I "won" a "free cruise" after gambling at a casino near my hometown. I was hesitant at the idea that it was "free", but after researching the offer, I decided to take a gamble (pun intended) on ... Read More
I "won" a "free cruise" after gambling at a casino near my hometown. I was hesitant at the idea that it was "free", but after researching the offer, I decided to take a gamble (pun intended) on this "free cruise" to see how free it really was. It was basically me paying the taxes and port charges only, with an option to bid to upgrade from inner to ocean view and/or balcony. I had attempted to put in a bid for a balcony, but my bid wasn't accepted, and the sailing was full. (No complaints about the room quality I ended up receiving.)
I wrote a very lengthy review of the Cabin below, so here I will list off the other items that I feel are important for people to know.
It is well-maintained and clean. The decor was fine. It was on par with other cruise lines and I had no complaints about the level of quality with the ship itself. It had as nice of decor as Royal, Princess and Disney. No issues here.
Cabin: See below for lengthy description and list of annoyances / lack of privacy.
This was the most sub-par dining experience I have ever had while cruising. The food quality on the Gem was embarrassing. The only 2 photos I am attaching have to deal with the dining. First off, let me say, I found it hilarious how they listed meals as "complimentary" with many of the high end restaurants requiring a $39 charge per person along with a forced 20% gratuity. I can not comment on any of those, as I downright refused to pay extra for restaurants that I could experience at home.
There is also no free room service on this cruise line, except for a very meager continental breakfast. If you wanted any other room service, there would be a $7.95 service "convenience" charge. Ridiculous. A can of soda from the refrigerator was $3.95. I bought one. I admit, after days of non-carbonation, I found myself desperate for a Sierra Mist... The only "free" 24x7 dining is the "Irish pub" O'Sheehans, which offered typical pub-like food. We went there once, and laughed at the godawful chicken wings they were serving. I would have swore the wings were made like 2-3 days previously, tossed with whatever sauce you ordered and re-heated. My son got the "Buffalo" wings and they were so red as if they were dyed, that they actually dyed his fingers bright red.
There are 3 dining rooms, and only one, the Grand Pacific, is considered a "dress-up" which isn't even "dressing up" as it just doesn't allow shorts, as the others do. The first night was the best night, and after eating the first night, I had some high hopes for the meals, but they only went downhill.
As this is a freestyle cruise line, which many people will hail as awesome, since you don't have to dress up, you don't have a set reserved dining time, etc... I personally found it made things LESS enjoyable. You didn't have the same guaranteed server, didn't build any rapport or closeness with dining staff... and while I am an introvert, I still enjoy feeling like I get to know my servers, and with this freestyle mode, I definitely didn't feel like that happened.
I can tell you also that if you are not a person that is going to order from the bar, you can forget receiving "exceptional service" in regards to your choice of beverages and getting bread served, etc. My son and I had a difficult time getting any lemonade or iced tea. We were lucky to have our water glasses filled in any decent time. We were laughing because around the 4th night of dinner, when we were dining towards the end of the evening, we literally were given only brown bread and water (when on all other nights, we had a variety of bread choices of 2-3-4 types of bread offerings) - We didn't have any "chef's recommendations" and the staff seemed more rushed and understaffed, ready to get us in and out as fast as possible.
We went to the "fancy dining room" just today for lunch. It had a nice view, overlooking the back of the ship. We were handed the menus, but had the typical hurried experience of taking our entire order, including dessert. The peanut butter cup cheesecake was overall a disgrace. They make the plating look nice, but then you bite into it and wonder how long it was in the freezer before it was quick thawed and served to us. It was not at all creamy and I was hard-pressed to find any peanut butter cup taste to it.
I am well aware that cruise ship employees come from fairly impoverished nations and are looking to make a better life for themselves, as well as providing for their family, but you can see their unhappiness through the forced smiles and furrowed brows.
While the whole "washy-washy" sing-song of the woman spraying our hands every time we entered the buffet area soon became humorous and meme-like, reading in the daily guide that they don't recommend handshaking because it spreads illness... I was like, okay, enough of the dirty-tourist shaming. Not all of go to the bathroom to relieve ourselves without washing our hands afterwards. I get it, noro-virus is real.. But, again, it actually became insulting to me.
This is my biggest complaint, and one I plan on fighting with the cruise line itself to get my money back. I spent over $350 for my son and I to have unlimited WiFi on 1 device each for the week-long cruise. Now, this may seem like a ridiculous fee to many of you, but I back my choice up with we enjoy what we enjoy, and we enjoy having access to email, news, YouTube, games, etc.
My first cruise was in 1996, and let me tell you, after using the "Internet Cafe" back in 1996, the speed we had for this WiFi was NO BETTER than it was back in 1996. Dial-up speed at its finest.
I am well aware we are OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN. I get that.
I get that WiFi may be sporadic.
We paid for the HIGHEST LEVEL QUALITY of WiFi and we could barely do anything we wanted to do. We would be disconnected in the middle of reading news or email, games would be reset, videos wouldn't load.
I paid the amount of 5 MONTHS of Cable Internet for ONE WEEK of WiFi on a cruise line, and so I'm going to say again, I expect for the cost of FIVE MONTHS of cable internet, we should have a RELIABLE connection. Otherwise, cut the cost in half.
Would I Go Again:
I love to cruise. I have done quite a few cruises. Would I ever sail with Norwegian again? NO WAY. Too many kids running up and down the hallways un-escorted. Too many younger children WAILING. Now this is not something Norwegian itself can fix, or can they? I mean, I guess it's time for me to look at more adults-only cruises. Way too many people trying to do a bunch of nothing on the 4 days at sea. Being docked over night for 2 nights while in Bermuda was kind of a new experience for me, and those days/nights it did seem a lot less crowded as people were off doing excursions, but yeah, too many loud and sheep-like tourists not at all realizing how annoying they and their kids were being. Read Less