2,576 Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews

NCL Gem Review 3/6/2020 through 3/16/2020 Sorry, this is a long one. I almost did not write it. I mean with so many more serious things on our minds lately. But then I thought, this cruise was exceptional and maybe people need to ... Read More
NCL Gem Review 3/6/2020 through 3/16/2020 Sorry, this is a long one. I almost did not write it. I mean with so many more serious things on our minds lately. But then I thought, this cruise was exceptional and maybe people need to hear that. 4 Adults in the Garden Villa Suite 14000. Both my husband and I are platinum plus latitude members. We had booked an H3 months prior but once our travel agent told me the H1 was all of a sudden open, I bid on it and my bid was accepted 4 days prior to sailing. So at the last minute we invited my sister and her husband who had sailed on the Gem with us in 2013 and they said YES! We also invited my brother and his wife but he had strep throat so no way… bummer. We had an extra bedroom which we joked about if someone drank too much we would not let them drive home ;) We left New Hampshire at 5:30 on the morning of our cruise and arrived at the Port of NY by 11:30. An easy Friday drive. We dropped off the bags, tipped the porter and parked above for $400.00, for 10 days, very easy. Except that we parked in the first parking area and it was way too far away. My husband had his knee replaced about 5 weeks ago so it was a long walk back to the ship. Once they took our temperature we were escorted to the Haven area and had to fill out a medical questionnaire. We were processed very quickly and then we saw RAVI! Ravi is an amazing butler we had for 2 sailings, many, many years ago. He greeted us and told us he already had Mr. M’s Guinness on ice and he asked about our kids … Ravi is one of those special people you meet in life that you just do not forget. And we were so happy he would be our butler once again. I will say here that this is what NCL does best. They have incredible staff that they are able to retain. Ravi has been with NCL 19 years. We went directly to Cagney’s for lunch while they finished preparing our suite. The Garden Villa is wonderful. In the past the colors were vibrant either blue, green and gold, or Orange Red and gold which might be a bit loud for everyday, but absolutely perfect for a Caribbean cruise vacation. Plus there used to be a very cool circular leather sofa. They refurbished the Villa a few years ago and the new colors are tasteful and neutral. A bit more upscale but rather subdued, IMO. And circular sofa is now just a solid oversized sectional. Comfy but dull. The Garden Villa is huge. 3 bedrooms all with their own bathroom. One is definitely the master suite with an enormous soaking tub. I will not bore you with all the details of Garden Villa, it is just as awesome as you have heard. We were kept well hydrated with 6 bottles of alcohol, and all the boxed water, soda (Pepsi products only) juices and mixers we could want. We had a few parties and they allowed us to purchase extra beer, wine and more bottles of liquor. Service: In a word, Outstanding. Ravi kept brining us food and did not mind us planning parties and our room stewards Patrick and Teddy were wonderful. They kept the Villa and Sundeck pristine. One thing that changed in the space was the courtyard area. When we sailed last we had a very private top deck. Now the Top deck is half the size and the people in the 15000 can actually look over and see us from the steps of their hot tub. It was very odd and invasive. And the Sauna never really got hot. And the master bedroom was always very cold. Our concierge was Alex from Croatia and he was excellent. Alex made our spa reservations, dining (often at the last minute) and showed us to the special seating at the Stardust and much more. He also ordered local flowers for me on behalf of my husband, with the instructions "something local and funky" he did not disappoint. It was fabulous. Ravi our amazing butler went above all expectations. We always had fresh fruit, cookies, midnight blt’s, chips and pastry platters. Ravi also brought us hot breakfast every morning from Cagneys. steak and eggs, omelets, waffles with cream and berries, OMG Ravi spoiled us. He gave us suggestions for dinner and shows, reminded us of parties and many little things that made this particular cruise so very special. The first 3 nights this ship was rocking. It was white water all day. The cruise home was just the opposite, slow and calm and very nice. Friends of ours were getting married on this cruise, which was the primary reason for this trip to begin with. So once we got the Villa we had about 72 hours to re-plan a wedding / reception. We got signs created by ETSY and had a local printer make 2 so all the guests could sign one. Then we ordered everything “peacock” theme we could get our hands on. Plus a shiny gold cake topper and balloon letters, lots of peacock feathers and favor boxes. Ravi got us extra vases for peacock bouquets and table cloths. The grooms and friends had already planned to have the wedding and reception in the Bliss and had the menu already planned, they also had gorgeous gift bags with custom printed candies and fancy glass peacocks. After speaking with Alex and Ravi the wedding / reception was relocated from the Bliss to the Villa with 54 guests PLUS the ship photographer Jillian was just wonderful. She took loads of pics and guests could go to the photo gallery and ask to view the Baker wedding to purchase their own pics. We were docked in San Juan and the ship was finally still. The wedding was perfect. NCL provided drink servers and someone serving horderves (sp) and Ravi had help at the Bar. The wedding cake was chocolate mousse and the best I ever tasted and I am kind of a cake snob  During the cruise we had 2 more slightly smaller parties in the Villa and Alex and Ravi provided plenty of great finger foods and desserts, it was awesome. Dining: I loved all the food Moderno, LeBistro were excellent and Teppanyaki was fresh and fun. I did not eat the buffet but really enjoyed Sheehans and the MDR’s. The only disappointment was La Cucina. The pizza was OK but it should not be a “specialty” restaurant, IMO. Ports: Sorry, I do not know. We had been to all of them before, so we did not get off the ship. We took the time to enjoy the hot tub and I got some work done. Work: I had pre-purchased the fastest internet package for $249.00 but when I went to log in the package was not there and I needed it so I agreed to pay $349.00 for the same package. Alex was able to fix this so I was not charged extra. I brought my desktop with 4 travel monitors (all fit in one rolling carryon) and I set them up on the desk overlooking the pool area and the sea … it was perfect. I was able to work a couple hours a day and check my emails and it made my vacation so much better, knowing I was not facing 10 days of work upon returning home. And with the Covid-19 scare taking over the world while we were away it was doubly important for me to be able to communicate with our clients and online followers. Our business is event management and we had scheduled a huge Spring Arts and Craft Festival in MA for the following weekend. Then the Governor of Massachusetts prohibited gatherings of over 50 people so we had to act quickly to suspend ad campaigns and notify our artisans and update our website, etc, etc. If I did not have this package I do not know how I would have dealt with it. One thing to note … I could not get my new fancy wifi portable printer to work. If your device does not have a screen it will not work with the NCL wifi system. But luckily Alex allowed me to email any docs to him and he printed them for me. Awesome. Another cool thing was loads of first run movies on demand at no additional cost. I played a little Texas Hold em in the Casino and this was the first NCL ship where sometimes there were not enough players to have a game. We saw 3 shows: Blazing Boots, Get Down Tonight and some kind of amazing acrobat show with a comedy clown who only whistled and he brought the house down. The shows were the best I have ever seen at sea. The cruise director was terrific, seemingly everywhere. Sorry I do not recall his name. We danced a little with the excellent house band at a couple of the 10pm poolside parties. We got VIP treatment all the way but there are less free parties, no more chocolate buffet or towel animals or bowling … and that was fine by me. The staff on the Gem is the friendliest on any ship. Everyone knew my husband … they greeted him by name, Good Day Mr, M., Good Evening Mr. M, etc. I mean everybody from the guys with suits and gold bars on the shoulders to the waiters and maintenance men … And if there was a bar that did not serve Guinness they would get it for Mr. M. Disembarkation: We were escorted off by Ravi our butler who handed us off to some port women who thought they could bypass the line and they did, sort of. It was a little odd. Then they walked us into the Customs office who had no idea why we were there … but just asked if we did a lot of shopping (NO) and said ok we are good to go. We found a young man with a cart and he took all our luggage up to the parking area. It was eerily quiet … I walked all the way to the first parking area where mine was the only vehicle there. If you have ever cruised out of NYC you know the chaos of trying to get off the ship while 2500 people are trying to get on the ship. Well we were the final cruise on the Gem until Mid-April or when Covid 19 is over, so it was quiet and odd. It was strange on the ship, knowing that most of the people working were uncertain if they would have a job the next week or where they were going and if they were sent home chances were very high that their home country would put them in quarantine in a hospital for 2 weeks. I felt so bad for these hard working professionals who, through absolutely no fault of their own, may lose their career and way of life. And I dearly hope this pandemic does not end such a magnificent industry. It was such a remarkable cruise that I will treasure these memories and hope to return to make more. Hope all stay well and stay home … for a while anyway  Till next time. Juried (Terry) PS On the final sea day here was a medical emergency that called for a med-flight. All of the outdoor furniture was secured from our courtyard to prepare but the Helicopter instead went to the front of the ship and safely picked up a passenger. We were less than 200 miles from NYC so this person must have been very ill. I hope he or she is alright, we never heard. It was incredible to witness this operation in the open water. I will attached a photo and if you look closely you can see the helicopter hovering. Stay well. Read Less
Sail Date March 2020
Enjoyed restaurants especially La Bistro had 2 excellent experiences there. Loved the ship size felt lines were not as long as on Escape and Breakaway. Cabin space small compared to other ships especially since we had a family size one. ... Read More
Enjoyed restaurants especially La Bistro had 2 excellent experiences there. Loved the ship size felt lines were not as long as on Escape and Breakaway. Cabin space small compared to other ships especially since we had a family size one. Our family size ocean view cabin on the Escape was such an impressive experience that we were expecting the same on the Gem. Also no lower deck outdoor space to enjoy as on the bigger ships. Hopefully when the ship gets refurbished they will improve that. Service was excellent throughout the ship. Entertainment could be improved also missed the dueling pianos which showcases on the larger ships. Last year we saw the Choir of Men twice. Such a phenomenal show hoping that it would be on this ship but disappointed that it was not. All and all our experience was a very pleasant one and looking forward to the next Norweign cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
The itinerary and the place of embarkation. the ports we visited would of been nice to stay longer. I enjoyed the anytime djnner. My inside cabin steward was great. Always spoke and always used the first name to say hello. I think that ... Read More
The itinerary and the place of embarkation. the ports we visited would of been nice to stay longer. I enjoyed the anytime djnner. My inside cabin steward was great. Always spoke and always used the first name to say hello. I think that I will cruise again out of New York and will cruise with Norwegian many more. The cruise was a great time to meet new people and a time to enjoy the cruise with my partner. The staff did everything to keep ya happy and the Washy Washy lady was great. With the Corona virus going on it was good that the cruise line checked your passport to see where you been to keep everyone safe. Oh yea having breakfast everyday in the dining room was a great asset before going on the islands. The casino needs some smoke filters in there. Thank you Norwegian Cruise company for a great trip Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
I chose this cruise because my senior community was running a group trip including bus transportation to/from NY port. Embarkation was orderly, but the lines to check in were very long, but once we got to the desk it was a breeze from ... Read More
