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The big attraction of this cruise was the itinerary: LA to New York taking in the Panama Canal and the ABC islands and lots of other places along the way, plus 19 days in the sun in mid-winter. I've cruised about a dozen times with several different cruise lines and on varying sizes of ships and although this was not a bad experience I'd put Norwegian at the bottom of my list and would only cruise with them again if the itinerary was really special, like this one. I've given an overall "Average" rating because, while some aspects of the trip were very good, others were not so great. The check-in experience for me was good as I did not have to stand in long lines at any stage and there was only a short wait for my cabin to be ready. The cabin itself was a bit tired and there was no chair, though clearly space for one: a dining chair was delivered later when I asked about it and I was told the tub chair that should be there was damaged. Don't know why it hadn't been replaced without me having to ask for it. The bed linen was badly pilled and really needs to be replaced. Mark, the cabin steward, was excellent but as I was at the end of his line of cabins, it was often late in the morning/evening before he got to mine and this was sometimes inconvenient. The shower was a good size but the wc was awkwardly positioned at an angle and a large person would have had a problem with it. The Garden Cafe was just a scrum and I avoided it most of the time, unless I was after a quick snack outside of peak meal times: chaotic lay-out with people going in all directions and then hard to find a seat. I didn't try the specialty restaurants but ate in both the Magenta and Grand Pacific dining rooms, which have the same menu. I found the chairs in the Magenta uncomfortable so preferred the Grand Pacific. Several reviewers have commented on the wating time to get in there but I never had a problem of more than a few minutes, which also applied the night I went to the Magenta. The staff in the Grand Pacific were excellent and I never felt that the wait for food was excessive. And even when it was busy there was no pressure to vacate the table. The food was good if not spectacular. It was my go-to for breakfast and dinner. Lunch is served there on days at sea but I didn't try it as the buffet on deck was also very good. My main complaints about the ship are the lack of quiet spaces, the on-cost of drinks and services and the hard-sell on extras from the spa, shore excursions and future cruise departments. The Spinnaker lounge is a lovely space but it was hard to find a time when it wasn't being used for a noisy bingo session or a game/quiz of some sort. The same applies to the atrium. I don't mind the odd game of bingo but the cost on the Gem was extortionate compared to other ships I've been on. Drinks were also more expensive than other ships. I went to a couple of the talks in the spa and gym and they were basically just sales pitches for spurious weight control plans or orthotics, both at outrageous prices compared to what can be had on-shore. The Cruise Director and staff were very much at the cheap package holiday end of the market. The future cruising offer was not a good deal and merely a way of getting money out of you now. The shore excursions I did were OK but the talk on them on the first day was poor, being all about where to shop and ignoring those ports where there was no fancy shopping. If you were not going on one of the ship's excursions, they really weren't interested in you and there was no information about the port, what to see or how to get about. The port lectures were not helpful, being mainly historical with the lecturer's holiday photos and bad jokes thrown in. Other ships I've been on have provided some combination of a port talk on what to see/how to get around/maps/shuttle buses to the centre if the port area is beyond easy walking distance. As other reviewers have mentioned, the tender service to shore was slow in Cabo and a complete shambles in Puerto Vallarta where there were 3 other ships docked and we were at anchor with only one tender allowed in at a time. Was this a cost issue? Then when we finally got ashore over an hour after the scheduled tour time there was no one there to direct us to the the start point for our walking tour. I didn't go to the entertainment every night as I don't much like hypnotists and ventriloquists but I recognise there was a good variety on offer for a 19 day cruise. The song and dance shows were very good but I was surprised to learn that they only do 3 per cruise, however long the cruise is, which meant more of the pianist - good but not worth 2 shows - and repeats of some of the other performers. Also, I didn't think it was good to have the dancers en masse on the sun deck in the afternoon, generally being noisy and disruptive for other passengers; nor did I appreciate hearing one of them in the spa, while I was having a manicure and he was getting his hair cut, going on about how much he hated the shows. I chose the unassisted disembarkation and that worked well.

