I went on the Norwegian gem from May 10-17th and had a great time! We had a Penthouse with Large Balcony & priority embarkation/disembarkation. This was my first time with Norwegian.
Embarkation - We had Priority check in, which I strongly recommend if you can swing it. When we arrived by our town car to the port, we went through security & went to the priority check in line a little before 11. After we checked in, we were escorted to the priority lounge, which had some snacks & things. This is where we were introduced to our concierge & read our first Freestyle Daily newsletter so we knew what was to be expected. We were also given a special invitation to eat at Cagney's (the steakhouse on board) for lunch that day. We were on the ship by 11:30 then had lunch & ate steak & shrimp at Cagney's around 11:45. What a great way to start the trip!
Penthouse - Our room was AMAZING! I strongly recommend getting a Penthouse with Large Balcony if you can! The room was about the size of a standard hotel room, which for a cruise is very large. The tv was a decent size, there was a bed, a couch & a small table in the corner right by the windows by the balcony. Our balcony was large enough for two chairs, two small tables & two chaise lounges. Loved it! The bathroom was also larger than the previous room we had. It had a full tub & a separate space for the toilet. There was also a vanity outside of the bathroom (blowdryer included) and mirrored closet. The mini bar came stocked as well.
After lunch we went to Shakers Martini & Cocktail Bar which soon became one of our favorite places to hang out. The bartenders there are all really friendly & nice & remember you by name. We had some drinks & went to our rooms & unpacked. Sat on the deck & watched us sail out of New York. The first night we went to the Grand Pacific Main Dining Room where they served steak & lobster the first night. Our waiter Duwa was amazing & we requested him every night we ate in the Main Dining Room. We purchased a bottle of Caymus & enjoyed our first night onboard the Gem. We did not purchase the drink packages as we felt it was not cost effective, however we did order the water package, where you purchase a certain amount of bottles of water and they will deliver the bottles to your room.
Second day was a sea day, we ate at the buffet for breakfast. It's always crowded & the food is good. They had eggs benedict, bagels, fruits, they even had fresh juices made with carrots, apple, etc. I was impressed, although like I said it's always crowded. That day we tried laying out by the pool but it wasnt very warm, so a spot in the sun was hard to come by & the wind made it too cold to enjoy it, so we went back to our room & hung out on our balcony. I definitely recommend getting the biggest balcony you can afford so you have somewhere to hang if the weather isnt ideal, or you are just sick of the crowds. For lunch we had the main dining room. I loved the cobb salad & my boyfriend got soup & an appetizer & was very pleased with his meal as well. We hung out in the Martini bar before dinner & had dinner at the specialty Italian restaurant La Cucina. Also, I suggest trying the avalon wine, I drank it for most of the cruise. I loved it! My boyfriend did the martini sampler if you go to the Martini bar & found he loved Le Fizz. I had tomato & mozzarella caprese for an appetizer, my boyfriend had the fried calamari & said it was amazing, I had a shrimp dish for dinner & loved it, he had pasta with lobster & ordered something else as well. He wasnt overly impressed with his meal, but I loved it. That night he went to the casino, I went to the shops.
Shopping - There is a gift shop that has Norwegian things and typical souvenirs but they also have nice things like some clothes, handbags & wallets . There is another gift shop that has cigarettes, alcohol & other Norwegian items. There is also a fine jewelry store. Down past the atrium is a perfume store that also sells Swarovski jewelry & crystals. The prices on the jewelry & perfume were better than here.
Third day we arrived in Florida and originally my boyfriend didnt even want to get off the ship. Well he was definitely right about that! We had breakfast in the main dining room & had lunch at Blue Lagoon as we were arriving in Florida. We saw dolphins right outside of the restaurant! After we got off the ship in Florida we quickly realized there was not much to do. We took a day trip to the "shopping" in Cocoa Beach and all it was was a huge surf shop (Cocoa Beach surf shop) and Ron Jon surf shop. Being from new jersey (the shore) we could have done that at home so we took the first bus back & went back on the ship. We day drank on the deck and had a nice afternoon. We had dinner in the Grand Pacific main dining room and enjoyed the chicken & sorbet. We went to the Latin Deck Party & had tons of fun!
Next day was our first day in the Bahamas at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian's private island. Since we had priority, we were able to get on any tender we wanted to so we got off the ship around 11 & went to the beach. The tender is extremely rocky so I suggest taking dramamine before hand. The beach when you immediately get off the ship is set up with chairs & everyone sets down there, we realized after about an hour that there is a separate beach past the Bacardi bar where hardly anyone was (maybe 5 people) so just go straight there. The water & beach is amazing. They serve bbq food from 12-2 which was good. We got back on the tender around 3:30-4, and ate dinner at Teppanyaki the hibachi place onboard the ship. This was amazing & probably my favorite part about the cruise.
Next day we were in Nassau. We had purchased the Atlantis tickets & I suggest saving yourselves the $100+ and just take a cab from the ship to Atlantis and you can walk around Paradise Island there. We didnt use the facilities, we just went to the aquarium & walked around so the $100+ was a little much. The aquarium was awesome, so I'm not sure if you can go there without purchasing the Atlantis tickets so you may want to check on that. Ate at Johnny Rockets and headed back to the ship via taxi. That night we ate in the Main Dining Room. Food was great & had Duwa again!
The next day was a sea day & we relaxed on our deck, went to the casino, the shops, etc. We also went to Cagney's for dinner again. We had made a reservation for Cagney's & Teppanyaki a few days before and I'm glad we did because both were amazing. We also had priority entrance to the Chocoholic Buffet that night at 9:15 instead of 9:45 so we got to see everything before everyone else! You must go! It's such a site and needless to say the chocolate was amazing. The White Party was that night, but after eating steak, chocolate & drinking we didnt last very long & went back to the room & watched a movie. We were able to get a list of movies for free that came with the room so that was nice.
The last day was a sea day & the weather was terrible. This was my least favorite part of the cruise, plus who wants to come home after vacation anyway? The rain made everything crowded. Ate in the Grand Pacific Main Dining Room and had Duwa. The cooks & chefs came out and walked around which was really cool. We went to a show "Everything I need to know I learned from my Wife" which was really cute & funny. We went back to our room & got a good night sleep.
We arrived in New York around 7:15am. We did easy walk off & had priority so we were literally the first people off the ship.
Overall the cruise was a great experience & I would cruise Norwegian again. I do think you get a different group of people on Norwegian than you do on Celebrity, but both cruises were great. Norwegian is definitely more family friendly. I think the shopping onboard is similar to other ships. They have