I chose this cruise because my senior community was running a group trip including bus transportation to/from NY port. Embarkation was orderly, but the lines to check in were very long, but once we got to the desk it was a breeze from there. We ate lunch at the maining dining room then our rooms were ready. Our balcony cabin "BA" was the only balcony room choice we had. We did try to upgrade to Jr. Suite but I guess since we were in a group reservation, it was not available. The room and bathroom size was the major disappointment on the ship. Altho the balcony itself was a nice size, the bedroom area was difficult for two people to maneuver around, constantly needing to step aside to allow other person to get by. Bathroom: shower size was fine for us, but the toilet area was ridiculously small. I don't know how an over weight/size person can sit on toilet without banging knees on wall. My sister and I are both under 5'2" and it was a challenge. Ship is a good size overall with plenty of places to gather for reading/games/cards, etc. We really enjoyed the Atrium area, to sit while room attendant cleaned our room, to watch participate in daily tv games. I did expect the main pool would be a bit larger, but I am not a pool person so it didn't directly affect me. Plenty of great activities in pool area. Ferdie out Cruise Director was exceptionally good. He was everywhere ! Plenty of energy ! Joey too ! We did not eat in buffet area due to Coronavirus fears. Main dining room was slightly disappointing. The windows (some) were encrusted with something preventing total view, they really need to replace those. Loved the floor to ceiling windows though and views were great. Food in main was average to very good. We preferred the Magenta dining room (complimentary) for dinner, better choices. If anyone said they were bored, they need not cruise because there were more events for all ages that we had time for ! Shows were great, we mainly went to Spinnaker Lounge, not as over-crowded as Stardust Theatre. Our room was 9064 and our room attendant, Kadek Yogantara, was fabulous and so accommodating. All the staff were excellent. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
We enjoyed getting away to the warmth of the Caribbean and overall enjoyed our cruise very much. Getting on the ship in New York was tedious since they were diligently checking all passports to see if people came from or traveled to the ... Read More
We enjoyed getting away to the warmth of the Caribbean and overall enjoyed our cruise very much. Getting on the ship in New York was tedious since they were diligently checking all passports to see if people came from or traveled to the Corona Virus infected areas. It took over two hours to be processed and by that time the only area open for lunch was the buffet which my husband and I had already agreed to avoid. What we didn't like about the buffet area was that the crew did not serve the food as we have experienced on other cruise lines. Instead, they just had tongs out in front of all offerings and each person in line touched them, one after another. Even with the "Washy Washy" stations we found it to be too unsanitary and avoided it. The crew was efficient and very courteous and we have no complaints at all there. We were on the Gem about 6 years ago and it appears to have been upgraded in numerous areas. We had a balcony room and the bathroom and shower were new as well as the closets in the cabin. The King bed was very comfortable so we give thumbs up to our accommodations. One of our chosen perks was Specialty Dining so we had the opportunity to try 5 of them. Our favorite was La Cucina (Italian cuisine) and we ended up going there twice because it was so delicious. We had excellent entrees at Cagney's Steakhouse, but the side dishes were cold. We actually pointed this out to the person in charge so they could correct the issue, but when we spoke to other passengers later in the week who had also gone there they said the same thing. No one at our table of nine ate them and since the menu was ala carte each side had a price tag of $7.00 apiece. This was a pricey waste of money. I'd avoid the side dishes at Cagney's. Le Bistro (French) was very good also. The Creme Brulee was one of the best I've ever had and I'd actually recommend the filet mignon dish here. The Dover Sole that I happened to choose was rather bland and too pricey for what was served. The only specialty restaurant that we were disappointed in was Moderno (Brazilian). The salad bar was very nice and we really enjoyed the Parmesan encrusted pork loin and the grilled pineapple, but some of the meat offerings were very tough, such as the sirloin and the lamb. The entertainment aboard was not particularly outstanding, but adequate. The comedian in the Stardust was funny, the country western review was great, and the juggler was talented. The rest offered in the main theater was bland. However, there would often be two or three shows in different venues offered at the same time rather than spacing them out so you could only go to one and miss all the others. Except for live music poolside once we hit the warm weather the music in lounge areas didn't really start until about 5:00 pm or so. If you weren't a person who wanted to listen to a lecture, play Bingo or participate in Trivia or Deal or No Deal there was a void in entertainment during the early afternoon hours between lunch and dinner. We opted to take two beach excursions while in port. The best bargain and experience was The Carlise Beach Break in Barbados. We got a short bus tour of the island and upon arriving at the beach we were offered a rum punch or a bottle of cold beer, had a lounge chair and an umbrella, all for a cost of $49 per person. The other beach we visited was Magan's Bay in St. Thomas. Another lovely beach, but didn't compare with Barbados. This tour cost $59 per person and did not come with any extras. Renting a chair was an extra fee and no umbrellas were available. There were numerous picnic tables so we were able to drop our beach bags there and simply lie on our towels on the sand. We only had 2 hours to spend at the beach here because our ship was leaving port at 1:00 pm which didn't leave us much time to enjoy this pretty island. Disembarkation from the Gem was confusing. Once we received our colored luggage tags the day before there was little communication from the ship as to how disembarkation would happen. We didn't know where we should gather to wait for our color to be called and didn't know where the gangway was going to be set up and what deck the exit point would be. If you were in your room you couldn't hear announcements and had to open your cabin door to hear anything. We just felt instructions could have been clearer to make the process go smoother for all concerned. Overall, we enjoyed this ship and would travel on it again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
The Norwegian Gem was a wonderful ship to get away from the winter blahs in Ohio. We traveled to plenty of warm sunshiny ports with great people and great weather. The ship is small which I like. I meet numerous people and saw them ... Read More
The Norwegian Gem was a wonderful ship to get away from the winter blahs in Ohio. We traveled to plenty of warm sunshiny ports with great people and great weather. The ship is small which I like. I meet numerous people and saw them several times throughout the cruise and we would talk like lifetime friends. Everyone was happy and worked their butts off to serve you and make the cruise the best for you. I can not say one thing about any worker on the Gem. We left from New York and returned to New York which gave us four sea days. Those became long days but if you don't mind reading and just chilling then you have come to the right place. As for structured activities provided by the cruise ship don't expect many. Night time entertainment was lacking the shows were mediocre at best I went to just to have something to do. Alcohol was plentiful and free flowing with the drink package. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Just returned on Friday. The ship is the perfect size. We had very smooth seas. The specialty restaurants were hit or miss. First time to Cagney it was extremely crowded but service was good. Next visit we waited over an hour for entree. ... Read More
Just returned on Friday. The ship is the perfect size. We had very smooth seas. The specialty restaurants were hit or miss. First time to Cagney it was extremely crowded but service was good. Next visit we waited over an hour for entree. We cancelled our third visit. LeBistro was always good. Husband had Escargot . Said it was delicious. I favor their lamb chops. Moderno was good and salad bar the best in the ship. Teppanyaki was fun. But way too much food. Enjoyed O Sheens. Our suite was lovely. I highly recommend the Haven, our concierge Alex was the best we ever had. The ship seemed to be constantly cleaning for germs. There was no obvious signs of concern for the Noro virus. The entertainment was fantastic. There is live music all over the ship. The comedian was extremely funny. Didn’t see any shows. The Gem is the perfect size ship. This was our 4th time on board. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Wow. First time on the Gem. I was impressed by how attentive the entire staff was. From the executive officers (who were ALWAYS approachable) all the way down the line, everyone made us feel welcomed. The Cruise Director (and staff) ... Read More
Wow. First time on the Gem. I was impressed by how attentive the entire staff was. From the executive officers (who were ALWAYS approachable) all the way down the line, everyone made us feel welcomed. The Cruise Director (and staff) were fun, funny and totally involved with the passengers. The stage shows were excellent. We went to Blazing Boots and Get Down Tonight, both were high energy and very enjoyable. The comedian (Frank Thomaston??) had us laughing so hard we could barely breath! Specialty Dining was Top notch. From Cagney's and Moderno to LaCasina the food and service was exceptional. The buffet was very good for a buffet, finding high end items available thru out the cruise(prosciutto ham, civiche style seafood salad, smoked salmon, etc...). Meals in Grand Pacific were elegant and a complete reminder of what cruising is all about. The selection of ports and excursions was good. Personally didn't care for a couple of the excursions we selected, but we learn for next time. Over all, this was an amazing 2 week escape from reality that was long overdue. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Our trip was fabulous. We love Norwegian. We prefer the mid size ships of about 2000 people. The elevators are never crowded and the garden cafe is smaller. We got lost so many times in the garden cafe on the Escape and the Breakaway. ... Read More
Our trip was fabulous. We love Norwegian. We prefer the mid size ships of about 2000 people. The elevators are never crowded and the garden cafe is smaller. We got lost so many times in the garden cafe on the Escape and the Breakaway. We also love to sit in the Spinnaker lounge and the bigger ships don’t have this large beautiful view at the top of the ship. It was sorely missed on the Breakaway/Escape. From passing the statue of liberty and. Verranzano bridge to coming into ports. It is a great room for music and dancing. No other room on the ship does what the spinnaker does. The food was excellent. We actually had a very bad night at Cagneys, with a waiter that disappeared for a long time and we think, neglected to put our food orders in. We waited 2 hours for our steaks. We were livid and complained. They satisfied us with more complimentary dinners etc and we subsequently had a very special dinner at Cagney's later in the week with stellar service. All food was wonderful. I could complain about a few dessert brownies and a profiterole that was very dry and hard. All you have to do is order something else! Also this ship had sugar free chocolate ice cream! Helps my diet so much! Service was terrific to stellar. Everyone tried to accommodate us in every way possible. The freestyle dining is a bit of a myth. We like to eat 6:30, 7:00, or the latest 7:30. It was a constant struggle to find a place to eat during our window. We usually make reservations 90 days before the trip so we get what we want. But this time, we were with another couple and our reservations were not all intact when we boarded ship. It took away from our relaxation to have to.be worrying about dinner reservations and have to beg hostesses to allow us to eat earlier. We ate at special restaurants 6 nights out of 10. But the reservations became a big hassle. Down side: Kids allowed unsupervised in hot tubs. They monopolize them. Should be a time limit. Deal or no deal is a rip off. $25. A card for nothing. They make huge amounts of money on bingo. Prizes are not commensurate. Kids are found at adult comedy shows. I sat next to a 13 yr old. No parents with him. Unacceptable. I suggest they add some newer activities. For instance, bands, guitar players are so boring they put you to sleep. We need more rock, dance music . More games like name that tune, jeopardy, wheel of fortune, etc instead of trivia. Our favorite shows on other NCL ships have been Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and the Buddy Holly Tribute. Absolutely fabulous! Comedy shows we love too. Especially adult comics. Keep the kids out!! They should get a spray tan salon. I would get a spray tan for a reasonable fee. This is a real money making idea! Also, a chiropractor on board giving adjustments would be helpful. What about glamour shots where someone makes you over before pictures? Last criticism: I am a video poker player in the casino with only 14 poker machines! Terrible. Our casinos in the USA devote at least 30-40% of slot machines to video poker. On this trip there were many VP players all fighting for 14 seats. I lose interest in playing with only 14 machines. We will be back on the Gem in March, our last effort to escape winter in NJ. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Love to get away from the cold in Cle! Embarkation experience? Ship (Gem) got in to NY late, so embarkation was delayed perhaps a text would have help .I wouldn’t have gone to the pear to stand in line for 2+hr! Ship ... Read More
Love to get away from the cold in Cle! Embarkation experience? Ship (Gem) got in to NY late, so embarkation was delayed perhaps a text would have help .I wouldn’t have gone to the pear to stand in line for 2+hr! Ship experiences Food good, drinks even better Onboard activities Enjoyed: the comedian Frink Townson (sp), Bourbon tasting, and the thermal suite. Dislikes: Unruly teenagers talking over the pool/hot tubs .running up and down the halls banging on doors! Service & Staff : Room Steward Budi was great! Room 11626 Ship Design & Cleanliness: Cleanliness was great but ship’s layout and design was hard for me to navigate, had to go down floors to get to the elevators to go to the thermal suite. In the front of the ship! Got mix up many times, contemplating blaming my drink package LOL Rate your cabin: 11626 closes to elevator & Stairs. No noise from above. Didn’t like the bathtub, hard to get in & out, Preferred a shower .Balcony extremely nice. Share a tip about your ship: Don’t go out of NY in Feb (NE STATES WINTER BREAK FOR KIDS!) Unruly teenagers !!!!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Everything was a mess, dis-organized and un-professional from beginning to end! Arrived at the NYC port at 11am and had priority embarkation through the Haven, took 30 minutes to go through security and we were told no one was off yet ... Read More
