18 Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews for Holiday Cruises to Bahamas from New York (Manhattan)

Our party of 16 stayed in 1 inside, 2 balconies and 4 suites. We chose this cruise due to cost, embarkation port (NYC) and freestyle concept we love with children. This was my 4th NCL cruise and 2nd on the Gem. Being from RI, NY is an ... Read More
Our party of 16 stayed in 1 inside, 2 balconies and 4 suites. We chose this cruise due to cost, embarkation port (NYC) and freestyle concept we love with children. This was my 4th NCL cruise and 2nd on the Gem. Being from RI, NY is an easy port to get to and airfare is just way too expensive during the holiday season. The ports were the least attractive part of the cruise but at least they were warm :) Embarkation went well for my immediate family as we were in a suite. My aunt had an issue with not having a letter for her grandson to travel with her. I was afraid they wouldn't be able to board but NCL was great in my opinion as they worked with her to get a letter from her daughter faxed to the terminal. Another good reason to arrive early to the port, you will have time to deal with any unexpected issues. Our cabin was an SC (former AB) #11012. It was the nicest cabin I have ever had and I miss it every day since :( Cagney's for breakfast and lunch was great. MDR meals was very good in my opinion and I AM A FOODIE! Buffet was good, the only thing was the soft serve was gross as always. Shows we saw were Worldbeat, Man from Mars and Get Down Tonight. All were good. Bingo was fun, first time I had ever played. Didn't win but has a good time. The ship was in great shape and the crew was excellent. Pools could have been warmer and a big "thanks" to whoever put their child with a diaper in the family pool. It was closed a day due to feces. People are just so selfish. I've been there with an infant/toddler and never considered such an absurdity. My daughter was obsessed with the slide and used it about 50 times! LOL Bowling was fun too :) Had a great time and look forward to sailing NCL again soon Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We received cruise as gift from Mom so I would be more MAD if I had to pay for this crap... EMBARKATION Got ride into NYC pier from family member... if you wanted to leave car at pier could cost $30 a day...Being Latitude ... Read More
We received cruise as gift from Mom so I would be more MAD if I had to pay for this crap... EMBARKATION Got ride into NYC pier from family member... if you wanted to leave car at pier could cost $30 a day...Being Latitude members, the line was relatively short and embarkation a painless process... BOAT As soon as you enter the boat there is somebody there already trying to sell you a drink(get ready for the nickel and diming to death)Entry in atrium is nice and boat is nicely laid out with many activities but a few years ago they did not charge for bowling w/c they do now and free meals only limited to dining rooms blue lagoon. Many rest. require an additional fee. CREW Mostly Filipino and maybe it is the way Norwegian pays their employees, compulsory gratuity or maybe it was b/c of the holidays but staff seemed inattentive, slow and uncaring for the most part. FOOD Garden grill has quick making grills ranging burgers, fries, sandwiches, soups, salads and deserts..pretty standard fare.. you get a little better quality, but you have to pay for it and it aint that much better... Cagneys(steaks and lamb chops) and LeBistro(French food, escargot, duck,foie gras). CABIN Unfortunately the cabin was and inside stateroom and with 2 adults and 2 kids quearters were pretty thight... it did not help that weather was cold the entire trip, swimming at your own risk of hypothermia, so when we wanted to chill, we got cabin fever really fast and felt compelled to leave. Also people smoking cigarttes and marijuana on our floors, called security, and told they have zero tolerance for drugs... unfortunately you cannot control other passengers behavior CRUISE DIRECTOR Robert Sugar... WORST cruise director... actually NONEXISTENT we've been on the Oasis of the Seas and had the pleasure to meet Richard Spacey who by far blew this guy away ACTIVITIES standard stuff, trivia, dance lessons, drink tasting but you still have to pay for stuff(see a pattern yet) SPA if you do need to go on the GEM spend the $100 for the spa w/c was our saving grace... therapy pool, sauna, steam and quiet place EXCURSIONS port canveral... Kennedy Space Center.. very cool to visit since it wont be around in a couple of years anyway Stirrup cay... would have been nice if weather was better... nice beach and nice barbecue... need a tender to get there Bahamas... aquairum at Atlantis but honstely also a big rip off.. you are probably better off going someplace else... felt like a second-class citizen when walking the grounds KIDS ACTIVITIES Tree Toppers... left our kids there on many occasions and they enjoyed their time there...entry and exit could run more smoothly but overall well run OVERALL DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY... If you like bad food, bad service and waiting in long, exasperaring lines this is the cruise for you... if you like to be with a crew that has NO clue what they are doing and feel that you basically have to fend for yourself... you will enjoy this cruise... needless to say we will NEVER cruise on Norwegian ever again... HAD been on PEARL and DAWN and they were great but quality has gone down SOOOO much...! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Embarkation: Lines weren't too bad because we had preferred check-in. Stateroom: All the balcony staterooms on the Gem are not created equal. Having cruised on the Gem 2 years ago, I thought I knew what to expect. Our stateroom ... Read More
Embarkation: Lines weren't too bad because we had preferred check-in. Stateroom: All the balcony staterooms on the Gem are not created equal. Having cruised on the Gem 2 years ago, I thought I knew what to expect. Our stateroom was much smaller and there was no glass enclosure for great visibility. Our balcony was metal half way up, limiting the visibility. Check before you book! Our room stewards did a great job. Ship Info: I like the Gem's decor. Its bright and colorful and has a wonderful library, funky furniture in the Spinnaker Lounge, and just brightens your day. Dining: I thought there was a lot of variety on the buffet, but seating was always a problem. The service in the Grand Pacific Dining Room was a little disjointed. Tables with only one water glass, or one bread plate, or lacking silverware happened more than once and the service was slow getting them replaced. We had to ask for our water glasses to be filled and then never saw anyone with water again. They gave us six rolls at dinner, but only two pats of butter. We struck it rich in the Magenta Dining Room. Our first night there, we had the pleasure of being waited on by Joanne. She was just great! The service was so good, that we went back three times. We also went to Cagney's one night. The steak was good as well as the service, but I don't know if it was worth the extra $25. Overall, I did like the food and some of it was exceptional. Activities: Because this was a Holiday cruise, there were about 800 more passengers on board than usual, mostly children. There were adult activities that the children were allowed to attend and in some cases it was totally inappropriate. Staff & Service: I felt there was little customer concern on the Gem. I was not invited to the Latitudes party (for passengers who have cruised on Norwegian before) and missed it. I spoke to Cruise Consultant Paloma Leon and her attitude was one of total indifference. I spoke to the front desk and they very grudgingly said I could have a bottle of wine with dinner. This was my fourth Norwegian cruise and I thought they could have been a little more concerned with customer satisfaction. On the second day of the cruise, my girlfriend entered a dance competition on board and won! During the competition, dancers were told to go to the front desk and pick up a copy of the video. Cruise Director Rob Sugar very rudely told my friend that no one ever told her to pick up a copy and that she couldn't have one (even though it was clearly heard on the video). He said he would have to get releases signed by the other five dancers and he wasn't going to do that. However, the video was shown on the ship channel several times each day of the cruise without getting releases from the passengers that participated. In fact, they didn't even know they were being taped initially. There was certainly nothing sweet about Rob Sugar. He was the most annoying Cruise Director ever. Norwegian needs to take a lesson from other cruise lines on how to treat their passengers. I just booked my next cruise on Carnival. Entertainment: There was some great entertainment on the Gem. I have to say I really liked the crew's show that they put on. Shore Excursions: Norwegian ruined their private island. It was so pretty and unspoiled when I was there two years ago. Now they've built some huge, ugly building (I was told it will be a hotel) right on what used to be their beautiful beach. What a shame. Anyone travelling to Nassau definitely needs to swim with the dolphins. What a phenomenal experience! A little pricey, but I'd do it again. At Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center is the main attraction. Well worth a visit. Disembarkation: We chose to carry our own bags off, but there was quite a line waiting to get off. Summary: My cruise on the Gem two years ago was wonderful. This time it was spoiled by the uncaring and indifferent attitudes of the staff (not all the staff and not the same staff that was on the Gem two years ago). When you have a Cruise Director and a Cruise Consultant who clearly never heard of customer satisfaction, it truly spoils the whole cruise experience. I saw Norwegian's CEO on Undercover Boss. I wish he would have been on the Gem to see the uncaring attitudes. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
12/25/10 - 1/1/11 Norwegian Gem Embarkation. Arrived 11:10 AM. Dropped luggage off, took escalator upstairs, through security, and lines to desk. Photos taken, credit card swiped and to waiting area in 15 minutes. Very organized and ... Read More
12/25/10 - 1/1/11 Norwegian Gem Embarkation. Arrived 11:10 AM. Dropped luggage off, took escalator upstairs, through security, and lines to desk. Photos taken, credit card swiped and to waiting area in 15 minutes. Very organized and pleasant. Waited until noon when promptly they started calling groups to board. They boarded on two gangways so it went quickly. We were aboard by 12:15PM. Headed for Grand Pacific dining room for quiet civilized luncheon. Met Christopher who would be my liaison for my Gluten-Free ding needs. He recommended I eat there with him in the Grand Pacific Dining Room and just let him know where else I wanted to eat during the cruise. Every night I picked my dinner selections for the next night. Christopher was a Gem himself!! They announced staterooms were ready about 2PM. Had a lovely balcony room deck 9 aft port side. Mark took good care of us all week. He and his partner were very visible in the hallway, whistling a happy tune most days. Ship. Big, glitzy and brightly colored. Thought the Grand Pacific Dining Room the loveliest area aboard. Stardust Showroom was also especially nice. Buffet area was cramped due to a terrible selection of chairs -- too heavy and the chair arms made it impossible to get between tables. NCL, if you are paying attention to this -- DITCH THE CHAIRS!!! Replace them with armless slightly smaller chairs. I heard complaints about the ships layout, but we found it rather straight forward once you got the hang of the three stairwells and which one you needed to be able to get up or down to the location you wanted. Crystal Atrium --interesting concept as a gathering place. Horrible furniture. Someone was on drugs when they selected it, or had a brother-in-law in the business that got the Line a deal on the ugly non-functioning over sized plush ugly stuff (IMHO). Likewise the furniture up in the Spinnaker Lounge. Horrible. Kept us out of these two venues. We didn't have a lot of pool / sun weather but spent a couple days around the hot tubs. Enjoyed the hot tubs, the music, the lunches on deck. Food. I know it's terribly subjective subject. We have travelled and cruised a great deal and thought the food overall very good. Nice presentation, enough variation to always have something that was good. Kudos to Chef Vaughan Sanft (sailed with him on the Norwegian Crown in 2005). Breakfasts we took in buffet, and lunches we tried Grand Pacific, buffet and Topsiders at the pool. The usual fare, nothing too outstanding. I did enjoy the Indian offerings as something different. I wasn't shopping for it, preparing it, or cleaning it up, so perhaps I am easy to please. But overall the food was better than I was expecting. Bars. Lots of opportunity for a cool one at any time of day or night. I thought prices were a bit high for the portions given, but oh well. I did enjoy my BBC and my Bahama mama at the pool, and wine before dinner. I never felt pestered to consume anything if I just wanted to sit somewhere and listen to the music. And the wine steward always arrived at our table when seated for dinner, but if we didn't want wine for dinner, we never felt pressured. We spent the most time at Magnums Champagne and Wine Bar and at the Star Bar which we thought was a lovely and small venue. Pre Ordered Champagne for New Year's Eve which came to our stateroom about 7:30PM. Drank it there while watching football. Then headed to Star Bar to ring in the New Year. Michael the Piano Man was there, with a quiet crowd and superb atmosphere tor the Captain's countdown at midnight. Good times! Staff. Super staff. Never saw a frown, never was treated with anything but the utmost professionalism and courtesy. Had good service in all the food venues. Officers were very visible and approachable. Very eager to interact with the passengers. Much more so than on other lines I have cruised. We enjoyed that. That being said, we turned Freestyle into our style which is NOT Freestyle. We ate early 5:45 - 6:30 every night. Zena Petrova, hostess at Grand Pacific did a great job juggling every-one's reservations and walk-in times. We never had more than a minute or two wait before being seated. We always wanted a table for two and there were plenty of them. We did see some unhappy people that would show up at 7:00 and want a table for 12 or more without a reservation. We learned very quickly to make a reservation at breakfast time for the next night. Because of my gluten-free eating needs, we did not eat at the other restaurants aboard for dinner. Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. Thanks to Dan for setting up the Meet & Greet. It was at 10AM on the Monday we were due into Port Canaveral at noon after 24 hours of very rough seas so some of those signed up didn't make it. It was so nice of the officers to show up to mingle with us and listen to us all. Especially Hotel Director Steven Jacobsen. It was good to meet the other Cruise Critics that are merely a moniker on the Boards. Now I have faces to put with many of those monikers. Shows. We enjoyed the Singer/Dancer shows the best. They really did a lot with a small stage and limited time. Not Broadway, mind you, but entertaining. The juggler was okay. The comedian wasn't. Skipped the Improv show. Ports. As far as we were concerned Port Canaveral was a waste, Didn't get off the ship and it was only 50 degrees so we didn't even use it as a pool day. Took a nap! Great Stirrup Cay: would have been better on a warmer day with lots of sun, but I went over, looked around, and went in the water so I could say I did. Nassau: I have been to Nassau numerous times, but DH had not. I had printed out a walking tour of Nassau on the internet which we did in the morning. Then I had arranged for a local birder to meet us and take us around to the local spots to look at birds. Had a great time birding and seeing parts of the island no ever gets to see. Disembarkation. I had read so much about this procedure, I was dreading it. But it seemed to work well. We were self disembarking, so we had breakfast in the buffet about 7:30AM. We were at the dock early so the ship was cleared right on time. We went to Crystal lobby about 8:45 to see what was happening. Sat for a while and when the passenger line started moving off the ship (9:00AM), we joined the line. Line was quite long. but moved quickly. Once in line we were off the ship, through Immigration and Customs and at the taxi stand (no line!) by 9:20AM. I was impressed with their organization with this. We chose this cruise because it left from NYC -- DH said no way he was getting on a plane Christmas weekend due to crowds and weather uncertainties (and he was right about that!!) so for us that meant the Gem or Jewel. I love cruising out of NYC anyway so I was okay with using a northern "winter" port,. We normally sail Cunard or HAL as we like a dressier, older, more traditional line and crowd. We cruised NCL once before and didn't mind Freestyle too much, so we were determined to enjoy ourselves this week. We packed light, but were dressed appropriately for evenings. We were a bit concerned there would be rampaging hoards of kids and teens, but there were not. It seemed for the most part the children were very well behaved and just really "into" the cruise and what was going on. So, yes, I'd sail on the Gem and with NCL again, and I would look forward to it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
To begin, I'll offer a disclaimer. I'm generally not a great fan of Freestyle Cruising. I really prefer a more traditional style of cruising, but I live in New York City and was willing to go along with the Freestyle program ... Read More
To begin, I'll offer a disclaimer. I'm generally not a great fan of Freestyle Cruising. I really prefer a more traditional style of cruising, but I live in New York City and was willing to go along with the Freestyle program because of the opportunity to leave from Manhattan and avoid flying during the busy holiday season. This was a very full cruise; the capacity of Norwegian Gem at two passengers per cabin is about 2,400. There were about 3,000 passengers on board, but the Gem's staff did a very good job keeping people moving around the ship. There were only a few isolated situations where the ship felt crowded. We had a party of three: my wife, my 16 year old son, and myself. We have cruised a fair amount, with 20, 18, and 19 cruises, respectively, on six lines. This was our third cruise on NCL. Embarkation Embarkation was relatively easy; since the cruise departed on Christmas day, we weren't anxious to get to the pier and on the ship at the earliest possible minute. We had intended to leave the house about noon, but ended up leaving 30 minutes later and arrived at the terminal a little after 2:00 pm. As is usually the case at this terminal, the check in process was relatively efficient and without any major incident. We received our cruise cards and proceeded to the gangway with bags in tow, ducking around the embarkation photo as we usually do. We travel light, so we did not check bags and had everything with us in carry-on bags and backpacks. After having our cruise cards scanned at the ship, we were greeted by bar waiters with embarkation drinks for sale. Now, on some lines, one may receive a complimentary flute of sparkling wine (definitely not Champagne), but on NCL the embarkation drinks are for sale. Some reviewers of NCL cruises have a problem with this and at this point bitterly complain that they are being "nickled and dimed." The reality is that on all but a few lines, drinks are available only at additional cost. If you don't want to buy a drink, use the three magic words, "no, thank you," and the waiters will move on to the next guest. In fact, while I'm on the subject, a little more use of "please" and "thank you" on the part of some passengers would go a long way. Cabin We had a category G obstructed oceanview aft cabin on Deck 8. The room was accessible for persons with disabilities, and the bathroom was somewhat less claustrophobic than the standard cruise ship bathroom. The cabins on board seem to be fairly standard ones - colorful, with lots of fake woodgrain. We had a queen bed with a single bunk that folded down for our son, with a small desk, flatscreen tv, and minibar/fridge. The view out of the cabin's picture window was over a lifeboat tucked into the side of the ship, but it still provided a good view of the scenery in port and while underway. One plus with this cabin was that it was extremely conveniently located to restaurants, public areas, and bars. We've cruised in inside, oceanview, and balcony cabins, depending on cost and itinerary; on this trip this cabin worked for us. Dining One feature of NCL is a large number of specialty restaurants that require payment of a cover charge, as well as several options that do not have an additional charge. We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants, and I won't comment on them, but we ate in the outdoor casual restaurants (Great Outdoors and Grill), the Blue Lagoon indoor casual dining restaurant, the Garden Cafe, and the main dining restaurants (Grand Pacific and Magenta). The food was not life changing, but it was good, on about the level of the restaurants in a business hotel like Radisson, Hilton, or Marriott. Appetizers and entrees were generally better than deserts, and there was no real "signature" desert as is true with some lines. I have seen some reviews of the Gem that describe the food as "inedible" and "disgusting," and that certainly wasn't our experience. Other reviewers have said that the food is the same at every meal and there was nothing available that was worth eating (except at the sainted specialty restaurants that come at an additional cost); we did not find this to be true. I am not sure where the authors of these negative reviews are eating, but I'd be surprised if they have better food at home. It is true that NCL has a core of dishes that are available every day, but there are other options in the non-specialty restaurants that change from day to day. The exception is the Blue Lagoon, which is open 24 hours and serves breakfast and non-breakfast menus that do not change from day to day Freestyle cruising is not the same as traditional cruising where one eats at the same time at in the same room at the same table with the same waiters. I personally like having our waiters get to know our preferences and getting a chance to talk with them and learn something about them as well. We generally give our waiters a gratuity in addition to the recommended amount, but that really doesn't work with the freestyle concept and different waiters every day. Also, the maitre 'd's didn't seem to be as involved in dealing with the passengers as on other lines, but this may be by design. We did notice that NCL did seem to be making some efforts to make the specialty restaurants a more special experience. There was not, for example, a traditional "lobster night", and the staffing in the main dining (i.e.: free) restaurants appeared to be somewhat tight, although the high occupancy on the cruise may have had something to do with this. There was sushi at the Garden Cafe as well as the specialty restaurant, but the Garden Cafe sushi was vegetarian, without seafood. While some dishes were available only at the specialty restaurants, many items on the specialty restaurant menus were available at the main dining restaurants or the Garden Cafe. Many of these dishes were a real treat; the Indian items that I sampled from the Garden Cafe were uniformly excellent. Entertainment The parts of the production shows that I saw were fairly standard and just so-so. My DW attended a cabaret style show with the production singers and thought that they were in some cases very talented and comparing favorably with Broadway and Off-Broadway performers. The featured performers (juggler Barry John, singer Lumiri Tubo, and comedian Rod Long) were all good. The ship has a resident Second City troupe, but I'll just say that I've seen better and leave it at that. The ship's orchestra was, as is usual on ships, excellent. The musicians who performed at smaller venues around the ship were generally very good; we particularly enjoyed a guitarist named Leo Jostol. We found the most enjoyable entertainment was generally the events and shows organized by the Cruise Director's staff. The crew show was the best of its kind that I've seen and was very funny. Ports Okay, it was cold. When we got to Port Canaveral on Monday (third day out) the temperature was in the 50's, and that was once it warmed up. As every cruise line, NCL wants to sell you their shore excursions, but they were at least honest about what is available through their excursion desk and otherwise. We attended the shore excursion presentation where we were told that the Disney Magic Kingdom might reach capacity and be closed to additional guests before NCL could get you there and that passengers might consider another option. While the ship's excursions weren't the lowest cost option, they appeared to be fairly priced. The ship also set up an easel with port information for Port Canaveral, including taxis and non-NCL shuttles, which is different from some ships where the prevailing attitude is that the only way to get off the ship is through the official excursions. By the way, there were a number of shuttles to Cocoa Beach at Port Canaveral, including a free one sponsored by a local bar and surf shop. We used it to and from the beach area, and went from there to Cocoa Village for some shopping; this worked out well as we weren't up for the Orlando attractions and heard that the Kennedy Space Center was a zoo. NCL's private island, Grand Stirrup Cay would have provided a nice beach day if the temperature had made it over 70 degrees. There was a barbecue and activities like volleyball, and we had a good time hiking down to the end of the island, but the weather wasn't ideal for the beach, to put it mildly. The range of activities in Nassau, likewise, was impacted by weather. The afternoon temperature wasn't much over 70, and we stayed away from the beaches. We did a little sightseeing and shopping in town, but not much else. Again, there are abundant options either through the ship's shore excursion desk or off the dock. Services and Shopping The on-board shopping was serviceable but not great, with the standard duty-free liquor, jewelry, t shirts, clothing, and souvenirs. There weren't as many rotating sales and specials as we've noticed on other lines. Other reviews have mentioned feeling pressured to spend money, but we didn't find this to be the case. I didn't feel that there were more announcements promoting on-board sales than is the case on other cruise lines, as some reviewers have claimed. I did attend the art auctions twice and thought they were rather slow paced and left to do something else. Management I don't think that you can say that these guys don't care about the quality of the experience on the ship. I've never been on a ship where the department heads were as much in evidence. Steven Jacobson, the hotel director seemed to be everywhere and we spoke with him on several occasions. At one point I saw Vaughn, the Executive Chef, working with a group setting up a deck barbecue. Rob Sugar, the Cruise Director, put something of a different spin on the CD role, but was visible around the ship and very approachable. Rob Sugar and Steven Jacobson were out in the cold on our arrival back in New York on New Year's Day sending the passengers off. Overall I'd give the cruise a four out of five. It wasn't perfect but in general the staff appeared to be making a legitimate effort to make the passengers' experience a good one. NCL doesn't control the weather and there were some elements of the cruise that don't fit into my vision of an ideal cruise. For what NCL is seeking to do, the Gem seems to do fairly successfully. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Arriving at the Pier in NYC: Embarkation processing was seamless, and we have already learned that arriving early (10 AM), before the posted time on the NCL Itinerary (Noon), is better than facing the crowds. The parking fee of $30 ... Read More
