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We had a pretty sour experience on the Breakaway this summer and NCL graciously offered to give us a discounted cruise to return and it was an offer we couldn't refuse. We booked this cruise for our anniversary, and first kid-free vacation. It was a very good improvement from our previous issues but this specific ship/cruise has an extremely different feel than the Breakway did. I will say that the staff in general was leaps and bounds better than the Breakway. Our room steward and her team were fantastic, always greeting us by name and with a smile. Our room was always spotless and cleaned/turned down in a timely manner. We never once had to call for an issue, or a missing item etc. Restaurant staff were all fantastic. Again, always greeting us by name and with a smile. Service was slow but it also was on the Breakway so I wasn't expecting much and I don't think it was at fault of the servers.. more that they can only produce so fast. They went above and beyond to make our anniversary dinner special and memorable. Bar staff were always friendly.. but SLOW. It was usually a 10+ minute wait for a simple drink even when not busy. Consistency of the drinks were also lacking. I would order a margarita.. and one bartender would pour a pre-mixed one from a carraffe (and it tasted fine). The same bar, 30 min later, different bartender would make a margarita from scratch, not even use the correct liquor, it was a completely different color and then argue that I was wrong. There was a bartender/waiter at the pool most days who offered excellent chair-side delivery of your beverage and always remembered what you liked.. which was a nice touch. Front Desk Staff left a LOT to be desired. Not just one person... ALL of them. We had some minor issues (silly billing issues, a faulty item from the gift shop and a poor shore excursion experience) and we were always treated rudely. For example, a credit was missing on our account and they said that we were in the wrong and would have to call NCL headquarters to resolve. Or when I purchased a ring from the gift shop (CZ cheapie) and a stone fell out within 3 days, I was told I would need to return on disembark day and wait in line with everyone else to return it since the gift shop manager was not available. All over $25 which they would not credit me even after I gave back the ring. Overall the front desk staff were snotty, cold and turned their noses up at everyone on board. Always tried to pass the buck or turn you away in hopes that you wouldn't return. Shore excursions were good. We purchased 4 and were extremely happy with 3 of them, and I guess a 75% success rate isn't terrible. I was very disappointed in a shore excursion that was NOTHING as it was described. We spoke with a regular staff member and the manager, both who repeated word for word "You got exactly what you paid for". In question was a "Between the Pitons" catamaran where we didn't even get close to them (we got closer in the actual ship on the way out of St. Lucia let alone "in between" them and were in view of the Pitons for no more that 60 seconds). This same excursion took us to a "private" beach where we were haggled for over an hour by friends of the tour operator (who encouraged and egged on the hagglers). It was clear that the shore excursion desk was not going to even budge on their pre-planned phrases so we will take up those charges with our bank.. but again, a customer spending thousands of dollars on a trip should not have to spend a good portion of that trip dealing with it to get a simple courtesy credit over something so obvious. Skip the spa no matter what... just trust me on this. I gave it a second chance on this cruise and it was equally appalling. This spa was always dead which to me is a HUGE indicator! Food was only ok in the complimentary options, and pretty good in the specialized restaurants. There are not nearly enough tables in the Garden Cafe so be prepared to wait for one. Entertainment was so so. We expected a Breakaway worthy performance and got what felt like a middle school play performance. There is one singer that has a voice to die for but other than that, Swing and Blazing Boots were cringe worthy. They had a comedian juggler who was fantastic, and a comedian magician who was also pretty good. Don't kill yourself trying to make a show. No reservations offered and not the end of the world if you miss it in my opinion! The ship over all was clean and you could tell that the staff took a much higher pride in their home than on the Breakaway. That made us very happy. But this cruise and ship is by far for an older crowd. The activities were slow paced and bland. The "parties" and "clubs" were more like socials for the elderly. We are in our mid/late 30's and we were among the youngest adults on the ship. We didn't mind much as we were looking for a quiet getaway but if you are looking for a party, this is not the ship for you.

It was OK, but not much more than that. Blah is a good term!

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Mtulinski

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2018
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Oceanview Picture Window
We had a pretty sour experience on the Breakaway this summer and NCL graciously offered to give us a discounted cruise to return and it was an offer we couldn't refuse. We booked this cruise for our anniversary, and first kid-free vacation. It was a very good improvement from our previous issues but this specific ship/cruise has an extremely different feel than the Breakway did.

I will say that the staff in general was leaps and bounds better than the Breakway.

Our room steward and her team were fantastic, always greeting us by name and with a smile. Our room was always spotless and cleaned/turned down in a timely manner. We never once had to call for an issue, or a missing item etc.

Restaurant staff were all fantastic. Again, always greeting us by name and with a smile. Service was slow but it also was on the Breakway so I wasn't expecting much and I don't think it was at fault of the servers.. more that they can only produce so fast. They went above and beyond to make our anniversary dinner special and memorable.