Everything was a mess, dis-organized and un-professional from beginning to end! Arrived at the NYC port at 11am and had priority embarkation through the Haven, took 30 minutes to go through security and we were told no one was off yet because the ship came in at 10am that morning would be nice if NCL had text or email updates on the ship status otherwise we would have came later to avoid the crowds, anyway had to wait in the Haven area for over 3 hours 1:30 we finally boarded the ship and were told we couldn't go to our rooms we had to go to lunch first? So we go to lunch and it was basically quick serve items and by the time we were just being served it was time to go to the mandatory safety demonstration? So we hustle over there (party of 3 small child in tow) to hurry up and wait for over 20 minutes for people to get there so they can start the demonstration couldn't even get any type of drink was very parched at the time, after the demonstration the hallways and all common areas became severely over crowded and had to wait a very long time for the elevators and definitely wasn't walking up 5 flights of stairs with a stroller. Luggage came in about 7:30 that night with a few missing pieces that showed up around 9pm not a big deal at the very least they didn't loose it, we called it a night at 10:30 as we were exhausted after the day of traveling and non stop general pandemonium of the first day! Second day we are at sea and it's cold not much to do when you see large groups of kids in the library you know boredom has hit a new level. We basically went around the interior of the ship, did the stores o sheehans, arcade, and general exploration of the ship easy to navigate crowds seemed to gather in typical hot spots, atrium, bars, shops. 3rd day finally warms up also key note if you don't want to be woken up super early put up the "do not disturb sign" otherwise you will be woken up around 9am give or take. Service in all restaurants excluding the Haven was lacking, food quality was horrendous everywhere they use the cheapest food possible you can taste it in the food and they dress it up with garnish to make it look nice.For specialty restaurants the best one is Moderno or Cagneys steak house the others are junk. They have a wide wine selection but they are all inexpensive wines $15 on land price or less but $75+ on the ship so be careful what you order buy the bottle not the ambiance. Getting into activities they do give you a"free style daily" basically the run down of activities for the day on the boat 70% of them have an additional fee involved and they have parties at night like a glow party which is designed to sell alcoholic drinks and last an hour with drunk old people dancing which is ok but what if your not a drunk person not too much fun. They have activities for kids but requires you to leave your child with strangers on the ship sounds like a bad idea in general! Casino on the ship is rigged no one wins try it out and see you will believe not a gambler but made plenty of friends and when 20 seasoned casino gamblers say it's rigged watch out! Room was toe up from the floor up had lots of dents and dings, worn light switches, bodily fluid stained all over the chair and couches brought the black light all I can is WOW get a bissel machine on that asap before someone gets pregnant. Ports we visited were the best part getting out to the beaches, buying local stuff, and enjoying the great weather down side to all of this you don't get enough time in these ports less than 7 hours from getting off to getting back on which restricts what you can or can't do. Captain said we couldn't go to the last port which was ST.Thomas because we would run into bad weather and would put us back in NYC late so we ditched St.Thomas and hit 20ft waves all day Saturday from 4AM TO 10pm that night so bad we couldn't be in our room due to not being able to walk without the risk of falling over or becoming sea sick ( barf bags were put in public areas bright and early). Lets talk about the shows junk, in room entertainment ? 15 channels 5 are the ship promoting themselves on board shopping etc. they had a selection of 20 movies which were free to watch in the HAVEN but if you have a regular room they were like $10 each. Room service takes a while order 1 hour ahead of being hungry for best results. They have a nice gym but sort of dangerous to run on a treadmill on a rocking boat. ***Key take aways are if your a seasoned traveler and cruiser use a different cruise line or fly directly into a nice all inclusive resort that is well reviewed and has a long history of good vacation stories behind it. This was utterly disappointing in every way I have always cruised NCL 15 cruises and it has been getting worse and worse every year this is the last time will definitely try something else. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Not a cruise line devotee - i book for itinerary - so the 10 day caribbean out of NYC fit the bill to get some warmth and a break from old man winter with no airplane travel involved - last did NCL in 1989 on the Norway (anyone remember ... Read More
Not a cruise line devotee - i book for itinerary - so the 10 day caribbean out of NYC fit the bill to get some warmth and a break from old man winter with no airplane travel involved - last did NCL in 1989 on the Norway (anyone remember her?) - and had gotten mixed reviews since then - but figured what the heck, let's give her a try THE SHIP: the gem is one of NCL's smallest ships - but with 2700 people onboard is probably the biggest ship i have ever been on - but most of the time nothing felt crowded - the ship is in very nice shape and she is a pretty ship - kept clean - only saw minor wear and tear ( a ripped cushion here, a broken seat there, but nothing outrageous) - with the abuse these ships take on a weekly basis it's understandable - like i said clean - with the disease scares lately there is a large push to keep the passengers from being unsanitary - but some of them are just plain slobs (trying to walk barefoot into the restaurant, leaving empty dishes on the stairs, grabbing slices of cheese with their bare hands (thats what the utensils are for) ) - so all in all we liked the ship EMBARKATION: This was one of the biggest problems and a warning for future NYC sailings - the previous cruise got in a few hours late - we heard 2/3/or/4 hours late - so naturally we had to wait extra long to board - so 2700 people jammed on a warehouse/dock - yes NYC's piers leave much to be desired - do you think the cruise line could've broke down and splurged on some sandwiches, pretzels, chips or granola bars - NOPE - this could not have been the first time this has ever happened - no preparations - there was one vendor in the area selling food and obviously sold out - so no lunch for us that day because when we finally got on board three hours late - they shut down the restaurants for an hour to prepare for and do the muster drill - not a good way to start - TWO CAVEATS to learn from this - if sailing out of NYC in winter be prepared for bad weather to screw up plans - we boarded late as the ship came in late and then later on we lost a port due to more bad weather - also - always pack a snack just in case embarkation is delayed - particularly in NYC as the piers have nothing available THE FOOD: probably our biggest complaint - it wasn't bad - but it was very unimaginative - the menu is meat-centric and geared to the "all you can eat, eat all you can" crowd - being vegetarian (and my wife a fish eater) - it was very very unimaginative - first off - they threw meat into everything - at the lunch buffets the prepared salads and pastas - all had meat thrown in - a nice pasta salad doesn't need ham - a serving of salmon doesn't need bacon sprinkled on it - if you are looking to eat healthy - it is a bit of work - and there is more to vegetarian dining than pasta, pasta and more pasta --- then of course - there was the "food descriptions" - a cherry pie would come out blueberry, bagel chips would be pita bread, arugula would be mixed greens, if you asked the servers to explain something they were baffled - i ordered a cafoutis (sp?) dessert one night but asked first what is was like - no clue - (flan-ish for those interested) - and lastly (let me get the complaints out of the way) -- no menu changes - on a ten day cruise - sit down lunches and sit down breakfasts always the same menu - so for example the only veggie option at lunch was a frittata (or ask them to take the shrimp off the pasta) - for ten days - that gets fairly boring We had the 4 free speciality dining package - so we did that - but honestly except for tepanaki i could not see paying the ala carte prices for that food - it was just as unimaginative as the main dining rooms - and don't worry about each night if grand pacific or magenta has the better choices - they are the same - just a change of scenery... THE ENTERTAINMENT - this really shone - very energetic entertainers - and very talented - the 3 shows were all good - although blazing boots was obviously geared to the "meat crowd" - the guest performers again were mostly top notch - a singer, magician, pianist, comedian and aerialists ... a good mix for the ten days - the theater was probably the best i've ever been on on a ship - it is a theater - not a re-purposed lounge - so not a bad seat/obstructed view in the house THE STAFF - mostly every one was friendly, helpful and good at their jobs (with possibly the wait staff being unknowledgable being the worst crime - a few unhappy faces at times from the wait staff but everyone is entitled to a bad day THE CABIN - if you're expecting a huge suite - you're gonna have to pay for one - we had a regular balcony cabin and it was fine - yeah it's small (yeah it's a cruise ship) - but lots of storage/shelves and once it got warm the balcony was our hangout anyway ACTIVITIES - the schedule was crammed with games/activities (I think alot geared towards kids and families as well as adult activities) - we really didn't do much of it - but it was there if you wanted it - one thing we did do which we highly recommend (it was pricey) - was the behind the scenes tour - and if you have an inquisitive kid with you take them along - it was well worth it SHORE EXCURSIONS - they are always hit & miss - but ours were mostly hits - i think i can review them elsewhere on the website - but here's a quickie - SAN JUAN - bioluminescent (sp?) kayaking - very cool to see - not as extravagant as they make it out to be but if you love natural things, it is cool (as well as the experience of kayaking in the dark) - ST KITTS - hiking to souffa stone mtn - maybe a mile round trip - straight up and straight down with some rock scrambling - watch for the ants at the top they will climb up you and bite - great home made food at the end and a chance to meet with some locals and see an abandoned sugar mill - SAN LUCIA - souffra/diamond falls - we loved the botanical garden - but it is a long drive to get there - and too many little 5 minute stops here and there that drag the drive out - we didn't bother with the hot springs as we wanted to walk the garden more - you can spend a good hour there - but it was over an hour drive each way - this excursion needs some tweaking ANTIGUA - kayak/snorkeling - great tour guide (Christal) - snorkel wasn't the best but saw some fish and coral and just enjoyed being in the water - the kayaking was fun - and the kayak center afterwards was very relaxing - one of those excursions you wish was longer because it was so good THE GYM - last but not least - not everyone's place to go on board - but it was fine - had a good mix of machines - and the scenery out the windows was inspiring Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
