1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Norwegian Gem
Parts of this trip were magical, particularly spending New Year's Eve in the Spinnaker Lounge, listening to live jazz, drinking champagne and watching fireworks over Nassau as the ship left port. I'll never forget that. But overall service on this ship was the sloppiest we have ever experienced. Leaving NY was fine. Since we were Latitude members, we were told we could arrive at 11, and actually arrived at 10:30 (since we were parking at the port and didn't know how complicated that would be - it turned out to be quite easy). We had no line at check in, and then just had to wait until they started boarding the ship at about noon. They had hot chocolate and date bread available. We were handed champagne as we boarded the boat. The interior of the boat is lovely overall, although the lobby is ghastly (a 2 story TV showing Wii games or football is a plus?). The first thing we did was head to the beautiful, Art Deco Grand Pacific for a nice lunch. They announced around 2:30 that all cabins were ready, but ours wasn't ready until later. It was a major inconvenience that most days our cabin wasn't made up until 2-3 in the afternoon. We were in a triple with our 17 year old, and until her bed was put away we had almost no floor space and couldn't access the balcony. (But, while the balcony was beautiful to have, we often couldn't use it anyway because the folks in the next cabin were always out there smoking. With three in a room we found storage space was very tight. I'd suggest getting rid of the mini-bar, which could be replaced with two drawers (after all you are never far from a bar or restaurant on this boat). The bathroom was well designed. With a party of 7, we had most breakfasts and lunches and all dinners in the main dining rooms, Grand Pacific and Magenta. The waits were never too bad (they would say 30-40 minutes, but our pager would go off in 10-15 minutes). The service in Grand Pacific was very erratic. For one breakfast it was about 20 minutes before anyone took our order (the pastry server had already been by three times). Wrong items were brought several times, and twice I got the wrong insert in my menu (and when I ordered from it, the waiter didn't tell me, he just didn't serve me when he served everyone else!). Many staff seemed indifferent, and the waiters often couldn't answer questions about the menu. The menus could also be misleading. "Peach compote" is several canned peach slices in a dish. Cake with a sauce might mean 6 drops of sauce in a semicircle on the plate (doesn't add much flavor). But most of the food was good and the three vegetarians in our party had no difficulty. We had snacks and an occasional lunch at the buffet. While they say it's "not a buffet - everything is cooked to order" - I didn't see what was cooked to order except burgers and omelets. We were glad to find scones for afternoon tea served at the Great Outdoors (but missed tea served by waiters in the ballroom on the Queen Mary!). One of our favorite places to relax on the boat was the far aft section of the buffet seating - lovely round booths overlooking floor to ceiling windows. Perfect, during slow times, for a cup of tea and a book. The library was also comfortable but small, and while it was mostly quiet, it is located right near the pool, so it was disturbing every time the door opened. The evening entertainment was mostly good. The first night was terrible - they only had one seating and the theater could not accommodate many people who wanted to attend. And the comedian was not very funny (he mostly made fun of well meaning volunteers from the audience - a pathetic kind of humor). The production shows were all lively and well done. We missed the singer. Second City was fun - both their evening show and their "workshop." Most of the daytime activities (and all which were publicly announced) were the ones which make money for NCL - bingo, art auctions, etc. My husband heard a lecture about NASA and said it was terrible. I heard a photography talk and it was informative. There wasn't much daytime programming that interested us, compared to other ships. My teen registered for the teen activities but missed the first mixer (it was during dinner), so didn't go to anything else. There were many kids on the boat (it was Christmas break) but it never seemed like a problem. The pool area was always crowded (even on port days) but there were other areas with ample deck chairs for relaxing. As to ports, at Port Canaveral several from my group took the NCL trip to NASA and enjoyed it. I didn't go and didn't leave the boat - nothing interesting within walking distance. The private island was fine. We couldn't get off until around 11:30 - it was very slow loading and unloading the tenders (and someone had been sick earlier on our tender, and it wasn't cleaned up). It was crowded but I found a hammock to spend some time in. We chose to do Nassau ourselves. You can easily walk into town. We took a carriage ride ($10/person for about 20 minutes) and checked email at a cyber cafe ($3/30 minutes- much better than on ship) and went to the pirate museum ($12 - and surprisingly interesting). Freeport was a total waste. We got in at 7 am, but it was January 1, and everyone had been up celebrating the night before, so I don't know which sleepless souls got on those tour buses. We were supposed to leave at 11:30, so there was just time after breakfast to get off and wander around the nearby "straw market" (t-shirts, hats, shell jewelry, pretty cotton dresses made in India...). The port is apparently miles from beaches. Disembarkation took a while. We handled our own bags and were told we could just walk off, but had to wait in line for 30 minutes or so. We were told it was a problem with customs. Once we left the ship we quickly passed through customs and got to our car. Overall, I'm not a fan of "Freestyle" cruising. We much prefer the experiences we've had on Cunard, and their staff appear to have much better training and efficiency than what we saw on the Gem. We had sailed once before on NCL, on the Sun, and felt it fell midway between the quality of Cunard and the Gem, not as polished as the former or as sloppy as the latter.

