Norwegian Gem... Washy Washy does not make you Happy Happy...
Just returned from a 7 day cruise from NYC-Port Canaveral, Fl, Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas, and Nassau Paradise Island, Bahamas. We chose this cruise from NYC because we live here and didn't want to incur the flight charges to leave from Florida. This particular cruise line nickel and dimes you for every little thing, while giving you nothing in return. You pay a flat fee for the cruise and you think you have a great bargain. That's until you step on board. There is a fee on this cruise for anything remotely fun. For example, the food in the buffet on Deck 12 reminded me of school cafeteria food. BAD cafeteria food. (and they have the nerve to serve the SAME crappy food downstairs on Deck 7 at the main dining room, and same food for ROOM SERVICE!). You just get a guaranteed seat there, so the staff may bring the disgusting food to you, instead of you chasing it down in a buffet and then looking in vain for a seat. Powdered eggs for breakfast, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, EVERYDAY for lunch AND dinner. Each day around lunchtime they would set up a grill/wok station near the pool and make rice and chicken. EVERYDAY. So after day 2 and you're bored of the burger/fry combo, you can have chicken and rice for a few days, get bored, then back to the burgers. The free food wasn't even fast food or Applebees quality. It was gross. Pizza was laughable. Pasta dishes were tasteless and dry. This is where the money starts to add up. You have several "specialty" restaurants onboard that charge you extra to eat there. You MUST eat dinner in these specialty places (and pay extra $$), in order to have something edible on your trip. And these specialty places aren't all great. The best ones were of course, the more expensive places. Le Bistro (French , $25 pp), Cagey's (steakhouse, $25 pp), and Teppenyaki (hibachi, $25 pp). Orchid Garden has Chinese Or sushi, for a $15 pp overcharge, but the food was bland and awful. The sushi was disgusting. Tasted like plastic. I have had better sushi at the supermarket. We also tried the Italian place, La Cucina, ($10 pp), but that was atrocious. The staff had no idea which pasta was which, and no clue how to make any Italian dishes. I ordered spaghetti carbonara, and it was oily and gross without cream or any of the right ingredients in it. My boyfriend had gnocchi that was also greasy and tasteless. Never mind the fried calamari. It looked like onion rings from Burger king. Gross. Never had such bad food ever. Always an up charge for something. Cant even get a seat in the buffet if you are brave enough to try the food. Their only saving grace was their fresh baked goods. We lived on sugar for most of the week. They had great cookies, cakes, cobblers, ice cream, and crepes. If they could get their bakers to cook- the food would have a shot!! We were so disgusted with all of this, that we went to reception and told them we were planning to get off at the first port (Florida) and stay there and get a hotel and pay to fly back. The lovely people at reception smiled and asked me if I knew about the "Jones Act". Its some act from like 1916 where the ship has to bring everyone back from the port they took them from. Otherwise they get a heavy penalty that they happily pass down to you- $350 pp!!! I was fit to be tied!! We paid all the money to book the cruise (which NCL or Travelocity wouldn't refund if we got off), and then would've had had to ADD money to leave!! UNREAL!! We decided to stay and get the cruise over with and make the best of it.
Then there is the "entertainment". They have 2 clubs on board the ship- "Bliss" and the "Spinnaker". Bliss is clubby and has the lights and the whole thing but NEVER a DJ. They had an awesome DJ on board, but they never let him work in the clubs at night. They would waste him during the DAY to play out by the pool (where it was always too cold to swim). Out by the pool you couldn't even dance- they had to do stupid line dances and electric slide like you were at some one's Sweet 16! In Bliss, they have 10 TVs around the room playing "Time Life" videos from 1990 that you're supposed to get up and dance to. NO ONE dances there. In the Spinnaker, they have hokey game shows (newlywed game) and Karaoke, so the guests have to entertain each other, rather than NCL hiring talent. Then there is a theater where they have the "Norwegian Gem dancers" put on shows. Who cares?? I'm in my mid 30's! How about a comedian? They had one comedian but he was pitiful. Nobody laughed at him at all. A cover band? They had a band called Kinnosis that played very rarely and played very outdated material. A real DJ? A Broadway play? Something!? It s like a trip for the over 65 crowd. Everyone was older than us. There was under 10 couples near our age without kids. We' d run into them walking around the ship at night- all looking for something to do. If they could run the club right, it would've been fun. We could have bought a lot of drinks and danced. They're always trying to push you to buy drinks- but I think if they had the right entertainment, you'd want to drink and buy em. We never wanted to stay anywhere for more than 1 drink- so we may have had 4 or 5 drinks the whole trip. We were never even buzzed. Sad.
The excursions...They don't tell you where you need to be, what time- what gangway to take. They also don;'t tell you that some ports don't even take cash and you need to bring your debit card. You also need to bring photo id AND your ship card to get on and off the ship at the ports. I found the excursions very disorganized. Our first excursion was Port Canaveral, Florida. You had the choice of a resort for the day with full run of it, Disney. Universal, etc. We chose the resort because you ll never have enough time at Disney/Universal. On the NCL site, they tell you they are in port from 9am-8pm or so, so you think you have all day at the port. Not so. By the time you get off the ship and to the port, its 10, 11 am and then they tell you, you have to be back on the ship at 5:30pm! The ship doesn't even leave port till 9:30pm! What the hell? Our "resort" in Port Canaveral was a joke. The ocean was rough and too cold to swim. The jacuzzi didn't work, and half the food places near the pool were closed because its off season. The heated pool was fine, but we could've stayed on board for that... The second port- Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas was great. We snorkeled for the first time and loved it. That port is NCL's private island. They brought all the gross cruise food to the island and made it there and served drinks. It was a nice day off the ship, but still the bad food followed us. Then Atlantis, Paradise Island on day 3. It was gorgeous, but over priced and over rated. I was disappointed. The way the commercials look on TV- you think the whole place is amazing with a million things to do. They had about 10 pools, 4 Jacuzzis, 6 water slides, an awesome aquarium, a real expensive mall you cant afford to shop in, and the beach. It was a lot to do- but not for more than a day. We were toying of the idea of booking a week there- which is close to $3,500- and I'm glad we didn't do that trip. We did Atlantis in 1 day. The food there was atrocious also and for half the afternoon, it rained. It may just be that NCL is a crappy cruise line, but I'm not willing to try it again. I am an officially retired cruiser. Looking forward to booking Vegas for June 2011. There was also a teeny casino on board that was cute. We paid extra for a spa pass- that was a Godsend. They only sell 85 passes and we were there everyday. They had gorgeous Jacuzzis, steam room, sauna, etc. Super Nice. Def recommend that! It was $99 per person for an unlimited week pass to use the spas amenities. The stateroom was tiny but ok. It was an ocean view. Very nice. Comfy bed. The room was the least of my worries. You also have the mandatory $12 per person per day charge for the room steward and tips for the various bars/restaurants on board. That's crap. I saw the room steward maybe twice the whole week. He's supposed to clean the room, bring you ice twice a day and turn down the bed at night and leave you towel animals. My room was cleaned daily but I only got it turned down with a towel animal once. Sad. I thought that was a cute touch that they did nightly.
We tried it and that's the bottom line. We ended our "cruise curiosity" and saw Atlantis and we're done with it. We don't have to spend crazy money to stay there now. We're good. We made the best of it. The few good restaurants were very nice. 2 out of 3 excursions were good.