30 Norwegian Gem Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because of the itinerary - full traverse of the Panama Canal and lots of stops in countries other cruise lines don't stop in. We have travelled with other companies, Celebrity, RCI, Cunard, P&O and now NCL. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary - full traverse of the Panama Canal and lots of stops in countries other cruise lines don't stop in. We have travelled with other companies, Celebrity, RCI, Cunard, P&O and now NCL. The reason for the low score for NCL is that there were lots of little things which were not as good as other cruise companies and they added up to make a big difference. Firstly the good: The organisation of the Freedom dining is fantastic. We only had to wait (briefly) for a table on a couple of occasions - the rest of the time it worked like clockwork. This is down mainly to the ladies who work at the front desk. They do an exceptional job. The staff in the dining rooms were all fantastic. Hardworking and always cheerful. No mean feat! The chinese restaurant is included rather than the usual cover charge and we thought the food was superb. The presentation of the food in the main dining rooms was the best we have seen There were proper showers in all of the rooms (not just shower curtains) The bad: The menus in the Chinese and O'Sheehans never changes nor does it in Grand Pacific at lunch time. Not too bad if you are on a 7 day cruise but this was 19 days of the same choice. The drinks are very expensive The ship was late in to nearly every port. Sometimes just by 15-20 mins but it messed up our plans (and on two of the occassions this was when the ship was only travelling a short distance between ports) Disembarkation was a shambles with poor communication. They put on too few tenders when needed so that it took us until after 1pm to get off the ship when we had to be back on board by 4pm. We paid for an upgrade to an ocean view room and yet all we could see was a lifeboat. There was no warnings about it being a partial view. There was insufficient shade on the ship so there was always a battle to be up early enough to grab some. They have a great lounge at the front of the boat where you can sit in the shade and cool and look at the view but insisted on running bingo and other talks in there all through the day despite having other areas that would accomodate these things. They even had to draw the blinds in the room to make it dark enough to see the projector. The talks about the ports and countries we were visiting were awful. The entertainment in the bars was not to our taste and hardly varied. No gala type dinners so no lobster or other special food. Food was the worst we have had on a ship (not bad like other reviews have said - just not as good as other ships) The food in the buffet was not great and was very repetitive. All of the entertainment was geared towards Americans (even though they were in the minority on the ship). I understand that they are usually the majority so I guess it would be too much trouble to change things cruise by cruise. Guest Relations were terrible. They handled a minor complaint so badly that it ended up being a big issue. They have zero authority and a terrible attitude. One thing that isn't the ships problem but is worth mentioning is that we like to share our table with others in the evening. Clearly most people who choose NCL don't like to so it was rare that we managed to get a table with other people on it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
We chose this cruise because of the canal transit and that did not disappoint. Get a balcony state room as you get a real experience from the balcony of the locks and transit. We ate at all the specialty restaurants as we had the package. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the canal transit and that did not disappoint. Get a balcony state room as you get a real experience from the balcony of the locks and transit. We ate at all the specialty restaurants as we had the package. They were all very good with excellent service. The entertainment was top notch, with great Broadway style shows and funny comics. It was a real shame that the pool deck was a disappointment. First of all, they were scraping and painting above one pool and small flecks of paint were floating in the water?!! No effort was made to screen off the maintenance, which was above the grill and the pool! I did not swim in that pool after seeing the paint flakes floating in it. But, both pool were unheated?! According to the life guard, the pools were replaced with sea water every night?! This was to keep them clean?! They were consequently freezing even in very hot weather. Unacceptable. Also people would reserve loungers by placing items on them and then walk away. The pool deck staff did nothing about this and on at sea days it was hard to find a spot to sit in the sun and then take a quick shower as the pools were really too cold. In frustration one day I complained to one of the guys on deck and he went around and collected a few towels but basically did nothing to help me. We often went up top away from the pool to sit away from the very loud group with a terrible female lead singer who sang everything flat. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
The big attraction of this cruise was the itinerary: LA to New York taking in the Panama Canal and the ABC islands and lots of other places along the way, plus 19 days in the sun in mid-winter. I've cruised about a dozen times ... Read More
The big attraction of this cruise was the itinerary: LA to New York taking in the Panama Canal and the ABC islands and lots of other places along the way, plus 19 days in the sun in mid-winter. I've cruised about a dozen times with several different cruise lines and on varying sizes of ships and although this was not a bad experience I'd put Norwegian at the bottom of my list and would only cruise with them again if the itinerary was really special, like this one. I've given an overall "Average" rating because, while some aspects of the trip were very good, others were not so great. The check-in experience for me was good as I did not have to stand in long lines at any stage and there was only a short wait for my cabin to be ready. The cabin itself was a bit tired and there was no chair, though clearly space for one: a dining chair was delivered later when I asked about it and I was told the tub chair that should be there was damaged. Don't know why it hadn't been replaced without me having to ask for it. The bed linen was badly pilled and really needs to be replaced. Mark, the cabin steward, was excellent but as I was at the end of his line of cabins, it was often late in the morning/evening before he got to mine and this was sometimes inconvenient. The shower was a good size but the wc was awkwardly positioned at an angle and a large person would have had a problem with it. The Garden Cafe was just a scrum and I avoided it most of the time, unless I was after a quick snack outside of peak meal times: chaotic lay-out with people going in all directions and then hard to find