Arriving at the Pier in NYC: Embarkation processing was seamless, and we have already learned that arriving early (10 AM), before the posted time on the NCL Itinerary (Noon), is better than facing the crowds. The parking fee of $30 per day is more than the airport, but we wanted the security of having our car visible and waiting for us upon our return. We were impressed with the sign-up tables for the spa and restaurant reservations, and we purchased the Spa Thermal Room package for $99 that lasted the whole cruise. We were also impressed that we were allowed to board the Gem shortly after noon, which guaranteed a table in the Garden Cafe buffet for lunch, while we waited for our stateroom to become available. The spa package turned out to be problematic. Cruising in cold temperatures meant that lots of people also signed up in anticipation of not using the outdoor pools. It became obvious during the cruise that the advertised limit of 84 passengers had been overbooked. During the seven day cruise, we were only able to use the thermal room twice, and each time it was extremely crowded. At the pier, we were assured by the NCL staff that the spa experience would be quiet and restful; the reality was the opposite - the spa was very crowded and some passengers became rude and abusive to others. Stormy Start: We already knew that a snow storm was going to hit New York City the day after Christmas when we boarded the NCL Gem on December 25. But, the realization that we were going through the Nor'easter hit us almost immediately the first night. The rocking began on Sunday and became so intense that many passengers vomited in elevators and corridors. We later learned that the previous week's cruise on the Gem was much worse, but this was no consolation. I give the crew a lot of credit for donning haz-mat suits and cleaning up the mess immediately. Also, we already learned the benefits of using hand sanitizer on previous cruises. This simple washing protects everyone on the ship. Unfortunately, the seas were rough until we docked in Port Canaveral. The bed kept jumping around and we found it almost impossible to walk to the bathroom at times. The public restrooms were often dirty with vomit and we ended up using our private bathroom at all times to avoid the possibility of contamination and sickness. I witnessed one worker in the Garden Cafe leaning against a wall with the look of sickness on their face. They recovered enough to continue serving food, but we were now concerned of more sickness among the staff behind the scenes in the galleys and the safety of the food being prepared. We became very careful about the food we put in our mouth. Port Canaveral: We chose the trip to Historic Cocoa Village for our Monday shore excursion. It was a choice between Cocoa Beach/Ron Jon Surf Shop and shopping and sightseeing in the "historic" town. The guide for the shuttle bus trip used the 15 minute ride to have us looking for dolphins and manatees in the bay, and gave us little in the way of "historical" information on the location. She also made a big deal of pointing out Osprey nests along the road. We were dropped off at the perimeter of Cocoa Village and given a rudimentary map that a fifth grader could have improved on. Upon entering the first shop, we found a much better map produced by the Village, which gave us far more information that the guide did. However, it didn't take much time to visit the few shops that were open. A few restaurants were also closed (possibly due to it being a Monday) and we took the one suggestion of merit made by the guide to eat at Norman's Raw Bar & Grill. Norman's Chili was superb, and we learned from the waitress that it had won an award at the Annual Chili Cook-off. I also ordered the Fish Taco, which was great, and far superior to those I had on the California coast in Pismo Beach. There was nothing more to do in Cocoa Village, so we took the next shuttle back to the ship. We felt that the $20 per person charge for the shuttle was too high, considering Cocoa Village has little to see. Great Stirrup Cay: NCL's private island is usually a nice stop. But, because of the cold temperatures, we were not able to go into the water. We did have a nice BBQ lunch on the beach; however, we returned to the ship within an hour afterwards rather than be uncomfortably cold. We spent the rest of the afternoon attending lectures onboard. We were impressed with the lectures on "Boosting Metabolism" and "Detox" held in the fitness center. We both had our Body Composition tested in the spa for a couples price of $52. We refused to accept the recommendation of a staff member to purchase an expensive detox product package until we consulted with our doctor, which we felt was prudent; but, the staff member told us that our doctor doesn't know as much about detox as she does. This sent up red flags and we stopped going to the free lectures because we now felt pressured to purchase questionable treatments and products. Nassau, the Bahamas: We finally found some heat in the Bahamas! We were able to shed the windbreakers and jackets and wear shorts. We only had one day in port, so we had to make the most of it. We booked the Harbor Cruise and Atlantis Tour for our Wednesday excursion. The tour departed late due to an inexperienced guide who led us the wrong way to the ferry boat to Paradise Island. When we got to Atlantis, we found that security was very tight and we were treated like third-class tourists and not allowed to deviate from the tour. The guide is only given a limited time to complete the tour and we were not allowed to linger or fall behind the group. To our guide's credit, she spoke well and was able to be heard by the large group. But, her schedule didn't allow many questions, and she departed as soon as she made sure each one of us exited the private sections of the Atlantis resort. The aquariums at Atlantis are beautiful, however, and we took many photos of the undersea world of the Bahamas. The cost of food and beverage is extremely high in Atlantis and Paradise Island, as well as the high-end stores in the public shopping village. We returned to Nassau for a fun-filled day of inexpensive food and drink on Bay Street. The Straw Market was also excellent, and we ended up buying all of our souvenirs for the cruise in Nassau. It was Junkanoo Festival time in the Bahamas, which included the music and lavish costumes used in this local custom. It was a wonderful time of year to be in Nassau, and this port made up for all of the discomfort experienced during the rest of the cruise. We would have loved to spend another day in Nassau, but instead faced two sea days until our return to NYC. One highlight of the cruise was the Second City ComedyTroupe that performed onboard. They also held workshops that taught improvisation and comedy history and techniques. The other entertainment was spotty, with the exception of the two major shows, "World Beat" and "Get Down Tonight," which were very well done. New Year's Eve was festive, but the music was sporadic and confined to only a few venues. We chose to greet the new year in the Crystal Atrium with the Caribbean band, which we believed was better than the piano players in other lounges. We all received a champagne toast provided by NCL at midnight. Overall: The cruise was very enjoyable, which is why we continue to book with NCL; but, the weather was very cold. In the future, we will either choose warmer seasons or cruise out of Florida, to avoid the rough winter seas and temperatures. The quality and diversity of the food on NCL is not as good as Royal Caribbean and other lines, but the salads and weight management selections are better on NCL, as is the service of the staff. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
After a long year of work without much time off, this was a much needed respite for my wife, 2 daugthers (13 & 10) and me. The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd hoped, but the cruise was fantastic anyway. After a rough ... Read More
After a long year of work without much time off, this was a much needed respite for my wife, 2 daugthers (13 & 10) and me. The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd hoped, but the cruise was fantastic anyway. After a rough first day and a half (the snowstorm that crushed the northeast made the ride aboard fairly bumpy), the weather was clear and beautiful in Florida and the Bahamas. We are fairly experienced cruisers; not looking for super-luxury or gourmet food, just an enjoyable family vacation that allows us to forget about work for a week. Mission accomplished. First, I have to congratulate whoever came up with the idea of Freestyle cruising, because in reality it's just another way of saying we're going to charge you more for the privilege of eating slightly above average food and pay a premium for it. The food: A couple of the restaurants were worth the extra money. Both the Teppanyaki and steakhouse are must-dos. Sushi was average at best; Tex-Mex slightly above average, but nothing spectacular. Main dining rooms were good, but again nothing superb. The buffet (Garden Cafe) was ridiculous. Almost always overcrowded with people pushing and shoving to get at the food, as though they were eating their last meal (of course, those who pushed hardest and whose plates were piled highest were also the ones who clearly didn't need that fourth piece of cake...). Food was what you'd expect from an average cafeteria, but omelets at breakfast were good. Bottom line -- get there early for breakfast and don't go back. Chocolate buffet not worth it at all. We were worried that there would be too few activities on the days at sea, but the cruise director did a good job of having enough varied activities to keep everyone happy. Ports: Florida -- the Universal trip for the family was definitely worth it; had enough time in the park to ride almost everything we wanted to. Great Stirrup Cay -- plenty of activities to keep people busy, from waterslides to parasailing to just relaxing on beach chairs. Nassau -- the Atlantis aquaventure and dolphin encounters were popular. And since it warmed up to over 70 that day, the water park was enjoyable. Cabin -- mini-suite -- was an ok size for 4, but would recommend a larger suite or separate rooms for slightly older kids. Cabin stewards were terrific as far as making up the room and turning it down at night. Kids' activities were fantastic in both the teens and tweens clubs; both kept the kids entertained for hours on end so we could enjoy some adult time. Maltings Whisky bar on deck 6 had some interesting scotch, bourbon and beer tasting seminars that are worth attending. Overall, one of the best family vacations ever. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
I'm writing this only because I read the person who reviewed this cruise before me, and can't even believe it was the same trip. Parking in NY is expensive. This is a no-brainer, and has nothing to do with NCL. They don't ... Read More
I'm writing this only because I read the person who reviewed this cruise before me, and can't even believe it was the same trip. Parking in NY is expensive. This is a no-brainer, and has nothing to do with NCL. They don't set the cost of parking in a NYC owned terminal. Our room was always immaculate, the staff were accomodating and extremely friendly. Perhaps because we had a balcony, and there were only two of us, I was extremely satisfied. I never felt pressured to buy anything I didn't want to buy. The buffet was a buffet. I wasn't expecting gourmet food, and it was hot and plentiful. We ate there only for breakfast. To complain about the weather is asenine. When you get on a ship in NYC in the winter, you're taking your chances. We made the most of it, as did the (seemingly) thousands and thousands of children in the pools. We spent a lot of time reading out on the deck, and it was lovely and relaxing in jeans and a short sleeved shirt. There were several free restaurants, and only once did I have a meal I returned (fish--vastly overcooked). The for-a-fee places were all great with attentive service. When we didn't want wine or anything from the bar, they didn't nag. We didn't bowl because there were only four lanes and there was always a wait. The New Year's celebration was a lot of fun. It was good to see the crew hanging out with their friends and cutting loose. Disembarkment was a snap, we were out and off by 9:15. All in all, take everyone's review with a grain of salt. Some people look for the worst in everything. I had a great Christmas week with loved ones on a great ship! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
OK, just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Gem November 20-27, 2010 (Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas, round trip from New York). We had a group of 25 family members, including children ages 6-11, some ... Read More
