4 Norwegian Gem Cruise Reviews for Entertainment Cruises to Panama Canal & Central America

This was our first cruise with NCL and chose this cruise due to the 11 ports included in this daylight Panama Canal transit. The ports were all great and enjoyable. The spacing of sea days and ports was excellent. 3 days of ports, 1 ... Read More
This was our first cruise with NCL and chose this cruise due to the 11 ports included in this daylight Panama Canal transit. The ports were all great and enjoyable. The spacing of sea days and ports was excellent. 3 days of ports, 1 sea day, 3 days of ports, 1 sea day, etc. Embarkation was smooth, with the normal delays. Disembarkation was a disaster, stood in line for more than 90 minutes after our purple 2 code was called. Then received extremely rude and poor transfer service from the NCL contracted bus line. Bus driver intentionally dropped off half the passengers at the wrong terminal. Ship: In good shape, and common areas were clean and constantly cleaned Cabin: 8590. this is a sideways cabin, partially obstructed view and the location was convenient and quiet. Dining: Food in the main dining rooms and buffet was consistently stale and Luke warm. We only got a decent meal if it was an omelet prepared in front of us or something that was intended to be cold like a salad. The fountain drinks were watered down. Entertainment: Best I've seen after 15 cruises. If you cruise with NCL and SWING is the show do NOT miss it. Broadway quality. Great show band, with 3 piece brass section Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
It was my wife's 70th birthday and we wanted to do something grand and special so this fit the bill. A trip through the Panama Canal had always been on my "bucket list" and this was a chance to visit many different ... Read More
It was my wife's 70th birthday and we wanted to do something grand and special so this fit the bill. A trip through the Panama Canal had always been on my "bucket list" and this was a chance to visit many different countries. Interacting with the "locals" was wonderful. Enjoyed our hop-on hop-off bus tour in Cartegena, and the submarine excursion in Aruba was exciting ... beautiful coral and colourful fish. The ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaco) were a treat, very friend people, colourful buildings, easy to walk around. The ship itself was thoroughly enjoyable ... never a lack of things to do. Every show in the Theatre was excellent, and we especially enjoyed the Cirque du Soleil duo. We are not "formal" people, so free-style cruising suits us well. The casino was good because the "odds" on the slots were set high enough that you could enjoy some decent play time. The only drawback is that smoking is allowed. The only improvement I would suggest to the itinerary would be to include a stop in either Nassau or San Juan to break up the final three and a half days at sea. All in all, a wonderful trip and we plan on continuing to "cruise like a Norwegian". Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
After cruising in many ships worldwide, we decided to take our first cruise with NCL because the route with NCL Gem was fantastic; The Panama Canal! In general terms the cruise was fine. The ship is great with beautiful public areas, ... Read More
After cruising in many ships worldwide, we decided to take our first cruise with NCL because the route with NCL Gem was fantastic; The Panama Canal! In general terms the cruise was fine. The ship is great with beautiful public areas, excellent facilities and good cabins, and above all, a very good crew and staff, In terms of recreation and activities they were very good. The shows were fantastic with excellent dancers and singers. The orquestra and musical groups on the ship were also very good. Regarding the food served as "complimentary" in the main dinning rooms and swimming pool area, was not good enough to be aligned with the top quality of the ship. Food quality, variety, presentation, and flavor was really poor. Sometimes during lunch time it was really difficult to decide what to eat because the food available was really "cheap" . The current chef is from India. We took this cruise with another couple of friends and they had exactly the same opinion. After so many cruises it is very easy for us to assess the quality of ships and services aboard, Everything was great, except the food ! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I chose this cruise for the itinerary and have sailed Norwegian before and have always had a good time onboard. Service- this was hit and miss. Some of the hostesses aren't very friendly. The girl in Sheehan's never smiled ... Read More
I chose this cruise for the itinerary and have sailed Norwegian before and have always had a good time onboard. Service- this was hit and miss. Some of the hostesses aren't very friendly. The girl in Sheehan's never smiled or made me feel welcome. I'm a former hostess- so this bothers me. My cabin steward kept my room clean, but even though I'd put the "Make Up Room" sign up by 7AM (I'm an early riser)- the room was never made up until 10AM. Also, I go to bed early- and my room was never made up in the evening before 9PM. Given that it was an 18-night cruise- The cabin steward should have recognized my routine but didn't care. I had to ask for things and he wasn't friendly until the last night of the cruise- when he probably hoped for an extra tip. I didn't give him one because he hadn't gone the extra mile- like most cabin stewards do. I generally tip extra, but not this time. Ship- the ship was in very good condition- there were some places that needed repainting on the exterior and my friend's cabin (5096) had what looked like mold on the ceiling. It turned