a seat. I didn't try the specialty restaurants but ate in both the Magenta and Grand Pacific dining rooms, which have the same menu. I found the chairs in the Magenta uncomfortable so preferred the Grand Pacific. Several reviewers have commented on the wating time to get in there but I never had a problem of more than a few minutes, which also applied the night I went to the Magenta. The staff in the Grand Pacific were excellent and I never felt that the wait for food was excessive. And even when it was busy there was no pressure to vacate the table. The food was good if not spectacular. It was my go-to for breakfast and dinner. Lunch is served there on days at sea but I didn't try it as the buffet on deck was also very good. My main complaints about the ship are the lack of quiet spaces, the on-cost of drinks and services and the hard-sell on extras from the spa, shore excursions and future cruise departments. The Spinnaker lounge is a lovely space but it was hard to find a time when it wasn't being used for a noisy bingo session or a game/quiz of some sort. The same applies to the atrium. I don't mind the odd game of bingo but the cost on the Gem was extortionate compared to other ships I've been on. Drinks were also more expensive than other ships. I went to a couple of the talks in the spa and gym and they were basically just sales pitches for spurious weight control plans or orthotics, both at outrageous prices compared to what can be had on-shore. The Cruise Director and staff were very much at the cheap package holiday end of the market. The future cruising offer was not a good deal and merely a way of getting money out of you now. The shore excursions I did were OK but the talk on them on the first day was poor, being all about where to shop and ignoring those ports where there was no fancy shopping. If you were not going on one of the ship's excursions, they really weren't interested in you and there was no information about the port, what to see or how to get about. The port lectures were not helpful, being mainly historical with the lecturer's holiday photos and bad jokes thrown in. Other ships I've been on have provided some combination of a port talk on what to see/how to get around/maps/shuttle buses to the centre if the port area is beyond easy walking distance. As other reviewers have mentioned, the tender service to shore was slow in Cabo and a complete shambles in Puerto Vallarta where there were 3 other ships docked and we were at anchor with only one tender allowed in at a time. Was this a cost issue? Then when we finally got ashore over an hour after the scheduled tour time there was no one there to direct us to the the start point for our walking tour. I didn't go to the entertainment every night as I don't much like hypnotists and ventriloquists but I recognise there was a good variety on offer for a 19 day cruise. The song and dance shows were very good but I was surprised to learn that they only do 3 per cruise, however long the cruise is, which meant more of the pianist - good but not worth 2 shows - and repeats of some of the other performers. Also, I didn't think it was good to have the dancers en masse on the sun deck in the afternoon, generally being noisy and disruptive for other passengers; nor did I appreciate hearing one of them in the spa, while I was having a manicure and he was getting his hair cut, going on about how much he hated the shows. I chose the unassisted disembarkation and that worked well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Panama Canal was on our Bucket list and with 19 days aboard the Gem, we couldn't resist. First a little information about us, I would consider us Newbies to cruising since we only sailed on NCL ( this was our 13th cruise ). NCL ... Read More
Panama Canal was on our Bucket list and with 19 days aboard the Gem, we couldn't resist. First a little information about us, I would consider us Newbies to cruising since we only sailed on NCL ( this was our 13th cruise ). NCL makes sense for us since they offer different ships/types and itineraries out of NYC. This was our 6th time aboard the Gem. Here are my random observations. We flew out to Vegas for a few days before the cruise, then an early Sunday morning flight into LAX. We took the NCL shuttle to the pier, had no issues in locating the reps. Short wait for the bus. Since it was Sunday morning the ride to the pier took about 30 mins. From the time we got off the bus to board the ship, it was less than 45 mins. Our cabin, 8604 ( type OA, ocean view ) was right down the hall from O'Sheehan's was available around 2 PM. We had issues with the shower drain backing up into the drain under the sink but it was finally corrected on the second day. Cabin Steward was excellent ( first cruise back from vacation ), and by the third day knew our routine. The ship was in great shape ( last dry dock 2015 ), all public areas were well kept. Maintenance and painting was observed daily. Only negative comment is for the railing on deck #13 near the basketball court. They used a 2x4 to replace the rail and it was a rough finish that could cause a splinter. We purchased a 6 meal plan and along with our 2 free meals ( Platinum perk ) we spent several nights at Cagney's. It was strange that on most nights it was almost empty. Our only complaint was that they changed the mac n cheese to Kraft, it was terrible. Food and service was top notch. We had two meals in LeBristo, service was exceptional but the food seemed to be off compared to our last cruise aboard the Breakaway. Taste was bland to me. We also had one meal in La Cucina, food was OK but I kept feeling like we are eating in the Buffet. Other nights were spent in Magenta, had no issues in getting a table if you arrived before 6pm. Had to laugh at the folks standing in line at the Grand Pacific, while there was none at Magenta. Can a guy get a hamburger? O'Sheehan's - burnt, every time. Topsiders - raw, most of the time. Before I forget, the crew, from the captain to washy washy girls, fantastic, one of the best if not the best. Bars - Great time, great bartenders ( Sherwin - Boom Boom at Spinnaker and Lennie \ crew at Shakers ). Never had to wait more than a few minutes before getting served. PAX, I was told the average age was 64 but some nights up in Spinnaker I thought it was a Holland America cruise. The entertainment at bar central ( Shakers ) was exceptional, from Leo to Vibe quartet to the Gem band. Only two main shows standout for me, the piano guy and that checkerboard guy. Everything else was average Cruise Director staff, have to say it, bad. Poor attendance / cancelled Bingo sessions. Announced that they had a $2000 dollar pull tab winner but kept selling out of the same box. Morning show was a joke, stopped watching by the third day. The cruise director was OK but the staff is a reflection of her. Ports of call. Mexico - Tender in on our first two stops, tender process was real slow on the first stop, Cabo. The second stop, Puerto Vallarta had a dock issue. Almost a two foot drop from the tender to the dock, those who had a mobility issues had problems. These two stops felt safe in both, just wander around. Manzanillo, stayed close to the ship. Puerto Quetzal - Guatemala and Corinto - Nicaragua as per the State Department warnings stayed real close to the ship. The visitor center ( new cruise terminal ? ) in Guatemala even had a guard tower, manned. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - Walked around the town in the morning and took an NCL excursion in the afternoon. Panama Canal, Transit - Exceptional performance by NCL. Cartagena, Columbia - Great place to visit except for the hawkers. Made it almost impossible to enjoy the city. Very pushing and relentless. Santa Marta, Columbia - container port, they could have skipped this port too. ABC islands - always a great, safe place to visit. Finally, Thank you to the CC members who attended the meet and mingle, slot pull, pub crawl, to the members who arranged shore excursions and the cruise T shirt Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We booked this cruise because we liked the itinerary and wanted to see the entire Panama Canal. My father was stationed there during WWII and I wanted to travel the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We usually book cruises that are ... Read More
We booked this cruise because we liked the itinerary and wanted to see the entire Panama Canal. My father was stationed there during WWII and I wanted to travel the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We usually book cruises that are at least 14 days. We cruised on the Gem seven years ago and we liked the renovations. NCL is our preferred cruise line. We like freestyle dining and like the casual dress code. NCL always has great entertainment and we were not disappointed. The Starlight Theater easily accommodates the number of passengers and there was never shortage of seats. Because NCL offered a great incentive for shore excursions, we booked one in 10 ports. We were happy with all of them with the exception of one. When I complained to the shore excursion manager, he looked into my concerns and took 20% off the cost and sent a bottle of wine to our cabin. It was nice to book through the cruise line because I never had to worry about getting back to the ship in time. My only complaint is the lack of variety of ship activities during the sea days. We like educational lectures about the area and the speaker they booked was disappointing. All in all it was an outstanding cruise. We are looking forward to cruising again in June on the NCL Spirit. 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
Our first experience on a "frestyle" cruise. Not a fan because it often meant long waits in the main dining rooms. Average age on this sailing was 65 and so most activities were focused on that age group, which we are not ... Read More
Our first experience on a "frestyle" cruise. Not a fan because it often meant long waits in the main dining rooms. Average age on this sailing was 65 and so most activities were focused on that age group, which we are not part of. Would have liked more variety. Seems like all there was is bingo and trivia. I also found it unprofessional for crew members to be eating at public dining spaces,. We mainly chose this cruise for the panama canal experience and the variety of ports. We were not disappointed. We only wish some ports had more time, even if it meant eliminating some. Food was ok. Main buffet lacked variety. The main dining was loud, lacked variety and service slow (although did improve a bit towards the end). Our favorite was the poolside bbq they offered on most at sea days. They also had a good variety of food areas, Orchid Garden was a favorite. Specialty dining was nothing really that special except for Moderno which was EXCELLENT!! Spa experience for us was a pedicure. The service was very good but they were very pushy trying to get us to buy products and other services. Totally turned me off to going back. Bar staff was inconsistent. We ordered mojitos at 3 different bars and they made them 3 different ways. We did, love the staff at the atrium bar. Entertainment was good, however seating in the Stardust was uncomfortable. Variety and value of the excursions we booked was excellent. Overall our experience was good. We realize the challenges there must be for a cruise line to keep people happy, fed and entertained for 19 days. 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
It was our sewenth cruise with Norwegian. We were three times on Star, two times on Spirit, one time on Geteway , and this time on Gem. We decided for this cruise, because, after Geteway, we concluded, that we prefer smaller ships, and 19 ... Read More
It was our sewenth cruise with Norwegian. We were three times on Star, two times on Spirit, one time on Geteway , and this time on Gem. We decided for this cruise, because, after Geteway, we concluded, that we prefer smaller ships, and 19 days for the price we get, was a good deal. All the ports were very interesting. We were two cupels, and made private excursion, because we prefer to be independent. Embarkation was not so quick, like we used to have by Norwegian. Also we used to meet concierge in port. This time she wait on us in ship, colect all of us , toeld us where we can eat, where and when we can meet her.We used , to get more information first day from concierge. Food was very good , no complaint. A lot activites and , lot music everywhere on the ship. Fantastic atmosphere. Service very, very good. We spend a lot of time on 13 deck ,smoking area, and water Nikola was so nice, all the time with big smiling, made for us fantastic coctailes. Alltogether, this was fantastic cruise, and 19 days went so quick. Gem is beautiful ship, with fantastic stuf , from captain , who informed us daily about all interesting things for guests ,until our steward. Only our bathroom in caben disappointed us a little bit, and concierge was inapropierte. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Overall very pleased. Lovely ship, not too huge. Really enjoyed the entertainment, both the shows and the musicians in the atrium and elsewhere. Brad Stevens, the pianist, was fantastic and we listened to him almost every night. Dining ... Read More
Overall very pleased. Lovely ship, not too huge. Really enjoyed the entertainment, both the shows and the musicians in the atrium and elsewhere. Brad Stevens, the pianist, was fantastic and we listened to him almost every night. Dining was very nice, although a few things were absent that had been normal on prior cruiises. No smoked salmon in the breakfast buffet (the salmon mousse was a joke), and escargot never offered in the main dining room in the evening. Evident cost savings. But overall the dining was very good. Staff very friendly and helpful. Bar staff at the atrium bar were great. Enrichment speaker was not so hot. After almost three weeks we sere still enjoying the ship very much, never got cabin fever. Long chaotic lines at disembarcation in NYC. Not NCL's fault, but annoying nevertheless. They should have a Global Entry express lane like at the airports. There is nothing remotely "Norwegian" about NCL. Not the staff, the decor, the dining, etc. I am of Norwegian ancestry and think they should add a bit of the old country to the sailing experience. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