Good trip, but improvements are needed

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Best Lane

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2008
  • Destination: Bahamas
Parts of this trip were magical, particularly spending New Year's Eve in the Spinnaker Lounge, listening to live jazz, drinking champagne and watching fireworks over Nassau as the ship left port. I'll never forget that.
But overall service on this ship was the sloppiest we have ever experienced.
Leaving NY was fine. Since we were Latitude members, we were told we could arrive at 11, and actually arrived at 10:30 (since we were parking at the port and didn't know how complicated that would be - it turned out to be quite easy). We had no line at check in, and then just had to wait until they started boarding the ship at about noon. They had hot chocolate and date bread available.
We were handed champagne as we boarded the boat. The interior of the boat is lovely overall, although the lobby is ghastly (a 2 story TV showing Wii games or football is a plus?).
The first thing we did was head to the beautiful, Art Deco Grand Pacific for a nice lunch. They announced around 2:30 that all cabins were ready, but ours wasn't ready until later. It was a major inconvenience that most days our cabin wasn't made up until 2-3 in the afternoon. We were in a triple with our 17 year old, and until her bed was put away we had almost no floor space and couldn't access the balcony. (But, while the balcony was beautiful to have, we often couldn't use it anyway because the folks in the next cabin were always out there smoking. With three in a room we found storage space was very tight. I'd suggest getting rid of the mini-bar, which could be replaced with two drawers (after all you are never far from a bar or restaurant on this boat). The bathroom was well designed.
With a party of 7, we had most breakfasts and lunches and all dinners in the main dining rooms, Grand Pacific and Magenta. The waits were never too bad (they would say 30-40 minutes, but our pager would go off in 10-15 minutes). The service in Grand Pacific was very erratic. For one breakfast it was about 20 minutes before anyone took our order (the pastry server had already been by three times). Wrong items were brought several times, and twice I got the wrong insert in my menu (and when I ordered from it, the waiter didn't tell me, he just didn't serve me when he served everyone else!). Many staff seemed indifferent, and the waiters often couldn't answer questions about the menu. The menus could also be misleading. "Peach compote" is several canned peach slices in a dish. Cake with a sauce might mean 6 drops of sauce in a semicircle on the plate (doesn't add much flavor). But most of the food was good and the three vegetarians in our party had no difficulty.
We had snacks and an occasional lunch at the buffet. While they say it's "not a buffet - everything is cooked to order" - I didn't see what was cooked to order except burgers and omelets. We were glad to find scones for afternoon tea served at the Great Outdoors (but missed tea served by waiters in the ballroom on the Queen Mary!).
One of our favorite places to relax on the boat was the far aft section of the buffet seating - lovely round booths overlooking floor to ceiling windows. Perfect, during slow times, for a cup of tea and a book. The library was also comfortable but small, and while it was mostly quiet, it is located right near the pool, so it was disturbing every time the door opened.
The evening entertainment was mostly good. The first night was terrible - they only had one seating and the theater could not accommodate many people who wanted to attend. And the comedian was not very funny (he mostly made fun of well meaning volunteers from the audience - a pathetic kind of humor). The production shows were all lively and well done. We missed the singer. Second City was fun - both their evening show and their "workshop."
Most of the daytime activities (and all which were publicly announced) were the ones which make money for NCL - bingo, art auctions, etc. My husband heard a lecture about NASA and said it was terrible. I heard a photography talk and it was informative. There wasn't much daytime programming that interested us, compared to other ships.
My teen registered for the teen activities but missed the first mixer (it was during dinner), so didn't go to anything else. There were many kids on the boat (it was Christmas break) but it never seemed like a problem. The pool area was always crowded (even on port days) but there were other areas with ample deck chairs for relaxing.
As to ports, at Port Canaveral several from my group took the NCL trip to NASA and enjoyed it. I didn't go and didn't leave the boat - nothing interesting within walking distance. The private island was fine. We couldn't get off until around 11:30 - it was very slow loading and unloading the tenders (and someone had been sick earlier on our tender, and it wasn't cleaned up). It was crowded but I found a hammock to spend some time in. We chose to do Nassau ourselves. You can easily walk into town. We took a carriage ride ($10/person for about 20 minutes) and checked email at a cyber cafe ($3/30 minutes- much better than on ship) and went to the pirate museum ($12 - and surprisingly interesting). Freeport was a total waste. We got in at 7 am, but it was January 1, and everyone had been up celebrating the night before, so I don't know which sleepless souls got on those tour buses. We were supposed to leave at 11:30, so there was just time after breakfast to get off and wander around the nearby "straw market" (t-shirts, hats, shell jewelry, pretty cotton dresses made in India...). The port is apparently miles from beaches.
Disembarkation took a while. We handled our own bags and were told we could just walk off, but had to wait in line for 30 minutes or so. We were told it was a problem with customs. Once we left the ship we quickly passed through customs and got to our car.
Overall, I'm not a fan of "Freestyle" cruising. We much prefer the experiences we've had on Cunard, and their staff appear to have much better training and efficiency than what we saw on the Gem. We had sailed once before on NCL, on the Sun, and felt it fell midway between the quality of Cunard and the Gem, not as polished as the former or as sloppy as the latter.
Best Lane’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Rates
Service
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Norwegian Gem price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews