First time on NCL for my partner and me, and I think the Gem was a good 1st choice on the cruise line. We've sailed on Holland America, RCCL, and Princess in the past. The ship overall created a very positive cruise experience and the ... Read More
First time on NCL for my partner and me, and I think the Gem was a good 1st choice on the cruise line. We've sailed on Holland America, RCCL, and Princess in the past. The ship overall created a very positive cruise experience and the ship is clean, well-maintained (with some rust here and there, it's 8 years old), and for the most part the staff is pleasant. They do try to create a nice cruise experience for everyone, however many are by no means eager to please. Check-in was congested yet organized, which took about an hour from the marina walk-in to on the ship; check-out was faster/smoother than all other cruise line check-out's we've been on--it took about 20min.
As stated above, the Gem is clean & well-maintained But the age is showing and the details will wear as expected. If coming on this ship for a honeymoon, anniversary or what not, this could affect it if it matters to you!
Also, staff working on board are hard-working and very pleasant. However some of them are not service-oriented, never smile, and are borderline unapproachable. This happened to us many times during our cruise.
The evening shows star at 7 and 9 pm, while the main dining rooms close at 9:30 at the latest. The line's scheduling is definitely not convenient for late diners.
The entertainment was hit and miss. The comedian was meh, the duo acrobats were excellent, the world tour was very good, the 2nd city was meh, the 60's/70's musical was bad, and the ballroom rush dancers were meh. The choreography we've seen on Princess and RC are MUCH better and have more thought put into them. The shows on the Gem could have had more work done in them.
Room stewards were pleasant enough. We presented half of the tip to our housekeeper, Patrick, to make sure he stayed consistent. Each day we had replaced towels and wash cloths, with a nice towel animal on our bed at the end of the day. However, there were spots of dust that didn't go away in certain areas I kept an eye on, particularly in the bathroom. Also, the glasses he replaced were somewhat dirty. Other than that, he was superb.
In general the food was very good. The variety was plentiful onboard, particularly in the buffet where we ate most meals through the day. It had different nationalities which were either a hit or a miss.. for example, the pizza was a thin-crust delight, and the Indian dishes were well seasoned, however the breakfast options were always repetitive, boring. O'Sheehans, the Pub-themed complimentary place, has some great items and some not so much. The cheesecake brownie, for example, is award-winning, while the fish and chips was like a soggy corndog (?). The Gem's cakes are superb except the chocolate ones taste-wise. There are great baking skills onboard. The pool area food on the ship was very good as well, and the grain and bean salads were nice (one was with quinoa, nice surprise), particularly the burgers--and I don't even eat burgers that often. Blue cheese and bacon burgers with arugula lettuce? Yes, please :)
The main dining rooms were all we needed to go to as the food was so pleasant. There was Magenta and the Grand Pacific. The Magenta is smaller and more hip, however the service is glacial in speed, and the portions there are just too small (Even by European standards). The Grand Pacific was always satisfying for lunch and dinner. I had one of the best salmon dishes I've ever had while dining there for lunch. Anyway, stick with the GP and you'll always be satisfied. PS: be extra nice to the Maitre'd, Samuel. He will always give you a table with a view!
The Great Outdoors is wonderful. We spent all mornings, afternoons and nights there!
The Gym is very nicely kept. Not too small, kind of worn equipment, but otherwise a nice view. They even have a sauna room with lockers across from the weight room, free to use.
If you have kids or teens in your group, you will be VERY happy with the ship's accommodations for youngsters. They have a lot of amenities on the ship itinerary just for them.
If you are single, you'll feel more comfortable than you'd think with all of the ship's mingling efforts in the adult lounge and bars throughout the cruise.
The library is pin-drop quiet. It's a great place to go and pick up a book (during open section hours) and unwind a little from the noise.
The game room is right next to the library. It's very popular from what I saw.
Their private island (Great Stirrup Cay) is VERY nice. We went snorkeling there (brought our own gear, much cheaper that way). The coral reefs were taken care of and there were a nice variety of fish large and small, rogues and schools alike. It was better than being harassed/nickeled & dimed at Nassau, that's for sure!
The passengers were a mix of conservatives and large personalities. Nobody was too keen to go on the dance floor, though. This isn't a Princess cruise, but it's definitely not the vibe known on a Carnival cruise, either. Anywho, most of the guests kept to themselves, pretending to ignore others. But if you approach them they are nice and pleasant for a few minutes chat. As far as making friends go, you have to break the ice a little with them or get a few drinks going to loosen them up. That's kind of the vibe on the Gem, or maybe NCL in general.
*Servers push drinks because they automatically ring up an 18% gratuity. Even though you already paid the $12.95 pppn onboard gratuity. What's the deal?
*AVOID the art showing! It's a scam and is certainly not worth the free glass of champagne!
*There's a divide between the Haven and the rest of the ship, where the lobby/pool for them is so cramped to the point where they have to go to the pool deck where the rest of us are.
*The Real Deal band on the pool deck was WAY too loud, and nobody was dancing on the deck because there was too little room.
*The Nickelodeon team get-together was unsuccessful. There was no Spongebob, no characters at all. Only people in orange shirts, what a drag. There was no more than a dozen kids, barely anyone wanted to participate. Are you getting the overall passenger personality, now?
*The NCL captain is very sarcastic, which is funny and all, but on every other cruise line that position is taken seriously. Plus, he's always on stage or doing activities here and there on the ship, instead of being in the bridge where he should be. Why is the captain of NCL treated like a "celebrity", while the captains on other cruise lines are more professional?
*The staff got tired of us as the cruise went on, even though we really appreciated them.
*The food was overall very good, however there were many bad items. For example: 70% of the desserts were tasteless, especially most of the chocolate desserts (they didn't even taste of chocolate, no joke!). The best quality food, ironically, was served at Great Stirrup Cay.
*It seemed like EVERYTHING on the ship had a nominal fee, from a ship tour to playing bingo. So, for thrifty passengers there was little to do as a result.
So there you go, hope you got some good information from our review! We might just go on another cruise with NCL, as they have good value. Read Less