7 Norwegian Gem Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
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
The itinerary through the Panama Canal intrigued us.We wanted a Winter get away and leaving out of New York was convenient .We have sailed with Celebrity on 4 prior cruises and wanted to try something different ..We stayed in a midship ... Read More
The itinerary through the Panama Canal intrigued us.We wanted a Winter get away and leaving out of New York was convenient .We have sailed with Celebrity on 4 prior cruises and wanted to try something different ..We stayed in a midship balcony on th 9th floor.The ship was impeccably clean and our room was cleaned regularly and efficiently.The wait staff couldn’t do enough for us.The bar tenders knew us by name and were extremely friendly and attentive.The ports of call were great and the Panama Canal was an experience of a life time , including the sites and ongoing commentary .We were graced with phenomenal weather throughout the cruise .We ate at the specialty restaurants( Le Bistro and Cagney’s steakhouse) and we’re extremely pleased with both. We enjoyed the Grand Pacific as well as The Magenta.The Garden Cafe was great for breakfast and lunch and offered great variety.The outdoor poolside bbq was equally great offering wonderful daily themed options..We had the ultimate beverage package and I would say our only disappointment was that bottled water was not included . I would highly recommend this cruise and NCL Gem will not disappoint . T & M from Montreal Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was my ultimate cruise. I got to spend time in the Caribbean, South America, go through the Panama Canal, stops on Central America and Mexico..80 degree weather in January, very little train or bad weather... What's not to love? ... Read More
This was my ultimate cruise. I got to spend time in the Caribbean, South America, go through the Panama Canal, stops on Central America and Mexico..80 degree weather in January, very little train or bad weather... What's not to love? There are always a few bumps in the road but generally it was terrific. I'm disabled, traveled solo and use an electric wheelchair and had to cancel my whale watching tour in Cabo because they have to tender there and can't take the electric wheelchair but apparently no one realized that when I bought the excursion. Overall, NCL was very helpful finding me shore excursions that were accessible. I especially enjoyed the Tarcoles River excursion in Costa Rica. Food was good, buffet was a little cold from time to time but I always found something to satisfy my taste. I noticed the last day on the breakfast buffet the "Mountain of Bacon" dwindled to a small pile.. Guess that was their way of saying "We're done feeding you folks" lol. Magenta was very good, Cagney's and Moderno was excellent. The staff was always friendly and helpful. I especially enjoyed the very helpful bar staff at the Java Cafe. My cabin steward Andrean was always very helpful and smiled all the time. He would brighten every day. Entertainment was ok. I enjoyed the performance of "Swing" the most. There is a little monotony that sets in during an 18 day cruise but I always found something to do. I wish they could find a way to do a better variety of TV shows. It's very limited. I downloaded a bunch of movies and shows from Netflix and Amazon on my tablet. Be aware they are time limited so pay attention to how long you have to each them. We saw lots of whales and porpoises after we left Cabo from the ship so that was fun. There was a nice mix of people on board, quite an international group. I heard one lady complain the people Spanish too much. Apparently the fact we were in Latin America escaped her. Generally friendly, I meet some very interesting people on board. We had some nice conversations. Folks were always helpful with wheelchair of I needed a hand. In Puerto Vallarta, we did a walking tour and the sidewalks had ramps but some were step and not flat, kinda scary. They had to help me walk down one that was too steep, but the tour operator and fold on the tour were helpful. The tour operator's and bus drivers were all excellent. 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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