OK, just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Gem November 20-27, 2010 (Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas, round trip from New York). We had a group of 25 family members, including children ages 6-11, some teens, and adults. This was our seventh cruise, but first on Norwegian (previously Carnival and Royal Caribbean). The first day did not start out well-I jotted down over a dozen "cons" in the first four hours based on comparisons to the other cruises we have taken. I am not usually a complainer, but I just expected a few things to be "automatic". By the end of the cruise, some aspects redeemed themselves, but overall I would rate this experience AVERAGE. We will most likely not cruise on Norwegian again, but we enjoyed the Thanksgiving week with our family together. Here are the good points: 1) Our cabin stewards were top notch 2) I would rate the food above-average for quality and variety 3) The prime rib was one of the best I have ever had 4) The Tex-Mex restaurant was well worth the $10 cover charge. I wish we hadn't waited for the last night-I could have enjoyed every item on the menu 5) You don't have to wear your lifejacket to the safety drill 6) Check in process was reasonably smooth. We arrived at 1210pm and were on the ship by 1pm 7) The ship is in very good condition-I guess this should be expected for a 3 year old ship 8) They serve a full breakfast on the final day in the buffet, not just continental 9) You are allowed to contest the absurd service charge (see below) And now for the "areas of improvement": 1) There was a general feeling that the whole process was unorganized. 2) There was a general feeling of being "nickeled and dimed to death". Extra charges for everything: bowling and 8 specialty restaurants. For comparison, on Royal Caribbean we did the FloRider, rock climbing, and ice skating for no extra charge. Typically I only see 2 or 3 specialty restaurants. 3) FREESTYLE is difficult for large parties-you MUST make a reservation for dinner at least one day in advance. We missed the set dinner time where everyone would meet each day and build a relationship with the service staff. 4) Speaking of service, my biggest complaint is the Service Charge. On other cruise lines, the charge is $10 per day for the first two persons in the cabin ($140 for seven days). On Norwegian, I suppose they want your wallet to be FREESTYLE. The service charge is $12 per day per PERSON OVER AGE THREE! For my family of four, that was $332. To Norwegian's credit I filled out a form giving my reasons and request for reduction-they issued a credit on my final invoice. I prefer to reward individual service performance, but the FREESTYLE approach requires all these fees to be spread amongst all crew-little incentive to give the best service in my opinion. 5) Twice, my reservation for 20 people was messed up at the same specialty restaurant. First, they "forgot" about another reservation for 22 and offered a different venue and/or time. On the second, they booked the wrong restaurant. Fortunately on the second time, the manager was able to honor our original reservation, but not until after some tense moments (since I had already told twenty people when and where to meet for dinner!) 6) Design Problems a. The cabin layout is poor-you cannot easily access the balcony with the bunk beds down b. The cabin was tighter than on other cruise lines-there is no long counter and only 3 small drawers c. The tables and chairs in the seating area of the buffet are way too tightly packed d. On the most populated decks (Promenade and Pool/Buffet), you can only traverse the ship on the starboard side 7) Juice machine is only available at breakfast. After that it is Iced Tea, water, or coffee. 8) The TV is tiny-about 13" and ours was set so that you could not view the whole screen (scores were not visible during football games). 9) There is NO network TV (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX) and no Kid's channels. The one "ESPN" channel showed cricket, equestrian, tennis, and European basketball. They did get the feed for some NFL games during the trip, but all on this channel-no choices like FOX and CBS on Sundays. 10) There were three red drops on our cabin carpet and a red stain in the bathroom that looked like blood. 11) The first day sign-in for the Kid's Club was a ZOO. The process is so inefficient and they appear very understaffed. 12) My kids were both in the 6-9 age group and rated it "BORING". 13) Only one show time on the first night. 14) The tender process at Great Stirrup Cay was a Catch 22. Either fight the NYC mob to get on the 7th tender. Or wait a half hour and get tender number 13. You then go ashore after two hours, leaving about 3.5 hours of beach time. 15) The BBQ lunch at Great Stirrup Cay was closed at 230pm, before some tenders arrived. 16) I don't expect any improvement-No evaluation feedback form was provided in our cabin on the last night. Maybe they will send us one in the mail after we have forgotten the bad points. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We were on the Gem the week of Thanksgiving and I will most likely never sail on a holiday week again. Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 12:30 pm and we were on the ship by 1:30. After we received our key cards, we ... Read More
We were on the Gem the week of Thanksgiving and I will most likely never sail on a holiday week again. Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 12:30 pm and we were on the ship by 1:30. After we received our key cards, we were able to board the ship. Port of Calls We stopped at Port Canaveral, Great stirrup Cay and Nassau. Great Stirrup cay tender ticket process was pure chaos. Tickets were to be distributed at 10 am at one of the bar lounges. People were waiting for tickets at 9am. The line stretched onto the staircases at which point you could not tell where the line ended. We were on the first tender (which holds 450 people)and people were pushing and shoving to board waiting to board the tender. The island was well-kept despite construction. The barbecue food was standard fare with long lines. I would advise wearing beach shoes because the lagoon has lots of sizable rocks. Food: The waits for the main dining rooms was ridiculous on certain day. I will assume it was because it was Thanksgiving week.The wait to be seated was 45 minutes and longer. After a hour, we decided to eat at the buffet. I thought breakfast was pretty good and the crepe station at the Great outdoors. Whatever was on the menu for lunch at the buffet was on the menu for dinner with a few changes here and there. Overall, I would never sail on a holiday week leaving from NYC. I will stick to the one-night cruises from NY. I would sail on NCL again. However, only for 3-4 night sailings. Kudos to the housekeeping staff on the Gem. I was very pleased with my room stewards as they went above and beyond. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though ... Read More
We just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though have cruised in the past with Disney (recently) and Carnival (a few years ago). Our experience was made better by: a) People : The ship's crew were both friendly, courteous and industrious from our cabin stewards (Jacinto Anion and Ambari team), the bartenders, the pool deck staff, the cleaning crew, and the garden cafe staff (we're amazed at the temperament of the garden cafe staff as we've witnessed them being unfairly abused by a few rude and obnoxious passengers). The results of the ship's crew efforts is shown by how clean and nice the ship is, inside and out.However, This applies for the crew on the ship only. In the NY port, some people we encountered during embarkation were rude & incompetent but not sure if they are NCL employees or if NCL has direct management control over them. b) Entertainment : Excellent shows (the performers and the production band was awesome), excellent music performers (notably Randon & Kenosis) and a variety of entertainment programs available for all ages and taste (kudos to Jamie & team). Our experience was not made better by : a) So-So kids club: Our 3 Kids were in 3 programs (6-9, 10-12, and teen). The problems were more structural than people or execution. The counselors were lively and good with the kids. The problem was that they have to work on very confined places (except for the teen lounge), don't have hours beyond 10:30pm without having to pay extra, and the scarcity of technology options (computers, wii, xbox 360 etc). Our point of reference for this assessment for full disclosure is the Disney cruise line which we have recently sailed on over the past 2 years. This however is not a major negative as we can reset our expectations for this service the next time around and organize our kid's activities accordingly. b) Inefficient process : If there was anything that bothered us greatly on this cruise is having to be inconvenienced because of inefficient processes and procedures. I think this cruise can benefit by looking at its processes and procedures (LEAN, Six Sigma, 5S) leading to better productivity (lower cost) and higher customer satisfaction (higher revenue). This is very evident in the magenta and great pacific dining rooms. There seem to be a lot of restaurant staff moving around like headless chickens. Again, they are very industrious and friendly but that is not enough to have a seamless operation. The checkin/checkout process for the kids club and towels need to be automated (use the key card rather than manually signing in) and needs better queue management (removal of non-value added process and procedures). In summary, while the cruise is not perfect (not sure if one really is), this cruise is definitely a great value. The negatives mentioned above can easily be addressed through lowering expectations and working around it. The positives however definitely outweigh all of this. As long as NCL maintains its price point, it's friendly and industrious crew, keep its freestyle concept and continue to have NY as its port, we would likely be long time and repeat NCL cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We sailed on Dec. 19. The cruise was to celebrate my Mother's 87th birthday. We were so glad when it was over. I've been on many cruises. This was horrible. First let me say the food was ATROCIOUS! It was overcooked, over ... Read More
We sailed on Dec. 19. The cruise was to celebrate my Mother's 87th birthday. We were so glad when it was over. I've been on many cruises. This was horrible. First let me say the food was ATROCIOUS! It was overcooked, over seasoned, over sauced or otherwise tasteless. Even the deserts were bland. I enjoyed one creme brulee. I am not picky but expect well prepared food on a cruise. If anyone from NCL is reading this, please, take a cruise on Princess to see how it's done right. The NCL Garden Cafe buffet is a joke. No trays, one buffet area and not enough seating. My elderly Mom could not manage. There is no place to relax near an adult pool. Only one adult pool! And it's adjacent to the childrens pool with slide. Very noisy. To top it off people were smoking cigarettes and CIGARS in the lounge area next to the children's pool. Who planned this ship!! To top it off I got a horrible stomach bug and then my Mother got it. She was very sick on her birthday! I read on a previous review that people also got the bug on the previous week's cruise. And I know other's on our ship got it. We literally spent most of the week in the cabin. The room stewards and waiters were very sweet and helpful although they and the crew denied anyone was sick! The daily newsletter was difficult to read and there wasn't anything about daily activities on tv except for sales promotions. Not well organized and difficult to get information on this ship. Not even weather on the tv. Psgr services only had it for the next day. I made it to a bingo game and thought the bingo announcer mc, whatever person, was unclear, rude and generally lacking in personality. On the positive, the minisuite was quite nice and spacious. The entertainment seemed good, although we only got to 2 shows. Talented singers and dancers. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS SHIP! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This cruise departed from New York City on 12/19/2009 with three scheduled ports (Port Canaveral, Big Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas) before returning to New York on 12/26. This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me but our first ... Read More
This cruise departed from New York City on 12/19/2009 with three scheduled ports (Port Canaveral, Big Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas) before returning to New York on 12/26. This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me but our first cruise with NCL. I had read many positive to very positive reviews about the NCL Gem and its crew. Many had said good things about the NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" so we were prepared for a great holiday cruise with our two adult daughters who had never been on a cruise. Having outrun the Blizzard of 2009, we arrived at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal just after 11:00 am on 12/19, easily found the parking area, paid for parking, checked our luggage and quickly made our way through check-in. We made it onboard the Gem about 1:00 pm and did some exploring until our staterooms were available just after 2:00 pm. After we checked out our staterooms (deck 4 forward), we made our way to the Garden Cafe (deck 12) for some lunch. It was very, very crowded and we ended up sitting outside (in the freezing cold) because there was no room in the inside dining area (this was a chronic problem throughout the cruise). By the way, no trays were available to carry your plates and drinks which made things cumbersome. The most favorite things on our cruise were the efficiency of the stateroom stewards (they were very pleasant and asked how things were going every time we saw them), the evening shows, the easy embarkation, the walk-off disembarkation (very quick), the availability of the elevators, the large showers (at least for a cruise ship), numerous storage shelves in the stateroom and the comfortable beds (which were by far the most comfortable we have slept in on any cruise). While much of the food was a disappointment compared to our other cruises, it was far from our biggest disappointment. The biggest disappointments on this cruise were the uninformed crew (particularly at the Guest Services desk and dining servers), the always crowded buffet dining room (Garden Cafe), the long waits for seating in the main dining rooms (Grand Pacific and Magenta) and the unwillingness of the crew to help with most problems. The most common answer we received whenever we asked a crew member a question was, "I don't know," with no willingness to do anything to find out. Let me provide some examples of issues that we had (these are just a few). After dinner on 12/19 in the Grand Pacific at about 7:15 pm, we stopped by the Guest Services desk to ask if there was going to be any religious services on Sunday. The answer was, "I don't know." We asked about Christmas services, (note: my travel agent had told me that NCL had services scheduled at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve and midnight and 6:00 am on Christmas). The answer from Guest Services was, "I don't know, but you can check in the Freestyle Daily on Christmas Eve." As we are Catholic, we asked if a priest was on board. The answer, "NCL does not provide a priest, if a private family