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Norwegian Gem Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
2,530 Reviews

Second time is not a charm

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by BerkshireBob

0 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jan 2020
  • Destination: the Panama Canal & Central America
  • Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony

We had done the Panama Canal cruise a couple of years ago from New Orleans to Seattle, this time we opted for San Francisco to New York. The canal itself is still fascinating, but most of the other ports leave much to be desired. We had done several of the excursions before and the don't seem to ever change. We were actually more interested in three seeks of warmth and that was the best part. We had been on the Norwegian Pearl the last time so the ship was no surprise. What id surprise us was the deterioration of the service level on the ship. We're beginning to think that Norwegian has become the Motel Six of the cruise lines. The CONSTANT nickel and diming of the passengers is horrendous. Buy bottled water for $5 a liter, that works out to $40 a gallon for water bottled about half an hour from our house. Drinks have become outrageously overpriced. The "specialty" restaurants are really more like an Applebee's or Olive Garden, except not as good. We ate twice at La Cuchina , the first time was ok, even thought the service was casual at best. The second time I had the special "veal parmesan' which was a frozen sort of veal patty with some sort of cheese over it, a huge serving of tasteless ground meat, overcooked and dry. Service was better the second time. Our experience at Cagney's was horrible. We both have mobility issues and were walked, in the nearly empty restaurant to the absolute farthest table from the door behind the kitchen/serving area. Our order was wrong TWICE, my wife's filet was tiny and overdone. My prime rib was also overcooked and COLD. The baked potato was also cold and the sides were not what we ordered and had to be sent back. The service was surly an sarcastic. We did enjoy Le Bistro, if there were to be a next time, which is extremely unlikely, that would be the only place we would frequent. Moderno was fine, good service and we liked the salad bar, but herself did not enjoy the meat offerings. I did. The Garden Café is now officially a Jr. HIgh cafeteria, overcooked food of dubious quality. The best thing there is the bread. I did enjoy breakfast on the Great Outdoors, nowhere else.

The cabin was standard balcony fare, nothing special. Where do they get those sofas that are impossibly uncomfortable. The only comfortable place to sit was on the balcony. Our steward was great.

Entertainment was really third rate; a juggler, a magician, some entertainer whose claim to fame was that he was once on the David Letterman show! Anyone remember when David Letterman was on TV, how about Gary Moore or Arthur Godfrey? I did happen by the "Learn Origami" event; there were SIX participants.

Upon checking the mini bar in the stateroom, I compared what was supposed to be there on the list and found more than half missing. Knowing there are often problems people try to correct on the last morning, I decided to try beforehand. The guest services person calmly told me that all things in plastic bottles had been removed, no notice, no updated inventory list, no correction. Just poor management. It is interesting to note that the "drinks package" encourages people to drink more than they should. wine with breakfast, really? We are not big drinkers and the package was one of the options, seems like a good deal until you read the fine print. The "service charge" would be much, much more than we would ever pay for buying drinks individually.

The ports on the west coast are nearly all container ports. Long walks to anything other than gantries and trucks. Our best stop was in Guatamala where the locals have made a small park with vendors and entertainment. In Santa Marta, Colombia, the gantry, taller than the ship was within four feet of the ship. I did learn a lot about how container ports work.

Our worst experience was with disembarkation. We needed assistance and were told where to go and wait for help. When we arrived at our appointed time, there were about forty others needing assistance. There were TWO people to help, we were place of the list and when the announcement came that ALL GUESTS should be shore, there were still about twenty waiting, the help had disappeared. We managed to hobble our way off the ship and for the first time, we were the very LAST people ashore, the next cruise passengers were boarding.

This was our tenth and last cruise on Norwegian. The line is focused on getting every possible dime from it's "guests" . The constant selling of useless dodads, and overpriced, low quality jewelry is mind boggling.

BerkshireBob's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
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Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony

Average, bed was comfortable, sofa impossible to sit on with comfort. Standard issue bathroom.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Puerto Vallarta

The dock side area is under construciton, nothing there.


Charming little park at the pier, endors, food and entertainment, we liked it.

Cartagena (Colombia)

Been here before nice selection of shops and a small park at the pier.

Santa Marta

Another container port, a few vendors at the pier, mostly overpriced trinkets. The shore excursion reuired hours of bus rides, not a fan.

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