Just back in town from our Free Style Cruise, Norwegian style. And, like so many others on the ship, it was for the birds. My recommendation is for NCL to dump Free Style Cruising overboard. Here's why..
1. You MUST make reservations in the morning for one of their half dozen "free" restaurants or you risk dining at 5 or 10 P.M., waiting on a long line and given a beeper ala The Olive Garden, or relegated to a restaurant you have no interest in.
2. The service is spotty at best. You NEVER see the same waiter twice. So he doesn't know you and you don't know him. And he or she cares little for your needs.
3. Be prepared for a 1 1/2 to 2 hour dinner since the service is very slow and disorganized. We missed part of the one show we wanted to attend. Of course it was on the opposite end of the ship.
4. Even with a reservation, the hostess makes you wait until they can find a table and server for you..despite the fact that there are numerous empty tables and waiters running around in the dining room.
5. If you are cruising just as a couple, you will NEVER meet anybody because you sit by yourselves at the table and have no chance to schmooze (chat) with fellow passengers.
6. There are NO announcements made in the dining room for upcoming shows or important port information. Also the waiters neither dance nor sing like they do on other cruise ships and there is no live music. So be prepared for a boring dining experience.
7. NO Midnight buffets, ice sculptures, or fruit sculptures if that's your thing.
8. And lastly..the food selection is not nearly as good as on other ships. Lobster? Forget about it! Filet Mignon? Forget about it! Porterhouse steak? Forget about it! You have to go to one of their $20/p.p. exclusive restaurants for the better food.
I can say, the quality of the food was excellent in the main dining room and in their free specialty restaurants. But those speciality restaurants never change their menus. which discourages repeat visits.
Another recommendation is NEVER EVER take a winter cruise out of New York to the Bahamas. The weather is iffy at best. You'll freeze your tooches (butt) off on the way down and back, and the Bahamas is not very warm in Feb. It wasn't just the weather. The ocean water was cool too. Kinda reminded me of Jones Beach, Long Island in July.
Otherwise, the Norwegian Gem is a magnificent ship. The service was friendly. The cabins were small but sufficient. The pools and hot tubs were large enough. The entertainment was fine. And the disembarking in New York went very very quickly and smoothly. But it's just not as much fun as any of the Carnival cruise ships.