Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by mking8288
- Sail Date: April 2017
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Obstructed Oceanview
Ship arrived back late in NY due to weather & fog, disembarkation was 90+ minutes later than most expected but crew did an excellent turnaround job, missed some stateroom details (as expected) but catching up later on - priority & VIP boarding along with Haven & suites started at 12 noon while last pax were still coming off the gangways (2 used) at 11 AM and we sailed about an hour later with a delayed mandatory muster/safety drill - sailing down the beautiful Hudson River in great weather. It was the Hotel Director's decision to go forward with embarkation rather delaying it further and holding 2,000+ restless pax inside the crowded terminal; as explained during the CC Meet & Mingle, and, I totally concurred and appreciated the decision by management. Having Platinum, CAS and VIP status meant that we're able to board quickly but know of very little complaints for the late boarding - we checked 2 bags outside the pier with porters around 10 AM and they're delivered to outside our stateroom on Deck 8 around 4 PM - of course, we always carry our own essentials at all times. NCL also had a designated hold onboard for guests to "check" their luggage temporary while eating lunch, without dragging them all over.
Disembarkation was smooth as ship arrived back earlier than scheduled, common routine & docked around 7 AM, cleared & express self walk-off called at 7:40, a very organized process by NCL in partnership with local authorities over the years. We used priority disembark and waited for our turn @ 8:30 to be sure that our tagged luggage were ready downstairs in the arrival hall. Off the ship's Fwd gangway & picked up our bags in about 10 minutes, we optionally used porter services to speed thru CBP and were outside on 12th Ave before 9 AM - then, booked our car service on their mobile App & picked up, on the way home.
NCL did a great job with its recent dry-dock, new LG HDTV are in all the staterooms, new bedside lights added with USB charging port, reducing the needs for more 110 or 220 power outlets - although, there are two 110V and one 220V outlets in the typical staterooms. Only wished they can re-design and re-configure the small bathroom, especially the tight space around the toilet, the sliding doors for it & the shower aren't helping to make good shared use of that tiny space - that's where the *Away class ship has the advantage.
The public areas of the ship were strategically located and easily reached, Stardust Theater seating remained a bit too tight but nice not being required to make reservations - Swing is 1 of 2 main production shows, I rate it average but Blazing Boots, the western theme one is high energy. Russian acrobatic duo also performed twice one evening with amazing acts to a packed theater. The farewell "Get Down Tonight" by the performers ended with the crowds doing a standing ovation - followed by the traditional NCL crew farewell on stage - the theater casts has been on the ship for 6 months non-stop and taking vacation, a new team coming on.
Pool & sundeck areas are packed with folks due to the nice & warm weather on all but Day 6 - sea day due to weather, one can still find a lounger or two in the shade, away from the pool area when needed - despite the crowd. BBQ each afternoon is very popular and one can go inside to the nearby buffet for soft ice cream, fruits & other comfort food. Great Outdoors in the AFT is a natural extension of the Garden Cafe as is La Cucina across, for extra seating. There are varieties in the buffet but not as much as it used to be, smoke salmon are gone & only available in the MDR @breakfast. We always preferred to eat in the MDR and found the portion sizes to be "bigger" and good for most non-big eaters, with nightly changes in menu selection as well as fixed choices. Lunch MDR menu remained unchanged for all 5 days (closed when in port for full day) and this SHOULD not be - perhaps a chef's daily selection, would be refreshing ... can't imagine eating & choosing from 5 or 6 items doing a 10 or 14 days sailing NCL. Compared to NCL 10 years ago, we continued to find fewer menu rotations in variety and choices, and that chocolate seemed to used generously among daily dessert selections, resulting in fewer items to rotate & select from if one isn't a fan.
Atrium lobby has new & slimmer seatings, fitting more guests and always something going on, and a premium (for fees) coffee/bar if one wished - plus, 24/7 comfort food @ O'Sheehan's is just up one deck via elevators, stairs or spiral staircase - where it's usually not a long wait for quick snacks, soup & sandwiches, salads & hot wings with choice of sauces. Complimentary breakfast room services is available but at other hours, there is a fee charged for delivery, off a rather limited menu. Forum review under NCL has been largely finished for those interested in more details.
Shore excursions at Port Canaveral is expensive relative to late arrival & reduced total time in the port, and we simply will NOT waste our money or time to visit Disney or Orlando or even KSC with only a few hours after a 1 PM docking and 9 PM sailing - many like us, choose to stay onboard to relax. GSC, private island of NCL is looking better with the upgrade still in progress but as a tender port, is hit-n-miss due to weather & sea conditions, but we made it and had a good time on the beach, renting the blue clamshell for extra shades & sun/heat protection ... otherwise, it's perfectly fine to stay on the ship & enjoy the air-conditioned facilities, not sure if the pool is less crowded. NCL tours had gotten way too expensive so we declined to book them and DIY on our own - took an island van tour for about 1/2 price and had a very enjoyable 2.5 hours seeing some places that ship tour wouldn't cover - plus 45 minutes stop at Atlantas, before returning to the pier for the ship or do some main street shopping.
We've done this "milky run" many times over the years as a convenience, without the hassle of flying south when we have only 8 to 9 days of vacation time to use - and will do this again. NCL should look at Carnival's approach of doing some 6 days and 8 days, or even 5 days and 9 days to extend the port options sailing out of the Northeast US cities in 2018 and beyond, especially during off-seasons.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Great Stirrup CayWe had priority tendering and were among the first wave from the Gem to get ashore, not the first boat but plenty of choiced locations for loungers - and, able to rent 3 clam shells on the spot. Remodeled GSC is well done, but work isn't fully finished yet.View All 967 Great Stirrup Cay Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Great Stirrup Cay Cruise Port Review
Nassau TourWe did not pre-book and just joined others taking a taxi-van tour around key sections of Nassau for 2.5 hours, including a 45 minutes stop at Atlantas, 2 shopping stop for tea & t-shirts, Queen's staircase, drove past the Bar Har casino/resort/hotel - very friendly & helpful driver; and, saved about 50% over the cost of ship tours.View All 109 Nassau Tour Reviews