out to be paint but it was unsightly. Internet- You can pay $.99 a minute or you have to buy a package. The only way to get the 24 hour unlimited use is to buy a package for the entire voyage. Expensive. Entertainment- I was never bored. There were plenty of activities to participate in. Show that I went to were very good. I loved Brad Stevens the pianist. Food- I dined for most meals in the Grand Pacific Dining Room. We usually showed up between 5;30- 6:30 and there wasn't much of a wait. The meals were hit and miss. Meat dishes- steaks and ribs (and even the Hungarian Goulash) were inedible. Too tough. Perhaps the head chef is a vegetarian but he needs to have someone taste test the food. I'm sure there were many complaints and plates of food sent back to the kitchen. I ended up referring to this as the "bird and fish" cruise because those dishes and the vegetarian dishes were good. The bananas foster were bananas cut lengthwise and plopped into butterscotch and rum. Gross. My "key lime parfait" was really key lime mousse. Tasted good but did not resemble a "parfait". The corn fritters were flat pancakes with a kernel of corn in each one. The salads were lacking in anything other than mixed greens and they ran out of spinach midway through the cruise. Le Bistro was good- but the cost of the food was excessive- given that meals are included in the passage. The up charge shouldn't be $17.99 for a good steak. The buffet was ok. The outside burger stand was good and on sea days they did really nice bar-b-ques by the pool. The best dish was a seafood medley. Yum! Drinks- I thought the price of wine was reasonable. I noticed my chardonnay was cheaper at Magnums than other venues. Don't know why. Unless you are a full-fledged alcoholic- don't bother with a drink package. Average drink price is $10. Excursions and Ports Curacao- We pre-purchased $60 resort passes (through Resorts for a Day) for the Hilton Hotel. It was fabulous. They welcomed us- provided towels and we were free to use the beach and pool areas. Our passes included $25 food and beverage vouchers, which was enough for us to drink four drinks and split a delicious Quesadilla. Highly recommend this place. Taxis to and from the Hilton were $20 each way. Aruba- We winged it and were so glad we did. There are school buses (decorated with graffiti) offering $25 pp island tours. We went to a rock formation, a church, a lighthouse (where there are food and beverage trucks. Get a fruit smoothie for $5- delicious!). Then we were dropped off at Eagle Beach for two hours and then returned to the ship. It was awesome. The beach chairs rent for $10. Santa Marta- very poor industrial port. Our excursion to a waterfall was underwhelming and there was too much walking (and wading through streams) for some of the passengers. I'm only 53 so the mostly shaded walk didn't bother me (it's over a mile each way) but my 71 year old travel companion it was too much for- especially with wading through the streams 8 times. I should have read the fine print about shoes getting wet. The waterfall may be more impressive when there isn't a drought but it was puny. The banios (toilets) were very gross and you have to pay $1 to use them. Norwegian should drop this port IMO and do two nights in Cartegena. Cartegena- Loved this city. Very pretty architecture. The vendors are ridiculous though. My suggestion is ignore them. Someone in my group made the mistake of buying something and then was swarmed by other vendors. To get away from the them- nip into on of the Juan Valdez coffee shops (Columbia's Starbucks). The coffee is good and inexpensive. They only take pesos or credit cards. Shops took US dollars though. Panama Canal- Wow! Was a wonderful experience. I got up early and managed to score a seat at the bow in Spinnacker at 6:45. Transit started around 8AM but it was neat waiting in line for the Canal. Sailing through the lake while eating lunch at one of the aft window tables in the Grand Pacific Dining Room was one of my favorite trip experiences. Costa Rica- We went to an animal rescue with NCL where we saw many birds, moneys, and animals. We were treated to fresh fruit- which was very delicious . Highly recommend Nicaragua- We went to the Botanical Gardens and Leon with NCL. Our guide Gabriel was very good but the trip to and from was long and we were underwhelmed with the Botanical Gardens. There were no flowers at all. The only thing worth seeing was the green parrot. Guatemala- I stayed onboard. I'd had enough of long bus rides through poverty stricken areas for a lifetime at this point. Manzanilla- We went on the NCL excursion to Barcelo Karmina Resort. This was close to the ship and a very nice all-inclusive which we enjoyed. The town however is industrial and polluted. I think NCL should take it off the itinerary. Puerto Vallarta- I stayed on the ship but if you like to shop there is a big mall and a Walmart. Cabo- Great way to end our trip. Tendering was fast and easy. The town is beautiful. We went to Casa Dorada resort with NCL. Our tour group had access to a hotel suite which we could access from the pool area. We had a complimentary buffet lunch and a free beverage (any). I had a Bahama Mama which was good. Margaritas were good too. Make sure to be out on deck at sailaway to watch the whales. We saw many, many whales. This was a great way to end our trip. I'd go back to Cabo. Overall- I had a great time on the cruise and would sail NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Norwegian Gem Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 5.0 3.9
Public Rooms 5.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 5.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.8

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