This was our 3rd cruise with NCL, 15th in total. We choose this cruise for the itinerary. I must say, being European and living in a mediëval city our expectations are high. You can not surprise us with a 19th century church. So ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with NCL, 15th in total. We choose this cruise for the itinerary. I must say, being European and living in a mediëval city our expectations are high. You can not surprise us with a 19th century church. So history/culture and nature are the things we want to see. (CC why no history/culture in "Which of the following apply to your review?") We booked a balcony on deck 10 fwd., inclusive ultimate beverage package and 50 $ shore excursion credit. Boarding was ok and fast. But... no welcome drink. We immediately thought "economizing"...... Ship. The ship was very nice, even for its age! We prefer the smaller ships with no hi tech or roller coasters.... The "art collection" on board: no comments…. Cabin. The cabin was ok, right seize, clean and in a very good condition. Large safe for pc and cameras, even a coffee machine!. Small tv though. The bathroom has a door that closes off the toilet. Waste of space! I am 1,90m (6ft3) and needed that door open for "n°2". Dining. The MDR looked great: art deco style, must say the best of all the cruises we did before. Service was always excellent. (sometimes a bit to fast for us, but that's personal) The MDR menu was between mediocre and good. No more escargots, prime rib or lobster for the farewell. ("economizing"). Compared to other cruise lines we did, choice for breakfast was not as good. No mushrooms. But the icing on the cake we found out the 2nd week: there was smoked salmon for breakfast, but....it is hidden away. You had to ask for it were the bread stand was. Pleas NCL, better give nothing than hiding it away. You are not dealing with children but with passengers! We had an issue that there was only regular butter, no diet butter (a first in 15 cruises too). This was communicated to the F&B manager. What he (and the maitre D at the MDR) did for us was unbelievable. They know what customer service is. People at the office in Miami have to thank and learn a lesson from people like them. The last night my steak (ordered medium rare) was well done. For the first time on all the cruises we did I send it back. It came back.....well done. "Nobody does dining like Norwegian": luckily not..others are better. "Freestyle cruising": sometimes it was "no style cruising". We like it that there are no formal nights...but please in the main restaurant for dinner don't go in shorts.... Service. Was excellent. Everybody did their utter best. Just the "cruise director"....was a joke. Never saw her around. A cruise director should walk around the ship and be seen!!!! Entertainment and activities. We did not attend a show, nor activities. We just went to the presentation of het Panama Canal. Theatre was full, people sitting on the stairs. Normal: this is THE highlight and for many people the reason for the cruise. The explanation was given by "Darlene"....I should rather say the reading of the slides that were presented was done by Darlene. But the best was yet to come: at the end of the presentation she asked…..if there was a nautical lawyer or engineer in the audience to answer questions……????!!!!!???? This presentation had to be given by the captain or at least the staff captain since this is a nautical matter. Speaking of the captain....On this 3 week cruise, we saw him (passing by the martini bar) the one but last day of the cruise. Staff captain, 1st and other officers???Never seen! This was also a first in 15 cruises. Better work on a cargo ship! The only exception was the F&B Manager who was every night in the restaurants! Ports and shore excursions. Santa Barbara was a beautiful stop. Tendering went smooth. Rodeo Drive & Los Angeles tour was a disappointment. Not much to see there. Our guide did not even show us the "foot prints of famous movie stars" as mentioned in the tour description! (we found out they are in front of the Chinese Theatre, but to late...) Puerto Vallarta City sights: Nothing to see but a nice church. The description of the excursions is always so exaggerated. I'd wish they write a more honest description. Than you know what to expect. We always try to do an excursion without shopping. We can do that at home...Here we had a 40 minute stop in a silvershop. This was NOT mentioned in the tour description. Puerto Quetzal:Easy Antiqua: ok, but...40 minute Jade shop and 15 min photostop….. Corinto: Colonial City of Leon was ok Puntaresas: Pacific Train, Boat & Costa Rica traditions: started with the obvious shop (Costa Rica traditions were the guys playing music….) The "delicious buffet of seasonal fruits": a plate with a piece of banana, mango & pineapple. The "ride in a historical train through rural countryside and tropical fields"....what a joke! A ride in the slums would be a much better description. Luckily the boat trip was very good. Bonaire: Best of Bonaire: why did the ship stopped there anyway? Nothing to see. There were more flamingos printed on my polo....Tour was waste of money, and ship departed at midday, so no more time to walk around... Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and the time of year. This was our first cruise in many years and our first on the NCL line. We originally booked a mini suite and put a bid on an upgrade about 30 days before the cruise. We won ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and the time of year. This was our first cruise in many years and our first on the NCL line. We originally booked a mini suite and put a bid on an upgrade about 30 days before the cruise. We won the bid and were excited to have been placed in the Deluxe Owner's Suite #15500. The service there was wonderful and we had a delightful time. The Butler, Concierge, Room Steward and the Deck Steward were exceptionally friendly and helpful. More information about the room is the cabin section. Here are a few other observations: The Haven menus for breakfast and lunch do not change so toward the end of the cruise we tended to float around the ship to pick up food at the buffet or the grill on the pool deck area. But the service was so attentive that you could order anything at all and it would be there in a flash. The food was just okay in the complementary dining areas. It was plentiful but sometimes the descriptions didn't match what was prepared. I love hearty soups but most were a thin blended cream type soup. For example what was described as corned beef and cabbage as an entre was really a bland broth with some tiny diced potatoes, carrots and a bit of corned beef. I left a lot on my plate after getting samples of various items. They just didn't taste that good. For us the best specialty restaurants were Teppanyaki and Moderno. The others were fine but we especially liked the freshness of the food in these two restaurants. The $19 lobster in Cagneys is not worth the extra money. Tiny and only a couple of bites. The unlimited internet was worth it after we saw so many people on their phones and laptops off the ship in the port wifi areas. What a waste of port time to be trying to catch up on emails there. I don't think that the free 250 minutes would have lasted very long. The free beverage package worked for us. There were enough choices under $15 and if they ran out of a certain type of wine then they gave you the more expensive one without charge. The daily cocktail was usually $9. Unless you are really hankering for very expensive alcohol then this basic plan is fine. We also brought on board 15 bottles of our favorite wine. They didn't charge us the corkage fee. When we embarked in LA there was no one there to show the wine to. We looked. We mentioned at the time we got our cards but she just waved us through. And it was clear that we had it because it was in a cooler and was heavy. Went through security twice with no one asking about it. Maybe because we were in a suite? Don't know if that made a difference. The entertainment was very good but on this long of a cruise there were some repeats. Understandable. The musicians in the bars and on the pool deck were excellent. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Overall the Gem is a nice ship but the poor quality of food and lack of interesting activities made for a rather ho hum three week cruise. My wife and I chose this cruise because the itinerary because the ship was scheduled to stop at ... Read More
Overall the Gem is a nice ship but the poor quality of food and lack of interesting activities made for a rather ho hum three week cruise. My wife and I chose this cruise because the itinerary because the ship was scheduled to stop at many ports, most of which we had not yet visited. After boarding in L.A. and a quiet day at sea, our first stop was in Cabo and that was an exciting port - beautiful scenery and plenty of excursions from which to choose. We selected the Electric Bike tour and had a wonderful time. The power assisted bikes made the ride along a breathtaking stretch of beach very easy. The next port we visited was Puerto Vallarta - again, this port did not disappoint. Lots to see and do. We took a city bus to the Malecon - a beach side shopping district about 25 minutes via the city bus from the port. It was quite nice, filled with many souvenier shops and lots of tourists so safety was never a concern. We unfortunately took the wrong bus back to the port and got a scenic ride through the town - a concern since it took twice as long and concerned us that we would miss the embarkation time. Our next stop was Zihuatanejo, very scenic port but not much to do unless you've made excursion arrangements. Walking around the town was a bit depressing - very impoverished and the beaches though beautiful did not seem too inviting. Most were at least a 20-30 minute walk from the pier. The armed military around the tourist areas made you stop and wonder if the area was safe but nothing too much to worry about. why. Well, I guess if I write detailed accounts of every port you'll lose interest so let's just say the next few, Puerto Quetzal, Corinto, and Puntarenas offer very little to do unless you schedule an excursion - which we did not. The areas immediately surrounding the port offered simple diversions but nothing we found interesting. Guess that could be just our taste and limited budget. As others we talked with shared stories of fun excursions. After another day at sea we made it to the Panama Canal. This was our first time through the locks and the experience was quite exciting. We had to get up rather early to secure a good spot up at the bow but it made for a terrific view. The transit through the various locks was indeed one of the highlights of our trip. The next two stops were in Colombia, Cartegena - a bustling metropolis with lots of beautiful modern and ancient architecture to enjoy. The other stop was in Santa Marta - not quite as nice as Cartegena but still plenty to do if just walking off the ship to take in the town. The next three port were referred to as the A,B.C's. We visited Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire - one day after the other. These are each beautiful ports with lots of water activities. We did snorkel tours in Aruba and Bonaire - we had a blast on each. On Curacao we simply walked through the many shops and strolled through the town - it is very picturesque and offers a smorgasbord of color. The next three days were spent at sea. Norwegian Gem is a smaller ship and just did not offer enough activities to keep us busy or entertained throughout the day. The food was not that great - especially the buffet service. Most personnel didn't seem too friendly or willing to be of much assistance in answering questions. The ship lacked informative lectures as we have experienced on other cruises and the entertainment was a rather crab shoot of hit or miss. One standout though was our cabin steward. He did a terrific job of keeping our room tidy and always offered a smile and friendly greeting. Speaking of our cabin - it was an inside cabin that could accommodate up to four. It was an okay size for two - perhaps even three but four would be rather cramped. Our final port was New York. Never before have we arrived by ship; what a thrilling experience even though the wind and cold made it tough. The view was quite spectacular. All in all it was an okay voyage. We landed a great price so it helped to negate some of the negative factors, things like the constant sales for pitch for CruiseNext and the added expense for basic on-board activities. It could have been much more enjoyable had there been more on-board activities, better entertainment, and appealing food choices. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
The Panama Canal transit was something I rely wanted to do and as a bonus this cruise sailed from San Francisco. We booked with a 2 night stay there before we sailed and that was well worth it. Embarkation was quick and the luggage was ... Read More
The Panama Canal transit was something I rely wanted to do and as a bonus this cruise sailed from San Francisco. We booked with a 2 night stay there before we sailed and that was well worth it. Embarkation was quick and the luggage was soon delivered to the cabin. It is probably the smallest cabin we have had compared to other cruise companies though we look on it as just somewhere to sleep. There was a surprising amount of storage for a small space. The ports of call were frequent and an interesting mix of sights. We mostly booked excursions through the ship and they were reasonably priced. The organisation of getting cruisers out on excursions was shambolic. Daytime entertainment seemed to be aimed at selling you something on the whole. Craft sessions (origami) were timed just as you got back from an excursion with no time to eat and were not available on sea days. The evening shows were excellent. Praise must go to the ships dance company and it was a pity they only did a once a week show. We dine mainly in the buffet and it was good that we could also go to the "Irish" pub and the Asian restaurant to ring the changes. The main dining rooms only offered the same menu and this didn't seem to change throughout the 3 weeks. The buffet had a good and varied choice with themed evenings on occasion. Disembarkation was not well organised. Timed colour bands for luggage had been issued but the allocated times were ignored. We ended the cruise in New York and having had a slow and disorganised exit from the ship we then had a long wait to go through immigration. This involved a queue outside in 0 degree temperatures for 30 minutes or more then still more queuing in a cold and drafty shed that took about 1 hour. We would be reluctant to go with NCL again unless they were sailing somewhere different to other cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We had done the Panama Canal cruise a couple of years ago from New Orleans to Seattle, this time we opted for San Francisco to New York. The canal itself is still fascinating, but most of the other ports leave much to be desired. We had ... Read More
We had done the Panama Canal cruise a couple of years ago from New Orleans to Seattle, this time we opted for San Francisco to New York. The canal itself is still fascinating, but most of the other ports leave much to be desired. We had done several of the excursions before and the don't seem to ever change. We were actually more interested in three seeks of warmth and that was the best part. We had been on the Norwegian Pearl the last time so the ship was no surprise. What id surprise us was the deterioration of the service level on the ship. We're beginning to think that Norwegian has become the Motel Six of the cruise lines. The CONSTANT nickel and diming of the passengers is horrendous. Buy bottled water for $5 a liter, that works out to $40 a gallon for water bottled about half an hour from our house. Drinks have become outrageously overpriced. The "specialty" restaurants are really more like an Applebee's or Olive Garden, except not as good. We ate twice at La Cuchina , the first time was ok, even thought the service was casual at best. The second time I had the special "veal parmesan' which was a frozen sort of veal patty with some sort of cheese over it, a huge serving of tasteless ground meat, overcooked and dry. Service was better the second time. Our experience at Cagney's was horrible. We both have mobility issues and were walked, in the nearly empty restaurant to the absolute farthest table from the door behind the kitchen/serving area. Our order was wrong TWICE, my wife's filet was tiny and overdone. My prime rib was also overcooked and COLD. The baked potato was also cold and the sides were not what we ordered and had to be sent back. The service was surly an sarcastic. We did enjoy Le Bistro, if there were to be a next time, which is extremely unlikely, that would be the only place we would frequent. Moderno was fine, good service and we liked the salad bar, but herself did not enjoy the meat offerings. I did. The Garden Café is now officially a Jr. HIgh cafeteria, overcooked food of dubious quality. The best thing there is the bread. I did enjoy breakfast on the Great Outdoors, nowhere else. The cabin was standard balcony fare, nothing special. Where do they get those sofas that are impossibly uncomfortable. The only comfortable place to sit was on the balcony. Our steward was great. Entertainment was really third rate; a juggler, a magician, some entertainer whose claim to fame was that he was once on the David Letterman show! Anyone remember when David Letterman was on TV, how about Gary Moore or Arthur Godfrey? I did happen by the "Learn Origami" event; there were SIX participants. Upon checking the mini bar in the stateroom, I compared what was supposed to be there on the list and found more than half missing. Knowing there are often problems people try to correct on the last morning, I decided to try beforehand. The guest services person calmly told me that all things in plastic bottles had been removed, no notice, no updated inventory list, no correction. Just poor management. It is interesting to note that the "drinks package" encourages people to drink more than they should. wine with breakfast, really? We are not big drinkers and the package was one of the options, seems like a good deal until you read the fine print. The "service charge" would be much, much more than we would ever pay for buying drinks individually. The ports on the west coast are nearly all container ports. Long walks to anything other than gantries and trucks. Our best stop was in Guatamala where the locals have made a small park with vendors and entertainment. In Santa Marta, Colombia, the gantry, taller than the ship was within four feet of the ship. I did learn a lot about how container ports work. Our worst experience was with disembarkation. We needed assistance and were told where to go and wait for help. When we arrived at our appointed time, there were about forty others needing assistance. There were TWO people to help, we were place of the list and when the announcement came that ALL GUESTS should be shore, there were still about twenty waiting, the help had disappeared. We managed to hobble our way off the ship and for the first time, we were the very LAST people ashore, the next cruise passengers were boarding. This was our tenth and last cruise on Norwegian. The line is focused on getting every possible dime from it's "guests" . The constant selling of useless dodads, and overpriced, low quality jewelry is mind boggling. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that it left San Francisco and ended in New York. Being from the East Coast, we only had to fly one way. This cruise had 13 port stops which was wonderful. The ship was almost ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that it left San Francisco and ended in New York. Being from the East Coast, we only had to fly one way. This cruise had 13 port stops which was wonderful. The ship was almost all senior citizens which we expected due to the length of the cruise. We met some wonderful people from all over the world and it was so interesting talking with them. We enjoyed all the port stops although once we got to Columbia, it was hot, really hot, so it took away from our enjoyment of the city tour we took. The gentleman who boarded the ship for the narrative of the Panama Canal was terrific. He was very well informed and explained everything as it was happening. I have read many comments regarding the food on Norwegian. We have sailed with this cruise line ten times and know that the variety in the main dining room is very limited, The left side of the menu is always the same, only the right side changing daily. On previous cruises, we found the food was served warm if not cold at times. Not on this cruise. Our food always arrived hot. We went to O'Sheehan's for breakfast almost every day as it was not crowded, you could get a window seat and the service was terrific. The menu is limited, but had what we wanted. We enjoy eating in the Garden Buffet, but do not like the fact that one of you has to sit down to secure a table while the other one gets food. By the time you get back to the table, the other person is finished eating. We prefer the restaurants but when in a hurry will resort to the buffet. The main dining room serves a very nice lunch and you are able to get sandwiches as well as a full meal. Our cabin was always immaculate. Carla was our cabin steward and she was so friendly and helpful. The cabin itself was very nice. We had a balcony (the only way to go through the Canal) and there was ample room for our things. Being a 21 day cruise, we had a lot of stuff and everything fit somewhere. We have never used the laundry service prior to this cruise and this time we used it twice. The wash was returned the next day and folded so nicely. We were impressed. We are platinum members so we ate at Cagney's several times, our favorite restaurant. I have read many reviews about NCL compared to other cruise lines. And yes, some of the others have better meal selections and shows, but your have to weigh what you are willing to pay for. We cruise for the joy of seeing new places and experiencing new adventures and as long as we have a good meal to keep us going we are fine. We also cruise, not so much as to a particular cruise line, but to the destination to which it is going and since NCL sails out of New York, it cannot get any easier for us living n eastern Pennsylvania. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My husband and I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Although we have cruised about 20 times (about 6 with NCL - we are latitudes silver because two of our cruises were from the 80's before they had a loyalty program), there ... Read More
My husband and I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Although we have cruised about 20 times (about 6 with NCL - we are latitudes silver because two of our cruises were from the 80's before they had a loyalty program), there were numerous ports on this cruise we had not seen before. And it's a great time of year to get out of the winter for three weeks. We got a good deal on the original fare. It included 5 nights in specialty restaurants, the premium beverage package, $50.00 per port shore excursion credit, airfare and 250 minutes of internet. We up graded to premium economy air - the next category balcony stateroom and unlimited internet. We also added a thermal spa package which we found saves money by eliminating the need for a massage (you can work out all the kinks in the spa). I learned a silver latitudes rating gets you a free bottle of water and a discount on photos and some gift shop items. (But not the video of the Panama Canal) We did not spend any extra time in San Francisco, transferring directly to the ship from baggage claim at the airport. As recommended, we didn't fasten our ship luggage tags onto our luggage because we didn't want them torn off during air travel. But none of the people in the transfer process had a stapler to attach them later. Eventually we got one from another passenger. The bus driver was telling us we would have to transport our own bags because we didn't have the tags on them (a little stressful but oh well - we got it fixed and they took our bags). We arrived early and were on the ship before the huge crowds arrived. Our cabin seemed really tight/small. I don't think it was so much the square footage, as the way it was arranged. It really was as though one of us could be up in the cabin at a time. There was an ottoman type puff to sit at and a very uncomfortable loveseat sized sofa. No good place to sit at all. The TV had the typical BBC, FOX, MSNBC news networks. To stream a movie was a charge (this was free on other cruises we have been on). There was a TV series channel (with some old sit-coms) and a movie channel with commercials and no control over when the movie or show started. There was ample storage for our clothes. We are not big on attending a lot of ship entertainment. What we did go to was fine. Some of the musicians who played the lounges were good and some were not. We though Harry O was funny and the other comedian was ok. There was a magician who we enjoyed and that was about all we went to. We were very disappointed with the dining. We tend to use the main dining room and found the food there very disappointing - most meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were mediocre at best. There were just a few nights in the main dining room where we found our meal really good. (We don't enjoy buffet style and scrounging for tables with your hands full of food. We would rather take our time and have our dinner served.) We also had trouble getting wine on our beverage package. I would order a Pino Noir and one night I would get it and then next night they would be out of it - and offer me a Chianti. It happened with Pino Grigio as well - there one night and the next they want to bring me a Chardonnay instead because they were out of Pino Grigio. Or they would offer to up sell me a wine that cost a few dollars more than my drink package would pay. I found that whole issue very maddening, We opted most night to share a table with others. It's a nice way to get to know others and we did meet some great people. The specialty restaurants were very good. We ate at Cagney's steakhouse twice, the Italian place once, the Brazilian Steak House once and the Hibachi Grill another time. In each of these places we had good food and service. It's the way I remembered the food being done in the main dining room in other cruises we have taken. We also ate at O"Sheehans a couple times and the Orchid Garden Chinese restaurant a couple of times. They both had limited menus but pretty good food. And we did eat at the buffet a few times too. Most of the food there was fine, it's always just so crazy to try and find a seat. The ship itself was a little worn. The chairs in the theatre were not good - they slanted forward and were very uncomfortable. The booths in the buffet and the lounges also had very broken down cushions and you felt like you needed a booster seat. I loved the mojitos at the Sugar Cane We really enjoyed our stop in Santa Barbara. We did zip lining in Costa Rica and that was an excellent time. Our tour in Cartagena, Columbia was fantastic as was the our tour through Antigua and the Santa Domingo Museum in Guatemala . The day through the Panama Canal was so interesting and fantastic. We enjoyed some of that day from the balcony in our stateroom, some from the Spinnaker Lounge and some from the Thermal Spa. We also enjoyed the ABC islands but didn't take any of the ships tours there - we booked our own tours and taxis and it was fine. In Santa Marta, Columbia, we booked an expensive beach tour through the shore excursions which was a big disappointment. When we returned, we complained at the shore excursion desk and they refunded 20% which helped quite a lot. (The tour wasn't worthless, it just wasn't worth what was charged). We were glad they took care of that for us. The thermal spa was nice - loved the way the lockers worked and I loved the view from the sauna - the tile lounger beds were nice as was the hot tub spa itself. The only thing I wanted was some lotion (they didn't provide any lotion anywhere in the ship). With few exceptions, the service on this ship was very good. Some times the service in the dining room was quite slow. I don't know why - was the food slow from the kitchen or the wait staff assigned too many tables. Other times it was excellent. Our cabin steward was really good. We used the gym a couple of times and the facilities there were nice too. I had trouble uploading photos to Facebook, which I really wanted to do on the internet package and rarely were we able to stream anything. BUT I was able to make internet phone calls with my cell phone connected to the internet in airplane mode. So I was able to stay in close contact with my family which was really important to me. Disembarking was TERRIBLE. We were given purple luggage tags and told we would disembark at 0930 even though the ship wasn't to get in until 10 am (how does that work??others had assignment times even earlier). We waited for hours in the public area of the ship for our color to be called - customs lines were very long...then it was a mad dash to the buses that were to transfer us to the airport. The first bus was full so we were directed to a second one, which filled up quickly leaving a lot of people standing there being told they weren't sure when the next bus would arrive. The whole thing was chaos and very stressful. This is on NCL's transfers purchased upfront. Much of this could have been prevented with better organization and communication with the passengers. We had a good time and I'm glad we went. We saw amazing sights, did some great tours and met some fun people, but in the future, I will be looking at another cruise line (most recently we have cruised Holland American, Viking and Carnival and they all had more luxury than this NCL cruise). It was kind of the Spirit Airlines of the cruising world. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
I wanted to travel through the Panama Canal on my birthday as I had done the Suez Canal with Celebrity Cruises the year before. I now call Norwegian Cruises - NO Norwegian cruises because anything you ask the staff except for our cabin ... Read More
I wanted to travel through the Panama Canal on my birthday as I had done the Suez Canal with Celebrity Cruises the year before. I now call Norwegian Cruises - NO Norwegian cruises because anything you ask the staff except for our cabin guy is a NO. Or they say yes and then you find out later its a NO. I asked if I could save a space for viewing the Panama and was told Yes, the 13th floor is open 24 hours. 2.45am I set the alarm and went to the 13th floor where I was confronted by the cleaner who told me, NO you can not be here. If you save a place the guy who does the floors will just move all your gear. My cabin mate booked 15 tours with the ship. I booked NONE because of how expensive they were. She paid over $1500US for her tours. I ended up doing a lot of tours she did however found a local at the end of the pier. The most I paid for any tour was $40US, plus I got fed. The ship tour didn't feed them once and gave free time at lunch. My cabin mate sat in crowed buses, was pushed and lost by the tour company twice. The food on board was so inconsistent. The main dining staff slow and untrained. It's like No Norwegian went to the jungle, pulled out a bunch of people, chucked them on the boat and said... you are a waiter, be free. 21 days with little to do, thank heavens we had 15 ports. Mostly it was a money grab. I have never had to pay to play deal or no deal. $29US, not enough players so we were sent away. Talks on herbal medicine turned into buy my acupuncture. They played the same movies on the in room tv over and over and over again. $9.95us to watch a movie on a tiny screen. Want to watch a rare movie with the crowd? You are sitting in the middle of a room next to a bar and coffee maker with people talking, coffee being ground and subtitles because you can't hear what is being said. Unfortunately if you are not in the front seat you can't see these subtitles and only the back of the persons head in front. Then there is the app that you can download. I couldn't believe there wasn't even shuffle board to entertain me, my cabin mate said yes there was, it's on the paper daily hand out. She used this and I used the app with the days agenda. This was the 2nd time I had been to reception saying that the app wasn't up to date. I was told that had I paid the $9.95 fee I would have been given up to date info. This fee allowed me to contact other passengers too. I didn't have anyone to contact as my cabin buddy doesn't like IT. I then asked for a complaint form, NO NORWEGIAN doesn't have these, go online and find one yourself. My eyes were damaged by the pool water. I couldn't see for 30 mins and have been seeing spots ever since. I was shuffled to 3 staff, the 3rd suggesting I pay for the doctor on board at my cost. We will see where that takes me. Another passenger in a motorized wheel chair was being lifted onto the bus when his chair slipped backwards and he hurt his back. The tour operator said it was NO NORWEGIAN responsibility as that's who he booked the tour with. NO NORWEGIAN said it was the tour operator. He is now seeking legal advice. A MONEY GRAB across the board. When attempting to get to the bottom of what % by law they had to pay out on the pokies and speaking to 3 staff I was told that if I put $100 in I would get to keep what ever it paid out. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast because I found fun people and created my own fun things to do. I would not recommend NO NORWEGIAN to anyone, this was my 2nd cruise with them and certainly my last. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Luz and Joey, both from Philippines, were a joke. The morning tv show was them acting like small children. Couldn’t understand them. Since Luz was on the mic so often and then every night after the shows, most Americans complained to ... Read More
Luz and Joey, both from Philippines, were a joke. The morning tv show was them acting like small children. Couldn’t understand them. Since Luz was on the mic so often and then every night after the shows, most Americans complained to each other about her horrible accent. More than 1/2 passengers were European and Asian. Don’t know how they could understand. Did not enjoy the bands who were very loud (also mostly from Philippines). Sitting in the Orchid restaurant, could barely carry on a dinner conversation. The guest entertainers disappointed us. The Gem singers and dancers were very entertaining, but since this was 21 night cruise, they only performed once a week. The acrobatic Husband and Wife duo’s performance was very good. Did not enjoy the hypnosis guy Dale K. The Irish performer Harry O was mediocre. The male singers “These Guys” first show was great. The second A Capella show by them was less than stellar. The juggler tried to be a comedian but failed. Every sea day, there was a barbecue by the pool. Usually the Garden Cafe Buffet had a theme. Found the service in Grand Pacific DR to be extremely slow. We tended to eat in the Magenta DR. Because we chose to participate in Progressive Trivia on Sea days, we could not eat lunch in dining room as the events overlapped. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
PART I : PORTS OF CALL We wanted to leave the cold northeast for the month. This itinerary seemed to fit the bill. We’re Platinum level members. This was our eighth cruise with NCL. We chose to fly from NYC where we live to SF in ... Read More
PART I : PORTS OF CALL We wanted to leave the cold northeast for the month. This itinerary seemed to fit the bill. We’re Platinum level members. This was our eighth cruise with NCL. We chose to fly from NYC where we live to SF in order to get the air travel over at the beginning. The air was included in the cost of the cruise, so I guess you can’t complain too much about “free”. However the flight arrangements required us to get up at 2am. We had to change flights at O’hare in Chicago. After boarding there the plane sat on the runway for and hour and a half because of delays in SF. Once we arrived in SF we waited another hour and a half for the courtesy buses to the ship to show up. By the time we got to the ship it was now 4:30 pm. We managed to keep our eyes open for the muster drill, grabbed a burger and fell asleep exhausted by 5:30 ( 8:30 pm NY Time). The second day, the port of call is Santa Barbara which is a lovely small town. Tendering to the dock is required here. There are a number of decent restaurants in the area. I highly recommend the Clearwater Grill which is on the main road through town. There are street vendors and local artists in kiosks along the waterfront park. One highlight is the rollerblade/skateboarding playground where humans 50 years younger than the ship passengers practice their moves and skills. I loved watching these kids - so very Californian. It was raining in LA almost all day on the third day. The ship docks in the commercial pier in Long Beach. Since we’ve been here numerous times we simply stayed on board. The fourth day was at sea. Day five was Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The yachts in the marina indicate that it’s a rich person’s playground. The views are stunning. We went on the one hour “Land’s End Boat Tour” which goes around the world famous rock formations; then did a little tourist shopping before tendering back to the ship. There’s a Senor Frog’s here for those who like that particular ambience. We had our first bad experience on day six in Puerto Vallarta, Mx. The good news is there is a cruise ship dock here so no need to tender ashore. There were two other huge ships there that day. The other nice thing is that there is a Walmart superstore walking distance from the ship ( approx. 1/2 mile) so you can get things you forgot to pack at a reasonable price. However don’t get six packs of soda, beer or water. You will not be allowed to bring these or other food items back on board. The tour we chose was atrocious - “Discover Puerto Vallarta” should have been titled, Discover Stores who have paid Us to Take you to them”. The guide was indifferent at best, a little hostile at worst, was a little annoyed when I asked where the nearest bathroom was (another twenty minutes). We had a perfunctory look at this popular church. The bathroom ( for which you needed 50 pesos coins to operate) was adjacent and there was no toilet paper and the sink was broken. The guide grudgingly managed to come up with the pesos for me. ( I was threatening to just go pee in the street). The group spent SEVEN minutes at the church, because the next stop was a street filled with merchants selling the usual crapola, and a tequila tasting shop. We spent 40 minutes there. Then onto a jewelry store where the bus dropped us for 35 minutes while disappearing somewhere. The choice was to be constantly hustled by the salespeople in the store (where it was air conditioned) or stand in the street where it was humid and in the mid eighties. At this point many of us were ready to simply go back to the ship. But there was the “old town” to see. The old town didn’t look much different than the rest of the town. Here the “guide” dropped us off and said “you can look around and there are some restaurants, we’ll meet back here in an hour and a half”. My wife and I took a cab back to the ship, went straight to the excursion desk and complained about this farce of a tour. We were reimbursed for the full price as well as the cab fare. Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo on day 7 is a beautiful looking harbor surrounded by mountains, This is another tendering port. We chose to just enjoy the lido deck, poolside. Day 9 was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. We took the “Antigua on Your Own” tour. This is a mountain town which requires a bus ride of about an hour or so depending on the traffic. Along the way you pass several volcanos, one of which was actively smoking. That one sight alone was worth the entire day. Antigua’s streets (not to be confused with the Caribbean island of the same name) are all cobblestone; the sidewalks are broken up, so wear sturdy shoes and look down while walking. We saw a few people trip and fall. A walking (hiking) stick also comes in handy. Prepare to be assaulted (in a nice way) by four feet tall Mayan women selling all sorts of things you have no earthly use for. They will take no for an answer after about the fifth or sixth no. Sometimes. A nice highlight here is the Jade Museum. There are also a couple of Spanish colonial style churches to see if you enjoy doing the church tours. The tenth day was Corinto, Nicaragua. A bunch of local people rushed to the dock to see our ship arrive. There were three bands playing and young women and little girls dressed in native costumes dancing to the music. They were all very sweet. It’s anybody’s guess why the ship even bothers to stop here. This was Super Bowl Sunday. The Europeans on board were totally befuddled as to why we Americans were making such a big deal over it. A lot of San Franciscans brought along team jerseys, hats and even war paint. Oh well, you lost guys. Good game though. I was rooting for JayLo or Shakira to have one of those wardrobe malfunctions. Go Blue! The Aerial Tram and Rainforest Adventure in Costa Rica was excellent. The bus guide was excellent, the naturalists at the preserve were highly knowledgeable and friendly, the included lunch was delicious, and the aerial tram was a fascinating ride through the canopy. Those on the zip line appeared to be having a huge thrill as well. Day 13 for us and many others was the highlight of the cruise: traversing the Panama Canal. It takes around 13 hours to go about 40 miles through three sets of locks and the Gatun lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic side. People lined up on the bow before dawn broke. Day 14 was Cartagena, Columbia. We’d been there two years ago. Cartagena is worth seeing once. We stayed on the ship. Next day was Santa Marta Columbia where you get to see the deplorable slums that 70% of the population must live in. This is what happens when a countries wealth is drained by drug cartels and totally corrupt politicians. The white skyline of Cartagena and its similar but lesser one at this stop are empty facades for the very few well connected. These are not my words they were those of our tour guide. Here we did the Ecological Expedition, which was basically traipsing through a park along a dirt path and then a rocky stream bed to a pond at the bottom of a waterfall ( and do not think Ocho Rios which many expected). We did spend 45 minutes in the water which was very refreshing; while being entertained by a local little 10 year old girl who wanted everyone to watch her jump off the nine foot cliff into the pool. Our guide kept calling this place “paradise”, and after seeing the slums of Santa Marta, we could understand why. Last three stops were the Dutch ABC’s. Aruba: Shopping and hooking up with the free WiFi at the Starbucks inside the big hotel off the pier. Bonaire: less shopping and using the free WiFi at the illy coffee shop off the pier. Curaçao - The Ostrich Farm - totally fun experience. Totally dumb birds. Favorite souvenir: genuine ostrich egg. $15 unpainted. Also free WiFi at the Starbucks off the pier. The ship leaves Bonaire at 1pm on a Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are at sea and you get to port on Manahattan’s west side piers at 10 am. If you like spending a lot of consecutive days at sea this is for you. In retrospect I would have gotten off at Curaçao and taken a plane back to Kennedy airport (you can opt to do that.) PART II: THE SHIP The Gem is a nice ship. It’s not the nicest we’ve ever been on but it’s perfectly ok. Our balcony had some noticeable rust and peeling paint, but that happens rapidly in the salt air and water. Crew is constantly working to minimize these things and prevent deterioration, The Men in White are a constant if unobtrusive presence keeping up with maintenance. The Stardust lounge where the main shows take place is huge. Bigger than on NCLs larger ships, holding around 1,200 people. As Platinum members we were able to take the backstage tour which was fascinating. It is amazing how the dance troupe is able to do such fast costume changes in such confined spaces