We were celebrating our 25th Anniversary and selected this date because we knew public schools would not be on vacation so we would have a cruise of mostly adults. Boy were we wrong, there were hoards of kids on this cruise. Mostly they behaved nicely but then there was the usual kid problems like filling the hot tub beyond capacity, cutting lines etc.
Overall we found the embarkation process to be easy. I was nervous about this having read some of the reviews. We arrived at the pier at 11:15 and were on board by 12:30pm. I heard from passengers who arrived at the pier at 1:00pm and were not on board until 4pm? I am grateful that we got there early.
Entertainment- I thought they had plenty of entertainment and the variety was excellent. I enjoyed the Guitar soloist and the house band was superb.
Staff- Overall the staff were good, they went out of there way to be helpful. We did however run into several issues with the wait staff which I will go into later. Our room steward was excellent.
Food: The food was hit or miss. We enjoyed the extra fee restaurants which included Cagneys, La Cucina and Le Bistro, The Bistro being our favorite. Service was excellent.
The Main dining room was hit or miss, slow service at times, food cold at times. Soups and entrees a bit bland a times. We had some really good meals there and a few not so good. We had breakfast in the Pacific Dining room at least 4 times and found the service to be painfully slow and the food always cold. They would bring out the food and leave it on the counter until the waiter got round to serving it. Which made no sense. The Magenta was closed most of the week for a private function.
Buffet is just that a buffet mass quantities of food served hot. We found the food here to be decent, however the layout of the buffet let something to be desired it was always packed with no seating in site, we actually had to eat in the adjoining specialty restaurant La Cucina because there was not adequate seating in the buffet.
We enjoyed meeting with our fellow cruise critics and found this to be one of the highlights of the cruise. We especially liked the behind the scenes tour that our cruise critic leader got for us free of charge.
After experiencing freestyle cruising I will admit that I am not a fan. I like developing a rapport with the wait staff and there is no really good way of doing it on the Gem. On a recent Carnival Cruise I would arrive in the dining room to have my favorite drink waiting for me and a friendly hello from my waiter. I also feel that the wait staff gets short changed because they are not able to develop a relationship with the people.
The ports of call were nice as expected.
Disembarkation oh the horror!!! This was by far my worst experience on any cruise ship, it was total chaos. Number one we got into port late due to a medical emergency, not NCL's fault. We waited in our cabin until 1030am and were politely asked to leave as the had to clean the room for the next cruise. We then went up to the pool area and found a nice sectional couch that was in warm section of the pool area and waited patiently for instructions. Around 12pm the first group was called to leave the ship. We got in the elevator and when we reached the floor to disembark it was jammed packed, so much so that we could not get off the elevator. The stairs were filled also. We had to go up two flights of stairs and wait for the line to move. For about 20 minutes the line did not move nor were there any communication from NCL Staff, in fact I saw no one from NCL at any of the critical areas directing traffic. The line started to move ever so slowly and just as we got out the the elevator area we were told to go the opposite way around this long meandering line through the ship. We finally ended up in one of the lounges for customs inspection because there was "no electricity" in the terminal, a total lie. After customs we headed down another long line to the ramp. We made our way through, only to be held up again in the terminal for another custom inspection. Now much of the problem was not NCL's fault because people just dont listen but had they placed there personnel in key places I think mostly all the problems could have been easily avoided. There was hardly no communication from NCL during this process. Many angry people were video taping the process to put it on youtube. It took well over an hour to get off the ship which was unacceptable.
I would consider cruising on NCL again if they can address the disembarkation process and tweak the freestyle method.