We’ve just returned from our cruise on the Norwegian Gem—our fifth time on that ship and our fifth winter sailing out of New York. We were lucky to have fairly quiet seas and our second to last sea day was warm—a bonus day to be outside soaking up some sun before returning to a blast of frigid air. We did some new things, enjoyed our Platinum perks for the first time on a nine-day cruise and that combined for a special experience. I’ll go through the highlights first, then offer some suggestions for improvement.
MEET AND GREET- If you’re new to cruising or have never joined your cruise Roll Call, attending the Meet and Greet on the first sea day is a great start for your vacation. I’ve attended many Meet and Greets but this was the first time that I was the host, a position I inherited after a cruise buddy had to cancel. It was wonderful working with Ana from the Miami office and Claudia, the Group Service Coordinator on the Gem. By the sailing date we had 90+ people sign up and at least 65 to 70 turned out. I decided to use my teacher-training skills to encourage as many as possible to introduce themselves after the officers had left after saying a few words. I think that the personal introductions added more depth to the meeting and let everyone match screen names to faces. Immediately following the gathering, we had a small group who signed up for the “cabin crawl.” In this instance, smaller was better since we got to see the Garden Villa, thanks to V. and Matt, and the Jade Suite, thanks to R.J. and Marsha. What a treat. My house could fit in the Garden Villa and the Jade Suite had incredible charm. We also saw a prized aft balcony and ended up in our own mid-ship balcony. I did have some chocolate strawberries and Godiva chocolates to share, thanks to our Platinum status, and the room had no movement—a plus on a winter cruise, but getting to see those suites in person was incredible. The members of the Roll Call participated that afternoon in a Slot Pull, masterfully organized by Barbara with assistance from Steve. I won’t go into detail, but for me, seeing so much money go into a slot machine with so little payout, was an eye-opener. Later in the cruise, Claudia arranged for bridge tours. Captain Nordberg was so informative and gave us much information about the safety features of the Gem and its advanced technology during our one hour visit.
PLATINUM PERKS- Platinum status provided us with quite a lot. We had free laundry on both days when laundry specials were offered. Everything came back folded and pressed and presented in a wicker basket a day later. We also had two complimentary dinners at Le Bistro with our choice of wines from a vast list (I can’t tell good wine from the cheap stuff) and a bottle of bubbly in our cabin. The best perk though was the Behind the Scenes Tour hosted by George Kassis, the Cruise Consultant. Just like a good tour guide makes for a great excursion, he did a fabulous job escorting us through the galleys, provisions area, crew lounge, laundry, theater and bridge viewing room. I was most impressed with the stage manager of the Stardust Theater. She was very knowledgeable and clearly loved her job.
DINING- I know that food is subjective and dependent on what you choose to eat and the attentiveness of your server. I love to cook and found all meals very good to excellent. We always told the wait staff that we wanted to make the 7 p.m. show and found that all but once, the service was excellent. The surf and turf on the first night in the main dining room was delicious as was the appetizer of lime shrimp on fingerling potato salad. We loved our dinners at Le Bistro and had a complimentary dinner and wine at La Cucina as part of a booking promotion. With our on-board credit, we also enjoyed dinners at Orchid Garden and Cagney’s (superb). With two days left on the cruise, we felt that we had more meat and rich food than in many moons and opted for light dinners at the buffet. The selections at the buffet were varied and quite good. There is a crepe station at the buffet right next to the delicious warm cobblers. Yum.
ENTERTAINMENT-There is a lot to do at night. The production shows are fun, and one, Pure Variety, is new. The stage manager told us that most shows run for five years but that parts of long-running shows change based on audience appeal. Celia and Julian, the aerial duo, are amazing and also do an informative afternoon Q & A. Leo, the guitarist, did a great tribute to the Beatles, James Taylor, and Elton John (on different nights). There was always something to do at night. Maybe I’m showing my age, but many of the audience participation games that I always attended in the past were held at 10 p.m. or later and I couldn’t stay awake.
CABIN-We were in a mid-ship balcony, Room 9104, which was a great choice. The balcony was shielded from the wind and was a great place to soak up the sun. Hermano, our room steward, was on his first contract, as was many of the staff. He was so personable, made wonderful towel animals every night, and was always in the hall asking about our day and eager to do a good job. That was so nice to see.
DAYTIME ACTIVITIES- There was a time when there were so many activities that I didn’t know which one to choose. Not so, this time. I love Trivia (hi to Jenny and Terry) and commend Samantha for doing a great job with Progressive Trivia. There were also trivia games every morning at around 9 a.m. There were good Q & As hosted by the stage manager with the Gem singers and dancers and also with the aerial team. I was lucky to have the Meet and Greet activities and Behind the Scenes Tour. There was a new “cake making competition” but if you’re a serious cook, it was very silly. Most of the activities were sales pitches such as Emeralds & Watches Presentation, Back Pain Relief, Arthritis Pain Solutions, and numerous Martini Tastings for a fee. For families, and we last cruised with our children and grandchildren, the Nickelodeon activities and other family-oriented circus or cupcake workshops are very enjoyable, but this cruise only had 120 children, mostly pre-school or early-elementary. I think NCL should hire some guest lecturers or schedule workshops that offer personal enrichment. Other lines have computer classes, digital photography, jewelry making, etc.
OTHER IMPROVEMENTS-I know that the Gem is scheduled for dry dock in November 2014. However, some tabletops in the Great Outdoor eating area are cracked and should be fixed. Also, many treads on the floor as you enter the Garden Café are coming up creating a tripping hazard especially if you are wearing flip-flops.
CAUTIONARY NOTES- Reading your folio is a bit of a challenge if you have on-board credit. Although you are made aware that on-board credit cannot be used for tips, the daily service charge ($12 per day per person) is deducted from your non-refundable credit every day. To Norwegian’s credit this time, I received a letter on the 7th day stating that I had $118 in on-board credit that had to be used. I knew I had a reservation at Cagney’s and took home some souvenirs to make sure that I spent all the money. Also, if you park at the pier, do not count on finding your car cleared of snow to be included in the $40 per day fee. We had a brush and de-icer but still needed to hire someone to shovel us out.
All in all, we had a great time and can’t wait to cruise again.