This review is for the June 12, 2011 thru June 19 2011 cruise to Bermuda. Our vacation got of to a rough start. This was in no part due to Norwegian, rather every bit the fault of Amtrak. Instead of fighting traffic from Fredericksburg VA to New York, we decided on a leisurely train ride. I had planned for a 3 ½ hour window from the time the train was due into Penn Station until the ship was due to sail. Plenty of time for a short cab ride and checking onboard the Gem. The train was 30 minutes late arriving in Fredericksburg VA and our experience went down hill from there. There was a schedule stop in Washington D.C while they switched from Diesel to electric. Amtrak made it clear that this was a 25 minute stop only. This turned into 45 plus minutes due to mechanical difficulties.
When we did finally moving, there was an obvious problem with the engine. Power was fluctuating almost immediately. When we finally made it to New York, the train broke down completely, on a bridge in the middle of nowhere. Even had I wanted to exit the train there was nowhere to go. No power, no air conditioning or bathrooms, traveling with two senior citizens, one with a heart condition. I except that things break down, but after the first hour in a sweltering train car the personal onboard have the audacity to charge $2.50 for a warm bottle of water pushed me over the limit. A new engine was dispatched and we were finally able to arrive at Penn Station.
We arrived at the cruise terminal with 20 minutes to spare! We had to finish checking in on the ship itself as it was pulling away from the dock! Not a good way to begin our first vacation in over 8 years. Once onboard we were able to relax and enjoy the New York City skyline. Passing the Statue of Liberty is an inspiring sight that I will never forget.
Norwegian Gem is a beautiful ship that is kept spotless. There is always someone cleaning or polishing and their hard work is evident wherever you look.
Best island we have ever been to and will definitely be going back. Cleanest island and friendliest people it has been our pleasure to visit.
My wife and I were assigned cabin 5026 with a window view. The room was clean and had enough storage for our needs. Yes the room is small as is the bathroom but you spend such a short time in the cabin that it doesn't matter. My wife's mother and her aunt had the stateroom 5021 across the hall and indicated their satisfaction with the accommodations. However, the bed was a little hard.
Freestyle dining (part 1)
This is a wonderful option for cruisers that do not wish to be tied down to a specific dining schedule. Our party of four never had to wait for seating in the Grand Pacific dining room or the Magenta dining room. The Garden Cafe had a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of selections to choose from. Best hamburgers and French fries we have had on a cruise ship!
Our cruise director Sinan was one of the highlights of this vacation. His high energy and personality were contagious. He really works hard to ensure the passengers have a wonderful time on the ship.
We were able to go to every show and happy to report that overall the entertainment exceeded our expectations. The Man from Mars is not to be missed! My hats off to the performers of the Gem. It's amazing the number of songs and dance routines they are required to perform every week.
We never had a bad experience with members of the staff. Any problems we had were addressed promptly and politely. Our cabin attendant was wonderful. She remembered or names and seemed eager to provide any help we might need.
Cover Charge Restaurants:
We choose to dine at Cagney's steakhouse and Teppanyaki. The service was wonderful in both. The Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail had the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. Our steaks were cooked to order and delicious. The raspberry crème bru'lee was my wife's favorite dessert of the trip. Teppanyaki was a ship favorite and fills up fast. They put on a nice show while cooking your food. When my mother in law stated that her shrimp had too much salt, they were happy to replace them right away.
Onboard sales (i.e. drinks, jewelry, excursions)
I am pleased to report that not one time during our trip did we feel inundated with request to buy a drink from the bar. Drinks were available if you wanted one but never forced on you. Yes they sale art and jewelry onboard and advertise it 24 hours a day on the television. Just change the channel. No high pressure sales on this ship.
Remarkably fast and smooth. A crew member assisted one of our party with wheelchair service off the ship and threw the terminal. Could not ask for more.
THE NOT SO GOOD:
Don't get me wrong, the food is good. However, the quality in the main dining rooms has started to slip. I don't feel that we as customers should have to pay extra for the quality of food (and service) that used to be included in the price of the cruise.
Freestyle dining (part 2)
Its great not having to dress in a suit and tie for dinner. I wore a pair of slacks, collar shirt and dress shoes yet still felt very comfortable. We like looking respectable for every meal as this adds to the ambience as well as to the experience. That being said, may I offer a word of advice....white tank tops and bathing suits / cutoffs are NOT appropriate attire in the dining rooms or the Garden Cafe. If you want to wear that at the pool while eating a burger and fries the go ahead but have the decency to put a shirt on while inside at one of the dining rooms. Being freestyle doesn't have to mean being a slob. I find it amazing that the dress code for the golf courses in Bermuda is stricter than the dining rooms on the ship.
Service in dining rooms:
As the number of restaurants increase on board the wait staff seem to be stretched thin. Those little details such as empty glasses not being refilled and finished plates not being removed in a timely manner (25 plus minutes after finishing the meal) are a few examples.
Did not use the casino but tried to avoid it as much as possible. The smell of smoke was so overpowering I'm not sure how anyone enjoyed the gaming tables.
Adults only pool:
There is an adult's only pool; however it is located right next to the kid's pool mid ships. It would have been nice to have a pool for adults in a quiet area of the ship away from the music and parties.
If the show starts at 7:30/9:30 then get there on time. It is frustrating to get seated early only to have to spend the first twenty minutes of the show making way for individuals late and trying to find a seat in the dark. I say don't let anyone enter the theatre after the show starts as it is disrespectful to both the performers as well as the passengers who arrive on time.
In closing, would I sail with Norwegian again? Yes.
Would I choose to sail on the Gem? Yes.
Would I travel with Amtrak again? No!