has a priest with them, I am sure they will offer daily services." We learned from the 12/20 Freestyle Daily, which unfortunately had not been delivered to our stateroom on the evening of 12/19, that there was a priest onboard who offered Sunday and daily masses at 8:00 am. A member of the Cruise Director's staff mentioned to those in a lounge, where we were playing a game, to remember to pick up tender boat tickets at the Shore Excursion desk for our second port (Great Stirrup Cay). Before dinner, we stopped by the Shore Excursion desk and asked when tickets for the tender would be available. Their response was, "I don't know. Maybe you should ask at Guest Services." We went to Guest Services, which is about 20 feet away, and asked about the tender tickets. The answer, "I don't know, but you should probably check with the Shore Excursion desk." When we returned to our stateroom after the evening show, we checked the 12/22 Freestyle Daily and, sure enough, it directed us to pick up tickets for the tender at 10 am on 12/22. However, it did not say whether everyone had to pick up their own ticket or whether a single member of a group could pick up tickets for everyone. We didn't even call to ask because we knew the answer we would get. So, all four of us lined up at the Excursion Desk at 9:30 am. (Note: The tender tickets really seemed like a great idea, as it was meant to prevent crowding the disembarkation deck. A great idea which failed because of very poor communication.) With our tickets in hand, we went back to our stateroom and waited to be called. When the first ticket number was called, I opened our door and asked several passengers that were filing past if they had their tender tickets. Surprise, surprise, most did not and had even heard about the necessity of getting tickets. My final examples happened on Christmas Day (last day of the cruise). These examples demonstrate our general frustration with the dining staff throughout the entire cruise. In every previous dinner menu, NCL provided an "Always Available" menu in addition to each specific day's selections. On Christmas Day, the menu was formatted differently and did not show the "Always Available" menu. My daughter didn't care for any of the Entrees and asked if she could have a steak (which had been shown on the "Always Available" menu). The server looked at her as if she did not understand the question. My daughter repeated her request. The server just pointed to the menu and asked which entrEe she wanted. No offer to find out if the steak was available. Under the Desserts, Ice Cream was one of the choices, but on Christmas Day the menu stated that there were "special favors available, just ask". So I asked. The server's answer was, "I don't know." I requested that she please check in the kitchen and let me know. She said okay. As the dishes from the main course were being cleared, we asked the server if she had found out what the special flavors of ice cream were. She said she had not, but would go find out. About 15 minutes later, she returned and told me the special flavors were Frozen Peach Yogurt and Pineapple Sherbet (both of which had been listed separately on the menu above the Ice Cream choice). On my way out of the restaurant, I asked the Maitre D' what the special flavors of ice cream were. Her response, "I don't deal with the menu." To make matters worse, on Tuesday, the Garden Cafe went from self-serve, to crew service only. This unexplained action immensely increased congestion and wait times. We began using the main restaurants and Blue Lagoon for breakfast and lunch in order to get a seat. (The rumor was that there were numerous, severe illnesses onboard during the first two days.) Here is my estimate of the average wait times at the main restaurants after being seated; to get a menu - 5-10 minutes, to place an order after getting a menu - 15 minutes, service time after finishing each course - 10 minutes and very, very slow water refills (my daughter had to hold her glass up above her head for 5 minutes at breakfast one day to get a refill). We only ate in the Grand Pacific, Magenta, Blue Lagoon and Garden Cafe. (I suspect service in the Specialty Restaurants was much better but can not comment.) Overall, our take on Freestyle Cruising means that NCL has disregarded their responsibility to accommodate their guests and has shifted that responsibility to the guests to take care of themselves. On our first day at sea, my wife and I attended the CruiseCritic.com Meet and Greet with the senior crew including the Captain. The Captain even gave us his and others' phone extensions so we could contact them if there was a problem. To quote the Captain, "I don't want you to write a review stating that the trip was the Cruise from Hell without giving us a chance to rectify the problems you are experiencing." I noted the numbers but figured I never have to use them. However, when I did use them, a notice came up on the phone that the extension was either "incorrect" or "out of service." So much for getting help from any of the senior staff. During the Meet and Greet the Captain said that we had 2,970 passengers on board. This significantly exceeded the 2,466 passenger capacity listed on NCL's website. In NCL's frequently asked questions, the maximum passenger capacity is shown as 2,807 with a crew of 1,110. While the extremely high number of passengers may explain much of the overcrowding, delays and wait times, it does not explain the lack of information, the misinformation and general lack of helpfulness that we received from many of the crew throughout the entire cruise. (Not the "Cruise from Hell", but certainly close enough that we won't be returning.) Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all. Embarkation was rough. We ... Read More
My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all. Embarkation was rough. We could not get into our cabins immediately and had to take our carry on luggage with us to lunch. The service for lunch in the Grand Pacific was extraordinarily slow and I did not get all of the food I ordered. The food we got was very good. Our key cards worked fine as key cards, but not for the onboard account and when we went to the desk to get them fixed, both my husband and I were chastised about putting them near magnets which neither of us did. The cards didn't work from the moment we got them. The first night was rough. The seas were very rough (which I know no one can control) and many people got sea sick. It took the staff until the next day to put out vomit bags and by then everyone was fine. My husband and I didn't sleep very well that night due to the high waves. The first sea day was nice. We did a wine tasting and a beer tasting. The wine tasting was not very good. The sommelier was knowledgeable, but the location was overflow dining for the Garden Cafe so we had a hard time hearing about the wines over the crowd. The beer tasting was a lot of fun. The bartender was excellent and we all had a good time and they were pretty generous with the beers. We also went to the art auction where we enjoyed a free glass of champagne and saw some great paintings. Most were well over our budget point. We ate in the La Cucina restaurant which was a specialty restaurant with a $10 additional cover. The food was excellent. The second day was spent in the Orlando area. We took the shuttle to Historic Cocoa Village and did some shopping. Unfortunately on Monday a good number of the stores were closed which was unfortunate. We did buy some excellent Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from a shop called From Grapes and Olives. We ate dinner in Teppanyaki back on the ship which was another speciality restaurant and probably one of the best ones on the ship. There was $25 cover charge per person, but it was a good show and good food. We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. We ate this night at Le Bistro where we both had the duck which was excellent. This really was an excellent place to eat and I would go there again. Then we did go to Nassau where we participated in the stingray adventure which was pretty neat. The island we went to for the stingray show was quiet and sunny and we had a lovely day. We would have liked to have more time in the Bahamas than in Florida. We ate in another specialty restaurant-Orchid Garden, which was okay. It isn't worth the cover charge and I don't recommend it. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we were told we could not get dinner reservations until after 9 PM. This was not entirely true. We were frustrated by this fact because we were told we could not make a reservation until the day before. My husband went as soon as the reservation desk was open and they were booked. He can be very persuasive and got us a 6:30 reservation at Teppanyaki for Christmas Eve, but we were still going to have to wait until 9:00 for Cagney's on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve Day was a fun day at sea. We had a martini tasting at Shaker's Bar which was another great time with the head bartender. They are very generous with the alcohol and we really enjoyed ourselves. We also bought a painting at the art auction (no more champagne though) and ate at Teppanyaki again. Christmas Day at sea was not very much fun. There were very few activities scheduled that were of interest to us (as you can tell-tastings and art). They had game shows and Bingo and a toga party-none of which suited our interests. It was too cool to sit outside and read and we were left with nothing to do. We did have brunch at Le Bistro which was again excellent. We took a long nap and prepared for our late dinner at Cagney's. We met some friends for drinks before and we spoke to the manager and got into dinner an hour earlier than our reservation. The food at Cagney's was good-not as good as Le Bistro though. Our friends ordered prime rib and it was tough. I had lamb chops which were also rather tough and a little overcooked, but overall the food was good. Dessert was delicious. Cagney's also has a $25 cover charge per person. Throughout the cruise we also ate at Grand Pacific and the Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon for breakfasts and lunches. We never went to the Magenta because it was always insanely crowded. They do have a sign board posted everywhere which indicates how crowded each restaurant is at all times which is helpful. The food at Grand Pacific is good but the service is terrible. It is slow and some servers are truly rude and unpleasant. The food at the Garden Cafe is okay-it is a buffet. Eating after 8 AM will mean a long wait and overcrowding. About halfway through our cruise they started serving people at the buffet which was annoying as we had to wait in long lines to eat. We also typically got up for the early breakfast at 6:30 which they stopped providing without notice. The Blue Lagoon service was good sometimes and awful sometimes and slow always. The food there is okay. Coffee on the ship was consistently good wherever we ate. We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. The guides did a great job and were very entertaining, but they were not shy about asking for their tips! We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We cruised on the Gem this past week(12/26-1/3) and overall were not disappointed. Pros: We breezed through registration and embarkation with ease. The pink princess had a great time at the kids crew program;she met a lot of great ... Read More
We cruised on the Gem this past week(12/26-1/3) and overall were not disappointed. Pros: We breezed through registration and embarkation with ease. The pink princess had a great time at the kids crew program;she met a lot of great kids there. We spent time hanging out with fellow passengers shooting the breeze,playing bingo and trying the restaurants. Made it to all but Cagney's & Le Bistro, didn't have a bad meal. Tepanyaki was a blast. New Years Eve on the Pool Deck was off the hook. Cabin stewards were very attentive. Cons The coffee in the buffet was far better than in the restaurants. Couldn't add a passenger to our cabin 5 days before cruise due to homeland security,or so the NCL cruise consultant said. No more chocolate at turn down Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Just got off the Gem New Years cruise from December 26th to January 2! We had an amazing time with very few complaints, or rather, suggestions. We have been Princess loyalists since 2002 when we went on the Grand Princess for our ... Read More