on a moving vessel. The beds in the cabin were extremely comfortable. The TV is on the small side and half the channels are devoted to ship info or advertising. News choices are BBC, Fox, MSNBC and CNBC. One channel has some strange TV show choices, another has interesting and offbeat documentaries. One channel has feature films. There are two sports channels. I personally would have liked one channel which played nothing but Law and Order and SVU - but then no one would go to see the juggler, the hypnotist or the magician in the Stardust on the off evenings when the dance troupe or the guest singers were not appearing. PART III: DINING The main dining room is huge and the wood tones are warm and welcoming, and not garish as you find on a different unnamed competitor line. If you prefer a smaller general dining venue there is the Magenta. We personally liked the larger venue. If you don’t mind not being served, and simply want to fuel up in the least time possible there is always the cafeteria on deck 12. Service in the dining rooms takes about an hour. We spent twelve nights in one of the several specialty restaurants. Our favorite is La Bistrô (French), followed by Cagney’s (Steaks), LaCucina (Italian), and lastly Moderno (Brazilian meats on skewers). We personally don’t care for the Brazilian concept, but lots of people do like that, and their salad bar is exceptional. O’Sheehan’s is great for a quick hot snack. The chicken wings are excellent, the hotdogs and burgers are better than what’s upstairs on deck 12, and the spinach-artichoke dip comes out warm and savory with taco chips. The food is free here. We did not do the Benihana style Japanese restaurant (C’mon NCL, that’s sooo yesterday - replace Teppanyaki with a Spanish Tapas bar or a Vietnamese dumpling house), or the sushi bar. On the Breakaway the sushi bar had afternoon hours. On the gem it’s only open at dinner hours. PART IV: ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES NCL is justifiably proud of its entertainment. We have found the dance and singing troupes (10 dancers, 4 singers) to always be broadway level ability. These 20 and 30 somethings work REALLY hard. The three shows they put on on this cruise were all outstanding. Each show is 45 minutes of nonstop singing and dancing with multiple costume changes. The guest singer on this cruise (Nicola Ward) has tremendous range, connects with the audience and does several styles ranging from pop to jazz to classical. The band are consummate pros, and often perform at the deck 6 bar venues when not in the Stardust. Keyboard, drums, base guitar, and sax are the quartet. A trombone is sometimes added for the quintet. There is a solo pianist performing almost nightly as well as a solo guitarist. The cruise director and her assistants lead those who are interested in the usual old time ship style passenger summer camp activities. Hey, if that’s your thing go for it. There is also daily trivia contests which a few passengers take very seriously. They form teams, and gawd help you if you sit in one of “their” chairs in the Atrium or the Spinaker. PART V: SERVICE The cabin stewards were fast efficient and after two days knew your bio rhythms. The restaurant staff are courteous to a fault. “Do you have any food allergies, or dietary restrictions?” - No Mommy. I have only one nit pick which I will address at length in a separate post. It is the use of the phrase “ Washee, washee !!” I find this use of the long discredited Pidgin English insulting. At best it is infantile, at worst it is RACIST. (“ No tickie, no washee !!”). Of all the lines we’ve been on, ONLY NCL trains its employees to use this phrase. The mostly Philipino young women who are told to say this don’t even realize in the 20s and 30s of the last century it was done in cinema to caricature and insult Chinese immigrants who had trouble with their English pronunciation. Naturally these folks spoke English better than the condescending White folks spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. So NCL, it would be much better to have your employees say perhaps, “kindly use the disinfectant before entering the restaurant. Thank you.” Thank you for reading my review if you’ve gotten this far. Dr.Bill Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This is my 26th review for Cruise Critic. Unlike some reviewers that join this group just to complain about a bad experience, I have, for the past 10+ years felt obliged to write about my cruise experiences. I am a professional writer in ... Read More
This is my 26th review for Cruise Critic. Unlike some reviewers that join this group just to complain about a bad experience, I have, for the past 10+ years felt obliged to write about my cruise experiences. I am a professional writer in another life which tends to make my reviews long and thorough. If you want to know simply if we liked our time on the Gem, just count the stars. If you want to know the how’s and why’s, read and enjoy. This was our 47th cruise and our 13th with Norwegian. We favor RCCL because of the perks from their loyalty program (we are Diamond with them) but we went on this cruise for the itinerary. We are both in our early-mid 60’s. NCL has an updated cellphone app and I’m happy to report that it is finally worthwhile. Previously it had been so far behind RCCL’s app that it was abysmal. I started making dinner reservations 5 weeks before boarding. I’m not sure that you can even do that with RCCL’s app. The dinner reservations that I made weeks before boarding began populating a calendar in the app immediately. This is a HUGE improvement and makes the app very useful. The Freestyle Daily is on the app; a huge improvement, but you still can’t add to your calendar the daily activities that you want to partake in. This app is way better than it used to be but if you have sampled Royal Caribbean’s app you can’t help but compare. We got to the terminal at 11am and the security line was already a bit backed up. Our Platinum status with NCL had us on the vessel by 11:30 and that is with a slow moving queue in the gangway. My first impression of the ship was excellent. The ocean view stateroom (#4602) is a bit roomier than expected and the bathroom has a door that closes off the toilet and another one that contains the shower, both nice touches especially for a low-end room. Storage is plentiful. This was a 3-week cruise. We didn’t pack for 3 weeks as we always plan to have laundry done mid-cruise, but there was more storage than we needed. This isn’t the case on the Breakaway, for example, which sorely lacks in places for clothes in the cabins that we have stayed in. We had lunch in the Grand Pacific dining room. Surely better than dealing with the masses in the food hall on boarding day. It is too crazy up there for us. Dinner at Teppanyaki was exceptional! We have always liked this venue, but this time was even better than we’d remembered. A+! It was weird to be the only 2 people in there. I’m not sure why no one books specialty dining on the first night of a cruise. We always do. We finished the first day at the casino. The first breakfast in the mess hall was typical. We didn’t have trouble getting a seat. Breakfast was fine, service was good. Still too cold outside for me! As Platinum members, we got priority tender tickets and headed ashore at Santa Barbara. We didn’t spend much time ashore but relaxed aboard and had dinner in the Grand Pacific. We don’t often eat in the MDR, but it was good and so was the service. The magician was ok, nothing spectacular. As we expected, this cruise is full of people in their 70’s and 80’s. There won’t be much clamoring for seats at the theater or at a restaurant. I suspect that They’re all going to have an early bedtime. Day 3 began with an early arrival in LA and breakfast at O’Sheehan. Breakfast here is boring and predictable but there are ample tables and a waitstaff. We did an excursion to Rodeo Drive and met family for lunch there which was great. Dinner was at Le Bistro, the French specialty dining venue. Instead of using one of our dining package credits, I used one of the Platinum specialty dining vouchers. I assumed that these were equivalent to a specialty dining meal but they are not. There are a number of restrictions and ultimately it gives NCL the opportunity to show how they really can “nickel and dime” you to death. Example: my wife had the Lamb. There was an upcharge of $1.20. I had the Filet Mignon which had no upcharge. (Both were outstanding). In the end, they handed us a check for $1.20. This epitomizes “nickel and diming” in my view. It’s hard to believe that they do this with a straight face! Day 4 was a sea day. We relaxed. It was still rather cool outside, perhaps a bit around 70, but we spent some time on deck. The barbecue lunch was decent. There aren’t many activities planned on this ship. We don’t live for the activities but it is odd to see so few. We spent some time at the art auction. The menu selection at the MDRs didn’t seem interesting so, without a reservation, we showed up at La Cucina, the Italian specially restaurant. We had an excellent meal. At the theater was a sing and dance show called Swing. It was ok. We didn’t stay for the whole thing. We relaxed for the rest of the night. On day 5, we arrived in Cabo San Lucas at around 11. We have a Camel back ride on the beach planned here. We strongly recommend this excursion. Excellent time. I’m puzzled by the Cruise Director Luz. I don’t live and die by the cruise director. I don’t need them to have a good time, but in my view, she is a dud. Her thick Latin accent is a bit of a crutch but that aside, she just doesn’t seem to have any stand-alone talents. Don’t expect to see her on any new ships like the Joy or the Encore. On the 6th day we were in Puerto Vallarta. A new port for us. We took a $10 cab into town and had a great lunch. It’s a cool town. Dinner was at the MDR and it was very good. We don’t often go to the MDR. In fact, there have been some cruises where we never visited the free dining room at all. We have enjoyed our meals in the MDR so far. Admittedly, if we don’t see menu items that intrigue us, we will use a dining package voucher. That’s the plan. Tonight’s show was a 4-man vocal group called These Guys. They were really excellent. We are nearly a week into this cruise and we both feel like the Gem is exceeding our expectations. We boarded expecting to not like this vessel all that much. But we got on this cruise for the itinerary; 13 amazing ports (10 of them new for us) plus the Panama Canal over a 3 week period. We knew the ship was old, but we are not finding it to be decrepit. Some reviewers have said that it is badly in need of an update. This isn’t so. The exterior seems a bit shop-worn and in need of paint at some places, but the interior is modern and nice. The ship lacks the hi-tech amenities like a roller coaster, laser tag, bumper cars and skydiving, but those ships don’t go to the ports that this ship goes to. You have to make a choice. As I said, this cruise was about the ports and we didn’t sail to those ports in a rusty bucket of bolts. At least, that’s my feeling a week in. Tomorrow: Ixtapa, Mexico. Day 7 started with breakfast in the dining room. This is a welcome diversion from the mess tent but I wish the food was better. The service is nice but in spite of NCL’s efforts to offer some different items (I had Biscuit Eggs Benedict) they’re never as good as they sound. At least not yet. We lounged by the pool and then took a tender ashore to Ixtapa, Mexico. We had lunch at a beachside restaurant there. We had an excellent meal at Moderno tonight, but what is most notable to us is the service. In each of our specialty dining experiences, the Matre ‘d has come to our table, introduced himself, and offered us something. Maybe it was a complimentary Espresso, dessert or maybe just his business card, but in every case, he made us feel special. The magician on board gave his second show, a decided upgrade from his first one. Bravo! The entertainment here isn’t Broadway-type like on Royal or like on the Breakaway, but it’s better than we expected. We topped this day off with a remarkably cooperative Blackjack table in the casino. Day 8 was a sea day. It’s getting hot out. Finally got in a pool day! The cooking demonstration was good. We usually skip the port talk but since these are all new ports, we took that in. Lunch at O’Sheehan was good. It’s Always free there but it’s a limited menu that never changes. I’ve read some reviews here where someone has a negative opinion about something and then supports it by saying that “I heard others saying the same thing” as though they need input from others in order to validate their own opinion. Well, not to sound as though I’ve jumped on that bandwagon, but so far we have bumped into a number of people that have sailed the Gem before and love it and proclaim that they would never sail a mega ship. While I don’t agree with their disdain for mega ships, it’s easy to see, so far, why this vessel has many fans. It’s annoying that some voyagers join this board for the sole purpose of bitching about a single substandard experience. Often they have little to complain about. We had dinner at Cagney’s tonight. It was good. Being Platinum members, we were able to walk in without reservations, but don’t try that without Latitude status. We would have had to wait until 8:30 to dine otherwise. I still don’t like that NCL has upcharges on certain menu items even with the dining package. It really screams “nickel and dime”. Nicaragua was an interesting port. We hired a bicycle taxi around town and bought a couple of things. A couple of days ago, the ship, reacting to the worldwide Coronovirus problem, changed the way they do things in the Garden Cafe. Passengers no longer touch anything. Staff members serve everything from water to coffee to toast to anything in warming trays. It works fine. Good service actually. It’s good too see them able to react on the fly like that. Our laundry came back today. What a nice presentation! Our clothes came back nicely folded and packaged in two straw baskets! Very impressive! We have yet to hit the Garden Cafe for one of their specialty nights. It was Italian night a couple nights ago, Indian Night last night and