Great Itinerary, average ship-board experience

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by allesca

Trip Details
The big attraction of this cruise was the itinerary: LA to New York taking in the Panama Canal and the ABC islands and lots of other places along the way, plus 19 days in the sun in mid-winter.

I've cruised about a dozen times with several different cruise lines and on varying sizes of ships and although this was not a bad experience I'd put Norwegian at the bottom of my list and would only cruise with them again if the itinerary was really special, like this one.

I've given an overall "Average" rating because, while some aspects of the trip were very good, others were not so great.

The check-in experience for me was good as I did not have to stand in long lines at any stage and there was only a short wait for my cabin to be ready.

The cabin itself was a bit tired and there was no chair, though clearly space for one: a dining chair was delivered later when I asked about it and I was told the tub chair that should be there was damaged. Don't know why it hadn't been replaced without me having to ask for it. The bed linen was badly pilled and really needs to be replaced. Mark, the cabin steward, was excellent but as I was at the end of his line of cabins, it was often late in the morning/evening before he got to mine and this was sometimes inconvenient. The shower was a good size but the wc was awkwardly positioned at an angle and a large person would have had a problem with it.

The Garden Cafe was just a scrum and I avoided it most of the time, unless I was after a quick snack outside of peak meal times: chaotic lay-out with people going in all directions and then hard to find a seat. I didn't try the specialty restaurants but ate in both the Magenta and Grand Pacific dining rooms, which have the same menu. I found the chairs in the Magenta uncomfortable so preferred the Grand Pacific. Several reviewers have commented on the wating time to get in there but I never had a problem of more than a few minutes, which also applied the night I went to the Magenta. The staff in the Grand Pacific were excellent and I never felt that the wait for food was excessive. And even when it was busy there was no pressure to vacate the table. The food was good if not spectacular. It was my go-to for breakfast and dinner. Lunch is served there on days at sea but I didn't try it as the buffet on deck was also very good.

My main complaints about the ship are the lack of quiet spaces, the on-cost of drinks and services and the hard-sell on extras from the spa, shore excursions and future cruise departments.

The Spinnaker lounge is a lovely space but it was hard to find a time when it wasn't being used for a noisy bingo session or a game/quiz of some sort. The same applies to the atrium. I don't mind the odd game of bingo but the cost on the Gem was extortionate compared to other ships I've been on. Drinks were also more expensive than other ships. I went to a couple of the talks in the spa and gym and they were basically just sales pitches for spurious weight control plans or orthotics, both at outrageous prices compared to what can be had on-shore.

The Cruise Director and staff were very much at the cheap package holiday end of the market.

The future cruising offer was not a good deal and merely a way of getting money out of you now. The shore excursions I did were OK but the talk on them on the first day was poor, being all about where to shop and ignoring those ports where there was no fancy shopping. If you were not going on one of the ship's excursions, they really weren't interested in you and there was no information about the port, what to see or how to get about. The port lectures were not helpful, being mainly historical with the lecturer's holiday photos and bad jokes thrown in. Other ships I've been on have provided some combination of a port talk on what to see/how to get around/maps/shuttle buses to the centre if the port area is beyond easy walking distance.

As other reviewers have mentioned, the tender service to shore was slow in Cabo and a complete shambles in Puerto Vallarta where there were 3 other ships docked and we were at anchor with only one tender allowed in at a time. Was this a cost issue? Then when we finally got ashore over an hour after the scheduled tour time there was no one there to direct us to the the start point for our walking tour.

I didn't go to the entertainment every night as I don't much like hypnotists and ventriloquists but I recognise there was a good variety on offer for a 19 day cruise. The song and dance shows were very good but I was surprised to learn that they only do 3 per cruise, however long the cruise is, which meant more of the pianist - good but not worth 2 shows - and repeats of some of the other performers. Also, I didn't think it was good to have the dancers en masse on the sun deck in the afternoon, generally being noisy and disruptive for other passengers; nor did I appreciate hearing one of them in the spa, while I was having a manicure and he was getting his hair cut, going on about how much he hated the shows.

