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Just got back from a wonderful trip on the Norwegian Gem March 8-15 (Ontario's March Break). We have 3 children ages 5, 8, and 10 and have been on 10 cruises including Norwegian Spirit, Celebrity Millennium/Mercury/Infinity, Grand Princess, Costa Victoria, HAL and Disney Magic. Due to the cost of cruising with a family of five we usually book an inside cabin. We decided to splurge and booked an AB Penthouse suite and to be honest this probably greatly enhanced our view of this cruise. Embarkation-We drove from our home in Ontario and stayed in the Courtyard Marriott in New Jersey the night before. A big bonus for us is being able to drive to the pier as this saved us a lot of money on airfare for our family of five. Getting to the NYC pier was quite congested and it took awhile to get into the pier parking area. Once parked it was very easy to enter the terminal and we were through security in about 10 minutes. As it was around noon there was already a large lineup at check-in but because we had VIP check-in we bypassed this line, checked-in very quickly and were escorted to a VIP room where we met the concierge and within minutes we were escorted onto the ship. We had not told our kids that we booked the Penthouse for this trip so they were somewhat baffled why we got to check-in ahead of the crowd. Cabin: We went immediately to our room opened the door and ......whooaa! Funky colors (fuschia/green/yellow) that made us feel we were in a tropical paradise. The layout of the Penthouse and was perfect for our family of 5. The children had their own room complete with bathroom and TV. Chris, our Butler, greeted us and went through all the bonuses we would be getting, starting with himself, priority restaurant reservation, breakfast and lunch in Cagney's (served in the Star Bar), free bottle of welcome champagne, daily fruit basket and fresh flowers, free 2 movies at a time ($12 normally), small CD collection, fancy soap and shampoo. We especially liked the Espresso/Cappuccino maker. One drawback, is the Suite was sooo nice, we did not feel like exploring the ship and just wanted to stay in the Suite and relax. Although our Suite was by the Elevator, the way it was laid out, it was extremely quiet. Our bedroom was far away from the hallway and had three door to separate us from the hallway. Each section of the Suite can be closed off by doors. You can watch TV in the living room and have the doors closed to the sleeping areas. The furniture in the Suite, although very nice to look at, are not the most comfortable to lounge in. The balcony became our favorite place to relax. The beds were extremely comfortable as were the feather pillows and duvet. The bathrobes and toiletries were lovely but be warned do not weigh yourself with the bathrobe on as it easily adds 3 lbs. to your weight! The cabin was kept impeccably clean by our cabin stewards. Food: For lunch on our first day we headed to the Grand Pacific to avoid the congestion of the Garden Cafe. The lunch was excellent and the service was friendly and efficient. The Grand Pacific Dining room is very beautiful and elegant, not sure why people are still arguing about not being allowed to wear jeans, shorts, etc. in such a classy place! The first night we went to Tequila and had an excellent meal. The chips and salsa, fajitas were very tasty and the kids loved it. We did not eat very often in the Garden Cafe mainly because being in Suite we had access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch and took advantage of this. This was served in the Star Bar which is a lovely area that overlooks the pool . The service was excellent and the waiters were always pleasant and took an interest in the kids. One waiter Swaroop Bannanje was especially friendly and stopped to talk to us when we saw him in other areas of the ship. The breakfast in Cagney's was excellent especially the French toast, pancakes, grape fruit broiled in Rum, and steak and eggs. The Egg Benedict was good without being exceptional. The Garden Cafe is very well set up and unlike traditional buffets has action stations where food is cooked to order. The salad bar, pizza, indian food were all quite good. In the evening they put tablecloths on the tables that makes it seem less like a cafeteria. As with all cruise ships the buffet area always seems to be crowded! There are espresso/latte/Cappuccino machines in the Garden Cafe which was a nice touch, however like all cruise ships we have been on the coffee always seems too weak. That is why we enjoyed making our own coffee in our suite. Although we had the VIP option of making dinner reservations for the entire cruise through the concierge we did not do so. We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants, partly because we did not feel like having such a huge meal and did not feel like paying for food that we feel should be in the cruise price (for a family of 5 $20-25 surcharges are not a nominal fee), also we had heard mixed reviews of the food in the specialty restaurants and that there are extra charges for certain dishes. Unlike a lot of other reviews we did not have trouble