Greek night tonight. I’m not sure what to expect so we went to LeBistro again. It was great but I’m starting to feel like I’m overeating. We had a zip line through the jungle excursion in Costa Rica today. So after a quick breakfast we headed to the pier for that. Highly recommended excursion. We went to the MDR for dinner and were not impressed. The choices were not inspired and the service was a bit slow. There is no doubt that the specialty restaurant are a cut above. MDR meals are mediocre. The Blazing Boots production show is a salute to country music. Not our genre, so we didn’t stay for the entire show. Some may find it entertaining. Next day was a much needed relaxing sea day. We had dinner at La Cucina again. This is a terrific restaurant. The comedy juggler was surprisingly entertaining. Finally the highlight of the cruise arrives- the Panama Canal crossing. This should be on everyone’s bucket list. It takes all day, starting around 6:30 am. The best view, really, is from your stateroom where you can see everything from the bow camera on the tv. The narrator on the PA was excellent. They open up deck 8 forward to the public for a close-up view which is normally a crew-only deck. They offer a 6 minute time-lapse movie of the entire canal crossing for $30. Well worth it. We had dinner at the complimentary Orchid Garden which was good. We don’t find that the MDR has attractive choices for dinner to lure us there although we had an excellent lunch there. The evenings entertainment was a hypnotist. He was hardly entertaining in our view so we left after 15 minutes. Day 14 brings us to Cartagena Columbia. A new port, country and continent for this world traveler. We started with breakfast in the dining room. This is notable because I had the Golden Waffle with Banana. This doesn’t sound like much but it is the best breakfast item I have ever had on land or sea! Delicious! I will be back to the dining room this coming week for this item. I loved it! We booked a Carriage ride in Cartagena this morning. This turned out to be a good choice of excursions. A bus tour through the new and old city, a horse-drawn carriage ride through old town and a couple of stops for shopping/photos. We went to Le Bistro for dinner again. It has become our favorite. We skipped the show in favor of a casino investment. On day 15, we docked in Santa Marta Columbia. There’s a free shuttle that brings you close to town where there are more street vendors than we have ever seen anywhere in the world. There were thousands. After lunch at O’Sheehan’s we took a much needed rest. The hot sun really took its toll. As we made our way to the Caribbean where we have been a great number of times, it was good to not have the pressure of wanting not to miss seeing a place that we’ve never seen. After breakfast, we walked through Aruba and we were back on board for lunch at the mess hall. Oftentimes you read that there’s no variety up there. That just isn’t true. There are a few staples, just like in the MDR, but there are new items every day and we haven’t had anything that was cold or inedible. We enjoyed having the pool area pretty much to ourselves. After a rest we had dinner at Cagneys. It was A++. In Curaçao, we rented a scooter and toured the island. There isn’t much here as compared to mainstream Caribbean islands but we had a good day but a crappy lunch. Dinner at Moderno was a disappointment. They couldn’t get meat medium rare. It was either over cooked or under cooked. Geez. I left stuffed anyway. There was an acrobat couple called Duo Destiny. Best show so far!! Tomorrow is day 18 in Bonaire. Kudos to you if you’re still reading this! There isn’t much going on in Bonaire but after a quick breakfast we had 4-5 hours to make the best of it so we rented a golf cart for $95 and drove around most of the island. It was worthwhile and cost less than what an excursion would have cost for the 2 of us. Back on board, we finally tried the Topsiders BBQ. It was ok. We only have 3 dinners left on our 12 dinners dining package and there are 4 nights to go. Gone are the days when they had prime rib and lobster on any given night in the MDR. The MDR just isn’t for us. If you’re ok with basic run of the mill food, you’ll be ok, but if you lean towards fine dining, forget it. I presume, at this point, that it’s NCL. We haven’t seen such poor MDR selections at RCCL but we haven’t been on that line in probably 2 years. We haven’t had bad meals at the MDR, but certainly not great ones. Tonight, I’ll pay out of pocket for Teppanyaki because it’s not ala carte. The next 3 nights are sure to please with La Cucina, Cagneys and Le Bistro. At breakfast this morning, we were at the Grand Pacific MDR again. I noted the tag line on the table placard. It says “nobody does dining like Norwegian”. This is a true statement. Carnival and Royal do dining differently than NCL. They do it better. I have said this before and not stuck to it: this is my last cruise with NCL. But they have some great itineraries (like this one) and some great attractions (race track, laser tag), terrific entertainment (Rock of Ages, A Choir of Man, Jersey Boys) but it bugs me that the mainstream food; the free food in the MDR, really misses the mark. Gone are the days of Lobster and Prime Rib night. The food in the MDR is really basic. The presentations are nice, the service is good, but the imagination as far as menu items is non-existent. In spite of the shortcomings of Platinum status, one huge advantage that we found was being able to show up at a Specialty Restaurant and eat when we wanted, regardless of when - or if - we had reservations. This is a big plus. On this, the second to the last sea day, it seems like the Specialty Restaurants were quite full and our reservation at Cagneys was at 7:45. We showed up at 5:30 and I said that I was ready to eat now. I got no pushback. And we were seated within minutes. Very professional. On the last day of any cruise, they always have these “blow-out” sales where they offer all sorts of souvenirs in a flea market atmosphere. Here, they turned the Orchid Garden and Sushi restaurants into a flea(bag) marketplace. What a disgusting low-class thing to do!! I can hardly believe my eyes! NCL does stupid things. They do it to themselves. They could be so much better than they are if they would only re-think the things that they do and consider the customer viewpoints a bit more diligently. Our final dinner had to be at Le Bistro. The Matrie’d Sandrick took amazing care of us, not only this time but all 4 visits to this great restaurant. The final show was a 70’s & 80’s retro song and dance show. Right up our alley! We loved it!! Finally, it was time to go home after 3 weeks. Debarkation is very poorly done. No platinum lounge, don’t sit here, don’t wait there. Geez, treat me like a customer. The disaster at the end of the cruise is reason enough to say that RCCL is the way to go in the future Recalling that we have similar status with NCL (Platinum) and RCCL (Diamond), the associated perks with Royal are head and shoulders above NCL, but that’s not what this review is about. This was an excellent vacation and an extraordinary itinerary on a fine ship. But NCL has some shortcomings and frankly, I think that they are, in some cases, self-inflicted. For example, the incident with the $1.20 upcharge for the lamb that my wife ordered. They should raise the price of the cruise for everyone by $1 and not do this to avoid the embarrassment of looking like extreme cheapskates. As Diamond members on Royal, we get so many perks, such as the Diamond Club, that we really feel like Royalty. Admittedly, on this cruise with NCL we are able to dine in Specialty restaurants without reservations that are otherwise booked solid which we appreciate, but all things considered, the bennies do not compare. Still, this cruise, which is what this review is about was excellent. The ship was perfectly acceptable (we didn’t expect more from such an old ship), the food was good because we made it so, (we didn’t pay much for the cruise, but paid a few hundred dollars more to eat good food) and the entertainment was on par with what we expected; no spectacular shows like Royal, but plenty of variety. And with variety, you will like some shows more than others, by definition. With a port-intensive itinerary like this one, you are perfectly fine with skipping a show here and there. Do I wish Royal had done this cruise on the Allure of the Seas? Yes, I do. But it would cost double or triple as much, the older crowd would never pay the price and therefore it would never happen. We went on this cruise and we have no regrets. It was great. I do wish that NCL did certain things differently but their trend is in the other direction, so, just as I have concluded other NCL reviews, we will continue to favor RCCL heavily. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This was our 11th cruise on NCL. We chose it because we wanted to do a full transit of the canal. First off, the cruise was 20 days. We booked a port balcony cabin on deck 10 somewhat forward. This was our third time on the Gem, a ship ... Read More
This was our 11th cruise on NCL. We chose it because we wanted to do a full transit of the canal. First off, the cruise was 20 days. We booked a port balcony cabin on deck 10 somewhat forward. This was our third time on the Gem, a ship we really like because it has excellent public spaces (Spinnaker lounge, outdoor fantail dining, promenade deck) that the larger NCL ships don’t seem to have. The GEM feels bigger inside than the Breakaway class ships. The cabin was fine although 20 days tended to make it feel smaller as the cruise wore on. Normally, we expect NCL to provide consistently good dining. The complimentary restaurants were pretty decent and, occasionally, were excellent. The issue we had was with Cagneys: On both our visits, they couldn’t properly cook a filet mignon to medium rare. The results ranged from completely uncooked in the center to overcooked and dry. And, for the first time ever in a steakhouse we were asked to cut into the filet to check if it was properly cooked. Clearly, their chef was having problems. Strangely, the two meals we had in Le Bistro (we ordered the file de boeuf au cinq poivres, we like filet!) were perfect. We had one meal at the Asian restaurant, The Orchid, which was underwhelming. As for entertainment, the show band (drums, keys, sax, trumpet, bass and trombone) was outstanding. Playing in various forms (trio, quartet, etc.) they never failed to impress. Jack Brady, the piano playing songman was worked hard by the cruise director. The poor guy played three to four sets per night, night after night and it clearly was wearing him out. We saw one production show, a tribute to swing that was excellent. The first comedian was okay until he told a deeply offensive joke (that reinforced a dangerous stereotype) that made us feel very uncomfortable and we left. The staff was almost uniformly excellent. Service was solid and, often, very friendly and personal. We were disappointed that the shore excusions staff, at times, seemed to have limited knowledge about some of the ports. As for going ashore, there is no escaping the fact that many of the ports visited are in some of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and it is hard to be carefree when you see how difficult the life is for the people. Santa Marta, Colombia, for example, is overrun with Venezuelan refugees who desperately need to sell you whatever they can to survive. A sidewalk cafe meal was a non-stop effort to say no to everything from fake Cuban cigars to impromptu unwanted rap performances. We took a few low-effort shore excursions. One honorable mention goes to the Up Close Whale Watching by Zodiac in Cabo San Lucas run by Cabo Tours. Our captain Bernardo was outstanding. He was friendly and engaging and his ability to find whales bordered on the supernatural. We got over 13 sightings with some as close as 15 yards from the boat. Overall, it was a good cruise. However a few points need to be made. First, 20 days is a long time. The ship becomes a bit confining after a while. Second, some passengers could really use some lessons in common courtesy and decorum. From the guy wearing sweatpants to an elegant restaurant to the guy who thought it was funny when he placed his hand on my wife’s head to steady himself, to the scores of people who bumped, backed into or cut off others without so much as an “excuse me”, we were truly happy to escape the ship on the final day and head off into the woods to get far away from our fellow human beings. To be sure, we met many nice people and the majority of people were fine. But there was far more boorishness on this cruise than on any other that we can remember. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We did the holiday cruise out of New York from 21 December to January 4. The ship is beautiful and very clean. All the staff were really friendly. The entertainment was quite good, the cruise director, Luz was fantastic. We mainly dined in ... Read More
We did the holiday cruise out of New York from 21 December to January 4. The ship is beautiful and very clean. All the staff were really friendly. The entertainment was quite good, the cruise director, Luz was fantastic. We mainly dined in the main dining raoom, we found the food to be really tasty and good. We had the unlimited beverage package and the bar staff know how to make good cocktails :) So much fun! New Year's Eve was also very nice with different parties all around the ship. For Christmas night I would have expected something more special, they had a Christmas show in the theater and after that the crew sang carols in the atrium, that was quite nice. Smoking is allowed in the casino, something NCL needs to change with the next refurbismhment. Overall we were really happy with this cruise and would definitely sail on the Gem again! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Norwegian Gem Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.5 3.9
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness & Recreation 3.5 N/A
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 3.0 N/A
Service 5.0 4.1
Value for Money 5.0 N/A

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