From embarkation, tenders, excursions, food, and debarkation, it was a fabulous trip on the Gem. Even when things went wrong, which they did, the staff was always there to help you, give you guidance, and in some instances a reimbursement ... Read More
From embarkation, tenders, excursions, food, and debarkation, it was a fabulous trip on the Gem. Even when things went wrong, which they did, the staff was always there to help you, give you guidance, and in some instances a reimbursement against expenses. The food overall was good, but I felt needed a little more variety. Their specialty buffet dinners days were not up to what I feel NCL is capable of, with very little selection of the “specialty day” foods. The regular buffet were excellent with great selections. The specialty diners, Cagney’s, Moderno, Le Bistro Café, La Cucina, were all fabulous dining experiences. We took at least eight excursions on the 11 ports and all were very well organized even when things went wrong. I loved the different activities especially the trivia. Aris, sexy Sue, K, along with Claire, the cruise director, were all fabulous ambassadors for NCL. Overall had a great time on the Gem, and looking forward to my next NCL cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
My friend and I chose this cruise for a winter getaway to some new places and to revisit others. We both speak Spanish and are comfortable on our own in Spanish-speaking countries. Embarkation was organized out of LA; no major hiccups; ... Read More
My friend and I chose this cruise for a winter getaway to some new places and to revisit others. We both speak Spanish and are comfortable on our own in Spanish-speaking countries. Embarkation was organized out of LA; no major hiccups; the typical long lines. Our luggage made its way to our cabin in a reasonable amount of time. We boarded and ate lunch in the main cafeteria shortly afterwards. While there was someone at the entryways with a bottle of hand sanitizer, plus dispensers at each entry, I was surprised that guests were allowed to serve themselves even on the first day. I haven't cruised in a few years - maybe things have changed. I'm more familiar with being served the first few days in an attempt to cut down on germs. We had an inside cabin - and a WONDERFUL steward. Biency is very friendly, immediately learned our names, and was quick to provide whatever he needed. His daily towel animals are treasures. I had the joy of sleeping next the bunk for the third person - had to be careful not to hit my head on the vertical mattress. Since one spends little time in the stateroom, I imagine a family of three could do fine in the cabin. Toiletries and linens were maintained quite well. The shower had a clothesline; I brought plastic hangers and some clothes pins for our 'shower/sink laundry'. Note that Norwegian ships lack public laundries; guests may have their laundry done for $20 per bag. We preferred to do our own. The acoustics in most public areas of the ship are horrendous. Dining was a noisy, and often slow, affair. The seating in the cafeteria was poor and made for a lot of unutilized space. Tables for four with a bench and two chairs usually had two people on the chairs; the benches were low even for tall guests. Circular booths were hard to use; guests used chairs around the exterior and did not use the booths themselves. More so than on any other cruise I have experienced, I found we had to search for too long to find an empty table or else sit in the uncomfortable part of a table with other guests. Food in the cafeteria was basically reminiscent of leftovers. Meat too well cooked; eggs benedict pre-prepared and thus not fresh. They did offer omelets and fried eggs to suit every morning. Plenty of melon, bread, cereal and some yogurt. Bananas and oranges became rather scarce as the days went by. Desserts were not tempting - I did enjoy ice cream on several occasions. Dining rooms were fair, at best. Same problem with acoustics and a few times we were served the wrong food - and after waiting a LONG time. The steaks were unremarkable - seemed cheap and tough. The Orchid Garden is nice; shrimp were overcooked, though. Their menu does not change. Best meals were a couple of outside grilled lunches we had on the last few days of the cruise. Freshly grilled chicken and seafood. The ship has few nooks and crannies - just a few lounges with loud music - and poor singers. Only a few shops - I'm not a shopper; my friend was disappointed. There were only one or two days of shopping on the pool deck; if you bought trinkets in volume you got a reasonably good deal. The ship does have a nice little library - watch the hours as one can only borrow a book at very limited times during the day. The library was always open - a nice quiet respite with a good outside view. The library also has an exchange - so you can give them the book you read on the plane in exchange for one another guest left. Nightly entertainment at 7pm and 9pm - a mix of some good musicians with some not so good juggling and such. Still, an enjoyable experience. During the Panama Canal transit, they opened the bow area for better viewing - as long as you had a front row position - or are tall. They put up a canopy to allow people a chance to get in the shade and kept a flow of food and beverages going throughout the transit. While going through the canal is interesting, I'd personally recommend a land visit to the Miraflores and Gatun locks/visitor centers for a better overall view and understanding. The Miraflores visitor center is a wonderful museum - worthy of a day's adventure. The ship does not stop in Panama; there are no Panama shore excursions. Not a problem for me; some people noted a desire to stop in Panama. I thought the itinerary was clear - pick another cruise if you want a Panamanian stop. Or better, spend a week there. It's marvelous. Pay attention to the shore excursion reviews; too many of them are more about shopping than seeing the sights. The "Discover Puerto Vallarta" tour turned into a shopping tour. We learned nothing about Puerto Vallarta, the economy, etc. Guide left a good half dozen people at one store. When I couldn't find my friend in our group, three blocks later, I told her we had left her at the last shop. Turns out several people did not see her wave her bandanna to let us know we were departing. As with most ship tours, there are stops at stores where the guide presumably gets a cut. It would be way better to have a half hour of free time in a shopping area than 5 or ten minutes in a store. (Or, how about no shopping??? Free time at the end with a later bus pick up for those who want to shop. I personally seek out grocery stores and markets where the locals shop. Not tourist traps.) The online shore excursions for Antigua were not available - due to a timing glitch in the system, I was told, weeks before we cruised. They never fixed it so we could see what the ship offered, so we had to wait until the cruise started. I visited Santa Marta on my own; great experience at the Gold Museum. Free, clean, not crowded, descriptions in English and Spanish. What a marvelous collection of history and artifacts! Lovely old cathedral - and a real grocery store. Good coffee at 1/4 the price of the tourist shops. I had an nice time on this cruise - best parts were Santa Marta on my own and cruising into New York harbor. Americans were by far NOT the only ones waiting to see the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Impressive skyline. As on most ships, a great escape is a deck chair on the promenade. Only problem was the smoking areas on both the port and starboard sides. It would be great to limit smoking to only one side - if at all. I also smelled smoke at times inside. It permeates; hard to escape. I wouldn't jump to cruise on this ship, or even NCL, again. If the itinerary were perfect, I'd go. But I'd say that Princess and Holland America both offer better overall experiences. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Very enjoyable experience. Cruise staff were excellent in all areas. Food in main dining rooms and buffet were not-so-good compared to previous cruises on NCL, some as recent as 8-months ago; bones in fish dishes; tough gristle in NY ... Read More
Very enjoyable experience. Cruise staff were excellent in all areas. Food in main dining rooms and buffet were not-so-good compared to previous cruises on NCL, some as recent as 8-months ago; bones in fish dishes; tough gristle in NY Steak. Prime Rib last night on cruise was best food during the cruise. We dined Grand Pacific and Magenta dining rooms and had four nights speacialty dining. Buffet stations were mostly repetitious delivery of same dishes. Moderno and Cagney's were excellent and served tastey food! Teppanaki was good food and entertaining! Entertainment by entertainers and production staff were excellent! Shore excursions were mostly very, very good; we had eight shore excursions and seven were outstanding; only Costa Rica tour (Discover Costa Rica) was poorly delivered by tour-company, in-part due to docking at port taking 70-minutes or so, the tour bus left late; the tour guide did not know answers to many basic questions asked; was alotted only 15 minutes at a large botanical garden and a planned stop was skipped. The ship looked very good but looking closely, the ship did show some signs of wear-and-tear. The lounges and Stardust theater seats were very comfortable. The passage thru the Panama Canal was narated and went smoothly; used the old canal locks, not new locks. Everything else about the cruise was excellent! We did not want to disembark in NY City; we really enjoyed the cruise. Thank you NCL!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Great Itinerary. Embarkation in LA was very easy. Stayed in Mini Suite 11020. Room was quite clean and had plenty of storage. Our room steward was excellent. I was very disappointed with the entertainment in the main venue. This was a ... Read More
Great Itinerary. Embarkation in LA was very easy. Stayed in Mini Suite 11020. Room was quite clean and had plenty of storage. Our room steward was excellent. I was very disappointed with the entertainment in the main venue. This was a 19-day cruise and the ensemble only performed 3 times on the main stage. The 3 performances were excellent! I have been on shorter cruises and the ensembles performed much more. The remaining acts were quite average. There was a singer who professed to be a "Soul Singer" and he was really bad. The highlight of shipboard entertainment was in the various lounges where there was an excellent band, an above average piano -man, and a most excellent Singer/guitarist named Leo Joelstad. The restaurant service was much slower than I have come to expect on NCL. This was true in all restaurants. Bar service was mostly good. The food...By far the poorest quality of food that I have encountered at sea. This is my 7th NCL cruise and I have never felt this way about the food. Shore excursions were typical, had a really good tour to Antigua, Guatemala. My wife raved about a tour to a "horse ranch" in Nicaragua. Wonderful "Beach Time" in Cabo. Others onboard raved about excursions in Cartagena, Colombia. Oh yeah, wonderful snorkel tour in Bonaire!! Disembarkation in NYC was by far the worst of any ship I have been on. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
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
We sailed on the Norwegian Gem on the Panama Canal cruise from January 27 through February 15, 2019. The cruise was sold out. The formal dining facilities are very nice. The buffet ... well, not so much. Caution - if you choose the ... Read More
We sailed on the Norwegian Gem on the Panama Canal cruise from January 27 through February 15, 2019. The cruise was sold out. The formal dining facilities are very nice. The buffet ... well, not so much. Caution - if you choose the complimentary beverage package (provided it is available), you have to pay the 18% gratuity on the overly inflated "retail value" of the package. I believe the gratuity alone was over $300 per person, or $600 per cabin. I suspect we drank less than $600 of drinks while we were on the ship. Our stateroom location was a nightmare. See further description below. Though the room steward was outstanding. Pool bar bartenders were rude and pool wait staff were nearly non-existent. We had to get our drinks ourselves ... after having paid a $300+ gratuity up-front. There is clearly not enough public space for all passengers on board. Ship excursions were fairly boring and the tendering process was horrendous. What was supposed to be the cruise of a lifetime turned into a huge disappointment. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was a "bucket list' trip which exceeded our expectations. We enjoyed all the ports we visited and the weather was wonderful. The shows were very entertaining and funny. We took a tour every day and all went very smoothly. ... Read More
This was a "bucket list' trip which exceeded our expectations. We enjoyed all the ports we visited and the weather was wonderful. The shows were very entertaining and funny. We took a tour every day and all went very smoothly. Swimming with the Dolphins was wonderful and a great experience. Our first snorkeling trip could have been better, there were way too many people in the water in a small area. There were other boats in close promiximity and we were all confined to a small area. The second snorkeling experience was in Bonaire and was much better in a smaller boat and less than half the number of people. We are still not fans of the open seating but the service was very good and we enjoyed the meals. The Buffet was great with lots of variety but seating was an issue at times. There are many places to eat other than the dining room. We ate in 2 of the speciality restaurants having one tough steak and one melt in your mouth steak. There was a huge delicious cake on the buffet that you helped yourself to. The icing was delicious and changed flavors every day. Embarkation was great, no wait and the precruise hotel was very nice. Transportation to and from the pier was fine. Disembarkation was on the slow side but there was a delay at customs. Our luggage was easily located and intact. Upon arrival my huband's luggage was not delivered or located until the next day. Someone had broken the handle and the tags fell off, NCL did have it repaired within one day. We have been doing a lot of River Cruises to avoid the crowds on the Ocean Liners but this cruise turned out to be very enjoyable. I would not hesitate going on this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
the embarkment went smooth, and the cabins were ready very early. the workers did a great job, and kept the ship clean. one of my excursions got mixed up, but I received a complimentary bottle of wine and a fresh fruit bowl ... Read More
the embarkment went smooth, and the cabins were ready very early. the workers did a great job, and kept the ship clean. one of my excursions got mixed up, but I received a complimentary bottle of wine and a fresh fruit bowl delivered to my cabin. my crew workers did a great job for me, very well done. NCL offered WIFI, but i had trouble log-on and log-off. almost like NCL coud hold a class for this, not just a 8x10 piece of paper with directions. even the crew sent me to the front desk. (on day 7) I asked 3 crew members for info on this, and they were not sure either. NCL highlighted the Blazing boots show, and i only saw it available on night at 7 and 9pm. but oh yes it was spectacular. i never did see any other shows advertised, except on the ship, and each one i attended was top notch. Thanks Brenda Kaye for the awesome Hypnosis show and lectures.( all included free) the sit down dining was not for me. the pepper shakers were empty, even the replacements were empty. one night i never did get my Steak, i had to wait over a hour at the excursion desk to make a change, as only two persons were working the desk. it took two days to make the correct TV adjustments to get it working, or i maybe could have use the TV service to make my own excursion adjustments. turns out the remote and the tv would not sync. there was rarely room to sit and eat at the buffet dining, i usually ate in my room or on the back deck. i did give the other sit down dining a chance or two, and it took 2 hours to get served and out of there, . O'Sheehans did a awesome job of serving me 80% of my meals and drinks. i can only hope most of my gratuities went in that direction. My bed sheets got changed every 4th night, but i am not sure what the NCL policy is there. the Bliss showroom was a great place for me to hangout in the evenings, as i do like Karaoke, both singing and listening. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
So first off, I’m the guy that brought the bike. I boarded the ship in New York on January 02nd and got off the ship February 15th 2019 in New York. This was my escape from wither in the north east and chance to explore several new ... Read More
So first off, I’m the guy that brought the bike. I boarded the ship in New York on January 02nd and got off the ship February 15th 2019 in New York. This was my escape from wither in the north east and chance to explore several new ports that I had not been to before and after this 44 day voyage I enjoyed this ship and it’s staff very much. I had a great and memorable experience from really every department onboard. Spending that much time on board the ship I think I really got to know the cruise director and recreation staff well. Some even remembered me from my previous September 2018 trip on this ship, or perhaps the bicycle helped them remember too. Security staff definitely remembered me and the bike from September. But I was really surprised with how many of the overall ships crew called me by my first name when just walking by even though I had very little interaction with them. For me, during the cruise I always kept in mind that for most of the staff on board they are here on a 6 month contract and even though they don’t have a day off and work around 10 hours or more a day, they still start every day as if their goal was to make sure that my trip was going as best as it could. I didn’t do any drinking or gambling and I think I booked a total of 0 shore excursions and purchased about the same amount of photos but I still had a great time. Yes, the bike played a huge roll too. Since there was a lot of overlap on the ports that we would be visiting, when in port, I treated the 1st leg (west bound journey) as an exploration trip and the east bound journey I applied what I learned and explored the port more efficiently. The bike also helped a lot. Regarding the bicycle, it’s a folding bike, (specifically a Citizen Miami). The bike retails new for $275.00 but I purchased off of craig’s list for $100. I upgraded the original seat to a gelled saddle and I also brought with me: a helmet with a GoPro, an air pump and lastly the padded seat underwear. I also know now that I should bring a bike tire repair kit too, however I was able to find a bike repair shop while we were in Santa Marta, Colombia that replaced the tube, tire and the shop had WiFi for a total of 16,000 Colombian Pesos (or $5.16 USD). While not in use the bike went under my bed, and I didn’t have to worry about checking in the bike at the airport as luggage since I was doing a round trip from NY. I walked the bike on board and there was no additional fee for bringing it. Yes I also received many offers from the crew about purchasing the bike from me. I can not put to words on how welcome the cruise ship staff made me feel while on this entire voyage, but it was really great. Every department did a fantastic job. I think security had the toughest roll as they get the least appreciation for keeping people safe especially as people were climbing over ropes, railings and each other during the panama canal transit which lasted about 5 hours. The cruise director staff came in a close 2nd as they have to keep everyone as happy as possible over the entire journey but in my opinion every crew member on board did a fantastic job. I enjoyed the food very much, but my problem is really with portion control. I felt that Breakfast in the grand pacific dining room was the right way to start my morning. Glen, the only female waitress on board named Glen is the best waiter on board this ship. In regards to the evening entertainment, I would try to go to both evening shows whenever possible but I would sit in 2 totally different areas in the theater which gave me a totally different perspective of the show. Special shout out from me is included to the sign language interpreter they had on board for the east bound (LA-NY) journey. While she wasn’t meant to be part of the entertainment she was both very entertaining, informative, educational and really added a layer to the show that I had never experienced before. I learned later that some times, like for the ventriloquist or comedian, a rehearsal performance is not available so the translation is just live action and there is no pause button available to look terms up. It was also really nice to talk and interact with the entertainers when they weren’t performing on stage. While the Gem’s cast performers can also be found working in places like the ship’s library, the guest performers were friendly and approachable in all areas of the ship like the gym, restaurants or even just random encounters in the elevators and hallways. Yes I also encountered people who were not enjoying the cruise, but from my perspective they were either asking for too much, just ignorant of the rules and policies, just totally missed stuff that was clearly listed in the daily schedule or just really novice cruise ship travellers (aka noobs). But yes I also had the upper had when it came to ports that we had visited before so I knew what to expect. I myself knew that I had to be a bother to the ship’s hotel director because I kept stopping by his office looking for his secretary’s signature for the ship’s scavenger hunt but kept running in to him instead. But he seemed ok with it or at least understanding and just kept telling me to keep trying to find her each time I visited. Lastly, I highly suggesting doing the behind the scenes tour for a great perspective on what goes on onboard and how and why things operate as they do. It’s free to do for platinum latitude members. Thank you very much for a very enjoyable voyage. I’m strongly considering doing this voyage again next year and I hope you next voyage on the Gem is just as enjoyable. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We wanted a cruise that included the Panama Canal. The trip though the canal was amazing and more exciting than I anticipated. Overall the shore excursions were excellent and that includes the itinerary, the bus, and the guides. We ... Read More
We wanted a cruise that included the Panama Canal. The trip though the canal was amazing and more exciting than I anticipated. Overall the shore excursions were excellent and that includes the itinerary, the bus, and the guides. We hesitated to tour Nicaragua since we had to fill out a health form for that country. The entertainment was better than I expected as well. However, each entertainer sold their CD, book, etc. and I would have thought the pay by NCL sufficient. We did a couple of cruises on Royal Caribbean and did not experience this. We did not opt for the internet on principle. It should have been free. I had a phone plan but it would not work on the ship. I had to go onto the pier in order to use my iPhone. We were pleased with our cabin and out attendant, Julius. He provided great travel tips and service. However, the rest rooms in the public areas needed more attention. The one on the 12th floor in the area of the buffet smelled of urine and had trash on the floor. The corners had built up filth. I cannot say the same for some of the Guest Services personnel. They had to "check with their superior" too frequently. They apologized profusely if something went wrong and said it was because they had never been in that port before. Not an excuse. NCL should have provided orientation. I got conflicting information between them and the Shore Excursion personnel. The specialty restaurants were outstanding. However, the two main dining rooms and the buffet left a lot to be desired. We, fortunately, are not drinkers but do enjoy an occasional one. The drinks were very expensive and included a tip and another charge of some kind. Needless to say, as with the internet, we opted out. There were a lot of activities but many of the programs tried to sell special offers after a presentation. It seemed as if every time we wanted to do something extra, there was a hand holding out for more money. I even learned that we could have had the $14.50 charge pp per day removed!!!! Didn't do this because I think the crew who don't deal directly with passengers should be rewarded as well. But, why put this on if it is more or less optional. Frankly, we have been spoiled by Viking river and ocean cruises. The initial price may be higher; but, as you know, very little is extra. Free water, WiFi, included excursion at every port, free wine, beer, soda with meals, umbrellas, robes, listening devices so that all can hear the guide, etc. The personnel treat guests with kid gloves and we are never left to wander around having to ask where we should be for an excursion. I have not yet totaled up our trip but it will be equal to or more than Viking. Also, the location of the Guest Services and Shore excursions were right off of the Atrium where there were activities and music and a noisy bar. I felt I had to shout to be heard and had to ask for things to be repeated. On Viking, the staff had desks and passengers were able to sit down and have a decent discussion. On our last trip, we left an iPad at a hotel in Madrid. They bent over backwards to get it returned to us. Embarkation was speedy and rooms ready in a timely manner. However, disembarkation was not. The line to get off the ship was stalled and an announcement was made that they would not be calling any color categories for a while. Our tour of LA was supposed to start at 9 o'clock. We did not leave the terminal until 10 and our excellent guide had to cut corners to be able to see what she thought was most important. I noticed that she did not receive many tips which was a disservice to her because this was not her fault. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise because we made up our minds not to let the above get to us. But, no, I would not choose NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
My wife and I have just returned from the Panama Canal cruise out of New York in January 19. We travelled with adult friends and no children. The embarkation in New York was easy to get to, well organised and very smooth - not the same ... Read More
My wife and I have just returned from the Panama Canal cruise out of New York in January 19. We travelled with adult friends and no children. The embarkation in New York was easy to get to, well organised and very smooth - not the same could be said for the disembarkation in LA - what a disaster. Whilst the cruise itinerary, restaurant and bar staff were great, the food lacked variety and was very limited - one of our friends is diabetic and it was very limiting for him (NCL you have done better than this). Being on the ship for 18 days - some variation in the buffet section for lunch and supper would have been welcome, the breakfast was not much better. The fruit provided on board was generally disgusting. We basically had the same food for 18 days. The ship docked in very remote industrial ports resulting in additional costs for travel into town - almost forcing the NCL excursions on us. In one case we were to dock in Puntarenas but were taken to Puerto Caldera and advised that it would cost $15.00 per person for a bus into Puntarenas. The live bands and musical entertainment was the poorest I have experienced on a cruise ship to date. The internet service provided was expensive and slow. The positives - the cabin was clean and well serviced. The staff ( with exception of the administration) was excellent. The narrator providing us with facts and information on the Panama Canal was excellent. Overall - the ship is showing its age - not what I expect from our preferred cruise line! you can do better than this NCL - I know this because I have experienced it in the past. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I chose this trip because of the timing primarily but also because of the itinerary. The longest cruise we had been on before was 7 days so at day 7 it was so nice to know we still had 11 more days. I really enjoyed the activities by ... Read More