Bar staff were always friendly.. but SLOW. It was usually a 10+ minute wait for a simple drink even when not busy. Consistency of the drinks were also lacking. I would order a margarita.. and one bartender would pour a pre-mixed one from a carraffe (and it tasted fine). The same bar, 30 min later, different bartender would make a margarita from scratch, not even use the correct liquor, it was a completely different color and then argue that I was wrong. There was a bartender/waiter at the pool most days who offered excellent chair-side delivery of your beverage and always remembered what you liked.. which was a nice touch.

Front Desk Staff left a LOT to be desired. Not just one person... ALL of them. We had some minor issues (silly billing issues, a faulty item from the gift shop and a poor shore excursion experience) and we were always treated rudely. For example, a credit was missing on our account and they said that we were in the wrong and would have to call NCL headquarters to resolve. Or when I purchased a ring from the gift shop (CZ cheapie) and a stone fell out within 3 days, I was told I would need to return on disembark day and wait in line with everyone else to return it since the gift shop manager was not available. All over $25 which they would not credit me even after I gave back the ring. Overall the front desk staff were snotty, cold and turned their noses up at everyone on board. Always tried to pass the buck or turn you away in hopes that you wouldn't return.

Shore excursions were good. We purchased 4 and were extremely happy with 3 of them, and I guess a 75% success rate isn't terrible. I was very disappointed in a shore excursion that was NOTHING as it was described. We spoke with a regular staff member and the manager, both who repeated word for word "You got exactly what you paid for". In question was a "Between the Pitons" catamaran where we didn't even get close to them (we got closer in the actual ship on the way out of St. Lucia let alone "in between" them and were in view of the Pitons for no more that 60 seconds). This same excursion took us to a "private" beach where we were haggled for over an hour by friends of the tour operator (who encouraged and egged on the hagglers). It was clear that the shore excursion desk was not going to even budge on their pre-planned phrases so we will take up those charges with our bank.. but again, a customer spending thousands of dollars on a trip should not have to spend a good portion of that trip dealing with it to get a simple courtesy credit over something so obvious.

Skip the spa no matter what... just trust me on this. I gave it a second chance on this cruise and it was equally appalling. This spa was always dead which to me is a HUGE indicator!

Food was only ok in the complimentary options, and pretty good in the specialized restaurants. There are not nearly enough tables in the Garden Cafe so be prepared to wait for one.

Entertainment was so so. We expected a Breakaway worthy performance and got what felt like a middle school play performance. There is one singer that has a voice to die for but other than that, Swing and Blazing Boots were cringe worthy. They had a comedian juggler who was fantastic, and a comedian magician who was also pretty good. Don't kill yourself trying to make a show. No reservations offered and not the end of the world if you miss it in my opinion!

The ship over all was clean and you could tell that the staff took a much higher pride in their home than on the Breakaway. That made us very happy. But this cruise and ship is by far for an older crowd. The activities were slow paced and bland. The "parties" and "clubs" were more like socials for the elderly. We are in our mid/late 30's and we were among the youngest adults on the ship. We didn't mind much as we were looking for a quiet getaway but if you are looking for a party, this is not the ship for you.
Mtulinski’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Oceanview Picture Window
Cabin OA 5508
Cabin was perfect for 2 people but not sure how it would work with 2 pullman beds so I don't recommend it for families. More than enough room in drawers/closets for a 12 day cruise and we fit 3 large suitcases under the beds with room to spare. The bathroom is TINY TINY TINY though. 5'5" and my knees were pushed against the wall while on the toilet.
Deck 8 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Antigua
    This was the highlight of our trip. An hour in the water with wild sting rays. Feeding them, pictures and videos and an experience of a lifetime with these gentle giants. Highly recommended. The taxi who was hired to take us there was boring but we didn't expect much since it was a taxi, not a tour.. but a few talking points along the 30 minute drive would have been a nice touch.
    View All 13,774 Antigua Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Shipwreck Snorkel
    Swam with a few sea turtles which was awesome. Catamaran staff were awesome, friendly and very knowledgeable... answered all of our questions and showed us great points along the sail. Offered complimentary drinks and local beer to your hearts content along with a huge lunch spread which was delicious.
    View All 33 Shipwreck Snorkel Reviews
  • San Juan
    You are dropped in Old San Juan which doesn't offer much. Be prepared to be harassed beyond belief if you get off the boat. Also very frustrating that we were supposed to arrive at 7AM, didn't get clearance to get off the boat until after 8:30AM and were expected to be back on board in less than 4 hours. All while none of the local businesses open until 10/11 AM. We grabbed a cup of local coffee and went back on the ship.
    View All 3,883 San Juan Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Rainforest Tour
    Great guide, learned a lot and saw a lot of the island. We were brought to a small (under construction) beach club which was nice for a quick visit and a drink!
    View All 40 Rainforest Tour Reviews
  • St. Lucia
    We did not go even close to the Pitons let alone "in between". The bulk of our time on this excursion was spent on a rickety catamaran going to a "private" beach where hagglers who are friends with the operators will be allowed to harass you for over an hour and basically come on board the boat so you are essentially trapped. Be prepared to buy your beverages on board the catamaran as well as you only get 1 small glass of weak rum punch complimentary. Not worth even half of what it costs!!!!!!
    View All 13,774 St. Lucia Cruise Port Reviews
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