Just got off the Gem New Years cruise from December 26th to January 2! We had an amazing time with very few complaints, or rather, suggestions. We have been Princess loyalists since 2002 when we went on the Grand Princess for our honeymoon. We wanted to do a cruise that year but were worried that we'd get stuck sitting with others for dinner if we went on another line. We're sociable people, but we like quiet romantic dinners. Princess had Anytime Dining so we went with them. We weren't aware that Norwegian did Freestyle as well. So six Princess cruises later and hearing lots of negatives about Norwegian, we saw this Florida to Bahamas cruise that left out of our backyard (NYC) and decided to book it. I never really pay much attention to either very negative reviews or very positive reviews. Some seem way too biased in one direction to be reliable. I'm glad to say we experienced absolutely NONE of the negatives I always heard about. We were dropped off at the pier by my father-in-law. I had him let us out a little before where everyone else was unloading as it was very congested right in front of the doors. We just walked a little and walked right in. There was a long line for security, but it moved very quickly. We were given number 77 to board. About 1:00 pm they started calling from 22. They did skip large chunks of numbers and they called 77 and all the rest at about 1:45 or so. We walked right onto the ship, got our glass of complimentary champagne and headed up to the buffet. (This was the first of many times we encountered the dining staff armed with a bottle of alcohol hand wash and the automatic hand sanitizer dispensers.) I didn't plan on doing this as I heard about how crowded it is on the first day and there aren't enough seats. This was true, but not a big deal. We then went down to the Grand Pacific and the hostess gave me a pager. We didn't walk more than 10 feet away when the pager rang! We went into the dining room after doing washy, washy and sanitizing our hands, and had an amazing first lunch. If the quality of the food on this first day was an indication, we knew we were in for some good food! We were cruising with my sister in law and brother in law on this cruise. As an aside after my father in law dropped us off, he drove back to the Bronx and my brother in law and sister in law were getting ready to leave and he dropped them off at the pier as well. Very nice of him! If you are lucky enough to have somebody drop you off, it is VERY convenient. He enjoyed watching the ship sail away while he stood out in the pouring rain near the U.S.S. Intrepid. After our lunch we sat at the Java Bar on deck 7 in the atrium. This is a very nice area with lots of comfortable seats and couches and the very large screen TV. The screen showed a few movies throughout the cruise as well as Monday Night Football and the college bowl games. At other times they showed weird images of skydiving and other assorted images to different types of music. I think the screen could have been better utilized. Maybe music videos or more movies would work well. But this area became one our favorite places and meeting points throughout the cruise. As we waited for my in-laws to board I sat down and ordered my first of many buckets (helmets) of beer. I was served by the charming and warm barmaid, Cris from the Philippines. She called me by name from that first bucket on through the whole rest of the cruise even when she saw me in other places. She was always smiling and made a difference in our cruise. She received a STYLE card and a little extra cash as a result. If you go on the Gem tell her Freddie, Lou, and the Twins say hi! While sitting at the Java Bar, we got to hear the wonderful singer/guitarist Randon. He did party/cruise standards like Margarittaville, New York State of Mind, etc. My in-laws boarded right near us, they had a few drinks with us and the cabins were ready. We all dropped our luggage off and they grabbed some food as we headed to the sail-away party. They usually have it on the pool deck if weather permits. This evening, weather certainly did NOT permit. It was raining sideways, brutally cold, and windy. They still had a great sail-away party in Spinnaker's lounge where I added to my many buckets of beer! It was a very nice touch on Norwegian's part as the ship passed the Statue of Liberty. One of the show singers sang the National Anthem and it received a very nice ovation. Nice job! As we passed under the Verrazano Bridge, which is usually one of my favorite parts of the cruise, I had to brave the elements and go outside. My in- laws had never sailed out of New York before and I wanted to see them experience it. It was really amazing as it was dark out already and we got some great shots. It was worth the cold and pelting rain!!! My wife decided she would forego it this time. (But as I write this, she is at the NY Jets game where it is 7 degrees! Go figure!) Hey I went out for a few smokes and after the second bucket of beers, I didn't really feel the cold anymore, anyway!! We went to Magenta that night for dinner and had absolutely no wait, just like every other night to follow. Maybe it depends on when you go, but we never experienced any type of line or wait. We did go a bit later between 7:30 and 9:00, so maybe that's why. Either way, it was good. After dinner we walked casually around the ship and had a drink at a few different lounges. My brother-in-law loved the cigar lounge and I stopped in here before or after dinner a few times to have a smoke myself. We ended up in Spinnaker Lounge again and had a blast with the rock/pop/dance band Prism. This night was a welcome aboard party and it was packed. This is where one of my suggestions comes in. We were having a blast and the place was packed. It ended abruptly at 12:30 to a full house. They said the party was moving down to Bliss Ultra Lounge. Had they kept this party going, they would have been selling a ton more drinks for 2 or 3 more hours. Most people wanted to stay in this place, but the lights went on and they started cleaning up. We did head down to the Bliss Lounge and it was crowded, but not really with people that were in Spinnaker. It was a much younger crowd here. I am in my mid thirties, act like I'm in my twenties (ok-5, lol) and my whole party could pass for mid to late twenties, but we felt out of place in Bliss. The drinking age on the Gem was 21, but 18 and older could drink with parental permission. This meant that there were 18 year olds buying for 15 and 16 year olds. I wanted to hang out and party, but them cutting the party at Spinnaker caused me and doubtlessly countless others to end the night earlier than we probably would have. I'm sure there are reasons like workers ending their shifts, but keep some of those workers on and I'm sure drink revenue would certainly make up for it, and the workers should be compensated for longer hours if they choose to work them. If it is to give these workers a bit of a break, then I fully understand. The second day was a sea day. I slept late as my slight cold/winter allergies and night before's partying took a toll on me. We had a late breakfast at the Great Outdoors which is aft on deck 12, behind the Garden Cafe buffet. This area had a very nice selection for breakfast and a nice seating area outside. It was still a bit chilly, but not unbearable and we ate outside. We walked around the ship some more and explored. We got excited that it felt so much warmer outside than the previous day and sat on a couple of lounge chairs for a few minutes. Once the wind picked up a little, it made it a bit colder. We went back inside after walking a few windy laps on the walking/jogging track. Had lunch from Garden Cafe and brought it out to Great Outdoors again. As the day went on you could feel it gradually get warmer. We went into Spinnaker in the afternoon and all four of us fell asleep in those funky bed type lounge chairs they have in there. I had my headphones on and while they were playing bingo, I had no idea as it was drowned out by Bon Jovi! That night we had dinner in the Grand Pacific dining room for the first time. As mentioned we had eaten our first lunch there. It is a very nice dining room and this is the dining room they request no jeans in. We went in dressed very nicely and did see some people in jeans. But I have to say, nobody looked un-presentable or sloppy. Towards the last night of the cruise, we went in wearing jeans and were far from alone. I definitely enjoy this about Norwegian. It is NOT so ultra casual as people look like slobs. But, people are dressed in what they might wear to a decent family type restaurant on land. Some people of course were dressed to the nines every night. We fell in the middle. I loved not taking a suit. After a nice evening of making our rounds through bar city on deck 6 and then onto Spinnaker followed by Bliss, we called it a night as we were going to hit our first stop at Port Canaveral, Florida the next morning. We wanted to be rested to see Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and company. We had a transfer-only excursion to The Magic Kingdom for Monday. I bought the Disney admission tickets in advance online for much cheaper than buying the whole excursion (transfer and park admission) through Norwegian. I would have even considered renting a car and driving for much cheaper, but buying the transfer through NCL gave me peace of mind in case there was a delay getting back to the ship. It was well worth doing it this way. We boarded the bus at about 1:00 pm or so after meeting in The Stardust Theater at 11:50am. The theater was full of people going to Kennedy Space Center, Disney, and Universal parks. They were pretty orderly and it probably made sense to do it this way as it streamlined people off of the ship instead of everyone getting off at once and causing chaos at the bus area. We got to the Magic Kingdom at about 2:00. The bus driver announced to us that it was closed because it was full, but not to worry. Even when we got to the front gate, the attendant let the bus in, but said the park was closed because it was full. The driver told us to still not worry. He then dropped us off at the entrance area to get on the monorail. We did this and got right into the park with no problem using our credit card type admission tickets. The park was jammed. We heard the lot that holds 80,000 cars was full. I believe it. However, it was about 65 degrees out and very comfortable, so it wasn't like being in a jammed park at 95 degrees. We walked around and my wife was as happy as one of the 6 year olds that she teaches!! I was so glad we got in with no problem. She loves Disney and was looking so forward to it! As soon as we got in, she took a picture with Pluto and I had to stand in line with families and 3 year olds to get the pictures. Priceless. Taking pictures with characters was the norm throughout the day. They even have photographers around the park that give you a photo card. Each picture you take, you hand them your card and they scan it when they take the picture. You then log-in online and view your pictures. The ones I took came better, so we didn't buy any. We went on a handful of rides as the lines were so long. I was using an APP on my I-Phone that told me the line times and it was very accurate. We really just enjoyed a very nice day of walking around, but in the future I will probably get the express pass where you go back to the ride at an assigned time. It would allow us more rides in less time. But we had a great time. It got chilly at night and the sweatshirts we bought at the gift shop came in very handy. It was a very nice experience walking through Disney in December and seeing it all decorated for Christmas. It was a very memorable night, especially when they started blowing man-made snow off the top of the buildings on the main street. Nice touch! We met the bus in the lot and had a noisy ride back to the ship. We were so tired and were amazed that many of the kids on the bus back were not as pooped as we were and were singing and chatting up a storm. I guess the roles were reversed and we adults get more tired from that type of day. When we got back onto the ship, we quickly just changed our shirts and met my in-laws at the Magenta dining room for another nice dinner. They had gone to Universal that day and had a great time, so it was nice talking about our days and relaxing on a nice evening. My brother-in-law and I went up to Great Outdoors while the ladies looked at photos in the gallery. We enjoyed some beers and a few smokes in the meantime. You can smoke on one side back there. It was empty at night usually. We did our rounds of Bar Central and then hit Spinnaker for 80s night. It was another night where it was fairly busy and could have stayed open a bit later. Oh well, we headed to Bliss and left there a little early as it was very crowded and young. The next day was Great Stirrup Cay, the NCL private island. You had to get tender tickets from the shore excursion desk. They started at number 1 and we had 9. I have been to Princess Cays a few times and if I'm not wrong, Princess lowers their lifeboats as tenders. NCL only had two double-decker ferry boats going back and forth. It took long to get everyone off the ship and then back on. I'm not sure if anything prevents them using lifeboats, but it was very quick and efficient for Princess. Not a very big deal, but just a suggestion. It took a very long time, but we found a nice spot on the pool deck in the sun on a lounger and waited for our number. We made our way down and got onto the tender fairly quickly. The tender ride is about 5 minutes and it was a nice day so not too bad. When we got to the island it was very crowded. We got something to eat and we sought out very scarce chairs. None were to be had, so we laid out our towels and laid near the water. I bought a bucket that went down very easy in the warm sun. It felt amazing and so strange that I was on this warm beach on December 29th. I could get used to it. At this point, some chairs opened up, and we hopped in. About an hour later, we decided to move to the other side of the island near the food and restrooms. We found a spot and the bar waiter that we ordered from couldn't find us, even though we told him where to look for us! Anyway, I found him and it was getting close to departure time and we were going to start chugging all the beers. We were saved when one of the tenders apparently broke down and the line got longer as they had to use only one. A little more time on this tropical paradise was nice. We took the ferry ride back to the ship and while the ladies went to get ready for the evening, I headed to the Great Outdoors for a few beers and to see the ship sail away. From back there, we were able to see the private islands of the other cruise lines, particularly RCCL. You can see that they are not very populated if at all. It looked pitch black as the ship was leaving. That night we met up in Bar Central before dinner and went to the Grand Pacific for another fantastic dinner. We were seated tonight at the table that we would end up, coincidentally, being seated at for the rest of the cruise when we went into The Grand Pacific. That must be where the most tables for two are. It was a great table right at the aft windows, center ship, overlooking the wake. It was a great spot to look out while enjoying a great meal. After dinner we headed up to Spinnaker. I believe this was the night they had the scavenger hunt which was pretty funny. We hung out for some more live music from Prism and when that was over (too early again,), we headed down to Bliss. There was a teen gathering still in progress. I think this should not happen. Adults are not allowed into the Leopard Lounge (teen club), so they should leave the adult clubs exclusively for adults. OR they should have made the event in Spinnaker run later. We walked around the ship a little longer and then headed back to Bliss. The event was supposed to have ended already, but it was still filled with younger teens. We ducked into a little side room in Bliss and waited until the teens cleared out. By then we had gotten tired. Everyone headed back to the cabins, but I made a pit stop at The Blue Lagoon for a grilled chicken sandwich after 1:00am. The trappings of 24 hours of food on a cruise ship!! The next day was Nassau. I did lots of researching what to do here and even that morning, we didn't decide what we were doing until we got off the ship. We all wanted to see The Atlantis, but didn't want to pay the high excursion price for a day at the beach. The ladies weren't going to do the water park and neither was my BIL. I would have, but it was not a deal breaker for me. I had heard of a deal at the Comfort Suites next to Atlantis that offered a deal if you rented a room, you got full access to Atlantis. We took a cab to Comfort Suites and went to the front desk. They do allow all access to Atlantis if you get a room here, but they have a two night minimum at more than $400 a night. No thanks. We decided to just head to Atlantis and see if they had a day pass for cheaper. In the cab there, the driver saved us a lot of money. He told us if we were only interested in the beach, he'd take us to a free beach. My in-laws were interested in the Dig. He told them it was only $35 for that. We decided to split up and we went to Cabbage Beach while they went to the Dig. Best decision we made all day. (Thanks, Bahama John!)We stayed at a great beach, rented chairs for $10 each, and bought a few sodas. It was a nice place. My wife took a walk and came back and said she was able to see some of the Atlantis, so we packed up and took a walk down there. We were able to walk around much of the Atlantis property without a wrist band. We saw the lagoon, crossed the rope bridge, saw Hammerhead Sharks and Baby Sting-rays. We saw a lot that we wanted to see without paying. We were even able to buy a hot dog and fries from one of the concessions. I am glad that cab driver saved us about $150 a person. If we wanted to use the waterpark, then we would have coughed it up, but there was no need to spend any money to do what we did that day. The cab fares were reasonable as well at about $4 per person pretty much anyplace we went. After some walking around Atlantis, we walked through the casino and some of the stores and then hailed a cab right out front. As another side note, and an unfortunate one, we were docked that day next to the RCCL Monarch of the Seas. We had seen her earlier in Port Canaveral which was her home port. When we got back to NYC, we read a news story about a woman who jumped overboard when the ship left Nassau on the same day. It was reportedly the wife of a RCCL crew member. Very sad story and I'm sure it saddened the many crew members and passengers aboard that ship. What a shame. When we got back on the ship, we grabbed some food from Topsiders Grill near the pools. They had a similar selection as The Great Outdoors would have: burgers, hot-dogs, fries, salad, pastas, chicken, vegetables, etc... A good enough selection for when the main buffet, the Garden Cafe, was closed. We had another nice dinner in The Grand Pacific that night. I forget what I ate most nights, as I ate so much. I should have noted it somewhere. I have to say I didn't have even one bad meal. Food is subjective, but I cook myself, come from a family of very good Italian cooks and eat all types of food. I really liked the food. Some of the portions were tiny. My wife ordered a scallops appetizer that we were actually laughing at due to its size. But I did order an extra appetizer on most nights and one night I was bad and ordered two entrees when I couldn't decide. The next day was New Years Eve. We didn't do too much during the day. We went and watched the belly-flop competition at the pools, only because it was comfortable out and we knew it would only get colder. It didn't get colder that day, but it started to pour hard. We were worried that the New Years Eve party on deck would be cancelled. Staff was saying that they didn't know. We went to Spinnaker where they were having some sort of dance lesson so I left and went to buy some t-shirts. They had a buy 2 get 1 free deal and the shirts were decent so I took advantage of the deal! We decided we would get ready early and meet up for dinner earlier than normal to get a jump on our NYE partying. We didn't know if we were going to buy champagne bottles or by the glass. My BIL and I are beer drinkers and the girls drink wine and champagne. We figured we'd see how the night went. After a very nice dinner in Magenta with a great waitress whose name escapes me, us guys hit the cigar lounge, while the women sat outside of the lounge and watched Randon perform with his guitar. This really is a nice little lounge area with couches and soft chairs. Then there is Magnum's champagne bar, Malting's whiskey and beer bar, and Shakers martini bar. All of the bars are really one area in the middle. They are one large bar, broken into three. On the other side of these three bars is another lounge area which is connected to Maltings. This is really a nice little area and each bar does have a different selection of what its intended specialty is. I am a smoker and enjoyed this area as it was right outside of the cigar lounge and we'd have a few drinks and I'd sneak in for a smoke now and again. I heard from non smokers that the smoke was not too noticeable. This says a lot as this area is also right near the casino. I have to admit that it was definitely smokey in there, so if smoke bothers you, avoid it. It is also one deck down from the promenade deck where I would smoke. The girls had ordered a few glasses of champagne. They then decided it was more convenient and economical to buy it by the bottle. So they bought the first of a few bottles that evening. I didn't think I'd be drinking only champagne that night, but got a decent deal when we went up to the pool deck New Years Eve party. Prism was playing and it seemed almost all of the passengers of the ship were up here. This was a New Years Eve I won't soon forget. The rain had stopped and it was in the mid 70's. People were dancing and having a great time. I walked around the pool deck while the ladies danced. Close to midnight, waiters were going around with glasses of champagne. I grabbed a few for our group and we got together for the countdown. The noisemakers and hats were provided by the ship. We got hats at dinner time in the dining room and they provided noisemakers as we were leaving Bar Central, but also up on deck. The captain made a speech from the bridge, but it was very hard to hear as people were blowing noisemakers. After the captain's speech, they started blowing the ship's horn. I believe this was the correct midnight, but for the sake of having a countdown, the cruise staff started a 10 second countdown. Everyone counted along and went wild at 0. It was great to be in such a great place on NYE with my wife and in-laws. I also enjoyed seeing a lot of the crew from a variety of different departments, some in their work attire, some in regular clothes, enjoying themselves. About this time we decided we needed another bottle of champagne. I went to where they were selling them from the hot tub. I was going to buy a certain bottle my BIL recommended, but the salesperson told me he'd sell me a magnum of the same brand for $130 and I'd get another bottle for free. At this point, it seemed like a good deal as the bottles were expensive enough and this was a pretty good deal. My BIL who knows more about champagne said it was a good brand and the deal was pretty good. It was much better than if we were going to keep buying glasses or one bottle at a time. I had to wait a little while as they got the bottles from Bliss on deck 7, but they brought it back and put it into ice for us. We grabbed an ice bucket each and walked back to where the ladies were dancing. It was around this time that the party was about to wrap up and it was ONLY 12:45am- on NEW YEAR'S EVE!!! When the band finished their last song, I and the guy next to me started chanting "5 more songs! 5 more songs!" Cruise director Andy was NOT amused by this. He kept trying to shoo people away and sell everyone on the party at Bliss. We fully intended to go to Bliss, but this party still had legs and should have gone on!! He begrudgingly told the band to play some more and they did one more song!! Almost both decks were covered with people, and they pulled the plug on the party. I can't even begin to wonder how much more they would have made if the party went even just 30 minutes longer. So we were forced to go to Bliss, which we enjoyed, but for a much shorter time than if we were on the pool deck. All in all, it was a great night. I only wish it was a little longer. The next day, the champagne kept me sleeping a little later than I wanted to, but we packed our stuff and walked around the ship one last time. It got quite a bit colder and we couldn't really go outside. We were pretty lazy as we would normally be on New Year's Day, but it was still a nice enjoyable day even though we were getting off the next day. They were showing the college bowl games on the big screen in the atrium and it was crowded. We met for a few drinks with Cris in the Java bar and bid adieu to her. It's always sad saying goodbye to people who really made your vacation something to remember. I guess it means we need to book on the Gem again soon to see her, Matt in Spinnaker (Yeah Baby!!), Randon, Prism, and many others who made our cruise a great one. Of course we ended the night in party mode and started in Spinnaker. They had karaoke, which had I not been sick, would have done every night. I felt so much better by now, so I decided to sing a Bon Jovi song. It was lots of fun. We stayed to see The Second City Comedy Troupe. It was packed in there. It was pretty funny, but not side stitch funny. It made me laugh though! The farewell party, though short, was fun. Prism did a short, but good, set. It was time to leave Spinnaker soon enough and we said our goodbyes to the band. They got a STYLE card for entertaining us just about every night. And they were nice people as well. We then headed to Bliss where there was the Toga party going on. It was fun, although we didn't wear togas. The drinks were going down very nicely, but at a point we had to say goodbye to Bliss one last time. Before bed we made like lots of Bronx nights in the 90's and hit the diner after partying. Really it was The Blue Lagoon, but it felt like one of those nights. The next morning we woke up at 8:45. We opted for self-debarkation and it was a good choice. We got ready, went to breakfast, but the buffet was jammed. We got our food and went out to eat at the seating area of The Great Outdoors. It was FREEZING!! Welcome to New York!! We ate quickly and went inside and found my in-laws. We took our time eating and then went to our rooms for our luggage. We took the elevator up to hang at Java Cafe to wait for my in-laws. Once they got there, it was literally like walking out of a hotel. We didn't have to look for our luggage in what looked like pandemonium! We went through customs in no time and were out on the street. Guess what? It was snowing!!! Again, Welcome to New York!! Random thoughts: So we had an amazing time. I swore when I started this review I wasn't going to do a point by point comparison to my Princess cruises. I'm sticking to that, but will point out some things that were different or the same. They may be for better or worse. We joked that the ship should've been called the Norwegian Germ! They were very germ phobic and anytime you got on or off the ship, went to a dining venue, or blinked your eyes, they wanted you to washy, washy/ smiley, smiley,/ happy, happy. I have no problem with this. I do think having servers at the buffet is not a bad idea as well. However, keeping salt and pepper shakers and no ketchup and mustard in the buffet was a little overboard. I know there were reports of people being sick the few cruises before us, but people get sick, it happens. If everyone keeps their hands clean and take other precautions, you should be ok. They did let us serve ourselves and put shakers and condiments back on the table when we got to Nassau, day 5. There are things that people are bound to touch like menus that are passed to everyone. Unless I don't know and they are sanitizing them between uses, what's the difference in keeping shakers and condiments on table? This really was not a big deal and we thought it actually pretty funny. It made for good conversation and even the staff thought it was funny and made sarcastic jokes about it. I guess in the long run if it kept me from getting sick it was worth it. If washy, washy makes NCL happy, happy, I'll do it with a smiley, smiley on my face! As I stated, I heard negative things about NCL Freestyle. I love Anytime on Princess and I can now say I might like Freestyle on NCL even more. We didn't do any specialty restaurants as we LOVED all of our meals in the dining room. We never experienced a wait. There are TV screens near dining rooms that give estimated wait times. I think they may be a bit off. Some said the main dining rooms were full, but we walked up and were seated right away. Maybe they do it to slow people down from going all at once. The ship was very nice. The bathroom was a plus. The shower stall was a little bigger than on Princess and it had a glass door as opposed to the curtain. It also had a handheld shower head! Awesome!! The inside cabin was an adjustment as we usually get balconies, but with cold days going and coming and it being our second cruise, inside cabin this time. It was clean and comfortable, thanks in no small part to our great stewards, Gioffre and I think his assistant was Mark. I tipped a 20 when we fist met as he went out of his way with his hands full to get me a bottle opener. I also tipped him at the end another 20. This was of course in addition to the tips charged to the room. I have to say that this ship may have had the friendliest staff I ever encountered. Everyone you saw repeatedly would greet you by name and always a smile. Even the captain was walking by in the atrium one