I chose this trip because of the timing primarily but also because of the itinerary. The longest cruise we had been on before was 7 days so at day 7 it was so nice to know we still had 11 more days. I really enjoyed the activities by the pool on the "sea days" so you could enjoy the pool and sunshine! With 10 "ports of call" there was ample opportunity to enjoy shore excursions mixed in with relaxing by the pools. We had only been to Cabo San Lucas before so the other 9 ports were all new to us and real treat to discover. We especially enjoyed Guatamala. Who'da thought? And of course the Panama Canal was extra special. We added an extra day in New York City to begin and L. A. at the end and really enjoyed this addition to our trip. It really added extra relaxation and excitement to our trip. Overall, I believe our experience with Norwegian was great and I'm really happy that we upgraded to a mini suite for that little extra cabin space. I had booked a balcony and then submitted bids to upgrade and managed to get upgraded. We will forever remember this cruise for the people we met and all of the fabulous experiences on ship and on shore. In addition, we would like to thank the wonderful crew members!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
My goal in life is to see as much of the world before I leave this good earth so I choose this cruise because it went to South America a place i've never been and stopped at 11 different ports which would have cost me a fortune had I ... Read More
My goal in life is to see as much of the world before I leave this good earth so I choose this cruise because it went to South America a place i've never been and stopped at 11 different ports which would have cost me a fortune had I taken these trips individually, one cruise 11 different countries; We also went thru the Panama Canal which was just place i heard and read about and wonder what that looks like, I was lucky to have experience it, it was awesome. While we were at sea going from one country to the next the ship did not disappoint they kept us quite entertained with lots of food, games, seminars, swimming, the spa, the Casino and first class live stage performances, thank you Norwegian Gem I really enjoyed myself. My state room was lovely with a king size bed and the service was impeccable, after 18 days of having being catered to I am still trying to get back to normal now that I am home. I traveled by my self because most of my friends were not able to get away for such a long period of time but I never felt alone the staff and the other guests were all very friendly and I felt very comfortable, can't wait for my next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Our booking agent Janet at NCL was also fantastic and always answered our questions promptly. Overall, the ship staff, amenities, and dining were great. Being new to having limited mobility I found that the ship and the staff - aside from ... Read More
Our booking agent Janet at NCL was also fantastic and always answered our questions promptly. Overall, the ship staff, amenities, and dining were great. Being new to having limited mobility I found that the ship and the staff - aside from the shore excursion team - were fantastic at managing mobility issues. Lots of disabled restrooms, staff was always eager to assist. The room was clean, and had enough room for a family of four, and our balcony was fantastic. Our steward Biency was always available, always called us by our names, consistently asked us if we needed anything and was generally accommodating. We always had what we needed in our room and it was made-up/turned-down at good times. He was a true highlight. The restaurants and bars were always well stocked and had a good selection. I would like to see the service at O'Sheehan's improve and some additional things added to the menu (a BLT or club sandwich, onion rings, guac & salsa for the nachos etc). Also the quality of the food at O'Sheehans varied dramatically every time we went in. The shore excursions and the shore excursion team were below what I would expect for the price point. I feel like that NCL should have staff that is knowledgable about the excursions because someone on the team has taken it and has done a write-up for the other members of staff & made notes that cruisers would find helpful. They were clueless with answering questions and just kept repeating what I could already read on the app. We also waiting in the theatre one day when the SE staff walked way without calling our tour. When a man asked about it they waved their hand as they walked away and said, "oh yeah, that one is ready, you can go." Also, the activity levels were useless and not at all indicative of the actual difficulty. I ended up injured on a shore excursion due to their ignorance and their attitude was "oh well." NCL needs to ramp up the ports of call for this cruise and have better timing at ports. Having to drive an hour or more at most ports just to see places of interest is a hassle. A Panama City stop would have also been a good choice for this itinerary. There were 20 kids on this cruise and I felt the Splash Academy struggled to manage this small amount even with all their staff. I don't know how they do with a boat full of kids! We kept repeating instructions to keep a certain chid away from our child but we constantly got feedback that they kept letting them interact and therefore had continued negative occurrences despite our instructions. To be quite honest, our child was harassed by this other child and the staff only reacted when my child retaliated. The staff didn't really feel like they knew much about children or how to redirect their behaviour. I would like them to get more training on conflict resolution because their solution seemed to be to throw their hands in the air. Having said all that, the ship was a great size, the Panama canal portion of the itinerary was worth it for the narration and information alone, the dining and bar staff was consistently fantastic, and some of the excursions were well worth the time and money. This was our first time on NCL (we've done two other companies in the past) and I feel that it was good enough to give it another go, should my complaint about the excursions get resolved. There were a lot of long time cruisers complaining on this cruise but we didn't feel that our experience was negative overall, just some training for Shore Excursions and the Splash Academy. Everything else was great. 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 4.2
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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