showing up at the 2 main dining rooms without reservations because in general we like to eat early (5:30-6:30) and at these times there never seemed to be a wait. Later in the evening the restaurants were packed and many people were waiting with beepers. Overall we would rate the food in the dining room as good to very good. The appetizers, soups, and salads were very good and the main entrees were generally good. Two exceptions were the shrimp cocktail that had those tiny salad shrimp and the Seafood Extravaganza with overcooked lobster, tasteless pasta, 2 tiny mussels, and 1 shrimp. The desserts in the dining room were very good to excellent especially the souffles. The portions tended to be small but sufficient for us given that we ordered multiple courses. The Blue Lagoon was a favorite with our kids for lunch or a quick snack. The buffalo wings, chicken fingers, rice, and shepherds pie were a big hit. The Chocolate Buffet was a disappointment mostly made up of brownies, squares etc. and nothing really special. Ports: We had been to Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau before so the itinerary for us was not the most exciting. The excursions offered by the ship in our opinion were way overpriced and nothing much appealed to us anyway. As we had done Kennedy Space Centre, Disney World, and Universal Studios multiple times before on land vacations we decided to stay on the ship when we docked in Port Canaveral. Great Stirrup Cay: We took the first tender to the private island. Signed up for the usual and compulsory snorkeling vest but brought our own snorkeling gear. The reef seems to have suffered from the snorkelers compared to 2 years ago. The fish were not as abundant, although we managed to get quite a gathering with some left over bread. The water was a bit cool for the little ones. Did not manage to see the sting rays this time, although some people have seen them. Left it too late for a walk around the island, it was scorching hot by mid afternoon. Kids had fun with the counselors on the beach at noon with water games and prizes. We lined up for the tender back to the ship at 4pm, but there were so many people and they were waiting to fill up the tender we did not get on board until 5:15pm (last tender was supposed to be at 5pm). Nassau: Taxis in Nassau were like a zoo but eventually went to Atlantis for $4 pp. Walked through Atlantis, a long but nice and cool walk, eventually through the eastern most door, past the RIU hotel, then down the public beach, Cabbage beach, which is really the same beach as Atlantis. Beautiful colors, gentle shore break, nice sand, but lots of people and lots of chair/umbrella/braids vendors. Hot dogs and Bahamian beer at the RIU outlet on the beach. Went back through Atlantis when it got too hot, and saw the huge aquarium and huge Manta Rays. Freeport: Freeport, or is it Lucaya or Lucaya Harbour or Port Lucaya Harbour. Very confusing. Could not find out before cruising. Anyway, woke up to an ugly industrial port with turquoise water and beautiful sunshine. Welcome to Lucaya Harbour in Freeport. 11 miles from Port Lucaya, where the shopping mall and beaches are. Arrived at 8am, casually off the ship at 9am. Took a cab/van to Port Lucaya at $5pp. We originally wanted to go to Lucaya National Park but it was 57miles away and $30 pp and was deemed to far, since we have to back on board at 2:30pm (the driver would have stayed with us there). The beach in Port Lucaya had a most beautiful silky feel to the feet and freshly combed. The water was beautiful aqua, a tad cold, OK once you're swimming. The kids found it too cold. Not much to see snorkel wise other than a number of red starfish and sand dollars. Kids Club: This was a highlight of the cruise for our kids even though given their ages they were all in separate groups. They all loved it to the point that we were almost begging for the kids to spend some time with us. The activities were great and the kids thought the counselors were amazing. They all rated this the best Kids Club ever! As a result we tipped the counselors as they truly deserved it. They Overall Impression: The ship was very beautiful with a fun, funky theme. The color scheme is a little off the wall but we really liked it. The giant Wii screen was cool but only used for a few hours a day and most days it was for Adults Only! The rock climbing wall was a blast. The kids loved the pool and waterslide as well as the giant chess game. The Bliss Lounge has to be seen to be believed, no description can do it justice. The shows were generally good and the Second City Improv was especially entertaining. The usual shopping lectures, art auctions, bingo don't really appeal to us. The ship is especially clean. Almost all the staff we came in contact with were very pleasant and friendly. We enjoyed the Freestyle concept and would definitely want to return to the Norwegian Gem on a different itinerary. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were 37 people from the Suites doing the Express check out. First ones off the ship, they were still unloading people bags in the terminal! Out of the parking lot without any traffic by 9:45am.

A Gem of a Cruise

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Rhian

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: March 2008
  • Destination: Bahamas
  • Cabin Type: Family Penthouse with Balcony
Just got back from a wonderful trip on the Norwegian Gem March 8-15 (Ontario's March Break). We have 3 children ages 5, 8, and 10 and have been on 10 cruises including Norwegian Spirit, Celebrity Millennium/Mercury/Infinity, Grand Princess, Costa Victoria, HAL and Disney Magic. Due to the cost of cruising with a family of five we usually book an inside cabin. We decided to splurge and booked an AB Penthouse suite and to be honest this probably greatly enhanced our view of this cruise.
Embarkation-We drove from our home in Ontario and stayed in the Courtyard Marriott in New Jersey the night before. A big bonus for us is being able to drive to the pier as this saved us a lot of money on airfare for our family of five. Getting to the NYC pier was quite congested and it took awhile to get into the pier parking area. Once parked it was very easy to enter the terminal and we were through security in about 10 minutes. As it was around noon there was already a large lineup at check-in but because we had VIP check-in we bypassed this line, checked-in very quickly and were escorted to a VIP room where we met the concierge and within minutes we were escorted onto the ship. We had not told our kids that we booked the Penthouse for this trip so they were somewhat baffled why we got to check-in ahead of the crowd.
Cabin: We went immediately to our room opened the door and ......whooaa! Funky colors (fuschia/green/yellow) that made us feel we were in a tropical paradise. The layout of the Penthouse and was perfect for our family of 5. The children had their own room complete with bathroom and TV. Chris, our Butler, greeted us and went through all the bonuses we would be getting, starting with himself, priority restaurant reservation, breakfast and lunch in Cagney's (served in the Star Bar), free bottle of welcome champagne, daily fruit basket and fresh flowers, free 2 movies at a time ($12 normally), small CD collection, fancy soap and shampoo. We especially liked the Espresso/Cappuccino maker. One drawback, is the Suite was sooo nice, we did not feel like exploring the ship and just wanted to stay in the Suite and relax. Although our Suite was by the Elevator, the way it was laid out, it was extremely quiet. Our bedroom was far away from the hallway and had three door to separate us from the hallway. Each section of the Suite can be closed off by doors. You can watch TV in the living room and have the doors closed to the sleeping areas. The furniture in the Suite, although very nice to look at, are not the most comfortable to lounge in. The balcony became our favorite place to relax. The beds were extremely comfortable as were the feather pillows and duvet. The bathrobes and toiletries were lovely but be warned do not weigh yourself with the bathrobe on as it easily adds 3 lbs. to your weight! The cabin was kept impeccably clean by our cabin stewards.
Food: For lunch on our first day we headed to the Grand Pacific to avoid the congestion of the Garden Cafe. The lunch was excellent and the service was friendly and efficient. The Grand Pacific Dining room is very beautiful and elegant, not sure why people are still arguing about not being allowed to wear jeans, shorts, etc. in such a classy place! The first night we went to Tequila and had an excellent meal. The chips and salsa, fajitas were very tasty and the kids loved it. We did not eat very often in the Garden Cafe mainly because being in Suite we had access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch and took advantage of this. This was served in the Star Bar which is a lovely area that overlooks the pool . The service was excellent and the waiters were always pleasant and took an interest in the kids. One waiter Swaroop Bannanje was especially friendly and stopped to talk to us when we saw him in other areas of the ship. The breakfast in Cagney's was excellent especially the French toast, pancakes, grape fruit broiled in Rum, and steak and eggs. The Egg Benedict was good without being exceptional. The Garden Cafe is very well set up and unlike traditional buffets has action stations where food is cooked to order. The salad bar, pizza, indian food were all quite good. In the evening they put tablecloths on the tables that makes it seem less like a cafeteria. As with all cruise ships the buffet area always seems to be crowded! There are espresso/latte/Cappuccino machines in the Garden Cafe which was a nice touch, however like all cruise ships we have been on the coffee always seems too weak. That is why we enjoyed making our own coffee in our suite.
