• Newsletter
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Deals
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • News
  • Cruise Tips

Norwegian Gem Review

4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
2,534 reviews
5 Awards

Just so-so

Review for Norwegian Gem to the Panama Canal & Central America
User Avatar
10+ Cruises • Age 70s

Rating by category

Value for Money
Public Rooms
Fitness & Recreation

Additional details

Sail Date: Jan 2020
Baby boa constrictor
Cabo San Lucas famous rock formations
Cabo San Lucas harbor area
Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta
Smoking Volcano, Guatemala
Bead artist creating sculpture, Cabo San Lucas
Church in village square, Antigua, Guatemala
Woman selling fruit, Antigua Guatemala
Street peddler
Street peddler, Antigua, Guatemala
Greeting the ship
Baby boa constrictor.  Rainforest Adventure.  Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Miraflores locks, Panama Canal
Gatun locks, Panama Canal
Ecological Expedition, Quebada Valencia
Waterfall and lake in forest. Quebrada Valencia
Artist mural on abandoned building, Willemstad
Mama duck and ten ducklings.  Ostrich Farm. Curacao
Female Ostrich
Inside the Hato Caves, Curacao


We wanted to leave the cold northeast for the month. This itinerary seemed to fit the bill. We’re Platinum level members. This was our eighth cruise with NCL. We chose to fly from NYC where we live to SF in order to get the air travel over at the beginning. The air was included in the cost of the cruise, so I guess you can’t complain too much about “free”. However the flight arrangements required us to get up at 2am. We had to change flights at O’hare in Chicago. After boarding there the plane sat on the runway for and hour and a half because of delays in SF. Once we arrived in SF we waited another hour and a half for the courtesy buses to the ship to show up. By the time we got to the ship it was now 4:30 pm. We managed to keep our eyes open for the muster drill, grabbed a burger and fell asleep exhausted by 5:30 ( 8:30 pm NY Time).

The second day, the port of call is Santa Barbara which is a lovely small town. Tendering to the dock is required here. There are a number of decent restaurants in the area. I highly recommend the Clearwater Grill which is on the main road through town. There are street vendors and local artists in kiosks along the waterfront park. One highlight is the rollerblade/skateboarding playground where humans 50 years younger than the ship passengers practice their moves and skills. I loved watching these kids - so very Californian.

Cabin Review

Port Reviews

Santa Barbara

Rated it high because we love Santa Barbara, met my cousin for lunch. Highly recommend the Clearwater Grill. Oysters on the half shell, fresh sea urchin, chowders, pastas, great drinks, great people watching from terrace.

Los Angeles

It rained all day, the port where the ship docks is a commercial port in Long Beach. I have family in LA. If you love LA give it an extra star. If you hate LA subtract one.

Puerto Vallarta

Tour guide could have cared less. Dumped us at flea market, tequila store, jewelry store, and old town where he said - bus will pick you up in 90 minutes, there are some places to eat. Passengers ready to revolt. We took a cab back. Complained to cruise desk and they gave us our money back plus the cab fare. Excellent Walmart superstore 1/2 mile from cruise ship terminal.

Puerto Quetzal (Antigua)

The view of the smoking volcano was worth the whole day. Jade museum is interesting and has nice items for purchase. The Mayan women hawking cheap souvenirs in Antigua can be annoying.


There is really no reason to stop here. The local people that met the ship a the dock were very sweet, and wanted to show their best. We walked around the stalls just off the pier, checked out the singing at the church and came back.

Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)

Best tour of the entire cruise. Guide was knowledgeable, personable, and informative about her country. Naturalists the same and very enthusiastic about the environment. Lunch was delicious, esp. the plantains.

Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)

Not well enough anymore to zip line, so this was a good alternative. Leisurely ride through forest canopy.

Santa Marta

For a country that has so much money from coffee, oil and illegal drugs, it should be ashamed of the vast slums that 70% of its people are compelled to live in. The “ecological expedition” was kind of hokey but it was fun cooling down in the pond under the trickle that passed for a waterfall. Don’t expect Ocho Rios.


Clean, modern, free WiFi, great prices on high end watches and jewelry. One happy island. Shop till you drop. Starbucks in the lobby of the Renaissance hotel in Oranjestad, short walk from ship.


After Aruba and Curaçao, Bonaire is kind of redundant

3 Helpful Votes
previous reviewnext review

Find a Norwegian Gem Cruise from $369

Any Month
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy and Cookies Statement and Terms of Use.
About UsCruise DestinationsFirst Time CruisersFind A Cruise

International Sites

© 1995—2023, The Independent Traveler, Inc.

  • Privacy and Cookies Statement

  • Terms of Use

  • Site Map

  • Cookie Consent