My wife and I sailed to the Eastern Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem out of New York at the end of January. We have cruised numerous times before but never on NCL. We really enjoyed ourselves thanks in large part to the entertainment staff, the kitchen staff and the other passengers.
The entire entertainment staff was exceptional but I’d like to make a special shout-out to Dan Dan who must be the only assistant cruise director on any ship whose mainstay is insult humor.”Press One for English” was his favorite catch phrase the many times he managed to fluster some hapless passenger. Like many Filipinos, Dan Dan likes to sing. The difference is he can shine doing opera arias. The man is a star!
This cruise marks the first time we’ve ever sailed out of New York and would guess that close to half of the passengers on this cruise were from the New York area. It was like taking a slice of The Big Apple along on a Caribbean holiday, and I would recommend it to anyone.
We both enjoyed the food on the dining room menus. That said, I’m not sold on Freestyle Dining concept. The frequent complaints I’ve seen about slow or uneven dining room service on this ship seem must be a consequence of the fact that “Freestyle” simply isn’t very efficient. The kitchen staff and the servers cannot possibly establish the kind of routine that is needed to look after so many people. The main dining rooms don’t allow reservations once they are open, so it takes planning and a little luck if you want to dine and then catch a show in The Stardust Theater.
The ship was clean and the interiors very stylish, but in places the deck planning seems designed to create congestion. For instance Deck 12 which is one of the decks that allows you to pass directly from one end of the ship to the other. Unfortunately to do so, you have to make your way using a single, narrow passage through the buffet area with a couple of coffee stations thrown in along the way. Especially on the cold at-sea days, Deck 12 was like a fire drill in an IKEA store.
By contrast the exterior concourse on Deck 7 was better than a 400 meter jogging track. Three laps is more than a mile! The fitness center is large and well equipped. The library is always open and works on the honor system. Combine this policy with four at-sea days, and the library a busy place. On the other hand, the Casino seemed relatively quiet. Maybe the slots are especially “tight” or maybe the East Coast clientele, spoiled by Atlantic City, is put off by the stale cigarette smell and open washroom doors. Whatever the reason, the Casino, seemed dreary for a place with so many flashing lights.
When you only spend about 32 hours out of nine and half days in a port, the onboard experience defines your holiday. Despite a handful of relatively of minor complaints The Norwegian Gem provided us with a wonderful time and a memorable experience. We would definitely do it again.