evening and we took a picture with him. He was very friendly and even pointed out that the flash didn't go off and posed for another. Little things like that stick with you. The buffet was a little hectic on most sea days, especially upon embarkation. On that day only, we then just went to the Grand Pacific dining room for a great lunch. It was a bit confusing at times what buffet was open at what time. I like that Princess keeps the buffet open 24 hours. But Blue Lagoon is there to serve late night hunger. Relaxed dress code was something we could get used to. I may leave the suit at home on my summer cruise on the Caribbean Princess. Again, people were not dressed like slobs, just not as dressed up every night. There were jeans around at night, but there were also people dressed smart casual. Nothing that was very noticeable. On "Dress Up or Not" night, there were more people dressed up than I thought there'd be. One night, my brother in law felt out of place in jeans, but it wasn't the more formal night. My wife thought there were more vegetarian options on Princess. She did temper this by saying that vegetarians who ate a wider variety of food than her probably would think the selection is just fine. She is not just a vegetarian, but not a very daring eater and pretty much sticks to her favorites. This being said, she enjoyed everything she ate and never went hungry. I have 6 Princess cruises under my belt and one more booked. I do get some perks that would take me awhile to catch up to on NCL, but I am thinking long and hard about booking the same cruise for next Christmas vacation. The only thing I am considering is the weather, which of course the cruise line doesn't control. I may just rather fly somewhere much warmer and be in the warmth that much sooner! Entertainment was pretty much the same as Princess. I caught some of a 70's tribute show and it was entertaining and well put together. It featured TV themes and other 70's pop culture references. As mentioned, Prism was very good and we had fun with them almost every night. They appealed to a broad spectrum of people. Cruise director Andy was good, but I feel some of the events being cut short are in his control. He was very visible and seemed to truly enjoy his job, but I think he needs to reconsider the timing of some events and when to end them. Also, there were some events that said "11:00pm until whenever.." sometimes whenever was 20 minutes after it started. I couldn't comprehend this. I'll wrap up by saying that I never, ever expect perfection on a cruise. It doesn't exist. Therefore I am never disappointed. I have never had a bad cruise. I was a little under the weather on the start of this cruise and still had a blast. It would really take a lot to ruin a cruise for me. Two thumbs up! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We ... Read More
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We have two boys ages 10 and 5. This cruise was our first holiday cruise with the kids. Embarkation - We arrived later than planned due to traffic delays at the Lincoln Tunnel. When we arrived there were tons of people checking in and we had delays in every line. It took us about 90 minutes to board and arrived on the ship by 2:45pm. It certainly wasn't the worst embarkation we had from New York. The good news was that our room as ready, so we could dump our carry on bags and get a snack. The Ship - It is new at just over a year old. The ship was built in Papensburg, Germany like many other of NCL's ships. The ship was nicely appointed and well maintained. The German design is rather compartmentalized and most spaces are single deck, which does not allow for much natural lighting. All of the dining venues are small with virtually no natural lighting. The Grand Pacific dining room is the nicest looking dining room on the ship. It was two decks high and had nice views of the ocean. It is located at the aft end of deck 6, but you must access it though the aft staircase of deck 7. The lobby is also a very nice two deck space with a lovely piano bar and coffee shop. There is also a two deck high TV screen that plays videos, sports programs, and Nintendo Wii games. The kids loved the Wii tournaments in that room. The casino is large and well serviced. The slot machines are also very quiet, so you can hear yourself think when in the room. The most glaring error in design is the Garden Cafe. This is a buffet dining area with a traditional buffet line instead of buffet stations. The area is cramped and there is not enough seating for folks at peak times, so eat early or late. The Great Outdoors is an outdoor dining area on the aft end of the ship to the rear of the Garden Cafe. It is a nice area to eat when the weather is warm. The other public spaces are pretty standard to other NCL ships and I found navigating the ship very easy. I liked the fact that the Tree Top Kids Club is located mid ship, so the movement of the ship through the water is minimal. Accommodations - Since this was a holiday cruise and pricing was higher than usual, so we chose an inside cabin for the four of us. When we first walked into the room, we looked at each other and wondered where all of the clothes and luggage will fit. We had five bags with us. To NCL's credit, the room held all four of us, our clothes and bags. There were two adult size beds, a drop down bed from the ceiling and a cot that was stored under one of the adult beds. It was snug and we won't get an inside for four again. The room was approximately 150 sq.ft. The bathroom was small, but the shower was a decent size. The water pressure was great and we never had an issue in getting plenty of hot water. The housekeeping staff was horrible. Our cabin was not made up until almost dinner time every day and was not turned down until almost 11pm each night. We never saw our cabin stewards. Itinerary - It was a good itinerary for kids. I liked four ports in a seven day cruise from New York. The port reviews are below. They were Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau and Freeport. Shore Excursions - Were poorly organized. There was alot of waiting time and the kids got anxious. I realize that local tour companies were running the tours, but NCL needs to make sure they are providing the level of service required. The worst tour was the Atlantis Aqua Adventure. I'll explain below. Entertainment - Good solid entertainment. The Gem Singers and Dancers had three good shows. We enjoyed the comedian, Peter Sasso. We missed the shows when we were in port, but comments by other guests were positive. The New Year's Eve party was not well advertised. When I asked one of the kids club counselors what they were doing for the kids on New Year's Eve, they had no idea. They wound up having a New Year's party complete with top hats and face painting, but I passed on that because their late night party fee, which is usually $5.00 per hour per child was doubled to $10.00 per hour for the first child for New Year's Eve only. I thought that was an awful thing to do especially since there was no notice to the parents until you arrived to drop off your kids at 10:30pm. The kids did like the overall program. My 10 year old loved the Nintendo Wii freeplay. Passenger demographic was diverse with many families traveling with children. There were 642 kids on board for this trip. Dining - The food quality and presentation in the main dining rooms (Magenta and Grand Pacific) was very good and exceeded our expectations. The wine lists were diverse and good. Wines from $14.00 per bottle to $1,350.00 per bottle. We stayed with the $14.00 per bottle stuff. The Garden Cafe buffet was also very good. However, the food quality and presentation in the specialty restaurants we patronized (La Cucina and Tequila) was poor at best. Very bland tasting food with little going for it. My wife put it best when she said the red sauce at La Cucina tasted like Chef Boyardee. Disembarkation - Was very smooth and well organized. One of the best I have had in New York. Overall - We all had a good time as we always do on a cruise, but this ship's service and lack of organization left us with a feeling of emptiness. We did not make any friendships with anyone for the first time. I said to my wife on the last day that I always start missing the ship and it's crew on the last sea day, but not this one. This Gem needs alot of polishing before I would go on her again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This is the first time that I am writing a review; I hope that you will bear with me. I would like to start by telling the readers something about myself, so that they can have an idea about the perspective from which these observations ... Read More
This is the first time that I am writing a review; I hope that you will bear with me. I would like to start by telling the readers something about myself, so that they can have an idea about the perspective from which these observations were made. I am 56 years old and have been cruising for over 30 years, having taken more than 25 cruises. Other lines on which have sailed include Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America, Oceania, P & O, Premier, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Other than cruising, I have traveled extensively throughout the world (except for Asia) and I have passion for food (cooking is one of my hobbies). On this trip, we were a group of four adults, including my legally blind, octogenarian mother who cannot stand for long periods nor walk long distances. Now, on to the review. Boarding Manhattan has never been one of the best embarkation ports. But on this occasion, we arrived at the pier into a scene of pandemonium. The ship had docked late, so literally thousands of passengers were everywhere, standing on zigzagging lines and even sitting on the floor wherever they wouldn't be trampled. Despite the fact that I was told on the phone by NCL that a wheelchair would be available at check in, none was, and there wasn't even a place for my mother to sit. When I went to one of the tables and told the NCL representative of the situation, she said "I'm not responsible for what you were told. There's nothing I can do about it". When I asked her to give me one of the chairs that were behind her table, she said no. I had to take it over her objections and told her to use her radio to report the situation to someone who is responsible. Finally, after about 20 minutes, someone showed up with a wheelchair. From that point, boarding went smoothly. Physical Condition The ship is beautiful. As I am very fond of the traditional designs of ships such as Oceania or Cunard, I didn't think that I would like the modern design of NCL. But the mixture of dark wood and color was extraordinary. Also, being practically new, all of the furnishings were still in pristine condition. Everything appeared very clean and well maintained. Because, NCL nearly doubled the price of the tickets for the holiday sailings (as compared to the same itinerary from two weeks before), we only booked balcony cabins. In comparison to some lines, these were on the small side, but well laid out. And the large showers were very much appreciated. Fortunately, opening the divider between the adjoining balconies added to the spaciousness of both cabins. Entertainment The entertainment on board was the best I have seen in years. The big shows were terrific and even the small shows were good: talented singers and dancers and funny comedians. The casino was above average: spacious with plenty of tables and a variety of machines in various denominations. But, call me old fashioned, the computerized Roulette machine went too far! Food The range was from horrendous to very good. In the main dinning rooms, the food was dismal. There was an inedible vichyssoise that tasted as if made from skim milk and potato flakes; many hot entrees were served barely warm at best; and the inattentive service ruined the few good dishes. A sea food platter that was tasty (and served hot) was cold by the time the requested tartar sauce was brought (fully 10 minutes later). On the other end of the spectrum were the upgrade restaurants: good food and excellent service. But it seemed as if the food that was included was deliberately bad to make you pay for the upgrades. Even in the buffet at breakfast, the orange juice was so diluted that one was compelled to pay the extra price for the fresh squeezed juice that was being pushed. Service While cheerful and friendly, the service was poor. Calls to the room steward were slow to be answered. If one slept late and didn't leave the room until after 10:30, the room was not made up until after lunch. Many staff didn't speak English well enough to comprehend simple requests. Yet, in the upgrade restaurants, you couldn't ask for more attentive waiters. This contrast made the service in the main dinning room seem even worse! Another example: Somehow, we were not given our bill on the night before disembarkation. When I went to the desk on the next morning, I couldn't get another copy. This was distressing. But, there was one shining example of good service. We lost a wallet that was found and returned within 30 minutes. This was impressive. Overall There were lines for everything. Even with reservations, there were lines to be seated in the restaurants. Even at off-peek times, there were lines for boarding and disembarking in the ports. There were even lines for the nightly special deserts and the extra charge OJ in the buffet. In my opinion, Free Style meant that one was free to stand on line and pay extra to get what one should have received with the price of the ticket. Given the price paid, especially after all of the extra charges, I would rank this NCL trip at the bottom of my list for value and only in the lower end for overall quality. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Norwegian Gem Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.5 3.9
Public Rooms 3.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 3.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.6
Enrichment 3.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.1
Value For Money 5.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.8

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