Although we had the VIP option of making dinner reservations for the entire cruise through the concierge we did not do so. We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants, partly because we did not feel like having such a huge meal and did not feel like paying for food that we feel should be in the cruise price (for a family of 5 $20-25 surcharges are not a nominal fee), also we had heard mixed reviews of the food in the specialty restaurants and that there are extra charges for certain dishes. Unlike a lot of other reviews we did not have trouble showing up at the 2 main dining rooms without reservations because in general we like to eat early (5:30-6:30) and at these times there never seemed to be a wait. Later in the evening the restaurants were packed and many people were waiting with beepers. Overall we would rate the food in the dining room as good to very good. The appetizers, soups, and salads were very good and the main entrees were generally good. Two exceptions were the shrimp cocktail that had those tiny salad shrimp and the Seafood Extravaganza with overcooked lobster, tasteless pasta, 2 tiny mussels, and 1 shrimp. The desserts in the dining room were very good to excellent especially the souffles. The portions tended to be small but sufficient for us given that we ordered multiple courses.
The Blue Lagoon was a favorite with our kids for lunch or a quick snack. The buffalo wings, chicken fingers, rice, and shepherds pie were a big hit.
The Chocolate Buffet was a disappointment mostly made up of brownies, squares etc. and nothing really special.
Ports: We had been to Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau before so the itinerary for us was not the most exciting. The excursions offered by the ship in our opinion were way overpriced and nothing much appealed to us anyway. As we had done Kennedy Space Centre, Disney World, and Universal Studios multiple times before on land vacations we decided to stay on the ship when we docked in Port Canaveral.
Great Stirrup Cay: We took the first tender to the private island. Signed up for the usual and compulsory snorkeling vest but brought our own snorkeling gear. The reef seems to have suffered from the snorkelers compared to 2 years ago. The fish were not as abundant, although we managed to get quite a gathering with some left over bread. The water was a bit cool for the little ones. Did not manage to see the sting rays this time, although some people have seen them. Left it too late for a walk around the island, it was scorching hot by mid afternoon. Kids had fun with the counselors on the beach at noon with water games and prizes. We lined up for the tender back to the ship at 4pm, but there were so many people and they were waiting to fill up the tender we did not get on board until 5:15pm (last tender was supposed to be at 5pm). Nassau: Taxis in Nassau were like a zoo but eventually went to Atlantis for $4 pp. Walked through Atlantis, a long but nice and cool walk, eventually through the eastern most door, past the RIU hotel, then down the public beach, Cabbage beach, which is really the same beach as Atlantis. Beautiful colors, gentle shore break, nice sand, but lots of people and lots of chair/umbrella/braids vendors. Hot dogs and Bahamian beer at the RIU outlet on the beach. Went back through Atlantis when it got too hot, and saw the huge aquarium and huge Manta Rays.
Freeport: Freeport, or is it Lucaya or Lucaya Harbour or Port Lucaya Harbour. Very confusing. Could not find out before cruising. Anyway, woke up to an ugly industrial port with turquoise water and beautiful sunshine. Welcome to Lucaya Harbour in Freeport. 11 miles from Port Lucaya, where the shopping mall and beaches are. Arrived at 8am, casually off the ship at 9am. Took a cab/van to Port Lucaya at $5pp. We originally wanted to go to Lucaya National Park but it was 57miles away and $30 pp and was deemed to far, since we have to back on board at 2:30pm (the driver would have stayed with us there). The beach in Port Lucaya had a most beautiful silky feel to the feet and freshly combed. The water was beautiful aqua, a tad cold, OK once you're swimming. The kids found it too cold. Not much to see snorkel wise other than a number of red starfish and sand dollars.
Kids Club:
This was a highlight of the cruise for our kids even though given their ages they were all in separate groups. They all loved it to the point that we were almost begging for the kids to spend some time with us. The activities were great and the kids thought the counselors were amazing. They all rated this the best Kids Club ever! As a result we tipped the counselors as they truly deserved it. They
Overall Impression: The ship was very beautiful with a fun, funky theme. The color scheme is a little off the wall but we really liked it. The giant Wii screen was cool but only used for a few hours a day and most days it was for Adults Only! The rock climbing wall was a blast. The kids loved the pool and waterslide as well as the giant chess game. The Bliss Lounge has to be seen to be believed, no description can do it justice. The shows were generally good and the Second City Improv was especially entertaining. The usual shopping lectures, art auctions, bingo don't really appeal to us. The ship is especially clean. Almost all the staff we came in contact with were very pleasant and friendly. We enjoyed the Freestyle concept and would definitely want to return to the Norwegian Gem on a different itinerary.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We were 37 people from the Suites doing the Express check out. First ones off the ship, they were still unloading people bags in the terminal! Out of the parking lot without any traffic by 9:45am.
Rhian’s Full Rating Summary
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