Let me start off by saying we had a great vacation- the ports, the beaches, the excursions were all AMAZING and beautiful. We went to Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Cayo Levantado in Dominican Republic. The excursions and scenery were beautiful and unforgettable. We did ziplining in the rainforest in Puerto Rico.. the staff was great, very knowledgeable, and I felt very safe. There were 7 ziplines, and it was a blast. Next, in St. Maarten, we took a ride on the Mirabella catamaran for a day of sailing and snorkeling. Again, GREAT staff, nice snorkeling location, and a beautiful beach stop- AND they provided snacks and an open bar. Well worth the money. St. Thomas we went to Coral World/Coki Beach. Coral World is cool for about an hour or so, but I was a little nervous on Coki Beach with all the vendors and did not feel safe enough to go into the water leaving my bag on my towel unguarded. So we took a taxi and went to Magen's Bay instead, since it's in the Top 10 most beautiful beaches... it was great! Lastly, we went to Cayo Levantado as our excursion for the DR. Gorgeous beach. There are also vendors there, but we didn't have any that were overly pushy. They offer massage on the beach, and there's a great little tiki hut there with coconut and pineapple drinks for $5.
So enough about the land experience.. now the ship experience. We sailed Celebrity for our honeymoon, and I don't think we realized how spoiled and well-treated we were until we sailed on Norwegian. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. Maybe if this was someone's first cruise, or if they are with a bunch of kids, it might be more enjoyable. But for a young couple, NCl Gem is not the way to go. A lot of kids, overcrowded, a lot of announcements when you're sleeping in, and the rooms are just okay. The food was good, but the we were used to Celebrity's 24-hour buffet that took up half a floor. On NCl Gem, the buffet is much smaller, only has one side, and seating along one side as well. Needless to say, it was ridiculously crowded the whole time, and challenging to ever find a seat. They had to keep a specialty restaurant open nearby just so people could walk over there with their food from the buffet to have somewhere to sit. Also there was this incredibly annoying lady standing outside of the buffet every day- all day- for NINE days who was on repeat : "Washy, washy ma'am, happy, happy, smiley, smiley, ma'am." You could literally stand at the stairs by our room - 3 floors below- and listen, and know if the buffet was open or not. The buffet also had weird hours. Again, I was used to the 24-hr buffet. Not here.. it's open for a few hours at a time and they shut the entire thing down for a couple hours to switch from breakfast to lunch to dinner. I would go at 4:30 and get turned away because it's closed. Order from room service to tide me over, went back at 8:30 was told again it was closed.
We knew from the start is was very different from our first cruise. The room was smaller; there was no room service menu in our room- I had to ask twice before I got one; there was no "Day 1" planner or ship directory/map in our room- we had to go hunt down where those were; we were all corralled into the buffet until our staterooms were clean but there wasn't anywhere NEAR enough room for all those people there; The balconies all have a roof on them- I paid more for a balcony that "wasn't enclosed" only to find I got one like all the others- and NCl refused to reimburse my extra money I paid for that room; we weren't greeted with champagne like you are on Celebrity, we weren't treated as professionally... long story short, we're sticking with Celebrity next time. Even the embarkation process wasn't as good. It was all random. Celebrity, the higher-paid rooms get priority embarkation and disembarkation and they go in order down to the inside rooms. Norweigian, it was all random just by the section you were sitting in the terminal. Also, we were celebrating my birthday for dinner on the last night. I was given a card that said Happy Birthday and instructed me to give the card to the waitress on the night of my celebration. I gave it to her as we were seated, she told me happy birthday, and collected the card. We got through appetizer.. dinner.. dessert.. waited, and nothing. She asked if we needed anything else since we were just sitting there, and I asked about the birthday celebration and she acted surprised and said "Oh, it's your birthday? I need you to give the card." I said... "I did...". She apologized and found it and had the staff bring a cake and sing. That was fun, but just shows again the staff isn't as attentive as we've experienced before.
I am glad that this Norwegian cruise wasn't our first cruise ever, or else we would not have known that there is better experiences out there.
We loved Cayo Levantado. It is gorgeous. But thankfully we got there early - 9am- by about 10-11am, it was so crowded and people had trouble finding chairs whereas we got one right on the edge in front of the ocean. There's a great little tiki hut there with reasonably priced drinks and you can get a Coco Lobo in a coconut with natural coconut water and all for only $5, or a pina colada in a pineapple! There are vendors, but we didn't feel they were overly pushy. They offer massages on the beach and other trinkets. There is also opportunity to snorkel.... **BEWARE** I don't know that they thoroughly sanitize their snorkeling equipment.. 3 days after this excursion, my husband gets his first cold sore breakout ever. There's no other way he could have gotten oral herpes- he doesn't share drinks or food with anyone ever (not even me!). Bring your own snorkel equipment or take your chances that they may not clean it properly.
Pricey, but a great experience. Experienced, knowledgeable staff. I felt safe and had a great time on their 7 ziplines.
Mirabella catamaran sail & snorkel was a GREAT excursion. One of our funnest days! Free lunch and open bar. Great staff. One snorkel stop and one beach stop near airport beach. WELL worth the money.
Coral World was fun for about an hour. Shark exhibit, stingrays, a little aquarium, and undersea observatory, and a tropical bird exhibit- they land on you if you feed them nectar :)
Coki Beach next to Coral World is pretty, but we left shortly after we went because the vendors are a little intimidating, we were offered to smoke weed, and I did not feel comfortable leaving my bag on my towel unguarded when I wanted to swim. We left and went to Magen's Bay which was gorgeous and much more spacious.
Gorgeous! Nice and spacious so you don't feel super crowded even though there's a lot of people there.