I chose the unassisted disembarkation and that worked well.
allesca’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Oceanview Picture Window
Cabin OA 7012
As I've said above, the cabin was a bit tired in terms of decor but spacious enough, certainly for one person. It was configured as a double bed when I arrived, and that took up a lot of space and was in front of the window (as illistrated on the company webiste) which I didn't think was ideal so I had it changed to two singles which worked well for me and meant I could sleep in the bed which was not under the third person foldaway and this avoid the risk of banging my head on it. It would have been cosy with three people in there but I realise it was not one of the larger cabins on board.
Deck 8 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Jeep Tour
    Great and fun exprience with guide Sergio. Covered a lot of the island with all of the principal things to see and good information along the way. Could cut the beach stop at the end and allow more time at some of the other place.
    View All 49 Jeep Tour Reviews
  • Bonaire
    Lovely small port, easy to wander round.
    View All 592 Bonaire Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Bonaire Cruise Port Review
  • Cabo San Lucas
    I wasn't going on an excursion so there was quite a wait for a tender to go ashore. The port is intersting to wander round and watch the seals and pelicans but nothing to make it stand out from other resort towns.
    View All 1,297 Cabo San Lucas Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Cabo San Lucas Cruise Port Review
  • Mangrove Eco Canoe Journey
    The best part of this tour was the drive through the city and along the beach to the lake with the mangroves. The views across the lake are lovely. The canoes themselves are pretty basic so not for the faint-hearted. There were about 10 canoes so impossible en route to get any information from our guide Sergio as we went through the mangroves and in any case there was little to see as we were out in the main heat of the day when most birds and animals are wisely resting. Why the tour wasn't offered early in the day I don't know. Mildly interesting display of net-casting from a fisherman on the lake (tip expected) after a long wait for all of the canoes to gather.
    View All 12 Mangrove Eco Canoe Journey Reviews
  • Corinto
    Tour to Chinandega and then to two ranches. I had been to Corinto before and had the same your guide, Byron, who is excellent. Chinandega is a historic town with a lovely cathedral and interesting architecture. At the first ranch we get a demonstration of local pottery making, as well as tortillas and a dance show, before going on to the Rosario Ranch, also owned by the Coen family and a centre for the breeding and training of horses, as well as a clinic and rehabilitaiton centre for disabled children.
    View All 58 Corinto Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Corinto Cruise Port Review
  • Curacao
    Just went ashore and wandered in the town. Very pretty but as it was a Sunday a lot of places were closed.
    View All 1,237 Curacao Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Curacao Cruise Port Review
  • Puerto Quetzal (Antigua)
    I did the tour to San Antonio Aguas Calientes for the textile museum, and then Antigua. Guide was called Armando and was very good and interesting about the history of weaving in the area. Nice lunch at a hotel in Antigua then free time to wander in the city, which is very attractive but not sure I'd want to spend a whole day there. Fascinating to see the deavastation caused by the recent earthquake and how the country is recovering.
    View All 299 Puerto Quetzal (Antigua) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Puerto Quetzal (Antigua) Cruise Port Review
  • Walking Tour
    I actually left the tour after about half an hour. The guide was not very informative and there were two bathroom breaks in the first half hour so I decided I could make better use of the time and explore on my own.
    View All 8 Walking Tour Reviews
  • Skyway Hike
    It's quite a long drive from the port to the start of most of the tours here. The skywway hike was really good with Julio our guide a fount of knowledge on the flora and fauna as well as the history of the area. Then a cruise on the Tarcoles river to see the crocodiles and birds and a nice snack of fruit at the end with the opportunity to shop in the gift shop.
    View All 10 Skyway Hike Reviews