This was our 11th cruise on NCL. We chose it because we wanted to do a full transit of the canal.
First off, the cruise was 20 days. We booked a port balcony cabin on deck 10 somewhat forward. This was our third time on the Gem, a ship we really like because it has excellent public spaces (Spinnaker lounge, outdoor fantail dining, promenade deck) that the larger NCL ships don’t seem to have. The GEM feels bigger inside than the Breakaway class ships. The cabin was fine although 20 days tended to make it feel smaller as the cruise wore on.
Normally, we expect NCL to provide consistently good dining. The complimentary restaurants were pretty decent and, occasionally, were excellent. The issue we had was with Cagneys: On both our visits, they couldn’t properly cook a filet mignon to medium rare. The results ranged from completely uncooked in the center to overcooked and dry. And, for the first time ever in a steakhouse we were asked to cut into the filet to check if it was properly cooked. Clearly, their chef was having problems. Strangely, the two meals we had in Le Bistro (we ordered the file de boeuf au cinq poivres, we like filet!) were perfect. We had one meal at the Asian restaurant, The Orchid, which was underwhelming.
The usual: decent bed, relatively quiet, somewhat cramped for such a long cruise.
Very pleasant. Walked around the port area.
A bit busy, but nice. Had a nice lunch and did some shopping.
A nice seaside setting. Overrun by street vendors of all kinds. Had a somewhat disappointing lunch in a streetside cafe.
We received a lovely quayside reception with music and dancing. We walked around the shopping district near the dock. The local crafters produce some exquisite work in wood, ceramics and beadwork. One of the cruise staff was mugged abd had her cellphone stolen, so be careful and stick to well populate ld streets.
We had an a tour booked to do Antigua on Your Own, but upon hearing about the mugging in Nicaragua, we canceled and, instead, walked through the small protected “shopping area” near the dock. Again, the local handiwork is exceptional with an emphasis on weaving and jewelry.
We had been told that Ixtapa was dangerous. On the entire 1/3 mile walk from the tender docks to the town, there was a highly visible police, army and private security presence which negated the issue. The town itself is charming, not over-developed. We bought some Vanilla in a shop, walked around and then back to the ship. Street vendor presence was minimal.