We decided to sail on the Norwegian Gem. A truly clean ship with outstanding staff who took care of all our needs.
Stateroom: I elected to have an inside stateroom, although it was small it served it purpose, in both space and functionality. I really only spent time in my cabin to sleep and shower. We also had the easiest cabin to remember, no matter how many beverages I had (4567). On our next cruise we are going to try and get cabin 5678!
Dining: Norwegian has "Freestyle Cruising" with a family and friends of 29 people this worked really well as we would just meet in a dining room or out on one of the decks and as family came and went we pretty much always sat in the same location. No-one felt pressured to be anywhere in any set location. Norwegian also has numerous sit down formal restaurants, some included and others with an added charge. On 4 of the nights during this cruise my family got together for a more formal setting, one of those at the Grand Pacific, a more formal dinner setting. Food selection and taste was outstanding. Food Options through the ship was outstanding. On the pool deck (12) every afternoon there was always a huge BBQ set up, with foods from every corner of the world themed one day or the other.
Activities: Every day there were 4 pages of daily activities delivered to our room. A majority of these were free, about 30% had a small fee and about 10% were significant expenses. Although some of the activities had expenses, they were definitely worth the prices. My family took advantage of the personal trainers and utilized the spa services. Other members of my family attended similar seminars and my children loved the daily activities designed exclusively for them.
Service: I can't stress this enough, the service provided by the room stewards, the deck hand personnel, the CRUISE DIRECTOR!, the Dining Staff, and all those not named was exemplary! My family wishes we could take a few staff home! Sinan Ulaclay (CD) was outstanding, he truly was meant to fulfill the role he was serving!
Children's Clubs: This particular cruise had entertainment from Nickelodeon, we took the younger members of our family (4 of them) to these events, a breakfast event, many daily events and a party event as well. Even on major themed nights such as the White Hot Party Night, was structured to include children early in the night, leading to a more mixed crowd later and finally adults only event. This was structured in different location as not to "Kick" children out. There was a children's club (care center) my kids used this a few times, and they really wanted to continue using it for the fun they were having.
Entertainment: The shows each night were overall super, I laughed so hard at the Second City Players and their improv routines, the act of Donovan and Rebecca (seen on Americas got talent) was unbelievable. The comedy routine of Jeff Hart was pretty funny and of course the Norwegian Players in both song and dance had us all enjoying all of their performances. The nightly entertainment from "Dancing with the Norwegian stars, was way too funny. One of my relatives went all the way to second place in that event, the open mike night with the ships comedian and all guests was extremely funny. The white hot party, the dancing on the man ships deck (12) the rock band (name escapes me) was outstanding we watched them on the deck and in many of the lounges. This ship has many lounges to dance, listen to music, sing karaoke, and even play bowling. There truly was entertainment overload. I found my self staying up later and later to take advantage of many events.
Fitness: Being a fit person, fitness was important to me and my wife. I worked out every morning, the gym was fantastic and ran out on the deck early in the morning. Don't bother later in the day you have to contend with walkers and other people on the running path. The gym had fitness trainers that my wife took advantage of. All in all, with all the eating I did not the ship, (and I often found myself eating just to eat), I only gained Â½ a pound.
Port & Shore Excursions: This cruise had port stops in Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau. Even though we encountered rough weather in port Canaveral and our excursions were cancelled due to high winds, we still had plenty to do on the ship. Our experience in Great Stirrup Cay was awesome, we decided on an Eco Boat Adventure, where we spent 1 hour on the water sailing between many of the islands. Our guide pointed out many of the aquatic life that is native to the Bahamian Islands, He caught Starfish, Crabs and Conch. We saw many birds to include some Osprey, was saw dolphins, sting rays and even 1 extremely large shark. My son though it was neat looking over the side and being 4 feet away from a 15 foot shark! The port in Nassau was the best! We decided on going to "Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter" Under advice from a friend we decided to stay away from Atlantis due to the large crowds, we had to ride a boat for 25 min to a private lagoon and we were separated into groups of 10. In our small groups we had about 50 min in the water with 2 magnificent dolphins and a 6 month old baby dolphin. We touched, hugged, danced and played with the dolphins. At the end of our encounter, the dolphins would swim up behind us and push our heels so we shot across the lagoon. My children (8 & 10) were given a gift from the dolphins that made their day. Needless to say we purchased the video and the photos of this event. Afterward we walked through the streets of Nassau and bought some trinkets from the many shops. Also based upon recommendations we decided to have lunch at a local restaurant that served Conch. It was really good! Upon returning to the ship, we were greeted by a huge party on the pier, since we were docked in-between a Royal Caribbean ship. This party went on until 20 min before we left port. I am sure when you were returning back to the piers, if you were on the other cruise line, you wanted to come over to the "Fun" ship.
As we sailed through NYC enjoying the party on the main deck watching the NYC skyline pass before us, I knew this was going to be a fun cruise. Norwegian did not disappoint. When asked how I liked the cruise, my simple reply is, good enough to put a deposit down on a future cruise!
Looking for a room on the Breakaway in the future, Thanks again Norwegian!