My spouse and I enjoyed on our 7 day cruise to Florida and the Bahamas on the Norwegian Gem! After staying in NYC for a couple days prior to go to a Yankee game and just hang out (recommendations: Gild Hall for hotel; Spicy Village in Chinatown; and Leo's Bagels in Financial District), we embarked smoothly with about an hour and a half wait to get on the boat from arrival to the Manhattan cruise terminal. Our cab ride from Wall St area was $27, thanks to traffic on the Westside Highway, but it beat lugging our suitcases into and out of the subway and on a crosstown bus.
We had so much fun that everything from this point on is a blur if you are expecting a day-by-day play-by-play. Here are the pros and cons of our trip by category:
Food: The good was good to pretty good. We usually ate in the Garden or Great Outdoors for breakfast and lunch. Scrambled eggs were terrible (powdered?), but I was able to get "real" eggs at one of the many omelette stations. Fresh fruit was always available, and the breakfast pastries were usually tasty (once in a while a little dry). The Garden Cafe was usually crowded and hectic, but I blame this on the aimlessly wandering masses of guests who just wanted to see everything there was to offer (even though the stations offered the same things in different parts of the cafe). We ate dinner in Grand Pacific 5 nights; no complaints there except for the turf part of the surf and turf on Night 1 (just was not good steak) and the risotto primavera on the last night (seemed like the cheese sauce was made with canned nacho cheese), but overall it was good enough. One night we ordered pizza and a bucket of beer to our room and watched football (totally worth it), and the other we went to Cagney's. For $30 a plate, it wasn't worth it until we got our entrees, which were well above the quality of the Grand Pacific food (I think they save the good steak or Cagney's). The service was fantastic in both places! Everyone was so attentive and pleasant in every dining area that we experienced. We did not go to any other specialty restaurants, Blue Lagoon, or Magenta. BBQ on Great Stirrup Cay was better than usual Garden food!
Drink: No issues here! Great service at Maltings and Bali Hai! After having a few drinks in NYC prior to cruising, on-board prices of alcohol seemed reasonable. We brought two regular-sized bottles of our own wine on board and were charged $15 corkage fee for each. No worries because even after the fee, they were still cheaper than the cheapest bottle of wine for purchase on board. Note: the corkage fee for a mag of wine is $30: be warned. Buckets of beer are buy 5 get the 6th free, which we did often and just brought back to our room (they give you an opener with the bucket). The wonderful bartender at Malting's made my spouse black and tan's with Guinness and Bass, too!
Stateroom: Small but comfortable! Our enclosed balcony served our sitting outside and reading or watching the world go by purposes just fine. We were forward on the ship, so once we could hear the music from the Stardust Theater in our room but it was not bothersome. The toilets did not work on our wing of the 8th floor for a day but it was fixed with minimal difficulty. The smell of sewer did come up after the repair of the plumbing, though. Yuck. Overall, our room was certainly sufficient.
Ports of Call: In Port Canaveral, we shuttled for $24 total round-trip for both of us to Cocoa Beach Surf Co., where we had lunch (it was cheap and obviously so), did a small amount of shopping (magnets and postcards), and walked a block down Marion Ave to the beach (which was above my expectations). You can rent an umbrella for I think $5-$10, but we opted to wait and see if we actually needed it for refuge from the sun (which we did not). Overall, great port to save some money and energy! In Great Stirrup Cay, we hung out on the beach, which was beautiful! Large rocks in the water to hang out on and snorkel from are a short swim away, but overall rocks are not a problem. Beautiful white sand, turquoise blue water, and plenty of chairs and shady spots were more than we had expected based on other reviews here. We only spent $12 on some booze at this port of call, and had a wonderful day anyway! Rain dampened our spirits for about an hour, but we waited it out in the dining pavilion and talked to some nice people to pass the time! Nassau, Bahamas was great, too! We had tickets to Aquaventure at Atlantis, and they were so worth it! Next time, I may order them directly from the website and take a cab over ($4 per person), but the convenience of having everything planned out and ready for me was worth it. We got there before 10 am and stayed until 4pm, and kept busy and having fun the whole time! The waterslides were so much fun, especially the Challenger slide and the Serpent slide. We did not do the Leap of Faith, but it was awesome watching other people do it! The Current was a lot of fun, too, as was The Surge! We did a small amount of shopping by the port (more magnets and a Christmas ornament for my mother), had some Conch fritters and a couple Kalik's, and headed back to the boat.
Public Areas of the Ship: Poolside was usually busy, but there are so many areas that you can be in to either be up close to the energetic activity or get away from it. We loved the sundeck all the way forward on Deck 14, where we could lounge on oversized loveseats and watch the dolphins jump out of the water in front of the boat! The theater was nice, and we enjoyed the Second City show, the Jeff Harms comedy stand-up, and the magician shows in there. The casino was laid out well but of course loud and smoky. Atrium was nice enough, but usually crowded. Internet Cafe is in the Atrium. The library and game rooms were nice, quiet, and relaxing! Tradewinds boutique is small and has overpriced, limited selections. It was insanely crowded during raffle draws. Spinnaker Lounge was well laid-out and comfortable, and we enjoyed the Second City shows in there! The fitness center was spacious, clean, up-to-date, and it looked out over the water! Cool towels were available, too! Sports court was great; golf tents, basketball court, and rock wall were among the popular highlights, and I saw some happy people playing oversized chess and checkers and table tennis!
Service: We had no complaints about service. Everyone was friendly, attentive, and punctual. This boat has a wonderful crew who are away from their homes and families for months at a time. Many of the crew members come from countries which are going through some turmoil at this time (i.e. The Philippines),
yet they provided services for guests with smiles and steadfast attentiveness.
We had a wonderful time. We hope to take the same cruise in a couple of years with our small child, as there were so many kids activities! Great vacation overall!