Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Terrrii: My first Cruise to Nowhere
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My first Cruise to Nowhere
I had booked this cruise with a friend. She had never cruised before, so I wanted to make sure she had a good time. We planned to stay up all night in order to get the maximum amount of fun out of the 22 hours. We booked an inside cabin, figuring we wouldn't be sleeping anyway, so why spend the extra money? Well, about a week before the cruise, prices had come down, so we decided to upgrade to a balcony, and that was one of the best decisions we made.
The drive on Saturday morning to the pier from NJ via the Lincoln Tunnel and 10th Ave. to 55th St. was a breeze, as was parking at the pier. For a longer trip, I would have parked in Weehawken and taken the ferry, but for the one nighter, the cost would have been about equal, so I chose the convenience of parking at the pier.
We got there around 11:00. Lines were non-existent; Norwegian did a great job cheerfully guiding people through the check-in process. It was about an hour before we were able to board, but the More time passed quickly and pleasantly. First we perused the dinner menus for the various restaurants. Dinner at the free dining rooms looked great, but my friend wanted to try a specialty restaurant, so we splurged the extra $15 each to eat Asian Fusion cuisine at the Orchid Garden, and made dinner reservations for 6:45. We then sat down in the waiting area, and pored over our copy of the Freestyle Daily, which Norwegian had the foresight to give out before we were on the ship.
As we wanted to avoid the crowds at the buffet (thank you, fellow reviewers, for the warning!), we headed to the Grand Pacific Dining Room and had a relaxed, delicious meal. There were no crowds; we were able to walk in and get seated right away. The food was amazing and portions were just right. We were quite full by the end of the meal.
The rooms wouldn't be ready until 2:30, so we had a drink at the Bali Hai Bar on Deck 13. It was noisy and crowded (although less so than on Deck 12), but for some of the younger people, that was an advantage.
Be sure to ask for all your drinks in regular glasses and not souvenir glasses. If you don't specify this, you will get the souvenir glass (actually, plastic cup) by default, and will pay $2 more per drink. I requested a regular glass for every drink I ordered (six total), and not one waiter or bartender minded one bit. (If you really want the souvenir glass, and you don't mind taking a used one to wash out at home, you will find plenty sitting around for the taking on Decks 12, 13, and 14 after sailaway.)
Once our room was ready, we deposited our tote bags in our room, and headed back upstairs, this time one deck higher to the smaller Deck 14 at the front of the ship. This deck was peaceful and quiet, and we stayed there for hours - before, during, and after sailaway - and loved it. The one drawback to this deck, though, is that you are directly in front of the ship's horn, which is LOUD! But it only sounds a few times at the beginning of sailaway and again as the ship passes the Freedom Tower.
Then it was time for dinner at the Orchid Garden. The restaurant was mostly empty, so we wouldn't have really needed to make the reservations, although I can't say if that is true at all the specialty restaurants. In hindsight, 6:00 would have been a better time, as we missed a gorgeous sunset (we took turns every so often leaving the restaurant to go peek out the starboard side windows), and were not able to visit any other bars, some of which had guitar or piano singers, before the show. The food was good, but I didn't think it was worth the extra $15 charge. My friend, however, loved it and thought it was well worth it.
The show was wonderful. There is only one big show - at 8:30, so plan your dinner accordingly. After the show we headed to Spinnaker's for the comedian. The lounge was full, as Quest was still going on, and when it ended, no one left. We found seats at the bar, where we couldn't see. Turns out we could barely hear from there either. What we did hear, we didn't care for, so we went back to our room to enjoy our balcony for a while, and to take a short nap. Just a note - room service and towel animals are not done on the one-night cruise.
Refreshed, we headed down to the casino. It was crowded and smoky, so we didn't spend too much time there. An awesome singer/piano player was performing at Magnum's Champagne Bar, so we sat and had a drink. Unfortunately, he was on his last song, so we didn't stay long. We set out to explore the ship and to hit more bars, but we found that by this time (after midnight), most of the entertainment was over. We did find one band in the Atrium, but as we were sitting down, they got up to take a break.
We spent the rest of our time exploring. The only thing we found going on was the White Hot Party in Spinnaker's, which was a bit too loud and stroby for us. So by 2:15 am, we had run out of things to do. The Blue Lagoon was open all night, and I would have been willing to go there for some food, but we were getting tired, and went back to the room. Had there been more going on, we would have stayed out longer.
My friend pointed out that falling asleep to the rocking of the ship was part of the cruise experience too, so we partially opened our balcony door, and fell asleep to the gentle rocking and the sound of the ocean. This was delightful, and the bedding was clean and amazingly soft and comfortable.
After about three hours of sleep, we got up again to watch the sunrise and the re-entry into New York from our balcony. After sailing under the Verrazano, we headed up to the Great Outdoors on Deck 12, had a mini-breakfast snack, and enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful, uncrowded view of the rest of the trip back up the Hudson.
Once we docked, we headed to the Grand Pacific Dining Room for a full breakfast; again, totally enjoyable and delicious. Our departure instructions said we could remain on the ship until 10 am, so we took our belongings out of the room, and headed up to our favorite place - Deck 14 - and enjoyed just relaxing in the sun until about 9:45, when we simply walked off the ship.
Disembarking couldn't have been easier. People were allowed to walk off any time between docking (8:30ish) and 10:00, and from what I saw, people were leaving all during this time, so I don't think there was any crowded mass exodus. Very pleasant, as was the drive down 12th Ave. to the Holland Tunnel.
Would I do the one-nighter again? I'm not sure. Although the cruise prices were reasonable for what we got, the addition of the port fee (paid on every cruise) was not economical when the cost is not spread over several nights. I think I will give the 2-nighter a try, though. I believe it would be a better value per night, and it would give us so much more time on the ship. Of course, I'd cruise 365 nights a year if I could afford it, but when you just need a cruise fix, or if you've never cruised before, the one- and two-night cruises are nice options. Less
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