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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. As for entertainment, the show band (drums, keys, sax, trumpet, bass and trombone) was outstanding. Playing in various forms (trio, quartet, etc.) they never failed to impress. Jack Brady, the piano playing songman was worked hard by the cruise director. The poor guy played three to four sets per night, night after night and it clearly was wearing him out. We saw one production show, a tribute to swing that was excellent. The first comedian was okay until he told a deeply offensive joke (that reinforced a dangerous stereotype) that made us feel very uncomfortable and we left. The staff was almost uniformly excellent. Service was solid and, often, very friendly and personal. We were disappointed that the shore excusions staff, at times, seemed to have limited knowledge about some of the ports. As for going ashore, there is no escaping the fact that many of the ports visited are in some of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and it is hard to be carefree when you see how difficult the life is for the people. Santa Marta, Colombia, for example, is overrun with Venezuelan refugees who desperately need to sell you whatever they can to survive. A sidewalk cafe meal was a non-stop effort to say no to everything from fake Cuban cigars to impromptu unwanted rap performances. We took a few low-effort shore excursions. One honorable mention goes to the Up Close Whale Watching by Zodiac in Cabo San Lucas run by Cabo Tours. Our captain Bernardo was outstanding. He was friendly and engaging and his ability to find whales bordered on the supernatural. We got over 13 sightings with some as close as 15 yards from the boat. Overall, it was a good cruise. However a few points need to be made. First, 20 days is a long time. The ship becomes a bit confining after a while. Second, some passengers could really use some lessons in common courtesy and decorum. From the guy wearing sweatpants to an elegant restaurant to the guy who thought it was funny when he placed his hand on my wife’s head to steady himself, to the scores of people who bumped, backed into or cut off others without so much as an “excuse me”, we were truly happy to escape the ship on the final day and head off into the woods to get far away from our fellow human beings. To be sure, we met many nice people and the majority of people were fine. But there was far more boorishness on this cruise than on any other that we can remember.

NYC to SF the long way

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by Bunkie2100

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
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.

As for entertainment, the show band (drums, keys, sax, trumpet, bass and trombone) was outstanding. Playing in various forms (trio, quartet, etc.) they never failed to impress. Jack Brady, the piano playing songman was worked hard by the cruise director. The poor guy played three to four sets per night, night after night and it clearly was wearing him out. We saw one production show, a tribute to swing that was excellent. The first comedian was okay until he told a deeply offensive joke (that reinforced a dangerous stereotype) that made us feel very uncomfortable and we left.

The staff was almost uniformly excellent. Service was solid and, often, very friendly and personal. We were disappointed that the shore excusions staff, at times, seemed to have limited knowledge about some of the ports.

As for going ashore, there is no escaping the fact that many of the ports visited are in some of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and it is hard to be carefree when you see how difficult the life is for the people. Santa Marta, Colombia, for example, is overrun with Venezuelan refugees who desperately need to sell you whatever they can to survive. A sidewalk cafe meal was a non-stop effort to say no to everything from fake Cuban cigars to impromptu unwanted rap performances.

We took a few low-effort shore excursions. One honorable mention goes to the Up Close Whale Watching by Zodiac in Cabo San Lucas run by Cabo Tours. Our captain Bernardo was outstanding. He was friendly and engaging and his ability to find whales bordered on the supernatural. We got over 13 sightings with some as close as 15 yards from the boat.

Overall, it was a good cruise. However a few points need to be made. First, 20 days is a long time. The ship becomes a bit confining after a while. Second, some passengers could really use some lessons in common courtesy and decorum. From the guy wearing sweatpants to an elegant restaurant to the guy who thought it was funny when he placed his hand on my wife’s head to steady himself, to the scores of people who bumped, backed into or cut off others without so much as an “excuse me”, we were truly happy to escape the ship on the final day and head off into the woods to get far away from our fellow human beings. To be sure, we met many nice people and the majority of people were fine. But there was far more boorishness on this cruise than on any other that we can remember.
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Balcony
Cabin BA
The usual: decent bed, relatively quiet, somewhat cramped for such a long cruise.
Deck 10 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews